THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
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.
Becoming Rory is out! I am astounded and terrified and happy all at once.
I started writing this installment of the College Rose Romances third. Andrew wasn’t speaking to me. Instead I was getting a guy from a wealthy neighborhood who I was calling Andrew on the page and just wasn’t. I set the story aside and started writing something else, and what came out was Rory.
I was bewildered. I didn’t have a character named Rory, and while I had suspicions, I had to look up who Lawrence was—a throwaway reference in Loving Aidan to one of the lit geeks who “took care” of Aidan in the tunnels. I stopped midway to write the draft of Andrew’s Prayer. This time Drew spoke up loud and clear. My draft of Becoming Rory sat for a long time until I was finally able to wrap it up almost a year later.
Why does it terrify me? Rory falls in love with a character who stood out for me in Steven’s Heart. I’d always intended to make Smits a love interest for someone. I liked his cockiness, and that I could picture him sailing across campus on his skateboard. I knew a lot about him right away. But as the novel went on, we learned more.
I wasn’t unwilling to write Danny’s illness, but I won’t pretend it was easy either. His illness is one that has a broad spectrum. It’s also one I’ve researched a lot, because I share the diagnosis. That meant pulling a lot of personal pain into the story. It also meant reviews hitting like a ton of bricks, because the reviews were not kind to Danny.
I read one review that basically said that no one could love someone so broken.
As authors we learn never to respond to reviews, at least not directly. And I didn’t. But my heart shattered a little. As a young gay man I grew up knowing no one could love me because I was gay. It was a message society hammered in with certainty, and still does—that’s where the kill your gays trope in television comes from, an institutional message that a happy result just isn’t possible.
I grew up. The world changed. I found those people were wrong. But the messages still hurt.
No one can love someone so broken.
Yep, the messages definitely still hurt. It makes me very glad that Rory found Danny.
Becoming Rory is book 4 of the College Rose Romances
Becoming Rory (College Rose Romances 4)
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.
Find Becoming Rory at Purple Horn Press
Also available at Amazon.com
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.
Growing up, my favorite films were fantasy films, of which there were few. Don't get me wrong, I love Star Wars. But it never claimed the same spot for me that the Last Unicorn did, or the top of the list for any fantasy bookworm: The Neverending Story. Of course the film is considerably more happy than the book, ending halfway at this triumphant point where Bastion has all of these wishes to make the Empress's kingdom great. But the consequences were relegated to a failed film.
Never the less, The Neverending Story had a few points that made it great. It pulled at emotions. It made you part of the story. And in the midst of the story, as Atreyu pushes forward searching for answers, you are drawn into what it means to despair.
His trusty steed fails this test and is sucked into the swamp. Indeed, Atreyu himself falls to the despair too, and is only rescued at the last minute by the luck dragon, Falcor (I don't count this as a spoiler, since the movie is 30 years old). It's meant to show that even when we despair most there is still hope. It's an ongoing theme in the story. We see it in Atreyu's determination when he continues in the Swamps of Sadness, and also when he faces the servant of the Nothing, defiant to the last.
I've felt a little like Atreyu in that swamp for the last year. Hopes. Dreams. Things I've worked on for decades and others that are newly minted. I feel like it's all falling apart sometimes.
I'm sure others have made similar points with Star Wars, the First Order, and The Last Jedi. Maybe I prefer the fantasy nebulous enemy. Maybe I stopped believing in the Force. Regardless, I find it interesting that these stories actually resonate in similar ways. To rebel against the First Order/Empire/the Nothing is a fools errand. And yet it is the action of the few: The scavenger. The deserter. The farmer. The reader. For them to rebel is the only hope.
Perhaps what I need to do is remember that story came from the rebellion of someone else first—a writer.
Nem's cries echo in the mind of our hero! At the very gate of the the Lady's court, will Thommas be too late to save his precious Nem from the machinations of the vile rake Rakibak? Find out in Chapter 25 of The One That Feels!
Late coming to the story? Check it out from the beginning.
Trigger warning: Threat of sexual violence.
I growled in frustration at the door to the Lady’s great hall. It was sealed tight, and while once I might have been inclined to restraint, in this moment all I could hear were the cries of my mate frantic in my mind.
“Open,” I snarled. And the trolls within the palace heard my cries, and my anger, and the door fell, crushed into pieces upon the floor.
The clatter of ancient wood splintering against the marble floor rang through the halls, echoing into the vaulted ceilings of the massive chamber. Rakibak was laughing. His fingers were at his belt, my mate stripped naked at his feet. I gulped as I saw the pile of clothes, ripped and shredded on the ground next to him. Rakibak had dared, he’d dared to touch. Two of the Elite Guard held my mate, face down.
I shuddered with fury. My Nem. Rakibak was planning to claim the right of blood by taking my mate. Fury gave way to wrath. I had given no word, made no promise. I could crush Garuth forever.
Safely hidden away out of reach of Rakibak, Thommas and Jordan rest and plan for Jordan's return home. But when Thommas is overwhelmed by an onslaught of fear from his mate, even Jordan's safety must be risked. Can Thommas reach Nem in time? Find out in Chapter 24 of The One That Feels!
Haven't been following the story? This serialized fiction is available on Ashavan's blog, The Passion Stroll. Check it out from Chapter One.
I woke with a start. We were still in the lady’s hideaway. Jordan snored blissfully, sprawled on a tiny couch. I’d fallen asleep in my chair watching him. I glanced about, searching for danger.
I closed my eyes. Nem needed me. “Get up,” I growled to Jordan, opening my eyes and standing with such force that the chair tumbled to the ground behind me. “Get up, now!”
I felt the pulse of fear from my mate.
Nem, my love. I am coming.
Relief, fear, urgency.
I grabbed hold of the groggy prince and lifted him to his feet. “We’re leaving,” I said. “Now.” I searched out the case I needed and pulled out a drawer. The weapon was forged by the trolls, as all the best weapons in the realm were. And like all things made by trolls, it could not touch me. But that meant I also could not touch it. “Take it,” I said to Jordan, “but do not lift it in anger. You must use it only in defense.”
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.