Friday, November 23, 2012

Celebrating the Horndog Ethan Stone

I've been doing a lot of soul searching lately, particularly in what I want to be as an author. You see, a few weeks ago, I was at the GayRomLit retreat in Albuquerque. At GRL I was free to be myself. I was able to express myself as a gay man in whatever way I wanted. Be it hold the hand of the wonderful guy I spent the weekend with or flirt with other men. I want to find a way to be myself as an author as well.

As an author I’ve been trying to find a balance in the amount of sex in my stories. Cristian Flesh, the main character in my Flesh series, is a cop who is unapologetically gay. He loves sex and owns it. In the first book, In the Flesh, his sexual adventures get him into a bit of trouble when a one-night stand ends up murdered and Cristian is the main suspect. The murder victim also happens t be connected to a former fuck buddy of Cristian’s. Cristian doesn’t form relationships easily so his relationship with lawyer Colby Maddox begins with sex.

Each sex scene between Colby and Cristian shows bits of Cristian’s personality and secrets. His reluctance to top is part of his past because he saw topping as being in control. And with sex Cristian didn’t want to be in control. He wanted to submit; he needed to submit. And as his relationship with Colby progressed he learned that he could enjoy sex and take control at the same time. The Flesh series required a lot of sex. It’s part of Cristian’s character that couldn’t be ignored.

I wrote Wolf Moon right after In the Flesh had been accepted by Dreamspinner. I was still high on the idea that my story was going to be published and thought sex was one of the most important things in m/m novels. I admit I wrote too many sex scenes in Wolf Moon. I had wanted to show that Jack and Derek had a strong connection from the minute they met. I used sex in an attempt to show their bond. And all that added up to way too many sex scenes. If I had been a reader, I would’ve skimmed through the scenes. I learned that when it comes to showing a couple’s bond I had to use more than just steamy sex scenes. Apparently, sexting, blow jobs on a hot air balloon ride and hot romping in a bath tub only work to show lust not love.

And after several comments about my stories having too much sex I began to be self conscious about the amount I wrote. So I began to purposely have less in each story.

In my next novel, Subject 13, I tried to make the scenes between Luke and Ben have a purpose while also being sexy and romantic. Luke and Ben have a combustible relationship as friends, mainly because they are both denying they want each other like crazy. Before they admit their attraction, Luke and Ben have several arguments that turn physical when Ben has to hold Luke down. When they finally admit their feelings and begin a relationship their sexual relationship has the same physical tinge to it. Their sex is consensual but rough; just the way Luke likes it. Being able to trust Ben and give himself over opened Luke’s mind and helped the repressed memories in his brain come out.

Ben knows what Luke needs and wants as well. When the truth behind Luke’s repressed memories are revealed they have a mind blowing sex scene in a rundown motel. Luke’s orgasm is so intense he almost passes out. These scenes had a purpose more than mere titillation; they were conscious acts on my part to move the story along.

In Bartender, PI there was only one small sex scene at the very beginning and the first time the main characters, Linc and Brady, have sex it isn’t shown on the page. Still stinging from the negative comments about the quantity of sex in my books, I attempted to cut back on sex in my stories. As much as I loved writing Linc and Brady, leaving out the sex between them was as bad as adding sex just for the sake of it. I think Linc and Brady should’ve had a sex scene; maybe they’ll get one in the sequel. I believe showing their lovemaking would’ve been a perfect ending and not having one was a mistake. Purposely not adding a sex scene even though one was called for was hard for me as an author because I was not following my muse. In fact, I think doing that must’ve pissed off my muse because she’s been pretty scarce lately.

In all of my soul searching, I realized something. I’m a lot like Cristian when it comes to sex, minus the abusive past. I like sex, a lot. When I’m in a relationship I like to have sex as much as possible. When I’m not in a relationship, I like to have sex as much as possible; it just makes it more difficult to find decent partners. Like Cristian I think sex is like money, you can never have too much.

