A Bandit Holiday Gift: Debut Author Louisa Cornell

For the Love of Christmas Pudding, please let the carriage be standing outside that polished oak door. All Elizabeth Sterling needed to secure a Perfectly Ordinary Christmas was their carriage at the ready and no witnesses. And the continued silence of her mother. Preferably until the end of time, but long enough to make a clean escape would do. Was it bad form to shove one’s mother into the family traveling coach and shout to the driver, “Spring ‘em!”?

 CassondraLouisa author photo: That piece above is the opening of A PERFECTLY DREADFUL CHRISTMAS, a novella in the brand new Christmas Revels anthology, and today I feel like Cinderella must have felt when the handsome prince held the glass slipper and her foot slid right in.

You see…I asked Louisa, the author of that novella, if she’d be my guest, and she said yes. So today I get a special privilege. I’m hosting one of the most brilliant writers I’ve ever known for her debut release.

Please give a huge Bandit Lair welcome to Louisa Cornell.

Three minutes of applause later..

Cassondra: *waving hands at standing ovation so Lair guests will finally take their seats and let Louisa sit down* Settle down, everyone. I know you all have been waiting for this. But first things first. This is the lair after all. *turns to guest* Louisa, you’ve been with us since the beginning, so you know we have everything in our bar, and between Sven and me, we can make anything. What would you like to drink?

Louisa champagne 2Louisa: Champagne !! I don’t know if you know it, but I am a lifelong tee totaller!

Cassondra: Oh my gosh! I had no idea! *signals Sven to open the best of the Bandita stash*

Louisa: Never had a sip of alcohol in my life. I do, however, make the meanest Tequila Sunrise ever! I swore I would never break my (mumble, mumble) year record UNTIL I published my first book! So bring on the champagne, Sven, baby! And keep it coming til I’m dancing on the tables!

*more cheers*

Cassondra: Champagne on the way, for everyone! This is an occasion to celebrate. If any of you wonder why I’m making such a fuss, it’s because Louisa was one of the first people to ever comment on the Romance Bandit blog years ago when we were brand new, and she’s also the one who brought us the Golden Rooster.

*gasps LOuisa featherfrom the audience*

Louisa: *glances over her shoulder* Sorry about that part.

Cassondra: *waves down murmurs* Yes, that’s right. Without Louisa, the GR would never have been a part of the Bandit Lair, and we would not be who we are today. *turns to Lousia* Don’t apologize. He’s a lot of trouble, but he’s a part of us.

*Sven, Hockey Hunks and Gladiators arrive with trays of Champagne flutes for all*

 Cassondra: *takes a glass and turns back to her guest* I want to know what made Louisa who she is. You were a professional opera singer and played big stages. When did you first get an inkling that you wanted to write fiction? And what made you sit down and start typing for the first time?

 Louisa: *sips Champagne* My writing career is actually a career interrupted, sort of. I’ve wanted to be a romance writer since I was nine years old and first read Pride and Prejudice. That was the first year we were stationed in England and I sat up in my little room under the eaves in the little village of Kelsale and wrote perhaps the worst historical romance ever written. My Mom has the only copy locked away and refuses to burn it. My musical talent was discovered in that same year and once I started pursuing it, the writing fell by the wayside. It wasn’t until about seven years ago, when the local bookstore owner told me about Avon’s FanLit Event online, that I decided to give writing another try. My first manuscript, Lost in Love, was a Golden Heart Finalist that year. (My critique partners at the time tricked me into entering saying it was no big deal. Louisa pride and prejudiceThanks, ladies!) Thus a contest courtesan was born. And I’ve been writing and entering contests ever since.

 Cassondra: *turns to audience* For you who are new to the Lair, I should explain that several years ago, the Banditas were challenged to write one-paragraph story vignettes. That’s when I saw Louisa’s writing for the first time. She wrote a vignette and posted it in the comments on that blog. I knew then that I was a witness to genius, and now I have the proof, because I’ve read her debut story.

*Turns back to Louisa* It’s obvious that your talent was bleeding out all over, and LOTS of people saw it. But why romance?

Louisa: I fell in love with romance after reading the works of Jane Austen, the Bronte Sisters and Georgette Heyer. Then there is my Dad.

Cassondra: *Leans forward* Your dad is the reason you write romance?

Louisa: My Dad was stationed in Germany with two Alabama boys, my Mom’s brothers. He saw a picture of her on Uncle Bobby’s desk and asked “Who is that pretty girl?” The brothers answered in typical brother fashion. “That’s no girl. That’s our sister.” Dad asked if he could write to her. They said “Sure. But she won’t write back.” He did. And she did. For an entire year they wrote to each other. Dad was shipped back to the States. He bought an engagement ring and wedding band in Germany. He bought a set of silverware in England and had it engraved with Mom’s initials and his last initial. Yes, he was pretty damned sure of himself. He met her on May 4th. They had one date. He married her on May 11th. One week. They were married for forty years when we lost him and they adored each other. I believe in the romance of the written word because it is the whole reason I am here.

Cassondra: *takes a moment to collect herself* Okay, so why historical? Why Regency?

Louisa pride and prejudice 2Louisa: Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy. SIGH !! He’s been my love ideal since I was nine. And I added Mr. Rochester when I was ten. I love the elegance of the period. The gentile manners. The stately homes. The balls. It was a period between the rowdy party animal years of the Georgian era and the “Let’s put sexuality in a strait jacket and wonder why people went nuts.” of the Victorian era. No cars. No heavy industry. War was awful, but there were still rules for civilized engagement with the enemy. I work all day at the scene of the crimes you see on People at Walmart. Shudder. Escaping to the Regency is the only reason I’m not on the six o’ clock news!

Cassondra: I heard you say that your friends roped you into this project. Will you tell us how that came about?

Louisa: Kate Parker and I are Pixie Sisters and Ruby Sisters–

Cassondra: *interrupts* Y’all need some background. The Golden Heart is a writing contest for unpublished romance writers. If you final in this contest, it’s a Really Big Deal-with capital letters-for writers like us.  Each class of finalists picks a name for themselves. The Romance Bandits are all 2006 Golden Heart finalists. That’s how we all met and became the Banditas. Back then, we called ourselves the Packers—as in the 6-Packers. The Pixie Sisters and Ruby Sisters were the 2008 and 2009 Golden Heart Finalists.  Okay back to Louisa’s story…

Louisa: Right.  One day Kate Parker e-mails me out of the blue and says “I’m doing a Christmas anthology with a couple of friends. How’d you like to join us?” I was floored! Kate writes an amazing Victorian bookshop mystery series for Berkley. I decided I’d be an idiot not to accept her offer. I’d been on the fence about going indie with some of my work. Kate’s offer shoved me off the fence and changed my life. I offered all three ladies my firstborn for that favor, but as he is a chihuahua who has been banned from six vet clinics, they passed on the offer. They really walked me (and sometimes kicked me in the butt) through this process. I’ll never, ever be able to repay them for their perseverance, encouragement and generosity.Cornell--Christmas Revels anthology

Cassondra: *raises glass* I lift a toast to them for pushing you.

“Good Lord, Mama, Lizzie is only sixteen years old,” Michael groused. “None of my friends will have her. She still plays with dolls for pity’s sake.”

Silence boomed from the sparkling polish of the marble floor to the exquisitely fanciful mural overhead. Elizabeth spied Georgiana’s golden hair peeking out of her portmanteau only a second before Mama did. The elegant doll was the last gift her father had given her three Christmases ago, the Christmas before he died. Mama grabbed the doll by the hair and yanked her out of the bag before Elizabeth could protest. No one moved. Hortense Sterling was nothing if not determined to see her daughter wed. She marched to the table of charity boxes set to go to Leistonbury’s tenants and dropped poor Georgiana into the largest one. Elizabeth forced herself to turn away, back toward a foyer now crowded with people.

She gripped the handles of her portmanteau. Every stitch of the leather burned into her palm. Her brother opened his mouth to speak. Elizabeth raised her chin and shook her head. Then she saw him. Major Nicholas St. Gabriel, Lord and Lady Leistonbury’s second son and her brother’s closest friend, stood at the top of the stairs. She blinked and swallowed against the burning sensation in her throat. His smile was the sort to make a girl go weak at the knees. He wasn’t smiling now.

 Cassondra: As much as anything else, I think, A PERFECTLY DREADFUL CHRISTMAS is a friends-to-lovers story. That’s my favorite trope, and you’ve written a fantastic group of characters—all friends who grew up together.   What inspired this group of people?

