All about covers — (A Wounded Promise)

March 4, 2015

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And I’m back… sorry about that, travel time between the day job and home got in the way. For those just joining the party (we’re serving mocktails, people, as no one here seems to be the drinking sort!), this is Ashavan Doyon talking about my new release, A Wounded Promise.

I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about the cover. For The King’s Mate, because it’s a novella in an anthology, I didn’t have any say over the cover. It wasn’t quite long enough to get it’s own, so it has the standard anthology cover of a hot shirtless guy at a baseball field with my title and name below it. That was good (there was no need for trying to maintain consistency) and bad (consistency helps hold a series together). So for A Wounded Promise I was entering with a clean slate. It was exciting to finally try to put a little more imagery to the story.

For covers you fill out a cover request with some details… title, author, subtitle. Preferred styles. What covers did you particularly like. That gets you paired with an artist, who is given a brief synopsis, some physical descriptions of the characters. I try to include pictures, if I can, to give an idea of what I’m looking for.

I have to say, cover artists have a hard job. Unless I started with a picture or model in mind, I can spend hours trying to find something remotely close. For Russ I wanted to get the silver/gray. He’s young for that coloring, so the only pics I could find were older. This is the one I finally sent, with a note that Russ, of course, would be in a suit:

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Justin was easier and harder at the same time. While drunken anger instigates the drama, a lot of the conflict, most of it, really, is Justin. While Russ has angst, and the drinking is an expression of that, he’s had time and experience — and friends — that helped him cope. Justin has kept his angst bottled in, and I hoped that the artist could find a model that conveyed innocence and vulnerability. Of course searching the internet doesn’t find models the artists can actually use, which means trying to convey an idea, and that can be a struggle. Here was my model for Justin:

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I think the artist did a great job coming up with images that fit those molds, and I’m especially happy with the model for Russ, because there is an age difference in the characters, and having a younger graying model here is important, because Russ isn’t so much older that the relationship should squick people, but the gray can make it seem so.

What really impressed me though was that the artist really took those vague images and managed to convey the angsty conflict that is in the novella. I’m really happy with it.

This is the last post to comment for a chance at a copy of The King’s Mate, so I hope you’re still up for some discussion! Do cover images influence how you imagine the characters? Do you prefer the sort of faceless bodies on covers, or do you like to see the whole character? Let me know!

And, of course, don’t forget to buy the book! http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6121

 

 

Building the Cafe — (A Wounded Promise)

March 4, 2015

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Hello! Ashavan Doyon here, still talking about my newest release, A Wounded Promise.

I’ve mentioned that A Wounded Promise is a sequel, and I wanted to talk a little bit about the original story, and how I got to the new one. A Wounded Promise is book two of the Sam’s Café Romances. When I started emailing with Dreamspinner about the sequel, one of the things I had to do is name the series. They give that a fancy name, but really, it means boiling down the essence of the story.

The process drove me nuts. Ok, so I was already there… let’s just pretend for a moment that I’m not a crazy man obsessed with my characters, shall we? This is the sequel to a story titled The King’s Mate — based around a chess competition in a college town café. I’d already gone through agony deciding whether or not to carry through the chess theme in the title, and now I had to name the series? Ultimately I decided the central thing that brought the two lovers together wasn’t a chess match, but rather the café itself, and the significance of the café to both of them. I confess there’s a mercenary bent to this too. If readers are enjoying the café, this gives me room to please both those who want more of our lovers from the story, and those who might want other characters explored. Naming the series for the café gives me a little more freedom. Also, there were some folks who felt chess wasn’t as central to the story in The King’s Mate as they might have preferred, so I wanted to honor that and not have people feeling hoodwinked.

I’m very proud of The King’s Mate. Oh, I got some middling reviews. And I was new, so I did the unthinkable and I READ THOSE REVIEWS. After I was done gouging my eyes out with a spoon and crying for days, I found some better reviews, and some worse ones. And then I got the good advice from a friend: only read the reviews the publisher sends you — they only send you the good ones. And I try to do that (and fail, frequently). But I also got a review that made my heart soar, and that kept me writing. I still go back to that review now and then, when I’m feeling in the dumps. It was from GayList book reviews and said, in part: “This story felt new. Beautiful. All of the men in this story made me ache.”

In writing A Wounded Promise, I’ve tried to keep up to that standard, and I hope Russ still makes readers ache, in that beautiful yearning way that keeps us turning pages. I get criticized sometimes for my characters being angsty. I don’t apologize for that. I like angsty. I think the angst and struggle and desperate wanting is where the best parts of romance is. It’s that stuff, the heartache and despair and surety of pain that make the reward worth it in the end. When I see characters go through hell, whether emotional or physical or traumatic, and see them somehow still come together, it gives me hope.

