House of Xannon
Genre: urban fantasy
Word Count: 65k
Cover Artist: bookcovercorner.com
On instinct, Tarian bowed her head in return, shocked. “Dulra. Welcome.” She breathed the words, awed by the presence of creatures she’d only known through legends. What is the Balance Court doing here?
“Tarian A’marie Maitea Xannon, of the House of Xannon, Keeper of the Water Artifact, you are summoned to the Balance Court.”
She’d been summoned, and every particle of her being cried out to answer it.
Despite the advanced stage of her pregnancy, Tarian has some explaining to do. Fulfilling her Agreement with the Carraig was an issue of honor—but it led to complications. The Keeper of the House of Xannon is called to account, and Tarian must embark on a dangerous mission which could cost her the life of her unborn daughter, end in disaster for all planes of existence—or save the world.
Some promises are deadly to keep. Will the promise of magic be one of them?
Tarian forced her eyes open to focus on the rock in front of her. Earth as dense as anything she’d ever seen, more power than she’d ever experienced. The feeling of old that surrounded it. The sense of longing as if the stone itself wanted freedom from the long and arduous task it had been set. She grabbed onto the longing and let the stream of energy pour into it, into the Stulos, then twisted it as she’d done once before. Another twist, and the flow of power into the Stulos reversed. Three streams of colored light became one solid column of white.
A thousand voices sounded in her head. High ones, low ones, her sister’s voice, dolphin cries and emotion, all around and through her. The energy bound them into something greater than mere humans and Ancients. They were timeless. Eternal. It was almost like she felt when she made love with Daric, but…different. At once more intense and at the same time more encompassing. Less personal. More global. As though the universe spoke through her, and she through it. The awe of it. Tears spilled onto her cheeks.
Another cramp gripped her body and she swayed on her knees, gripping the rock as it crumbled, trying to maintain her balance as the ground shifted and her body twisted. Not now. Too soon. Not now. Too soon. She couldn’t be…the baby couldn’t be…
The voices rose in her head. Everyone joined in as the power flowed around and through, around and through, until she, the Caraigg, her sister, the baby, and the dolphins were all one with it. The crack in the Stulos widened, a giant lesion extending from the floor all the way up until she couldn’t see the end. Cold retreated, heat entered. A loud snap. The Stulos shattered into a million pieces that hung suspended in air for a flash of eternity before rushing outward to the edges of the cavern.
A dolphin cry sounded, triumphant, exalted, as the world exploded in a rain of cold fire, magic power, ash and lava.
Did you always wanted to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
No, not at all. The first thing I remember wanting to be was an actor. Then a singer. Then I went through various phases that included psychologist, reporter, broadcast journalist, photographer, and astronomer. I had a very hard time making up my mind. Though my high school English teacher encouraged me to be a writer, I didn’t take her up on the notion until much, much later.
When did you first consider yourself a “writer”?
When I quit my day job four years ago. It’s a huge step, to let go of the security blanket that a steady job provides, and jump into a new career with both feet. I had to call myself a writer then, to stay sane.
How long did it take to get your first book published?
Three years. Though my first book published, Stronger Than Magic, is not the first book I wrote. The first book was a learning experience that’ll stay locked up in a virtual file cabinet until I get the courage to look at it again. It’s that bad. Truly.
Do you do another job except for writing and can you tell us more about it?
Yes, I’m an independent graphic designer and photographer. I design book covers for other authors, because we all do judge a book by the cover.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
My latest book is Promise of Magic, book 3 in the House of Xannon series.
Who is your publisher? Or do you self-publish?
I’m an author-publisher.
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Oh goodness, there’s really no way of knowing. The original idea could have been decades ago. Once I have a solid idea and I’ve worked out the basic outline (and yes, I do outline, though my editor doesn’t think I do) it takes about 60 days to write the rough draft, give or take, and about the same to revise. Then another 30-60 days of editing and revising and proofreading, etc. before it’s ready to launch. I always have two or three books in the queue, working in rotation. When one is with the editor, I’m writing the rough draft on the next, and so on. That way I can publish every 60 days or so.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
The House of Xannon series has a lot more story to tell, so continuing that is in the immediate future. Beyond that, I have a new series in the planning stages that will be a sci-fi/urban fantasy blend, and possibly at the same time a YA dystopian/sci fi trilogy. I’m excited about all of them. I type fast but sometimes I wish I could have four hands, to type even faster. So many stories to tell, so little time!
What genre would you place your books into?
The House of Xannon series is an urban fantasy, or some would call it contemporary fantasy. It’s our modern world, our current time, but with magic in the mix.
What made you decide to write that genre of book?
Oh I’ve always loved the idea of magic. My favorite books as a child all contained some sort of magical or other-worldly element. Since I love to read it, I chose to write it because writing a story without that something extra seems strange. Regular life drama just doesn’t do it for me, either to read, watch, or write.
Do you have a favorite character from your books? And why are they your favorite?
