Category Archives: interviews

Medieval Ninja Detectives! CLAWS OF THE CAT by Susan Spann

Been a rough week Chez RomanceMama, my dear ones. Not gonna go into details, but I have learned once again that you never really know someone, and heartache can — and usually does — get let in the door by someone you trust.

But enough of that. There are a couple of extremely bright points in my life today. I’m heading to The Big Peach, Atlanta Georgia, tomorrow for the RWA National Conference, which is a high point of my writing year. But even more importantly, today is the Debut Release Day for a good friend and a great writer, someone you are going to hear a lot about in the coming weeks, months and years.

So to celebrate that release, I’ve got an extra extremely special post for y’all! If you read my facebook and twitter feeds, you are familiar with my crit group, the incredible ladies of the SFWG. (Don’t ever ask what it stands for. If we tell you, we have to kill you.) It has been a rare and wonderful thing, being in a group like this. Everyone is encouraging and supportive, while respecting you as an author and the craft of writing enough to tell you what you need to improve. All done with lots of humor, prayers, and virtual sangria along the way!

The first one of the SFWG that I actually met in real life embodies all those virtues, and she’s even more fabulous in person. Susan Spann is, like me, a lawyer in the day job, and she has a college-age kid, so we had a lot in common from the beginning. But I am simply in awe of Susan as a writer, and starting today, the rest of the world will find out why!


Susan’ debut novel, THE CLAWS OF THE CAT, is now in a bookstore near you! I’ve read it, and it is wonderful — a beautifully-written, intelligent story about (get this!) a medieval ninja detective. Yes, you read that correctly — Medieval. Ninja. Detective. What is there not to like about this concept?

And trust me, she carries it off — you will absolutely love Hiro, the hero. (And I love saying that, btw. Hiro the hero. Hiro the hero.) So, today, my darling readers, I am bringing you the straight scoop about medieval ninja detective stories from the author herself, Ms. Susan Spann!

Q. Tell us about yourself – you know, the who, what, where and why.

A. Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Arabella! As you mentioned, I’m a publishing lawyer by day, ninja author by night. I live outside Sacramento, California, with my husband, college-age son, three cats (one of which is so fat we can count her as two), a cockatiel named “Miracle” (because my son, then eight, said only a miracle would have made us let him have her), and a 60-gallon saltwater seahorse reef.

Q. And of course, we want to hear about your book.

A. CLAWS OF THE CAT is the first book in the Shinobi Mystery Series featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo. It also has angry samurai, beautiful geishas, a Portuguese weapons dealer and a kitten thrown in for good measure. And the kitten isn’t even the reason I titled it Claws of the Cat!


Here’s the slightly longer version:

“May 1564: When a samurai is brutally murdered in a Kyoto teahouse, master ninja Hiro has no desire to get involved. But the beautiful entertainer accused of the crime enlists the help of Father Mateo, the Portuguese Jesuit Hiro is sworn to protect, leaving the master shinobi with just three days to find the killer in order to save the girl and the priest from execution.

The investigation plunges Hiro and Father Mateo into the dangerous waters of Kyoto’s floating world, where they learn that everyone from the elusive teahouse owner to the dead man’s dishonored brother has a motive to keep the samurai’s death a mystery. A rare murder weapon favored by ninja assassins, a female samurai warrior, and a hidden affair leave Hiro with too many suspects and far too little time. Worse, the ninja’s investigation uncovers a host of secrets that threaten not only Father Mateo and the teahouse, but the very future of Japan.”

Q. Everyone always wants to know where authors get their ideas, and I have to say that just saying “Medieval ninja detective” makes me want to read it! What was the initial inspiration for your story?

A. I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, getting ready for work, when a voice in my head said, “Most ninjas commit murders, but Hiro Hattori solves them.” I knew instantly this was a book I HAD to write. Also – like you, I love that the hero’s name is Hiro—I still smile every time I think about it.

Q. What drew you to that genre?

A. I’ve always loved mysteries and thrillers. I read my first Nancy Drew mystery in the second grade, and I was hooked. By fourth grade I’d moved on to the “hard stuff” – meaning Agatha Christie and P.D. James – and I’ve been reading in the genre ever since.

When first I started writing, I didn’t think I had the chops to write in the mystery genre, but eight years and four historical manuscripts later the ninjas attacked—and I realized that mystery fit my talents as well as my heart.

