THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
I get some flack sometimes for portraying parents harshly. Sometimes it's both parents, sometimes just one, but usually a character has someone in their family who just is not that supportive person that we all hope to have;; coming out.
Romances are fantasy, but when we write about a community there's a responsibility to be true to the heart. And part of that is that the relationship with parents, especially with coming out, is complex. There's a whole range of reactions, and that should be represented.
But on Mother's Day, really I want to look at a story where the mothers are front and center—which means looking at Andrew's Prayer.
I love this story because the women who shape Drew are really incredible examples of how important the relationship with a mom can be. It's curious, I think, that Andrew's Prayer starts with an outed Drew returning home, knowing his mom has found out that he's gay. The second paragraph of the story says this:
Coming home hadn’t been a difficult choice. Sure, it was over a thousand miles. Sure, it was going to be hot, sticky, and miserable. It was still home. His mom was the only person in his life who’d said “I love you” that he had believed. She’d even said it after she found out. She’d been in tears, she’d screamed. But she’d still said “I love you,” and Drew never doubted for a moment that she’d meant it.
Throughout the book, the relationship with his mom is so important, but Drew is established as a character who doesn't really believe in love. Except that he knows his mom loves him. He knows it so much that he goes home, knowing, expecting that she won't accept him.
But she's the one who immediately confronts him with what's important.
“What about love? Andy, my precious baby, what about finding someone to love you?”
Drew doesn't believe in love, but throughout the book it is his mom who is there to help him recognize it, to help him find it, and to push him, when he needs it.
Pick up Andrew's Prayer at Purple Horn Press or get it for kindle at Amazon.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mother's out there, and also to all gestational parents, whether they identify as mothers or not.
Looking for a great book but not in the mood for the mom dynamic? May 13 is the last day of Dreamspinner's In and Out of This World Sale... lots of great paranormal and contemporaries on sale. Which includes all of my books with them.
Sometimes when you look back on your life, it's easy to see the crossroads. Places where one turn really mattered. The ones where an angel could have come back and It's a Wonderful Life-ed you.
Eighteen years ago, I had one of those moments. I was thinking about regret and in my life I had two. Both were about relationships that ended in less than stellar ways.
In 1995 I had two miserable breakups. The first was the end to an on-again-off-again disaster. The problem? I was head over heels. People sometimes ask me why I believe in love at first sight stories, and that ex is the reason. We lasted eight months. In the end, he broke up with me. Sadly he didn't even tell me. To say the break up was bad is an understatement.
The second was an older man. I say older, but he was only in his mid-late twenties. It seemed older to me as I wasn't even legal to drink yet. He owned a comic shop halfway between college and my mom's house. We had common interests—a lot of common interests. That summer, while I recovered from the desolate hole in my heart, he slipped into it. We had dinners, went to the movies. He treated me like a prince, but between the distance to school, his work schedule, and a huge unconsolable grief that I wasn't over, it wasn't working. I broke up with him. It was a miserable thing to do. It was also, probably, the right thing at the time.
So, five years later—eighteen years ago—I was graduating and I was thinking about those two very different relationships. The boy I couldn't seem to let go, even though I cursed him every chance I had, and the one I never had a chance to get to know.
I wrote two letters. One was an attempt to bridge that broken relationship with my evil ex. The other an outpouring of regret to the person who I'd never really had a chance to explain why and how and what was going on that I'd chosen to end things.
I tore up the letter to the boy who had ripped my fragile heart to shreds. I sent the one to the man who had always treated me like a prince. Two weeks later we met on a Saturday... Saturday April 29, 2000, and had dinner at the restaurant where we'd had our first date all those years ago. When I graduated in 2001, I moved out of the apartment I shared near the college and moved in with him. We still count that day, today, as our anniversary.
It hasn't always been an easy road.
There was some fractured trust. There was a lot of getting to know one another again. There were dinners and movies and meeting friends and family in a more real and visceral way than we'd ever gotten to in that false start of a beginning.
So many times I think of what I might have missed if I hadn't felt that regret. If I hadn't sent that letter. We started our new relationship with me admitting I'd been an ass. Sometimes I think we still work because when things are hard, I can still admit that.
And sometimes I know it's because for all our faults... my Ron, he still treats me like a prince.
So, what is it like going to a meeting of an LGBTQ+ student group?
With a character like Rory, who has been thrust into a leadership role in one, this was a question I knew we'd see the answer to. Student organizations are often run haphazardly, with partial executive boards, missing officers, and on the drive of what can be only one or two dedicated people.
How do I know?
As a student, I was the political chair of the LBGA, the co-chair of the Disability Action Network, and served on the cabinet of the student government for a student body of 25000 people. I also spent fifteen years of my career in student affairs working with and advising students in exactly those roles.