This is a progression from The King’s Mate — where we see a sweet exploration and a bit of mystery and a hint of pain lingering in the background – to A Wounded Promise where we see that hint suddenly so brutally clear that there is no longer a choice. They have to face it. Because the promises they’ve made to love each other are wounded.

And we’ll talk more about that later. In the meantime, a question, because I still want those comments (and someone still has to win that copy of The King’s Mate!) I based both stories around a café – loosely based around a couple of similar places in the town where I grew up. Is there a similar sort of place where you go to get a coffee? Do homework? Write? What does café mean to you?

You haven’t bought A Wounded Promise? What are you waiting for! http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6121

What’s that? You can’t without buying The King’s Mate too! EXCELLENT (can I do that with a Mr. Burns style tenting of the hands?) Here’s the link for that, just in case! http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3947

 

About the book – (A Wounded Promise)

March 4, 2015

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Ashavan Doyon here again to talk about A Wounded Promise. I’ll start with something obligatory (cover and blurb) and we’ll get to more exciting stuff once that’s done. Don’t forget to comment with your favorite romance sub-genre for a chance to win the giveaway!

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A Wounded Promise – Sam’s Café Romances Book 2

Having survived one nightmare of a relationship, Justin Tesh thought
he’d left the worst behind when he put his ex Peter behind bars. But
when his new lover, Russell Pine, explodes in a fit of alcohol-fueled
rage, Justin finds himself frozen with a fear he thought he’d long since
worked through. While older, more experienced Russ is anxious to put
the incident behind them, avoiding personal issues never works, and for
Justin, his fear is an open doorway to demons both he and Russ need to
confront.

Despite their histories of loss and pain, Russ has
faith in the promise of their relationship. But if he can’t heal the
wound he’s inflicted on his lover’s heart, he risks losing Justin
forever to Peter’s legacy of brutality.

***

Ok, so what’s your favorite sub-genre in romance? Are you into contemporaries, historical, paranormal, bdsm/kink, fantasy, sci-fi??? Let me know. My first giveaway winner will be from commenters on the posts made before 5 pm eastern time (US) — an e-book copy of The King’s Mate (to be added to your Dreamspinner Press bookshelf). Comment for the chance to win!

(quick edit)

Also, the buy link (not something I want to forget)! http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6121

 

Release Day Party — A Wounded Promise

March 4, 2015

Hello! This is Ashavan Doyon and I’m here to take over the blog for a chunk of today and talk about my new release: A Wounded Promise.

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Somewhere someone is opening A Wounded Promise, and stumbling into Russell Pine waking with a hangover. The room begins to spin (or maybe it never stopped) and Russell tries in the haze of his hangover to make sense of vague recollections from the night before. Drinking vodka right from the bottle. Anger welling up. He’s woken up alone, his lover gone, and he can’t even remember what happened.

I like Russell, and I’ll admit putting him in that place was hard for me. I’ve never had a drunken night, or a hangover in the morning (I’m not and have never been a drinker). I relied a lot on waking up with a migraine to frame the descriptions of how he feels and what that’s like, and I hope it comes across well.

As a character, I love Russ. I write a lot of early college age romances, and while his lover fits that bill well, Russ is older, in his mid-late thirties. He’s a returning character, as this is book two of the Sam’s Café Romances. While I try to make it possible to read the book as a standalone, it goes without saying that it will help enormously to have read The King’s Mate first.

So, next post I’ll do the standard cover and blurb thing, but I’d like to start with a question: What was your most memorable drunken night (or morning after)?

Yes, there will be some giveaways for commenters. Also don’t forget to BUY THE BOOK… you know you want to!

Buy link is here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=6121

(want to read The King’s Mate first? Link is here: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3947)

 

 

Night Vision: Excerpt

February 18, 2015

My release party is almost over :(

Confession: I don’t like excerpts and I never read them! So I was reluctant to do an excerpt here. But… I guess some people like them? So for the people who do not care for excerpts, this is an alternative: the pinterest board for Night Vision, filled with inspiration photos, settings and characters and details from the story.

And for those who DO enjoy excerpts, this is from Chapter Nine:

 “YOU HAD a dream the other night.” Theron tried to sound causal and focused his attention on a lock of Alex’s hair, twisting the gold and bronze between his fingers. Alex’s head lay on the pillow, half-turned, almost exactly the way it had been a few nights ago when Theron had climbed the tree to check on him. Whatever that dream had been, it was powerful. And sexual. Theron’s curiosity burned.

