Posts tagged with: Cassondra’s blogs

Songs That Make You Move

Last summer I was at my favorite local park. I love this park, but the gravel walking trail that runs around the outside edge of it…well…it’s hilly. I was slogging through the exercise routine on my iPhone… jog …walk… *sweat*…jog…*sweat, sweat*…walk…jog…you get the sense of it.

I have no idea how I did it, but I accidentally hit “play music” in the program I guess. I don’t have music on my phone. But some miracle occurred, because it started playing a song.

And I ran.

And I ran.  And….I ran.  And ran some more.

I skipped the next three walks.  I ran up hills. Down hills. I just kept running.

I got back to my car thinking I was Queen of the Universe. I’d run farther, faster, than I’d ever run before.

Okay, let’s be for real here. My “run” is a slow jog by most people’s standards. But a few months before, I hadn’t been able to run to the end of my driveway, so this..this was progress.

Why was I able to do that?

It was the music.

What music?

This. Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson.

Did you listen to it? If you did, just try and tell me you weren’t moving at least a little, even if it was only your head, bobbing back and forth.  The man had serious genius. Even the video is a work of art.

The driving beat of it is perfect for running–at least it’s perfect for my slow pace.  Anyway, this—and Jeanne’s blog yesterday about exercise—got me thinking about the music that makes me move.

Moving because I’m “supposed to” is drudgery.  Moving to music is…natural.  When an awesome song comes on, it’s impossible to NOT move. It’s fun.

Here’s another one.  I Can Dream About You from the Streets of Fire original motion picture soundtrack.

Okay seriously.  Were you not at least swaying in your chair?

Today I’m playing DJ, but there’s a reason.  The truth is, I need your help with something.

I’m going to put some songs here that, even if I’m cooking dinner when they play, have me bopping around the kitchen, playing drums with the spoons and spatulas, while I cook.

Turn the sound up, cuz here they are, in no particular order…

First is The Pointer Sisters

Here’s Kenny Loggins..

And a really old one…even though the video producer could not always spell correctly…

Going even older, here’s Michael Jackson again…back when he was a little boy.

I’m bopping around so much I can barely type. *grin*

I love this one–partly because of the awesome flashmob at Ohio State University. No telling how many times I’ve watched this, but it still leaves me with a big grin on my face every time.

And the final one–also from Michael Jackson. It’s a little slower, but I still dance to it, and I love the message.

So Bandits and Buddies…
It’s that time of year–time to get in the gym or out on the running trail, so I’m building a playlist to put on my iPod–feel good music that will make me want to keep running–make me want to
move–the kind of music that won’t let you sit still when you hear it.
Give me your best list…
What are the songs that make you get your groove on–the ones that make you dance around the kitchen?
The ones you can’t ignore?
Will you share your feel-good playlist with me?

Romance Bandits Backlogged Booty!!

1BanditBootyHey everyone!  Here’s some backlogged Booty from Jeanne And Cassondra!

Oct 23 – The Winner of DEMON STORM from Dianna Love is..

Suzette Henderson!

– You’ve won a copy of  DEMON STORM from Dianna Love.   Suzette, if you’re in the Continental US, you’ll receive a print copy of DEMON STORM. If you’re international, you’ll get an e-book from either Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Dec 3 – From Jeanne’s December 3 Blog about cookies – The winner is…


Beth, you win a copy of the Christmas Anthology, A Jewel in Time, featuring Jeanne Adams, Barbara Devlin and Caitlenn T Ainnsley; a copy of Barbara Devlin’s Enter the Brethren, and a copy of Jeanne’s Deadly Delivery!

Dec 12 – From the blog featuring Debut Author Louisa Cornell, the Winner is…


December 17 – The first day of the epic Donut Food Fight – the winner of the DC Mug and $10 Starbucks card from Jeanne “Cake Donuts Rule” Adams is…


 and the Two Grab Bag Books and Conference Swag from Cassondra “Glazed Yeast Donuts Are ALL!” Murray is..


December 18 – The second day of the epic Donut Food Fight – the winner of the Two Grab Bag Books and Conference Swag from Cassondra “I Love Peppermint” Murray is…


and the winnner of the Starbucks DC Mug and $10 Starbucks card from Jeanne “No Additives” Adams, is…


Y’all contact us at jpagryphon AT or Cassondrawrites AT with your snail mail addy so we can ship your loot!


Grounds For War–Jeanne & Cassondra Food Fight Day 2

Jeanne: So, Cassondra, were you surprised by yesterday’s food fight results? I know I was! So many people like Krispy Kremes! And I think you won the total overall vote for glazed donuts. (Pardon me while I roll my eyes, okay?)

Cassondra: Well, they’re popular for a reason.

Jeanne: Yeah, yeah. Okay. So moving right along…what about dipping? Do you dip your donut in coffFood fight milkee or tea?

Cassondra: Neither. I dip in milk. I like milk with my donuts.   Ha! Bet ya didn’t see THAT coming. *grin* Do you dip?

Jeanne: I’ve done it on occasion, in my coffee. *looks smug*

Cassondra:  *wrinkles nose* Speaking of coffee.  How do you like yours?  Do you go for the holiday specialties at the coffee shop?

Jeanne:  Ew.  I’d like to avoid it, but you know how it is this time of year. EVERYTHING has a “special holiday flavor” – I know that makes me sound like the Grinch,

Cassondra: *interrupts*   You’re a MEAN one, Jeeeeeeanne Grinch…

Jeanne: Snork! Great, now I’ll have the song stuck in my head all day….Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Griiiinch!

Anyway, I really hate flavored coffees or teas. I like my Starbucks Mocha, or plain coffee with creFood Fight Dec 2014 Jeanne's coffee from starbucks extra whipam. No caramel. No hazelnut. No vanilla, and for heaven’s sake NO PEPPERMINT!!

Cassondra:  What?

Okay y’all, you might as well know. I could order for Jeanne at Starbucks. I’ve seen her do it often enough. In fact, I HAVE ordered for her.  That’s it over there on the right.  “I’d like a Venti non-fat, extra-whip Mocha.” *tries to look taller as she bats eyelashes, pretending to be Jeanne*

Jeanne: Snork! You do that far too well!

Cassondra: If only I could look blonde.

Okay, okay.  Now when it comes to the fancy coffee drinks from Starbucks or Peet’s or Seattle’s Best–and Jeanne’s mocha definitely qualifies as one of those–or when it comes to a plain old cup of coffee, I don’t like many flavors. I like flavored coffee ONLY in certain circumstances, and only certain flavors.

But hey! This is one of those circumstances!  It’s that time of year, right? Peppermint things are dancing around Christmas trees for cripes sake.

Jeanne: *shocked*: You mean you DO like peppermint coffee?? How could I not know this about you?

Cassondra: *gesticulates wildly* How can you not like peppermint?

Jeanne: Oh, I like all those flavors on their own. I just don’t like them in coffee. Or tea. OMGosh, I despise flavored teas. Give me good old Earl Gray, or a hearty black leaf tea like Orange Pekoe. Twinings. Constant Comment. Hearty tea. And if its gonna be hot – perfect for this time of year – there’s to be no milk. No lemon. None of this foo-foo flavoring. Bleech.

Cassondra: I really, REALLY hate to break it to you, but darlin’, Earl Grey Is. A. Flavor! So is MOCHA in coffee, for that matter. I like the idea of mocha, but honestly? It’s the textureFood Fight Dec 2014 Cassondra coffee. Mocha is chocolate flavored but it’s thick. It makes the coffee “thick.” So now I really want a peppermint mocha from Starbucks, but I can’t stand the texture so instead I get a peppermint latte with whipped cream and fancy fixins.  That’s it over there on the left.  Cuz I don’t want…you know…THICK coffee.

Jeanne: Snork! You are so picky.

Cassondra: YOU like thick coffee. Admit it.

Jeanne: Absolutely. Chocolate in coffee, and whipped cream, are naturally occurring additives. They’re fitting. They’re companion flavors. Adding other things, like the new Starbucks Roasted Chestnut Latte, are just icky. And seriously, they made a mistake the other day and made me a peppermint mocha instead of my usual mocha.

Cassondra: Yum! (except for the thick mocha part)

Jeanne: Hey! I’ve been going to “my” Starbucks since it opened – more than 15 years! – and they’ve never made it with peppermint. I took a big ‘ol drink as I walked out the door. Nearly choked. Turned right back in and handed it to the barista. Poor thing, he was the new guy.   He fight candy canes

“What?” he asked as all the other baristas gathered around. They know me.

“It’s Peppermint,” I said, handing it to him.   “Icky. No peppermint. Ever.”

Laughter from the other baristas.

“Just a mocha,” they chorused. “Not white mocha, not peppermint, nothing but mocha .”

“And extra whip!” the longest-serving barista added.

See? They know me. No foo-foo flavors.

Cassondra: WAIT just a minute. YOU get to pick WHICH flavors are foo foo and which are not just cuz you like some and not others? *waggles finger* I don’t think so. And they aren’t saying anything about the CHOCOLATE flavor—and the THICK coffee.

Seriously. Ew.

Here’s the deal. I don’t like ANY pre-flavored coffees—like those pre-flavored beans you get at the grocery store?  I know, I know, lots of people like those. But me?  Blech. Gross me out the door.

Jeanne: Whew! I’m glad we agree there, I was beginning to worry!food fight cinnamon

Cassondra: Yes, but if I go to a coffee shop, and it’s the right time of year, I’ll get a peppermint flavored coffee. It just seems fitting.

And here’s a secret–once again—just a plain cup of coffee, with no fancy steamed milk or froth and no espresso. At home, during these long, dark days of winter, I’ve been known to pull the cinnamon out of my spice cabinet and put a tablespoon of ground cinnamon in the coffeemaker on top of the ground coffee. *slurp* I learned this trick from one of my favorite little restaurants in Nashville, Calypso Café. They serve fabulous cinnamon coffee year-round, and they’re known for it. Just the right hint of cinnamon. And it’s REAL cinnamon. You know—bark from a tree–nothing fake. It’s an antidepressant.

Jeanne:  Okay yeah. I’ve had that coffee. It was decent. But I wouldn’t want it very often.

Food Fight Dec 2014 KeurigCassondra:  Oh! And y’all…..there’s this whole other thing. I happen to know that Duchesse Jeanne has drunk the Keurig Koolaid. *pauses for effect* Yep, that’s right. She’s gone to the “pod” coffee. Which to me, is kind of like having a pod person replace your husband, but whatever.

Jeanne: I LOVE my Keurig! I don’t make a whole pot and have to throw it out!

Cassondra: I make a whole pot, and I don’t throw it out. Just sayin.

Jeanne: That must be what puts the famous sarcastic bite in your humor. And seriously, if I drank the pot? *Boing! Bing! Smash! Crash! Boing!* That would be me, barreling oFood fight dec 2014 cuisinartff the walls for the rest of the day.

Cassondra: Hey. I own that sarcastic bite. But seriously. A pod-brewed cup, while a VAST improvement over sorry single-serving hotel packages, does not taste the same as a POT of brewed coffee.

Jeanne: Oh, yes it does. What do you think is different?

Cassondra: A pot has time to sit there and mingle. It has time for all the coffee molecules to dance around each other and become something fabulous. Coffee from a pod can never escape its humble beginnings. It just can’t.

Jeanne: *rolls eyes* I love my Keurig. Serious Keurig love. A hot cup anytime, always a great taste. And look at all those gorgeous colors you can get if you buy a mini Keurig! That’s like the desktop model!

food fight KeurigminiCassondra: So it’s a Keurig of mini colors!

Hey, looky there. I made a joke.

Jeanne: Snork! Always a comedian in the bunch. Coffee from a Keurig is damn close to as good as a pot –as in 99% close. And hey…NO PEPPERMINT in sight! How about that? Besides, as the only one who drinks coffee in the household…yeah, like I said, I’d drink the whooole pot… so really, by brewing only a cup at a time, I’m doing the world a biiiig favor.

Cassondra:  Okay, I’ll give you that.  Nobody wants to face either one of us on too much caffeine.

Jeanne: Which brings up an important point. You ALL need to know that, while Food fight dec 2014 coffee groupingflavorings are at issue here, and definitely worth a fight, my evil twin and I are akin in one MAJOR thing.

We drink coffee for YOUR protection!! (Bwahahahaha!!)

Cassondra: Alas, it’s true. You don’t want to talk to me between the time I’ve gotten up and the time I’ve had the first cup of coffee. Word to the wise.

Oh and speaking of tea–Earl Grey or English Breakfast.  Herbal tea at night.

Jeanne:  *raises eyebrows*

Cassondra:  Hey, I’m not a complete throwback. *raises pinky finger in the air, sips mock cup of tea*

Jeanne:  Snork!

food fight half and half Cassondra:  And although I’ve weaned myself off of sugar in coffee. I use cream. Lots of it. Real half and Half. No fake creamers allowed.

Jeanne: On THAT, my evil twin, we agree. Lots of cream

So…How about it Banditas and Buddies? Coffee or tea in the morning?

With cream? Sugar? Or black and strong?

Do you like any additions? Peppermint? (BLECH!)

Cassondra: Hey! So do y’all like peppermint? Especially at theFood Fight 2014 Keurig pods holidays? Caramel? Chocolate? Chestnut flavoring? Hazelnut? Pumpkin pie spice? Cinnamon?

Do you go for the special holiday drinks at coffee shops? Like the Pumpkin Spice latte or the Peppermint Mocha?

Or do you shuffle in, caffeine deprived, and say, “tall dark roast coffee please”?

