Saturday, November 30, 2013

Brenda Novak's TAKE ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS || Author Interview || #Excerpt

Brenda, please tell us about yourself and your writing.

I started writing when I caught my daycare provider drugging my children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day while I worked as a loan officer. Once I found the medicine in my baby's bottle and realized what had been going on, I quit my job to be with my kids--but I had to do something to help out financially. I was reading a great book at the time (Jude Devereux's KNIGHT IN SHINING ARMOR) and remember thinking, "I wonder if I can do this?" That set me off, and I've never looked back. My first book was published by HarperCollins in November 1999, and I have written nearly 50 novels since then in a variety of genres--romantic suspense, historical romance and small town contemporary. In October, I will have two new books out--THROUGH THE SMOKE, a gothic historical set in England 1830's, and TAKE ME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS, Book #5 in my Whiskey Creek series of small town contemporaries.

What does your writing space look like?

I have a really big master bedroom with an L-shaped desk in the retreat. I sit there and write most of the day--unless my behind gets sore from sitting so long. Ha! Then I move over to the bed.

What inspired your current book?

THROUGH THE SMOKE, my first historical in some time, was inspired by my love for Jane Eyre. I have never forgotten the dramatic, mysterious gothic feel of that classic and wanted to create something similar. I also like Beauty & The Beast stories, and this would definitely qualify.

Please tell us about your current work in progress.

I am hard at work on another historical. This one is called A MATTER OF GRAVE CONCERN and is also set in 1830's England (only this one is London and not farther north like THROUGH THE SMOKE). It has some suspense in it, too, as it involves the resurrection men who used to steal corpses from their graves to sell to medical colleges. It's creepy and fun and has some humor thrown in. I'm enjoying it!

If you could choose any actor/actress (living or dead) to play your protagonist, who would it be and why?

I am madly in love with Chris Hemsworth. I would love for him to play just about any of my male leads. ;-)

Do you write with music going in the background? What are some of your favorite types/bands?

It's funny, considering I have five children and can write with voices in the background, but I can't write with music. I find it so distracting and constantly stop to listen. LOL

Name one person, living or dead, you'd most like to meet.

I would love to meet Margaret Mitchell. I have always envied her talent and admired GONE WITH THE ONE (another favorite for me).
Do you have a favorite character from your books? Who is it and why?

I think Dylan Amos from WHEN SNOW FALLS will always be a favorite of mine. I love a bad boy who has a heart of gold underneath all of that acting out. It's so fun to redeem them, and Dylan just came to me so clearly. I think he stands out.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three modern conveniences would you take with you?

I would take a water filtration system, a knife and fire starter. Can you tell I'm a practical person--and that I have been watching NAKED AND AFRAID? LOL
Quick quiz:

  • Favorite food?  Watermelon!   I can eat a whole one in one sitting!
  • Favorite color?  Periwinkle--there's nothing more beautiful than that particular shade of blue/purple.
  • Favorite animal?  A bear. I watch all the nature shows on bears.
  • Biggest pet peeve?  Cruelty to the innocent.
  • Dream car?  A Tessla, because I'm going green!
Christmas is a time for remembering…

But not all memories are pleasant. Everyone in Whiskey Creek remembers Sophia DeBussi as the town’s Mean Girl. Especially Ted Dixon, whose love she once scorned. Sophia married for money and status, but her millionaire husband is abusive and she stays with him only for the sake of her daughter.

Then her husband dies—trying to fake his own death to avoid an FBI probe. Not only has he left her penniless, he’s left her holding the bag.

Sophia is reduced to looking for any kind of work she can find. But almost everyone in town believes she helped Skip cheat them out of millions. With no other options, she answers an ad for a housekeeper placed by none other than Ted, now a successful suspense writer. He can’t bring himself to send her away, not at Christmas, but he refuses to get emotionally involved. He learned his lesson the last time.

Or will the season of love and forgiveness help them both find what they’re missing?


Chapter One

Sophia DeBussi’s husband was gone. As in…disappeared. Nowhere to be found. At ninety feet, the Legacy was a sizable yacht—Skip never bought anything except the very best—but not so sizable that a full-grown man could easily be overlooked. The six-member crew had just helped Sophia and her thirteen-year-old daughter scour every inch of the boat.

Other than his cell phone, which he wasn’t answering, Skip’s things were where they should be, but he was not.

Holding back her long hair, Sophia squinted against the sunshine glinting off the water, trying to see the coast of Brazil a few miles to starboard. Could her husband have gone for an early-morning swim and somehowreached land?

