Hi peeps, we have Ashavan Doyon visiting today with his upcoming re-release The King’s Mate, we have a fantastic guest post and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! ❤ ~Pixie~
The King’s Mate
Russell Pine comes to Sam’s Café every morning to enjoy the best coffee in town and to chat with Sam Tesh, the owner, a loyal friend for the past twenty years. When Sam offers him a challenge, Russ reluctantly takes it on, acting as the master opponent in a chess tournament. As the days pass and the hopefuls fall to the chess mastermind one by one, Russ discovers that the contest isn’t the only game being played.
Russ finds himself the focus of a secret courtship through words and pictures left for him to discover each morning. Will a hint of cologne on the paper lead him to his admirer? In a café full of young and beautiful minds, who is looking at the graying chess master?
First Edition published by Dreamspinner Press, June 2013.
Release date: 30th November 2016 Pre-order: The Chess Master Chronicles (Dreamspinner) Sam’s Cafe Romances books 1-3, print only: Dreamspinner Press paperback
Hey everyone! This is Ashavan Doyon and I’m so pleased to join you here at MM Good Book Reviews. In today’s guest post, I’m going to talk a bit about The King’s Mate, book 1 of the Sam’s Cafe Romances.
The King’s Mate is a special book for me. Originally part of the Make a Play collection for Dreamspinner Press, it was my very first published story in the genre. My first novel submission had been rejected very early that year, but before the deadline for the anthology. I remember thinking maybe I was aiming too high. I used to write gaming material for pen and paper role playing games, and when I broke into writing for Dungeon magazine, I’d done it by writing short two page articles. For fiction, a short story anthology seemed the way to bridge that experience.
I realize I’m talking a lot in past tense, so I want to make clear for those who don’t know, this is a second edition. When I pitched the idea of doing a sequel for Sam’s Cafe Romances book 2 (A Wounded Promise), I had the opportunity to also go back and revisit this story. As I’ve said, that was very meaningful to me because it was my first published story, and with that came a lot of struggle. I’d been through editing processes before, but the one for The King’s Mate was different. I fought hard to preserve some things I should have let go. I also kept it pretty rigidly into the space constraints. I’m sure that helped get my story accepted, but it also compressed the story, made the story and the relationship feel rushed, and it complicated the portrayal of some of the characters.
The King’s Mate is a story about a character recovering from loss. There’s a lot of feeling there: anger, guilt, despair, loneliness. When his best friend Sam, the owner of the cafe he frequents every day, asks him to help out with a chess tournament, all those feelings come to the forefront. But the tournament is also a salvation of sorts, a way for him to finally let go of his partner and move on.
When I wrote the original story, I was so proud of the dialogue. There were a number of emotional, difficult scenes and the characters delivered these beautiful exchanges where they struggled and hesitated and faltered to find their words. As a new author, I protected that speech with a fanatic fervor. I protected it too much. It all made perfect sense to me, of course. I knew exactly what the characters were struggling to say. I knew what they were leaving left unsaid. I knew why they might stop, just there, and not continue. But many readers grew lost or abandoned the story because of it. The dialogue might have been realistic, but when I read it later in preparation for A Wounded Promise, I was forced to acknowledge that I deserved that critique. I’d kept my art, but left my readers confused.
So readers of the second edition, rejoice! Much of that halting dialogue has been smoothed over and rewritten. Not all of it. I’m not going to torture you with lengthy full sentences in sex scenes or anything like that. But I drew a certain love interest for Russell in The King’s Mate with an eye toward reinforcing the ways the character was confident. I think that makes the places where he’s not stronger, and helps sell the romance more. I hope you’ll think it does too.
The other thing that revisiting the story allowed me to do was to highlight ways in which this story sets up the others. We get to see more of Russell’s history and his love interest has a chance to develop as someone that is more than just someone leaving notes.
What’s special about the second edition? For one thing, it’s considerably longer, clocking in at over 25000 words. The original was only 14000, so that’s a lot of extra story. For another, it has a lovely cover by Bree Archer that matches the rest of the series. Because it was part of an anthology, the original cover was the anthology cover with the story title, which meant my story about a chess tournament had a hot guy in a baseball cap looking over a baseball diamond on the cover. I actually got confused readers asking me what in the world my story had to do with baseball! I appreciate Bree so much, her work on the covers was fantastic and they go together perfectly. For a third, it’s available in print as part of a print only anthology of my first three Sam’s Cafe Romances. The anthology is titled The Chess Master Chronicles and I couldn’t be more excited to be able to hold my first story in my hands.
For folks that still aren’t sure, I’d recommend doing some extra (free) reading. The October 2016 issue of ARDOR, my newsletter, includes a short titled “When Love is Shared” that goes further into Russell’s history and where he was before the story starts. I try to always include a free short in every issue of ARDOR and I hope interested folks will sign up to receive the new issues directly to their email at: http://eepurl.com/bZkUu9
RUSSELL SAT at the counter at Sam’s Café. The coffee was excellent, the pastries divine, but the people watching…? Every quasi-intellectual cute preppy boy wannabe at the four surrounding colleges and universities came to this café to hang out, drink cappuccino, and generally pretend to be pretentious. Most of them weren’t really. Many of them were sweet. But they all wanted that other uppity, cute prep with the turned-up collar and belt made from an old tie. They were new, the ties, and far more expensive than any tie Russell might consider using for the purpose.
A local, Russell had been coming to the café for coffee and a pastry every morning since before high school—long before cappuccino became popular. He was in his midthirties now, a touch of silver in his neatly trimmed beard betraying his age. His face was otherwise youthful, and even his lack of a fancy haircut only made him seem a touch conservative, not old. But the silver in his beard, and that hint, just a hint, of gray in the deep black of the hair at his temple… that had every boy in the place looking away. In a culture where twenty-three was over the hill, the silver marked Russell as old.
Russell glanced at Sam Tesh, the barista, who dipped his head in understanding and refreshed his coffee. Russell smiled. “Thanks,” he said simply, pouring sugar in from the dispenser on the counter and stirring it lightly. He sipped tentatively, then smiled before setting the giant mug back on its saucer. He knew anyone else would be paying for a refresh. He nodded at Sam. “Appreciate it.”
“Hey, if they come for near on twenty years, I’ll give them free refills too,” Sam said with a smirk. He grabbed a wet cloth and started wiping down the counter. “So how’s work?”
“The same,” Russell said softly. “Nothing ever changes around here except them.” He nodded toward the swarms of young men.
“I was going to do a promotion,” Sam said hesitantly. “But I’d need your help.”
Russell raised an eyebrow. “I owe you, man, after last time.”
“He was a jerk, just took you a while to realize it,” Sam said. “Kid left that.” He nodded toward a table in the corner. A chessboard was set up properly, waiting. “I know you—”
Russell shook his head. “No way, Sam.”
“Now listen,” Sam said, “I was going to set up a row of them. Six tables. You make your move in the morning before we even open. You’re always here that early. They can play theirs whenever. First one to beat you gets free coffee for a year.”
Russell laughed. “So do I get the free coffee if I win?”
Sam laughed. “Maybe.”
Russell looked over to the table. None of the pretentious boys had been willing to try moving a chess piece yet. He closed his eyes for a moment and let his breath out in a whoosh. He owed this man. He owed him so much. Slowly, he opened his eyes and glanced at Sam. “They’ll be pissed if they find out.”
“One of them might beat you.”
Russell chuckled, though he didn’t doubt Sam could tell it was forced. “They can play white. I’ll make my moves in the morning.”
Sam’s grin was huge. “Thanks, man.”
“Yeah, yeah,” he said, trying to still his stomach from the flips it was already undergoing. “I want my coffee free for the month.”
Sam nodded. “The coffee. I still expect you to pay for that.” He pointed at the croissant.
“Deal,” Russell said, standing up and sliding a five across the counter. “Put the change in the tip jar for your starving junior barista.” He glanced at the quiet young man at the far side of the giant square bar in the center of the café. “He looks like he needs it.”
Sam swatted him playfully with the rag from the counter. “I pay enough.”
Russell just smiled, took a final long drink from his coffee, and wiped his upper lip with a napkin, wadding it up into the coffee mug. “See you tomorrow, Sam.”
Sam grinned again. “I really appreciate it, Russ,” he said as he lifted the mug and saucer, dumped them under the counter into a plastic bin there for just that purpose, and then wiped the counter again. “Looking forward to it.”
Ashavan Doyon spends his days working with students as part of the student affairs staff at a liberal arts college. During lunch, evenings, and when he can escape the grasp of his husband on weekends, he writes, pounding out words day after day in hopes that his ancient typewriter-trained fingers won’t break the glass on his tablet computer. Ashavan is an avid science fiction and fantasy fan and prefers to write while listening to music that fits the mood of his current story. He has no children, having opted instead for the companionship of two beautiful and thoroughly spoiled pugs. A Texan by birth, he currently lives in New England, and frequently complains of the weather.
Ashavan went to school at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, getting his degree in Russian and East European Studies, with a focus in language and literature. He has two incomplete manuscripts from college that he goes back compulsively to fiddle with every so often, but is still not happy with either of them. He still loves fantasy and science fiction and reads constantly in the moments between writing stories.
Ashavan loves to hear from readers and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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