Jeanne: Do you have a favorite coffee vendor? Are you a coffee snob and like Starbucks, Peets, Seattle’s Best and their ilk? Or do you refuse to get into all that…

Cassondra: *interrupts*… Like my mom–she buys her coffee at the grocery store.   If that’s what you do, is it Folger’s? Maxwell House? Store brand?Generic?  Special roast or the plain old original?

Jeanne: Or do you have a substitute like Bandita Donna? She carries a sleeve of Diet Coke wherever she goes. While we’re waiting for the coffeemaker to get going, she’s on her way with a *pop..fffffffizzzz…ahhhhh!*

 And just for the sake of a survey….do you use a Keurig? Or do you brew your coffee in a pot?

Cassondra:  We’re doing the same giveaway again today… in honor of the 12 days of Bandita Christmas, Jeanne is giving away ANOTHER Washington, DC, Starbucks mug and a $10 Starbucks card so you can have YUMMY coffee with your Christmas Donuts.

And I’m doing another grab bag of  two random novels plus one piece of fun swag from my leftover box of conference swag. (Both giveaways are Continental US only.)


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

Baby Needs New Shoes!–Just Shoot Me Now

I recently posted this on my facebook page:

Dear shoe manufacturers:
Not all snow is dry, and not all rain is warm. There is this thing called WINTER, which in many places is COLD and WET at the same time, which means all those cute, suede, pompom-bedecked fluffy things will turn into mush in approximately two hours.
Boots 7Thank you so much for your attention to this matter.
Cassondra, the frustrated shoe shopper

Hey, I would totally wear those boots on the left. I think pompoms are cute on boots!

Okay…This whole thing started about two weeks ago when I was cleaning out the garage, making a path to the Christmas decorations.

That’s when I heard it.


Plink-plink. Plunk.

That’s the sound of rain on my metal garage roof.

It was a cool rain, but that didn’t matter because the day had been a warm seventy degrees.  This is Fahrenheit, for all y’all who are not in the States.

The problem? Half of our stuff was in the driveway. Power tools. Furniture.

And books. Stacks of books I was going through .

Anyway…I was in a sweatshirt, jeans and my ratty, beat-to-hell work boots.

I started running instead of walking—moving things back into the garage, into my van for donation, or down to the street for the trash pickup. I set my priorities based on what would be ruined by the rain.

But then the temperature started to drop.

See…that rain was the edge of a front.  It was the polar vortex arriving in Southern Kentucky.

Polar Vortex.  Yeah.  A few years ago, before the weather people decided to jump on the wagon of sensationalist journalism, that would have been “an early cold snap,”  and a completely normal event.  But I’ll save that rant for another blog.

Back to the temperature dropping and the rain falling on my driveway full of stuff.

I was running like crazy…and then wait.  Ewww.

What the heck is that?

My foot was cold.  Boots 5

My foot was WET.

I looked down. I’d been too busy to notice, or maybe I’d just ignored it. The sole had almost fallen off of one of my ratty old boots.

Not that this was a big loss.  That’s the ratty boots in question–now dry–on the right.   See the sole separated from the body of the boot?

Yeah, they were cheap boots, and as a result of getting caught somewhere, unexpectedly needing boots for a trek through the woods, a cave, or some situation in a dirty old barn, over the yearsBoots 3 I’d ended up with several pairs like these.

I ignored the wet foot and kept working, moving stuff out of the weather.

By the time everything was under some kind of shelter–even if it was a plastic trash bag—I was soaked and cold, and the other boot had started to leak. I needed dry feet, pronto.

I went in the house and looked under the shelf in the bedroom closet. That’s the space where I keep suitcases and boots.

I found the boots on the left over there–with three-inch  heels.


I found cute short boots with lace ties. Boots2

I found my stand-by punk stage boots.

NOT what I needed.

I went back out and kept working, slogging across the yard with the sole of the right boot slapping back and forth, threatening to trip me, and the hole in the left boot leaking like a…well..a ratty old boot.

By the time everything was secure it was dark, 35 degrees, and I was starting to shiver.  I came inside, looked in the mirror and figured out I was darn-near  hypothermic.

A hot bath and a hot meal later, I snuggled up to a heating pad and faced the truth.

My world was saved, but it was time for new boots.

Boots sad faceAnd therein lay the trouble.

For me, hypothermia is far less frightening than the prospect of shopping for new boots.

Now for some of you, this might be as simple as a trip to the nearest store and a happy trip home with something cute.

But for me, this was a sentence to hell.

Because if I actually NEED a particular kind of shoe, shopping becomes pure torture.  I want what I want. I want it now, and I don’t want to spend a lot of time and stress finding it.

Are you starting to see the problem?  In my experience, the above statement and shopping are mutually exclusive.

Here’s the thing. If I’m going to spend a fair bit of money, I have these rules.

First…the shoes have to fit. No heel rubbing. No toe pinching. No feeling like I will fall Boots 1sideways and turn my ankle when I walk. No seams rubbing parts of my foot and causing blisters. If I have to spend hours and hours in a shoe, I want to think about something other than how much my feet hurt, thank you very much.

That’s my stand-by, cheap punky boots over on the right.  They were $15 at Payless shoe store a few years ago. I lucked out. I wear them everywhere and even though the vinyl is starting to flake off one side,  I bless those chunky boots each time I put them on, praying they’ll last because they’re comfortable and they’re so “me.”

But that’s not what you buy to hike through the woods or to do real work, yaknow?  I can’t use that boot to slam a shovel into the ground.  Shovel-slamming is a whole nuther level of quality.

Second…if I spend a lot of money, the shoes need to be solid.. I expect to get years out of them. I don’t care what the name on the label is. I want performance and longevity.

Third—and the most problematic part—I want everything performance boots can offer in one boot.

I want them to be waterproof, comfortable, and functional.

I want it all.

Fourth– I want it in my hometown, where I can know.. try on the boot before I buy it.

I have picky feet, and I am not interested in the process of mail order shoes.  Order, wait for it to arrive, try it on, find it doesn’t fit, mail it back, get a different size, wait for it, try it on, find it doesn’tBoots 4 fit, mail it back, try something else, etc etc etc.

I’d rather dig my eye out with a nail file.

My willingness to put up with shoe bullsh*t is incredibly low.

See that photo on the left? That’s the boots from up earlier in the post. But you can shove them down to be mid-length like this, or even further down to be awesome scrunchy short boots!  Three boots in one! This adds value for a shop-o-phobe like me.

Okay…so I searched online for boots–sturdy, waterproof, warm, tough-as-hell boots–finding out which ones were worth money and which ones were not. Then I spent two days going to stores.

Yes, that’s right..I said two days—that’s a lot of time I could have used for other things, by the way–driving to stores, searching for a sturdy, waterproof boot that would handle serious rain and snow, had tread that would not land me on my butt every time I walked out the door, and that did not hurt my feet.