“Please don’t tell me you were watching me again.” Alex searched his face and sighed, perhaps seeing some sign of guilt. “Theron, seriously, just come in next time. Why are you still sneaking around in my trees?”

“It is my way, Alex. I thought you understood that.”
“I guess. It’s still creepy, though.”
“Tell me the dream.”
Shame filled the room, and Alex squirmed in the bed, burying his face in the pillow. “I really don’t want to.”
Theron laughed, wrapping Alex in his arms and kissing his shoulder. “Come on, my little sexy dreamer. Tell me.”
“Ugh!” Alex groaned, but the emotions in the air contradicted his protest. He was embarrassed, but happy, even a little aroused. He snuggled into Theron, hiding his face. “You were in the shower. I sneaked in and leaned against the wall near the closet, where you couldn’t see me. I started jerking off and fantasizing about you. I heard you moaning, and I knew you could feel it. You knew I was there, and you called my name.”
Theron ran his hands over Alex’s back, encouraging him to continue.
“I moved so that I could see you. You stood under the shower, your hands on the wall, the water running over you. You were so hard. I wanted to make you come with my thoughts. I was sure I could do it. You looked so sexy, your muscles so tight, straining and wet, and it was easy for me. I stroked myself and thought about you, and I watched your cock. The water was hitting it, and you kept yourself under the spray, but I knew my thoughts were really bringing you off. I came, and a second later you did too, all over the shower wall, without even touching yourself.”
Theron moaned into the back of Alex’s head. “Did you come in your sleep? Or when you woke up?”

***

Buy Night Vision!  Amazon • Dreamspinner • AllRomance

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Thank you to Dreamspinner for being such a nice company to work with, and thank you for letting me takeover this blog! I’ve had a great time here today <3

Night Vision: alternating points of view

February 18, 2015

I think this would be a good time for a giveaway. Agree?

In Night Vision, each chapter is told half from Alex’s point of view, and half from Theron’s, and I kept it to third person for both.

One of the best things about alternating pov is being able to feel and hear and know all the thoughts of each character. I think that makes a Romance fun to read, and fun to write :)

A disadvantage is trying to keep each “voice” distinct, so that it is always really clear whose head you are in as a reader. Luckily for me, Theron’s style of speech was much different from Alex’s. Theron rarely uses contractions, and he is more formal in general. Also, he is a non-native English speaker (he is Greek) so that also made his voice distinctive.

In my other books, I have used first person (not alternating, just staying in one main character’s head the entire time) and I do enjoy the intimacy that allows as well.

I do think alternating third person is my favorite, though. In the last book I wrote that way (Love You Forever) I let each character have a whole chapter before switching. But Night Vision is a novella, so more frequent shifts seemed appropriate.

I am currently working on a third person book which does not alternate, so it is told entirely from one point of view, but that one has a bit of a mystery element to it, so the more limited information helps add tension. I find myself having to fight the urge to switch to the other main character’s voice!

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So what I’d like to know is – what is your favorite point of view? First person? Third person? And also, do you prefer to switch back and forth, or to stay in one head?

Answer in the comments for a chance to win a copy of Night Vision!

Flash Fic Teaser: Night Vision

February 18, 2015

For Valentine’s day, I posted this piece of “flash” fiction on my blog. I thought I would share it here, too, as it basically functions as a teaser for Night Vision:

Theron ran across the snow, careful to step only in the existing tracks but still fast enough to be unseen by humans. He’d worn thick sheepskin boots, and a long down coat that brushed the tops of his knees. The clothing kept him warm, but increased his visibility against the snow.

He slowed as he approached a small, yellow colonial style home. The cold night air was quiet, and empty of humans. Still, Theron was careful. If he was spotted it might mean having to find a new territory, and he did not feel like dealing with that hassle right now.

The home’s glowing windows promised warmth and comfort. But it wasn’t shelter Theron sought here.

Prowling for enough human emotion to eat was sometimes difficult during the winter months. No open windows meant all the nourishment was trapped inside. Last week, Theron had been forced to feed at the supermarket—a sad meal which consisted of shopper’s mingled frustration and annoyance, with a smattering of fear and greed. He shook himself to clear the memory. Tonight would be better.

Tonight was Valentine’s Day, and the emotional sustenance in his territory should be sickeningly sweet with love and lust.

Lust he enjoyed. It was one of his favorite meals. Love could be satisfying, as well.

Best of all was anger. A clean anger, without pain or sadness, and preferably tinged with a bit of passionate desire, was Theron’s first choice. Finding it tonight should be easy.

