“Writing a (Neutered!) Male Character”
When I began this series with “How to Howl at the Moon”, I wanted to write a humorous shifter romance series in the vein of Molly Harper or Shelly Laurenston. But I didn’t want to do werewolves or big cats or something else that had been done already. My husband encouraged me to do dog shifters. We’re huge dog lovers in my house with bulldogs and basset hounds in the family.
I loved the idea of writing characters with dog personas. But could I make them sexy? Or would that just be weird? I decided to start writing and see. My first dog shifter romantic lead, Sheriff Lance Beaufort, was perfectly alpha male and perfectly gruff and adorable as a human sheriff, despite also being a border collie in dog form. The experiment seemed to work and readers liked it too.
But Lance was born a shifter. One thing I didn’t consider until well into book one was that most residents of Mad Creek are “newly quickened” or “first generation”. That means, they were born ordinary dogs.
The dog shifters in this series are dogs which were once ordinary pets. But when a dog has an intense love bond with their owner, and then loses that owner (usually due to death), the emotions of love, grief, longing, fear, etc. operate like a chemical cocktail inside the dog, activating DNA switches which “turn on” the dog’s ability to shift to human. (For more details, see “How to Wish Upon a Star”.) You could say the concept is a descendant of “Velveteen rabbit”, “Pinocchio”, and “Pygmalion/Galatea”.
That’s all fine and dandy as a story concept, but it does raise one serious question—especially for a romance series. It’s this: Most male dogs that were pets have been neutered.
I successfully dodged that issue with book #2 and book #3. In “How to Walk like a Man”, Roman, a German shepherd shifter, had been a K-9 military dog, and it was reasonable he’d never been neutered. In book #3, “How to Wish Upon a Star”, I simply left Milo intact even though, having once lived in a shelter, chances were good he would have been neutered. Poetic license.
But by the time book #4 came around—this new title, “How to Save a Life”—my logical brain insisted I play fair. I had invented this universe in which many of my characters had once been ordinary dogs, and I needed to abide by the rules I myself had set up. I needed to show what life, and love, would be like for a quickened who’d been neutered as a dog before gaining the ability to shift. Gulp.
Sammy, the quickened romantic lead in “How to Save a Life”, began life as a chocolate Labrador. His first owner loved him to pieces, and they were very bonded. But when she died, Sammy was sent to live with her sister. Unfortunately, that sister had an abusive husband who was very cruel to Sammy. Eventually, the sister surrendered Sammy to the pound, hoping he’d find a new owner and a better life.
But Sammy isn’t merely a dog anymore. He escapes and makes his way to Mad Creek where he learns to live as a man and gets involved with Rav Miller, our human hero and the other half of the romance. Sammy doesn’t respond to their growing emotional affection the way Rav expects—and then Rav realizes why.
The idea of writing a neutered male shifter character was initially intimidating, but I found I very much liked the way this romance progressed. Because Sammy doesn’t have a physical sexual response at first, they spend a lot of time just touching and lazing around together. Sensual touch can be very erotic, and I think it gives the book a palpable UST factor. Eventually, their sex life blossoms. But much of the deep connection between this couple is established pre-sex, which I think makes their union particularly strong.
In doing research for this book, I found that men without testicles can still achieve erection and have an active sex life. They can even ejaculate since that fluid comes from the prostate. It’s simply devoid of sperm. The main limiting factor is a lower sex drive due to the lack of testosterone the testicles normally produce. But this can be countered with testosterone therapy, similar to that used for transgender men.
I’m not sure a neutered male character has ever been a romantic lead before, and for sure never a dog shifter one! I hope I did the subject justice and that you’ll love Sammy and Rav’s story. Let me know what you think if you get a chance to read the book. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Length: 80,000 words
Cover Design: Reese Dante
Howl At The Moon Series
Rav Miller looked into the terrified, intelligent eyes of the chocolate Labrador on death row, and knew he’d do anything to save him. When the dog, Sammy, escapes and heads to Mad Creek, Rav follows. Mad Creek. The town had become legendary in Rav’s mind after he’d met that bizarre group last year. Rav dismissed his crazy suspicions back then, but when he arrives in Mad Creek, he knows it’s true. Dog shifters exist, and apparently they all live in the California mountains. It’s enough to blow a bad boy’s mind.
Sammy has something in common with Rav—neither one of them trusts people. After Sammy’s abuse as a dog, he particularly dislikes tough-looking men like Rav. But when Sammy gets a chance to work with rescued dogs at the new Mad Creek shelter, his deep compulsion to help others overcomes his fear. Rav and Sammy bond over saving strays. If they can each find the courage to let someone else in, they might find their way to love.
Sheriff Lance Beaufort doesn’t like humans moving into Mad Creek, especially not the tattooed and defiant Rav. When Rav starts a rescue shelter, the town thinks he’s wonderful! But Lance isn’t fooled. He doesn’t buy Rav’s innocent act for one second. How much does Rav know about the quickened? What is his game? And why did he have to show up now, when Lance and the other town leaders are overwhelmed by all the new quickened pouring in?
Rav knows how to save a life. But can he save an entire town? Can he rescue Mad Creek?
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Eli Easton has been at various times and under different names a minister’s daughter, a computer programmer, a game designer, the author of paranormal mysteries, a fan fiction writer, an organic farmer, and a long-distance walker. She began writing m/m romance in 2013 and has published 27 books since then. She hopes to write many more.
As an avid reader of such, she is tickled pink when an author manages to combine literary merit, vast stores of humor, melting hotness, and eye-dabbing sweetness into one story. She promises to strive to achieve most of that most of the time. She currently lives on a farm in Pennsylvania with her husband, two bulldogs, several cows, and a cat. All of them (except for the husband) are female, hence explaining the naked men that have taken up residence in her latest fiction writing.
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