I have said I’m a horndog. I admit it and I own it.

As an author, I’m a horndog as well. I like to write sex scenes. It helps me connect to the characters better than any other way. Sex is when I’m most vulnerable so I see my characters in the same way. They are stripped down to their basic core and I’m able to understand what drives them and what motivates them. Preferably, in sex there are no masks or delusions. It’s about getting what you want while at the same giving your partner pleasure.

I’ve decide to celebrate my author horndoggedness. If I think a story needs a sex scene, I’ll add it. If I write a story that doesn’t need a sex scene, I’ll go with that too. I won’t add a sex scene just for the hell of it, but neither will I not add a scene just to prove I don’t need sex in a story.

Basically, I’ll listen to my muses. If he’s a horny muse, so be it. And if the muse is celibate, then the story will be as well.

Just as I can accept that I’m a horndog in real life, I can also accept that there’s not a thing wrong with writing smoking hot sex scenes.

In the Flesh: Reno Detective Cristian Flesh lives his life by a strict set of personal rules, preferring one-time flings and anonymous encounters to committed relationships. His rules work for him... until his life is turned upside down when first, a former lover, a famous televangelist, is attacked, and then one of his one-night stands is murdered, making Cristian the prime suspect.

When handsome lawyer Colby Maddox takes his case, Cristian finds himself wanting to break all his rules about relationships. The instant attraction between them is undeniable. But before they can contemplate any kind of future together, they’ll have to clear Cristian’s name by finding the real murderer.

** Ethan Stone lives in Nevada. But not Reno or Las Vegas. There are other cities there, you know. Where he lives, gambling isn't on every block, just every other block. He has been obsessed with two things in his life: books and all things gay. After spending years trying to ignore the voices in his head, he finally decided to sit down and listen to them. What he discovered was a perfect union of his two obsessions. Ethan has a day job that pays the bills. He wears a uniform to work and he looks damn sexy in it.


  1. Hi Ethan!

    *stands up in turn* Hi, I'm Amelia and I'm a horndog too.


    Maybe? Not really? I dunno.

    I was actually musing on this just yesterday as I was putting together a blog post that dealt with, among other things, the amount of sex in my next book. I've already gotten dinged for it, it appears, from one reviewer reading the pre-release copy, which led to me considering why I made the choice to include as much sex as I did.

    I had to accept a long time ago that I am primarily an erotic author. Interestingly, this doesn't not mean I am an erotica author. Back in my fandom days, people used to yell at me when I referred to my stuff as PWP (porn without plot.) "Oh, no. This is so much more than PWP," they'd say. One day, someone introduced me to the term SWS, or "Smut With Substance" which pleased me greatly.

    These days the cool kids are calling it erotic romance, so I'll go with that.

    Let me do a quick head-count (pun so fully intended.) In my next book, out of fourteen chapters, there are, I think, six sex scenes. And at least four or five other times where there is implied sex (i.e. the scene begins right after sex or ends at the bedroom door,) heavy making out and/or "if we were in a more appropriate time or place we'd be having sex right now" moments.

    I don't consider a single one of them gratuitous. I can write gratuitous sex, no doubt, but when I've tried it in the past, it always felt off somehow. I had to drag myself through the process of writing it and I usually came out the other side feeling like it was a really bad scene, no matter how hot readers might have found it.

    I didn't feel that way with this book. Each scene felt like it was needed by the characters or the story, and each scene felt like it said something or accomplished something for the characters and the story.

    Most of that is the dynamics between the characters and the stage of their relationship. I feel, if I'm doing it right as an author, I'm following where the characters lead, and if they want to go for their third sex scene in as many chapters, then I need to let that happen because they're probably trying to reveal something over the course of that scene, or meet a particular need.

    But part of my struggle has been accepting that I am an erotic author and my method is to express and explore my characters through their sexual behavior. Or, as one friend so succinctly put it, to say, "Fuck it, it's my idiom."