But there was none here. The little yellow house was quiet. Only a thin fog of happiness sifted from the attic vents. Theron absorbed it, but moved on. He needed more.

The old grey house next door, usually a good source for him, was cold and dark. No one home. He ran down the block, still searching.

Raised voices drifted over snow-filled backyards. He followed the promising sounds to a newer home, just a few blocks away. There was a great oak on the property, perfect for climbing. Theron scaled it easily, and maneuvered to a thick, wide branch. He winced as a pile of snow slid from the branch and landed heavily in the previously smooth front yard. Sloppy. He sighed.

The front door banged open, and a man exited, accompanied by a meaty cloud of rage. Delicious. Theron absorbed it all.

“You’re leaving, now? Really?” Another man followed the first, this one dressed in sweatpants and a soft beige sweater.

The first man drew a set of keys from his coat pocket and turned. “Yes. I am. You clearly don’t want me here.” He stalked to the driveway and entered the car.

“David! Come on!” The second man stood in the doorway, feet bare, eyes pleading, and shouted toward the car.

David scowled through the glass. A few moments were spent waiting for the car to start, and a seatbelt to be fastened, while frustration and anger billowed in the air around the men. Theron basked in it, filling himself to capacity.

The car jerked backwards, and then rumbled away up the street. Theron remained motionless, watching.

The man in the doorway shook his head, and the angry cloud around him began to weaken, filling instead with sadness and regret. Thin, sour emotions Theron did not care for.

Finally the man retreated into the house, and Theron made to leave. He’d had his fill of human emotion now, and could spend the rest of the evening in his home.

Then a curtain moved, spilling a large square of light onto the snow right under the tree where he perched. Framed in the window was the human, standing with his arms crossed over his chest.

Theron studied him. His sandy brown hair was combed back in a large wave, a careful style somewhat at odds with his casual clothing. His mouth was turned down and his brows pinched, but his face was handsome. It would be more handsome wearing a smile. Theron frowned at the rogue thought.

A tear leaked from the corner of the man’s eye, and left a wet streak down his cheek.

Theron tilted his head. He did not like seeing this human upset. But why should he care? He did not even know this man’s name.

Still, he watched.

Eventually the man dragged a chair to the window and sat. His face had softened a bit, but it remained sorrowful. And Theron found himself growing angry. Why did the man sit? Why wait with such sadness? Why not go about his night, without the rude David?

Theron repositioned his legs on the branch. He was growing cold, even in his warm winter clothing. He could leave, just climb down the rear of the tree and move quickly, the man would never see him. But he stayed put, eyes locked on the handsome man in the window, while an irrational desire to harm David grew within him.

A crunching of tires on snow drew Theron’s attention. He didn’t have to look to know it was David returning. He flattened himself against the tree, still and silent, watching.

David had a bouquet of roses in his hand as he exited the car. Theron glanced at the man in the window for a reaction, and saw happiness light the handsome face. Excitement and love seeped from the window frame.

Pathetic. Theron bit back a groan at the easy forgiveness, but consumed the new emotions.

David opened the front door, which Theron noted with displeasure had been left unlocked. He appeared soon after in the window, and knelt at the handsome man’s feet, placing the roses in his lap. “I’m sorry, Alex. I’m sorry.”

Alex nodded and pulled David into an embrace.

Theron’s gut twisted with something that was most certainly not jealousy. Perhaps he had eaten too much this night. That was all. He climbed down from the tree and fled across the yard, recklessly adding his footprints to the clean snow.

Safe at home, he sat in front of his fireplace and pondered the man he’d watched for so long. Alex. A nice name. Theron spoke it aloud, accentuating the x sound. Yes, a very nice name. He would visit Alex again, and keep an eye on David. If nothing else, the men would likely provide him with many satisfying meals.

Maybe someday, he would see Alex smile.

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I hope you enjoyed that introduction to Theron and Alex! I’d love to hear what you think of them :)

Night Vision: what is a “strige”?

February 18, 2015

Hi! Amelia Bishop here again! I’m back, this time to shed some light on the paranormal creature in my novella Night Vision. (Which released today!)

So first of all, yes, I did make up this creature. I started, as I mentioned in my earlier post, with a ‘scene’ in mind, of a person who liked to climb trees and rooftops. And I thought: something about that is bird-like. Owl-like, really.

I started to look at some pictures of owls, just for ideas, and one of the things I found was this:

With this caption beneath it: “The appearance and calls of owls, such as the Eurasian Scops Owl, may have influenced Roman ideas of the blood-drinking strix.”