 Louisa: At first the story of the doll came to me. From where I have no idea! Then these characters just showed up. But I realize now much of the friendship between these three gentlemen and Elizabeth I drew from a group of my former students. Several of the guys served in Bosnia together after high school and when they came home they were very different. Getting together at my house with their friends from high school helped them to get back into their lives. I didn’t realize until I read the finished novella on my Kindle that I drew bits and pieces of Elizabeth, Nicholas, Christian and Alexander from those kids.

Cassondra: As a reader, I certainly want more from you., so tell us what’s next for Louisa—aside from posing for photos with hunky cover models ala the picture down there on the left.

 Louisa:  WhLouisa and the Killion guysat’s next? Ah! That is the question I’m pondering. This has been an amazing experience thus far. Which makes me think I want to do the indie thing again!

At this point I am looking at the finished books I have and trying to decide which to take indie and which to submit to traditional publishing. I would truly like to be a hybrid author, (Makes me sound like a little car with three wheels and an electric motor.) but I am not going to wait for something to happen. With indie publishing I believe I can MAKE something happen, in spite of the fact I am a techno dinosaur!

Cassondra: I love it! If you flash forward a few years in the story, here’s a small bit from the group of friends, including Elizabeth (the heroine), Nicholas St. Gabriel, Alexander Chastleton (Marquess of Winterbourne and a notorious rake), and Delacroix (Elizabeth’s fiancée at the beginning of the book, but there are surprises in store).

Nicholas exchanged a look with Delacroix. Winterbourne had ever been the joker of their group. Not even the worst of war’s ugliness dampened his spirits. A façade to be sure. The three of them had survived. Sterling had not. And each of them had traded swords for facades. Soldiers armed themselves for all of life’s battles. The made-wise-by-life scrutiny of a slip of a woman of two-and-twenty who had known them all their lives was a definite call to arms.

Elizabeth gazed at the group’s scoundrel with obvious exasperation before she turned to Nicholas. In the grey mists of her eyes he saw her brother, and the pain of what Sterling’s death meant squeezed his chest without mercy.

“A Perfect Christmas? With you three in residence?” She stretched up to brush the snow from his shoulders. Her hair smelled of jasmine and roses. Nicholas drew it into his lungs and held it to keep himself from holding her.

Cassondra: So there will be more stories for this group of friends?

Louisa: Yes !! I want to write at least two more books with these characters – one for Christian and one for Alexander. In fact, I have them outlined already. Tentative titles – A Perfectly Scandalous Bride and A Perfectly Wicked Desire.

 Cassondra:  I haven’t read the other stories in this anthology yet but really looking forward to doing that.  Nevertheless, although  I’ve never done an official review,  I’m going to do my first one right here, right now for THIS story.

Bottom line? I laughed on the first page of this book. I darn near cried before page five. A book that can make me do both is a keeper. A book that does all of that and makes me let out an OMG satisfied sigh at the end is a rare thing indeed, and Louisa Cornell made me do all three. A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas is one of the best debut romances I’ve ever read.  Anything Louisa writes will be an auto-buy for me.

Cassondra:  Louisa, do you have a question for the Banditas and Buddies?

Louisa:  I do!

In A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas, Elizabeth Sterling is determined to be the perfect hostess of the perfect Christmas house party. She has planned everything and has lists upon lists to help her. And then all hell breaks loose!

What is your worst Christmas disaster? Burned food? Forgot a gift? Snowed in at the Podunk Airport? Tell us about your worst Christmas disaster. I’ll gift someone with a free e-book of Christmas Revels !


Cassondra: Y’all want to read this story, so get commenting!

You can find Louisa at her website,  or for news about her upcoming releases, be sure to like her page on facebook.   She’s also on twitter @LouisaCornell

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  • Helen says:

    Is he coming to visit me ?

    Have Fun

  • Helen says:

    Woohoo Louisa I am soso excited for you I bought this book the day it released on pre order but I was away in New Zealand the day it released so I had to wait till I got home for it to download and I started the book late last night I am reading the first story (I like to read from the beginning of a book LOL) and I am so looking forward to your story I am nearly jumping up and down and of course the GR is looking at me very strangly but I am sure he will behave while I am reading.

    Louisa huge congrats on your debut I am over the moon for you HUGS 🙂

    And as for a bad Christmas last year I miscaculated the time needed to cook the pork and it was way over done but everyone ate it I will not make that mistake again LOL

    Have Fun

    • Thank you so very much, Helen! I hope you enjoy all four stories in the anthology. I think we’ve come up with a great mix of Christmas stories with a twist! (And in one case, a dead body or two!)

      The GR has little cause to look at anyone strangely. He gets more strange every year!

      And I know your New Zealand trip was amazing. Can’t wait to see some photos!

    • Cassondra says:

      I’m so glad you had a great time in New Zealand, Helen! I haven’t read the other stories in the anthology yet, as Louisa sent hers to me in advance, but I’m so looking forward to them.

  • Shannon says:

    I’ve spent Christmas in O’Hare. I basically try not to fly during Christmas. Let just say food, sleep, and comfort were all issues. This was before food courts, so food was expensive. Restaurants ran out of the better entrees. Pre-computers one had to be at the stand for when standby names were called. And the floors were hard, and I would have killed for a shower. I did have a change in my carry on.

    Still, when I finally got home, Mom had Christmas with all the trimmings.

    • Shannon, that sounds like A Perfectly Miserable Christmas! I am not overly fond of airports, but in those days. compared to now, they were wastelands! So glad you made it home!

    • Cassondra says:

      Oh, Shannon, that sounds like a horrid way to spend Christmas. I try hard to avoid flying on the holidays, and fortunately the family from up north always drives in, so we aren’t forced to do that. Even driving on the holidays is stressful, with heavier-than-normal traffic. But at least I’m somewhat in control of the drive and can take a detour. In an airport you’re completely at their mercy. Thank God for moms who will either hold the Christmas celebration–or have a second one!

  • Deanna says:

    Louisa, major congrats on your debut.

    As for a Christmas disaster, nothing springs to mind that a nice bottle of chilled moscato sipped judiciously starting from about 11am can’t fix. :-p

  • Lisa Cobb Sabatini says:

    My worst Christmas was the year my two kids, my husband, and I all had the flu. It broke my heart to see that neither child had any interest or energy for playing with their new toys. Ah, but that was long ago, and now my independent, adult children are happy. I wonder if they remember that perfectly dreadful Christmas.

    • Oh no, Lisa! That would be awful! Children too sick to play with Christmas toys are very sick indeed! Thank goodness that it is simply a distant memory now!

    • Cassondra says:

      Awww, that’s an awful way to spend Christmas! Adults can put it off and celebrate later, but if the kids are small and Santa arrives only one day a year, it’s hard to make up for that. Glad everyone survived and is doing well now though!

  • Betty Jo English says:

    I guess that I am enough OCD that I want allow disaster to occur for my family. But the first Christmas that I was together with my now husband, I almost created disaster for him. He had 4 children from his first marriage that he was raising. My roommate and I played Santa for him. I never thought to ask him about their traditions. In my family, Santa always wrapped all the presents. So after spending Christmas Eve with the children at his parents, he took me home and picked up all the wrapped gifts. The next morning the children woke him up all upset because Santa Claus didn’t leave them anything. He had a lot of explaining that morning.

    • Oh no! I can see those children’s faces! I would imagine there was some very good story-telling involved in that explanation, Betty Jo! Good note for those celebrating Christmas with a blended family for the first time. Check all family traditions!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Betty Jo, I’m a bit like you, and I think, actually, that the heroine in Louisa’s story is a bit like that too–but what happens is so completely out of her control that it just gets rolling and snowballs downhill. While I hope that never happens to me, I sure did enjoy reading it!

  • Mozette says:

    The worse Christmas for me was the year – not so long ago (which was around 5 years ago now) when I couldn’t afford to buy anything for anyone.

    Seriously… I was making everything for every single person in the family; and I had to start painting small things for everyone in July to get to every person I wanted to and have everything varnished and wrapped in time!

    It felt like a very cheap way of doing things, but I really couldn’t afford to go out and buy anything – but everyone loved the paintings I did for them; and they still have them hung around their homes.

    Now, seeing my money situation is different, I can afford to not only budget my Christmas gift-buying better, but I’m also pulling a bit of money from being a retailer at the markets too… so that’s a plus! 😀

    • Oh, Mozette, I’ve had a number of those homemade Christmases in my life. For a number of years my family received quilts and needlework for Christmas as it was all I could afford to give! But those are the items my family treasures most. Sometimes the best gifts come from the hands and the heart.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Mozette, I’ve done that kind of thing before too–had to make everything for Christmas because of finances. Now I realize that those homemade/hand made gifts are the best ones of all because of the love and time that goes into them, but back then I wasn’t so clear about that. I have no doubt that something you create would be treasured by anyone who received it.