That was a possibility, but it was a remote one. Why would he go off on his own? It was too windy to enjoy the beach today. And although he traveled all over the world for business, she’d never heard of him meeting anyone in Rio de Janeiro.

Besides, he’d planned this trip for their thirteenth anniversary because he wanted to spend quality time as a family. She couldn’t imagine he was working, not when this vacation was supposed to be about starting over, about saving their troubled marriage. He’d said he wouldn’t take one call. If he’d made that promise just to her, maybe she wouldn’t have relied on it. He’d said such things before and hadn’t followed through. But he’d also promised their daughter, and he and Alexa were very close.

So…where was he?

Sophia gazed down at the water itself. Had he fallen overboard and drowned in the choppy Atlantic?

That thought led to a surge of relief. It was macabre to wish anyone dead, but only if Skip was gone for good would she ever escape him. She’d lived with him long enough to know he’d never willingly let her go.

He’d said as much.

The moment Alexa came to the railing to stand beside her, guilt replaced the relief she’d been feeling. Her poor daughter might have lost her father. How could she be happy about that?

“What happened, Mom?” Lexi asked, her big blue eyes filling with tears.

Sophia put an arm around her child’s thin shoulders. “I don’t know, sweetheart.” She kept going over the past twenty-four hours in her mind, but could point to nothing out of the ordinary. Skip had gone to bed with her last night at eleven, as usual. He’d demanded sex, as usual. If he was around, he insisted on some sexual favor at least once a day. She was pretty sure he slept with other women when he was traveling, especially since he was often gone for a week or longer. But she never tried to check up on him. She just did what she had to when he was home to keep the peace, to survive. She knew how he’d act if she refused him. Even if he didn’t strike her, he’d sulk for days.

Except for the embarrassment of having to tell everyone, including their daughter, that she’d tripped and fallen into a door or slammed on her brakes and hit the steering wheel, she would’ve hated the sulking even more. Sometimes it lasted far longer than the bruises.

Alexa wiped her wet cheeks. “You really don’t remember when he got up this morning?”

They’d already been over this. Sophia didn’t remember. She didn’t rise as early as he did. It wasn’t as if he’d allow her to have a job. On a school day, she typically went back to bed after Alexa left, staying there until ten or so. Then she’d get up slowly, work on maintaining her beauty, which was all-important to Skip, and drink away the rest of the afternoon. Alcohol was the one thing that seemed capable of dulling the disappointment, not to mention the boredom, she lived with on a constant basis.

But it also gave him a club to use when he needed it. I thought I was getting something special when I married you. You were someone, remember? The mayor’s only child. The most popular girl in school. Now look at you. You’re nothing but a lazy drunk.

She tried to shove those hateful words into the back of her mind, where they resided. They made her crave a gin and tonic, but it was too early for that. She couldn’t have one, anyway, she reminded herself. Not only had she just spent thirty days in rehab, she’d promised Skip, as part of their “starting over,” that she’d really quit thebooze this time. He’d threatened to have her committed to a mental institution like her mother if she didn’t. She wasn’t sure what he’d use to make her seem crazy, but he’d figure it out. Her mother’s condition, the fact that there was mental illness in the family, definitely wouldn’t work in her favor.

“Mom?” Lexi said.

Sophia pulled herself out of the whirlpool of her thoughts. “He didn’t wake me, honey. I’m sorry. He didn’t tell me he was leaving, either. I would’ve remembered.”

“Are you sure? He says you forget a lot. That you’d live in a bottle if you could.”

He often criticized her to Lexi. He was the dazzling father who swooped in bearing outlandish gifts. The parent who’d promised her a Porsche for her sixteenth birthday. He never had to raise his voice to insist she do chores, finish her dinner or improve her grades, because he wasn’t around long enough. “I’ve quit drinking,” Sophia said softly. “That’s why I went away, remember? Why you had to stay with Grandma and Grandpa.”

Alexa didn’t pursue the old argument. She was too bewildered by her father’s disappearance. “This is just so…weird.”

“It is weird.” Sophia could tell that the captain and his mates agreed. She’d heard them asking each other if anyone had seen Mr. DeBussi on deck in the wee hours. No one had. No one had heard him, either. But with the engine chugging away and the waves splashing against the sides of the boat, would anyone notice if he fell overboard?

“I keep thinking he has to be here somewhere.” Dressed in cut-offs and a white tank, Alexa leaned on the railing as her troubled eyes ran over the deck, the bar, the stairs going below. “I’m so worried.”