Q. What else do you have in the works?

A. Right now, more Hiro! I’m under contract for two more Shinobi Mysteries. Book 2, BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, is already with the publisher, and I’m editing Book 3, under the working title FLASK OF THE DRUNKEN MASTER. The series could extend for many more novels, but that’s for the readers and the publisher to decide. If so, I’ll gladly spend more time with Hiro and Father Mateo. If not, I’ll find new ways to kill off my imaginary friends.

Q. Plotter, pantser, or a combination? How do you do the work of writing your story?

A. Plantser!

I outline the stories before I write, with a two-column outline that tracks the characters onstage as well as offstage. I need to follow the offstage action because my supporting characters lie—they seldom are where they claim to be at any given moment.

Once I start writing, however, the outline becomes a guideline and the characters usually depart from it fairly quickly. In the end, the books are a hybrid of my plans and those of the characters. I admit we do not always see eye to eye!

Q. What is your best writing advice for all the hopeful authors out there?

A. Don’t give up.

At my very first writers’ conference (in Maui, back in 2003) I heard agent Kimberly Cameron say that “writing is a game of last man standing, and only you get to decide when you sit down.” Those words stayed with me for almost a decade, as I wrote and struggled and faced rejection over and over again. It took me nine years and five full manuscripts (500,000 words) to reach publication. Every day, every word, and every rejection was worth it in the end.

If you want to be published, you can be. All you need is the fortitude and the will to keep on writing and keep improving until you reach the “yes.” For some, the road is shorter and seems much easier than for others, but success is attainable for anyone with the will and the courage to persevere.

Oh, and here’s a shot of Susan’s incredible Coral Reef Aquarium — writing, law practice, family, and raising exotic sea creatures! She’s an absolute Renaissance Woman!


RomanceMama Interviews: Dara Young


Today Romancemama is pleased to welcome a fabulous voice in Historical Romance – the talented Ms. Dara Young, whose Wild Rose Press release, The CanCan Dancer and the Duke is now available. And since Ms. Young is a lot more interesting than little ol’ Ro’mama, let’s just jump right into it!

RM: Tell us about yourself – you know, the who, what, where and why.
DY:I was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, one of two children and grew up in Florida and Alabama. I later graduated from Auburn University Montgomery with a BS in Political Science and a minor in History.
My mother once asked me what I would do with a poly sci degree. At that moment I happened to have a romance novel in my hand, the author of which was a poly sci major. I quickly held it up and said, “Well, I can write romance novels!” How prophetic!
I specialize in configuration management, and I pursue my love of writing and history in my spare time.
I met my husband my first week living in New York City. While he does not share my love of books, he does support my writing wholeheartedly! We were married in November 2000, and now share a beautiful home in Southern California.
RM: And of course, we want to hear about your latest book.
The Cancan Dancer and the Duke is of course a love story. It’s about a girl who goes seeking adventure and ends up biting off a little more than she intended. At the same time she is keeping a secret that if revealed could ruin her whole world. The hero is just out for a good time but winds up finding a whole lot more.

RM: Everyone always wants to know where authors get their ideas, and I have to say that just reading your title, The Cancan Dancer and The Duke, gives us a hint at a fabulous story – I can’t wait to read it! What was the initial inspiration for your story?
The Cancan Dancer and the Duke (Cancan) was inspired by real life. See, I was a dancer in high school. One of my teachers choreographed a ballet based on the life of Toulouse Lautrec. He is famous for his posters of the French dance hall girls, in particular the ladies of the Moulin Rouge. His posters, and those of other artists like him, were used originally as advertisements for the dance halls. They were posted around Paris to entice spectators to the establishments. In the ballet, I got to dance a very tame version of the cancan…OMG! I had no idea how cardio deficient I was until I started rehearsing that piece. LOL!

RM: What’s the link to buy your book?

The Wild Rose Press
It will also be available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and All Romance eBooks among other online retailers very soon.

RM: What drew you to that genre?
Well, I have been a long time reader of historical romance. I am also a history buff, having minore din it in college and been born to a father who has his PhD in history.  It was kind of natural that I would write historical romance.

RM: What else do you have in the works?
I have a Superheroes paranormal romance I am working on. It is a full length title, and if it goes well I am planning it to be a four book series.

RM: Plotter, pantser, or a combination? How do you do the work of writing your story?
I am a hybrid writer. For sure. I do some light plotting and planning including an outline because I am a firm believer in beginning with the end in mind. But then I am open to where the journey takes me. Sometimes the characters really do know best. In the end, I almost always end up where I planned to, it’s just the journey isn’t always what I anticipated.

