May 6, 2015
The Moments In Time series features a couple in their early 20s and in the course of the three books one of the things they had to do several times was move—from their dorm to their summer residence on Fire Island, from Fire Island to one of the character’s brother’s house because their dorm room wasn’t ready, from the brother’s house to the dorm, from the dorm to an apartment. It’s been many years since my college days and until I wrote this book I’d forgotten how many times I moved house in my late teens and early 20s.
Moving is stressful. Putting your whole life in boxes. Remembering what you packed where. Physically packing, moving and unpacking. Waking up those first few nights exhausted and not entirely sure where you are. I don’t miss that! I’ve lived in my current house in New Hampshire for over a decade and that’s the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere. I don’t miss moving at all!
Now the closest I get to having to pack up a zillion belongings is conference time. Right now I’m packing to attend the RT Convention in Dallas next week. (If any of you are going, please find me and say hello—I love meeting readers in person!)
In addition to the stress that moving puts on Collin and Tanner, several of the places they live in the beginning of MOMENT OF CLARITY are not places where they have any privacy. Collin’s brother has three young children, the friend they crash with has a roommate who’s up till all hours partying—they are both longing for time alone together.
Here’s an excerpt from the time that they’re living with Collin’s brother…
Between classes, my work at Gino’s, Tanner’s shifts at the bookstore, and commuting back and forth to Sean’s house, Tanner and I were busier than we’d ever been. I always knew it was more convenient to live on campus, but I had no idea what a hassle it was to make the added drive daily. By the time we got to Sean’s, had dinner, spent time with the girls, and did some studying, we were exhausted.
I hadn’t touched Tanner for yet another week, and I didn’t think I’d last the day without changing that. Tanner must have felt the same. I’d seen the looks he’d been throwing me, particularly the night before while we were watching a movie together, but I wasn’t about to do anything with Sean and the kids in the house. I didn’t care that the doors locked. It didn’t feel right. And I didn’t trust either of us to be quiet enough. Especially since it had been so long.
Sean handed me the last dirty dish to load into the dishwasher while Tanner put the juice and milk in the fridge.
“I’m gonna run to the grocery store while the kids are at preschool. Any requests?” Sean asked, grabbing his wallet off the counter and shoving it in his pocket.
“If you get a can of crushed tomatoes and some spaghetti, I’ll cook.”
“Thanks. The kids loved that the other night. Anything else?”
I tried to think but couldn’t. All that registered in my brain was that Sean was going out. Tanner and I would be alone in the house. My entire body was totally onboard with this thought.
“I think that’ll do it. Tanner, you need anything?”
Tanner looked up from wiping off the kitchen tables. His pupils were huge. I knew that look. I loved that look. He was thinking the same thing I was. I twitched with anticipation.
“I’m good,” Tanner said, tossing the rag on the counter.
“Okay, then.” Sean headed for the door. “It’s my turn to drive carpool home, so I’ll probably take the kids to Mickey D’s for happy meals. Lock up if you both leave, okay?”
“Sure.” My heart raced as I watched Sean trot down the back porch steps. I held my breath, listening as the car door slammed, the engine revved, and the tires crunched down the gravel driveway.
I turned to look at Tanner, but before I could even focus my eyes, he was on me. Hands on either side of my face, body pressed up against mine, lips prying mine open, tongue—oh, God, I’d missed that tongue—swirling in circles with mine.
Groaning, I grabbed him and tugged him closer. I needed to feel as much of him as possible. All of him. Immediately, if not sooner.
For another chance to win an ebook from me, tell me how many times you’ve moved in your life or the longest you’ve lived in any one place. I’ll announce winners in the comment section of each post at midnight tonight (EDT).
May 6, 2015
Food has always been a big part of my life. Not only do I love to eat, I also love to cook. I come from a half Italian, half Jewish family and the main thing the two sides of the family had in common was a compulsive need to feed people! Many of my favorite memories from childhood involve food—special occasion meals, holiday treats, or just lazy days at my grandmother’s houses anxiously awaiting the next special meal or snack.
I’ve carried that tradition on to my adult life. I love cooking for friends and families, making traditional foods and trying new recipes. I’m pretty sure that whole need-to-feed thing is genetic, because if you’re at my house, odds are I’ll make you eat something!