      • Mozette says:

        Even worse was that I was painting on very cheap canvas’ and things I had bought from those cheap stores. I had pulled them apart, painted them up, and then put them back together and varnished them and done them up with nice padded bottoms and everything… it was all done on the cheap… I felt horrible.

        I’m just happy people liked what I did.

        Now, I’ve got better things that I’ve bought from suppliers who I know are worthwhile. 🙂

  • Laurie G says:


    Cooking for the family I made a prime rib dinner. I also made oven roasted potatoes in a glass Pyrex dish unfortunately I set it down on a stove top burner not realizing that I forgot to turn it off. The glass dish shattered . Luckily, we had enough other food to compensate for no potatoes.

    • Exploding dishes? Well that is the sort of thing to make Christmas memorable! And I am certain, if your family is like mine, they did not let you live it down for a long time!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Laurie, that’s one of the worst things for a cook, isn’t it? Having a dish go bad RIGHT BEFORE the meal, when it’s too late to replace it with something else. I can whip up a batch of mashed potatoes in nothing flat, but it’s still at least a half hour to peel and slice, boil and then whip them into creamy goodness. When the food is already going on the table, that’s too long!

  • Brain Waves says:

    I really haven’t ever had a worst Christmas. However, I have had a difficult one. I hosted Christmas, and was still healing in the Sciatic Nerve from three pregnancies in a row. My back kept giving out on me, along with my hip. I would end up bent over the counter in the kitchen as I worked. It was so incredibly painful! However, I made it, and didn’t have to pack up a car to go home. I plopped myself into bed as soon as I could.

    • Ouch! That’s not a Dreadful Christmas! That’s a Painful Christmas! You are a far better person than I am. Had it been me Christmas, including Christmas dinner would have been in my bedroom and everyone would be waiting on me! Thank goodness you didn’t have to travel!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Brain Waves, you are a far, far stronger woman than I am. I probably would have postponed! Heck, you’re a stronger woman than I am just because you’ve had babies!

  • OHMYGOODNESS !!! I cannot even begin to tell you what a thrill and honor it is to be on Romance Bandits as a published author. First of all, Cassondra’s amazing post and review – which made me cry. You are the absolute best, Cassondra! And after all of these years of meeting some amazing authors in the Lair and all of my awesome Romance Bandit Buddies, being the person featured is simply overwhelming and wonderful! I can’t think of any group with whom I would rather celebrate my debut!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Louisa, I am so thrilled to have you here as my guest. Every one of the bandits has been waiting for this day–for your debut release–and I can’t believe I was lucky enough to be the one to ask you for a guest spot.

      I lost internet last night and in the kerfluffle, forgot to say I haven’t read the other three stories yet, but looking forward to doing so. I went back to edit and put that in, but I know that based on your story alone, this anthology is going to do great. I’m amazed at the depth of emotion in A Perfectly Dreadful Christmas. It’s what I would expect from a much longer book. *lifts glass* You’re going to be a star.

  • Anna Sugden says:

    Squee!!! So thrilled for you, Louisa – this is the best! I know this is the start of even more great things for you … and for us, who have been deprived of your fabulous writing for too long!

    My worst Christmas disaster is actually a fond memory now. Years ago, my younger sis and I were making Christmas lunch for our respective partners and it was all going well – too well. Everything was cooked perfectly and ready at the same time! Until we went to take our perfectly cooked turkey out of the oven. The dratted bird slid gracefully out of the baking pan and onto the kitchen floor! We couldn’t stop laughing! We rinsed the bird under the tap and shoved it back in the oven for a bit longer, hoping the heat would kill any germs. Luckily, no-one was ill and Christmas lunch was a success!

    • Thank you so very much, Anna ! I am laughing out loud at your story. I so wish I could have seen the look on your faces when the turkey slid onto the floor !!

      I cannot talk as my very first turkey cooked for the family ended up with the little bag of parts still stuffed inside. I didn’t know it was in there to remove so I didn’t remove it. My family still calls it the Year of the Turkey Surprise!

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Snork! LOL! I love this Christmas surprise! And you’re not the first, nor were you the last. I have at least three friends who’ve done this very thing, and I’ve don it too! *grin* I was fortunate to have watched my mom prep the turkey a few times, so I knew to dig around in the cavities for the bag of giblets, but one year I just flat forgot–in too much of a hurry–and when we carved the bird, there was the little hidden “time captsule” of giblets–cooked inside. Snork!

      • Anna Sugden says:

        Been there and done that too – though just with a Sunday roast chicken and not the Christmas bird! LOL

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Anna, the thing I love most about this story is that you all laughed about it. It must have been one of the funniest things ever, but I’m not sure everyone has the healthy mindset to laugh at it instead of cry. It’s about taking everything too seriously I guess (I have some experience with that last bit) and I love it that you chose the laughter. And good save, rinsing off the bird and shoving it back in for a warm up! I’m smiling ear to ear just picturing it!

  • Dianna Love says:

    Hi Louisa *waves madly* and Congratulations on all the incredible awards you’ve won. I’ve downloaded the anthology (so don’t put me in the drawing *g*) – can’t wait for my reading break since I have a treat waiting!! How wonderful to see you here today in the Bandit Lair among all these women I just adore, which of course includes you. 🙂 Great blog, as always, Cassondra.

    Worst Christmas huh? I won’t go there bc it involves family and those things are better left forgotten. LOL! But I’ll tell you about what used to really charm me and my husband on Christmas morning. We had a little black and tan cocker spaniel who I’d taken through training and worked with so she was just a pleasure to have inside with us all the time. She would never touch the gifts under the tree, but Christmas morning she’d sit by the tree and as soon as we pulled one out and passed it to her she would very carefully open it, pulling the ribbons loose and nipping at the paper, pulling it off in strips. It was so adorable, we always let her open our gifts and hers. She had a blast. 🙂

    So nice to see you here and hope to see you somewhere in my travels in 2015, Louisa!!

    • OMG !! Dianna Love celebrating my debut!! Folks, Dianna is part of the reason I decided to give writing a serious try. I met her at a readers luncheon in the little Alabama town where I live. I sat at her table and we talked about romance and writing. Dianna was so encouraging and has continued to be supportive and generous. She’s a big part of the reason I am celebrating my debut today! Big Hugs to you, Dianna! I owe you so very much!!

      And you knew I would love the story of your little cocker spaniel. What a sweetheart!

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Louisa, isn’t Dianna the best for encouragement? I wouldn’t be still working at this business if it weren’t for her. Many of us owe our writing progress to Dianna, though she would take issue with that.

        When I told her you were going to be my guest, she got really excited about your debut.

      • Dianna Love says:

        Thank you for the kind words, but you have done all this with your hard work. You just needed a gentle nudge. So very happy to see you in our community as an author in addition to being a reader. I’m so thrilled we met in AL. Good state. 🙂

      • Andrea DeHart says:

        Hi Louisa, Congratulations! from a Diana Love Street Team Member. I love finding new authors to read. Your books sound very interesting and I can’t wait to read them.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Dianna Love said:

      She would never touch the gifts under the tree, but Christmas morning she’d sit by the tree and as soon as we pulled one out and passed it to her she would very carefully open it, pulling the ribbons loose and nipping at the paper, pulling it off in strips. It was so adorable, we always let her open our gifts and hers. She had a blast.

      Okay that right there is just amazing! I love it that she got to enjoy Christmas morning as much as you did, opening those presents!

  • Hi Louisa!

    Mega-mega- congratulations! I love these stories.

    I can’t think of any MAJOR Christmas mishaps beyond the cat jumping in the tree or our first Christmas when the needles on the real tree got super dry and stayed in that shag carpeting for years and years. There was one year when my dog ate all the homemade gingerbread cookies I’d tied to the tree branches for decorations. There was a perfect line of demarcation. Above cute litte gingerbread men and women, below just the ribbon hangers. 🙂 Lesson learned.

    Hope you have a great Christmas!

    • Thank you so very much, Donna ! I have my tree on top of the television hutch to prevent cat attacks. (She’s too lazy to jump that high.)

      And I am chuckling at the Gingerbread Christmas Massacre ! Makes for a very macabre Christmas tree !

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Louisa, we have artificial trees, and I haven’t put ours up for a long time, but I was thinking of a tabletop tree this year because if it’s small, they’ll have nothing to climb!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Haha! Laughing at the line of demarcation. *grin* And cats and Christmas trees…yeah…that’s kept us from having a tree for a while. I keep thinking maybe I’ll try it this year. Just the tree with lights but no breakable baubles…to see if we can make that happen without disaster.

  • Joan Kayse says:

    OMG! You had me at “Spring-em”! No for real this novella sounds like SO much fun!!!!!! Can’t wait to read it!

