Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wednesday Promo- Laura Bickle

Hi, Paty! Thanks for having me.
Laura Bickle has worked in the unholy trinity of politics, criminology, and technology for several years. She and her chief muse live in the Midwest, owned by four mostly-reformed feral cats. Her short fiction has appeared here and there. Embers, her debut novel, is first in an exciting new urban fantasy series that continues with her forthcoming second novel, Sparks. More information can be found here:
Laura also writes as Alayna Williams. Alayna's "debut" will be Dark Oracle, Pocket Juno's June 2010 release. More information can be found here:

What drew you to writing paranormal books?
I’ve been curious about mythological creatures since I was a child. My mother was a school librarian, and I spent summers curled up in a sunshine-filled nook, devouring every book in the mythology section. From Artemis to zephyrs, I wondered about what it would be like to live in a world where magic lay beneath even the most ordinary things.

I supposed that much of it was an attempt to make sense of the world. When the ancient Greeks dug up dinosaur bones, they probably attributed them to the bones of Titans or terrible monsters. Storytellers wove grand adventures around the things they found. The world was new and shiny, full of mysteries to explain.

As an adult, I view the paranormal genre in much the same way. We’ve explored a great deal of our modern world through science, but we’ve still got that desire to be storytellers. Instead of tangling a yarn of myth around a dinosaur skeleton, we’re telling stories about monsters within, making sense of some of the mysterious things that go on within the human mind. They take shapes from old legends – ghosts and elementals – but the myths to the modern world. They attach to the bones of things that make no sense for us now – love, death, loss. They’re mysteries that we’re still trying to explain, using the metaphors of old monsters.

What do you consider the hardest part about writing your genre? The easiest?

The hardest part, I think, is treading a believable line between the everyday world and the fantastic. I try to anchor my paranormal characters in a realistic world, to give the reader that sense that such at thing could happen to them. In the case of EMBERS, I use real places from Detroit, places like the Detroit Salt Mine. The everyday world goes ticking along like a clock until a paranormal incident causes the gears to skip, throwing the reader into another, alternate time and place.

The easiest part is drawing from that rich mythological heritage that’s out there. There are so many untapped stories that deserve to be revived and retold in a modern frame. For example, in EMBERS, I use the legend of the fire salamander. Salamanders haven’t gotten much play since the time of Paracelsus. And the Sirrush, the dragon from Bel and the Dragon, hasn’t gotten much action since Babylonian times. They’re long overdue to waddle across the page and start setting things on fire.

What are you working on now?
I also write urban fantasy as Alayna Williams. I’m finishing up on ROGUE ORACLE, sequel to DARK ORACLE, to be released by Pocket-Juno books in June. The series deals with a criminal profiler, Tara Sheridan, who solves crimes using Tarot cards. She’s also a member of an ancient secret society of female oracles, Delphi’s Daughters. Delphi’s Daughters are the intellectual descendents of the Oracle of Delphi. In ROGUE, they’re trying to lure Tara back into the fold. Tara and her partner, Federal Agent Harry Li are chasing a serial killer from Chernobyl who’s selling nuclear secrets on the black market.

Blurb for EMBERS:
Anya Kalinczyk spends her days as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire Department, and her nights pursuing malicious spirits with a team of eccentric ghost hunters. Anya--who is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern--suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon a fiery ancient entity that will leave the city in cinders. By Devil's Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya--with the help of her salamander familiar and the paranormal investigating team --can stop it.
Anya's accustomed to danger and believes herself inured to loneliness and loss. But this time she's risking everything: her city, her soul, and a man who sees and accepts her for everything she is. Keeping all three safe will be the biggest challenge she's ever faced.

Excerpt from EMBERS:
She stepped into the bathroom and clicked on the overhead light. The black-and-white retro tile gleamed. A collection of rubber duckies lined a shelf on one wall, grinning down at her with cartoon smiles. Anya turned the bathtub tap as hot as it would go, dropped a fistful of bath salts into the water. She plucked her favorite duck, a jaunty pirate with a plastic eye patch, from the collection and dropped him in the water. He spun in lazy circles under the faucet.

She peeled off her sticky, pickle-stained clothes and stuffed them in the washing machine in the bathroom closet. The chill rippled over her body as she measured detergent into the basin and set the water temperature to hot. When she'd moved in, Anya had the foresight to install an extra-large water heater. As a fire investigator, her work was always filthy and she didn't deny herself the luxury of as much hot water as she needed.

She paused, catching sight of her reflection in the mirror. Her light chestnut hair swung over her milky-pale shoulder which was studded with a constellation of beauty marks. Her fingers fluttered over her chest. Below the salamander collar that housed Sparky, a black char mark was burned into the flesh over her left breast. The wound didn't hurt. She knew it would eventually fade, like all the other exorcism burns, but it was a lingering reminder of the soul she'd devoured.

She stepped into the bath, wiggling her toes, feeling the warmth begin to radiate up her legs. She sank up to her neck in the water, massaging the hot water through her hair. The pirate duck bumped against her toes. She reached for a loofah and began to scrub hard, as if she could scrub the memory of the dead child away from her skin.

The sepulchral voice captured on the recorder buzzed in the back of her head, and her thoughts nipped at it:

"Sirrush is coming."

Her brow wrinkled. She'd never heard the name spoken aloud, only read it in books. Sirrush was an old term used for firedrakes and salamanders, a name used only in witches' ceremonial magic to draw down the element of fire. But the spirit's message seemed to be aimed at her and she chewed on it, tasting it for any flavor of a threat.

As the water cooled, Anya climbed out of the bath. She smelled no pickles or ash as she pulled the drain plug, just soap and a hint of jasmine from the bath salts. The pirate duck spiraled around the drain.

Anya toweled off, and pulled on her robe, decorated in a pattern of yellow cartoon ducks. Wet footprints on the shag rug in the hall trailed behind her. She paused in the hallway to turn up the thermostat, looking forward to the warmth of her bed. A simple futon piled high with blankets dominated the small bedroom. Anya couldn't bring herself to buy a second-hand bed. All beds were stained too much with the dreams of their prior owners.

Anya climbed under the blankets, sighing. She'd be able to get a couple of hours of sleep before her shift began. As she drowsed, the salamander collar warmed around her neck. Sparky unpeeled himself, slipped down to the floor. He padded across the floor to a large flannel dog bed placed against the wall. Resting in the bed was his favorite toy: a Gloworm. The stuffed toy was a flashlight ingeniously disguised in a cherubic plastic head and a caterpillar body. Since it ran on batteries, there was little electrical damage that Sparky could do to it that would result in a hazardous situation.

Sparky placed his paw on the Gloworm. It lit up. He removed his paw, and the light winked out. He cocked his head, watching it, then patted it again.




Anya scrunched her eyes shut against the blinking light. As much as he enjoyed biting ghosts and other ghoulies on the spiritual plane, Sparky could only directly affect two things in the physical world: energy and Anya. The toy had brought him many hours of delight. She'd placed it in the dog bed that he never used, hoping that Sparky could eventually be persuaded to sleep on his own in his own bed.

A whine emanated from the side of Anya's bed.

Anya opened one eye. Sparky's head peered over the mountain of covers. Anya groaned. She was too tired to try to Ferberize the salamander tonight.

She climbed out of bed, grabbed the Gloworm, and tossed it into her bed. Sparky climbed in, rooted under the blankets. He made himself comfortable, draped over one of Anya's hips. He cradled the Gloworm between his paws. Anya idly stroked his loose speckled skin and Sparky began to purr, a low vibration in the back of his ribs.

Sometimes, Anya wondered what it would have been like to have had Brian's warmth next to her. She'd seriously contemplated it in the past. But she didn't know how to explain sharing a bed with a familiar elemental spirit. While it was true that humans couldn't see Sparky, his presence could be sensed: fluctuations in temperature, static electricity, a sense of being watched. When Anya had taken lovers before, Sparky had not taken well to them. It was distracting to be in the act of making love to a man with a five-foot salamander sitting at the foot of the bed, head cocked, slapping his tail on the blankets. Sparky manifested at will, unpredictably. But he could always be trusted to always make an appearance whenever Anya was in the presence of spirits...or when the possibility for intimacy with a man presented itself....

But then again, maybe sex was overrated. Sparky's warm tail coiled around her ankles and he snored softly. At least, Sparky had good manners: he didn't fart, scratch himself, or have morning breath. He was rather like sleeping with an electric blanket. . . which was probably the best Anya could hope for at the present.

Curled in the warm embrace of the salamander cuddling his toy, Anya drifted to sleep.

Embers is available
now from and Barnes & Noble

Thanks for having me, Paty!


M Pax said...

Sounds like a great read. :D

Laura Bickle said...

Thanks, M Pax! I hope readers enjoy it - EMBERS was a blast to write. :-)