RM: What is your best writing advice for all the hopeful authors out there?
Put your butt in the chair and your fingers on the keyboard, if you aren’t actively writing you will never be published. If you can get past that hurdle, then comes the hard part. Send that baby out into the world. Submit, submit, submit! Of course, there is a lot more in between those steps, but if you can’t accomplish those two things, then go back to being a reader and enjoy. Because without readers, we couldn’t be writers. 

Thanks for stopping by to celebrate with me and remember to comment on each post during the blog tour for more chances to win! (Not sure what I’m talking about? Click here.)

The Cancan Dancer and the Duke
Can a lady on the lam and a duke on the make find love at the Moulin Rouge?
Cathedrals and museums are not Lady Charise Colton’s idea of European adventure. Turn-of-the-century Paris beckons, and she wants to grab it while she can…or rather, cancan. Flirting with fate and half of Paris, Charise eludes her chaperones and joins the cancan revue at the Moulin Rouge.
Ethan Greer, Duke of Lofton, is in Paris to settle some estate business. Chafing under his responsibilities, he discovers an enchanting distraction at the Moulin Rouge, a flirtatious dancer who stirs his lust and something more. He must have her—even if it means offering carte blanche.
Terrified of discovery, Charise tries to hold her persistent suitor at bay, though her heart has already surrendered. Will she lose him if he learns the truth, or is love enough to bind the cancan dancer and the duke?
The singular sound was a soft whisper at first. The audience strained forward to catch even a note of the eerie melody carried on the fetid air of the cafe. As the song picked up, her voice grew stronger, the words more clear. Ethan relaxed into his seat and let the warm rich alto caress him. His body grew warm with the promises carried by the witch’s husky tones.
He remained unaware of anything in the room except the siren walking toward him. Each steady, unhurried step she took further drew him in. His gaze feasted on the curve of her hip, the swell of her breast. Ethan rode the knife’s edge between lust and propriety.
The song described, in lurid detail, two lovers in the throes of passion. Upon reaching him, the dancer propped the toe of her boot onto the edge of his seat—square between his thighs. The luscious creature presented impossibly sheer bloomers which hid everything and yet nothing, causing him to let out the breath he, until now, unknowingly held. His cock grew rigid, the uncomfortable throbbing causing him to shift. The desire to haul her into his arms and demonstrate every action she described with the most sensuous mouth he’d ever seen rode him hard. Her full lower lip begged for his kiss. Ethan wanted to see it slick and glowing pink from his attentions.
The wanton dancer continued to taunt him, but his good breeding won out. Forcing himself to stay seated, his fists balled and his jaw grew rigid with frustration, but his raging lusts remained leashed. The song ended, sending her into the nether regions of the cafe in a swirl of skirts.

Add it to my shelf at: GoodReads
Lady Jane’s Salon San Diego


We all want to help in the fight against breast cancer, right? And of course, we all want to read fabulous fiction by our favorite authors. So, chicas, we are in luck today! Some of the best writers I know have joined forces to bring you ENTANGLED, a new anthology. And the best part is, buying a copy will benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. It’s a win/win situation, kids!

Ghosts, vampires, demons, and more! Entangled includes ten paranormal short stories from authors Cynthia Eden, Jennifer Estep, Edie Ramer, Lori Brighton, Michelle Diener, Misty Evans, Nancy Haddock, Liz Kreger, Dale Mayer, and Michelle Miles, plus a Seven Deadly Sins novella by Allison Brennan.

Stacia Kane contributed the foreword. All proceeds go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

And here’s an interview with the ladies who brought you ENTANGLED:

Q: Tell us about Entangled.
A: Entangled includes ten suspense-filled paranormal stories from authors Lori Brighton, Michelle Diener, Cynthia Eden, Jennifer Estep, Misty Evans, Nancy Haddock, Liz Kreger, Dale Mayer, Michelle Miles, and Edie Ramer, plus a brand new Seven Deadly Sins novella by Allison Brennan. Stacia Kane contributed the foreword and the book’s formatting and cover art were also donated to the project by Lori Devoti and Laura Morrigan. All proceeds from the sale of Entangled will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation (BCRF).

Q: Are the stories connected?
A: The anthology has a Halloween theme, so the stories all have Halloween elements in them.

Q: Are they all one genre?
A: All the stories paranormal, but some are heavier on suspense, while others have more romance. We even have a young adult story by Jennifer Estep that’s related to her Mythos Academy series.