    You’re on your way girlfriend! 😀

    • Thank you, Joanie ! I so appreciate your encouragement and support over the years! And I think we all have those moments with members of our family when we simply want to get them away from people before we are mortified!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Joanie, Louisa’s story is flat-out brilliant. I know you’re going to love it.

  • Mary Dieterich says:

    The book sounds great! You just know there’s so much that can go wrong. 🙂

    My worst Christmas happened in January when I was about 10. That’s when my aunt and uncle could come to my grandparent’s house, so we went over there and had supper and exchanged gifts. We got a lot of snow that day and it was record cold too. They lived on a farm with a gravel road that quickly filled with snow. When we wanted to leave, we tried one direction and couldn’t get out. We went the other way, but got stuck about a mile from the highway. We left the truck, trudged up to the neighbor’s house, and they were kind enough to help get the truck unstuck and get us on our way. We finally made it home!

    • Oh no! Mary, I live in the country on a dirt road and when we have snow here, which is rare, no one can move. I once road my horse to the grocery store 8 miles away because I couldn’t get my truck out of the driveway.

      Walking through to snow to be rescued sounds like a memorable Christmas indeed!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Hi Mary-

      I think that’s one of the most commonly feared holiday disasters–getting stuck away from home–but yours could actually be dangerous if you got stuck in an isolated spot with no way to get help! So glad the neighbors came to the rescue. Country folks are prepared for such things, as a rule, but even so it never makes for a good day when you get stuck.

  • Patty L. says:

    Hi Louisa! Congratulations on your first release. I understand the excitement (my first book comes out in a few months) and I can only imagine how honored you are to have such a glowing review from Cassondra.

    • Thank you so much, Patty !! And I look forward to hearing about your release!

      I am beyond honored! Cassondra’s review made me cry. Trust me, those words are being printed and framed!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Patty, I meant every word of it, and could have said more. In particular about the characters. The lifelong friendship and camaraderie between them is so, so well done. I just fell into the world and didn’t want to surface.

  • Amy Conley says:

    One year I did EVERYTHING by scratch, including sweet potatoes. Man did they smell good while they were baking. Finally they were done and it was time to remove them from said ove. Instead, I spilled a huge bowl of sweet potatoes into my oven. While hubby and kids were laughing their butts off hubby says, “Wow, that smells great!” About 2minutes later as the smoke alarm was going off he said, Oh, I forgot they would burn up and stink up the house.”

    We never did get all the sweet potatoes out of that oven, and the smoke alarm went off so much we took the battery out. I now have a self-cleaning oven.

    • Amy, I am laughing so hard at your story because I KNOW what burning sweet potatoes smell like and it is NOT Christmassy at all! And once that stuff sticks it is like trying to crack cement! That is definitely a Christmas disaster with a long memory!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Oh, Amy. You saw that disaster coming (the burned smell) as soon as they spilled, didn’t you?

      A self-cleaning oven is the shizzle. I used to think, “why would I want that?” I have one now and don’t think I could ever go back. My oven would be useless within a month because I use it a lot, and having to clean it the conventional way? Not gonna happen.

      • Amy Conley says:

        Cassandra in case you have not seen it you really need to go back to your shoe story. I was I don’t know what I was doing but I was really late posting on that story and I think you get a big kick out of it I hope you do anyway I thought it was hilarious.

  • Working with Louisa on this anthology has been great fun, and she has written a PERFECTLY WONDERFUL STORY. Congratulations are definitely in order.

    And the most dreadful Christmas story is not mine, but a friend’s. All my minor Christmas problems are boring by comparison. This took place 35 years ago, and while I’m a teller-of-tales, this one is absolutely true.

    Chris and John moved into their just-built new house right before Christmas. It had been a push to do so, but they were adamant about celebrating there. Yes, big packing boxes still sat around and furniture was out of place, but they were home. Chris managed to unearth enough kitchen necessities to prepare her traditional Christmas dinner. The turkey was cooking in her new, fancy wall oven when John walked by and saw a locking mechanism at the bottom of the oven door. He thought this was a wonderful innovation that would keep the kids from opening a hot over and locked it. This sent the oven into self-cleaning mode and soon billows of smoke rolled out of the kitchen and alarms blared. It took a few minutes of total confusion before someone thought to flip the circuit breaker off, but by then the damage was done. The kids bundled up because the doors and windows had to be opened to air the house. Chris cried. And John went out for pizza.

    • Folks, Hannah is a huge part of the reason my debut was even written! From asking me to participate, to editing my work, to kicking my butt all the way to finish line – without Hannah and Kate and Anna I never would have written or finished A PERFECTLY DREADFUL CHRISTMAS !! These three ladies have changed my life!

      And if you want to know what happens when a First Footer with love on his mind enters a Christmas House Party you will LOVE Hannah’s contribution to the anthology. Don’t know what a First Footer is? Well, I guess you’ll have to read the anthology! 🙂

      Hannah, I know I shouldn’t, but I am laughing so hard at Chris and John’s disaster! Men simply cannot resist playing with the buttons on a new gadget! Can you imagine the smell of Christmas dinner cooked with the self-cleaning oven process? Was he banned from touching the oven ever again??

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Louisa, I don’t know what a First-footer is, and now I’m excited to find out! Can’t wait to get to the rest of these stories. And if Hannah was your editor, let me say she is an excellent one. No writer can do without an editor, and she did good by you. That story is perfect.
        High five to your great team!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Hannah, thank you so much for being here to celebrate with us! When Louisa sent me the anthology to read, I went straight to hers, but I can’t wait to get to yours, Anna’s and Kates. But can I just say THANK YOU for poking, nudging, shoving, and otherwise taking whatever steps were necessary to bring Louisa’s stories into view for all of us. I’ve known for years that she was a star in the making. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that others saw that too, and encouraged her to let the world read her work.

      As to the self-cleaned turkey–that’s got to top pretty much every kitchen disaster I can think of. And if it’s like my oven, once it heats up, it won’t LET you unlock it until it cools, so there was no way to get that turkey out of there!

  • Betty King says:

    We live in PA and usually go to Arkansas for Christmas to see our daughter and grandchildren. In 2009 we hit a bad snow storm on the PA turnpike. We had decided to get off at the next exit and were barely crawling along when we hit an icy patch. We started to slide right and hubby was just getting it straightened out when the guy behind us clipped the right rear bumper. That spin was probably the scariest moment of my life. We ended up not even hurting the front end of the car! The snow that caused the accident also saved us…it was piled so high against the median we just got stuck in it, blocked from hitting the cement! The car was even driveable so we spent the night at a motel and continued our vacation the next day. The end results were a jammed trunk where all our bags were so we had to buy some new clothes til we could get it open (aww..I had to shop!) And they did actually total the car, as the rear damage was costly enough to not be worth fixing…so in February of 2010 I got a NEW car. For as bad as it started, it turned out to be a pretty good year.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Betty, now THAT is the way to make the most of a disaster! I know so many people who would have turned around and gone home. It says a lot about your positive view of life and fun that you went ahead and made something good out of a scary time.

      So happy you were not hurt! That’s the real miracle out of all of it, isn’t it?

    • Good Lord, Betty! That’s a Perfectly Scary Christmas!! Someone was watching out for you to be sure! AND you got a new car out of it. Santa Claus came in February for you!

  • flchen1 says:

    Oh WOW, Louisa!! Thank you SO much for sharing your writing history with us, and I cannot wait to read your debut as a published author!!

    As for Christmas disasters, I don’t remember too many, but my younger brother did manage to knock over the entire, already decorated tree when he was a few years old… there were several strands of lights that never did manage to untangle! Thankfully he wasn’t hurt and it was a pretty funny sight 😉

    Again, happy congrats on this first story, and we look forward to many more from you, both here in the Lair and elsewhere, Louisa!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Oh, little kids and rickety Christmas trees–that’s a disaster in the making, isn’t it? And you know—we can send people to the moon, but we can’t make a way to keep strings of lights and extension cords from getting all tangled up. The lights are part of what make Christmas so fabulous for me, but they’re also the biggest pita! *grin*
      You’re going to love Louisa’s story. I guarantee it.

    • Aww, thank you. Fedora! We have been buddies around the internet for a long time so I am especially happy to see you here today!

      Little brothers are notorious for knocking over Christmas trees, especially immediately after they’ve been told not to touch it, as my brother was!


    I am so excited for you and this story! Woohoo!! I have my copy and I may treat myself to it later today.

    Worst Christmas ever?

    The Jazzman dragged me and my three little kids up to the Cleveland area on Christmas Day. We had a lovely visit, except, I came down with pneumonia, we got stuck in a blizzard driving home, (5 hours instead of 2.5 hours) and all three kids ended up with Chicken Pox the night we got home. Yeah, never let him do that again!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      OH Suz, I’m Laughing out Loud! And I’m very sorry for laughing, as that had to be an AWFUL time. But the way you tell it is funny. And can I just say…it makes me NOT want to go to Cleveland for Christmas!

