by Rhyll Biest
Hometown Throwdown, Skater Smackdown, Seasons Beatings, Wild Things Unleashed, Shove Me Tender. Just the match names give my heart a little booty-bump of excitement.
I first learnt more about roller derby when a fellow romance writer helped me to interview a player, and was hooked as soon as I read her earthy account of the sport.
As a tame public service house cat, I’ve always admired the wild, rough-and-tumble broads of the derby track who skate and play hard, cuss with hearty enthusiasm, and express dissatisfaction with a tit punch rather than passive aggression or pouting.
As a writer I felt compelled to dig deeper into the sport. Not just because of the saucy uniforms or the sassy names, but because of the story potential when a character’s hips and booty are their weapon of choice.
As a woman I applaud the athleticism of derby players, envy their thighs honed to steel from several million hours of skating (mine have been shaped by several million hours of sitting). Plus I’m in awe of their fearless approach to bangs, bruises and breaks, though I’m yet to hold an exhibition devoted to butt bruises.
Then there’s their style. They wear little more than sharkish smiles and lycra, their socks often longer than their shorts, and yet they’re not dolly-birds. Rather, their vibe is fierce and feminist, more Tank Girl than Sports Illustrated what with all the argy-bargy, smelliness and sweat. Derby ain’t no beauty pageant and these broads give zero fucks about ladylike or what guys think of their bodies.
All these things make me long to be a terror on the track, and yet I have zero balance and even less time for training.
So instead I wrote roller derby into my October release, Hell on Wheels, where the heroine skates and booty-bumps her way right into the hero’s heart. But first she has to learn to appreciate the sport and what it can offer her.
For starters, the sport models solidarity and fighting spirit—the she-demon players always have their sisters’ backs and always play to win. Also, rough as the game is, it’s also surprisingly clean, pointing to the derby code of honour. The players might fight and brawl in their own time, but during the game there’s no tit punches, no king-hits, no eye-gouging, no kicking, no chokeholds, no locks, no fish-hooking, no bush pushes, no twat shots, no boob blocks, no cooter stomps, no beaver cleavers or titty take-outs allowed.
An honest win is preferred.
In writing about the sport, I learnt as much from the wisdom of derby as the heroine did. For example, the exhortations to small fall (a metaphor for life if ever I’ve heard one) tells players that they can expect a tumble, that it’s okay to fall—so long as you protect yourself by tucking your limbs in. Plus, there’s strategy to the game, and a good coach knows to treat each player like a chess piece—some girls are built to block, others are born to be jammers. Each player knows how to counter certain moves and knows their part in the team.
The writer in me is also greedy for the sport’s showmanship, the sort that sees events named Bruise Cruise and team players named everything from Fannie Tastic to Flustercluck. Some of my favourite registered derby names include Ova Bearing, Katniss EverMean, “A” Cup Annihilator, 5 Scar Jeneral, A Fist Called Wanda, A’Maiming Grace, Baron von Punchausen, Charm School Reject, Hammer Montana, Vivi Section, Punani Tsunami, Clitty Clitty Bang Bang, and Lady Shatterly.
So, what are you waiting for? Get your skates on and grab a copy of Hell on Wheels. You’ll discover how to high-five with the hips and perhaps even learn about ‘goating’ and ‘poodling’.
An imperious princess, an arrogant mercenary, a marriage of convenience, and one hell of a roller derby bout.
Princess Valeda fled Hell to hide from her mad brother, but a war on her realm sees her dragged straight back to seal a military alliance through marriage. Her betrothed? The Captain of Bloodshed and Slaughter, a royal bastard with blood black as night whose passion for her might prove as dangerous as the war with her brother. Valeda is going to need all of her wits, treachery and cunning—and some lessons learned through demon roller derby—to overcome her past, defeat the enemy, and survive her marriage.