THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
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 tried to write on Tuesday night. It should have been easy. All the polling showed that gay rights were secure in the hands of Hillary Clinton, someone who has celebrated gay marriage in her campaign ads.
Yet a niggling feeling in my stomach still had me distracted, troubled—checking the results throughout the night. I find it disturbingly appropriate that the scene I was writing in my novel in those moments where hope slowly slipped out of my grasp involved a gay bashing.
I grew up in the Reagan era. I lived through both George Bush and 'W'. This is something different. This is a man embraced by the farthest fringes of the GOP. His running mate is someone who advocated reallocating HIV/AIDs funding to conversion therapy for gay youth. I’ve been advised to wait and see. I don’t need to wait. This will not be a gay friendly administration.
I am feeling loss.
I worked for many years, advocated for many years. I wrote legislators and showed up and talked to them—in person, on the phone. My letters were handwritten and on stationary and as a former state house intern, I know that’s gold. I fought and talked and raged. I endured physical abuse, bullying, and an endless stream of canvassers at the door as gay marriage neared in my home state of Massachusetts. They were trying to reverse the Supreme Judicial Court that had sided with the gay community after years of the community begging the legislature for a pittance.
The legislature gave us nothing. The courts gave us the whole shebang. But with it they released something else. The certain and unforgettable knowledge that in secret, for all this time, our neighbors had hated us. Despised us. They wanted us to stay less, to hurt, to be wounded, to feed their ideal 50s family that had died a generation ago and will never return, if indeed it ever existed.
It’s a familiar loss, this post-election feeling. Because where before it was just my neighbors, now I feel the entire country has become that place where I’m no longer safe. Where I’m no longer okay. Where only a couple years ago I’d triumphantly finally felt like I could see equality, distant but reachable, it has faded again from sight—perhaps forever.
Trump has promised to fulfill the Republican party platform. Before anyone else tells me that’s okay, please go read it. Please remember that out of the entire Republican party, he selected Pence as his running mate. And remember that despite public opinion to the contrary, most politicians do try to fulfill their campaign promises.
It’s this sense of loss that makes it hard for me to write the next chapter of my story. My hero, once a bully himself, has just come face to face with his weakness, his fragility. He’s scared, lost, and alone. And he’s going to wake up in a place where he used to be on top of the world, accepted, an athlete, and realize that he has a big invisible target painted on his back. He’s vulnerable, and afraid, and not sure how to deal with that.
Neither am I.
I've been sitting staring at a blank page for too long. Why is it blank? Well, honestly, it's not exactly blank. It's stuck at about 4000 words. It's a decent amount of text, about a quarter to a third of what I want on this particular project, but it's not enough. Worse, I wrote the last thousand of those words about a week ago, which means I haven't written squat in a week.
Why am I worried?
One word: NaNoWriMo. Yes, I'm cheating, it's actually four words. National Novel Writing Month. Celebrated annually during November, National Novel Writing Month (cheerfully referred to as Nano by many participants) is an opportunity to let loose and write with wild abandon. It's a chance to jump start a project, or finish one. At its best, it's a finished draft in a month, packed with all the support you need.
It means writing 1667 words a day. Every day. For a month.
As some readers already know, I am changing jobs. My last day in Student Affairs was Friday (which reminds me, that means I need to update my bio). I've worked in Student Affairs at the college for just shy of 15 years. I was hired just after September 11 as a temp and managed to transition to being a full time regular employee in my department in June of 2002. While there were longer term employees in the department, in the core office I had been there the longest. I was the person with all the answers; I could answer pretty much any question. Over the course of that time I'd assisted every position in our office, from the residence life staff to the dean of international students and scholars.
While that service will serve me well, I am acutely aware that I am moving to a new office where I won't know things. It's a scary thought, not unlike trying to write a story with a hero or setting radically different from my personal experience. I know that there's a base of knowledge as an assistant that will serve me well, and because I transferred within the institution, my knowledge of the college and its procedures will allow me to continue the appearance of casual competence.
It's not that I'm worried, not really. I will tackle the new job with the same sort of strategy that I might use if I was writing a story about a soldier. I'll research. I'll ask questions, and I'll brazen it out.
Comfort in a job is important to me. Long time followers of my work will remember how I struggled when I first moved to my new house to do any writing until my office was set up. For me this is much the same. So I went over on Friday (with the blessing of my outgoing supervisor) to get the new digs at the college setup. As promised, my new desk mascot is in place!
A few housekeeping items
No doubt some of you noticed that September had only one chapter of The One That Feels released. That's my fault, work and my life offline made any more impossible. In addition to my own impending departure from my workplace, we were also working short one member of the administrative support staff, during opening, in student affairs and residence life at a college. Needless to say, there was a lot of stress. To make it up to folks, there will be THREE chapters in October, starting tomorrow with Chapter 11!
I'm working on the next issue of ARDOR—a full issue this month rather than news briefs. Part of that is continuing work on the planned freebie for subscribers. It probably won't go out with this issue, but there may be an additional mailing with details. If you haven't signed up for the newsletter, now's the time! I will make sure that currently signed up folks also get the freebie once it's available, so there's no reason to wait.
I lost a friend – perhaps several – on Facebook this week. I’m not proud of it. It hurt me a lot more, I suspect, than it hurt them. I didn’t unfriend them myself. They were important to me. Are important to me. But I did make the choice to post when I knew that would be the result.
I try not to unfriend people. Even my most toxic friends – the ones who can’t help but post how horrible the world is or how everything is going to kill you if you eat/are exposed/allow it to exist. I unfollow all the sites they share, but I don’t remove them, because they’re my friends. And I know those posts come from a passion to want to change things and do what’s right. For politics it’s much the same. If you post a lot about how people are welfare cheats or how we need to drug test for approval for welfare or how Ted Cruz is going to save the country, probably I unfollowed you and the sites you support a long time ago.
I appreciate diversity of thought and opinion, but in today’s world, that feed is a sort of social living room, and that sort of negativity has a very real effect on me. As a bipolar person, it doesn’t take a lot to make me sink, and sometimes that post was the one that did it. And so I excise it. But not the friendship.
So how did I make it happen this time? I know people have strong opinions about bathroom usage nowdays, but with so many friends and loved ones that identify as trans, I can’t just listen to someone spew about how they’re a danger. I was raped in a bathroom as a child, I know where the real danger lies. And so people using that fear of something real, something I’ve experienced, to attack people I love and care about really gets me… angry. Not just a little.
But it still hurt. Because the guy, a friend since college, asked if he was being a bigot. He asked me. And I told him. Because he was. I told him he was not thinking things through. I told him he was trying to find a cultural issue to use as a wedge between people, and that it was wrong. He told me we weren’t friends anymore if I called him a bigot again.
I knew what I was doing. But I was angry. I told him, essentially, that if he didn’t want me to call him a bigot, he should stop being one. It was a principled stand, I believe that. But I knew how he reacts under those sorts of pressure circumstances. I mean, I’ve known since college. Upwards of twenty years. He’s a conservative republican. I knew I was losing a friend.
So why do I care? I hear so often in the community people say we should just cut people like that out of our lives. But what if they’re parents? Brothers? Friends? I know… what kind of friends could they be with beliefs like that? But the answer is surprising sometimes. He was a good friend. At a time everyone I thought was my ally turned on me, it was him and the other republicans who rallied and said “No.” They were the ones who had my back when my community turned their backs on me. He was a good friend.
And now he’s not. It makes me sad.
Thinking about losing friends reminds me of the one time I actually unfriended someone. I got catfished. Yeah, it really happens. He was a good friend. Young and struggling and active in our fanfiction community. Trying to keep a romance alive and struggling with that. And then he “died.” And I mourned. I’d spent weeks helping keep him sane when he thought he’d never keep his hopes up. I’d helped him edit stories. I’d spoken to him almost every day for years.
And he never existed.
The person who was behind him is the only person I’ve actually unfriended myself. The incident was the inspiration for The Byte of Betrayal. So I’m going to plug one of my own stories, and note that it’ll be on sale at the Dreamspinner Press store for 30% off from June 6-8.
The Byte of Betrayal
Caleb McDonnell lives his life online. A thirty-year-old fast food worker, he spends his time talking in an Internet world where his job and living conditions can't dictate his friendships. He's found acceptance, friendship, and even romance. But when an online friend is revealed as a fake, Caleb loses all sense of trust. To stave off the emotional collapse of his betrayal, Caleb leaves his online life behind and retreats into the monotony of his job.
Nicodemus Rokos feels like his heart has been torn out. He knew Caleb would be hurt, but he'd hoped not to be shut out of his boyfriend's life. He can only hope Caleb still feels something when he shows up in person to reclaim what he's lost.
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.