    • I can’t tell you what an absolute thrill it is to be here with the Banditas for my debut, Suzanne! Y’all have all been right there with me on this crazy road to publication.

      Okay, note to self – Do NOT go to Cleveland for Christmas !! That has to be one of the worst Christmases ever !

  • Louisa introduced the GR? I had no idea! It would be fun to see a timeline of major Bandita events. It seems like Sven has been around forever, but someone must have come up with his name. Maybe a Bandita Trivia Contest? I wouldn’t win, but it would be fun to play!

    I loved those vignettes – and when everyone jumped in to write to your prompts, Louisa and Pink Peony, in particular, were people I watched for.

    Congratulations, Louisa!!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Becke, she did indeed bring us the GR! I think, if I remember right, one day she was the first commenter and said, “What do I get, a Golden Rooster?”

      And nothing was ever the same again. Ever. ;0)

      And weren’t those vignettes fun? I loved reading the buddies posts most of all, but it was a real education to see that any four writers will take the same situation and write a COMPLETELY unique piece about it. If I remember right, the sweethearts at Romance Novel TV came up with that idea for the vignettes based on pictures. Hmmm…we should do that again sometime.

    • Guilty as charged, Becke! We’ve all been rather competitive about who posts on the Romance Bandits blog first every day. I beat someone one morning and we said there had to be a prize for getting on first. I said “How about a Golden Rooster!” He’s rather like Candy Man or some other gruesome movie creature. Say his name three times and he takes on a life of his own. And he’s been terrorizing the Lair ever since!

      Thank you for the kind words about my writing and in such good company as well.

      Bandita Trivia sounds like a great idea!

  • Nettie says:

    It is always the child’s gift that is opened Christmas morning and is broken and trying to explain how things happen and we’ll get it fixed. It is a major bummer trying to distract their little mind from the disaster and completely exhausting.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Nettie, I’ve never had to do that, and I’d have no idea how to even begin. “Gosh, our chimney is really small…Santa had to squeeze through. I’m sure once he finds out, there’ll be a replacement on the way on an Express Reindeer.”
      I’m thinking that would not stop the crying.

      Thank you for stopping by, and you might get the prize for “worst possible disaster” because the little ones are so much of it, aren’t they?

    • Oh no, Nettie, that is the worst! For children Christmas is about the magic and it is hard to believe in magic if a toy arrives broken.

      I don’t know how my Dad did it every year. One year he had to put three bicycles together on Christmas Eve all for Santa to get the credit!

  • Deb says:

    Congratulations, Louisa!
    I did forget my BIL’s gift one Christmas, 10 years ago. I felt awful….But, what is really bad is that I had his name marked off the list of gifts to buy, but I hadn’t actually bought the gift! So, I hadn’t even left it at home, but forgot to actually buy it! I felt terrible, but, being a man, he just laughed it off.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Deb, you are a better woman than I am for telling the truth. I would have probably lied like a rug and said “RATS! I left it on the kitchen table!” I’m not proud of that. No, I’m not. But I’m just weak that way.

    • I’m so glad your BIL was a good sport, Deb! My aunt and her family arrived at our house for our annual Christmas gathering and brought tons of food and tons of gifts EXCEPT the ones for our family. They were left in a bag in the garage. She was horrified. We thought it was funny and we got to open those presents in January!

  • Squee! Welcome to the front page of the blog, Louisa, and congrats on your debut! I have it and am eager to read the entire anthology. I’ll be starting with this story. 🙂

    The worst Christmas disaster would be either when my dad dropped a dog bowl that shattered the toilet bowl on Chistmas Eve, with 13 people expected the next day or when the grownups decided (I was in 2nd grade) to burn the discarded wrapping paper in the fireplace but forgot to open the flue.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Oh good grief! Okay, the whole toilet bowl thing–yeah, that’s a high-level disaster. And depending on where you lived, there were no plumbing supply houses open (around here they keep banker’s hours) and if your area was anything like mine, there were no big box home stores back then. No toilet for Christmas. Yup. That’s bad.

      Dare I say it? A Perfectly Sh***y Christmas? I probably shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t resist.

      • Cassondra, ouch! *g* Luckily it was during business hours. The appliance store was closing, but the benefit of a small town where everyone knows everyone is that they’ll also go out of their way for you. They sent out a guy with a new toilet within the hour.

    • Thank you so much, Nancy, and thank you for all of your support over the years!

      He broke the toilet bowl?? I don’t even know how to begin to deal with a Christmas disaster like that. That has the potential to become a family legend.

      And I’ve had experience with forgetting to open the flue. NOT. FUN!

      • Louisa, you are so welcome! I’m just over-the-moon excited for you.

        Even though the toilet was fixed promptly, we had a bad half hour or so. The flue disaster led to everyone standing out in the front yard while the house aired. I think that was the year I got Barbie’s Dream House from Santa.

  • pjpuppymom says:

    Congrats, Louisa! I am over the moon with pride, joy and excitement for you, my friend. We’ve waited a long time to see your words is print! I’ve now read A PERFECTLY DREADFUL CHRISTMAS three times and I like it more with each reading. Like Cassondra, I also laughed out loud, shed a few tears and sighed with delight. So very happy to hear you have stories waiting for the friends. I haven’t had nearly enough time with these people! 🙂

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      PJ, thank you so much for stopping by and backing me up about how good this story is. Your reviews are so well-respected, I know everybody waits to see what you think. I LOVED this story, and when I went in to pull the short excerpts, I kept getting caught up in it and forgetting to choose. That’s the mark of a wonderful read, I think.

    • Aww, PJ, now I am all weepy again. You and Cassondra are making me blush and cry at the same time. It means the world to me that you like A PERFECTLY DREADFUL CHRISTMAS. You are such a force in the romance world and so greatly loved! You’ve helped so many of us with your support and your generosity (and your goodie baking!)

      And yes, I am looking forward to telling the story of Christian and Mary’s marriage and letting everyone know why Alexander despises his father and how he manages to care for FIVE sisters!

  • gamistress66 says:

    since I don’t play hostess for Christmas, I haven’t had any failures there 😉 though just last year when I was to go off to visit a few days w/ family for the holiday I had to cancel out at the last moment due to a sudden but horrible cold that left my throat raw, voice gone and feeling as if I was going to cough up a lung or such while huddled miserable amongst blankets for several days. the only good point was I was able to spend plenty of time with good books since I had trouble sleeping for long and couldn’t due much of anything else. Christmas wknd with family turned into an afternoon meeting up for lunch a couple weeks later.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, man, I hate it when I get sidelined by a cold like that! But better to curl up in bed with great books, hot tea and the tissue box than get everyone else sick, right? Hope you get to do the whole deal THIS year! :> What good books would you read this year if you got sidelined? What’s on the TBR pile?

    • Being sick for Christmas is no fun, but it does have its compensations when you can simply relax in bed and read! I ended up with double pneumonia one year right after Christmas. The doctor ordered me to stay on bed rest for a solid week. I spent my birthday (December 29th) in bed with a stack of romance novels and a stack of period drama DVD’s. It was, in spite of the coughing and fever, a lovely week!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      gamistress, I just hate being sick on the holidays. Huddling off in bed while everything is going on makes for a rotten Christmas. So nice that the family got together for lunch with you though, so you could catch up with them!

  • Brenda Rumsey says:

    Congrats Louisa on your first release! Diana send me over from her street team. See is so proud of you! My worst disaster was the year our Christmas lunch was at my sister-in-laws rich house. I was so afraid one of the young kids would break something and was watching them like a hawk. When one was about to pull the tree over I jumped up real fast and stepped on the train that traveled on the floor under the tree….it broke. Funny now but at the time I was so embarrassed.

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      oh dear! I remember those years of watchin the kids like a hawk around the relatives’ houses! Grins.

    • Oh thank you so much for stopping by, Brenda! Dianna is one of the dearest people in the world, in addition to being an amazing writer! She was the first published author to encourage me to pursue writing and to join RWA.

      Ouch on the great train wreck! The problem is kids are so darned fast you don’t have time to think!

      • Brenda Rumsey says:

        Dianna is great and I’m glad she was there for you to give encouragement. Now just look what you have done! Congrats again.

    • Dianna Love says:

      Thank you for jumping over to say hello, Brenda. I see more of the street team here. Everyone can see why I”m always talking about how wonderful you all are! 🙂

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Dianna, thanks so much for letting your peeps know about Louisa’s debut! I have no worries saying ANYBODY will like this story, and I’m so happy to have them spread the word!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Hi Brenda! Thanks so much for coming over! Yeah, the worst is when you break someone else’s stuff. So mortifying. It’s always fun to find out the person has a great sense of humor and priorities in the right place, but I’d far rather break my own stuff than someone else’s. Any woman of small children has my deepest sympathies once they start toddling around. There are not enough eyes in a room full of people to see everything they can get into.

