Today we have another author spotlight on The Book Smugglers (two in one week! Go figure!). Today’s guest is the fantastic Urban Fantasy author Laura Bickle.

Laura is the author of the brand spankin’ new Anya Kalinczyk series, whose series title character is, of all things, an arson investigator. A psychic arson investigator, of the paranormal. The first book in the series, titled Embers hit shelves this month – with impressive praise from the likes of Elizabeth Bear. (And, just so you know, we Smugglers will have a review of Embers up in the near future…) Here’s a bit more about the books of Laura Bickle:


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.

The second book in the series, Sparks will be released in September. Check out the purdy cover:

To celebrate the release of Embers, we are having the lovely Ms. Bickle over for an interactive Q&A and a chance to win her books! We have TEN AUTOGRAPHED COPIES of Embers up for grabs. Entry is easy and simple, as usual – just leave a comment here asking Laura a question (about her series, her alter-ego, her writing process, her flirtation with pyromania, etc!). The contest is open to residents of the US and Canada ONLY, and will run until Saturday, April 25th at 11:59PM (PST). ONLY ONE ENTRY PER PERSON, please! Multiple comments will be disqualified. Good luck, and let the questions begin.

Please and give it up for Laura Bickle!

Hi, folks! Thanks so much for having me. I’m excited to answer your questions about EMBERS and the sequel (SPARKS, out September 2010), or what my alter ego Alayna Williams is scribbling away on. We can chat about myths in storytelling, why fire salamanders love chewing on electrical cords, my favorite deck of Tarot cards, bad writing habits, things that go bump in the night, comic books, secret identities, why I’m held prisoner in my house by a posse of barely-reformed feral cats…it’s all fair game.

Looking forward to chatting with you!

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 work has been published in Midnight Times, Down in the Cellar, MicroHorror, Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction, Ballista, Byzarium, New Myths, a Blog-O-Novella office soap opera for True Office Confessions, and Aoife’s Kiss. Her most recent project is the Embers series of urban fantasy novels for Juno-Pocket Books.

She also writes urban fantasy as Alayna Williams. Check out her other novels at www.alaynawilliams.com.

She can be e-mailed at: laura@salamanderstales.com. She’s blogging on writing at: www.salamanderstales.blogspot.com.

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83 Responses to Interactive Q&A and Giveaway with Laura Bickle

  1. Hey Laura! :P

    Sparks’s cover looks just as fantastic as the cover of Embers! (and I love the font!)

    I would like to ask you are there more books in the Embers series, or it will be a 2 books series?

    And only heard tidbits about the new series you pen under the pseudonym of Alayna Williams, would you tell me a bit more about that?

    Of all the interesting conversation starters you just listed above I’d be interested to hear more about bad writing habits and the secret identities :D of and I’m of course curious about the hostage situation too! lol :lol:

    Thank you and congratulations on the release of Embers!! woohoo! :wink:

  2. (ps. Forgot to say that please don’t enter me in the contest as I live outside the US and I already received my shiny autographed copy of Embers, thank you Laura!! :P )

  3. Sarah says:

    Comic books, you say? What are your favorite comic books? :)

  4. Tabs says:

    Wait, why do fire salamanders love chewing on electrical cords?

  5. Amanda Isabel says:

    Great covers! Can’t wait to get started on these! :D

    My question: Why Detroit? I live across the river from Detroit and it served as my inspiration, too – but what specifically makes it so for you?

  6. Laura Bickle says:

    Hey, Stella! Good to “see” you again! And I’m SO glad that you got your book safe and sound!

    I would love to do more books in the series. I hope that the first two are successful enough to allow me to do more, as I have oodles of trouble for Sparky and Anya to get into.

    The ORACLE books are written by my not-so-secret identity, Alayna Williams.

    In DARK ORACLE, Tara Sheridan swore off criminal profiling after narrowly escaping a serial killer who left her scarred for life. By combining Tarot card divination with her own intuition, she must help an intense federal agent find a missing scientist who has unlocked the destructive secrets of dark energy. The agent, Harry Li, draws her out of her self-imposed exile and back into the world.

    In the sequel, ROGUE ORACLE, Tara and Harry are chasing a Chernobyl survivor who’s selling nuclear secrets on the international black market. Tara is coming to terms with her destiny as an oracle and rebelling against an ancient society of oracles of which her mother was a part.