“Srix” is a genus of the family strigadae – true owls. But “Roman blood drinking strix”? That had to be investigated! After some more time (okay way too long) searching online, I pieced together the myth of the Strix. In doing so, I also found references to the Romanian Strigoi, Both myths were similar – vampires, essentially, that could transform into an animal (usually an owl). These myths are not widely known, which increased their appeal, for me.

Armed with my research, I began inventing my character: the strige.

The strige is an emotional vampire. So he or she does not drink blood, in fact, my Strige Theron eats normal food, and enjoys cooking. But to feed the strige part of himself, he must also consume emotions. So he hunts, which means he sneaks around climbing trees and observing humans, and he absorbs the emotions they exude. Strige are nocturnal, but can tolerate daylight if necessary. They live longer than humans, but are not immortal.

I added some other details to my creature as well, including a bonding ceremony, and I hope you will read the story to learn more about the strige!

What kind of creature would you make up? What kinds of paranormal creatures do you most like to read?

Character Inspirations: Night Vision

February 18, 2015

Theron

Theron is the paranormal character in Night Vision, a creature called a Strige (yes I made that up) I sort of envisioned him as a vampire, but instead of feeding on blood, he feeds on human emotions. I also gave him some Owl-like qualities (Strix is the genus name for Owls, and that is partially where the name came from) so this picture is particularly perfect:

Miles McMillan, photographed by Ryan McGinley for EDUN, fall 2012

Miles McMillan, photographed by Ryan McGinley for EDUN, fall 2012

Also the model here is almost exactly how I pictured Theron as I wrote him! Maybe Theron should be a little bit older, a tiny bit heavier, but this is really close. Theron likes to sneak around, climb trees, and cook gourmet meals. He is old, and intelligent, and ruthless in many ways, but he is also vulnerable in that he has never before been in love. So despite all his age and experience, he is often unsure of himself when it comes to relationships.

Alex

Alex is the human, Theron’s love interest. I love writing more “normal” guys, and that is what Alex is. Except, of course, let’s imagine him sexy, shall we? He has light brown hair and hazel eyes, and works as a systems administrator. This picture would be a good one for him:

model Max Hauser

model Max Hauser

Though this model is extremely handsome, I think he could blend in with normal people… maybe?

So thinking of these two characters, I think the cover artist did a great job with matching them:

Cover by Catt Ford

Cover by Catt Ford

What do you think? How important is it for you to have a visual of the characters you are reading? Do you notice or care when the cover does not match the characters as they are described in the text? Or do you prefer to imagine characters your own way?

Release Day Party! Night Vision

February 18, 2015

Hi!

I am so excited! Today my Paranormal Novella Night Vision is finally out.  Look at the cool cover:

Cover by Catt Ford

Cover by Catt Ford

Nice, right? I am happy with it :)

I wasn’t sure what to talk about here, then I remembered what one of my friends said after she found out I had written a few books. She asked where I got the ideas for stories. She said, to her, that was the most unimaginable thing – coming up with ideas, and characters, and new plots.

So I decided it might be best here to begin at the beginning, with how I came up with this story concept. And since Dreamspinner totally let me takeover this blog (haha!) I will just ramble on about it in my own weird way.

Here is how it happened for Night Vision: I was sitting in my yard last summer, watching my kids play, and I looked up at our big oak tree. (I love that tree.) Anyway, a funny thought struck me – what if there was someone in the tree, watching, or hunting? Some kind of creature… And then my mind wandered about that for a while.

I imagined a scene, with two characters. One, in the tree (or maybe on a rooftop?) and the other, on the ground, who notices. And I thought, wouldn’t it be more interesting if, instead of being surprised or nervous, the character on the ground is more just irritated or mildly accepting? Like: “oh,” *eye roll* “he’s up in that tree again.”   And it was that imaginary scene that sparked the idea for Night Vision.

My character, Theron, climbs to high places, and my character Alex is the one who notices. I think they are a super cute couple. (My next blog post here is all about them!) But the entire story really started with that one picture in my mind, of a person in a tree and another on the ground, and I built the story around it. That is only my silly method of story creation, and I am sure there are as many ways to come up with a story idea as there are writers!

Do you write yourself? How do you get your story ideas?

What intrigues you most about the books you read? Is it creating the worlds and characters, or forming the complex plots? For me, I am always so impressed with authors who write mysteries, the way they can insert clues and hints into the narrative in ways that I don’t even notice, until it all adds up at the end. I think that is so cool!

How about you? Do you wonder at the writing process, or just enjoy the story?