Smooth operations among the student organizations exist, but usually only for a time, and often—so very often—the load eventually falls on a few.
In Becoming Rory we see Rory struggling in that role. Alone he is trying to pull together a community, and he's got a hard one to manage. Because the religious right can say all they want about the gay agenda... there isn't one gay community. And that's just the GAY community, when we're talking about the LGBTQ+ community. Doing it alone can't be easy. An organization like that should have at least two and probably three other people sharing that responsibility. At my school, the executive board was an eighteen person monstrosity... except that three people were holding down fourteen of those roles.
When I wrote the Queer Alliance meeting, I wanted it to feel right. From the fearless Cian showing up in a skirt to the terrified first year student Ian whose courage was all in just walking through the door, to bisexual Eric who expected showing up and talking about being bi to be easier than it turned out to be. I stood in Rory's shoes. I can't begin to think how many young men like Ian I talked to. How many like Bethany. I hope that it's gotten easier to make them less afraid when the fearless Cian characters walk through the door—they're totally based on a first year student I knew with perfect legs, who, yes, often showed up for meetings in a skirt. And just as often had to run to the meeting because they were chased (in heels) on the way.
They were heady places. Accepting and terrifying and hot... because they were the one place on campus where you might just make a connection. And while that part is less important now (because of the internet), I hope the community and the atmosphere still shines through.
Maybe a kid like Ian will read my story. Maybe they'll realize it doesn't have to be terrifying. And if they do, it'll all be worth it.
Rory Graeble returns to college determined to reinvent himself. Too many years have been wasted with masks, but becoming a student leader is a step Rory isn’t sure he’s ready for. A new identity takes more than just a new nickname, and Rory knows he has to take the chances that his old self would never risk. When that chance is a party that ends with an anonymous hot skater’s tongue down his throat and a phone number in his pocket, Rory knows what he has to do.
Danny Smits never expected to see stuffy lit geek Rory Graeble trying to be out, trying to be proud, trying to be… Rory. It’s damned sexy, and too much for the entrepreneurial skater to resist. When Rory calls him back the day after the party, Danny knows Rory has changed. But will Danny’s haunted past deter Rory? Or will Rory embrace the chance to experience everything the closet had stolen away? Danny believes in keeping things real, in a brutal honesty he knows means Rory will run screaming.
But this time Rory isn’t running.
Published by Purple Horn Press (only $3.99 until the end of April!)
Becoming Rory is also available from Amazon
The Tendire Gate is obviously a departure from most of my published works. Unlike the contemporaries of the Sam's Cafe Romances at Dreamspinner or my angst-ridden College Rose Romances, The Tendire Gate explores unfamiliar territory.
I spent most of my youth writing fantasy and science fiction. My first piece of writing was a one page Smurfs fan fiction typed out as a small child on my mom's portable typewriter. But years of rejection slips and frustration as I wrote novel after novel and accumulated rejection after rejection beat me down.
Eventually I rejuvenated my writing. I looked long and hard at what was missing or I'd been asked to change. Realizing what it was, I got so angry that I walked away.
I was being told to write to market. But while some people meant it innocently, so many more meant writing straight. For a long time I barely wrote anything, keeping my writing muscles exercised only during National Writing Month. Memories of an Imperfect Ghost. Zeriphas and the Bones of the World. The closest to what I write now was probably a novel titled Silent Voices. But while there were fantasy aspects to many of those stories, and even to new ones, Like The One That Feels that I've featured over the past year as a serial on this very blog, they weren't marketable.
When I sat down to write The Tendire Gate, all I had was the cover. The art for the gate struck me hard, and I started this story with frantic creative energy in the cover and the word gate.
It's still not very marketable. Stories where the couple isn't meeting and falling in love are always a harder sell. And maybe that story, where Elijah and Dylan meet, will still get told. But right now, I wanted to tell a story the felt visceral to me. A story about a world collapsing. About wanting desperately to find a way out. About a corrupt government on a witch hunt.
I was left with a story about a keeper. A lone young man whose great love waited on the other side of a gate. And he could go, right now, this instant and be with that man, that love, and be safe.
Except for his duty.
Join us now, at Station Ten—DIRE.
It feels kind of strange to be here. Certainly it was never as consistent as I would have liked, but here we are, and I'm about to hit publish on the final chapter and epilogue of The One That Feels.
I'm thrilled to have Nem out there in the world, because even though this story is told through Thommas's eyes, in truth, it's really about finding Nem, about loving Nem, about how we can hold on to an old love, only to find that the new love waiting for us is our truth.
