While it’s a common enough topic among writers, I don’t see a lot of people saying it out loud. So allow me – This year is hard. Being creative in the face of a global pandemic, social and political unrest, economic disaster, and catastrophic wildfires is… well, not impossible, but it is damn difficult. As a romance author, it’s tough to envision a happily-ever-after when confronted repeatedly with a world that is anything but. And yet, we need to find a way forward.
I’m under no illusion about my work—I don’t expect to change the world or create a dynastic vision of what the future might look like. I’m not Star Trek, or even Star Wars. But if one person reads one of my romances and decides the world isn’t so bad? That’s good enough. If mine was the story a person needed to feel better for a few hours? That’s a victory. And for that person, I need to find a way to keep writing.
That meant I had to find my way back into the things I loved: snarky heroines, grumpy alphas, found families. The kind of flash and action that a friend once called “candy bar scenes” because writing them was such a treat. And to kickstart my brain, I revisited my story from last year’s Pets in Space anthology. Heart of the Spider’s Web let me get all of my favorite pieces in one place (Indeed, Sherri may be my snarkiest heroine, and for me that’s a hard prize to win), and it let me compile two parts of the story into a single, unified whole. Heart had a prologue piece—a heist that was released as part of the teaser set for last year’s anthology—and it had the main story. This re-release allowed me to edit the two pieces together so that they rewarded each other and created a cohesive, complete novel.
It also allowed me to get my hands around the crew in time to write a new story about these merry smugglers for this year’s anthology. The relationships aboard the Sentinel of Gems are dynamic, and I wanted to make sure that the crew still felt cohesive in the new book. Writing new scenes for them helped me tie the two stories together, and also let me “jazz riff” on my own ideas. Soon it became a way to kick off my writing sprints – a quick scene roughed out between some group of characters, just to see how they’d react.
Finding my way forward helped; being creative is still hard, but knowing that I can revisit these old friends (even if the scenes I write for them never come out) serves as a good leaping off point. I unblocked the stressors that were holding me back and hopefully, you can enjoy the results.
If you like your alphas grumpy and your heroines snarky, then read on for a taste of Heart of the Spider’s Web, where you get to meet Barr and Tyler, and their lack of boundaries:
“Showtime, Dockrat. You ready?” Rayan Barr’s voice was as heavy as his physique, and his build surprised her every time she saw him. The gym facilities on the ship had to be amazing to keep his musculature so well defined despite the oft-fluctuating gravity of space travel. Where most people lost mass on extended trips, Barr never seemed to have that problem.
Sheri scoffed. “Couldn’t you find a shirt in your size?” If she was honest, the black pseudocotton stretched across his ample shoulders looked pretty fine. She wouldn’t say it out loud, though. The man had an ego to match his size.
“Just doing my part to make the ship visually appealing.” He grinned and shrugged in a way that hinted he knew exactly how tight his shirt was and how the gesture would translate.
She swallowed, rolling her eyes elaborately to show how unimpressive the entire display was despite her suddenly dry mouth. “Are you leading me somewhere? Or are you my new replacement door?”
“I don’t know. The latter might be fun.”
“I agree,” she said. “I like throwing knives at my door.”
A red-black shape moved across the floor, deceptively quick for its size. The goanna clambered up onto the reclamation unit and lapped at the few droplets clinging to the edge of the bowl. He puffed his chest up, proud of the accomplishment, and let out a shrill, trilling call.
Sheri responded in kind, mimicking the sound as well as she was able. The lizard shifted to focus on her as he had every time she’d seen him in Nobu Station’s dockyards. He blinked his four eyes in alternating pairs, head tilted to watch her as he trilled again.
She answered once more, and Barr strode into the room to retrieve the goanna. “That’s enough out of you, Darcy.” The meter and a half lizard climbed to his shoulder and pushed the top of his flat head into Barr’s cheek. He reached up and stroked the lizard’s throat gently.
“That’s a shame,” Sheri said. “You just ended the most intelligent conversation I’ve had since I arrived.”
Heart of the Spider’s Web is available now from all your favorite e-tailers: