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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Fear Itself: Deadpool

So, as those of you that actually read comics probably know, Marvel has a huge uber comic event called Fear Itself happening this summer. Now, as I have said I am no expert on comics and I haven't been following the event because I've been buried in Dance with Dragons. However I do know that Fear Itself involves some hammers falling from the sky or something and they superpower a bunch of heroes and villains like The Hulk and The Juggernaut. Something like that, anyway. "But Kalpar!" you are surely exclaiming, "If you aren't following the Fear Itself storyline, how can you possibly understand the Deadpool comic?" Fear not my two good and gentle readers. The Deadpool comic is tied into the Fear Itself event but is an independent story. You do not need to even know what's going on with Fear Itself to enjoy this story.

Now, I will readily admit I am a fan of Deadpool and love reading about his antics. There's something refreshing about his devil-may-care attitude and passion for violence. And explosions. We both like explosions. Explosions are fun. Furthermore I love the fact that Deadpool knows he's a comic book character and just has fun with it. However Deadpool's character alone is not why I picked up this particular comic. As I mentioned to the nerds about a month ago, this particular comic was written by Christopher Hastings, author of one of my favorite webcomics,
The Adventures of Dr. McNinja. For those of you who don't know, The Adventures of Dr. McNinja is this truly awesome webcomic with dinosaurs and ninjas and a gorilla assistant (who's a professional) and all sorts of other neat stuff. In fact, why don't you go over there right now and look at this. Go ahead I'll wait.

Isn't that awesome? By the Emperor of Terra that has got to be one of the coolest things that has ever existed. EVER. So when you're finished reading this review you should go read his comic. However you should also go and pick up
Deadpool: Fear Itself. See, this is Chris Hastings's first opportunity as a writer for Marvel and he said if this comic sells really well Marvel would ask him to write more comics. And if you looked at the link you would know why this would be a very good and awesome thing. So all two of you who read my reviews are now required to go out and buy the comics. I'll be keeping tabs on you.

Oh yes, the plot, I should mention that. Okay so our good friend Wade Wilson discovers that magic hammers have been falling all over the place recently. As Deadpool is wont to do, he starts thinking about how he can cash in on this new threat. Stealing what he assumes to be an ordinary hammer Wade begins his master plan of chaos for fun and profit. Taking what he assumes to be an ordinary hammer Deadpool drops it on the utter failure of a villain known as the Walrus, whose idea of a fantastic plan is stealing the wallet of a monster truck driver. Ultimately the Walrus and our boy Wade head to Cimmaron, New Mexico to unleash the next part of Deadpool's master plan but certain unforeseen issues are going to make this no easy payday. There is more of a plot uncovered in the second issue which came out on 20th of July but I don't want to spoil the second third of the plot. The first issue came out on June 8th and is still widely available at your local comic shop so head on down and pick these two up while you can. I guarantee you will not be disappointed. I eagerly await the release of the final issue of this story which comes out sometime in August.

Giving it a score of four and a half sheep.


Adventurer's Rule #9: When in doubt, use more explosives.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Guard

THE GUARD, directed by John Michael McDonagh stars Brendan Gleeson, Don Cheadle, Liam Cunningham, David Wilmot, Rory Keenan, Mark Strong, Fionnula Flanagan, Dominique McElligott, Sarah Greene and Katarina Cas. A comedic fish-out-of-water tale of murder, blackmail, drug trafficking and rural police corruption. Two policemen must join forces to take on an international drug-smuggling gang; one is an unorthodox Irish policeman, the other a straight-laced FBI agent.

Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleason) is an eccentric small-town cop with a confrontational and crass personality and a subversive sense of humor. A longtime policeman in County Galway, Boyle is a maverick with his own moral code. When a fellow police officer disappears and Boyle's small town becomes key to a large drug trafficking investigation, he is forced to at least feign interest when dealing with the humorless FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) assigned to the case. Agent Everett has led an American life of privilege, complete with the highest levels of formal education. Consumed with his pursuit of justice, Everett has no interest in the district of Connemara other than as a backdrop to solve the case. He underestimates the townspeople, especially Sergeant Boyle. Everett looks down on Boyle as a low-level provincial policeman with a limited and flippant view of the world. Boyle sees Everett as a by-the-book policeman with a chip on his shoulder and no understanding of how the real world runs. Circumstances keep pulling him back into the thick of it. First, his tiresomely enthusiastic new partner disappears. Then his favorite hooker attempts to blackmail him into turning a blind eye to the case. Finally the drug-traffickers he's trying to find try to buy him off-as they have every other member of the local police force. THE GUARD

