Sisters in Smut and Their Stories

When first invited to spend some time at a whacky-sounding gathering called The Smummit, I was both curious and cautious. In retrospect, I’m not sure what I was worried about. The event was hosted by my good friend (and favorite extrovert) Dr J and I’m always happy to spend time with smart, funny women — especially when one of my besties refers to them as sisters.

Unfortunately, my hesitation is something these women encounter quite often, simply because of their genre: they write erotica. It’s not a genre with which I’m terribly familiar, so, of course, curiosity took over. Not only were all the Smummit participants delightful humans — they also happen to be good writers. So I decided to conduct some interviews. I hope you enjoy getting to know Ria Restrepo, Wednesday Noir, and Oleander Plume as much as I did.

Meet Some Sisters in Smut

So, ladies — sisters — let’s talk about pen names. Why do you use one and how did you come up with it? Any special significance? Let’s start with you, Oleander. (Here’s her Twitter handle.)

Before I came up with my pen name, I had a blog called Poison Pen/Dirty Mind, and, for reasons that still mystify me, I wanted a pen name that coordinated. Anyway, oleander is a poison, and plume is French for pen, so…Oleander Plume.

And what about you, Ria?

I use a pen name primarily to protect my privacy. It’s unfortunate, but a woman writing erotica tends to draw unwanted attention and I’d rather not have weirdos showing up on my doorstep. Also, most of my family is not aware that I write erotica. I’m not sure how they’d react, but to avoid any possible unpleasantness, I keep it to myself.

As for how I chose it, I wanted something that reflected my Hispanic heritage. I’ve always liked the predominantly Colombian surname Restrepo, so that was easy. To pick my first name, I used a character naming book where I learned Ria means “from the river’s mouth.” I liked its sound and no one appeared to be using it, so that’s what I chose.

But Why?

How did you come to this genre? What are some of the unique joys and challenges faced by romance/erotica writers in general? You specifically? Let’s start with Wednesday.

Writing erotica seemed natural to me. I love the genre and always have. But there’s more to erotica than sex. Maybe it’s weird, but I want to write erotica for women — to give them a mental vacation from their daily lives and a story to lose themselves in. And hopefully, once in a while, make them laugh. This genre is home to me. It’s where I feel safe, and those dirty stories are more than a collection of naughty words: they’re a symbol for empowerment, a chance to explore, a place where everyone belongs.

How about you, Oleander?

Why I started writing erotica is too complex to go into here, but I can tell you why I keep writing it, despite the challenges: the answer has a lot to do with shame.

I’m shamed for being a survivor of sexual violence. I’m shamed for being a woman who enjoys reading and writing about sex. I’m shamed for being a woman who writes gay romance. Sure, I could quit writing smut and possibly have a happier life, but I refuse.

This is my personal rebellion against the conservative right. Against patriarchy. Against the ridiculous and dangerous current political regime.

Against the shame I’ve felt about myself.

Erotica writers can do important things. We can normalize healthy sexual relationships for folks of all types. We normalize consent. We can normalize diversity. We can inspire, empower, and help survivors heal. That’s why I will never stop peddling smut.

Erotica writers can do important things. We normalize consent. We can normalize diversity. We can inspire, empower... Click To Tweet

Some Advice from the Sisters

And, sticking with Oleander for one more question, please: What advice do you have for someone just starting out as a writer?

The absolute best advice I can give is this: your words are not precious. Say it out loud with me, right now:

“My words are not precious.”

Here’s the thing, when you start out, 99% of your work is going to suck. IT’S SUPPOSED TO SUCK! No one is born a writer. We writers make ourselves, using hard work and tenacity. Staying humble is an important part of the process.

When you drop your defenses and allow your work to be edited or critiqued, you’ll grow as a writer. And as a human.

Ria, do you have any advice for our readers who write?

I’ve really stepped up my blogging game within the last year. My blog is called Ria’s Writing and is mostly erotic romance stories. Mainly, I do it to keep myself writing on a regular basis and to build an audience. I also love the challenge of writing stories for the various online writing prompts which allow me to experiment with ideas I might not have tried and gain confidence in my own writing instincts.