    If you like the X-Files, Tarot, hard science, conspiracy theories, secret societies…I think you’ll enjoy. More info about them is here: http://www.alaynawilliams.com

    One of my bad writing habits involves writing with a box of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, straight from the freezer, at hand. I tend to lose track of how many I’ve eaten, and before I know it, the box is empty.

    I also have the VERY bad habit of going back and editing as I write. It’s something every writing instructor discourages, but I can’t help myself.

    As for other no-longer-secret identities…I belly dance. Not well, but I try. My dance instructor has given me a dance name: Jinan. I’m told it means “a garden in paradise.”

  7. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Stella! Good to “see” you again! And I’m SO glad that you got your book safe and sound!

    I would love to do more books in the series. I hope that the first two are successful enough to allow me to do more, as I have oodles of trouble for Sparky and Anya to get into.

    The ORACLE books are written by my not-so-secret identity, Alayna Williams.

    In DARK ORACLE, Tara Sheridan swore off criminal profiling after narrowly escaping a serial killer who left her scarred for life. By combining Tarot card divination with her own intuition, she must help an intense federal agent find a missing scientist who has unlocked the destructive secrets of dark energy. The agent, Harry Li, draws her out of her self-imposed exile and back into the world.

    In the sequel, ROGUE ORACLE, Tara and Harry are chasing a Chernobyl survivor who’s selling nuclear secrets on the international black market. Tara is coming to terms with her destiny as an oracle and rebelling against an ancient society of oracles of which her mother was a part.

    If you like the X-Files, Tarot, hard science, conspiracy theories, secret societies…I think you’ll enjoy. More info about them is here: http://www.alaynawilliams.com

    One of my bad writing habits involves writing with a box of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, straight from the freezer, at hand. I tend to lose track of how many I’ve eaten, and before I know it, the box is empty.

    I also have the VERY bad habit of going back and editing as I write. It’s something every writing instructor discourages, but I can’t help myself.

    As for other no-longer-secret identities…I belly dance. Not well, but I try. My dance instructor has given me a dance name: Jinan. I’m told it means “a garden in paradise.”

  8. Laura Bickle says:

    Ooops, sorry for the duplicate entry. Tech hiccup on my end.

    Sarah, I am a HUGE Wonder Woman fan. Recently picked up one of the 1970’s era dolls on eBay that is EXACTLY like the one I had when I was a kid. It’s a total nostalgia thing.

  9. Laura Bickle says:

    Tabs, the only things that Sparky the salamander can affect in the physical world are ghosts, Anya, and electrical fields. That’s why his favorite toy is a Glo-Worm. He can pat it and it turns on. He likes playing with motion-detector lights, anything with electrical juice that will react to his presence. He’s blown up Anya’s microwave, and she has to be very careful not to allow him around anything more technologically advanced than a stapler. That’s why she drives a 1974 Dodge Dart – fewer electrical components for Sparky to short out.

  10. Laura Bickle says:

    Amanda, I believe that Detroit’s a city lush with storytelling possibilities. The landscape provides so many real-world places with history behind them that makes Detroit irresistible to a writer. For example, the Detroit Salt Mine appears in EMBERS. It’s a real place, stretching for miles beneath the city. It’s not too far of a stretch of the imagination to think of it as the perfect nest for a dragon. In SPARKS, the next book, I make use of Michigan Central Station as a way station for ghosts.

    Given Anya’s ties to fire as an investigator and the owner of a fire salamander familiar, Detroit was a natural choice as a location. Its got a history of fires going back to the one that leveled the city in 1805, right up to Devil’s Night arsons in the twentieth century.

    My husband is from Detroit, and still has family in the area. There’s nothing like having a tour guide to lead you to all the unusual places that have stories to tell.

  11. Laura Bickle says:

    Amanda, the cover artist is Chris McGrath. More of his work is here: http://www.christianmcgrath.com

  12. Care says:

    Hi Laura,

    I’m not familiar with your work, but from the preview the story seems to interest me very much. I do want to know how long have you been writing and how did you get started. Do you have any tips for aspiring writers on how they should get started and whom to pitch stories too, etc. Thank you for the opportunity to ask you questions.

  13. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Care! I’ve been scribbling since I was a kid.

    I began working on novels and short stories about ten years ago. The short stories helped me get to the point, quickly, and working on novels helped me learn about persistence.

    The best two pieces of advice that I can give you are, firstly, to finish a story, book, poem, whichever form attracts you most. Then do it again. And again. Wash, rinse, repeat. Finishing is the most powerful tool for learning, and the best thing you can do for yourself, I think.