Q: How did you all come up with the decision to do this book? Who initiated it and how did you all get together?
A: Edie Ramer and Misty Evans wanted to do a collaboration together, and over three or four emails earlier this year, they decided to do a paranormal anthology of short stories and have the proceeds go to breast cancer. They invited authors whose books they read and enjoyed, and the response was overwhelmingly positive.

Q: Tell us more about the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
A: BCRF-funded research has helped save lives and improved the quality of care and rate of survival for tens of thousands of breast cancer patients in the past decade. Their research has revealed that the “cure” is a mosaic made up of as many approaches to diagnosing, treating, preventing and surviving as there are different types of breast cancer. The anthology is also a mosaic made up of many stories donated for this worthwhile cause.

Q: Is there a time limit on purchasing Entangled so the proceeds go to the BCRF?
A: Entangled will available for at least a year and all proceeds will go to BCRF, no matter when it’s purchased. After a year, if it’s still selling well, we’ll keep it available, and again, all proceeds will go to BCRF.

Q: How much will the ebook cost?
A: Entangled will be discounted to $2.99 during September and October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month. After that the price will go up to $3.99. For stories of this caliber, it’s a fantastic deal at either price.

Q: Can people donate to the cause even if they can’t or don’t want to purchase Entangled?
A: Absolutely. Go to to make a donation in your name, or in the name of someone you know who’s been touched by breast cancer.

Welcome Jillian Chantal

A couple of years ago, I got tired of reading a romance and sighing “I could write one of these” & started actually writing one. Now, my Momma always said “If you want to learn to do something, you can find it in a book.”. So I trotted off to the library and got books on how to write a romance novel.

One of the main things they all said was that I should join RWA. Whatever that was. So I poked around online and found the chapter in my area. But, being the shy, retiring soul I am, I didn’t want to go to a meeting by myself.

Now, I knew that one of my dearest friends did a little writing in her spare time, though I didn’t know just what she wrote. But I asked her if she was interested in going with me. Turns out, yes, she writes romance, and yes, she’d love to go. And that is how Jillian Chantal and I ended up in RWA.

Jillian, like me, is a lawyer in the dayjob – we actually met as opposing counsel in a trial. (Yes, Jillian, I’ll tell them you beat me!). And so now, in addition to sharing the “joys” of practicing law, we write together, blog together, and plan to hit the NYT together.

So without further babble by moi, here’s Jillian Chantal!!!

Hello there, my name is I’m Jillian Chantal and my friend, Arabella Stokes, has been asking me to send her a guest post for her blog for a while and I’ve been tryin-

“Stop, stop, right there, Jillian. You always get to guest blog and I never get to say a word and we all know I’m the one that should get all the attention. Not you. You’re just the American writer. You’re nothing special.”

“What the heck are you doing here, Percy Hicks? You need to get back in Surfer Bride where you belong and stay off Arabella’s blog. You weren’t invited.”

“Jillian, a man of my taste and upper class upbringing doesn’t have to wait for an invitation. Having me at the soiree makes any hostess the talk of the town.”

“Don’t look down your patrician nose at me, you smug British chap in your bespoke suit from Savile Row. I may be American, but I created you and I can take an eraser to you.”

“Au contraire, mes ami. That’s French for on the contrary, my friend, for you people that aren’t cultured. And you can’t erase me. The book is out in the world and it’s in print, too. So, I’m there to stay.”

“Well, get off this blog anyway so I can talk about the book to these lovely people here that want to hear about it. They don’t want you hanging about being a nuisance.”

“Perhaps you don’t recall, madam, but I do what I want. I always get my way.”

“Not always, Percy. Step away from the author. Right now.”

“Oh, God. It’s that blasted ATF Agent, Fennimore Smith. Who invited him here?”

“I invited myself, much like you did, Hicks. Put your hands on your head, I’m hauling you in.”

“You’ll never take me alive.” Percy exits.

“Jillian, are you all right?”

“I’m fine, Finn, just trying to write a blog post here.”

“Then I’ll leave you to it, ma’am. Always happy to restore order.” Finn tips his hat to Jillian and Arabella and exits.

