THE PASSION STROLL...
a blog by author Ashavan Doyon
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.”
In the dungeons of Garuth, Thommas has found the shattered mind of Brian's love. Restoring him meant pulling him wholly into the Realm. Now, while Brian grieves over the love he presumes dead, Thommas must seek safety in the dungeons, and help guide a very confused prince of the blood to understand who he is and what he wants.
Join Thommas and Jordan as the adventure continues in Chapter 23 of The One That Feels!
What was that? — You're behind! Fear not! All 22 chapters are right here on the Passion Stroll. Start the journey with Chapter 1.
“I’m in a dungeon?” asked Jordan. He was nervous, blinking too much, unwilling to meet my gaze.
“You are. To be gifted to Rakibak as a pleasure slave. It’s not a dream, Jordan. You can’t let yourself think that. You have pulled your body out of the Real, and it is here. You can bleed, Jordan. You can die. This realm is as real in its way as the other.”
“A pleasure slave?” he asked. He looked at his hands, and then felt the great arcing antlers at his forehead. “W-what am I?” For a moment his eyes met mine.
“There is little time for questions. We must get you out.”
“He didn’t come.” Anger. Sadness. Even proof of Brian’s love could not erase Jordan’s doubt completely. “Why didn’t he come himself?”
“Brian cannot leave the Real, Jordan. He is anchored there, through all realities, and this place cannot touch him.” I set my hand on Jordan’s shoulder. “You must trust me.”
Jordan’s nod was hesitant, halting from the unfamiliar weight, but it was there.
Okay, I know it's late so I'm just going to get right to it. This is Chapter 22... in which Thommas finally reaches Jordan, and finds him protected, imprisoned, and not so mad as he was led to believe.
Can Thommas free Brian's love, and in doing satisfy the obligation that keeps him from his beloved Nem? Find out!
A little lost? Check out the story from the very first words!
I followed the narrow circling corridor into the depths of the dungeons. The atmosphere was eerily quiet. This deep, the prisoners within the oubliettes had no hope. It did not matter whether they had given up or not. Those who had no longer screamed. Those who had not no longer had voices left to scream, their outraged screamed into oblivion until their voices were no more. And so both no longer had hope.
Somewhere deep in this maze of lost souls, there was a cell, and in it a man. A man who the Realm thought crazy. A man who had been offered up to the most miserably perverse creature in Garuth. Rakibak had imprisoned his toy deep in an oubliette, to be forgotten until Jordan’s blood was needed to give undeserved honor to his own.
My steps were as careful as they were quick. Rakibak had taken risks to put Jordan in an oubliette, but he viewed Jordan as his route to the blood. In the Realm’s vigorously class stratified society, that was something he would kill for. Something he would betray for. Something he’d twist his vows to Garuth for.
Jordan would be guarded.
I watched the shadows, the floor, the walls. Every step taken was a risk, so much risk. Necessary risk. If I paid my debt, fulfilled my vow, I would be free. I could remain with Nem, remain with my mate. My Nem. I hesitated for a moment. I would take the risk. I would find Jordan. I would be with Nem. Forever.
Are you excited? This month there are three episodes of The One That Feels to make up for missing the second chapter last month. So you're getting Chapter 21 today, then in just about two weeks on Monday May 15 you'll get Chapter 22 and then on the 29th or 30th (I may be away for that final weekend which could delay it a day) you'll get Chapter 23!
That's a lot of The One That Feels, and it's an exciting time in our serial adventure. When we last saw Thommas, he had ventured into dreams in an effort to warn the Lady about the doom her Chancellor Rakibak was courting—only to be yanked from the dream by the villainous knave himself! He's been left hanging, literally, from shackles of cold iron in the dungeon cells deep beneath the island city.
Will Thommas escape? What's going on with Nem? With Jordan located, can they stop doom from claiming Garuth? Find out!
Are you confused? Did you start the story late? Fear not! You can start at the beginning!
I hung there for a while before the guards got complacent. Days, perhaps. Rakibak did not return to gloat, and that alone made me wonder, despite his outbursts, if he’d learned wisdom while I was away. Even for the prince of Zaharoth, it would take time for Nem to ease past through the bureaucracy of Garuth to reach Nastasia. It would take time for diplomacy to work to get him access to me. And even then, as the Traitor of Garuth, my freedom to leave with him was far from assured.
My guards watched me. And at first their gaze was unsettling and focused. Elite guards they may be, but they were young. To them I was an impossible legend, and so complacency came. Slowly, inexorably, it came, until their glances were casual and brief, until they laughed and joked with each other around me. Until the spells upon my shackles had spent too long fighting with cold iron to survive.
I closed my eyes and whispered a prayer. I love you, my Nem.
A glance upon metal that belonged only in the real and a thought teased open my shackles. I needed the guards only to be close. And then they were. One step, two, a sword born of feeling and dread and the silence of loneliness that swallowed all sound and my blows were frantic against their own. They screamed for help only to find the loneliness I bore as a blade devoured their words, made them frightened and alone. Their swordplay was skilled, their strikes precise, but mine was something they had not seen before. With each blow I pushed them back, fighting not with grace but with the power my size afforded, and they stumbled, and fell, and finally grasped at the bars to keep on their feet.
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!
Thrilled to not just be back on schedule but staying on schedule with Chapter 20 of The One That Feels!
Imprisoned deep in the dungeons of Garuth, Thommas is at the mercy of the cruel Rakibak. Somewhere in the dungeons with him is Jordan. He swore an oath to return Jordan to Brian—to bring the noble prince of the house of Om back to the anchor of the Real that is his mate. With his own prince, his own mate, he understands Brian's desperation. But he is just a prisoner. He needs help. Join us in Chapter 20 of The One That Feels as Thommas returns to the world of dreams....
Feeling a little lost? You can start from the story from the beginning!
“Am I dreaming?” asked Brian. He scarcely looked up, his gaze frozen on Jordan, still unmoving in the bed, but he still knew I was there.
“Yes,” I replied, “but you’ll remember it.”
“Have you found him?” asked Brian. He didn’t move. He sat at the edge of the bed, a pale, fragile hand held to his cheek. Jordan’s body had gotten nearly skeletal. How long had it been in the Real?
My poor Brian. “You must hold him,” I said. “Keep him close. Never a moment alone. Skip sleep to stay with him if you have to.”
“I’m already doing that!” said Brian. “You... you promised, Thom. Please.”
“Let him see,” I said quietly. “The love I told you to keep hidden—he must see it in your eyes.”
“You told me—”
“Let him see,” I said. “He must see that you love him, Bri.”
“You said it would be a gateway. What if I.... I could lose him, Thom!”
“His mind decays here in the Realm, his body decays there in the Real. It doesn’t matter anymore which one comes to the other. They must be joined or he will die.”
Writer of the mysterious, fantastic, and the romantic. Sometimes sappy. Often angsty. Always searching for the sexy. Stories about men who love men.