The Guard is a Western. The Wild West, in this case, being the West of Ireland, where an isolated frontier town has for its lawman an eccentric individual with a dying mother, a fondness for prostitutes, and a heightened sense of the absurd. Sgt. Gerry Boyle takes nothing and no one seriously, but when a fellow police officer disappears and the small town Boyle patrols becomes an important location in the greater scheme of things, he is forced to at least feign interest when dealing with the humorless FBI agent assigned to the case. But don't go thinking that this is just another buddy-cop movie, The Guard is far far different. It has a great story and plenty of dark humor making it more than a rehash of Dragnet.

So what do we have here? We have an original lead character, brilliantly acted by Gleeson, with a jaundiced, melancholic outlook. We have three unpredictable villains with almost a three stooges type of feel, but give the stooges guns. We have a bewildered sidekick who has no idea what the heck is going on. And we have a strange, unusual location: Connemara, whose landscape lends itself to a kind of epic grandeur.

All in all, we have the ingredients for a visually-stylized, poetic, widescreen film, with a mythic resonance and a darkly comic sense of humor, the classic tradition of John Ford and Preston Sturges. A melancholic undertow coupled with a kind of black comedy sets The Guard miles away from recent downbeat movie trends. Wonderfully directed with an amazing script that can bring out rich and full characters to the big screen this film is getting a MUST SEE rating from me. :)

Opens August 5
Embarcadero and Sundance Kabuki in San Francisco
Shattuck in Berkeley
Cinearts in Pleasant Hill
Cinearts in Palo Alto
Santana Row in San Jose
Regency in San Rafael

Check your local listing for a theater showing near you. :)

Getting 4 and 1/2 Unlikely Hero Sheep

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Dan Abnett Interview, plus prizes!

Sabbat Worlds Cluster: One Ghost and Two Sheep Meet

Today we get to sit down and talk with author Dan Abnett, a highly esteemed Warhammer 40,000 fiction author. Among his works are the incredibly awesome Gaunt's Ghosts series, novels about the Horus Heresy, and the screenplay for the Ultramarines movie. He also has written numerous comics for Marvel and DC and comes with a list of credentials longer than your arm and twice as impressive. Unless you have like a robot arm or something, oh sorry, I forget myself at times. Anyway, Richard and I are fething thrilled to be interviewing Dan today who is a living legend in the field. It's good to have you here today, Dan.

Dan: Thank you for having me.

BAK: Now the first question that I like to ask is how did you become an author, however I want to add to that how did you get involved in writing for Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000?

Dan: I’ve been writing stories since I was a kid. I used to love drawing too, so when I discovered what comics were, I used to write and draw my own comics. Eventually, I couldn’t draw them fast enough for the stories I wanted to write. Jump forward about ten years, after taking a degree in English at University, my interest in comics led to me taking an editorial job at Marvel Comics in London, which is where I first started writing freelance - comic scripts for Thundercats, Ghostbusters, GI Joe etc. Eventually, I went freelance full time. After about a decade of doing that, I was contacted by Black Library, who were looking for comic writers to handle their proposed new Warhammer comic line (they’d seen some recent Conan stuff I’d written for Marvel). What they found was a guy who had also been a HUGE RPG player in his youth, who knew all about GW, and who ‘got’ the Warhammer Universes. They got me writing comics, short stories and, eventually, novels and.... forty novels later....

Richard: Have you ever played the table top game Warhammer 40k? If so, what influence, if any, does the experience have on the stories you write?

Dan: yeah, I have. I don’t get as much time to play as I’d like, but I’ve played pretty much every variation to get the ‘feel’ of it, and it greatly informs what I write. I get to see the different things players like to get out of a game, and try to put those things into stories.

BAK: A lot of Imperial Guard units draw some sort of inspiration from historical armies. Catachans look like soldiers in Vietnam, the Death Korps of Krieg could easily step into a World War I trench, so on and so forth. Was there any such inspiration for the Tanith?

Dan: To an extent, but more particularly historical settings inform the missions and adventures I send them on. I do a lot of ‘real world’ research: I think SF and Fantasy both work well if you research the closest real world analog to whatever you’re writing (I.e. you research something as though you’re writing a historical novel), then blend in the fantastical elements. So.. Straight Silver was WWI trench action, Guns of Tanith was Arnhem, Necropolis was Stalingrad, Only in Death was Rourke’s Drift, etc.

Richard: Do you find it challenging to write for a universe with such a specific look, feel and depth of history? Do you spend a lot of time reconciling what you want to write with existing canon?

Dan: Writing in a shared universe is always a challenge, and you have to respect the ‘core’ as much as possible. I hope I do that. And creative visions are very singular, so - yes - reconciliation does go on to make things work. I love the universe of Warhammer 40K, though, so that helps.

BAK: Among the fandom we like to joke that commissars are a trigger-happy bunch executing fleeing troopers right and left. However the commissars of the Tanith First-and-Only, Gaunt and later Hark, act in a far more reasonable manner. Did anything in specific motivate how you characterized these commissars?

Dan: I don’t think you could empathise much with a real trigger-happy bastard. Not over a long series of novels where character development and interaction drives the stories. You’ve got to care about the characters, and if the main heroes are as bleak and relentless as the Universe, that could get trying. I often feel that their effort to cling onto humanity in the face of such overwhelming horror is part of the power of the stories in 40K.

BAK: I think one of the main appeals of the Imperial Guard is that they're ordinary men and women with human emotions. To see even a commissar like Gaunt struggle and eventually triumph makes for a really great story.

Dan: Yes, there’s a very direct, visceral identification with Imperial Guard, more than any other army.

Richard: Are there any particular moth-to-a-flame topics in the Warhammer 40k universe that you'd love to explore, but have not yet made it into your body of work?

Dan: Some of the alien races I’d love to do more with: Orks, Necron, Eldar, Tyranids. Big fleet action too, though there’s a decent chunk of that in my next Gaunt, Salvation’s Reach.

BAK: In the handful of other Guard books I've read, if the Navy shows up at all they're just a means to get protagonists from point A to point B in the plot. In your books we see the Navy fight and die and sometimes come in conflict with Guard command. Have you ever thought about writing a book about the Imperial Navy?

Dan: I have many times. It’s tempting. It would be BIG.

BAK: In the introduction to The Saint omnibus you mention that Trooper Cuu was a last minute addition to Honour Guard. I'm going to be honest I hated Cuu so much, if nothing else than because he was messing with my favorite Tanith, Mad Larkin. How did you come up with such a character?

Dan: He came out of nowhere. He just appeared as a fully formed character and inserted himself into the book like he was alive. It was scary. Cuu may be despicable, but it’s antagonist characters like that that really fuel the success of a book by keeping the drama churning along.

BAK: Among your credits is writing the sceenplay for the Ultramarines movie. Did you have to get into a different mindset writing for Marines than you normally do for Guard?

Dan: Yeah, they’re tough. They have far less overt personality, due to their very nature. There is less to distinguish them. They are, in effect, less human. That makes them really hard to write - they don't even talk in contractions. I think I really began to get the hang of them in Brothers of the Snake and the Heresy books.

BAK: Yeah, I read once that Space Marines only vaguely remember feeling cold or afraid or tired, so their mindset is very hard for normal humans or even humans in the 41st millennium to understand.

Dan: You have to humanize them a little to make them work in a narrative, but you also have to remember that they’re super-men.

BAK: You've created a wonderful cast of characters with the Tanith First-and-Only, but obviously they're at war and people die. Is it hard for you to say goodbye to your characters when their time comes?

Dan; Of course. I need to care about the characters so that the reader does, otherwise the books are pointless. It also comes as a surprise sometimes - some deaths are unexpected!

BAK: Unexpected? I mean you're the author so I would figure if anyone saw a death coming it would be you. Do characters just have a time where they die?

Dan: Sometimes. Sometimes it’s planned. Sometimes they just die and it shocks me. Once in a while, I plan to kill a particular character and someone else takes the bullet for them.

BAK: Now here at I Smell Sheep we are famous for our Rapid Round questions. Basically we'll give you an either-or and you just pick the first one that comes to mind.

BAK: To please our slavedriver, Katie, Coke or Pepsi?

Dan: Neither :) Due to my recent ‘adventures in epilepsy’, I can’t drink caffeine. Can I get a ginger ale?

BAK: Well, Katie won't be happy, but I'll accept it.

Richard: Jimmi Hendrix or Billy Joel?

Dan: Hendrix. Unless it’s karaoke night, in which case Billy rules.

BAK: Commander Adama or Captain Picard?

Dan: Picard.

BAK: T-rex or Velociraptor?

Dan: T-Rex.

BAK: Turtles or elephants?

Dan: Uh, elephants?

BAK: It's all right, both are cool.

Richard: Converse or Doc Martens?

Dan: Converse.

BAK: Elves or dwarves?

Dan: Elves.

Richard: Shotgun or Chainsaw?

Dan: Shotgun *rrr-chakk!*

BAK: Plasma or meltagun?

Dan: Plasma.

BAK: Thank you so much for taking time to talk with us, Dan. Do you have any final things to say before we leave?

Dan: Thanks for having me along! See you all in the funny pages!

And a big thank-you to Dan for being so cooperative and patient with us. Now as you probably noticed there is in fact a prize giveaway
. Dan has been gracious enough to donate a signed copy of his latest book, Embedded, as a prize for this interview. Now it may not be 40k material, but it's a science fiction story about soldiers in the near future so if you're a fan of Gaunt and his Ghosts, you'll probably like this book too. Now to be eligible for this prize you must do the following.

Leave a comment on this interview with the following two pieces of information:

1. A valid e-mail address.
2. Your favorite character from any of Abnett's books. (And preferably a little as to why.)

The polls will close on Thursday, 4th of August, 2011 at 11:59 PM Eastern Standard time. Double your chances to win by following our blog. Winner will be randomly selected and announced the next day, or Saturday at the latest if work gets in the way. Again a big thank you to Dan and I encourage everyone to pick up one of his books. Except for maybe Katie. They've got no smut in them so she'd just get bored. Everyone else should read them, though.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Jason Aaron
Carlos Pacheco, Cam Smith
Frank D’Armata
Jared K. Fletcher
Carlos Pacheco, Nick Bradshaw, Frank Cho
Marvel Comics


Following off the back of Messiah Complex and Second Coming, Schism is the next big thing to shake the X-Men universe, and in this case the ramifications are more than just changes to the uncanny mutants status quo, but will shift the dynamic of the comic titles with the separation of the group into two unique titles: Uncanny X-Men #1 and Wolverine and the X-MEN.

The outcome of this event is thus a foregone conclusion, but the story isn’t about where we’re going, but how we’re going to get there. The plot operates off the basis that Wolverine, Cyclops’s go to guy for nasty wet works and combat training of the new recruits, is slowly being worn down. His relationship with Cyclops is beginning to degrade, and old grudges are coming back to the fore. Soemthing cataclysmic is coming and it is this Schism that will split the two men ideologically and fracture the X-MEN forever. Yet none of this is overly evident bar the writers intent this issue. There’s a brief flashback to the grudging relationship the pair had pre Messiah Complex (when Jean Grey was still a love to be won between Marvels two most recognisable mutants), but barring that we aren’t immediately supposed to suspect that there’s a problem. This is a slow burner, so anything but.

The issue builds off with a fatigued Logan shoehorned into bodyguard duty for Cyclops on a diplomatic mission to the U.N. during an International Arms Conference to issue a plea for the decommissioning of sentinels globally. The relationship between the pair is painted nicely by Aaron as cooperative if not amiable. They clearly don’t love each other and you can see there’s history. Exactly how it should be.
Some humorous touches lighten the gulf between the two men and you can sense that while Logan will never really like Scott very much, he respects his leadership. Similarly Cyclops sees the uses of having such a deadly asset as Logan on hand, but could never forgive him trying to steal Jean away from him.

