THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
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!
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...
I posted something on the Facebook feed a little while after it happened, but, perhaps unsurprisingly, I wasn't able to make that effort transfer here. As some of you may already know, my husband and I have had the company these many years of two pugs. Piggy passed some years ago, just shy of the venerable age of fourteen. It was a long life for a pug, and yet Piggy was my writing mascot, and there was a degree to which I never quite recovered.
It should come as no shock then, that the loss of our grand old dame of a pug, the Lady Dulcinea, who passed in May at the extreme old age of seventeen and a half, has thrown me for a bit of a loop. With everything else going on in the world, it was already hard for me to write... this was too much to bear.
Walking around the house without our beloved fur children proved too much for my husband and I. We engaged in the search, and finding a responsible rescue, put in a request for adoption.
I'm not sure a puppy is exactly more work than our dear departed Dulcy, who at the end of her life needed assistance with pretty much everything. But a puppy requires a very different sort of attention, and we've been running ourselves ragged with house training and attempts to save kitchen cushions.
This is all for the good. Our new pup is a wonderful cuddler who, even now, is nestled against me as I type. This bodes well for a faithful writing companion for me. I know when the work is done to get him trained and able to wander the house, it will be well worth it. But right now, endless puppy walks, play, saving household furnishings, and trying to figure out what the cause of the latest cacophony of barking might be have been as effective at destroying a daily word count effort as the other contributing factors.
I hope to be back writing soon. I have the Christmas story to finish up, and I want that edited and released this year.
Perhaps prophetically, Dulcy was already memorialized in that, as the lovable elderly pug Lilah.
Obviously, the website is changing a bit. Most of the changes are minor and meant to move to a responsive template that better reflects the reality that many of us no longer consume the internet on a desktop computer anymore. The old template was okay, but some of the screens struggled, and it was beginning to look dated. So, we have a new template. I hope folks like it, because these redesigns are a PITA. And not the good kind.
Old mutterings haunting...
I've been mulling lately whether to return to an old story that I started a couple of times some years ago. Like most of my attempts at fantasy romance it went nowhere, and yet still stirs something when I read it. I never got a great response from The One That Feels, and I'll admit that makes me hesitant, both for this story and another--Lost—that is nearly complete. But there's that stirring thing, and that's not to be let go of lightly. Here's a snippet. Interested? Let me know in the comments.
Lost in an ocean of feeling that wasn't touch and vision, that wasn't sight and hearing, that was felt more than heard, Allen slept, and dreamed and screamed. Yes, of that he was certain, the screaming. And slowly, gradually, the vision became something seen, and the touch was of a hand in his and of the touch of his skin against an other, and he could hear voices and music and the thump thump of the heart that was not his and the fierce growl of something inhuman. Of a creature.
This past year has been awful.
I know I'm not alone in thinking that. A lot of advice for writers talks about that struggle, where inspiration fades into despair and how important it is to burst through that fog and share your art... because art, make no mistake, is resistance. Especially when you're writing gay love stories in a society that has, according to most recent news, for the first time in recent memory become less accepting.
So there's a been a fog. It's not been without light. Through Purple Horn Press I released my short, American Pride, and managed to get three of the four College Rose Romances back in print. The final one will release before the end of January. That's not the end of the story for our college students. Jim Puffton, the resident bully, is our next reluctant hero, and I wonder if part of my hesitance in getting that story out is tied up in my worries for the state of the union: because why should I shine a light on a bully?
But Jim, as you'll hopefully discover, is so much more than that. Redemption stories are never easy, and maybe it's important to show that sometimes bullying is also coming from a place of pain that we don't see, that people are more complicated than that. That story, Forgiving James, will come later in the year.
In the meantime, Becoming Rory is coming out. I adore the transformation of Lawrence/Rory, and we've seen a peek of it in Andrew's Prayer, as the timeline of the books overlaps. We finally get to see Rory's hinted at mysterious boyfriend, and their relationship is really intense. We get a love interest with a mental health issue, and that's not something we often see. It was really important to me to put that into the story and deal with it honestly—something that cost me in reviews. But I stand by my portrayal. This can be hard to read... mental illness is so difficult in a relationship, and both characters are young college students, but really, mental illness makes everything about a relationship hard. Rory finds out how hard, and what he's willing to do to keep his love.