It's no surprise that this chapter is all about wrapping things up, about Thommas surrendering to being a part of Nem forever. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you've had fun reading along. While I've had my doubts at times, I know there are some of you who have been reading, and if you have questions, now is the time. Comments are open, feel free to ask and I'll get back to any questions people have... well, almost any questions!
In the meantime, if you're behind, or were afraid to start until the story was complete, you can still read the story from the beginning.
Nem spun in my arms as we moved around the dance floor. I preferred the frenetic exultation of joy that dancing was in the Real, but Nem’s incessant smile as we circled the ballroom in measured exacting steps was so bright and wide and full of happiness that I could not bring myself to pull us from the floor. If he wanted to dance, we would dance.
I spun Nem away and pulled him back to me, circled in my arms. It was a practiced move, but once he was in my arms he stayed there, curling his head into my chest. His hand reached to my neck, and I shuddered as it grazed the bruises where he’d marked me. “You’re ready to go, aren’t you?” he asked.
“I haven’t been one to dance till midnight in a long time,” I said, kissing his cheek. “But I’m content. You’re happy. I like making you happy.”
He grinned at me, pulling back enough that he could run a finger down my chest. The other couples on the floor glared, adjusting their spins to avoid us. But Nem paid them no mind. His attention was on me—on the little gasps I was making as his finger skipped over the very low cut of my clothing and onto the cloth. “I’m wearing something special,” he said, his finger catching on the waistband of my pants.
I write a lot of contemporary.
There’s plenty of reasons for that, from the old ‘write what you know’ adage to the fundamental goal of writing gay romance for me—putting happy endings out there. Oh, I know I don’t make it easy. I write a lot of angst. But my boys get their happy endings.
Lately writing contemporary is hard. I’ve thought a lot about why that might be. Part of it, surely, is that the future seems less rosy, less hopeful than before. My husband sometimes will get upset at me, because I do write angst, and that means that often in my stories the characters will experience the realities of homophobia in our culture. He likes that sweeter more hopeful vision.
I stepped away from my usual stories. I set aside The College Rose Romances and The Sam’s Cafe Romances. Both of those have sequels that need airing, from Cian’s story—the purple rose—to the missing stories of chess master Brian’s brothers. Instead I’m working on a short, and unlike my last one which was very much a contemporary, this one has a dystopian sci-fi feel. It is intended as a romance, and I’m struggling sometimes to find that balance, but it is also, I think, rather different than my usual stories.
Mostly it came to me as a title and then a cover and went from there. I think I’ll be sharing it pretty soon.
The Tendire Gate.
We're getting so close to the end... ONE MORE CHAPTER. And an epilogue. But they'll be posted at the same time.
So, in the story our heroes await the arrival of Yarath of Om, a legendary king and warlord of the Realm—also Jordan's father. With Thommas unable to bring him personally back to the Real, Jordan is at the mercy of Yarath, who could demand fealty of his son, or deny him access to the one person who holds a route home. Because with the arrival of Yarath of Om comes Janice Blackmun, Jordan's mother, who carries with her the locket that can return Jordan to Brian's side. But will he take it? Or will Thommas be forced to defend them all against the might of Om?
Find out in Chapter 28 of The One That Feels!
What do you mean you're not caught up? There's 27 previous chapters of fantasy goodness... complete with alternate realms, sword fighting, monstrous villains, and a man torn between a love he wants to be true and the romance that stirs with a prince of the Realm. Don't miss out, read it from Chapter 1!
Yarath of Om entered the chamber. I didn’t need immense power to sense the nervousness of those of us who had assembled. Yarath filled the door, his massive antlers rising toward the arch of the door and for a moment I wondered if even the great doors of the hall were too small. And yet the man was no ogre or giant. Simply a very large man, his antlers arcing gracefully up from his forehead amplified that size.
His eyes were the green of the forest, as though all the greens of a mountainside had been swirled together to form them. His flesh was as translucent as Jordan’s, and beneath streams of gold, flowing like rivers in paths below the skin. He stepped forward and gazed at the table, and at us, assembled behind it.
One eyebrow arched in apparent surprise. He’d seen Jordan then. But did he know what it meant? He strode forward a man all in black following behind him. That man’s clothes were simple, but finely cut, and they clung as tightly as a second skin to a frame that was only muscle and bone. From behind me to one side I heard the slight gasp, hidden quickly. For myself, the man’s appearance presented no surprise. As any sovereign, Yarath had been permitted his personal guard.
Finally, a nervous woman entered. Garbed in finery that she clearly had no idea how to wear, she stumbled, only to be caught, carefully, lovingly, by Yarath himself. Jordan hissed softly. “Mom,” he whispered, so softly even I, who was closest, could barely hear it spoken.
