Thursday, June 10, 2010

Blog Tour: Alayna Williams Guest Blog and Giveaway!

Story prompts can be found in the oddest of places.imageI’d wanted to write DARK ORACLE for years, but was struggling about who the protagonist should be. I knew that she would be a criminal profiler who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes, but I didn’t know anything more about her personality than that.

So, I picked up my Tarot deck, shuffled, and drew the Queen of Swords from the top. The Queen of Swords depicts a woman staring pensively into a stormy sky. She’s lifting sword as if it’s quite sharp, and extends her hand as if she’s cut herself with it. The swords, in general, represent intellect. The Queen of swords traditionally represents sadness and mourning or a particularly clever woman. I always associated her with the Snow Queen from fairy tales – cold, isolated, withdrawn.

And that interpretation was perfect for the story. The Queen of Swords became my inspiration for Tara Sheridan. Tara narrowly survived an attack years before by a serial killer called the Gardener. The experience left her physically and emotionally scarred, and she withdrew entirely from work and from life. She even exiled herself from an group of oracles to which her mother belonged, Delphi ’s Daughters. It would take a special force, a counterweight, to pull Tara from the solitude of the Queen of Swords. And I began to think about a complicating factor for Tara , something that would shake her out of her frozen world.

I used the same method of using Tarot cards to create Harry Li, a federal agent on the trail of a missing scientist who’s unlocked the destructive power of dark matter. I picked the Knight of Pentacles from the deck. The knight gazes seriously at the weight of his responsibilities. He’s a pragmatic man, not given to irrationality or anything that can be seen or touched. I thought a skeptic would be a perfect counterpoint to Tara’s mysticism. Since Pentacles are also referred to as coins in many decks, I gave Harry the nervous habit of jingling change in his suit pocket.

Whenever I got stuck in the story, I pulled out the deck and used the cards as prompts. In that way, the story grew more organic, leaping from one image to another as I shuffled the cards.

~by Alayna Williams

Alayna Williams has an MA in sociology-criminology (research  interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. She also writes urban fantasy as Laura Bickle. Laura’s first novel, EMBERS (you can read my review here), was released by Pocket Books in April. More information can be found at

Alayna’s Website I Alayna’s Blog I Laura’s Website I Laura’s Blog I Laura’s Livejournal I Laura’s Facebook I Fangs, Fur & Fey

imageCan an oracle change the future she sees?

Tara Sheridan swore off criminal profiling years ago. By combining Tarot card divination with her own intuition, she narrowly escaped the grasp of a serial killer who left her scarred for life. She put down her cards and withdrew from work and society. Now, Sophia, a member of an ancient secret society connected to the mythic Delphic Oracle, asks Tara to find a missing scientist who has unlocked the destructive secrets of dark energy. Tara resists— she fears reawakening her long-buried talents and blames Sophia’s Daughters of Delphi for the death of her mother. But, grudgingly, she agrees to search for the missing scientist, Lowell Magnusson.

Tara travels to Las Alamos National Laboratory, the location of Magnusson’s disappearance. She meets the serious, impatient, and highly attractive Agent Harry Li— and re-encounters her old partner, Richard Corvus. Corvus is now chief of the Special Projects Division, a position Tera might have held, had she not dropped out of investigative work. Corvus considers Tara mentally imbalanced and not to be trusted— but it may be Corvus who is untrustworthy.

Tara’s investigation and Tarot cards tell her Magnusson’s daughter, Cassie, may hold the key to her father’s plans, and that they both are in grave danger. Meanwhile, Corvus and the Daughters of Delphi have their own plans...and the fate of the world hangs in the balance.

DARK ORACLE will be followed by a sequel in 2011.

You can read an excerpt here.

Buy it now from and Barnes & Noble.

Or you can win my gently used copy right now~ My review will be posted shortly. Contest open to US & Canada mailing addresses only. International can enter if they’re willing to pay for shipping or have a friend with a US or Canadian address I can ship it to (Sorry, but I’m going to be pretty wiped out after my bday bash lol).

To enter comment on this interview and leave your email. (You can email it to me if you don’t feel comfortable leaving it in the comments.) This contest ends June 19th at 11:59 PM CDT.


SiNn said...

i Been wanting to read this since i heard of it back in april what a cool interview and giveaway

i so love that cover too!

im lookin forward to ur review

Amanda Leigh said...

@SiNn- Thanks so much! Glad you liked it! I fell in love with the cover when I first saw it too!

Alayna Williams said...

Thanks so much, Amanda, for having me!

SiNn, thank you so much! I love the cover, too. :-)

Angel said...

Great interview and thanks for the giveaway!

Julie said...

This book sounds pretty cool. Count me in the giveaway. juliecookies(at)

debbie said...

I bet the books would be good. It is interesting to see the author's education is in criminology. I would think the books would be really well written.

Andrea I said...

This book has been on my TBB list ever since I first saw it.

I would love to win it.

Amanda Leigh said...

@Alayna- Thanks so much for allowing me to participate in your blog tour!

@Angel- Thanks and no problem!

@Julie- Glad you like the sounds of it!

@debbie- You can read my review on it soon!

@Andrea I- It went right on mine too, so I was squeeeing with happiness when I got to review it! lol I wanted to pass on the joy!

Felicia the Geeky Blogger said...

Fantastic Interview!

I have this book and it is on my TBR list :)

Barbara E. said...

The more I hear about this Dark Oracle, the more I want to read it.
I've got this book on my wishlist, so it would be awesome to win a copy.

mbreakfield said...

Great interview. I used to read Greek Mythology, when I was younger, so you captured my interest.

Alayna Williams said...

Thanks, Angel! The book was a much different creative process than I usually work with. I wrote with a deck of cards in hand.

Julie, I hope you enjoy!

debbie, I did try to work in realistic bits of investigative procedure into the book. While it's definitely a fantasy, I wanted to have enough realism to ground the magic and create a convincing backdrop.

Andrea I, Felicia, and Barbara E, thanks for putting me on your lists! I'm so excited that you thought of DARK ORACLE.

Amanda, it's so exciting for a newbie author like me to hear that someone's excited to read and review my work. :-)

Anonymous said...

Oh, this is the first time I've heard of this book. Sounds good, love the cover. The whole consulting the cards as a writing process for this story is pretty neat. Another book to add to my wishlist... just in case. :)


Christa said...

Sounds so awesome! And I love the cover... (the ever so slight reminder it gives me of Gambit is nothing less than entirely complimentary & enticing!)

: ) Thanks for the giveaway. Please do enter me.
ambience.of.rain {at}

Book Sake said...

I love the use of tarot cards in divining where the story needed to go. Amazing!

Ky said...

I have to say drawing inspiration from tarot cards is the most brilliant idea I have ever heard. I find tarot fascinating, though I have no clue how to interpret any of them. :P Truly brilliant. I just can't get over that. Lol.


Amanda Leigh said...

@Felicia- Move it on up the list! lol

@Barbara E- I've been the same way. :)

@mbreakfield- I've always been a fan of all types of mythology.

@Alayna- Thanks so much for stopping by today! It's been so lovely having you hear, and I love all your work!

@Jessica Rabbit- I'm glad we were able to bring it to your attention then! I found her whole process fascinating as well.

@Christa- Haha! So I wasn't the only one having Gambit flashbacks huh? Gambit was my favorite! lol

@Book Sake- I'm in total awe of the process.

@ky- It is awesome. I've always wanted to learn more about tarot. I've learned a little from her blog. :)

Martha Lawson said...

Please enter me for this one!! sounds awesome.

I follow on gfc

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

throuthehaze said...

Great post! I think this book sounds very interesting and I would love to read it!
throuthehaze at gmail dot com

Dinah Menil said...

You know, you can find San Francisco criminal attorney here

Alayna Williams said...

Jessica Rabbit, thanks so much! Consulting the cards made for a somewhat random story building process, but it really made me think about how to make connections among the cards.

Christa, LOL! Gambit is one of my faves! ;-)

Book Sake, using the cards was a blast. I highly recommend giving it a shot. Whenever I got stuck, or wanted to know something about a character's background or story conflict, I picked a card.

Ky, I'm blushing! Thank you so much! If you're ever in the mood to dabble in Tarot, a great resource is at They have all kinds of free information on cards and how to read them. But the way I learned was working with the little book that came in my first Tarot deck. My first one was Hanson-Roberts. It's a beautiful, very gentle deck.

Hugs, Amanda! You rock! As a newbie writer, it's really wonderful and affirming to have the support of you and everyone who's commented. Having a book out in the world can be very scary, and I really appreciate all the warmth here! This is the best blog experience ever!

Martha, throuthehaze, thank you so much for the kind words! I'm so excited for the book and to receive such wonderful feedback.

heatwave16 said...

I've always wanted to have my cards read, but how do you tell a serious reader from a hoax?

Story sounds awesome!!!


Alayna Williams said...

heatwave16, thanks!

I don't think that there's a better way to tell than to go with your gut. You should feel at ease with the reader and the environment. The best readings I've gotten have been at kitchen tables, afternoons at Renaissance Festivals...places I felt comfortable and where I was not getting clobbered with a heavy atmosphere. But that's just me. :-)

My best advice is to avoid people and places that make you feel pressured or unsettled.

donnas said...

Sounds like a really good book. Thanks for the chance!

bacchus76 at myself dot com

Amanda Leigh said...

@Alayna- I liked your description of good ways to tell real readers apart from fake ones. I've been curious about that myself. Makes sense though to just go with your instincts and where you feel the most comfortable.
As for your experience here, I'm glad you've had a good experience! That is wonderful to hear! It's been great having you and I've always loved it when you've stopped by and commented. It means a lot! You are welcome back any time you want!

@heatwave- Awesome question! Thanks!

@donnas- Yeppers! I'll have that review up soon I promise. I'm fighting w/ my computer, so as soon as that battle is won...

Marianna said...

I enjoy stories about survivors. There is always an interesting combo in them of strength and vulnerability. I def wanna read this series!

patronus89013 at yahoo dot com

Alayna Williams said...

Thanks so much, Amanda. Hope your computer gremlins are resolved soon! :-)

Marianna, I think that you'll enjoy Tara. She's a very quietly strong character. She's been through a great deal, with her battle with a serial killer, and the book is in part about how she re-emerges from her self-imposed exile and rejoins the world.

The sequel, ROGUE ORACLE, has another survivor - a man who was a child from Chernobyl. The experience has scarred him as much as Tara was, but he deals with it in a much more destructive way.

Amanda Leigh said...

@Marianna- I do too. It's inspiring to see a really strong person, especially once you find out what made them that way.

@Alayna- Things are looking a bit better. It didn't take me 20 minutes to get to my email this time. lol

Rogue Oracle sounds fantastic!

Raonaid Luckwell said...

Dark Oracle was awesome. It hooked me from the first page! I just finished it a couple days ago.

Hehe, I really love the characters, and Martin had me LOLing on several parts. Now there's a man you need on your side!

What I liked most, unlike other books with tarot-reading characters, Alayna explains the spread and each card represents!

So no need to enter me in the contest since I have Dark Oracle already.

Hope that was not a spoiler!

Robin K said...

Great inspiration and what a fun way to achieve it. Thank you for the wonderful visuals. I cannot wait to read it!

robin [at] intensewhisper [dot] com

Sullivan McPig said...

I love Dark Oracle. Rogue Oracle sounds really cool too. I'll be counting the months till it's released.
As for tarot: I love the symbolism of the tarot and I've got a couple of different tarot decks and books about tarot. I've also got a really beautiful deck of Medicine cards, those are based on Native American mythology and feature animals.

(don't enter me, I'm not from the US or Canada and already have the book)

Alayna Williams said...

Thanks, Robin!

Raonid, Sullivan, I'm so glad that you enjoyed DARK ORACLE!

And I'm gonna have to check out those Medicine Cards! They sound very cool.

I learned on Hanson-Roberts, which is a very gentle, traditional deck. It's still one of my favorites, though I've been using Mystic Dreamer a lot, lately.

Bethany C. said...

Greek myth and tarot- I'm in love!

b dot cardone at hotmail

yadkny said...

An oracle... sounds very interesting. I will have to check it out.

Donna said...

I've always wanted to learn more about tarot cards and their representations, which makes me very curious about reading DARK ORACLE. Sounds terrific!

donna[.]locklin [at] gmail[.]com

Amanda Leigh said...

@Raonaid- I really enjoyed the explanations of the spreads as well. Its the most I've learned about tarot so far, and not I want to know more!

@Robin K- It really is great!

@Sullivan- The Medicine cards sound really interesting. I will have to look into those as well.

@Alayna- I'll look into those decks!

@Bethany C- Right there with you!

@yadkny- Glad to hear it!

@Donna- I have too! The neat thing is, you get to learn more as you read! :)

Marg said...

Really intriguing...the more I read about this book (and author, the more interested I become. Thanks for the giveaway contest!


Alayna Williams said...

I love playing with old myths like the oracles...dragging them, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the modern day!

I was really fascinated by the idea of a secret society of women, Delphi's Daughters. I imagined that they would be in many ways like a family, with their own arguments, loyalties, and invisible ties.

One of the fun things in developing this story was making sense of the Tarot spreads for folks who don't read the cards. I wanted to demystify them a bit, and also explain a bit how they are used on the fly. They're really much more flexible than many of the guidebooks indicate. Tara, the heroine, makes up many of her own spreads as she goes.

k_sunshine1977 said...

i've heard a lot about this of course now i want to read it even more!

k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

misskallie2000 said...

Oh my gosh. The cover drew me in, the interview cinched the deal and the excerpt was icing on the cake. I love this book already.
Can't wait to read. Thanks for writing Dark Oracle and I will be on lookout for the sequel. I added you to my new author list and Dark Oracle to my wish list.

Thanks for the opportunity to enter.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Alayna Williams said...

k_sunshine, and misskallie, thank you so much! You made my day! I hope that you enjoy the books. :-)

I'm in the process of doing edits on the sequel, ROGUE ORACLE, as we speak!

Books and Bane said...

I have recently become a bit obsessed with the oracle so this sounds like a must read!!!

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed the interview so much. Can hardly wait to read the book.

Okapi said...

Thanks! I'm really interested in Tarot Cards and this type of stuff

BookRants said...

Sounds like a new twist, definitely different than what's out there.


Alayna Williams said...

Thanks! I tried hard to come up with a story that was outside the usual bounds of urban fantasy -- I hope that readers will be interested in giving it a shot!