Oh that’s a hard one to answer. If I admit to a favorite, then the others will be jealous! I love them all like a mother loves her children, each for their own unique presence.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
In one way, I’ve been writing all my life. I used to keep notebooks with snippets of stories and half-finished scenes. My emails are known to reach epic length along the lines of a Game of Thrones novel. But my career as an author began about five years ago, when my husband and I moved to Philadelphia and he said “why don’t you write, instead of getting a job?” Yes, he’s an amazing and supportive man. And he’s all mine, ladies!
The inspiration that drove me to take him up on the offer was provided by all my favorite authors. All those people I’ll never meet in real life who sent their stories out into the world to comfort and entertain and inspire.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I’m not sure I’d call it a routine, but there are some things I need in order to be productive. I do my best writing in the morning, first thing, so I’ll grab a cup of coffee to pry my eyes open and then put my behind in the chair. If I’m writing a first draft, I’ll often do those two things at the coffee shop, rather than at home. I’ll play music before I start writing but once I get going, it’s incredibly distracting because I love to sing, and I’ll end up doing it instead of writing without even realizing. So if I play music at all, it’s movie soundtracks without words. Often I’ll play one that invokes the mood of the story that day. But most of the time I either have no sound at all (think library) or I play a noise generator that makes coffee shop sounds. Apparently my stories want to be told to the sound of clinking dishes.
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
I have so far, yes. They tell me not to, but I do anyway.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
The title comes much, much later. I still don’t have a title for book four in the Xannon series, and it’s due out in two months. Picking the perfect name for something is just so hard!
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
Character names are like titles, incredibly hard sometimes. For the Xannon series, I based a lot of the magic system on Celtic lore, so I’ve chosen Irish names as a result. Most of the major characters have names chosen specifically for their meaning. Tarian, for instance, means “shield.” Calliope is named after a Greek muse.
Place names are a little easier for me to come up with, for some reason. The coffee shop Tarian loves is called PJs because I wanted it to have a comfy, you’re-at-home quality to it. I realized much later that there actually is a PJs coffee, when I saw one in New Orleans. Entirely coincidental. But I can say the coffee in the real life PJs is awesome.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I always do a meet and greet with each character before I plan the book, and definitely before I start writing. For major characters, I need to know who they are and their basic life history. This includes the antagonists and bad guys. I know far more about them than ever appears in the story. I have to, so that I understand what motivates their behavior.
I keep character sheets on all the major players, so I can go back and remind myself what they look like, what their beginnings are, that sort of thing. It really helps with consistency from book to book in a long series like this to have a “cheat sheet” to refer to.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
Well, I didn’t include any overt moral with the intent of conveying a lecture, but yes there’s definite ideals and points of view at work throughout the series. The main themes revolve around the power of women. My society is a matriarchal one, because I thought it was about time women had the power and recognition they deserve. Women in my magical world inherit and wield far more magical strength than men. They are at their most powerful when pregnant with a female child. I wanted to present the idea of powerful women, wielding enormous strength, so that perhaps those who don’t feel so powerful in their daily lives can live vicariously through Tarian and her friends.
Which format of book do you prefer, eBook, hardback, or paperback?
I’m a digital girl at heart. I prefer ebooks. I read most books on my iPad.
What is your favorite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
Oh, so many books! From childhood, A Wrinkle In Time is one of my favorites. I read it over and over until the cover fell off. I also read Mystery of the Witch Who Wouldn’t the same way. As an adult, one of my favorite authors is Anne McCaffrey, author of the Dragons of Pern series, among others. I’ve read all of her books, some multiple times. I’ve read the Pegasus books about ten times each. Another favorite is Douglas Adams, and I’ve read the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide series multiple times.
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favorite/worst book to movie transfer?
I think some books do, some don’t. It all depends on the screenwriter and the director. I thought the Harry Potter books translated exceedingly well, except for Prisoner of Azkaban. I really didn’t like the movie at all. I felt like the director changed the story so it would have his own personal spin on things. He got in the way. I didn’t like that. I thought Hunger Games was a fantastic translation of the story. They put in extra scenes but it was so the viewer could have the background they needed to understand the story.
I thought the worst book to movie transfer was Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Oh, it was truly horrible. Nothing like the book at all. They went all cartoonish with it, instead of simply following the book. Hate that. Especially because it’s one of my all-time favorite books. I cringe just thinking about it.
I’m definitely going to see Gone Girl in the fall just to see how that one fared going from book to movie.
Your favorite food is?
Dove Dark Chocolate. There must always be Dove Dark Chocolate.
Your favorite singer/group is?
I don’t think I have one. I like anything I can sing, generally, which includes quite a range of music. I like Taylor Swift…she has such singable songs! Kelly Clarkson. Keith Urban. And of course, my all-time absolute favorite: Bon Jovi.
Your favorite color is?
Not sure I have one. Why discriminate? :-D
Your favorite Author is?
Melinda VanLone writes fantasy and science fiction, freelances as a graphic designer, and dabbles in photography. She currently lives in Rockville, Maryland, with her husband and furbabies. When she's not playing with her imaginary friends you can find her playing World of Warcraft, wandering aimlessly through the streets taking photos, or nursing coffee in Starbucks.