Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Welcome Scarlett Valentine, author of Awakening
Join me now and meet the talented, award-winning author, Scarlett Valentine. She's cornered the market on romance, love, and not just a little good, old fashioned lust. Don't believe me? See the excerpt below of Awakening. This section is hot, hot, hot! But first, Scarlett's interview, where we learn more about her and her delightful sense of humor.
1. What is your favorite book?
If this is a question about what one book I’d take to a deserted island with me, the one book I’d read forever and ever, you’d still be waiting for me to board the boat. There are so many good books out there. I just couldn’t decide!
If you were to ask me my favorite genre, then I’d have to say romance and most of its subgenres . . . historical, contemporary, erotica, suspense, etc. I love a good love story with a happily ever after.
2. Who is your favorite writer?
Just as I couldn’t choose a favorite book, I couldn’t pick just one favorite writer. I love romance, but that’s not all I read. For example, I enjoy historical fiction by Elizabeth Chadwick. For romantic suspense, it would be Linda Howard. For thrillers/straight suspense, Dean Koontz. Literary fiction, John Steinbeck, etc . . . But I couldn’t pick just one author to cover all books.
3. If the answers to 1 & 2 are different, why?
I have eclectic reading tastes, and I’m a very moody reader. I could have two or three books on the go at one time and read the one I’m in the mood for. This is probably why I really love digital books and ereaders. Load up my Kindle of all my favorite books and then I’ll get on the boat destined for a deserted island (as long as I have a solar powered recharger with me too)
4. How old were you when you were first published?
Well . . . I did self-publish in the 5th grade, but I don’t think that counts. My writing career started back in 1995 when I wrote some promotional materials. Around the same time I started reviewing books. Then I published travel articles starting in 1998. It wasn’t until 2006 that my first fiction was published, and since then I’ve had several stories published. (notice how I actually avoided the whole age question?)
5. What writing style do you most abhor?
I really dislike passive or lazy writing. I know we all do it at some point, or it slips into our work when we’re not looking. But books that are rife with it are really annoying and difficult to read. I want to use a red pen and send corrections back to the editor! That’s right. The editor. No matter how passive an author’s work is, the editor should have worked that out with the author before publication.
6. What is your favorite writing cliché?
I think they’re all annoying and try to avoid them like the plague! You can always tell which authors are babes in the wood by their word choices. I believe clichés are screaming meemies begging to be brought to heel. In this day and age, authors are barking up the wrong tree by letting clichés rule the roost in their writing. It doesn’t take much to think outside the box and come up with a unique way of laying it on the line.
Do you really want me to go on? I can do this all day!
7. What is your favorite word?
I really love words and names. The more unusual the more I like them. It’s too hard to choose just one, but some of my favorites include: Love . . . Honor . . . Loyalty . . . Puppies!
8. When and how do you write? (typewriter, Mac, in a café, for four hours each morning, etc?)
When? You know, I don’t have a schedule other than my natural inclination is to begin mid to late afternoon and keep going past midnight. However, now that I’m married, I’ve had to adjust my schedule. Evening time is the only time I get to see The Man and I would miss him too much if I locked myself away from him to put a few words on a page.
How? Probably like most of us these days—on my computer. Until last February, I’d be found anchored to a big desktop machine. I got tired of that and bought a laptop. It’s not my first. I’ve gone through many machines in my writing life. But I found a great sale price on the brand I love and couldn’t help myself. And that it has a candy red case didn’t hurt either. It’s quick—much quicker than my old desktop. It’s flashy (did I mention it’s candy red?). And it means I can take it anywhere. Sounds like a sportscar, doesn’t it? Really, it is. Love it! Of course, now my desktop seems all that much slower, so I see a new desktop in my future!
Where? Nowadays I usually write in our dining room, which overlooks our big grassy back yard, a huge pasture and the back of a bog where turf is still hand-cut in the traditional way. It’s an awesome place to watch the seasons change
9. What is your greatest fear when you first turn in a manuscript?
That the publisher or agent ignores me. More and more I’m seeing this on their websites—“If you don’t hear from us within 4-6 months, please to not query, as we’re not interested.” Well, how do I know if they even received my query or submission in the first place? The internet email delivery system is about as reliable as the real post. Stuff does get lost or go into spam folders by mistake or simply overlooked.
10. In what era do you wish you’d been born?
I like the era I was born in, but I think it would be interesting to pop into different eras for a week or so just to see what things were like . . . like maybe Renaissance times to attend some of those grand balls and wear an over the top gown!
11. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
The phrases and words I overuse are usually curse words. My favorite curse is ‘crap in a handbasket’. I know. I’m very bad. I use it so much the dogs run when I say it.
12. Which talent would you most like to have?
I’d love to be able to sing or play a musical instrument. I love music and it irks me that I can’t make any. I learned to play guitar in school but I didn’t have a good teacher so I wasn’t inspired to keep it up. I’ve thought about buying another guitar and try to relearn, but it’s still just a thought. Mostly because I haven’t had the time. And because I’ve considered learning a different instrument. Just can’t decide between an Irish flute or harp!