    Maybe some day I'll be a more plot-driven author and sex scenes won't flow effortlessly and feel as natural and appropriate as they do now. The characters will begin to express themselves in other ways, and if that happens, I'm more than willing to pare back the number of sex scenes in a given story. But for now I just need to go with it and accept that this is what I do as an author and that forcing it -- whether "it" is writing a purely gratuitous sex scene or refusing to write a necessary one -- isn't going to do my story or my characters any favors.

  2. Hi Amelia--
    Should we start Horndogs Anonymous? Nah, that would mean we wanted to stop and I certainly don't.
    Thanks for letting me know I'm not the only author who struggles with how much sex to put in a book.

  3. Awesome post Ethan. Just a reader (and part time reviewer) here but here's my 2 cents anyway. Don't change your horn dog ways. You shouldn't fight your writing style, voice, whatever. For every person who thinks there's too much sex, there may be 20 saying, "Geez, that was hot!! What else has he written?" I've read this before at other blogs. It boggles my mind how many people buy erotica & then bitch about the heat. With excerpts, etc there is rarely a chance to buy a book that's not for you. Personally I love reading stories where one or both MCs are fighting falling in love but the physical scenes tell the story. Love what Amelia wrote too. There's only one person you have to listen to & that's your editor lol. Now I'm off to buy one of your books (& it better include horn dogness!)

  4. Hi Mary--I'm sure you'll have no problem finding a book of mine with some horn dogness in it! It's be hard to find one WITHOUT it.

  5. Thanks for the post, Ethan! I have no problem with books that have lots of sex scenes. As a writer I bet you get into moods, you want to write a sex scene or feel like writing a really emotional scene. As a reader I have moods too! Sometimes I feel like reading a super sweet book so I pull up one of my '1-2 flame' books. Other times I don't have the energy to deal with the super sweetness and just need a little smut! Out come the '4-5 flame' books! You keep writing what you want and know I like a nice sexy time thrown in!

  6. I feel ya, Ethan. (Well, not actually feel you, but I feel you in a platonic, and completely non-sexual way.)

    I've often thought about writing stories with less sex. Mainly, I think about writing YA. But whenever I mention it to people who've read my books, they're like, "Why would you do that? Writing sex is what you're good at!"

    Of course, then they backtrack and try to say I'm good at other things as well, and it's not all about the sex. But I know what they're really saying—that I should play to my strengths.

    It's easy for people to dismissively say, "Oh, that's just sex", but writing good sex scenes is hard! Plenty of otherwise great authors can't write sex scenes.

    I won't claim to be a superstar in the sack, but I've got it where it counts—the fingers. It would be wrong for me to deny the world my talents.

    Moreover, I don't see why we as authors have to be everything to everyone. If readers want sweet and innocent, they read certain authors. If they want dark and sexy, they read others. There's room in this big, wide world for all kinds. And I enjoy being the sexy kind.

    Glad to hear you do, too.

    Nice seeing you at GRL!


  7. I'm definitely one of those who will comment if I think there's too much sex in a story and not enough plot. Having just finished In the Flesh 2 days ago, I would say it was just the right amount for Cristian because it IS a part of who he is as a character, and it all completely made sense from a story perspective. As long as that is true and the sex accomplishes something within the story, it works. Go with your gut.

    (I'll probably skip Wolf Moon now, though.) =)

  8. Hurray for the horny muse! I am an unapologetic fan of sex in my books, so you will rarely hear complaints from me about too much. And I adore Flesh to no ends, so he can do anything as far as I am concerned. But I think it is interesting how reader reaction can affect an author. I can imagine that it is hard getting feedback and finding that balance between listening to your readers and staying true to your own vision and writing. The funny thing is that as a reviewer I point out things that work and don't work for me in a book, yet I would never want an author to change his or her writing b/c of what I think. So I am glad you have decided to stay true to your own vision and write what works for you. Horndogs unite!