Conclusion? No such boot is available in Southern Kentucky.

We can put people on the moon, but we can not do this simple thing.  We cannot give Cassondra what she wants in one boot.

NOW…perhaps Sorel or Merrell or some other hoity toity manufacturer makes such a boot, and perhaps you who live in more snow-focused regions have these boots in stores. But they are NOT available in a store in Southern Kentucky.

Harrumph.Boot Saga 2014

In the end I had to drop back and punt.

I had to get more than one pair of boots to do it all.

I now have two pairs of boots, and though I grit my teeth to say it, I need a third.

The first pair is a reasonable approach to a rain boot. After searching through every store I knew, I finally gave in and went to my personal hell—the mall.

I found those boots in the photo above.

They gave me an insert to keep my heel from riding over, and another insert for more arch support, and I went home with my new RAIN boots.

But now I need snow boots.  And I need work boots.

Enter the stopgap.

I call them the Mars Landers because when I tried them on and looked in the mirror I said, “OMG, I’m a Transformer!”boots 8

I had these little skinny legs and these enormous monster-esque feet with tread that looks like something out of a sci-fi horror flick.

They are not waterproof, and really they’re not all that sturdy. But if I seal the seams with waterproofer, they’ll probably get me through the winter, even if it snows a lot.

I found them at a second hand store.

I brought them home and for what it’s worth, I’m wearing them now. They’re very comfortable once you get used to walking with feet five times the size of your own.

The search for the perfect boot continues.

So help me choose boots, Bandits and Buddies..

Do you have snow where you live?  How deep does it get?

Do you have special boots for when it snows?

Or do you have a “wet” winter?  If so, what shoes or boots do you wear in the pouring rain?

 Do you live in an area where you need boots that can take a beating?

I so WANT pompom boots.  Do you own any boots with pompoms?  If so, do they wilt in the weather?

What boots get you through the cold, wet seasons?

And the big reveal…do you like to shop for shoes?

Or are you like me, and shopping is your own personal hell?

Come on. Dish about your boots.  Not the high-heel, sexy boots. I’m talking about the boots you wear when you have to dig the car out of the snow or go with the Sunshine Scouts on a hike through the national park in winter or get stuck in the mud.

Virgin In A Time Warp

Up until Halloween, I was a virgin.

Noooooooo!  Not THAT kind of virgin.

I’ve been married for a while, after all.

But a couple of weeks ago I got a text from a close friend.

“Hey, we’re going to see Rocky rocky horror photo from wikipediaHorror Picture Show at the Capital  on Halloween. Tix are $10. Wanna go?”

Truth?  I hesitated.

Many years ago, when I first started dating Steve (the guy I’m married to now) he told me about The Rocky Horror Picture Show (TRHPS)and how a big bunch of his friends went to the show every time it played when they were in college. Since then, I’ve heard about it constantly from half the people I know.

Any time a person lifts a glass, they all say, “TOAST,” and start laughing.

Has this bothered me?

Yes.  Yes, it has.

I’d heard about the audience dancing along with the film (the exact dance steps to
The Time Warp), throwing food  and other props at the correct times, and talking back to the screen at certain points in the movie. I’d avoided going.

So…To anybody who has seen TRHPS in a theater, complete with audience participation….Yeah. Technically, I was a virgin.rocky horror Star_Wars_Role-Playing_Game_1987

This started to really bother me.

After all, I like a number of cult films.

I LOVE the original Star Wars, and that’s easily a cult film now. When Steve is working on something and struggling, I’ve been known to suddenly channel Obi-Wan Kenobi.

“Use the force, Steve!”

*End with Darth Vader heavy breathing*

Androcky horror star trek the Original Star Trek? Heck yeah, I quote from that too.

*I’m behind the wheel, driving down the interstate*

Steve: Can you get around this guy?

Me:*horrid Scottish accent* I’m givin’ her all she’s got cap’n! *end horrid accent*

I love love LOVE Monty Python and the Holy Grail because it makes me laugh like a loon, and I quote lines from it constantly.

Steve: Have you seen my sunglasses?Rocky Horror monty python

Me: *Cheesy French accent*  “I fart in your general direction! Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!”  *end accent*

(For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, that means no, I have not seen Steve’s sunglasses.)

It’s ridiculous, really. I can quote almost the entire script of The Holy Grail.

But The Rocky Horror Picture Show is something else entirely.

This showing started at 10 pm.  The perfect way to spend a Halloween evening. How could I refuse?

We arrived almost an hour early, and the theater was already half full.  People wandered the aisles in strange costumes.  Yes, it was Halloween, but an awful lot of these folks were dressed up as characters from the film.

Rocky Horror bagWhen we went in, we were given a bag of props.

Can you believe that?  We paid ten dollars, and we got a bag of props to throw during the film.  Normally I pay almost ten bucks for a movie ticket, and STILL have to shell out another seven for popcorn.

That’s my bag of goodies over there on the left—the red bag.

I looked through my props but did not throw a single one.

I saved them for you, and this blog. Because right away I saw that you should be in on this.  Okay reality check. I needed the support.

Some of the prettiest girls I’d ever seen were there in the theater, all tricked out in corsets and leather thongs.rocky horror tutu

Except…they weren’t girls.

See that picture over there on the right–the one with the the guy in the white t-shirt?  While I suspect that white-shirt guy is not, in fact, a vampire, I will be honest about the costumes of the other two. I have no idea whether they are just very, very dedicated to Halloween fun, or…

Maybe they’re actually transvestites. Cross dressers.

I thought the one on the right was a woman until just a bit ago.  Getting ready for this blog, I looked at the photo in the light of day and saw the Adam’s apple. He was seriously pretty, and he moved like a girl.

The guy in the middle—the one with the green tutu?—He was gorgeous.  Gorgeous like a supermodel.  He had a line of people wanting to have a photo made with him, and he was eating it up.  He OWNED that tutu.  Yes, he did.

The theater was full of people like these three.  Doing their thing.  Being COMPLETELY who theyrocky virgin were.  It was like a big, warm-hearted circus, but the audience members were the performers.

I knew enough to avoid getting my face painted with the required “V” for “virgin.”

That was a good thing, because before the movie started, a bunch of folks from the Western Kentucky University theater department called all the virgins up onto stage.

That’s some of them in that photo down there on the right. Sorry for the blurry picture. It was a long way to the stage, and I took irocky horror virgins on staget with my phone.

But….See the guy in the green sundress?  Yeah, he was really hunky.  I think maybe he doesn’t usually wear a dress….Just sayin.


There was a contest. Each virgin got on his/her knees in front of a non-virgin from the theater department, and….wait for it…

They had to suck the jelly out of plastic jelly packets. Whoever accomplished this the fastest got a tiara.

The audience went wild.

rocky horror riceI laughed until I couldn’t breathe.