The pair arrive at the conference and of course nothing goes to plan, with the formerly imprisoned trouble maker Quentin Quire, a mutant with a penchant for stirring it up (see Grant Morrison’s run on NEW X-MEN), bursting in and unleashing his new mutant revolution in the midst of Cyclops disarmament speech. A third party activates sentinels to gate crash the conference and Scott and Logan are left to battle the machines while Quire escapes.

This whole misfire in front of the U.N. serves as a catalyst for the U.N. leaders to unite against mutants by actively upping their sentinel’s defences in their respective countries and setting the ball rolling for a return to the bad old days for the X-Men and mutant kind in general. The use of Quires powers to disrupt the U.N. is a nice touch and doesn’t hold back on letting people know exactly how Aaron feels about our political representatives, and reaffirms humanity as the inherent bad guy against the underdog mutants.

The best X-MEN stories have always managed to show the inhumanity of amidst humans and can often be seen as moral masterpieces with a love note to tolerance, and Aaron brings in familiar tropes that light the thread for where this story’s going. Of course this is no Ordinary crisis and bigger players have a hand in the background (I’ll not spoil the surprise), but the genius of it is the playing off the tempestuous relationship of the two most recognisable and stalwart X-MEN and watching what happens to their necessary alliance come boiling point.

This is an exciting book and the relationship between Logan and Scott is thoughtfully fleshed out and given the values of old comrades despite their fundamental disagreements. The story is building into a larger arc and there is some nice wide scale ramifications (global sentinel response in various countries) and some touches of humour to balance the scale of what is going on.

Aaron has a particularly decent grip on writing Wolverine, his time on the characters solo title giving him a seasoned handle on the mutant he was born to write. That said Aaron has clearly got the same eye for character amongst the other X-crew and we shouldn’t be surprised, from the calibre of his work on books likes DC’s Scalped. Pacheco’s art is cleaner than usual and I particularly liked his return of Wolverine to a compact killing machine, as opposed to the often more slender variants of the character that we’re never in his original mandate. Overall Schism is a decent read; an in-depth plot, good characterisation and a well laid out action set piece to keep us from getting mired down by the politics. It’ll be interesting to see how this story gets to where it’s going, because it’s all downhill for the mutants from here.

Review by: Mark McCann

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Nora Weston's Guardian 2632

I'm not a big fan of the time travel genre, but Nora Weston launches into a tour de force arm flailing tumble down the rabbit hole of temporal fiction. While reading the book, though, I couldn't help but feel that I fall distinctly outside of the target audience of this story. Because of that, I will break this review into two parts; First will be a largely critical review of the book as a consumer of hard sci-fi... then again as someone who enjoys an awesome B-Movie action hero romp through death, blood and violence.

The plot summary goes as following: Dr. Zane Grayson is head of a time travel agency whose purpose seems to be temporal purification. Zane and a small army of genetically altered supermen travel into the past on missions to make sure that events unfold the way they were supposed to. While indulging in an illicit habit of his, browsing time or "time surfing", Zane stumbles upon something that causes him to reconsider his place both in space and time.

In retrospect, Guardian 2632's plot doesn't actually feel like a time-travel plot. In my opinion, the story of Dr. Zane Grayson could have been told without any wormholed traipses into the past at all. Maybe It's just because time machines are such a mark of high science fiction that the author couldn't help herself... I blame
H.G. Wells. Let me give a fairly concrete example of what I'm talking about. There is a point in the book where Zane is forced to spend some length of time in the year 2632. There is a sense of urgency in the good Doctor as he frets about getting back to the past in time to prevent some impending doom. Except for vague references to rules set out by Dr. Grayson himself, this drama is artificial. He should be able to return to the past the moment after he had previously left.

Coming in at just over 200 pages, my next criticism is that the book tries to do too much in too few pages. I could easily see the book expanded out to twice its page count. It would help the suspension of disbelief quite a lot to see the various explicitly named gadgets explained out through a combination of exposition and plot rather than as a bullet point in the glossary at the end of the book. Let's hear a little history about StaticAirVI or give us a flashback to the smart alec quantum computer's first steps with its version of
Dr. Chandra. Finally, I get that love at first sight is a reasonable plot device... and coupled with being at the right place at a right time (literally)... mad crazy love can result. I would have really liked to have seen more expression and introspection from Dr. Grayson and his main love interest.

Anyway... enough of the negative nancyness... let's talk about what I liked about the book. Weston shows a lot of creativity and doesn't get shy about writing punch-in-the-face action. Also.. as an Asian-American, it's nice to see stories focused on one of my peeps. Yellow Pride! Looking for a little terror? Just imagine super-inhuman scaly skinned Time-Mercs popping out of thin air to take you out; muscular
giant gila monsters of the future... and they'll stop at nothing to have your squishy bits dripping through their claws... yeah. terror.

There's also something awesome about rampaging into the past without care for the consequences. It's like that
classic Simpson's episode where Homer ends up mucking up his future via his time traveling toaster. Nothing tickles the asskick funnybone like futuristic beam weapons melting 20th century concrete. Nothing.

Oh, Katie! Nora Weston's world? Coke is good. Pepsi is bad. Thought you should know!

I'm giving Guardian 2632 3 face-punched action-packed sheep.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Interview with author Alayna Williams + giveaway!

Today the Sheep welcome UF author Alayna Williams to the site! If you have yet to check out her amazing books NOW would be a great time to start. Truly a wonderful mix of fantasy, mystery and magic! Stay tuned till the end folks because Alayna has been kind enough to offer up a signed copy of her latest book Rogue Oracle!

Russia. Chernobyl. 2 Sheep and 1 Oracle meet.

Katie: Hello Alayna, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. For those that don't know about your latest book Rogue Oracle can you tell them a bit about it?

Alayna: Thanks so much for chatting with me today! I'm super-excited to get the chance to talk with you and your readers.

ROGUE ORACLE is about a criminal profiler, Tara Sheridan, who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes. These books are a mashup of science and magic - similar to Fringe and the X-Files. Tara's a reluctant member of an ancient society of oracles tracing their lineage back to the Oracle of Delphi. In ROGUE ORACLE, Tara and her skeptic partner, federal agent Harry Li, are on the trail of a Chernobyl survivor who's selling nuclear secrets on the international black market.

Katie: So would you say that your mainly a fan of shows like Fringe and X-Files?

Alayna: I love contemporary sci-fi. Shows like Fringe and X-Files are my all-time favorites.

Amber: You classify yourself as an Urban Fantasy writer; can you tell us what is the difference between Urban Fantasy and Paranormal?

Alayna: I've always been taught that the difference between UF and PNR lies in how much the plot focuses on the romantic elements. For PNR, the primary conflict in the story surrounds the relationship, while UF focuses more on an external conflict. There also tend to be more happily ever after endings in paranormal romance. I like having the endings open, and to keep myself guessing about whether or not the characters will or will not be victorious.

Katie: You also write under the pseudonym of Laura Bickle, I have yet to start those books but I am very curious about the stories and why you chose to write under a different name?

Alayna: My editor recommended that I use a different pseudonym for the ORACLE books. My first book, EMBERS, came out in April, 2010, under my Laura Bickle pseudonym. The books I've written as Laura, EMBERS and SPARKS, are best described as "Ghostbusters in Detroit with dragons and arson."

DARK ORACLE was scheduled for June of that year, with ROGUE ORACLE coming out in 2011. We thought it would be confusing for readers to have two UF series going on under the same name, with alternating release dates. For that purpose, it made sense to create "Alayna." In that sense, it was a branding decision.

Both series are urban fantasy. But a little different. EMBERS and SPARKS are very much gritty urban fantasy, while the ORACLE books almost border on science fiction

Amber: What is your favorite childhood memory?

Alayna: My mom was a school librarian. I used to go to the library with her in the summer and curl up in a sunshine-filled corner where the mythology books were shelved. I read every book in that section, I think.

Amber: As a kid that’s how I spent all of my summers. I made my mom sign me up for every library event/class that was available. Lol. My sisters always called me a geek. It’s a name I proudly claim. Lol.

Alayna: Geek sisters unite! Books make wonderful friends. I think I've had my nose in a book ever since I was old enough to hold one.

Katie: What is a typical day like for you?

Alayna: I suspect my days are very much like those of other writers...I still have a day job. I'm fortunate in that I get to work at a library (the apple didn't fall far from that tree). Most of my writing gets done late at night, when the cats and husband are asleep and everything is quiet. Sometimes, the dreaded Inner Editor goes to sleep, and then I really get things done.

Amber: Did you go to college? If yes, what was the most interesting class you took?

Alayna: I'm an odd duck. I went to college for criminology and also library science. Probably the most interesting classes that I took involved spending time riding around with cops.

Amber: That’s awesome! What was the most exciting thing that happened while riding around with the cops? And where any of them especially good looking in their uniforms?

Alayna: Hee. Of course, there were some good-looking ones!

Probably the saddest thing that happened when I was out riding around was coming up on a single-car accident. The car had been abandoned, but there were a lot of kids' toys in the car. I was sure that they were missing them.

Katie: Tarot cards play a big role in the Oracle novels, are you personally able to read cards?

Alayna: I read cards for myself for fun and use them for story prompts. The ORACLE books were written with a deck at hand. Whenever I got stuck on a character or plot point, I'd pick a card. Some of the spreads I used made their way into the final version of the book. It was a fun way to visually outline a story, since there's a Hero's Journey already included in the cards.

Katie: I would love to have you do a reading for me after the interview! I hope you see vampires in my future! lol

Alayna: Sure! I'd be happy to give it a shot. Fair warning - I'm not a professional, so expect entirely random and nonsensical results for entertainment only.

And the reading will probably be interrupted by a random cat parking herself in the middle of the cards. My feline friends are highly amused by my efforts.

Amber: Where did you learn to read Tarot cards?

Alayna: I've been puttering with cards since I was a teenager. Like many other things, I learned from books and by doing readings for myself.

Amber: If you could own your dream car what would it be and why?

Alayna: Oh, my. I'd love to have a new car that doesn't need new tires.

But in the world of EMBERS and SPARKS, the heroine, Anya, drives a 1974 Dodge Dart. It's a big green tank. She got it because her fire salamander familiar, Sparky, tends to screw up electronic gadgetry.

I guess that would be my dream car, because it would make me think of fire elementals on the rampage.

Katie: Harry and Tara have had this on again off again thing going on for a while now. Will they ever finally be together permanently?

Alayna: Harry and Tara are polar opposites: he's Scully to Tara's Mulder. But I think that they understand and respect each other on a very deep level. And that's the most important contributing factor to a "happily ever after" ending. Even in books.

So, yes...I would love for them to be together, and have more adventures. But I will still throw obstacles in their path. ;-)

Katie: Oh blast it! lol I am waiting for the day when these two really settle down.

Alayna: Hee. They won't be far apart, don't worry! They are pretty destined to be together. ;-)

Amber: I know you write under at least two different names; do you have a specific series or character that is your favorite?

Alayna: I don't know that I can really play favorites; they're all my children.

I love Sparky the fire salamander from EMBERS and SPARKS because he's a composite of all the pets I've owned. I love Tara from the ORACLE books because she's a very rational heroine, in her way - she always considers a situation before going in with guns blazing.

ROGUE ORACLE is my newest release, and the latest apple in my eye. A lot of the story deals with the outcome of the Chernobyl disaster. Though I was half a world away, the story of that frightened me very much as a child. This was a tough book to write, but very rewarding.

Katie: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Alayna: I've always been scrawling stories, every since I've been old enough to hold a crayon. It still seems a bit surreal to be able to see my work in print. It was a long road, but I'm thrilled to be on it. I'm excited that other people want to read what I've's the best feeling in the world.

Amber: Who has been your biggest inspiration when it comes to your writing career and life in general?

Alayna: I read Robin McKinley's HERO AND THE CROWN when I was a kid, and it really made an indelible impression on me. It was the first fantasy I'd read in which the heroine slew her own dragons. It opened up a whole world of possibilities for me.

Katie: If you could be any Superhero who would you want to be and why?

Alayna: Wonder Woman. I have an insanely out-of-control Wonder Woman knick knack collection. She's got it all: power, beauty, strength, and wisdom.

Katie: As a Marvel fan, I will respect your choice and say no more. *evil laugh*

Alayna: Will you forgive me if I tell you that I dress up as Phoenix for Halloween?

