Guest Laura Bickle

Please help me welcome, the amazingly talented author of Embers and Sparks, Laura Bickle. Thanks so much for hanging at my blog today, Laura. I LOVED this post, and I know my blogging buddies will, too. :)

The Care and Feeding of a Rogue Familiar
No one ever successfully controls a familiar.

Historically, familiars were said to be magical helpers of witches. They had the ability to shift shape, often appearing as cats, bats, or other creatures in their service to the witch. It was assumed by inquisitors that familiars, as a type of imp or evil spirit, served the witch willingly.

At other times, they were summoned by a magician, then bound to a stone or piece of jewelry. The familiar spirit was trapped, coerced into service, like a genie in a bottles. One can only imagine that an unhappy familiar would lie in wait to cause trouble for its master. As it’s an immortal spirit, it had the patience to wait, sleeping with one eye open for an inevitable opportunity to wreak havoc on its keeper.

In the world of EMBERS and SPARKS, Anya has a familiar, Sparky. He’s a five-foot long speckled hellbender with eyes like marbles–a fire salamander elemental, a creature that’s the embodiment of fire. The German magician, Paracelsus, called fire spirits “salamanders” in the sixteenth century. Salamanders were long associated with fire, despite their amphibious nature, because they crawled out of forest logs cast on fires. The salamander was assumed to dwell in fire, and embodied the impetuosity, power, and destructive changeability of the flickering flame.

Anya’s had Sparky since she was a child. He’s tied to a necklace her mother gave her, which suggests that, like the familiars trapped in jewelry, he was coerced into service at some point in the past. But Sparky seems to serve Anya willingly, protecting her from malicious spirits (not to mention jealously guarding her against any potential lovers).

Life with a salamander isn’t easy. Sparky is only able to be seen by Anya and ghosts. When he’s not chasing ghosts, he’s busily getting into trouble. Aside from Anya and the ghosts, he’s only able to affect electrical fields. And electricity is delicious. He’s blown up every microwave that Anya’s ever owned. He chews cell phones and drains their batteries. He likes to lick electrical outlets, with disastrous results. In EMBERS, Anya takes him to a hospital, and he manages to wreak havoc with vital sign monitors.

But Sparky has his quieter, less destructive moments. His favorite toy is a Gloworm. When he pats it, its cherubic little face lights up, much to his delight. Late at night, he curls up with his toy at the foot of Anya’s bed like any other pet, purring and chortling happily in the amber light of the Gloworm tucked between his paws.

At times like these, Anya rubs his speckled belly and imagines that he’s under control.

And Sparky opens one eye and snorts.

He knows better.

Anya Kalinczyk #1
Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
ISBN: 978-1439167656
April 2010

“One of the most promising debut novels I’ve read in a great while… I’d highly recommend this book to anybody who reads fantasy. It reminds me in many regards…of another exceptional first novel…Emma Bull’s seminal War for the Oaks, and there’s not much higher praise that I can give.”
—Elizabeth Bear on

“Bickle has something great in Anya. Embers has everything: demons, ghosts, dragons, love, sex, police, and murder.”
—M.L.N. Hanover, bestselling author of Darker Angels

“Gritty but never grim, Embers is a truly urban fantasy, where the soul of a city haunts every page. I can’t wait for more of Anya and the unforgettable Sparky!”
—Jeri Smith-Ready, award-winning author of Bad to the Bone and Shade

Unemployment, despair, anger–visible and invisible unrest feed the undercurrent of Detroit’s unease. A city increasingly invaded by phantoms now faces a malevolent force that further stokes fear and chaos throughout the city.

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.

EMBERS is available now from and Barnes & Noble.

Read an excerpt at

Anya Kalinczyk #2
Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback,
ISBN 978-1439167687
September 2010

The second book in Bickle’s series about Anya Kalinczyk is just as wonderful as the first—Anya is a compelling and likable protagonist and Bickle does an outstanding job in her portrayal of the city of Detroit; there are ruins, yes, but also hope in the ashes. Anya never takes herself too seriously and there is a scene in a baby supercenter that is absolutely not to be missed. (4 stars)
- RT Book Reviews

…a charming and
inventive read.

-Elizabeth Bear, Realms of Fantasy Magazine, December 2010


Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern,
who holds down a day job as an arson investigator with the Detroit Fire
Department—while working 24/7 to exterminate malicious spirits haunting a city
plagued by unemployment and despair. Along with her inseparable salamander
familiar, Sparky, Anya has seen, and even survived, all manner of fiery
hell—but her newest case sparks suspicions of a bizarre phenomenon that no one
but her eccentric team of ghost hunters might believe: spontaneous human

After fire consumes the home of elderly Jasper Bernard, Anya is stunned to discover his remains—or,
more precisely, a lack of them; even the fiercest fires leave some trace of their victims—and she is sure this was no naturally occurring blaze. Soon she’s unearthed a connection to a celebrity psychic who preys on Detroit’s poor,
promising miracles for money. But Hope Solomon wants more—she’s collecting spirits, and in a frantic race against time, Anya will face down an evil adversary who threatens her fragile relationship with her lover, her beloved
Sparky’s freshly hatched newts, and the wandering souls of the entire city.

SPARKS is available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Read an excerpt at

~ ~ ~

Author Bio:

Laura Bickle 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. Although she does read Tarot cards, she’s never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses.

Writing as Laura Bickle, she’s the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket – Juno Books.
Writing as Alayna Williams, she’s the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.

More info on her urban fantasy and general nerdiness is here:

Alayna’s blogs

She’s also at Facebook


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