Sweet Adventure

Finally, ladies… do you have anything to say about your visit to Amelia Island? Let’s continue with Ria.

Amelia Island is a beautiful area I was thrilled to finally visit. The carriage ride around the historic area was definitely a highlight. I especially enjoyed the ghost stories—and I may have even come away with a picture of a possible supernatural sighting. Above all, though, I was overjoyed to meet and connect with the very talented women I’d only interacted with online. Meeting the Sisters in Smut in person reinforced everything I already knew: they are the most supportive and encouraging group of women I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with.

Meeting the sisters in person reinforced everything I already knew: they are the most supportive and encouraging group of women I've ever had the pleasure of working with. Click To Tweet

What about you, Wednesday Noir?

Visiting Amelia Island changed me. It wasn’t the beautiful streets, the charming houses, or even the sea breeze. But believe me, I enjoyed the scenery and still miss the breeze.

It was the company that changed me. I’m an agoraphobic introvert. When I set out to write for a living, I never expected to make friends. But oh boy, I did. I’d already met Dr. J, and chatted with the other Sisters In Smut daily, but I didn’t expect the emotional impact of being in the same room. There was so much laughter, my cheeks hurt the entire trip, and oh gosh, the happy tears. I’m surprised we didn’t flood the island.
Not only that, I didn’t expect to come away from the trip with even more writer friends. Everyone I met, was so sweet, so kind, and taught me there’s more to life than writing and Twitter: I can talk to people, and I can go places. I’ve even been getting out more while at home. The island is beautiful, but I enjoyed the Amelia Island state of mind most. I carried a bit of y’alls good humor and easy-going nature home with me. Seriously, is anyone ever grouchy there?

See what I mean? They’re lovely. Here are some sisters’ author bios for you.

###

Oleander Plume plans on living until she is 100, so the fact that she didn’t start writing until the age of 50 doesn’t bother her at all. Her short stories have been featured in best-selling erotic anthologies from Cleis Press and Riverdale Ave Books. Horatio Slice: Guitar Slayer of the Universe, published by Go Deeper Press, is Oleander’s first (but hopefully not last) full-length novel. When Oleander isn’t writing, you can find her creating art, dabbling in graphic design, or hanging out with her wonderful family in Chicago, Illinois.

Ria Restrepo may appear to be a mild-mannered bookworm who drinks too much coffee and spends most days tapping away on her computer, but beneath the quiet exterior lurks a filthy-minded sex kitten with a lurid and lascivious imagination. Her work has appeared in Spy Games: Thrilling Spy Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica of the Year Volume 1, Chemical [se]X 2: Just One More, The Sexy Librarian’s Dirty 30 Volume 3, and coming soon in Best Bondage Erotica of the Year Volume 1.

When Wednesday Noir isn’t writing, she can be found with a cat on her lap, a cup of cinnamon tea in hand, watching cheesy 80s horror movies while avoiding in-person social interaction. She’s not married but considers herself in a committed relationship with Netflix. 

 

Author Winfield Strock Releases Long Shadows

Author Winfield Strock smilingWe recently had a chance to catch up with Amelia Indie Authors member, science fiction author Winfield Strock. And of course we couldn’t resist the opportunity to turn a celebratory cup of coffee into a bit of an interview. We’re pleased to introduce you to Win.

##

AiA: With publication of your new book, Long Shadows, you have produced five science fiction and steam punk novels. What drew you to these genres? Do you have a preference for one over the other, and if so, why?

Strock: As a fan of history and science fiction, steampunk came naturally for me. Both offer an escape from normal life. Dystopian sci-fi serves as a warning about dangerous trends taken to their extreme. Characters have to fight against the world to make it a better place. Utopian sci-fi offers hope of what’s to come if we manage to get our act together. Characters have to save their world from those who would corrupt or destroy it.

Utopian sci-fi offers hope of what’s to come if we manage to get our act together. Characters save their world from those who would corrupt or destroy it. Click To Tweet

AiA: Long Shadows features an intergalactic conflict between two civilizations that could not be more different. Where did you get your inspiration for them, and how did you come up with the detailed descriptions? Were they purely from imagination, or was there some research involved?