Jillian: Now, where was I? Oh yeah, Surfer Bride. My romantic suspense novel available from Siren-BookStrand. Before I get interrupted again, here’s an excerpt:

She turned at the sound, looked around and noticed him in the sand. He tried to stand up. He pushed the heel of his hand into the ground and attempted to leverage himself up.
Before he could rise, she walked over and pushed him in the chest with her bare foot. He grabbed her ankle. She lost her balance and fell to the beach. She sat half way up, leaning on her elbows and looked at him. “What the hell you doing here, you prick?”
“Don’t act surprised, Q. You knew I’d follow you.” He said as he ran his hand up her ankle to her shin. God, her skin felt good. Smooth. Like he remembered.
She jerked her leg from his grasp as if it were on fire. “Keep your paws off me.” She backed off, crab like. Out of reach.
He leaned toward her. “Q. Will you hear me out? Can I please talk to you? I have to tell you something. I wouldn’t have come back if it wasn’t important.”
She looked at him. She stayed silent.
“Really, Quincy. This is vital. I know you’ll be glad I told you. I know you. You need to hear this.”
“Fine. If I listen, will you go away? Never try to interfere with me again?” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“Fine. I’ll do it. Now, can we get up? I’m not really comfortable down here on the ground.”
“I know. That was always part of your problem, Finn.” With no effort, she rose from her seat.
What?” he asked as he struggled to get up, bogged down by his agency issued thick-soled black shoes.
“Not liking sand in your shorts.”
“And that’s a problem, how?” He raised that one eyebrow again.
Intimidation tactics didn’t work with her. “Too straitlaced. Anyone who can’t deal with sand in the crack of their butt is too tightly wound for me.” They were standing close. Less than two feet separated them.
“I guess we all know where the lack of being straitlaced got you.” The sneer was back. “In bed with Craig Miller.”
The crack as she slapped his face was so loud it sounded like an aborted thunder storm. “Wondered how long it’d take for you to bring that up.”
“So, you don’t deny it?”
“Did you ever give me a chance to deny anything, jerkwad?”
“Now’s your shot, Baby. Take it. Let’s see if I believe you.” His face was mottled red, and the spittle flew from his mouth.
She looked at him for a full second. Her eyes filled with tears, and she turned away. She walked over, grabbed her board and tucked it under her arm and stalked off the beach to her Jeep.
As she stowed the board in the back with the other two, Finn walked up behind her. “Sorry about that, Q. I really didn’t look you up to bring up the past.”

She sighed and turned around. “Then why? Why’d you look me up, then? Go ahead and say what you need to say. Then leave. Please. It’s clear to me that you aren’t gonna go till you do.” She stood with her hands on her hips.
He looked at her, sad at what he had to tell her. Even after all the lies she’d told him, he still didn’t like to hurt her. “There’s no way to soften the blow, but you need to know. Your fiancé, Percy Hicks, is an arms dealer.”
She threw her head back and laughed out loud. “You’re insane, Finn. Yes, he is a dealer. I know that. He’s an antiques dealer. Not arms, antiques. This is what has you in a tizzy?” She slapped her hand on her thigh. “You misheard. But thanks for the warning. If I see a dangerous settee, I’ll be sure to get out of the way.” She laughed so hard, she cried. She bent over double, clutching her stomach. After a while, she stood back up and wiped the tears from her cheeks.
It was too much for him. His reawakened feelings for her, her wet panties and her laughing at him sent him over the edge. He grabbed a handful of her wet suit top and jerked her toward him. He lifted her off her feet by the front of the wet suit. He pulled her close, his lips locked on hers, and he rammed his tongue in her mouth and kissed her like he’d wanted to since the day he walked out of her life. His other hand slid down her spine and into her panties where it squeezed her right buttock. It was cold from being in the water. He could feel the sand in her panties.
She slid her arms around his neck and returned the kiss for the first couple of seconds. He was hard. She kissed him back until his hand entered her panties. As soon as he squeezed her butt, she jerked away from his grasp and smacked him again. “What are you trying to do, Finn?”
“Trying to stop you from marrying an arms dealer.”
“By assaulting me?”
“That wasn’t an assault.” He grinned at her.
“Hey, cop, I know what an assault is, and I bet you do, too. Kissing and pawing a woman without her consent is considered assault in this state.”
“Seemed to me you consented.” His smile broadened.
“Appearances can be deceiving.” She stopped and smacked her forehead. “Oh yeah, forgot for a moment who I was talking to. Appearances do deceive you. You can be blinder than a dead man. How you ever made detective grade, I’ll never know.”
“Nice. That’s real nice, Q.”

I hope you enjoyed the excerpt. Leave me a comment on your favorite place to catch a wave and I’ll send a lucky commenter some sun screen. The brand the heroine, Quincy Holt, uses.
Thanks for having me, Arabella. Sorry about the interruptions.

Where can we find you on the web?

Sent from my iPhone