I know a lot of us are still in that fog. I find it a little strange that the first release that I had in this era was titled American Pride. Because that story is really about a character who has had a lot of loss, and it's his pride in his country that has defined him. But that loss makes him doubt that pride, and it makes him question everything. But this is a character who has lost so much, and at the end of the day, it's the ideals of the United States: Liberty and Justice for all. Freedom and equality that keep him steady. And even with his questions, he still keeps his flag lit at night, so it can fly even in the dark. Dustin is very much lost in the same sort of fog I know so many of us are feeling. But some days, I hope that I can find that bit of optimism that I wrote into the character.
Purchase American Pride at Purple Horn Press.
Purchase American Pride at Amazon.
ARDOR was a bit of a passion project for me.
I knew newsletters were the gold standard for keeping in touch with fans. I wanted desperately to do something new and different and worthwhile. I've gotten some crappy newsletters.
I didn't want fans to associate that with me... news just being crap.
I also didn't want to email the damned newsletters, but it turns out you pretty much have to for them to do what you need them to do as an author.
In the end I was left with a big mess. The PDF newsletter is beautiful, but it translates badly into email format. Emails also won't support the length I need to do the articles I need in the newsletter—the excerpt, the short. I was using tremendous resources designing a cover for each issue, writing the short, creating the graphics. Too many resources and too much time for an audience that, at least right now, is still rather small. I was spending all my time on the newsletter and not enough writing.
It hurts me tremendously to let it die.
I've been filling alternate months with the ARDOR News Briefs. These are something quick from me. A brief bit of promo. Something I'm reading. Short and sweet. That's going to be the future of the newsletter moving forward.
The good news is that this frees me up to write shorts that are a bit longer, and a bit more substantial. Many of these will probably go on sale as novelettes for 99 cents at Purple Horn Press. But subscribers will get access to a lot of them (I won't say all of them) for free. I'm not talking about the 1500 word shorts I had in ARDOR. I'm talking about something probably closer to American Pride, which subscribers already had the opportunity to pick up for free.
Where will the other content go? The news in ARDOR News Briefs will be a combination of what we saw as the Editorial and the Works in Progress. Some of that content will overflow into the blog. Excerpts will go entirely to the blog. The 1500 word shorts will mostly go away unless I have something very particular to promote and I know well in advance that it's coming—subscribers will have some special access to longer shorts, but they'll be more spread out, maybe one or two a year depending on what else I'm releasing.
I hope that this new format will work better, maybe be better read and received, and give you all as fans an opportunity to really get something more substantive in terms of an occasional free read than the brief 1500 word stories I was doing before. Let me know what you think and if I'm missing anything!
The next Ardor News Brief is due out this week!
A lonely Aidan, a confused Steven, and against all hope, a jealous Sammy. Torn between romance and an impossible dream.
Today I’m celebrating the rerelease of Loving Aidan. For an author to have their first novel go out of print is a really hard thing, and I’m so pleased that I’m able to bring back not just story, but also the ones that follow it.
As the little snippet suggests, the story places an out an proud Aidan in a conundrum between Steven, a blue-eyed Adonis who is figuring his life out, and Sammy, the roommate he’s been pining for since they met.
When the story was first released, I shared a short extra with readers—the first meeting between Aidan and Sammy. I think that scene is an important one, but it didn’t fit into the story until over halfway in, and by then it gets resolved with a sentence or two. I’d like to share that with readers again, and hope that it can frame the story, from the abuse that Aidan has received for all his years at school to his attachment to Sammy from the start.
Roommates—a Loving Aidan short
Aidan turned onto the narrow service road that led to the dorm. He pulled up near the building and onto the grass. This early there weren’t many students about yet. Aidan stepped out of the car, wincing a little at the sudden heat. He was dressed as he always did in a long sleeve shirt and a buttoned waistcoat. He pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and lightly dabbed at the sweat that had immediately broken out on his forehead.
“Oooh. Hey, guys, here he is. Our resident piss-ant fag.”
Aidan turned and gave the line of lounging young men a glance. He conceded only a single raised eyebrow as he passed them by, ignoring the ongoing catcalls. He should report them. But nothing was ever done about it. Instead, he entered the small residential office at the side of the building. A student asked his room number, and more numbly than really warranted at this early hour offered him his key. He took it and looked at the label. Samuel Riley.
“This isn’t mine,” he said to one of the students handing out keys.
The perky young woman glanced at it quickly. “Oh, sorry. That’s your roommate’s key.” She ruffled through the box. “Ah, here it is. Sorry about that,” she said, taking the key back from him and handing him another.
“Thanks,” he muttered, and turned to leave, barreling into a very tall young man. He looked up and all he could think of was dark. The man’s skin was charcoal black, and slick from the heat. Aidan stammered a quick apology automatically.
“Ain’t no skin off my teeth,” said the man with a smile, his cheeks showing deep dimples.
Aidan was sure his heart was going to stop, and he quickly looked at the ground to hide the red in his even as he hastened his way to the door. He was hit immediately with another catcall. A row of young men stood idly by cars still stuffed with boxes. The staff would help people later on as more keys were picked up, and they were waiting, as they always did. Most of them wouldn’t carry a single box of their own.
Aidan did not glare, though he wanted to. Instead he went to his car and pulled out the first box.
“Showing off that ass? You maybe want som—” the young man yelped suddenly.
Aidan turned to see the man he’d run into in the office staring down the row of young men.
“Have a problem with him?” asked the man.
“Come on, Sammy, kid’s a fag. Look at him!”
And Sammy looked. Aidan was being given a thorough once over. Sammy chuckled, showing his dimples again and slapped the other man on the shoulder. “Don’t know what you’re worried about. His eyes are on me.” Sammy stripped off his shirt, stuffing it into a back pocket where it hung loosely against his leg. “See?”
“Sammy, he’s looking at you!”
And Aidan was. His eyes were locked on Sammy, on perfectly chiseled abs, gazing across the broad, smooth chest.
“Has taste,” said Sammy with a grin, showing dimples again. “Clearly you lot of cowards got nothin’ to worry about.”
Sammy walked away from the row of young men and stepped up to Aidan. “Need some help?” he asked.
Numbly, Aidan nodded.
Sammy smiled, clapped him on the shoulder, and took the box from his hands. “Let’s get these boxes upstairs.”
Aidan gulped and softly murmured a thank you.
“Ain’t no problem, roommie.”
Aidan’s eyes widened. Sammy. Samuel Riley. Dear God, this was his roommate.
Aidan lives in his books and his writing. I think that’s something that a lot of us can relate to. Just for a moment, join him, step away from the books. Live with him. Love with him. Maybe you’ll fall in love yourself, just a little. It's not everyday you have two men worth fighting for. (Steven’s a bit of a heartbreaker, everyone loves him).
Loving Aidan is published by Purple Horn Press. It was originally released in 2013 by Torquere Press. You can find it here:
Purple Horn Press
So I have this lovely cover ready for the February issue of ARDOR.
That's all that's ready. A multitude of craziness has overtaken me, and while I had dim hopes of cranking everything out at the last minute, I just couldn't do it.
Among the other victims? My serial fiction, which shall have to wait until next week for posting (sorry guys) unless I manage to crank THAT out tomorrow before I leave for the Dreamspinner Author Workshop.
I'm going to send an issue of ARDOR briefs instead, and the February issue will just come out a bit late. Here's the positive... are you listening? If you are, you're going to luck out. If you've signed up for ARDOR by the end of the day today, February 28, you'll get info about receiving my new short, American Pride, as a special thank you for keeping up with my craziness.
It's a great story, and my subscribers have been waiting for it for a while. I can't wait for them to get to meet Dusty!
I'll be back after the Dreamspinner Workshop to talk more about my news and the events there, and hopefully by the end of next week February's issue will finally be up on the website.
When I first started looking at publishing my gay romances, I struggled to find a publisher, as any unknown author does. I submitted Loving Aidan to the publisher I felt was strongest, but for whatever reason, it failed to meet the needs of their editorial calendar at the time. Maybe it was the angst level, or perhaps they rightly identified the struggles readers have had between Aidan's dual interest in both Sammy and Steven. Maybe they felt I wasn't ready, or they simply had enough new adult romances on their calendar. It doesn't matter. It was rejected and I fell apart for a little while.
Many of the gay male romance publishers still published anthologies at the time, and I decided to try instead to get into one of those. Unwilling to give up on Loving Aidan, I researched publishers and instead of settling on the strongest, I settled on one of the most venerable. Torquere was small. It didn't promise a lot of sales, but it had a good, solid reputation, longevity. I was seeing a series for these books, and I wanted that sense of longevity. So I took my chance and submitted the story again.
Torquere accepted the story, and the sequel, and the sequel after that. Loving Aidan became the first of the College Rose Romances, a series of new adult gay male romances focusing on the college experience. A series full of angst, drama, trauma, and love.
It was a series that reviewers either loved or hated. Sales were moderate, but enough that I kept getting books accepted, kept receiving encouragement.
Then the rumors started. There were authors who weren't getting paid. Ridiculous, I thought. I checked my statements, the status of my checks. I bluntly asked the owners about it and was assured that everything was fine.
Everything was not fine. Earlier this week, Torquere notified its authors that it would begin the process of closing down. I could feel my heart break. My series was going to die. My requests to get my rights back were sitting in mailboxes. The paper copy sent registered mail hadn't been picked up, and I knew from communication with other authors that I was not alone in this.
When I was contemplating sending my books to Torquere, some friends had recommended Silver instead. I remember doing my research and deciding against it because of a warning sign I'd come across in researching the press. I felt like I'd dodged a bullet. Maybe I had. But I got caught in a ricochet. EC, Silver, Samhain. Torquere.
My books for Torquere are a series. More than any payment, I needed a piece of paper returning my rights. Without it, the series was dead in the water. James, whose story I've been working on these past months, would never live for readers. Getting my rights back meant losing my covers. But I can deal with that. I can design a new cover.
I am heart broken. The college rose weeps. My dreams are shattered.
Today I received my rights back. The rose is not dead. Just maybe, if I tend it, the college rose will bloom. Peach blossoms will shine and you will all meet James again, and just maybe, you'll forgive him.
(* Torquere retains all rights to the cover of Loving Aidan. The image accompanying this post is separately licensed through 123rf.com)
I've been missing in action for a couple weeks. I know that is small comfort for those who have been waiting for Chapter 15 of The One That Feels, and maybe, hopefully, you've missed by scintillating personality as well on the between weeks.
This election cycle has put a lot of stress on me, more than I'm used to, and the election results have made it worse rather than better. When you put all that stress into a pressure cooker including National Novel Writing Month, Thanksgiving, the release of an anthology collection and two novellas and an eleven stop blog tour, something had to give. I'd hoped it wouldn't be my own blog, which should have been promoting The Rodeo Knight right along with the blog tour. Sadly I didn't even get ARDOR briefs, the off month email only newsletter, out to subscribers.
On top of it all, this is the one year anniversary of losing my pug Piggy, and I am still in the early adjustment period of a new job. Which are all excuses for the end result: some posts haven't been getting up. Left to choose between mine and the ones promised to other blogs for the blog tour, I made sure the blog tour still happened.
I know what the problem is and it's not an easy immediate fix. Obviously these stressful points are going to hit and hit hard from time to time, and I need to have some posts prepped in advance so that when they do they're invisible to readers. I'm not there yet, so I'm asking you to hold in there with me while I work to get there.
The good news: I have not disappeared. I'm still here, if a little tired. Chapter 15 exists and just needs a spit shine before it gets posted. Also: new books... The Rodeo Knight, the second edition of The King's Mate, and The Chess Master Chronicles have all released. There was an 11 stop blog tour and I encourage you to check that out! If you're counting that's over 11,000 words worth of me talking about the books, and there's some cool info in there you won't find anywhere else.
Chapter 15 will be posted soon™, I hope by Monday of next week. In the meantime, take in some of that blog tour, read my Sam's Cafe Romances, and prepare for the release of December's ARDOR, which will be out before Christmas.
Is there a Christmas scene any of you are anxious to see with my existing characters? I haven't written a holiday short this year, but it's not out of the question. Let me know in the comments.
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.