    Second, I highly recommend National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org.). There’s a great supportive community of folks there, and it really was a breakthrough experience for me. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in the month of November. I thought that was completely impossible until I tried it, and it really forced me to stretch my boundaries of what was possible. Both DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE are NaNoWriMo books.

    As far as pitching your work, a good source is the WRITER’S MARKET, which comes out every year, and is published by Writer’s Digest Books. For short fiction, good sources are http://www.ralan.com/ and http://www.duotrope.com/

    I’d also encourage you to attend any writer’s conferences in your area. I’ve made some great friends at conferences who’ve provided a much-needed kick in the pants to get me going.

    I hope this helps, and wish you the best of luck in your writing endeavors!

  14. Laura Bickle says:

    Oh, and Care, I forgot to mention…if you’re interested in writing any of the flavors of romance, check out Romance Writers of America: http://www.rwanational.org/

    They offer some incredible workshops and community support to get you going. I’ve made some wonderful friends there, and I highly recommend joining.

  15. Hi Laura – I read in another interview that you have published many short stories before getting your novel published. How’s the transition between short story writing to full length book? Also do you think it helped to get a contract for a full length novel since you had experience publishing the shorter stories? Thanks!

  16. Karissa says:

    Hi Laura,
    I am looking forward to reading this series, the first book has been on my list to read for awhile :-) I guess I am curious as to why you chose to have Anya be an arson specialist. Seems like an interesting niche for an investigator ;-)

  17. Laura Bickle says:

    Ooops, missed Stella’s question on the hostage situation. My husband and I are owned by four mostly-reformed ex-feral cats. They rule the roost.

    And they don’t like it when we leave to go to work. We’ve got one who parks herself before the front door, as if to barricade us in. Got another who howls piteously when I leave. And a sweet sixteen pounder who will often attempt to trip us on the way out. I’ve found my keys batted under the couch, vomit in my shoes…they find very creative ways to delay the inevitable.

    Sadly, we sometimes wind up negotiating with them and distract them by flinging cheese. They’ll run after it, and we can slip away. Sometimes.

  18. Hi Laura,
    This is the first that I am hearing about your series. However, the cover and synopsis really intrigued me. I am always looking for new UF, and the fact that you will have two Anya Kalinczyk out close to each other is exciting. Congrats!

    Did you have both finished before you (or your agent) approached a publisher? How hard is it to write two different series at the same time? Are Laura Bickle and Alayna Williams very different in style?

    And finally, how many Tarot decks do you own? Which one is your favorite?
    Sorry, if that seemed more like an interrogation!

  19. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Heather! I think that working on short stories helped me get to the point quickly, and cut out dead wood. When you’re working with a 3,000 or 5,000 word limit (or, heaven forfend, 1,000 words), you’ve gotta cut out everything that doesn’t move the story forward.

    I try to treat each chapter as a short story of its own, and structure it with a beginning, middle, and end.

    I think the short stories helped me in getting published by sharpening my skills and showing that I’ve been working hard in the genre for awhile. I’m also proud that one of my short stories, “The Vampire Keeper,” was an Honorable Mention for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year, Volume 2.

  20. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Karissa! Good question. I was initially playing around with the idea of a fire salamander familiar, and was imagining what kind of person would own one. The notion of Anya as an arson investigator seemed to fit nicely. She’s immersed in fire, both on duty, and off.

    I also had never read an urban fantasy novel about an arson investigator (not to mention one with a salamander), and thought it would be fun to try something different.

  21. Stephanie M says:

    Hi Laura!

    I can’t wait to read Embers! Oh by the way Congrats on the new release:D I would have to say the title and cover is what grabbed my attention then I read all the great reviews of the book and I gotta have it! Embers sounds so interesting and different from other Urban Fantasy books I have read so I’m really looking forward to reading your book. A brand new autograph copy sounds fantastic :wink:

    My question is How and Where do you write? Like do you listen to music…complete silence..sit by a window…Write it down first….strictly computer…kinda like that stuff.

    Thanks!
    Steph
    papercutreviewer@gmail.com

  22. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Lillie! Thanks for the congrats, and keep those questions coming – I love ‘em!

    EMBERS was nearly complete when I approached Paula Guran at Juno Books about it. SPARKS was written later.