I’ve also carried on my love of food to my fiction writing. The characters in my books will always be seen enjoying meals together. Whether they’re dining out or preparing meals together or for one another, there’s always food involved. I think sharing food with people promotes bonding. It’s also a great way to create memories. There are still scents—a certain roast of coffee, a pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove—that will transport me back to my grandmother’s kitchen when I was a kid. There are also foods I’ll associate with a particular trip—gelato in an outdoor cafe in Florence or fudge on the boardwalk at the Jersey shore—and if I smell or taste those things it’ll bring back memories of being in that place.
Food can also become a ritual. Pizza at the same late night spot after seeing your favorite band play. A certain diner for weekend breakfasts. A favorite restaurant for birthday celebrations. You come to associate those places and foods with the people you’ve had the experience with.
In MOMENT OF CLARITY, the third book in my Moments In Time series, Collin and Tanner wind up spending some time apart. During that time, while Collin is missing Tanner, he comforts himself with Chinese takeout from the place they used to go to together. It’s sad and sweet and comforting all at once.
What’s your favorite (or strongest) food memory? A holiday item you only eat once a year? A meal you grab with a favorite person? Something you haven’t had in a long time? Share your food associations and I’ll choose a random winner (later tonight) to win a copy of an ebook!.
May 6, 2015
April 24, 2015
Ashavan Doyon here to wrap up and award one of you with the final give-away – an e-book copy of Gerry’s Lion.
As for my quirk? Like Leo, I love the tropical shirts… so much so that they even let me wear them as business attire at work!
LEO LOOKED through his closet. It was hopeless.
“What do I wear?”
“It’s my mama, and my sister, and some kids. Wear something comfortable. It’s not a service.”
“She’s gonna hate me,” muttered Leo, sliding hanger after hanger to one side.
Gerry grasped his arm and turned him, staring at him in that intense way that made all thought flee from his head.
“You’re telling me that John didn’t make one of these for Easter?” Gerry asked, indicating one of the tropical shirts.
“But that’s so casu—”
“It’s you, baby. That’s who I want them to meet. If they’re going to hate you anyway, at least let them hate you for who you are, not someone you make yourself in hope they’ll accept you.”
Gerry pulled him close. “I love you, baby, but I watched Adam do this for years. It didn’t help. If it didn’t help him, what’s the point in you repeating the mistakes Adam and I made?”
Leo did have a tropical shirt for Easter. Several. He turned as Gerry released him and with two quick slides had the hanger he needed. Stark black with Fabergé-style eggs covering the surface in metallic colors. Bunnies hopped along the bottom hem. How John had justified the custom print, Leo still didn’t know. Leo pulled the shirt out and held it against his bare torso. “The neck is low. They’ll see….”
Gerry reached in and pulled out a lavender turtleneck.
Leo shook his head. “Not on your life.”
“Another color, then? That tan would match the bunny rabbits.” Gerry hung up the shirt and pulled out another. “Come on. It’s not that bad. Aren’t layers supposed to be in? Anyway, you’re wearing tropical shirts. How fashion conscious can you claim to be?”
And our winner? Denise Dechene. Please email me at email@example.com and let me know what email you use for your Dreamspinner bookshelf. We’ll get Gerry’s Lion added for you.
Thanks everyone for attending. I’ll stick around for a little while to answer any lingering questions. I hope you learned something about Gerry’s Lion and I want to take this final opportunity to ask you to buy the book:
http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6305 – it’s still on sale until April 28!
April 24, 2015
Ashavan Doyon here, celebrating the release of Gerry’s Lion.
It wouldn’t be fair to talk about family traditions without speaking to my own. For me the tradition is for Easter. And while I’ve made up a lot of the traditions Gerry and Leo speak about, this one comes from my own family–so we have a little bit of an excerpt from the middle of the story:
“It’s just Easter,” Gerry said. He was trying to be reassuring. It was sweet. Also terrifying.
“Yeah. Just Easter.” Leo shook his head. “You’ve only told me about a million times how it was his mom’s favorite holiday.”
“She won’t hate you.”
“Maybe. But she’s not going to love me either.”
Gerry swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing. “She’ll understand.”
Gerry’s voice was very quiet. “I hope so.”
Leo glared at the snow and ice. “At least we’ll be able to see the eggs.”
Gerry laughed. “She’ll just huck ’em into the woods.”
Gerry’s laugh became a grin, and it was a broad one.
“Oh, fuck. You’re not.”
“It’ll be fun.”
“You weren’t joking, were you? She paints them brown?”
“Afraid of the bears?” asked Gerry.