So back to my little red bag of props…

There ‘s a wedding scene in the opening of the film.  And yep, there was rice in a little baggie for us to throw, along with the movie characters. That’s the rice from my bag–over there on the left.

Rocky Horror confetti and hornSo I might as well say up front that this film is a fantastic spoof of horror flicks from the 1930s to the 1960s.

When Dr. Frank-N-Furter (yes, that’s a spoof of Dr. Frankenstein) awakened his creation, “Rocky” and took the monster away, everyone blew their party horns and threw confetti.  It was Rocky’s birthday, after all.

That’s my confetti and party horn on the right.

Rocky Horror all contents  That’s the entire contents of my prop bag, over there on the left.  Newspaper to cover my head during a rainstorm, a card to throw for some reason I’m still not sure about (my card was the Joker), and toast.  Because when Dr. Frank-N-Furter hosts dinner, he lifts his drink and proposes a toast.

And the entire theater full of people threw toast at the screen.

And at that point, I started smiling, and I haven’t stopped since.

Everybody was supportive of everybody else, no matter what.  This was just plain old fun.

The odd thing?  There is no explanation for why this crazy film took off.rocky horror toast

The Rocky Horror Picture Show started as a theater production in (best I can tell) 1973-74 in a theater with 60 seats. Two years later it was a film, and between 1975 and 1976, it took off, moved to bigger venues, and quickly became a phenomenon.

Within the first year, the audience started participating—talking back to the screen, doing the dance, and throwing rice, etc.

Nobody knows why. At least nobody I found in my (admittedly scanty) research.

So as we were leaving the theater, my friends said..”Okay, do you want to watch it on video now, so you get to actually see the movie?”

He meant…did I want to watch the movie without all the yelling from the audience, and the theater cast running down the aisles acting out the parts.

Yeah. I do.

rocky horror doc frankI’m a convert to this cult film, and the crazy-awesome performance by Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter.

I love the music, the acting, and the fact that it steps WAY  past the crazy and plants its foot firmly into the bizarre.

In the same way, I also fell in love with Star Wars, the original Star Trek on TV, and Monty Python humor.

A few years back, when vampire romance took over the world, I admit that I did not catch the craze. I read a few vampire romances, and I could get addicted to that, but I didn’t.  I resisted.  At this point, I may yet become a fan, but I’m late to that party.

And I’ll tell ya straight..I don’t get the whole zombie culture thing.

But the rest of the world seems to get both!

Fads come and go, but some things seem to transcend the “fad” and move into the larger culture.

I think, probably, vampire romance has done that. I’m guessing that it may not be as wildly popular ten  years from now as it is today, but I figure it will never go away.

Zombies? I don’t know about that.

Monty Python, Luke Skywalker and Doctor Frank-N-Furter of The Rocky Horror Picture Show–they’re here to stay all these years later.

Why do some things catch on and become timeless, and others fade into obscurity to be called “fads” (Bell bottoms, anyone?)  while just a few become part of our lives forever?

What do you think, Bandits and Buddies?

Is there a “cult” romance out there?

Maybe “Pride and Prejudice?”  How many film versions are there of that book?

If you had to pick one romance that was a “cult” romance novel–a pinnacle of the genre, OTHER than Pride and Prejudice–what would it be?

Do you remember the first vampire or shifter romance you read?

Did you become a fan?

Or would you rather stick with “human” romance?

Have you fallen for any “fads” in movies or reading?

Have you seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show?

Or are you a Virgin, like I was?

Any other cult films that you like or hate?

Oh and word to the wise…if you go to see TRHPS, don’t let them know you’re a virgin.  Shhhhh.

Tracey Devlyn’s Winners!

Tracey Devlyn was our guest on October 9th, and she’s offering  EITHER a signed print copy of one of her Nexus historical romantic spy thrillers, or an e-copy of NIGHT STORM, Book 1 of her Bones and Gemstones historical romantic mystery series.

And the winner is….Catslady!




And the BONUS Prize from me–the LAST HERO STANDING ebook box set to benefit author Pamela Clare (which also includes one of Tracey’s novels) goes to….


Catslady and Quantum, please contact me at  Cassondrawrites    AT    gmail  DOT com to give me the email address associated with your e-reader.   (FYI, I’ll try to gift this as a preorder, but if I can’t. I’ll gift it as soon as the book goes live in November.)


Congrats to our winners!

Bones and Gemstones: Author Tracey Devlyn

I love it when a package–or a person–looks like one thing on the outside, but turns out to be something entirely different on the inside.

Tracey DevlynDevlyn Author photo 2 is a smart, beautiful blonde with a sweet face. I was intrigued when I saw her at an author event last month and she said, “You won’t find a lot of ballrooms in my Regency novels.”

A LADY’S REVENGE, book one in her Nexus series of historical romantic thrillers, starts out with British heroine Cora in a really bad situation. In a dungeon. In France.

I was holding my breath.

Never fear though.  Because Cora is a tough chick. A risk taker.  Tracey is too.  Her new Bones and Gemstones series takes readers for a walk on the dark side of Regency.  For me, that makes Tracey one of the cool girls.

A fun surprise is that Tracey has been a long-time lurker here in the Lair.  But today she’s in the spotlight.Devlyn--Latymer

Sven is behind the bar and all the guys are serving drinks and snacks, so pull up a chair, put in your order, and help me give a famous Bandit welcome to Tracey Devlyn.

*wild applause*

Cassondra: Tracey, before we get started, tell me what Sven can bring you from the bar. He can make anything.

Tracey: To calm my nerves, I’d love a Fuzzy Navel—light on the Fuzzy, Sven–I don’t want my face to go numb during my debut on the Bandits. First impressions and all that, you know.

 Cassondra: Are you kidding me? *glances around the room until she gets a thumbs-up from one of the gladiators*  Seriously, we’re the ones who have to worry. We have to keep the rooster from causing some kind of embarrassing mayhem for the duration of your visit.

Cassondra: I lDevlyn--A Lady's Revengeike hearing about the early reading that influenced an author.  Will you tell us about your earliest memory of books.

Tracey: As a kid, I loved looking through the Scholastic catalog at all the cool books. I could never afford to place an order, but I loved to mark the ones I wanted.

Cassondra: *bounces in chair*   Me too, me too!

Tracey: I never enjoyed the books we were forced to read in school, so I rarely visited the fiction section when at the library. Pictures—l loved flipping through big books with pictures of animals and castles and such.

Cassondra: When did you first discover romance?

Tracey: It wasn’t until my mid-20s, when I took a mental health day from work, that I found romance. Talk show host Jenny Jones brought several romance authors on her show. A few days later I was reading my first romance—and I’ve never stopped.

Henley--The Raven and the Rose Modern coverCassondra: What was that book?

Tracey: THE RAVEN AND THE ROSE by Virginia Henley. Back then, I knew nothing of happy-ever-afters and I expended a whole lot of energy blubbering my way through TRTR.

Cassondra: Tell us about your two series and your unusual approach to the era.

Tracey: Although I LOVE reading about dukes and ballrooms and Almack’s, I don’t think I’m wired right to tell Regency-set stories with the glitz and glamour of the ton as a backdrop. My Nexus series includes a group of aristocratic spies, though readers will find only one ballroom scene in the entire 4-book series. My new Bones and Gemstones series is rooted firmly in London’s underworld where nary a duke can be found.Devlyn--Checkmate My Lord

 Cassondra: In NIGHT STORM, Bones and Gemstones book one, your hero, Cam, is a thief taker, and your heroine, Charlotte (Charley for short) is an apothecary surgeon. What draws you to these characters and professions that are more unusual–more “underworld?”

Tracey: Without scaring readers, the best way I can answer your question is to say…I’m most comfortable in the darkness.  *Tracey raises eyebrow and smiles*

Cassondra: Ah, soul sister! My coffin-sleeping ways are vindicated! Ahem…

The research for historicals has always seemed daunting to me. Charley relies on Chelsea Physic Garden–a Devlyn Chelsea-Physic-GardenLondon spot dedicated to medicinal plants–yet she could lose access to that place because she’s a woman working in a man’s field.

 Tracey: I had a wonderful time researching the Chelsea Physic Garden. Sir Hans Sloane had tremendous vision for his time. If not for him, the garden and the British Museum wouldn’t be what they are today.

 Cassondra:  It’s my favorite London garden.  I love that you included it.  But women weren’t allowed to be members back then, right?

Tracey:  *nods*  Charley’s vocation will either endear her to readers or they’ll throw her against a wall in disgust.

 Cassondra: *frowns* Devlyn--A Lady's Secret WeaponWhy?

 Tracey: There is no record of female apothecaries or apothecary-surgeons in the early 1800s. But as I mentioned in my Author’s Note of NIGHT STORM, I believe much of our true history never reaches the written page. Women tend to be caretakers by nature. To say with absolute conviction that no female apothecaries existed in the Regency stretches my belief system because history is full of women and men who stepped out of society’s confining box to make a difference. Fist pump to those trailblazers!

Cassondra: *lifts glass of wine in tribute* Yes. And women’s roles in particular were so often left out of history. What exactly was an apothecary in the early 1800s?

 Tracey: I’ll do quick “equal to” list …

PHYSICIANS = Considered “gentlemen”; diagnosed internal problems; they did not get their hands dirty; might have a degree from Oxford or Cambridge, but from what I’ve read there wasn’t a set curriculum. They would take whatever classes interested them.

BARBERS = Generally apprenticed; minor surgery—pulling teeth, bloodletting, treating wounds and skin diseases.

SURGEONS = Generally apprenticed; major surgery—amputations, removing bullets.

APOTHECARY-SURGEONS = Generally apprenticed; an apothecary who will also perform surgeries.

APOTHECARIES = Generally apprenticed; filled prescriptions for physicians and sold herbs, tonics, etc. to patrons; treated minor ailments.

QUACKS = Pretenders. Untrained, uncouth, greed-driven individuals.

Cassondra: Okay tell us about Cam. What’s a thief taker?

Tracey: Thief takers were similar to bounty hunters and were generally hired to capture criminals. They were usually hired by the crime victim though. Most of their crime-solving revolved around stolen goods, rather than murders. In contrast, Bow Street Runners would have been the police force for the Regency period and paid by the magistrate via governmental funds

Cassondra: Would you share a brief excerpt from NIGHT STORM?Devlyn--Night Storm

 Tracey: Absolutely!

In the distance, Charlotte Fielding spotted the simple, white-lettered sign that marked her destination. Apothecary. The tension she’d been carrying in her shoulders since entering the Whitley residence loosened its biting grip. The strain between husband and wife had not lifted in her two-day absence. If anything, it had grown worse, now that Mr. Whitley felt well enough to defend himself.

 Charlotte’s brisk pace slowed. A man was slumped on the pavement between her shop and the boarded-up bakery next door. He sat with one leg stretched out across the walkway, the other bent at an angle. The rim of his hat protected his face from identification. So, too, did the long black woolen coat and matching muffler around his neck.

 The tension in Charlotte’s shoulders returned full force. Even though she could not identify him, she knew what he wasn’t—a beggar. Everything about him was too fine for him to be living in the streets. She glanced around, checking the evening shadows as best she could with only lamplight to aid her. Anderson’s lending library, Patterson’s coffee shop, Gertrude’s lace boutique, Tilly’s former bakery—they all stood silent and free of loitering troublemakers and customers. If she cried out for help, would the shopkeepers hear her from their snug, upstairs apartments?

 She considered entering through the back of her building, an area normally reserved for deliveries, but she couldn’t bring herself to venture down the dank, narrow alleyway at this time of night. Drawing in a calming breath, she reached into her reticule and pulled out her pouch of pepper. A poor defense, she knew, but she always kept it, thinking it would give her a small chance of escape if thrown in an assailant’s face.

 Increasing her pace, she stopped in front of her shop’s weathered door, the color of a cloud-streaked blue sky. The man remained motionless, silent. Eerily so. She experienced a moment of indecision. Should she nudge him? Could he be hurt and in need of assistance? Or should she continue on inside her own shop and mind her own business?

 “Hello, Charley.” The voice was unmistakable.

 A chill started at the base of her neck and swept through her body. Bone deep and breath stealing. With slow, precise movements, her gaze lowered to the source of the too-familiar voice. A voice that belonged to the only man who had ever called her Charley.

 The man’s uplifted face revealed itself. Thick, bold eyebrows stood out on a pale, pain-filled face. A once-beloved face. Cameron Adair. What little air she had left disappeared at the sight of Cam—Cameron. Other than a brief glimpse of him a few months ago, she hadn’t seen him for years. But she would have known him anywhere. The shock of seeing him held her immobile, terrified in a way she hadn’t been since the early days of their falling out.

 “Charley, I need your help.”

 His words, laced with a strain born of hard-fought control, snapped her out of the past and plunged her back into the present. Cameron Adair was sprawled at her door, hurt, needing her help.

She slid her key into the lock. Metal scratched against metal until she heard a familiar click. Setting her bag inside the door, she returned outside. “Are you able to get to your feet?” She managed to keep her voice calm, unaffected. But inside, a violent tremor began and a maelstrom of questions flooded her mind. Why come to her? Where was he hurt? Why show up on her doorstep after complete and utter silence for five miserable years?

 Carefully, she folded her hands at her waist and locked her knees before she could humiliate herself with senseless emotion. She had decided long ago to waste no more of it on Cameron Adair.

 Something like disappointment flared in his blue, ice-chipped eyes. “Yes, with assistance.”

“Where are you hurt?”

 “Left leg, right shoulder.”

 “Let’s get you inside out of the cold, and I’ll hail a hansom cab to take you to Dr. Hollingsworth.”