    I think it’s a lot of fun to work on two series at once. It allows me to shift gears and get out of my own head a bit. It’s a nice change of pace.

    I believe that people who like “Laura’s” work will also enjoy “Alayna’s.” They’re both urban fantasy, and have strong female protagonists. But they do differ greatly in subject matter and tone and style. Anya and Tara, though both strong, are very different. Anya is definitely “fire” to Tara’s “ice.” Where Anya will rush headlong into a situation as a firefighter, Tara will analyze the situations confronting her from a rational criminal profiler’s perspective. I hope that readers will enjoy both.

    I have probably about a dozen decks. Some very conventional, many not (like the Quantum Physics Tarot). I would love to own the Greenwood Tarot some day, but it’s out of print. I’ve been enjoying the Mystic Dreamer Tarot and the Celtic Dragon Tarot. But I have to say that my overall favorite is the deck I learned on, Hanson-Roberts. It’s a very traditional Rider-Waite-type deck, but very gentle and beautiful in its imagery.

    Which one is your favorite?

  23. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Steph! Thanks so much for the kind words. I’m always thrilled when someone says they’re interested in my book – it’s like being asked to prom. :-)

    I like to write to music, but I can write to silence, as well. I compile soundtracks for my books and play those in the background. Keeps my rational brain occupied, I think. I can’t write with the TV on or with other people in the room, though.

    I have a little nook set aside for writing. It makes it seem like a real place. It’s an old six-panel door that I’ve put over a couple of file cabinets and covered with glass. I keep clippings and photos beneath the glass, rocks, cards, whatever inspires me at the moment. My desk faces east, and gets all kinds of gooey morning light. I’ve got a Wonder Woman doll perched on my desk, supervising my work, and a balsa wood dragon suspended from the ceiling. The desk is always a mess…littered with Tarot cards, file folders full of research clippings, library books, cat toys…

    I keep a journal for each book I’m working on, though I write on the computer. The journal keeps track of my outlines, ideas for scenes, character traits, and other ideas. So, you could say that it’s a combination of the high-tech and low-tech.

  24. Christa says:

    Two questions:
    Did you get to have much/any say in your book covers? Because they’re beautiful, but I know authors rarely get much input.

    Could you do a short comparison about writing the first book vs. the second? I mean in the first, you’re establishing your character & the world for yourself & the reader. With the second, you’ve got at least a chunk of that figured out. How did that change the writing process for you?

    Thanks for spending time answering our questions! I’d love a copy of your book. I’m determined to read it, I just have to finish a few books in my TBR stack before feeling good about buying more, lol. :D

  25. Laura Bickle says:

    Christa, the book covers were a lovely surprise. My editor e-mailed the cover images to me, and I was squealing with delight!

    You’re right in that the first book estabishes the world and the rules by which it operates. In the second book, the challenge was to have a sense of continuity without boring the reader.

    So, this is what I did (and what I’m also doing with the ORACLE series): I’m treating each book sort of like a television episode. Each book has a beginning, middle, and end, a complete story without a bunch of loose ends. I want a reader to be able to pick up SPARKS without having read EMBERS, and be able to fall as easily into the world without requiring a mountain of backstory. That’s not to say that there aren’t long-term plot arcs and mysteries that reach through the books…there are. But I don’t want the series to be so dense and impenetrably soggy with its own history that it’s impossible to pick up at any time and figure out what’s going on.

  26. Laura,
    I have two Rider-Waite decks, but I don’t use them much. I also have the Tarot of Jane Austen, which I bought mostly for love of Jane Austen, and an intense interest in how her stories/characters could be interpreted into Tarot.

    My favorite deck is my Harmonious Tarot. I think it appeals more to someone who might appreciate the aethetics and beauty of the deck itself, not just what it can reveal. I will just flip through the cards occasionally without a purpose in mind, and I like how Cups are called Chalices. It is the deck that seems to give me the most guidance and insight.

    I saw that you mentioned NaNoWriMo. Last November was the first time that I participated, and I reached the goal! I had this great sense of accomplishment, but doubt about the ultimate viability of the work.

    At the time, did you want to hold down the delete button, or did you feel that there was something in what you had written? Do you still participate, or is your schedule too busy?

    This might be my most important question, since I am obsessed with my new e-reader: Do you know if your books will be available in electronic form?

    Thanks again!

  27. Marie says:

    Hello Laura. Wow! the cover looks amazing and the story has a great premise.

    Question: you are writing two series and you still have to go to work? What the….?!? How do you keep up?

  28. Laura Bickle says:

    Lillie, those sound like fabulous decks! I’ve never seen them, but I’m gonna go look them up…the description of the chalices reminds me of the Arthurian Tarot…

    Congrats for winning NaNoWriMo! The thing to keep in mind is that it’s a rough-rough-rough draft. I always go through a lot of revision afterward. The key thing is doing it, I think, and developing the habit and the kernel of something that could be transformed into a book. EVERYONE doubts the viability of what they’ve produced, don’t worry. There’s a book in there, though.

    Yup, I still participate. I did last year, and intend to do so again this year.

  29. Laura Bickle says:

    Oh, and the books are available in eBook form from Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com!

  30. Laura Bickle says:

    Marie, thanks for the kind words!

    To answer your question…I have no children (except the ones with fur), and I’m a dreadful insomniac. I do a lot of work in the wee hours of the morning, when everything is quiet. I don’t recommend that as a formula for productivity for everyone, though. ;-)

  31. Christine H says:

    I’d love to be entered!

    thanks Laura for writing such a great book. I look forward to reading them.

  32. Laura Bickle says:

    Thanks, Christine! :-)

  33. Paula Guran says:

    Hi Laura!

    Just dropping by to lend immoral support ;-) Someone asked about futire books in the two series: *I* sure would love to do more. The second books — SPARKS and (for Alayna) ROGUE ORACLE — are even better than EMBERS and DARK ORACLE.

    So, here’s “the secret” about publishing: New authors need you readers! When you buy lots of copies of their books, then they go on to having long successful careers.

    I know very well how many (too many) books are out there from you to choose from. Nobody can read them all, let alone buy them all. Still, it is all up to you folks.

  34. CrystalGB says:

    Hi Laura. Embers sounds great. I love the cover. Who is the biggest supporter of your writing? Which authors do you like to read?

  35. GSM says:

    Laura–Embers sounds great. Since you are a new author to me, I’d like to know a bit more about you. How about listing five words that describe you? Thanks.

  36. Elizabeth says:

    This series looks great — I can’t wait to check it out! How did you first come up with the idea?

    What are some of your favorite books? Do you enjoy reading the same genre that you write?

  37. Laura Bickle says:

    Greetings, Paula! Folks, say hello to my editor and fairy godmother, Paula Guran. And thanks for the immoral fairy dust!

    Paula is absolutely right – I wish that I could hug everyone who invested their time and money on one of my stories. I’m truly grateful and hope to have a future writing more stories.

    Crystal, I’m fortunate to have a lot of support. You’ve just met my Editor Extraordinare, Paula. Paula took a chance on a complete unknown, for which I’m forever grateful. And there’s my husband, who reads through all my manuscripts before they go to Paula. He checks for WTF? moments. And my writing buddy, Linda Robertson, author of VICIOUS CIRCLE and HALLOWED CIRCLE. Her muse and my muse have coffee together often.

    I’d have to say that my favorite author is Robin McKinley. She hasn’t written a book yet that I haven’t loved. I also enjoy Barbara Hambly and C.S. Friedman’s Coldfire books.

  38. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, GSM! Nice to “meet” you!

    Hmmm. Five words? Reliable, well-caffeinated, introverted, curious, and bookish.

  39. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Elizabeth! I initially came up with the idea when I found out that Paula was open for submissions again. I had been kicking around the idea for a story involving a fire salamander. I hoped that it would be original, since salamanders haven’t gotten much press since Paracelsus’ time.

    I do enjoy fantasy books. I mentioned McKinley, Friedman, and Hambly, but I also really enjoy Christoper Moore. I think my favorite of his is THE LUST LIZARD OF MELANCHOLY COVE. Too funny.

    And I read a lot of comics, being the nerd-girl that I am. Recently read BATMAN: VAMPIRE, and loved it.

  40. ThisViewOfMine says:

    Im from michigan!(I no longer live there though.) So why did you pick Detroit for your setting? Oh wait… you already answered that. XP

    There certainly is alot of trouble that you can get into there. :wink:

    Hmmm… Are you ever inspired by photography? Just looking at it inspires me for pictures that I could take and makes me think about life.

  41. Etta says:

    Hi Laura,

    Both of your series sound really interesting, and I’m looking forward to checking them out.

    Why did you decide to publish under your alter ego’s name?

  42. Laura Bickle says:

    ThisViewofMine, there is some beautiful photography out there of Detroit. I was especially inspired by photos of Michigan Central Station for SPARKS.

    Etta, with both series coming out so close together, we thought it would be less confusing for the readers for me to use another name. EMBERS came out the end of last month, DARK ORACLE is due out in June, SPARKS in September, and ROGUE ORACLE in 2011. It was done for simplicity’s sake.

    But it makes for REALLY long name badges at conventions: Laura Bickle/Alayna Williams. My name badge nearly stretches from armpit to armpit!

  43. Sara M says:

    Hi Laura. I loved Embers. Can we look forward to more mischief from Sparky in the next novel? I absolutely love the little guy.

    I was also wondering why you chose to write your other series under a different name?

  44. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Sara! I’m so glad that you enjoyed Sparky. I love him, too. He’s a composite of all the pets that I’ve owned over time.

    Yes, look forward to LOTS more mischief from the little guy in SPARKS. He’s watching over his nest of newts that hatch in Anya’s bathtub…so it’s Sparky mischief times thirty!

  45. Tina says:

    Hi Laura,

    These books sound awesome–I’m looking forward to reading them! Here’s my question(s): What scenes are the easiest for you to write? Which are the hardest?

  46. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Tina. I think that the easiest ones to write are the ones with Sparky the salamander in him. He flows pretty easily out onto the page, and he’s the least predictable of the characters. I always have fun with him.

    The hardest ones? Sex scenes are hard for me to write. I don’t want them to come off cheesy. But one time, my editor caught my characters doing something physically impossible…that is, unless the heroine had grown a third breast somewhere on her back. Obviously, what I was envisioning wasn’t what came out on paper. :oops:

    And I had a hard time writing some of the scenes in ROGUE ORACLE. One of the characters is a Chernobyl survivor, and the research for that was very, very difficult. Gave me nightmares, more than any of the ghoulies or ghosties or things that go bump in the night.

  47. Carolyn H says:

    Hello Laura,
    This sounds like a wonderful series and I look forward to reading it as this rate a trip to the book store. I guess my question would be have you been asked to give a review on any books yet and if so what are they?
    I love finding new book to read.

  48. John J. says:

    So, how did you find your way into the paranormal/urban fantasy world? Is it a good genre for you, or do you work in other genres as well? Do you like to read outside what you write in?

    And…I want to hear hear the story behind your not-so-alter ego. :) Your books sound interesting, and the cover is classic urban fantasy. Can’t wait to pick it up!

  49. S.S. White says:

    I hope this isn’t something that’s been asked already (it didn’t seem to be, but then again, I was scrolling quickly), but what kind of research did you do for EMBERS, especially in regards to fire and mythology?

    –Shara

  50. Amber S says:

    Hey Laura! I was wondering what the difference between your Laura Bickle and Alayna Williams books. And how do you balance the two?

  51. van p. says:

    Hi Ms. Bickle!

    Ember sounds great, looking forward to reading it!

    My question is, how many books do you plan in for this series?

  52. Lindsay Elizabeth says:

    Hello, hello

    I was wondering, what is your writing process like? I’ve always had long involved stories plotted out in my mind, but it never seems to be as good on paper. I’ve heard everything from writing when inspiration strikes to writing every day, no matter how you feel… How does it work for you?

  53. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Carolyn! Nope, I haven’t been asked to review any books yet, but I’d recommend Linda Robertson’s CIRCLE series. Great stuff!

    John, I do enjoy urban fantasy, as well as epic fantasy, paranormal romance, and horror. If it has some element of the fantastic in it, I’m in! I’ve got an epic fantasy I wrote a couple of years ago gathering dust in a shoebox that I’m hoping to find a home for soon, so stay tuned!

    My alter ego, Alayna Williams, is a combination of my middle name and my husband’s middle name. My mother SWEARS that she didn’t name me after Rod Stewart’s first wife, but I’m not so sure…

    Shara, I spent a lot of time at the library learning about arson. I’m sure I’m on someone’s watch list somewhere, LOL. My background is in criminology, so I have some idea of how an investigation is run, but arson was a new and exciting thing to learn about.

    As for the mythology, I was thrilled to dig deeper into myths about dragons, salamanders, and Ishtar. Anya’s got her roots in the myth of Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of war and sex. Ishtar’s love was known to be fatal to her lovers, and Anya has to try and resist that destiny. I was fascinated by the idea of a love goddess who is also a war goddess. Not at all common in mythology.

    Amber, in EMBERS, Anya Kalinczyk is the rarest type of psychic medium, a Lantern. Where other mediums see spirits, she devours and incinerates them. Anya has a double life: she 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. She’s part of two worlds, but not fully accepted in either. Anya suspects a supernatural arsonist is setting blazes to summon an ancient dragon that will burn the city to cinders. By Devil’s Night, the spell will be complete, unless Anya-with the help of the ghost hunters and her fire salamander familiar, Sparky-can stop it.

    In DARK ORACLE, I introduce a new heroine, Tara Sheridan. Tara swore off criminal profiling after narrowly escaping a serial killer who left her scarred for life. By combining Tarot card divination with her own intuition, she must help an intense federal agent find a missing scientist who has unlocked the destructive secrets of dark energy. The agent, Harry Li, draws her out of her self-imposed exile and back into the world

  54. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, van! I’d love to keep going with both series as long as possible. I have plenty of ideas I’d like to bring to life. Having new worlds to explore is very exciting, and I hope that I get the opportunity to continue.

    Lindsay, I think that the best way to reach writing goals is to write every day, whether you feel like it or not. I know that sounds totally counterintuitive. But you can really surprise yourself with what you turn out when you get in the habit. To that end, I recommend trying National Novel Writing Month: http://www.nanowrimo.org. It was really a breakthrough for me in my own writing process. DARK ORACLE and its sequel, ROGUE ORACLE, were NaNoWriMo books. The process really forced me to streamline and get to the essentials.

  55. meredith g says:

    Everyone has asked general questions, so I’ll get in-depth :D. Do you use outlines before you start a new book? I know some people live and die by their outlines, but I can’t seem to see why.

  56. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Meredith! I’m a plotter, not a pantser. I always start with a synopsis. I start with a general outline that becomes more specific as I go along. I liken it to putting meat on the bones of a skeleton. I find that if I start with nothing in mind, my writing tends to wander too much. That’s not to say that it isn’t fluid, and that there aren’t surprises. There always are.

    I am envious of pantsers who are able to navigate without the pieces of paper, but I need my security blanket! ;-)

  57. Lexi says:

    Having worked with a few different species of salamanders, I have a question. Did you have a particular type of real salamander in mind or was Sparky based off myth primarily?

  58. Roxy says:

    Hi Laura. How did you get published? Having short stories published before a full length novel made it “easier” to publish your books?

    Also, awesome covers! And I love that you picked Detroit for a setting! It’s where I grew up so I’m partial to it. I’m tired of people always bashing it.

  59. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Lexi! I’d love to hear about your salamander experiences. SPARKY is probably a composite of several different types of salamanders: red, tiger, and hellbender. He has the ear-gills of an axolotl. But he’s mostly guided by the mythological descriptions – though, contrary to Paracelsus’ description, he doesn’t have stars on his body.

    Roxy, I think the short stories helped me most getting practice in getting to the point quickly. With a 3,000 or 5,000 (or 1,000) word format, it forced me to be succinct. And the experience of rejection did a lot to toughen my skin. I gained a lot of valuable feedback that helped me to grow.

    Detroit IS a great town. It’s a rich and wonderful place to find myths and unique landscapes, like the Detroit Salt Mine and Michigan Central Station. My husband is from Detroit. And he still roots for the Lions, no matter what!

    My husband says: “I think they made a good draft pick. But they’re gonna ruin his career, because that’s what they do.” Sigh.

  60. Laura Bickle says:

    Roxy…more on getting books published. I met my editor at a writer’s conference at a time she was closed for submissions. I was totally tongue-tied and said absolutely nothing useful. But she did remember me when I submitted EMBERS to her several months later. So…luck and timing.

  61. [...] Laura Bickle, author of Embers, by the Book Smugglers [...]

  62. Sue Brandes says:

    I’m kind of late and a lot of good questions already so I will ask Do you have a book you are reading or have read that you would reccomend?
    I love the covers of your books and the books sound really great. I have not read this type of book before and it sounds very interesting. :D

  63. Myra C. says:

    Hi, the book sounds great! Who are your favorite authors?

  64. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Sue and Myra!

    Right now, I’m reading EURYALE, by Kara Dalkey, DARKER ANGELS, by M.L.N. Hanover, EYES OF CROW, by Jeri Smith-Ready, and Elizabeth Bear’s CHILL. Other favorite authors are Christopher Moore, Robin McKinley, and Barbara Hambly.