Sophia didn’t want her to have to accept the worst quite yet. She didn’t want her to suffer at all. Alexa was the only reason she’d remained in her loveless marriage. Skip had told her she’d never see her daughter again if she left, and she believed him. He had the support of a rich and powerful family who lived in the same small town they did. With her own mother diagnosed with schizophrenia and her father dead, she had no one. “He might turn up.”

A fresh tear rolled down Lexi’s cheek. “But you heard the captain. He said there’s no way Dad could’ve reached shore. No one could swim that far.”

The captain would’ve been right had he been talking about anyone else. But he didn’t know Skip, not like she did. Skip could do anything he set his mind to. Sophia had never met such a strong-willed individual. Or such a controlling one.

She pulled her daughter into a hug. “We’ve contacted the U.S. Consulate, and they’ve called the police. We’ll be docking at Rio to wait while they check the city and the beaches. We won’t leave without him. Let’s not give up hope too soon.”

Alexa’s head bumped against Sophia’s chest as she nodded, but she was obviously struggling to believe those measures would do any good. She couldn’t picture her father jumping over the side in the middle of the night and swimming for shore—and neither could Sophia.

The captain approached. “I’ve secured a slip at Marina de Gloria, Mrs. DeBussi,” he said. “We should be in port in less than thirty minutes.”

“Thank you, Captain Armstrong.”

His nod had the same effect as a salute. He turned away, but then he paused.

“Is there anything else?” she asked.

“I just—” he faced her again “—I wanted to warn you.”

A sense of foreboding chilled her despite the ninety degree weather. “About…”

“The police. When I spoke to them on the radio, they…they asked me if…” He cleared his throat as his eyes flicked to Alexa, and she nudged her daughter toward the stairs.

“Lexi, why don’t you go below and check our bedroom one more time, okay? Make sure everything of Daddy’s is there, even his shaving kit.”

“We know it’s there,” she protested.

Sophia gave her another little push. “Check again, will you?”

Reluctantly, her daughter headed to the stairs, casting a frown over one shoulder before she disappeared from view.

“What is it, Captain Armstrong?” Sophia asked.

“They had questions about your marriage, Mrs. DeBussi. If I’ve ever seen the two of you fight, that sort of thing.”

He hadn’t seen them fight. No one had. Skip kept up appearances at all costs. His reputation as the man who had everything meant more to him than something as malleable as the truth. He never grew violent when someone else was around, and that included Lexi. If he got upset, he simply punished Sophia later.

But anyone who was astute could no doubt feel the tension. Sophia was terrified of him. Even when he wasn’t overtly abusive, she endured many small but vicious reprisals.

“And you told them…what?” Her heart thumped so loudly she was afraid he could hear it. Skip wouldn’t like this intrusion into their personal lives, so why had he left her vulnerable to it?

“That I don’t know anything about your private life. But…I want to reassure you that even if I did, I wouldn’t speak of it.”

She found his loyalty comforting, especially because she would never have taken it for granted. She barely knew him, had hardly ever spoken to him. It didn’t matter that he was old enough to be her father, or that he was married himself. Her husband was too jealous. Any interaction would’ve risked the captain’s job. “Thank you, Captain Armstrong.”

“You’re welcome. I have the utmost respect for you, Mrs. DeBussi. But…”

She pulled the gauzy white scarf she’d paired with her summer sheath dress tighter. “Yes?”

He lowered his voice. “You should be prepared. They will ask you the same thing.”

Suddenly she grasped why he was telling her this. “You don’t mean… They don’t think I might’ve harmed Mr. DeBussi?” The irony of anyone suspecting her of hurting him almost made her laugh.

“They have to rule out that possibility.”

She could understand why, of course. But how would she convince them? Although the U.S. Consulate was acting as a liaison, she’d be dealing with foreign police; she couldn’t even speak their language. What if they arrested her?

Her face must’ve betrayed her panic because the captain took her elbow and led her to a chaise. It was nothing he’d risk doing in her husband’s presence, but she was grateful for his kindness.

“They won’t be able to prove anything, Mrs. DeBussi,” he said. “You just need to remain strong and insistent.”

They won’t be able to prove anything? What did that mean? That he suspected her—but didn’t blame her? She dared not ask him to clarify. Forcing a smile, she said, “Of course.”

If only “strong” felt like a possibility. She’d been strong once, even willful and rebellious. She regretted a great many things about those days, had been paying for her sins ever since. She considered living with Skip to be part of her penance. But the one attribute she’d lost that she wished she’d retained was her fighting spirit.

Maybe it was there, somewhere. But having a child completely disarmed her.