  • melissa lopez says:

    Hello Madam Louisa! A little birdie told me about your award and your anthology! Congragulations!! Being a member of the Street Team, I learn of new authors! You are so awesome! 🙂 as for bad Christmases, well, for the past 9 years, I worked graveyard shift and always missed out on our family reunions BUT, this will be my first Christmas with everybody and I am sooooo eager for this day to come!

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Yay, Melissa! So glad you get to be with your family!! That’s great.

    • Melissa, thank you so very much for stopping by! I know exactly how you feel. I have to work on Christmas Eve too and many years I have to drive 80 miles very late at night to spend Christmas Day with my Mom and then drive back to go to work the next day.

      I am so very glad you will be spending Christmas with your family this year!

    • Dianna Love says:

      Thanks Melissa – you’re so sweet to visit today! 🙂

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Hi Melissa-

      YAY that you get to do Christmas with family this year! And thank you for stopping by to check out Louisa’s novella!

  • Lisa B says:

    Wow. Congratulations on your new book.. Hope it is a smashing success. From one of DL’s street team

  • Jeanne Adams says:

    Hello my fellow Duchess!! *Waving madly* I’m so, so, SO Thrilled for you – and actually thrilled for all the readers out there that they now get to experience your fabulous writing. Grins. WOOT!! I’m downloaded and ready to rock on reading this. Love the premise, and of course, love your writing. :> You’re just that awesome.

    Congrats, congrats, congrats!! *Gets a refill on champagne*

    On another note, the worst holiday disaster so far hads been the morning of Christmas when I pulled the nicely thawed turkey out of the fridge to get it into the pan, only to discover that it was spoiled. OMGosh, that is the WORST smell. Thankfully, I’d gotten a roast for the next night too, since I had a houseful of company. We had turkey fixings with a roast, then I took the 20 lb turkey back to the store the next day. Ugh. By then all they had were 30 lb turkeys and most of my guests were leaving. Grins. We had a lot of leftovers that year. (Not that I’m complaining…)

    • Duchesse !!!! Now don’t you start! I’ve been weepy all morning with all of the lovely things everyone has been saying! Thanks so much for all of the support and encouragement you’ve given me over the years. MWAH !!

      And everything I know about body disposal I learned from you. Wait. That didn’t come out right!

      Spoiled turkey??? I cannot even begin to imagine the smell. Spoiled chicken is horrifying. Turkey must be abysmal. If we sold someone a spoiled turkey at our Walmart my store manager’s head would explode. Hmmm. Don’t give me any ideas! 🙂

      • Jeanne Adams says:

        Snork…well, I am the queen of the body disposal thing. Grins. And that doesn’t sound right either! hahah!!

        And MWAH! right back. So thrilled for you!!

        Snorking too about the manager’s head exploding. Grins. The manager at the grocery store was pretty appalled, btw. And just exchanged the 30 lb turkey for the 20 lb one, even steven. Grins. As I recall, he offered me a pie too, but I’d made homemade, so didn’t want store-bought pie. Ha!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Ew. Yeah, that’s bad. But you had a roast so disaster narrowly averted. I always read those dates–so much farther out than dates on chickens–and I think, “Will this really last that long?” I take it on faith and buy the turkey, but I ALWAYS raise my eyebrow. No spoiled turkeys for me yet.

  • Lisa says:

    Congratulations on the award!

    When’s the music video coming out?

  • CONGRATS from the Simi & the Dianna Love Street Team! How wicked cool to have your book out!

    Email the Simi a copy of your cover art & she will make you a custom banner!

    • SIMI !! The SImi is one of my favorite people ever! (Yes, Simi is a people too! SO there!) Thank you and thank you Dianna Love Street Team Members for making my debut so memorable!

      And I will definitely e-mail you that cover! You’re a sweetheart!

    • Dianna Love says:

      Thanks for sharing some Simi love!! 🙂

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Oh, how cool to have The Simi show up on a Bandit blog and especially Louisa’s debut! You make FABULOUS banners, so that’s a wonderful gift!

  • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

    I do want to read Louisa’a story, right now! All the years we have met on the blog and I will be one of the people that get to say “I knew her when……..”
    Congratulations Louisa!!

    • YAY !! Dianna Hrdwrkdmom is here! I was so hoping you would stop by. It just wouldn’t be my debut without you, sweetie! We have been knocking around the romance world together for a long time. Thank you for stopping by and for your kind words!

      • Dianna aka Hrdwrkdmom says:

        I did indeed make it Louisa, got in from work and hit the computer… Already downloaded my book so as soon as I get myself and the boys fed I am starting my weekend with a good read. I am just so excited!!!!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Dianna, you’re going to love it. And isn’t it fun to have “one of ours” put out a fabulous story?

  • bn100 says:

    haven’t had any

  • Candace Fox says:

    Hi Louisa,
    Congrats on you new book. Dianna tells us you are awesome and I wanted to come and say “Hi” from the Dianna Love Street Team. Dianna had nothing but nice things to say about you. Hope it is all you hoped it would be and I will be checking it out….Candi

  • Louisa!!!!! Congratulations. I’ve been squeeing with excitement about your debut since I found out you were going public with your fabulous talent and not just devoting it to contest judges, snerk!

    Every time you tell me about your dad and mum, I get misty eyed. It’s just such a beautiful story. Makes me think of the Magic Flute where Tamino falls in love with Pamina when he sees a miniature of her. And they say opera isn’t realistic!

    • SNORK, La Divina ! Yes, the Contest Courtesan has finally become an Honest Woman! LOL

      Thank you so very much, my friend. You have been friend, mentor and teacher on this long road and no doubt will continue to be so. Your generosity and encouragement have kept me on this journey many times when I wanted to throw in the towel. I will be forever in your debt. <3

      How funny! I have often thought about the Magic Flute when I remember how my parents fell in love and then met. I have a copy of the photograph of my Mom that started it all on my mantel. It is amazing the simple, out of the blue things that set lives and loves in motion, isn't it.

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Beautifully said, and yes, it is amazing how that happens, and doesn’t it make you wonder what the world would be like if any one person had made a different choice?

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Fo, isn’t that the best story about Louisa’s parents? When I read that, something opened in my soul. I know there are a lot of those stories, but you don’t ever know for sure they’re true, and I love knowing this one is real.

  • Toni Schneidt says:

    Hi, Louisa, from Dianna Love and her Street Team! I can’t wait to read your books!

    As far as the disaster. Just a family argument, that led to a major meltdown when my daughter was 9 months old.

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Toni! Dianna has the most AMAZING street team members!

      And anyone who can get through Christmas with a nine month old baby and NOT have an argument and / or a meltdown is too mellow for their own good or heavily medicated! Having children, especially young ones, around the holidays is not for sissies!

    • Dianna Love says:

      HI Toni – so nice of you to stop by and visit! 🙂

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Hi Toni!

      I admire anybody who has the courage and energy to just BEAR children, let alone keep them alive after they’re born. I don’t think I had that much energy even when I was a teenager. And yeah, those meltdown arguments can ruin a nice holiday, can’t they? I’ve had my share of those.

  • Claudia Stephan says:

    Congratulations on your debut novella Louisa Cornell! Just stopped in from Dianna Love’s Street Team to say hello. Your story sounds interesting. Cassandra, I truly enjoyed reading your blog! So much writing talent to enjoy!

    One Christmas Eve we had so much snow on the ground I had to use snow chains on my car to even get out of the driveway. Then a snowstorm decided to head our way. I packed blankets, gifts and my dog into the car and hit the highway. It was a treacherous drive and it took me over an hour to drive just 15 miles. But, I made it to the Chistmas Party on time and in one peace!. I think Santa helped me out! 😉

    Have a wonderful Christmas!

    • Dianna Love says:

      Thanks for coming over to hang out, Claudia!! 🙂
      (You should suggest Louisa visit the Ninjas)

      • Claudia Stephan says:

        I will add Louisa on my list and read her novella. We love to feature debut authors. Thank you Dianna.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Santa and the angels, Claudia, and I’m so glad you made it safely.

      I used to be really prepared for ice and snow and winter travel. I’m not afraid to drive on it, but a deep snow? I’m not set for that any more. Hmmm…maybe I better think about my emergency preparedness!

      Thanks so much for coming over from the Street Team! You’ll love Louisa’s story.