“It’s a tradition. Don’t worry, you’re not actually expected to find any.”
“But the little kids will, won’t they?” Leo sighed.
This was a little bit of a memorial to my Grandmother. Yes, we hold an Easter egg hunt every year. And yes, the adults have to search for brown plastic eggs, hidden in the woods, with the bears. I’m totally not kidding. For the record, the hiding of these eggs in the woods (with the bears) is now my job, with the help of my husband. And the place we hide them? Black Bear Pass. You thought I was kidding about the bears, didn’t you?
I like putting these bits of myself into stories now and then, because honestly, I think it helps the stories come alive a little bit more.
So, final giveaway. The winner will receive a copy of Gerry’s Lion as an e-book (delivered to your Dreamspinner Press bookshelf): If you were writing a romance, what quality or quirk of your own would you lend to a character to help give them life? I’ll have an answer for myself at 9 pm when we wrap up, along with the winner.
Of course, everyone is welcome to BUY A COPY NOW at: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6305 <–25% off because of the sale going on now! or in print (sadly not on sale) http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6306
April 24, 2015
This is Ashavan Doyon and I thought I’d spread some good cheer! I mean, giving presents is very much a part of Christmas, and the story does start with a Christmas cruise.
So, I’m giving away two prizes. I mentioned that commenters would be entered to win a giveaway! The first went randomly to a commenter on all the posts for the New Release Party up to this one. Yvonne is the winner - please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the email you use at the Dreamspinner store. You’ve won a free copy of anything from my Dreamspinner backlist (that’s any e-book I’ve written for Dreamspinner EXCEPT my new release, Gerry’s Lion). Pick from The King’s Mate, The Colors of Romance, I Almost Let You, The Byte of Betrayal, or A Wounded Promise.
I’ll also be giving away an e-book copy of Gerry’s Lion a little later tonight, so stay with me!
The start of Gerry’s Lion focuses on Christmas, and I think we see that both Gerry and Leo are very much drawn to their traditions. That was also part of my attraction to doing a story based around holidays, because I think those traditions can be very meaningful. For Gerry, they are so meaningful that he actually packed a small artificial Christmas tree to put up in his cabin on the cruise.
What is your most meaningful holiday (not necessarily Christmas) tradition?
EDIT: because I want to forget about this, but you know I need to remind you! PLEASE BUY THE BOOK:
April 24, 2015
This is Ashavan Doyon, talking about my new release Gerry’s Lion.
There’s a scene where Leo has discovered that Gerry loves art and goes to the gallery on the Sunrise. He’s trying to learn more about Gerry, and he gets a little more than he bargained for.
Leo thanked him and took the stairs down to deck six. The hallway where the art was displayed wasn’t difficult to find. It was the only one that hadn’t been specifically decked out for the holiday.
Leo walked down hesitantly, looking at the artwork. Most of the names he didn’t recognize. He studied the paintings, wishing he knew anything about the artists or art. He could spot what he liked: bold oil paintings where you could see the texture of the paints. And there were a few. But the ones on the wall were painfully melancholy. Trees about to lose their last leaf. A single leafless birch surrounded by the fiery colors of autumn. They were vivid and almost angry.
“Brilliant, aren’t they?” said a quiet voice behind him.
Leo gulped and nodded.
“They are quite a departure for this artist. He’s known for more modern abstract work. His focus is usually on color and texture as much as content, conveying location and…. Well, he’s brilliant. These were his first works on the market in a couple years. But you can tell it’s him. See the birch, lonely, white, depressed… you can see the bark peeling. Look at how it’s so much more vivid than the brilliant colors of the trees surrounding it.”
“I like the textures,” Leo said, turning to find a well-dressed man in a suit. “I don’t really understand the rest.”
“Perhaps a Christmas-themed piece?”
Leo shook his head. “I’ve met someone. And he’s into art and I like art, but I want to understand it better.”
The attendant smiled. “I’m Nate. I can help you.”
Nate walked him down the hall and stopped at each piece of art. He spoke passionately about the pieces, describing the virtues of each one. Occasionally they’d come to a piece virtually locked to the wall, and Nate would drop a name even Leo couldn’t miss. Rembrandt. Picasso. When they reached the end of the hall, Nate led him into another small room. Leo stood in the doorway, transfixed.
“That’s another Tanner,” said Nate. “It’s the last modern piece he put on the market.”
“It’s pain,” Leo said, starting at the name.
It can’t be.
“You’re close. The title of the piece is Loss.”