 He shook his head and mumbled, “I’ve been shot. Lost too much blood.”

“Cameron, I can’t—”

 “You must,” he interrupted. “I haven’t the strength to go elsewhere.”

 She knew what it had cost him to admit to such weakness. And because she knew this about him, an unrivaled fear forced her to his side.

 Positioning herself in a crouch, Charlotte took a steadying breath before sliding her arm around his broad back. Blood, sweat, and a masculine scent uniquely Cameron’s filled her nose. She gritted her teeth against an overwhelming desire to inhale deeply.

 “Ready?” she asked.

 He nodded once, his full lips pressed into a thin, determined line. Bending forward, he wrapped an arm around her shoulder to brace himself. The new position put them face-to-face, breath-to-breath.

Cassondra: What’s next for this series? I know Cam and Charley will be featured in future Bones & Gemstones books, but NIGHT STORM is full of fascinating secondary characters. Will they get their own love stories?

 Tracey: Cam and Charley’s adventures continue in NIGHT RAIN (2015). In Book 2, I’ll include a secondary love story, featuring a character from NIGHT STORM.

Box Set--Last Hero Standing Cassondra: I want to take just a moment to mention two projects you’re involved in at the moment.  Both you and Dianna Love—my guest later this month– have donated stories to benefit a fellow author.  Tell us about that?

 Tracey: LAST HERO STANDING Boxed Set – 11 authors (5 NYT and 4 USA Today bestsellers and 2 Award-winning) are donating every cent earned to fellow author PAMELA CLARE for the medical expenses she’s incurred during her breast cancer treatments.breast cancer ribbon

 Cassondra: Right now it’s only 99 cents.  As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, the timing is perfect. The set comes out in November, but you can preorder  now.  It’s a great gift, and it’ll help an author win her own fight.

But Tracey, you’re in another bundle this fall, right?

 Tracey: YeBox Set--Heating it ups. HEATING IT UP, One Hero at a Time Boxed Set – 7 bestselling and award-winning authors bring readers historical romantic adventures set in Medieval Scotland, Regency England, Civil War America, the Wild West, and Gilded Age America. Heating it up with seductive Highlanders, scoundrels, spies, smugglers, mountain men, and more!

CassondraTracey has a question for you, and she’s giving away a book to one commenter! 

 Tracey You can choose a print copy of one of my Nexus series novels, or an e-book of the new Bones and Gemstones release, NIGHT STORM. To be included in the drawing, answer this question…

Have you ever thrown a book against the wall after finding an historical inaccuracy? Or a location inaccuracy? Or a weapon inaccuracy?

Cassondra:  In honor of October, since this month is dedicated to saving the Ta-Tas, I’ll add to that by gifting a Kindle or Nook e-book set of the LAST HERO STANDING box set to a second commenter. (Kindle or Nook account required)

Tracey will be here to chat today and answer your questions, so get commenting y’all!

Find Tracey at her website

Follow her on facebook at Author Tracey Devlyn

She’s on twitter, too. @TraceyDevlyn

Home Sweet Hotel

The day I turned sixteen, I got my driver’s license in the morning. That afternoon I loaded my suitcase and my guitar into my mom’s car and I drove almost all the way across the state to play music at an event up near the Ohio River. I drove home after the event, and that drive is the subject of another blog post–one about big strapping angels pulling a little girl’s car out of a ditch in the middle of the night (someday maybe I’ll tell that story)-—but bottom line?…I should have stayed in a hotel that night, because I was too exhausted to drive two and a half hours home.  But at that time, I’d had very little experience with hotels.  It just didn’t seem like a good option.

They Got it right guitarDon’t make the mistake of thinking I had a bad mom. (She’s 86, still sharp as ever, and I am grateful that I still have her). She  was the best kind of mom because she understood what I was about. She knew I was not up to shenanigans, she knew I’d been driving since I was thirteen (that’s a whole nuther blog) and she knew I could take care of myself. And she knew that playing music was all I cared about. I could not wish for a better mom because she encouraged me to pursue my passion, which was music.

Still…there are some things one can learn only by experience.

I’d booked the event near the Ohio River a few months before.  I always took an overnight bag in case of some emergency, and though I’d planned to go  home that night, I should have stayed rather than drive. It was just too late. That’s a lesson you learn the hard way—that you are mortal and have limits.   Another lesson is that you are not necessarily safe in a hotel, no matter how they tout their security.

I learned my lesson that night about my limits when I’m tired, and in subsequent years I learned a lot of other things from other musiThey Got it right lampcians, salesmen (they were almost all men at that time), and other business people living out of suitcases as they moved from place to place. I also learned a lot about how to survive as a young woman traveling alone, about fixing my own car, and about how to tell an honest offer of help from one that came with strings attached.

Over the years I learned to survive in hotels.  I learned that to actually sleep, I had to wear earplugs.  I learned how to shove a chair under the door handle.  This was the days before electronic key cards, so I learned how to be patient and play the desk clerks one at a time, pretending I was locked out so I ended up with every extra key to my room.  That way a stranger couldn’t find out my room number and con the desk clerk out of a key to get in, because I had all of them.

Things have changed.  Now the keys are electronic, the security is much better, and in good hotels there are actually enough plugs, there’s an iron and a hair dryer in every room, and the lamps have simple switches you can reach by swatting at them in the dark.

They Got it right key cardStill…they have their security risks.

When I stay in a hotel, if it’s just for a couple of days, I ask for extra towels and I don’t get maid service.  That way nobody but me comes into my room.  I figure the housekeeping staff is one of the biggest security risks.  That housekeeper has a key to every room on her floor.

If there’s a balcony with a sliding door, I leave it locked, with the security device in place.  I leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door at all times, so it appears I’m in there, even when I’m not.

In the book I’m writing, my heroine, Del (short for Adelaide because she hates that name) is staying in a hotel.  She has something significant stolen out of her room. Something that will decide the fate of her career and her future. This itThey Got it right clockem won’t fit in the room’s safe, so that’s not an option.

So, Bandits and Buddies, I’m trying to stage a hotel room theft, and I need your help. Tell me your hotel stories…

Have you spent a lot of time in hotels?

Will you share your hotel experiences?—What are your favorite hotels–or your least favorites?  What’s the most awesome hotel experience you’ve had–and what’s the worst?

What do you think of hotel security?

What do you think are the weak points?

Do you trust the cleaning staff to leave your things alone? Do you take measures to prevent theft when you stay?

If you wanted to stage a theft from a hotel room, how would you get access?

Do you sleep well in hotels?

Do you have any tips or tricks to offer for hotel stays?

Any horror stories to share about hotels?

Momma Don’t ‘llow No Bad Words ‘round Here

When I was a little girl, I was not allowed to cuss.

No bad words in our house.

The question is…what’s a bad word?