Author Bio:

It was a shocking experience that jump-started Brenda Novak's career as a bestselling author--she caught her day-care provider drugging her children with cough syrup to get them to sleep all day. That was when Brenda decided she needed to quit her job as a loan officer and help make a living from home.

"When I first got the idea to become a novelist, it took me five years to teach myself the craft and finish my first book," Brenda says. But she sold that book, and the rest is history. Her novels have made the New York Times, USA Today and Borders/Waldenbooks bestseller lists and won many awards, including three Rita nominations, the Book Buyer's Best, the Book Seller's Best and the National Reader's Choice Award.

Brenda and her husband, Ted, live in Sacramento and are proud parents of five children--three girls and two boys. When she's not spending time with her family or writing, Brenda is usually working on her annual fund-raiser for diabetes research--an online auction held on her Web site ( every May. Brenda has raised over $1.6 million to date.

Learn more about Brenda Novak:
Twitter:  @Brenda_Novak

Friday, November 29, 2013


The Ghosts of Rue Dumaine

Alexandrea Weis

Genre: Paranormal Romance

Publisher: World Castle Publishing

Date of Publication: 9/1/2013

ISBN: 1939865646


Number of pages: 240

Word Count: 82,000

Available for purchase at:

Book Description: 

Ready to get her life back on track after ending a painful marriage, Danica Giles returns to the Creole cottage where she grew up in the New Orleans French Quarter. Danica is anxious to rekindle her friendship with a former resident from her old neighborhood, the seductive Gaston Deslonde. But Gaston isn’t exactly a normal guy.

The charming man has been dead for over a hundred and fifty years, and the childish crush Danica once had on her ghostly playmate quickly turns into something much deeper.

When a handsome new man enters Danica’s life, Gaston vows to do whatever he can to hold on to her. Danica soon discovers that the most forbidden of all desires cannot be satisfied without paying a grave price. Love can blur the lines between life and death when you are living among The Ghosts of Rue Dumaine.

Alexandrea, please tell us about yourself and your writing.

 I am a nurse by education, a certified wildlife rehabber by choice, and a writer by design. I have been in nursing for over twenty-five years and taught at several universities, but did not really immerse myself in writing fiction until six years ago. When I am not writing, I usually am caring for a house filled with all types of wildlife. Next to writing, animals are my second passion, and I use all my medical training to care for those injured and orphaned wildlife brought to me by the public. There was no single moment or motivation that inspired me. Words always appealed to me, or more to the point, the way words could express emotion appealed. I was encouraged throughout my early years by my parents and teachers to write. By high school, it became something of a calling; something I felt compelled to do. Despite pursuing a career in medicine, writing was always in the back of my mind as my dream job. Fortunately, that dream turned into a reality. 

What does your writing space look like? 

Cramped. I have a laptop, desktop, lamp, sticky notes everywhere, and pictures of New Orleans on the wall. Plus, access to a lot of gum. There are the first copies of my books to the side, and my writing awards are framed and on the far wall. I write on a small desk, and there is not a lot of room. There is always a Chihuahua under my chair, as well.

How long have you been writing?  

I began writing at the age of eight, but did not write my first novel until I was in my thirties. That book, To My Senses, opened up a new door for me and I have been writing ever since. The Ghosts of Rue Dumaine is my 9th published novel with contracts on more well into 2016. I write in Romance, either paranormal, suspense, or contemporary.

What inspired your current book? 

Growing up in New Orleans and the French Quarter ghosts are a way of life. Everyone has them, and I wanted to show that in a story where it was not considered odd, but just part of New Orleans. In addition, I have always loved a good ghost story. I grew up in a cottage in the French Quarter and that was the setting for the book. I wanted to write about the place and the warmth I always felt there. 

Please tell us about your current work in progress. 

 The next book is called Cover to Covers and is coming out 2/1/14. It is a contemporary romance tale about a romance writer who pens novels with the heroes based on the one man she loved and left behind. Many years after the failed affair, that man walks back into her life, and she begins living the romance she has always written about. Soon, her writing changes because of him, and so does her life. They have problems to conquer, failed marriages to put behind them, but what they initially felt for each other long ago is still there. It is a tale of rediscovery and second chances. Find out what happens when a romance book moves out from behind the cover, and comes to life between the sheets.  

Has anyone in particular been an influence on your writing? 

Ian Fleming. His James Bond character (from the books, not the movies) was so detailed and interesting that you could see the guy come to life from the page. He was a master at character building.

Do you have a favorite character from your books? Who is it and why?  

Dallas August from the Nicci Beauvoir series. First, he is sexy as hell, handy with a gun, and interesting. I would love to see him in the flesh and get to know him. I think also, if I were in a dangerous situation, he would be the man to have around. 


 Danica leaned against the doorframe and reflected on the various stages of childhood and adolescence she had gone through while occupying this room. The rainbow-painted walls her mother had painstakingly decorated for her had been replaced with posters of boy bands and television heartthrobs until her mother had died. After the funeral, Danica had come home and removed all the posters in a fit of rage, wanting to be surrounded once more by her mother’s rainbows. The last year she had spent in this room, she had felt comforted by those rainbows, as if her mother’s love had been forever sealed beneath the paintbrush strokes on her walls.

"I missed this old place," she whispered.

A sudden rush of cold air moving down the hallway caused Danica to turn away from the bedroom door and peer into the darkness behind her. She took a few steps further down the hall until the aroma of cigar smoke mixed with a hint of brandy wafted in the air around her. Danica remembered that smell. It had always filled her bedroom whenever the dark man would appear.

"Is it you?" she softly called into the hallway. "It’s me, Danica. I’ve come back. Just like I said I would."

Danica walked briskly past the entrance to the master bath to the final door at the end of the hall. Without hesitation, she pushed the cypress door open and walked inside the master bedroom. The light from the large picture window overlooking the courtyard shone into the room, accentuating the deep burgundy color of the carpet beneath her feet. She stepped into the center of the room and observed the ceiling fan above. Danica waited, straining with every breath to hear the slightest stirring.

"Welcome home," a man’s wispy voice resonated around her.

A hopeful smile curled the edges of Danica’s heart-shaped mouth. "Thank you, Gaston. It’s good to be home."

A few minutes later, Danica returned to the living room, where she found Pat scrolling through messages on her cell phone.

"Let’s sign the papers," Danica happily announced. "I want to get moved in as soon as possible."

Pat gave her a wary going-over with her brown eyes. "You positive about this, Danica? I need to make sure you’re aware that other tenants have had problems—"

"It’s fine, Pat. I know you said the place is haunted and people have had some bad experiences, but this…." Danica waved to the room around her. "Just feels right."

Pat gave a skeptical shrug. "I have the papers ready back at the office. The rent is eight hundred and fifty a month. Mr. Caruso wanted me to charge you the same rate he charged your father. He insisted I make this as appealing to you as possible. You must have made quite an impression on the old man when you were a kid. He never cuts anyone a deal."

"Please tell Mr. Caruso I appreciate it."

Pat replaced her cell phone in her front jacket pocket. "Let’s turn off all of these lights and head back to the office."

Suddenly, from the shuttered window beside them, three loud knocks reverberated across the room.

Pat grabbed at her chest. "Jesus! What in the hell was that?"

Danica smirked as she watched the color drain from Pat’s perfectly made-up face. "Just someone outside on the street banging on the wall…happened a lot when I was a kid. Drunk tourists would often bang on the shutters at all hours."

Pat regained her composure. "Of course, you’re right. I didn’t think of that."

Danica motioned to the pocket doors leading to the kitchen. "Let’s get you out of here, Pat, before you have a heart attack."

"Gladly," Pat offered and rushed to the doors. "I never liked this place. I just hope you know what you’re doing, Danica."

"I know," Danica asserted with a grin. "I’ve always known."

Available for purchase at:

About the Author: 

Alexandrea Weis is an advanced practice registered nurse who was born and raised in New Orleans. Her first novel, To My Senses, introduced readers to the world of Nicci Beauvoir and garnered numerous awards and rave reviews. 

Her popular second Nicci Beauvoir novel, Recovery, won the Gold Medal for best romantic suspense from The Reader’s Favorite Book Awards 2011, and was named best Romantic Suspense novel by the Spring 2011 NABE Pinnacle Book Awards. Her fourth novel, Broken Wings, won best Contemporary Romance by the NABE Pinnacle Book Awards in 2012, was a Silver Medal winner in the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards for Romance, as well as a finalist in the USA Book Awards for Romance in 2012, and a finalist in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards for Contemporary Romance for 2012. Diary of a One-Night Stand, was released in August 2012 and was named a Paranormal Romance Guild’s Best Reviewed of 2012. Her last novel, Acadian Waltz was a Readers’ Favorite Book Awards finalist for Best Contemporary Romance and Best Southern Fiction.

A permitted wildlife rehabber with the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, Weis rescues orphaned and injured wildlife. She lives with her husband and pets in New Orleans.

Where you can find Alexandrea Weis on the Internet: