THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
My first several attempts at getting published with gay romance were rejections. It’s easy to look at my early success and miss the rejections in the realm of fantasy that spanned years from 2000 to 2008 or so. And it’s easy to miss the early submissions to Samhain and others that were rejected with one line rejections. “This story does not meet our publication needs at this time.” Whichever spin on that was popular at the time. In the intervening years, I’d had some success in writing for gaming companies, which gave me a lot of insight into what those words could mean. I credit an editor for Dragon magazine, with whom I was friendly on Facebook - they were more free about that then—for taking the time to really talk to me about what editorial rejections meant, and what those terse emails might really mean.
Changes in the landscape for game writing shifted my focus, and for a while I only wrote during National Novel Writing Month, a habit for which my little brother wholly deserves the blame (and the credit). I got into a fanfic community, and started writing very regularly. Prompts. Challenges. Eventually, a friend who had moved from that to writing for one of the small gay romance presses suggested I write something. They all knew I wrote stories outside the narrow fanfic world.
So I did. And got rejections, just as I had in the past. It was crushing, even knowing what the words meant. But I remembered the words of my editor friend, who had told me to always insulate myself from the rejections by having more things submitted and waiting, so it was never the last thing waiting to crush me.
Loving Aidan got rejected, and promptly resubmitted to Torquere Press. I worked on a anthology submission for a sports anthology, taking a sideways take - chess.
Torquere accepted Loving Aidan. The King’s Mate, my chess story, also got accepted for the anthology. Because of how publication schedules work, The King’s Mate was published first... my first published gay romance.
Now its coming out again. New cover. I’m very excited.
The King’s Mate (Coming Soon)
I've been busy. American Pride. The Tendire Gate. The Byte of Betrayal. I didn't stop with those. Most of my catalog has been rereleased at this point, including all four volumes of the College Rose Romances.
Loving Aidan was the first book I ever had accepted by a publisher, so the series that sprang from that story is particularly special to me. Every one of the main characters has been able to surprise me, though never, perhaps, as much as Steven in book 2.
But none was as difficult to write as Jim Puffton in book 5.
I've been promising this for what feels forever (and really is probably since 2018, which is still a really long time. People are going to start thinking I'm George R.R. Martin with these delays!). But it's here, releasing this Wednesday, July 26.
College Rose Romances Book 5
James Puffton knew this day would come. As a fallible young man, he’d made all the wrong choices. He’d cheated on his girlfriend with a guy. More than once. And he’d used her—a shield, keeping his perfect image safe. Now that she knew, Jim’s life turned upside down. Faith has always been Jim’s guide, but when it leads him to the most flamboyantly gay freshman he’s ever seen, he wonders if God is punishing him. He can’t deny his feelings, but when people find out, will Tyler be in danger?
Tyler Montgomery was terrified to come to campus. An incident last semester made clear the school wasn’t as safe as officials liked to pretend. When he passes out drunk after making a pass at a handsome young jock, he discovers that he was taken care of by school bully Jim Puffton. Tyler freaks, but Jim doesn’t push. He walks away. Then Jim does something profound that makes Tyler want to ignore all Jim’s terrifying history and trust him, sealing that trust with a kiss in front of everyone. But all Jim’s old friends are homophobic bullies. For Tyler, campus is suddenly a dangerous place to be.
I've had several chances to just glimpse success on the horizon and need to start over. Part of that is needing to redefine success. Another part is the uncertainty of life as an author—changes in audience, genre conventions, expectation, and the one hot thing. A large part for me has been press closures and rights recovery. When you combine that with a pandemic, a severe and traumatic physical injury, and a the need to cope with a mental health condition that puts me solidly in the "measures energy with spoons" category (if you know, you know), you end up with everything grinding to a halt. So, with my rights reclaimed from Dreamspinner during the pandemic, and a dearth of those books having been released even while I still had the press, I have been left in a position I hate.
For six months all of my romance books have been out of print.
The College Rose Romances have been waiting on their fifth entry since 2018. The Sam's Cafe Romances slid into obscurity when they went out of print with the rights recovery from Dreamspinner. And of all my miscellaneous shorts published at Dreamspinner, only The Byte of Betrayal had made it back into the world - with a new cover! (and like all the others, it went out with Purple Horn at the end of 2022).
Getting started again carries with it costs. Some monetary, some energy and time based. With an ongoing struggle to write at all, I have debated for a long time giving up my lifetime dream. Just considering giving it all up was making me miserable. So I catalogued the costs again... and delayed.
The delays are done.
This past week, I worked to figure out the logistics - ISBN numbers, a bank account, a kdp account in my name, and so forth. And I put out The Tendire Gate. And because some things have gotten smoother and there's a whole lot to rerelease, I put out American Pride for good measure. A hefty dose of angst too, with The Byte of Betrayal.
These are all old stories and I know I'll need to release new ones too. There's a plan for that. The College Rose Romances has a volume five, Forgiving James, which is complete, but I can't release it until the rest are back out. Sam's Cafe Romances has a spin off... two novellas telling the story of Brandon and Brice, Brian's brothers - The Stouten Duet. Those are also written, but need editing. And I have a costumed hero story too.
Stuff is in the works. There's a new dawn. I have a plan. The stories are coming back out.
There will be new stuff too, I promise.
Having gone through this before, I can't express how painful it is to watch my books slowly disappear from one site after another.
As of today, my College Rose Romances are the holdout and are still available. I expect them to go this weekend.
I know I've done this before. It's still hard for my heart to see it.
This year has been hard fought. And that's saying something after the last few we've been through. The day job is a struggle in a way I'd long thought had been left behind. COVID remains a constant worry. My mom's husband passed suddenly, and though it was after long illness, the adjustment has been difficult. I broke my back in a fall on the ice in the early days of March. The struggle just to do ordinary things has been ceaseless and painful.
Add to that feelings of failure: at my job, in my writing, in my hopes for recovery. The costs to keep the doors open at Purple Horn Press have simply gotten too high, and that means a likely move to straight out self-publishing if I even put my books back out at all.
I think writing those words hurts almost as much as breaking my back.
Life is full of lessons. The hard part is figuring out what it was I was supposed to learn.
I'm still not sure.
Apparently, Violet is back at her old antics changing prices at the Purple Horn Press store! If you've ever considered picking up one of my College Rose Romances, this is a great time to invest in Loving Aidan for only $2.99!
Already have it? The rest of the series is also on sale.
This has not been a good couple years.
My creativity and heart for writing has been sorely fragmented. Between the market for gay romances, current trends, politics, the onset of COVID-19 my sometimes fragile mood stability has been anything but steady.
Even now, as I sit, vaccinated and boosted, I am watching the numbers for my state climb over one million cases—in a state with less than seven million people. Those are official numbers, certainly low, and sobering in the extreme. While there remains some possibility that I had an early COVID infection, I also live in New England, where that lingering upper respiratory condition could have been many other things. Our state closed down early and relatively completely, and my job at the college was made fully remote until this past fall.
Vaccinated, boosted and employed. I know that all sounds good. But it doesn't reflect the mental state carried forward. My job got harder, and left less quiet time for the voices of my characters to speak. My writing suffered, withered, and quit almost entirely for most of two years. I managed, with difficulty, to pull off my traditional November novel in both years, but I would not call the results of that novel writing effort good.
So, now it is 2022. Over that time, while I recovered rights to stories from one of my publishers, I only rereleased one—The Byte of Betrayal, in March of 2021—and that leaves me in the precarious state of having released only one story last year... and nothing new.
I'm going to try to fix that. In the coming weeks I will rerelease the two remaining short novellas that are not part of a series: The Colors of Romance and I Almost Let You. If that goes well, I will also get Gerry’s Lion, a personal favorite, rereleased, hopefully by summer. As for new? Forgiving James is finally about ready for release. I have no illusions that anyone in the current climate is going to be thrilled with me for releasing a redemption story about a bully, but it was a difficult story for me to write, and James turned into such a brilliant character in the end that he made me cry. So it’s coming out, before the end of the year.
I may do more, but even that, two novels and two novellas, is a big lift for me right now. So we’ll have to see.
Wish me luck!
Disclaimer: This post is political. Writing doesn't happen in a vacuum. I live in the real world, and that world affects my writing. If you have a problem with political content in books, you obviously have never read mine, because I write gay romance, and by and large, that's political by default.
I haven’t been loud in my activism this week. I know the value of being quiet and listening when an oppressed community is hurt. But I also know that quiet activism is sometimes seen as silence.
The core message in my community growing up, struggling with an epidemic that was killing people like me, was Silence=Death.
For many Black Americans, for many communities of color in all its diversity, that message, I’m sure, has a different meaning that is no less profound than the one I grew up with. Because our silence is killing them.
As a nation, we have used our power and privilege to downplay and gaslight and sow doubt into the very idea that the pillar of our society, our concept of justice and order and law is and has been tarnished and corrupted from the start. We see that now in the brutality on the streets towards nonviolent protesters, towards journalists, towards children.