As Yarath of Om stands at the gates to Garuth, Nem and Thommas have only a brief respite to prepare. This man of the Realm holds their happiness in his hands. Jordan is Yarath's son, and if he demands Jordan stay, then Thommas will see his oaths to the Realm in conflict. Dreading that moment, Thommas finds hope and resolve in the touch and passion of his mate, his Nem. But will that fortitude be enough?
Find out in Chapter 27 of The One That Feels!
Not caught up? Oh, man... that's 26 chapters of catching up to do... better start at the beginning!
I smiled. Nem’s hand was on my shoulder as he gently shook me.
“Mmm,” I said, grabbing hold of his arm and wrapping it around me. “Good.”
He kissed my back softly, sliding closer. “You were mumbling.”
I brought his hand to my lips and kissed it, then let it fall back against my chest. Nem kissed me again, squeezing us together until his chest was flush against my back. “Was worried.”
“I’m fine,” I said. “Get some sleep. Tomorrow we have to be diplomatic.”
Nem chuckled. “I’m a prince of the Realm. I’m more worried about you.”
I'll tell you a secret. I hate Valentine's Day. Maybe it's that I was dumped the day before (twice). Maybe it's that I lost a friend to suicide on the day. Maybe it's that I spent an awful lot of Valentine's Days alone when all my friends had someone. But for me, it was a horrible holiday. While I might dream of romance on the day, I never seemed to have it.
Needless to say I related to Theo Dwyer, the hero of my Valentine's Day story The Colors of Romance. When my husband and I first started dating, he used to get a teddy bear and chocolates and send roses to my office. He'd go all out. It's rather more subdued now, and even after the best of his efforts, I still have an urge to hide on the day.
Maybe that's why it was so important to me to write a truly sweet story for Valentine's Day when I wrote The Colors of Romance. Theo's story is a secret admirer story, which meant it had to be told from a single point of view. But I decided to write an intro story for it, just a brief one. And I immediately had a struggle. I couldn't use the character's name! I wrote it anyway, playing an old trick with first person point of view to keep the character safely anonymous.
I love The Colors of Romance for Theo's secret admirer and his relentless determination to bring romance to Theo's life. Turns out Dreamspinner Press wants you to share that romance. The Colors of Romance is $1 until 11:59 ET Feb 15. (link opens in new window)
And now for something special: an intro from the love interest's point of view.
The Shades of Romance
I'm always groggy when I wake up. I don't have an excuse, I grew up getting up earlier than most people can contemplate. But since I came to college my body's natural resistance to the effort has been rather more pronounced.
I have the usual rituals: a cold drink, a shower, brushing my teeth. When I get dressed I'm glad of my single room, because I'd hate to think of what the guys would think if they knew how long I spent getting ready, on making sure my jeans hug my ass just right. They just think I'm naturally rugged. I fucking work at it, harder than they can imagine. But I can't let them know, because if I did, they'd guess my secret.
Some days, most days, I wonder why I bother. If no one knows, how is anyone ever supposed to act on it? How am I ever going to find someone?
So I'm a downer. It's February, I'm twenty-one, and I'm a fucking virgin.
The reality is, it wouldn't matter if someone noticed my ass, or the deliberately just-tight-enough outline of my junk in my denims. I'm a hopeless case.
To save Jordan from madness, Thommas pulled him fully into the Realm. But it was an act with horrible consequences. Jordan's body no longer anchored him to the Real, or provided a way home. Worse, Jordan's love Brian witnessed the event. Will the quest turn into a fools errand? Can Brian, anchored by true power to the Real be convinced that Jordan is alive? Most importantly, can Thommas release Jordan without breaking his vows to Nem?
Find out in Chapter 26 of The One That Feels!
A little lost? This story nears its end, but you can still read it from the beginning here on the Passion Stroll!
I stood quietly and waited. I could feel the grief, palpable in the air. There was a taste like sorrow, bitter and heavy. I listened in the heavy press of fog until I heard it. It tore at my soul, the power of it, the ache, wailing into the night. I followed the sounds. I wasn’t looking forward to this. I loved Brian more than anything once. To witness the loss he must be feeling….
I found Brian at a tombstone. Two tombstones. He was on his knees, clutching at the stone. I knew which one was meant to be me. He grieved for us both, but his soul belonged to Jordan, and that stone was the one to which he held as he poured his sorrow into the night.
I cleared my throat. It wasn’t fair. I should be approaching him. Setting a hand on his shoulder in comfort. But that could suck me into the Real, and I wasn’t about to allow that. I wouldn’t leave Nem alone. Not again.
I had to clear my throat a second time before he noticed. Before he raised his tear streaked face and turned. He was shaking.
“I’m in a dream,” he said.
Yes. I sent my voice ringing into his mind.
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.