Or did you mean special talent? Like flying. Yeah, I’d like to fly!
13. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I’m not sure. My ego generally isn’t that big. I do aspire to things—being a good friend, and good person in general; being honest in all things; and try to be my word.
14. Who is your favorite hero of fiction?
Currently, Richard Castle. Okay, I know he’s technically not a hero in the traditional sense, but I love this character. He’s quick –witted, charming and creative, but he’s also everything I look for in any hero—honorable, loyal, brave, not afraid to love, and he’s sexy as hell while he’s doing it.
15. How would you like to die?
Wait! I’m not immortal? Aah, man!!
Awakening by Scarlett Valentine
Ysbail of Ellesmere is a pawn in her guardian's war. For decades there has been unrest between the marcher lords and Owain Gwynedd ap Gruffydd, King of Gwynedd. The most recent war had been the bloodiest she could remember in her eighteen years. Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys, and his allies lost untold numbers of men at the hands of Owain's soldiers. When a settlement of truce is presented to Madog, it's at Ysbail's expense. She is to marry Bedwyr ap Owain, one of King Owain’s bastard sons, and his most notorious henchman. If all the rumors and stories she's heard are true, she knows her marriage will be rife with horror and fear.
Since proving himself worthy with his sword, Bedwyr fights at his king's side. He's shed oceans of blood and sent untold numbers of men to their graves. He's become what his name foretold—the grave-knower. He's afraid of nothing, least of all death. All men fear him, including those who fight at his side, and sometimes even his own king. Terror of him lives within women's hearts; only the bravest of whores accept him into their beds. And children weave their own tales of the monster they hear him to be, embellishing the details to their own gruesome degrees.
When King Owain informs Bedwyr that he's to marry Ysbail of Ellesmere as part of a peace settlement with Madog, Bedwyr is furious. A man such as Bedwyr can only survive on the battlefield. For without love, hatred will send a man like him to the edge of insanity. Then push him over. But when Bedwyr sees Ysbail for the first time, blood-thirst turns to blood-lust, and he vows to show her that she should have no fear of him.
Rhyd Ddu, mountains of Eryri, Cymru—1149
“Take it off, Ysbail.”
She stood her ground, shoulders back, gazing into her husband’s black eyes, daring him to make her.
Their marriage was still fresh in her mind, as was the humiliating bedding that followed. He had granted her some respect in the task by ushering would-be witnesses from the chamber, but he had done no more than that before laying her on the bed, lifting her gown, and taking her most precious possession. While he had apologized for what must be done, she still had not liked it. His taking of her had been swift and every bit as horrible as she had heard it would be.
Her father, Alun ap Wnffre of Ellesmere, had been the governor and close friend of Madog ap Maredudd, Prince of Powys. Her mother had died in childbirth, and Ysbail had barely been out of swaddling when her father was killed fifteen years previously during one of the frequent border wars. Madog had promised to raise her until she was of marriageable age. With the rapidity of the event, she felt Madog could not wait to be free from his responsibility. So, afraid she might bolt, he had waited until her arrival in Oswestry from her home at Ellesmere to tell her of her betrothal.
He was right to worry, for she was to marry Bedwyr ap Owain, one of King Owain Gwynedd’s bastard sons, and his most notorious henchman. Legends preceded Bedwyr. She grew up hearing tales of his bloodlust and the carnage left in his wake. He was what his name foretold, for Bedwyr meant grave-knower.
“Take it off, Ysbail. I would see you now.”
She inhaled sharply at his repeated command, his gaze piercing through the chamber’s heavy shadows. The only light came from the small fire in the hearth, which only served to enhance her husband’s fearsome visage.
Bedwyr was not unpleasant to look upon. Had she not already known of his reputation, and despite the scar crossing his left brow, she might have called him handsome. Dark, unruly waves hung about his shoulders. More often than not, they also shielded his eyes and hid high cheekbones. Belying his shaggy and unkempt appearance, he preferred a shaven face, which accented his ever-present scowl and served to deepen his features. His smile, if it could be called such, looked more like a snarl—the white of his teeth being the only brightness about him.
Just the size of her husband should have frightened her, never mind his looks. But in the time it took to travel from Oswestry to Bedwyr’s keep high in the mountains, he had been nothing but considerate and thoughtful. He had not tried to bed her again during their journey, but she knew once they arrived he would waste no time forcing himself upon her. He was a man after all. At least he had given her a pair of weeks to adjust to her new home before making it clear he would come to her. Earlier in the day, he had ordered she and her meager belongings be moved into his chamber. The lustful look she saw on his face told her in no uncertain terms that he would take her again this night.
She knit her brows together, hoping to emphasize her scowl and displeasure at what was to come. When she made no effort to yield to him, he reached up and pulled free the laces at the top of her gown. He slipped a single finger under the edge of the fabric, letting the back of it brush one of her nipples. She gasped at the sensation.
“Remove it or I will do it for you.” His voice was deep in timbre and low in volume, yet spoke of his determined insistence. Stranger or no, she knew she would do his bidding or suffer his wrath.
She felt her nostrils flare as she breathed deeply, trying to control her racing heart.
With trembling fingers, she loosened the ties and pulled the gown over her head, letting it fall to the floor beside her. The fabric of her shift rasped her breasts. She knew without looking down that her bosom was well in evidence, for the look on her husband’s face told her.
“The shift as well.”
She swallowed hard while continuing to gaze at him. She kept her spine stiff, refusing to cower before him. She would not let him see her apprehension.
Removing the final barrier between them, she let it slip from her fingers onto the pooled gown.
It was her wifely duty to give her husband what he wanted without their private chamber, and within. Her only solace was that if the task went as quickly as before, she could endure it. Just.
“Ysbail,” he murmured, gawping at her and unmoving. Was there a hint of surprise in his voice?
Perhaps he had changed his mind about bedding her once he saw her petite form and the smallness of her breasts. Now that he was seeing her fully for the first time it was very possible she repulsed him.
Not so, she found. Her flesh prickled as he raked her with his burning gaze. When she tried to shield herself, he gently brushed her hands away.
“No, cariad. Do not hide yourself from me. You are exquisite. I wish to look at you.”
Reluctantly, she lowered her arms to her sides. Bedwyr touched every bit of her with his gaze. The defiant flush she felt on her cheeks a moment before now warmed her entire body. Or was it heat from the fire prickling her naked flesh?
He stepped slowly around her and came to a stop at her back. She would not look to see what he was about. She squeezed her eyes shut and wished it over with, whatever was to come.
Then his warm, battle-roughened hands were on her shoulders. He sought not to still her or keep her from running — ‘twas just a touch. Her bedding had been little more than pushing her skirts about her waist. He had not even touched her when he leaned over her and thrust himself into her. But now . . .
His hands slid across her bare shoulders to the nape of her neck. Licks of fire trailed in the wake of his fingers. A moment later she felt him unweaving her hair from the long plait she wore. He finger-combed the strands and spread them over her shoulders, the long fair curls tickling her breasts. Her heart quickened at his gentleness.
Then his head dipped to her nape and she heard him inhale, long and slow.
"Mmmm—" His breath washed across her flesh.
Bedwyr stroked the length of her arm. Taking her right hand in his, he placed delicate kisses on her fingertips, her palm, her inner wrist. Fire raced through her to pool in her belly. The sensation ignited something within her, and it was not entirely unpleasant.
She looked up over her shoulder and their gazes met once more. The look in his black eyes had softened, yet at the same time had become more intense. A length of dark hair fell over his face, further shielding his expression in the shadows. Not that she could name it. She was ignorant in the ways of lust, but she felt sure that would change when this night was over.
She looked away. Emotions whirled inside her. She did not want a repeat of her bedding, yet Bedwyr’s touch ignited something within her with just a light touch and the way he looked at her.
He tilted her head sideways and whispered in her ear. His breath stole along her nape.
“You shake. You have no need to fear me, cariad. I will not harm you. I will honor you each time we are together. Especially in this.”
“There is no . . . honor . . . in this.” Her voice betrayed her with its breathlessness.
“No honor? I am sure it was a shock to learn of your betrothal as you had, then forced to surrender yourself to a stranger in such a barbaric way. But, were I any other man, I would not have waited this long for you to heal from your bedding. I would have had you on your back many times by now, with my cock buried deep within in you.” He ground his erection against her bottom as if to prove his point.
She emboldened herself. “If that is what you want, then take me and get it over with.”
Bedwyr growled. “You know not what you tempt me with, gwraig.”
“I tempt you with nothing. I only wish to get this over with. If you wish to honor me, I pray you do not toy with me. If this is what I have to look forward to for the rest of my life, I would rather have it done quickly than have blood sport made of me.”
“Oh, Ysbail, I will toy with you. But there will be nothing quick about it.”
Ysbail did not want him to see her alarm at of his promise. She was sure she was not afraid of him, but the reality of what was to come crept over her suddenly, stealing her strength.
Bedwyr slid his tongue along the edge of her ear. Her belly quivered with the sensations shooting through her.
“Does this pain you?”
“Nay,” she gasped.
His lips moved to the curve of her nape and placed a kiss on the delicate flesh there. “And this?”
“N-nay, my lord.”
When he palmed her breast, he seemed to rob her of her senses. He rasped his thumb across her nipple, rolling it into a stiff peak. Pinching it lightly weakened her knees. Her body felt suddenly weak. Were it not for his strong arm around her waist, she would surely collapse onto the flagstones.
“And what of that?”
How could she reply without breath in her lungs?
Awakening can be purchased at: