Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Karen Ranney is in the Lair

hosted by Donna MacMeans

On Tartan Ink, the blog I share with Sue-Ellen Welfonder, we occasionally have author guests. Sue-Ellen has come up with thirty questions. We ask our guests to pick ten of those to answer.

One of the thirty is this: do you believe in gift books?

A gift book is one of those enchanted books where everything goes right. The plot flows, the writing is easy, your editor loves it, reviews are wonderful, and sales are great.

My Beloved is one of my two gift books. (The other is A Scottish Love – 12/2011. How lovely to have both books out in the same year.) The book, my only medieval, was originally published in 2000, and has just been re-released (7/29/11).

I dreamed the plot of My Beloved, but that's a story I've told before. Something I've never told anyone is that I knew exactly what kind of book I wanted – had to – write. I already knew the atmosphere I wanted: intensely mysterious, sensual, with characters who longed for each other.

The story of My Beloved focused on two people – a tormented man, Sebastian of Langlinais, and his convent reared wife.

Sebastian had a great secret, one that would destroy his holdings and strip his family of wealth if the Church discovered it.

Sebastian was a leper.

Juliana, recently summoned from the convent that had been her home for years was suddenly faced with a man who remained in the shadows, attired in a monk's robe with cowl. This man had a strange and troubling request of her. If she would pretend to be his wife, he would ensure her life was luxurious.

Through the years, Juliana had been trained in the art of being a scribe, and in order to consent to Sebastian's odd arrangement, she wanted the inks and powders denied her in the convent.

The very last thing either one of them expected was to fall in love.

The Church held great power in the middle ages. A man suspected of being a leper

was declared legally dead, and his property and wealth confiscated, while he was sent to live in exile. The Mass of Separation dictated what would have happened to Sebastian:

I forbid you to enter the church or monastery, fair, mill, market-place, or company of persons...ever to leave your house without your leper's costume...to wash your hands or anything about you in the stream or fountain. I forbid you to enter a tavern…and so on. In other words, lepers were shunned at all times.

How could I write a romance about a leper? Not any leper, but Sebastian of Langlinais, a man of great honor and determination. My Beloved is a love story, a tale of the sacrifices made for love. It's also a story of power, faith, and perception.

Here's the scene where Sebastian and Juliana meet for the first time as adults.

She turned and stifled a sound of fright.

A specter stood there watching her. A shadow limned in light. No, only a man garbed in monk's habit. But he seemed so tall, so broad of chest, that he filled the doorway. Indeed, he looked to be more than a mortal man.

"Are you Death?" she asked in a tremulous whisper.

"Come to judge you in your final hour?" His voice was low, a rumble of sound. Had he spoken or had she just imagined the words? "What would you confess if I were? Or does your silence indicate a pure soul?"

Not Death then. Death did not speak in a voice that hinted at irony.

She felt absurdly weak, as if her knees wished to give out beneath her.

"Are you a zealot, then?" she asked, hearing the tremble in her voice and wishing she was capable of hiding it.


His cowl shadowed his face so well that she could see no hint of his features. She clenched her hands together at her waist, forced herself to take a deep breath, ask yet another question.

"A monk?"

The words came softly, seemed tinted with kindness. "I am your husband, my lady wife."

There's a touch of mystery featuring the Cathars, the Knights Templar, and the early banking system they created.

I hope you have the opportunity to read My Beloved, and let me know what you think (karen@karenranney.com).

In the meantime, since I'm thrilled to be a guest at Romance Bandits, I'd love to give away two copies of My Beloved to a random commenter. If you're a writer, do you believe in gift books? If you're a reader, has a dream influenced your actions in some way?


Kim in Hawaii said...

Aloha! I dream about Alba!

Kim in Hawaii said...

Luckily, Scottish sailors (and immigrants) brought Scottish culture to the islands!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Kim, looks like the rooster's going to a luau! (sp?)

Karen, I'm so excited to have you here. I'm a fan girl from way back. I actually read MY BELOVED when it first came out and loved it to death - remember crying in a few bits, it was so moving. You write such wonderfully noble (in the character sense as well as the other!) heroes. MY BELOVED is one of my faves of yours although I think my absolute fave is the sequel to MB set in the English Civil War. Is it called MY TRUE LOVE? Anyway, it's absolutely exquisite.

Welcome to the Bandits. I hope you have a wonderful day here.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Congrats Kim!
The GR complained all day yesterday that he wanted to join you in paradise and VOILA! He's ALL YOURS!

Karen, WELCOME to the Lair! We're sooo happy you could join us and BIG THANX to Donna for inviting you! My Beloved sounds WONDERFUL!


Donna MacMeans said...

Looks like the GR will have to break out his kilt again. Way to grab him Kim.

Donna MacMeans said...

Karen -

I loved the excerpt you posted - what a way to end it with the announcement that he's her husband. Loved it.

Dream books - I can't say I've actually "dreamed" a book. I'm one of those that has difficulty remembering my dreams. I have one book that was a dream to write - but I don't think that's the same thing.

flchen1 said...

How lovely, Karen! I'm not sure a dream's influenced my actions knowingly, but there are occasional dreams that seem so vivid that when you awake, it takes quite some time to "return" to the world around us.

Have fun with the GR, Kim!

Deb said...

Karen, thank you for being in the Lair today. The excerpt you posted has me wanting to read more! I've not read MB and the premise is like Beauty and the Beast, yet different.

I've never had a dream that made me think twice about something, but I did have a sort of premonition last summer that woke me out of a sound sleep. Maybe I was dreaming, but don't remember....A friend's father had died and I had the strange feeling, almost to the point of an anxiety attack, that I had no business driving the three hours to the funeral. I did not go because that feeling was so strong and I felt horrible because I've known my friend for over 20 years.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I can say in all honesty I have never read a story with this premise before.

As to dreams, if I remember them at all it is only bits and pieces with no connection. I don't think there is any way a book could come from them. I am truly awed by any and all authors. I know from being here in the lair how hard authors work to get a story to us, but to begin the story you have to have an idea, still can't figure out how you guys even get it started.

Helen said...

Well done Kim have fun with him

Waving Hi to Karen

You have always been an autobuy author for me since the Scottish Lords series and I have all of your books I am a bit behind reading them at the moment and I do have My Beloved waiting for me to read I know I am going to love it.

As for dreams I very rarely dream anything that I remember so no this hasn't happened to me.

It is great having you in the lair and I do love The Tartans I have been so busy lately I need to drop by. Thanks Donna for inviting Karen along today.

Have Fun

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

This is a book I have to read! Which is why I absolutely love blogs that intro me to authors I've not tried or not heard about. Karen, I've read and just not found this particular title, I'll let you know if I have any interesting dreams of good plots.. [not likely!!]

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Kim! (Or was it good night?) The Scots certainly got around, didn't they? I'd love to see the Hawaiian version of the Highland Fling!

Anonymous said...

Anna, I'm thrilled to be here - I had spotty Internet reception yesterday, and made a nuisance of myself with AT&T. Two repairmen were out here last night until 9:30, replacing my modem, some filters and wires. I told them, "But you don't understand! I HAVE to be online tomorrow!" So glad their efforts on my behalf worked.

Thank you, Anna, for mentioning My True Love. (As well as your lovely comments about My Beloved.) MTL was one of those "difficult" books. I think each author must have one.

Anonymous said...

AC - Thank you for the warm welcome! I'm delighted to be here.

Anonymous said...

Hi Donna!

I think dreaming the plot of My Beloved was the first time that's ever happened to me. Start to finish, as if it were a movie in my mind. My subconscious had probably put it all together before I slept. Still, it was a fund way to plot a book!

Anonymous said...

Flchn1 - I've had that happen many times. I love it when it works in my favor. I wake dreading a task, only to realize it was part of a dream. Yea!

Anonymous said...

Good morning, Deb. I had a similar premonition once. I was newly married, and my husband and I were supposed to drive from DC to PA to visit his family. I knew that I shouldn't go. It wasn't just dreading my new in-laws, it was a terror I couldn't truly articulate. I didn't go, and unfortunately, that pretty much set the tone of my relationship with them. They didn't, of course, understand.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dianna,

The plot to My Beloved is very different. I think ideas - or the way I get ideas - are a little bit of magic. With me, it always starts with the characters. Then, I chip away at the stuff that's NOT supposed to be there.

Anonymous said...

Helen, you are such a sweetie! Thank you for your lovely words.

Anonymous said...

Girlygirlhoosier52 - I hope you get a chance to read My Beloved and let me know what you think. (Or let me know about your dreams!)

Anonymous said...

Blanket apology, right now, for any typos in my comments.

I meant "fun" rather than "fund", of course!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Avon is re-releasing My True Love on 2/28/12 in paperback. (Why does it feel unreal to write 2012? Where does the time go?)

Donna MacMeans said...

Dianna -

Just wanted to say that, like Karen, writing is magical. It's amazing. It's hard work (especially when writing the middle) but when I'm deep in a story, it's like someone else is concocting the story and whispering it in my ears. Things that were written into the story on a whim, come back to have serious significance. It's magic and I love it (grin).

Donna MacMeans said...

Karen -

I'm so glad you were able to get our your internet connections in order before today. Didn't Sue-ellen have similar problems? There isn't some kilted spirit with a grudge against technology hanging out at Tartan Ink, is there? (grin). Either way - glad you could make it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Donna,

I have accused Sue-Ellen of sending her gremlin to my house. Her problem was hardware; mine was AT&T. Still, sometimes I think gremlins are real, and were IT guys in a former life.

babyalba lee said...

some of my dreams come true in some ways or another, so they influence my actions greatly. i tend to be a lot careful and vigilant. it's kinda creepy but it's better to be careful than be sorry.

catslady said...

Oh I so enjoyed the excerpt. And I was surprised too with him being a leper. It's a subject that I know very little about but it sounds like such an original premise and fascinating/shocking at the same time! I always strive to remember my dreams and many times I can understand what had happened during the day that ended up in my dreams but I have never had anything that had to do with the future.

Suzanne Ferrell said...

Hi Karen, welcome to the Bandit Lair!

My Beloved sounds very interesting. I never would've thought of having a leper for a hero. One of the most moving movies for me was Ben Hur especially when he finds his mother and sister in the leper colony, and of course the end when t hey are cleansed by a miracle. (Must watch that movie again soon.)

As for gift books, no, I can't say I've had any of those. Each one has been a true piece of "work". Not tooth-pulling-work, but butt-in-seat sort of work. One in particular went fairly quickly, but then had multiple revisions. Good news, it just sold to Ellora's Cave for the Blush line titled, Cantrell's Bride

Minna said...

I usually don't even remember my dreams!

Anonymous said...

Hi babyalba lee,

Now, that would be spooky - especially if you don't know which dream will be real!

Anonymous said...

Hi catslady -

When My Beloved was first published, in 2000, I was really careful not to tell anyone about Sebastian. I worried that people would let the "cat out of the bag" (in homage to your name). But this time, I decided to tell everyone.

I do love the character - I think he is the definition of honorable.

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzanne - Congratulations on the sale! It's always wonderful to have someone else validate all that work. And buying a book is always validation.

You're right, the scene in Ben Hur is memorable. I especially love the music.

Anonymous said...

Hi Minna,

Isn't it funny that, sometimes, you can remember the dream for the first few minutes but later it's gone? That's been my experience, normally.

Desere said...

Hi Karen,

The books sounds just delicious ! I cant always remember my dreams but as for a idea for a book from a dream yes I do have them but I am no writer and when trying to pen it to paper it just looks plain wrong and out of bounds,maybe one day it will look good enough to submit to someone but for now I would rather like to find authors to pass my ideas onto so they can make them into the materpieces that I know they already are doing !

Thanks for a truly tantilizing post and thanks for the chance to win!


June M. said...

Hi Karen! I have read many of your books and LOVED them. This one I have not read though. It sounds great.

I generally don't remember much of my dreams since I grew up. But I do remember having one as a child that my grandfather had had a heart attack and waking in a panic. Of course, I had my parents call and he was fine, but I did later find out that he had had numerous small heart attacks that I did not know of.

jo robertson said...

Wow, Karen, great excerpt. Welcome to the Lair. I'm eager to see how the leper story plays out in a romance.

Yay, Kim!! Again!!?? What's going on between you and the chook? Hmmmmm.

jo robertson said...

Oops, forgot to answer the question. I don't think any of my books are "good books" in the sense that they came easily to me. I seem born to struggle with them LOL.

Maybe a future dream will lay one out all nice and tidy for me.

Anna Campbell said...

Great news about MY TRUE LOVE coming out for a new batch of readers, Karen. I actually read it before MB so it was a lovely surprise when I got the background to the history of the wonderful house in MTL. I must re-read it. I read it a couple of times when I first bought it but haven't picked it up for a couple of years now. Cried in that one too! Interesting that MTL was a problem book. Almost ALL of mine have been problem books except MIDNIGHT'S WILD PASSION, the most recent one. For some reason, that one felt like the angels were dictating it to me. Wish they were all like that. Sadly I've since written the first draft of the next book and the angels were notable in their absence. Sigh. Clearly the angels had a better offer!

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL Anna - That was my experience with The Trouble with Moonlight - my second book. I felt like I was channeling some long past author who just had to tell this story and chose me to be their receptacle. I figured this meant I had reached some magical point in my ability to plot a book. I fully expected the next one to be that easy...not so. They've been hard work since. (grin).

Donna MacMeans said...

Karen -

Do you keep a notepad and pen by your bed to jot down dreams? Any other dream books since this?

Anonymous said...

Hi Desere,

Practice makes perfect, which goes for all of us, I think. Maybe one day, you'll know that your work is ready to be shared. Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Hi June,

Thank you for the lovely compliment about my books.

The experience with your grandfather reminded me of something a psychologist once said to me about dreams. We store away these conscious observations, pile them away into our subconscious in order to deal with them later. They come out in our dreams.

Maybe your child self was aware that something was wrong.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo,

If you have a chance to read My Beloved, I'd love to know your thoughts - good or bad.

Anonymous said...

Anna, may the angels visit you again!

MTL was an absolute bear to write. It took a very long time for the bald patches to fill in - from my tearing my hair out.

Anonymous said...

Donna, I cheat - a lot. I have both a Digital Voice Recorder and a Livescribe pen. What one doesn't catch, in the way of errant thoughts, brilliant musings, dream plots, and scraps of shower dialogue, the other one does.

I've had one other "magical" book and that was the one due out in November, so it's funny that they're both showing up in the same year.

Barbara E. said...

My Beloved sounds like a wonderful story and I'm looking forward to reading it. I always enjoy a tortured hero, and Sebastian sounds like a fantastic example.
I can't say that I've ever been influenced by a dream that I can recall. I sometimes do some thinking before I fall asleep and have made decisions as a result though.

LilMissMolly said...

I don't recall too many of my dreams, so I have to say I do not let my dreams influence what I do in life.

Cathy P said...

Hi, Karen! Welcome! I don't think a dream has ever influenced what I did. They usually make me want to cover up my head and forget them since they are usually more like nightmares.

Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara - I think Sebastian fits the definition of a tortured hero to a T.

If you get a chance to read the book, I hope you'll let me know what you thought.

Anonymous said...

Hi LilMissMolly - wise woman, not to let dreams influence your life.

Have you ever been angry at someone in a dream, and had it carry over into real life? I have, and it's a silly thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cathy - when I'm in the throes of a first draft, weird things happen to my sleep schedule. I go to a three/six hour pattern. Sleep three hours, work six. But the dreams are just wild. Very bookish, in that they have a beginning, middle, and end, with a plot. Wild.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all, for having me at Romance Bandits today. I've thoroughly enjoyed the visit.

I'm taking my faithful companion, Flash the Wonder Dog, (aka Sir Barksalot) to the treadmill for his last "walk" of the day. After that, we're both ready to crash and burn.

Have a great night, all! And, again, thank you!

Louisa Cornell said...

The GR in a kilt AND a lei? Or maybe a grass kilt? Boggles the mind! Good luck, Kim!

HUGE fangirl moment here. I LOVE your books, Karen!

BUT, I have never read this one! And it sounds AMAZING!

I DO believe in gift books. I have several writer friends who have dreamed books, entire books.

Me, I dreamed the opening of The Raven's Heart (my 2009 GH Finalist book.)

And I dreamed a scene from a book which I awoke and wrote down. And I realized there were two books before this one - that this scene came from the third book in the series, but all three heroes were in the scene I dreamed. Weird.

A number of professionals in the business have talked about one's first book being worked out in one's head before the writing ever starts. Do you remember your first book and was it like that for you?

SO glad you stopped by the Lair, Karen!

Cassondra said...

Karen, welcome to the lair.

I'm late to the party, as always. Your book sounds absolutely wonderful, and yes, I guess I do believe in gift books. Sort of.

My first book was like that--inspired by a dream, and I wrote it in three weeks. It's also the book that I learned to write on, so I rewrote it a bunch of times, and that was just plain painful.
Still, I consider that book a gift. It's the one which finaled in the Golden Heart and got me invited to this party. :0)

I've had one other book flow like that, and alas, it flowed all the way up to a critical point, then it stopped, and I've never been able to finish it. The rest of the manuscripts have not come nearly so easily.

I admit that I wish for that flow of gift books now that I have a tad more skill. But the fates don't seem to wish to grant that. I suppose we have to appreciate the ones we do get.

I have a Kindle now, and it's a terrible thing. I can just pick it up and poof, there's the next book I'm fascinated with. Looks like I'll be logging on for this one. I just can't ignore the atmosphere you've set her with this teaser. *sigh* Now the to-be-read pile is a to-be-read file, I guess. At least I don't have to dust it.

Desere said...

That is so sweet of you thank you Karen I can only hope my stories will be as amazing as yours !

Di said...

I'm very late, but I took it as a sign I should attend. I visit with Karen daily on her blogs, and I'm reading Donna's Redeeming the Rogue (and loving it). as for the question, occasionaly my dreams have made a situation clearer but often I just wake up confused & then realize it was just a dream.

sallans d at yahoo dot com