Katie: YES! lol

Amber: What is your movie and food of choice on a lazy night?

Alanya: Pasta and chocolate. And maybe a movie of some supernatural flavor. One of my perennial favorites is CONSTANTINE. I also saw HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON and fell in love with Toothless the dragon.

Amber: You are a woman after my own heart! Carbs and chocolate are the best. My movie of choice is either Love Actually (cuz we all need a little sap in our lives, lol) or League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.


Katie: As Forest Gump’s Mamma said "life is like a box of chocolates…" what kind of chocolate would you say you are?

Alanya: Vanilla creme. Quiet, hanging out demurely in the corner of the box.

Amber: What is the best part of being a writer?

Alayna: I've always been intrigued by the idea of a hidden supernatural world existing beneath our own. Writing allows me to explore the "what if's": What if a criminal profiler turned to Tarot card divination? What if the Oracle of Delphi survived into the modern day...and what would they have been up to? What if the future could be told through the use of magic...and how would we try to change what we saw?

And the most fun part is getting to research those ideas. Writing gives me an excuse to dig through theories on everything from alchemy to spontaneous human combustion.

Amber: The idea of a hidden supernatural world is what makes reading such an escape for me. I love all the possibilities that are presented when reading. It’s an entirely new world. Thank you for creating worlds like this for people like me! Lol.

Alayna: Thank YOU for reading and coming along the journey with me!

I firmly believe that creating a world requires both a writer and a reader - it's a collaborative process.

Katie: Where can folks find you in the coming months?

Alayna: I just got back from RWA Nationals in New York, which was my big trip for the year. My internet whereabouts are here:

Katie: Now it's time to move into our ever loved Rapid Fire round! Clear your mind and answer with the first thing that pops up. Are you ready?…….Set……GO!

Katie: Hershey Syrup or Nesquik powder

Alayna: Oooh. Hershey Syrup!

Amber: Kitten or Puppy

Alayna: Kitten

Katie: Throwing Stars or Throwing Knifes

Alayna: Knives. I've never tried stars!

Katie: I have a very fine set of throwing knifes we can play with after we wrap. *winks*

Alayna: Awesome!

Amber: Europe or Asia

Alayna: Europe

Katie: Monkey or Koala

Alayna: Koala

Amber: Lipstick or Lipgloss

Alayna: Lipstick

Katie: Coke or Pepsi

Alayna: Coke

Katie: Yes! More points for team Coke!!!!

Amber: You can have this one. Team Pepsi is still smokin your behind! Hahahaha ;)

Alayna: Coca-Cola is the breakfast of champions.

Amber: Thunderstorm or Sunshine

Alayna: Sunshine

Katie: Hansel and Gretel or Little Red Riding Hood

Alayna: Little Red Riding Hood

Amber: Zoo or Aquarium

Alayna: Zoo

Katie: The Borg or Vulcans

Alayna: Vulcans

Katie: Live long and prosper!

Alayna: Love the new Spock from the Star Trek reboot - glad to see that he got the girl!

Katie: Silver or Gold

Alayna: Silver

Katie: I swear other then the DC choice it's like we got separated at birth! lol

Alayna: LMAO!

Katie: Quantum Leap or Knight Rider

Alayna: Knight Rider

Katie: Harrison Ford or Sean Connery

Alayna: Harrison Ford

Amber: What? You’re crazy! The sound of Sean Connery’s voice alone makes him the clear winner…. I’d marry this man as long as he promised to read me a story every night before bed! Lol.

Alayna: But...Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones! That hat!

Katie: Thank you again for taking the time to chat with us Alayna, would you like to add anything before we wrap?

Alayna: The latest news on releases and what I'm working on is on my website:

Thanks so much for the chance to chat with you both! I had a lot of fun.

While Alayna gets our Tarot card reading all set up we'll move on to the giveaway! One lucky commenter is going to walk away with a signed copy of Rogue Oracle AND some fun Sheep swag items. Make sure to double your chances of winning by following our blog! In the comments below please give us:

1. Your Email Address

2. Have you ever had a Tarot card reading? If so what did it say and if not would you ever consider getting one?

Contest runs until July 31st at midnight.

Good luck!