      • Claudia Stephan says:

        Thank you Cassondra. All I can say is that I am thoroughly impressed with your writing ability. I had no clue! You convinced me to read Louisa Cornell’s novella. Thank you for featuring such an interesting writer! 🙂

        • Cassondra says:

          Claudia, thank you, but Louisa made the interview easy because she’s so interesting and her story is so good. You and the rest of the Street Team are always welcome here in the Bandit Lair.

  • Thank you so very much, Claudia! I am so very fortunate to have Dianna and Cassondra in my corner. And wasn’t Cassondra’s interview brilliant! She took a little information from me and made it brilliant!

    Driving with snow chains on the tires is no easy feat! I lived in Germany for a number of years and I never attempted it! So glad you made it safely to your destination. Then again, you were smart and drove slowly. SO many people do not!

    Have a very Merry Christmas!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Awww, you’re sweet to say that, but really, it’s easy when you have a book you love and the writer is an interesting person.

      With you I had both, and I am truly thrilled that I got to be your Lair hostess. I think that wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t seen you first. There would’ve been a fight if a bunch of us had seen your announcement at the same time. I was in the right place at the right moment. Carpe diem and all that.

      Or maybe…Carpe….escribe? (Trying for Seize the Writer and failing. I think that’s a bastardized, poorly executed “writer” in el espanol. ) *grin*

      Sounds kinda Latin though, doesn’t it?

    • Claudia Stephan says:

      Louisa I am looking forward to reading your novella. It is on my kindle now. There is nothing that brings me more joy than discovering a new to me author!
      Did you have a chance to perform at the opera house in Frankfurt, Germany? That is where my love for opera begun, when I was 12. What were your favorite roles? Did you have a chance to see the latest and most innovative NY stage production of Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelungen, the Valkyre, etc? It was six hours of pure enjoyment.
      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Congratulations again!

  • Mary M. says:

    Congrats, Louisa!
    My Christmas disaster occurred when we flew from Chicago to Bangor, ME to spend Christmas with my new in-laws. My husband packed all the presents in his sea bag and checked it in at the airport. United lost our luggage, and we drove to his folks’ house near Bucksport dejected. About 4 hours later, the airlines called, telling us the luggage had been located and they would bring it out to us. Two hours later, we called them to find out they had delivered it to someone else. This was before cell phones, and no one at that house was answering, so we set off in the the car, in a snowstorm, and found the house. The people there could not explain to us why they had accepted the luggage, and said they had not opened it, but my husband’s seabag was obviously open and some of the presents were even partially open. We turned a blind eye to this, wished them a Merry Christmas, and drove home to celebrate Christmas (and clean underwear!).

    • Jeanne Adams says:

      Oh, wow! Glad you were able to find it and rescue it! :>

    • They actually opened the presents? Sheesh! And I cannot say enough for the virtues of clean underwear! If I have clean underwear and clean sheets I’m good!

      My brother was born in Bangor, ME in 1961. We were stationed at Dow AFB. I was only three, so I don’t remember much about it. I do, however, have a number of photos of myself in a variety of snow suits!

      Thanks so much for stopping in, Mary!

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Louisa, you are like an onion. You have more layers and interesting facts about your life than anybody else I know. I can just keep peeling and getting more good stories. *grin*

    • Mary M. says:

      I forgot to say Congratulations from Dianna Love’s Street Team! Dianna also recommended we ask about your singing talents 🙂

      • Cassondra Murray says:

        Oh yes, I hope she sees this and can tell you about her career as an opera singer in Europe!

      • Mary,

        I was lucky enough to study piano in England and to study voice in the States with some amazing vocal coaches. And then I was accepted to study at the Mozarteum in Salzburg with a dictatorial genius of a voice coach – Herr Professor Rudolf Knoll. From there I embarked on a fun and thrilling career singing in opera houses all over Germany, Austria and a great deal of Eastern Europe. My voice took me to some amazing places and enabled me to have some once in a lifetime experiences. I’m retired now, but my years singing were some of the best of my life – even with the train travel and hotels with ice cold showers!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Oh wow, what a story, Mary! I can’t believe they thought that would turn out well–opening the presents and going through the bags. Hmmm..lessee…”Gosh, this is just a gift from the airline, and the owners of this luggage will probably just give up. ” Yeah. Right. Guessing they didn’t think that through.

      You likely did the right thing by just taking your stuff and walking away. I’m guessing that confrontation would lead to no good end in that situation.

  • MichelleMB says:

    Hi Louisa, and congrats ! Very exciting. I love finding new authors to read. Dianna Love mentioned your anthology, and I’ve never been disappointed in one of her recommendations yet, so I just picked it up. I’ll read it next (almost done the book I’m currently reading LOL)

    I’ve been pretty blessed with no real disasters at Christmas. The worst ones I’ve had are the year the video game my son asked Santa for (the only thing he asked for) came with 2 discs the same instead of disc 1 & 2. Had to explain how we could take Santa’s gift back to a store for exchange LOL And when I was young, one year I snooped and found my gifts. Christmas morning was SO disappointing as there was no surprise, I knew what it all was. I never snooped again.

    Again congratulations, and wishing you no disasters for your Christmas, only good friends and good food and happiness. 😀

    • Dianna Love says:

      Hi Michelle – I have my copy ready to crack open soon too. thanks for visiting. 🙂

    • Aww thanks, Michelle! I am completely blown away by all of the support Dianna, Cassondra and the Bandits have given me. They truly are the most amazing and generous women!

      I had to laugh. Like you, I always have the book I am reading and the next book lined up ready to go. The idea of not knowing what I am going to read next is scary to me!

      Ooh! Returning Santa gifts to the store. I don’t have children, but that has got to be a tough one!

      Thanks so much for stopping by and for picking up the anthology. I hope you have as much fun reading it as we did writing it!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Awww, Michelle, that’s a hard lesson, isn’t it? Curiosity is a great trait, and as writers, we depend on it, but it’s good to know when to just appreciate a surprise.

      Some day I’ll tell you the story about figuring out my birthday present that my husband had worked SO hard to think up. It was unusual and I guessed it.

      It kind of ruined the whole thing.

  • Tracie says:

    Hi Louisa! Waving Hi from Australia and Dianna Love’s Street Team. Congratulations on your first release. Thank you Cassondra and Louise for the great chat

    • Dianna Love says:

      Waving at you and hope you’re having a good day in Oz, Tracie. 🙂 thanks for visiting

    • Thank you so much for stopping by, Tracie !! I am amazed at the generosity and fabulousness of Dianna’s Street Team. You ladies are awesome!

      Some of my very favorite authors and dearest friends live in Oz !

      So you will know what I mean when I say I am chuffed you stopped by!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Hi Tracie! So glad you made it out to the blog! Some day I want to visit your country. I know it’s sort of silly, as it would take years to see all of it, but I still want to come down there. Especially now that I have two Bandita sisters who are Australian, and some other good friends I’ve met through writing romance. I’ve always been fascinated by your country.

  • Sher Giambra says:

    sounds like a great series.. congratulations on the release.. and Thank you to Dianna for the heads up

  • Wow! The blog’s gone nuts!!! What a testament to your popularity in the lair. Cassondra, thanks for the fantastic interview. I know we’ve all anticipated this day.

    Louisa, many, many congratulations on your debut. I was so pleased and proud to hear you’d published a novella and I hope it sells like hot (Christmas?) cakes for you.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Christina, I’m so proud of Louisa. I feel like she’s one of us, what with the Golden Rooster’s creation and her long-time support of the blog.

      And yes, word’s gotten out and the Lair is rocking!

  • Thank you so very much, Madame Christina! I am humbled and amazed at the show of support I have seen today.

    This day has been a long time coming and you and the other Bandits have always been so supportive and generous. I could not have done it without you!

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      No more so than you have been supportive of us, Louisa. You’re the real deal, and we’re so proud to see you “come out.” ;0)

  • Heathercm2001 says:

    CONGRATULATIONS Louisa! These characters sound wonderful, and I love finding new authors! Great interview Cassondra!

    The worst Christmas disaster I can remember was many years ago. The flu was the culprit. It hit almost all of us kids. Thankfully, things still went pretty well.

    • Cassondra Murray says:

      Hi Heather! *waves madly*

      The flu is the worst! And I think that, more than any other thing, is the most common holiday disaster. The smell of fabulous, decadent food fills the house…..and just makes you want to throw up. Blech.

      You will love this story. I guarantee it.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by, Heather! This has simply been the most amazing day for me thanks to people like you!

      Flu ! UGH !! I work retail and I usually end up with the flu at least every other year about this time. It is funny how we will fight through the flu if we have to in order to enjoy Christmas.

      Hope you have a wonderful flu free Christmas this year !