Leo looked at the painting, studying it. Making his way through the sweeping strokes to find the objects in the sea of white and pale blues. To make out the figures. The sweep of the strokes conveyed a line. Peaks and valleys fading and then flat. And at the end of it a figure at the door, alone. A hospital room. The painting was a hospital room. An empty bed. A weeping black figure alone.
Choosing character traits for characters can be a struggle for an author. How does one convey a painting if one doesn’t paint? How does one convey the taste of a delicacy? The exhilaration of life on a motorcycle? I tried to pull Leo’s discovery of appreciating the artwork into his feelings for Gerry–important because for Gerry that artwork is very tied into Adam and Gerry’s loss.
Is there something innocuous that you associate with loss? For me it’s a cologne. A whiff can send me spiraling for days.
April 24, 2015
This is Ashavan Doyon, here talking about the release of Gerry’s Lion.
I have a confession. This story originally started life as a submission for the Advent Calendar. I wrote it in the middle of my vacation in July two years ago. Competition for the advent calendar is really tough, and when it didn’t make it, I was heart broken. I loved the story of Gerry and his lost love Adam. For months it drove me nuts, until I finally just sat down and said to myself, what if this is the middle of the story. And I tried starting the story at Thanksgiving instead. For anyone who thinks this version has too much angst, try to imagine the Gerry that emerged in THAT story.
With Thanksgiving not working, I turned instead to the next holiday–Valentine’s Day. It was here, I think, where Gerry really started to shine again, and the angst balanced out enough to work. But I owe this story, in many ways, to a cruise I took with my long suffering husband, who endured me writing over 17 thousand words on a one week cruise to Bermuda.
I chose holidays to focus the scenes of this story around because they are moments of glorious potential drama, and that is magnified for many LGBT folks, as there’s additional layers of acceptance or lack thereof with their families. And we see a lot of that nuance in this story – from the angsty Christmas cruise that starts it, to the nervous wrangling of traditions for Valentines Day, to the mystery Easter egg hunt where they hunt for eggs painted brown and hidden in the woods. I actually found focusing on holidays a good way to move the story and also to jump it forward every so often, and I think it helped a lot with pacing the story.
What’s your favorite vacation/holiday story (either personal or in a romance?) I’ll be using the comments to help determine who wins the prizes!
Don’t forget to buy the book: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6305 (or in print) http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6306
–> my vacation story: On this infamous cruise, I was in one of the bars on the cruise ship in the middle of the day (it was almost completely empty) when I was approached by one of the other cruisers, who asked what I was doing. I explained that I was an author, writing gay romances. She blithely explained how those were her favorite, while her husband got redder and redder, sure she hadn’t heard me say “gay” romances. To this day I don’t know if she did, but I gave her my card, it would have been hard NOT to tell from that.
April 24, 2015
This is Ashavan Doyon again, here to talk to you about Gerry’s Lion.
Covers matter, a LOT. Often it is only the cover that first attracts a reader into taking the moments to read the blurb, and so it is an element, I think, that tortures authors. We want a cover that says EVERYTHING there is to say about our story. But it can’t. And if it tries, it can break the conventions of the genre so badly that no one will read it. I’ve seen incredible stories that just didn’t perform as expected, and sometimes I have to wonder if the cover is the reason.
Gerry’s Lion breaks the pattern for my covers with Dreamspinner. All my previous covers have been either photographs or photo montages. This one was drawn, which brought a new element into trying to find the perfect cover. When you submit an art request you give a brief character description, and that’s really almost all the artist has to figure out the best model for the character. They have that and a very brief synopsis. And a brief statement about the dream cover that you most want to see.
I described Leo like this: Leo Ystrabov is on the lower side of average height (about 5’6″), blue eyes, black hair. As a [spoiler redacted], he’s exceptionally well built and muscular. He favors tropical shirts.
And for my dream cover? This is what I asked for: An art gallery… the walls are white, but the room is dark shadows, a light shining on a single piece of art. It was radiant, like the sun. Yellows and reds and oranges, a mane of light around a dark figure, dancing–Gerry, engulfed by his lion. A man is seen from behind looking at the painting – this could be either Gerry, Leo, or the two of them together, all three situations happen in the book [minor spoiler redacted].
I think I got pretty lucky, that comes really close. My experience has been getting a couple of covers built from watermarked stock images that give an impression of what the cover artist is going for. With a drawn cover it was quite different. I received sketches to show those ideas, and then the one I chose was drawn. Most of my editorial decisions once I’d picked which of the sketches I wanted were limited to how the title would be displayed.