Just weeks ago, police were able to ignore almost any provocation from heavily armed protesters who objected to stay at home orders.
Now they react with brutality towards the people they’re meant to serve.
A man was executed on the street by a vigilante wearing a uniform of service. And the good men who are supposed to step in and prove the system works and that all cops aren’t bad cops? They watched and did nothing. And this isn’t an isolated case. The list of names goes on, and in terrifying ways. A young man jogging. A woman asleep in her bed.
People are angry. I am angry. I want to believe this is not my country, that this is some new infection, but the reality is, I’m afraid, that racism is an old disease, the kind that takes root and refuses to go away. The kind that has to be cut out and removed in ways that will be painful and will take a long time to heal.
In times like this, it would be good to have a president. Someone who could lead and drive a process for reform and healing in an already tumultuous time.
What we have is an infantile coward who insists on pouring gasoline on flames so that he can play with the lives of our troops and our people as if they were toy soldiers.
The brutality we’re witnessing can never be allowed to be acceptable. It can never be ignored. It can never be forgotten.
This is what America has become. Our country is on fire, and I am weeping.
Black Lives Matter.
I have been avoiding social media, when I can.
Oh, I know—I don't really watch the news, so how else do I expect to know what's going on? It's a conundrum. One I don't have great answers for. My own health requires that I limit my exposure to the negativity, and yet, to remain a good, involved citizen, I need to know what's going on.
But every time I look and find out, I wish I hadn't. It feels like I turn on the TV, or look on Facebook, or Twitter, and then it begins...
The thing about the spiral—it isn't just about news. It's about the drama that seems to endlessly infect the gay romance community. It's about the little bits of hatred people are willing to spew that even a year or two ago they would have been horrified to have come out of their mouths or to put into type on a screen. It's about the people you thought you knew, friends and family and colleagues, who have galvanized into a only one way is the right way.
Suddenly the only way to fight Trump is to jump into the skin of their particular brand of liberalism, whether that's fighting for the poor, medicare for all, environmental concerns, or veganism. And if you fail, at all, you're as bad as Trump.
Meanwhile, there's friends and family who were maybe a wee bit conservative, suddenly buying into the propaganda machine that is telling them things about immigration, lying about the human rights debacle being perpetrated on children at the border, pretending taking rights hard fought away is somehow defending religious freedom. And to watch family, especially, buy into that is so hard. It feels like you can't get them back.
And then there's me. And I'm not pure enough for the liberals. I eat meat. I think we police words too much, and I think that gets dangerous really fast. I think a lot of the time a very real liberal elite pretty much screw over a significant portion of the just-hanging-on-but-probably-still-middle-class, if barely. I'm not so attached to any one candidate that I'm afraid to vote blue come November.
To me, it's as simple as this: There can be no more judicial deconstruction of the rights I've spent a lifetime fighting for. And if Trump wins again, I honestly believe I'm looking at a short life in a death camp.
And circling... and circling...
And this is why I avoid the news. And social media is a toss up, because I need it, especially right now, to maintain connections, but it is soooo hard.
I write love stories. Angsty, to be sure. And people sometimes ask me why.
Sometimes when we're hurt, when we're injured, when we're full of angst. That's when we most need to know that people like us can find love. That happy endings exist.
So maybe, just maybe, we can escape the black hole.
And maybe, just maybe, that escape will be powerful, and beautiful, and not alone.
I'm not going to belabor what has been going on at Dreamspinner Press. For eight years, they've been partners in this writing adventure, and for the majority of that time, they were the shining gem of partners in this genre. I hope Dreamspinner can pull themselves back from their current predicament, and do the right thing for their authors. In fact, I am confident that they are making every effort to do so. As an author who has lost contracts to failing magazines, and struggled to regain rights to books when I waited too long to request the rights back from publishers, I couldn't take the risk this time. The books at risk included Gerry’s Lion—of all my writing, it is my husband's favorite. Also at risk was my cherished Chessmaster Chronicles collection, including my very first published work, The King’s Mate.
My books were at the end of their contract cycles. This made the decision to request the rights back both easy, and difficult. In the end, I made the request. Despite reports that I've heard to the contrary, I can speak only to my experience here, and the rights were promptly released, and the books promptly taken down (at least as far as I can tell so far).
As a result, there are a number of missing covers, and some missing purchase links, on my website today. I will be working to get these reformatted, and at least some of them will be re-released through Purple Horn Press. I'm so sorry that for now none of you will know the joy that Gerry felt, bringing Leo with him to the Easter egg hunt. But maybe by the Fourth of July, you can experience a different joy with him...
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.