      • Heathercm2001 says:

        My friend is a pre-school teacher and somehow avoids getting sick every year, even though all her co-workers catch it. She swears it is because she drinks a glass of Tang everyday. Might be worth a try. 🙂

  • Kat Crouch says:

    Stopping by this partay to say a big hello! Congrats on your novella Louisa! I can’t wait to check it out.

    • Cassondra says:

      Hey there, Kat! You will LOVE Louisa’s story. Thank you so much for stopping by. It’s great to see you here!

    • Thanks so much, Kat! This has been a PARTAY for the ages. The Lair has been rockin’ all day!

      I cannot begin to thank Cassondra, the Romance Bandits, the Buddies, Dianna Love, Her Street Team and everyone who has stopped by to celebrate my debut! This was the perfect place to celebrate and it has been an absolutely PERFECT DAY !! MWAH !

  • Erin Fetters says:

    Congrats, congrats!!! so glad to know that you are pursuing your dreams and I wish you tons of success and more hotties 😉

    Oh yeah, and Dianna sends her best wishes to you!! Street Teams rock!

    • Cassondra says:

      Hi Erin! Thanks so much for stopping by from the Street Team! We love a huge party here in the lair, and y’all have kicked it up a notch!

    • Thanks so much, Erin! Dianna and her Street Team have helped to make this a wonderful, wonderful day. Y’all really know how to party !!

  • Teresa Kleeman says:

    Congratulations on the award and on your debut Novella! It sounds wonderful and I definitely want to read. I’m with Diana Love”s Street Team and she has raved about you. She has us excited to read your book.
    The worst Christmas for me was when I was 15. My father and mother had been arguing and my dad called us girls together upstairs and announced that he and my mother were getting a divorce and that we needed to choose who we were going to live with. I adored my father but when he did this I despised him. I told him I would rather go into foster care than to have decide between them. I also told him he couldn’t wait to break this news until after Christmas. My poor baby sister at the time was 10 ran out of the house and ran away. That was the worst Christmas ever and I don’t wish that on anyone.
    tcwgrlup41(at)yahoo dot com

    • Cassondra says:

      Teresa, that’s a terrible thing to have on Christmas! And not too well thought out by your parents, either. I hope all ended up okay eventually and that everyone found a way to get what they needed and be happy. Divorce is so hard on everyone, but kids suffer the most of all.

    • Oh, Teresa, what am awful, awful Christmas memory! I hope you have had many, many wonderful Christmases since then. Good memories tend to soften the bad ones over the years!

      Thanks so much for stopping by to share my celebration!

  • Donna Walters Cooper says:

    So proud of you Louisa, or should I say, Lil Sis? Ahh those Judson days…anyway, super excited for your debut. I just downloaded to my Kindle and can’t wait to read it (my reward after I finish grading all those essays at the end of the semester).
    I wanted to share a Christmas disaster or as we call it around here, the Christmas of Epic Proportions! We were putting the last touches on the Christmas morning brunch when a fire broke out on the stove. As my husband grabbed the sink faucet hose, a piece of the faucet broke off and water started shooting everywhere. I tossed flour on the fire and the hubby shut off the water only to discover the faucet was still leaking. He quickly found a dish towel and duct tape to stop the leaking. Ahh…we settled in for a beautiful (but smelly) brunch. As we started to clean-up we discovered a flood under the sink where all the water was collecting. So by noon on Christmas day we had to shut the water off to the whole house and wait until the day after Christmas to repair the sink. Good thing I wasn’t cooking dinner!
    Love from your Judson Big Sis

    • Cassondra says:

      Hi Donna! Thank you so much for stopping by to give us your Christmas disaster story! Really glad the fire got put out, but that’s a bit of chaos you had right there for a while.

      But…can I ask? What’s the Judson reference? Is it a secret? Or can you tell us?

      • LOL, Cassondra, it isn’t a secret, but there are secret aspects of it. Donna and I attended Judson College in Marion, Alabama. It is a Baptist women’s college founded by the same people who founded a little school called Vassar. It was and is a small, all girls, liberal arts college with an amazing academic program.

        Through a number of mixers and activities freshmen meet the upperclassmen and eventually there is a super secret session in which the upperclassmen choose who they want as their Little Sister. It is much like a giant sorority, but a Big Sister is more. She is a mentor, a friend and a very special part of your years at Judson. And your Big Sister’s Big Sister is called your Grand Big Sister. You basically create your own little family within the student body. It is a wonderful, wonderful part of the Judson experience.

        And I am very proud of my Big Sis as she recently completed her PhD to become DR. Donna Walters Cooper!

    • Aww, thanks Big Sis ! I am so thrilled you stopped by to help celebrate my debut!

      Good Lord, what an adventurous Christmas! Knowing you, I am certain you were laughing through most of it. We Judson Girls handle adversity with a lot of laughter and hard work. Thank goodness you weren’t cooking Christmas dinner. Things might have gotten a bit sketchy.

      Much love and hugs to you, my dear Big Sister!

      Can’t wait to hear what you think of the novella!

  • Louisa, I LOVED the story about your mom and dad! So neat to see you participated in Avon’s Fanlit contest–so did I. It was the same year I decided to start writing. I knew nothing about craft and am amazed to this day that I put my raw thoughts out there for others to read.

    Congrats on the release of your anthology!

    • Cassondra says:

      Hey Tracey! *waving wildly*

      Thank you so much for stopping by today! (Everybody–Tracey was my October guest with her Bones and Gemstones historical romantic mystery series).
      I was just the opposite–the “write it and hide it” type. I’ve always thought people who were willing to put their stuff out there from day one were the extraordinary ones!

    • Hi, Tracey! Thanks so much for stopping by! And I remember you from FanLit! That was such a great experience! I’ve got the first of your Bones and Gemstones books on my kindle. Cannot WAIT to read it! Yes, we were rather fearless or is that clueless during the FanLit Event? LOL Perhaps that is why we are still out here swinging at the fences!

  • Linda says:

    Congrats on your debut book Louisa!
    I don’t recall any major disasters (this said this my fingers crossed)

    • Cassondra says:

      Ha! Linda I think you have the right of it. We should all probably be knocking on wood as we talk about these disasters, given the approach of the Yule. Thanks for stopping in to comment!

    • Thanks so much, Linda!

      Crossing your fingers is good. We may well be tempting fate by discussing Christmas disasters!

  • Mona Livsey says:

    Aloha Cassondra & Congratulations!!
    Coming over by way of Dianna loves Street Team!
    Love your Story and can’t wait to read them all.

    As for the worst Christmas, this year I think will be the worst. Between medical conditions and personal & family issues, this year has been amazingly bad all around.

    BUT, I will not let Karma or Life dictate me. I will suck it up, plaster on a smile and dream of one day, meeting someone as special as is written by all the wonderful authors I so love.

    I believe that miracles do happen and in true love regardless to what has happened throughout my life.

    Without Hopes and Dreams we have nothing.
    So I Hope a lot and Dream Big!

    And live each day for what it brings, because I am able to be here that extra day!

    Mele Kalikimaka
    Merry Christmas from Hawaii!

    • Mona Livsey says:

      ** Louisa’s story.

      Thank you Cassondra for Hosting Louisa and sharing her with us.

      lol. Told you it was a bad year.

    • Cassondra says:

      Mona, I’m so glad you stopped by today. I love your beautiful spirit and positive attitude in refusing to let a bad year get you down. I’m reminded of a famous saying, though I can’t remember where it originated. In a bad time, one person said, “I doubt I’ll succeed, under the circumstances.” This famous person turned and said, “What are you doing under THERE?”
      You’ve got the right of it. Kick the hooey out of those circumstances and carry on. Big squishy hugs in the meantime.

    • Aloha, Mona!

      And thank you so very much for stopping by to help me celebrate!

      Keep reading romance, sweetie! One of the reasons I write them is because I have had some tough times in my life and romance novels always got me through them. I hope my novels will do the same for someone else.

      You’ve got the right attitude!

      You’re going to be fine this year and next year will be even better !!

      Merry Christmas!

      • Mona Livsey says:

        Bless your heart Louisa! My love of reading has sustained me most of my life. My personal librsy overflows with wonderfully amazing writers. I am excited to add you to my library. Thank you for your kind words of encouragement. Much love & Aloha!

  • Carlene Love Flores says:

    Hi Cassondra! Hi Louisa! I’m new here but even to a newbie, I can tell I’m in the presence of some very special Romance Bandit royalty. I just wanted to congratulate you, share that your parents’ courtship made me cry happy tears, and wish you an oh so Happy Holidays!!

    • Aww, Carlene, thank you for stopping by and for saying such a lovely thing about my parents’ courtship. Theirs really was an amazing love story. I don’t know about royalty, but I have certainly been treated like a princess here in the Lair !

      Wishing you the very best of holidays!