What were the other two drawings? I don’t think I’m allowed to show you but there were two alternates. One depicted Leo, pulling off his shirt, in front of an abstract background of empty frames. The other showed Gerry, with Leo craning his neck over Gerry’s shoulder in front of a row of frames. I confess I had a hard time deciding, in part because Gerry’s character is African-American; I think there’s value in showing that on the cover. Unfortunately the depiction of Gerry just didn’t feel right to me (he was too tall, too muscular, the character didn’t make me think of the Gerry from my story) and I elected to go with the final cover shown here.
What makes a good cover, and what good stories do you think may not have been as popular because of the cover? Don’t forget–Responses will be used to help decide on a winner for one of the e-books I’m giving away!
And before I forget: BUY THE BOOK. PLEASE, PLEASE BUY THE BOOK:
or in print:
(in the interests of making people happy: the e-book version is part of the Wet Dream sale from today until 4/28 – 25% off)
April 7, 2015
Today we interview the multi-genre writing Rebecca Cohen!
Dreamspinner Press: What is the most erotic scene you’ve ever written?
In Duty to the Crown (the second of my Elizabethan historical series, The Crofton Chronicles), I have Sebastian Hewel pretending to be prostitute, hanging around the seedy backstreets of South Bank in London. He’d slipped Anthony Redbourn note and told him to meet him. Anthony arrives and is more than happy to play along with Sebastian’s game. Especially as Sebastian has procured a room for their use at a nearby tavern. They act out their roles, Anthony tying Sebastian to the bed with his hose, and promising to get his money’s worth from Sebastian. Which he certainly does.
Dreamspinenr Press: Your new novel is a science-fiction gay romance. What were some joys and challenges writing a romance set in a sci-fi world?
In Under Glass I wanted to play with the idea that for certain people true love is genetically determined. I’m a biology geek, and so I created a concept called psychogenetics to describe how Ollie and Kai, the main characters in ‘Under Glass’, are linked and how the link is mediated by a special organ called the caerellon. Only in science fiction could I get to play and run away with such ideas. Another joy was making Kai a novice planet builder. His species creates planets, one of which is where Ollie was spirited away to by his mother as a young child. New races and planets mean I get to shape the evolution of a species and create their mythology, and that is so much fun. But there are things to be mindful of and it is a challenge to keep the balance right. ‘Under Glass’ is a romance, its focus is on the relationship between Ollie and Kai so the world building and background needs to support and not overwhelm the story. I’m also very aware not to drown the reader in jargon or make them think they’ve accidentally wandered into a lecture.
Dreamspinner Press: Do you listen to music when you write? Snack? Drink tea/coffee/vodka?
I’m very fortunate that I can write pretty much wherever and don’t need specific places or rituals. I tend to curl up on the sofa so I can still be the same room as my family and don’t have to lock myself away. My hubby does provide tea on demand and the odd glass of wine when I’m writing after dinner.
Dreamspinner Press: How did you begin writing gay romance?
I didn’t set out to write gay romance. In fact, I didn’t realise it was a separate genre. I was writing a high fantasy novel and the only way the plot would work was if the two male main characters were in a romantic relationship. When I came to try and get it published I started looking around for a suitable publisher and market and discovered that gay romance was a genre in its own right. The high fantasy story was ‘Servitude’, my first published novel with Dreamspinner Press.
Dreamspinner Press: What are you working on next for readers?
One glance at my back catalogue and you’ll see I like to play in different genres. I’ve written historicals, contemporaries, fantasy and sci fi, and where I’m heading next is a contemporary novella series based around an amateur dramatics society. The series is called ‘Treading the Boards’ and the first novella, ‘Overlay Dramatic’, is already contracted to DSP (tentative release this summer). I submitted the second, ‘Summer Season’, at the end of March and I’m currently writing the final one – a Christmas story called ‘He’s Behind You’ – which I plan to submit before my summer holiday at the beginning of June. They are romantic comedies, each with a different leading couple. The first one includes a papier-mâché goat and a very bad play called ‘Whoops, Vicar. There Goes My Trousers’.
Rebecca Cohen is a Brit abroad. Having swapped the Thames for the Rhine, she has left London behind and now lives with her husband and son in Basel, Switzerland. She can often be found with a pen in one hand and a cup of Darjeeling in the other.