Strock: Beginnings aren’t what comes to me first, so I have to retroactively create one from clues in my concept. The Salei and Alkir had to be at odds but willing to cooperate, so a cold war made sense. Each side’s goals defined the kind of creatures they needed to be. The Salei are like locusts: they ravage resources. The Alkir are herd-minded herbivores who fight only when cornered.

Cover of Win Strock’s new novel Long Shadows. AiA: The hero of this book, James, is a teenager coming of age, trying to find his abilities and purpose in life. He is in love with a street-smart, red-haired girl who works in a bar. She seems familiar, like someone most people would recognize from some point in their lives. Most fictional characters reflect the author’s experience. What relationships or people from your own past have informed these characters?

Strock: As a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome (before anyone knew what that was) interacting with other kids didn’t come easy. I think that’s why I became such a sci-fi fan. I imagined myself an alien that looked like the other kids but remained very different. There was a girl named Glenda in my childhood. I had a crush and she was pretty harsh. Not much of a story, but that kernel of personal connection made writing that part of the story easier and more real for me as I wrote it.

As a kid with Asperger’s Syndrome (before anyone knew what that was) interacting with other kids didn’t come easy. Click To Tweet

AiA: Like your previous work, Touching Butterflies, Long Shadows features a male friendship that is important to the hero’s journey. How is James’ friendship with Matt different from Neil and Roland’s relationship in Butterflies? James learns from his friend in unexpected ways. How did you see this relationship developing under very difficult circumstances? How did you manage to keep both friends on equal footing, when one gains such tremendous power?

Strock: For the most part, Matt’s character grew from James’s weaknesses and interests. Prior to the first scene, James (like me) has just made a big move. In a new neighborhood, at a new school, he sees a chance to react differently to the world hoping to gain better results. He’d been timid and shy; now he means to speak his mind and waste little time meeting the world head-on. Matt’s caution and logic are the guardrail that keeps James from tumbling to his doom.

Neil and Roland from Touching Butterflies were a case of role reversal. Neil had been the awkward geek and Roland the popular athlete in high school. Now with Roland’s football career destroyed and Neil’s computer skills at a premium, it’s Neil’s turn to have power and prestige go to his head and allow him down a dark path.

AiA: In Long Shadows, the warring civilizations seek power, and the real prize is in the form of telepathy. Tell us a little about your interest in telepathy, and what drew you to feature it in the story? And because science fiction is often predictive, what potential do you see for telepathy to actually gain the kind of power you describe sometime in the future?

Strock: Telepathy served two purposes in Long Shadows.

For the Salei, telepathy threatened their civilization, where secrets and hidden agendas kept the powerful on top.

For the Alkir, being part of a global mind meant they were unable to come up with new ideas because negativity of the collective mind about anything risky or untried magnified their fears.

If humanity becomes telepathic the upheaval is inevitable. Everyone’s a liar on some level. Sometimes they lie for a ‘good reason.’ Imagine going to a car salesman or to court knowing that your thoughts and memories are like a book on a shelf.

Everyone’s a liar on some level. Sometimes they lie for a ‘good reason.’ Click To Tweet

AiA: Long Shadows ends with an open possibility for a sequel. Do you intend to follow up with a series, or are you thinking of something different for your next book? If so, what can you tell us?

Strock: I always have ideas for sequels but I seldom act on them. Currently I’m working on The Kitten’s Apprentice. It’s a story about a sorcerer who tries to pass his powers on to a younger man. During the ritual, a cat interferes and the magical powers are shared between the man and the cat.

##

 

Five Amazing Things I Brought Home From My First Writing Conference

open notebook with "am I good enough?" written on page. Pen and pencil on notebook.I recently attended my first Romance Writers of America national conference in New York City. I left home full of nerves— What if I didn’t make any friends? What if I wore the wrong things? What if, when asked, I couldn’t remember what my book was about? Worst of all, I left home with a sneaky, sinking suspicion that when surrounded by other writers, I wouldn’t measure up. I packed all that in my suitcase along with six pairs of shoes, twenty-two pairs of underwear (just in case!) and headed to New York.

What I brought home four days later weighed one pound more (FTW, Delta!) and was more valuable than the extra Biscoff cookies I nabbed from the flight. Whether you write romance, thrillers, literary fiction, or children’s books, let me tell you about five of the things I brought back from my conference and why you might want to attend conferences in your genre.

Worst of all, I left home with a sneaky, sinking suspicion that when surrounded by other writers, I wouldn’t measure up. I packed all that in my suitcase along... Click To Tweet

#5. So. Many. Books.

In fairness, these didn’t come home in my suitcase because I had to ship them from the business center in the hotel, but let’s pretend for the sake of metaphor. I work in academia and I’ve written before about how I hid my love of romance for a long time, believing people would think it wasn’t “smart enough.”

I’m over that now, but there was no greater symbolism for that than holding a stack of new romance novels and talking with fellow readers who were educated, successful professionals about our shared interest in the book’s promise of happily ever after (and just for a minute about the shirtless model featured on the cover). I found my people along with new books.
#4. Business Cards

I was given a head’s up that having business cards would be beneficial, so I brought a stack to trade. I recommend doing this because I ended up bringing home a stack of cards from other authors. One of the most important things you’ll do at genre-specific conferences is meet other authors, industry professionals, and vendors. I also met many people in elevators, in line for the bathroom, and while waiting for sessions to begin. I knew we had at least one thing in common, so striking up a conversation with “What do you write?” was easy.

One of the most important things you’ll do at genre-specific conferences is meet other authors, industry professionals, and vendors. Click To Tweet

#3. Notes

The educator in me knows this should be #1, but I came home with a notebook filled with notes on marketing strategies, writing craft, publishing ins and outs, and important topics like domestic violence in romance. I love networking and cocktail parties, but the nerd in me was here for the learning. Taking notes AND talking about writing? Yes, please. Sessions will vary, but these conferences are a great opportunity to hone and stretch ourselves as authors. I went to sessions I knew I’d love and chose a few where I wasn’t sure what I was getting into—they all came home with me.

#2. Confidence

Admittedly, I attended the conference with a few things going my way already. I was a finalist for an award for unpublished authors, I’d signed with an agent a few months before the conference, and my book had recently sold. Still, I questioned my talent and abilities. During the conference, I met fellow new authors who could talk about our shared anxieties, I met seasoned professionals who offered to help and told me my book sounded great, and I met people who were just kind, welcoming, and friendly. Between the shoes I didn’t end up wearing, and the NYC-themed toys I bought for my son, my suitcase was filled with affirmation that I can not only write a kick-ass book, but the shoulders-back, boobs-forward confidence that I will write several more.

#1. A Plan

Confidence is great and I strutted (in my mind) down the jet bridge, but the most important thing I came home with was a plan. Between my new network of people, my notes, and Author Denise Williams smilingnewfound knowledge of my genre and the publishing industry, I came home with the tools to make a plan. I’ve already been in touch with authors I met willing to help boost my book when it comes out, I’ve started sketching out plans for marketing and questions to ask my publisher, and mapping out next steps for my career.

On top of those five things, I brought home a camera roll full of selfies with new friends and author heroes, a little bit of a hangover (Whew! Authors know how to party!) and three new ideas for novels. NYC is a cruelly expensive city to visit, as are many conference locations, but consider the options for your genre if it’s possible—local, regional, national, and international conferences are out there and can be great for indie, trad, or hybrid authors, unpublished and published alike. Pack your bag and see what you come home with—I’m glad I did.

##

Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education. When she’s not writing romance novels, she’s chasing two dogs, one husband, and a hilarious toddler.

Dr. Naya Turner has never failed at anything, but when she puts herself out there, she stumbles in every possible way. Luckily, the man she’s stumbling into doesn’t seem to mind. This is a story about surviving — and finding love and laughter on the way to finding one’s own voice.

Follow Denise on Twitter , Instagram , or Facebook.  How to Fail at Flirting, her debut romantic comedy, is coming December 2020 from Berkley. To receive an email when the book is available (and to learn more about Denise) visit www.denisewilliamswrites.com

 

Continue reading