Bad words 4Like most kids growing up, if I heard a bad word said by a little boy on the playground—bear in mind this was usually the student who’d flunked a grade or two, or who came from the kind of home where he had to fight to survive—anyway when a “bad” word flew out of his mouth, there was a mass collective sucking in of breath. I sucked in my breath right along with everyone else, and waited for the sky to fall.

And fall it did, usually in the form of a trip to the principal’s office.

But even as a little girl I was a good thinker, and when I thought about it, I found I had a fundamental philosophical problem with the idea of picking out random words and making them ‘bad.”

Now that I’m writing small-town contemporary romance, I’m dealing withbad words 8 the whole question of who uses those words and who doesn’t.

So anyway back to my childhood and the whole cussing thing.

See, when I was a little girl, even on the list of bad words, some words were WAY more “bad” than others.

Hmmm…how to explain….

They fell on a sort of scale, I guess.

For the sake of our discussion, Let’s make it a scale of 1-10. One (1) is just a little troublesome. But a word that was a 10? Yeah. That would send you straight to the darkest corner of hell.

bad-wordsLessee….since we try hard to keep our blog PG-13, I’ll fudge the spellings of some of these.   My childhood list looked something like this—

*Damn—10 Absolutely not allowed. Because that had something fuzzy and abstract to do with cursing God (as in G-D-it, I suppose), even if the Lord’s name was not brought into it at all.  I try not to do this with the Lord’s name even now, and I feel bad when I slip.

*Dang—9   Absolutely not allowed. Because it was a derivation of damn. Just not quite as world-ending bad.

*Darn—8 Yes, that’s right. Darn was an 8 in our house. Because darn was considered a derivation of damn, and damn was…you know…a 10. It was troublesome to me though, because when my cousins came down from Ohio, they said darn all the time. That was not a bad word in their house.

Little Cassondra became confused.Bad words3

How come God would get mad at ME for saying darn, but He didn’t get mad at my cousins? Were their thoughts somehow more pure when they said darn? They were older than I was, but they were boys, so I was guessing that no, their thoughts were not, in fact, more pure.

*Sh*t—7-8, depending on the day. And looky there. I still am not typing the “I” in the middle of that word.

*Shoot—0 this one, though I was told it was, indeed, a derivation of sh*t, for some asinine reason was totally okay. It didn’t even make a ranking of 1. So you were allowed to say “Oh, shoot!” But you’d go to hell for “Oh, sh*t!”

*Crap—5  This was a 5 until my brothers and sister—all college age when I was very small– came home and were using it all the time. It somehow became more acceptable then, even to my mom. Crap dropped to a 2. Maybe a 3 if my mom was in the wrong mood when she heard it said.  Using it was a bit of a….well…a crap shoot.

But see…my cousins from Ohio? They weren’t allowed to say crap at all. In their house, that was a high-level BAD word.

bad words7I remember the first time I said “crap” in front of them. Yep, you got it. There was the collective sucking in of breath.

I was embarrassed, but not sure why. A tough place for a little girl to be, for certain.

*Hell—9  Yeah, this was a bad one, but it was rife with difficult subtleties.

It was a 9, you see, unless you were the preacher and were threatening everyone with the possibility of going there for all eternity.   Or unless you were speaking (reverently of course) about someone you knew, because you were worried that he or she was headed that direction.

Otherwise? You’d go to hell for saying hell.

*Ass—6 This was a really confusing one. I was allowed to say butt, hind-end, behind, bottom, and hiney, but my cousins from Ohio were not. They had to use “Donkey Outlinebucket,” which I thought was silly. None of us, of course, were allowed to say “ass.”

Once again, the preacher could use this one, because of course he was reading it out of scripture. Samson slew a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass.

Those Philistines must’ve pissed Samson off something awful.

Oh, looky there! I just used another one!

*piss—5 I could say pee, but not piss. And absolutely not pissed.

*f*ck—14 Yes, it scores 14 on a scale of 1-10. F*ck was the mother of all cuss words, and if you even thought it, you would go straight to hell. It’s so bad that I would never type the u in the middle of the word here on our blog.

Shortly after I’d written my first novel, I was working on the next books in the series and I had plans to try to sell them to Harlequin. But I was told that I could not use the f-bomb if I wrote for that line. I said to a friend, “I’m writing New York undercovers who don’t use the word f*ck.”

He said, “Now THAT is fiction.”

*fart—2 Yup, fart barely made the list of cuss words.

*b*tch—6 Even if we were talking about a female dog, this was a no-no.

*Son of a b*tch—8  Yes, adding an offspring to the b*tch bumped it up to an 8.

*Bastard—7 Yes, this one was worse than b*tch.

*Any slang term for the male or female body parts was an automatic 10.  Some of them I didn’t even learn until I’d left home.  They were just never said, even at school.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????I knew people who were not allowed to say poop, but that was okay in my house, and surprisingly enough, even the Ohio cousins, though they had to say bucket, could sometimes say poop.  It might’ve been out of earshot of their mother, though.

Of course one did not EVER take the Lord’s name in vain. You did not use “God” unless you were speaking of Him with respect and reverence.

When I left for college and got to know people from other countries, I found out that the word “bloody” is a sort of curse word in England, or so I understand. As is “buggar” but across the pond, they don’t mind the “f” word muchBad words5 at all.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize that what’s a bad word to one person, may be completely benign to another.   I’ve gotten a little amused at the collective sucking in of breath, and I think it’s funny when folks squirm over words just because they don’t like them.

I’ve gotten jaded, I guess.

And yet, I still don’t like some of the slang words for anatomy, and if they’re used in a demeaning way, I really hate it.  I tend to cringe when I see them in books, and often won’t choose to read that series again.  I figure I miss some really good books that way, and I probably need to get over it.

My cousins from Ohio don’t let their kids use the word “stupid,” and that’s one rule I totally agree with.   Bandita Jeanne told me that the rule in her house is, “you can have a stupid moment, or a situation can be stupid, but another person is never referred to as stupid, because that can be so hurtful.” I gave her a high-five for that.

The only “bad” words to me, now, are the ones that hurt or demean other people on purpose.

So back to my small-town contemporary romance. I did a word search in the manuscript so far, and found it liberally sprinkled with my favorite cuss words, all the way from level 1 to level 10. There was even a 14 or two in there.

So now I’ve started to worry. So tell me what you think, Bandits and Buddies.

Please try to keep it PG-13 if you would, by fudging the spelling of the words in the upper level toward the “10” range. *grin*

Did you have a libad words 9st of bad words when you were growing up?

Did your list look anything like mine?

What happened if you said those words?

If you have kids now, are the bad words the same?

Or have they relaxed some?

Do you use words now that you didn’t when you were younger? Or do you still hold to the same standards?

If you’re outside the US, are your “bad” words a lot different from mine?

Have you ever read a novel where the language was too rough for you?

Even if you don’t use certain words, does it bother you if characters in a novel use them?

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