  65. I think I’m looking forward to the Oracle series as much as the Anya series. I imagine Sparky added a laugh here and there. I love a good paranormal that can take you away and provide a chuckle or smile is an added plus.

  66. Laura Bickle says:

    Lisa, Sparky was a lot of fun to write. I’d intend for him to do one thing in my outline, and he’d veer completely off course and do something entirely different that would require the intervention of fire extinguishers.

    I hope that you enjoy both Anya and the Oracle series!

  67. Angie D says:

    I don’t know if anyone else has asked this but who are some of your favorite authors to read?
    Thanks!

  68. MeganS. says:

    Hi, Laura! I have to say, all the positive buzz about Embers has me intrigued, and I’m interested to see how the salamander familiar comes in play, especially in a contemporary urban environment. You mentioned Paraclesus in one of your comments–do you incorporate anything with his other elemental spirits in the mythology of your Embers universe?

  69. tamibates says:

    i would love to read embers!!!!!!

  70. Hey Laura I Saw You Over At Bitten By Books, So Glad I Found You Here As Well. If You Were Stranded On A Deserted Island What Three Things WOuld You Just Have To Have To Keep Your Sanity?

  71. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Angie! Right now, I’m reading Kara Dalkey, M.L.N. Hanover, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Elizabeth Bear’s. Other favorite authors are Christopher Moore, Robin McKinley, C.S. Friedman, and Barbara Hambly.

    Hi, Megan! I’ve not yet worked any sylphs or undines into the book. But I’m fortunate enough for there to be a third book, a gnome may make an appearance. :-)

    Thanks, Tami! I hope you enjoy!

    Raquel…hmm. I’d have to go down the route of pragmatism…sunscreen (because I’d go up like a vampire at high noon without it), a machete, and a good rifle with ammo.

    But, if we’re talking about a lovely island in the Carribbean where drinks are served on the beach in glasses with little umbrellas…a journal, pens, and a nice supply of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies.

  72. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Angie! Right now, I’m reading Kara Dalkey, M.L.N. Hanover, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Elizabeth Bear. Other favorite authors are Christopher Moore, Robin McKinley, C.S. Friedman, and Barbara Hambly.

    Hi, Megan! I’ve not yet worked any sylphs or undines into the book. But if I’m fortunate enough for there to be a third book, a gnome may make an appearance. :-)

    Thanks, Tami! I hope you enjoy!

    Raquel…hmm. I’d have to go down the route of pragmatism…sunscreen (because I’d go up like a vampire at high noon without it), a machete, and a flare gun.

    But, if we’re talking about a lovely island in the Carribbean where drinks are served on the beach in glasses with little umbrellas…a journal, pens, and a nice supply of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies.

  73. Raelena says:

    I love the covers! How much say did you have in them?

  74. Donna W says:

    Thanks for visiting us Laura. Most of the books I read are urban fantasy so I’m quite excited to check out your book.

    My question for you is, if you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book, Embers?

  75. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Raelana! The covers were a happy surprise. I didn’t see them until my editor e-mailed them to me, and I was immediately in love with them.

    Donna, I don’t think I’d change anything. I’m very happy with the way the story turned out. Well, maybe I would have thought of the idea sooner, though! :-)

  76. I haven’t yet gotten a chance to read your new book, Embers, but I am wondering…what made you choose a salamander as Anya’s familiar?

  77. Laura Bickle says:

    Falling, I wanted to do something a bit out of the box. Salamanders haven’t gotten much press since Paracelsus’ time, and I thought that they were past due to be allowed to run wild on the page.

  78. Donna S says:

    Thanks for sharing. It sounds like a great book. What was your favorite part of writing it?

  79. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Donna! I think that developing the Sparky character was the most fun. That, and researching dragons. ;-)

  80. Laura Bickle says:

    I’d like to thank everyone who stopped by…I really appreciate you taking the time to chat, and hope that you enjoy EMBERS! :-)

  81. [No need to enter me in the contest; I'll be picking this up myself :)]

    Hi Laura,

    Just stopped by to say congrats on your release! It was so cool to find out that we debuted on the same day, from the same publisher. :) All the best and here’s hoping you get to continue the series – it sounds like a really great read! I’m looking forward to checking out Embers (and Sparks!).

  82. Laura Bickle says:

    Hi, Sonya! Thanks for the kind words. Your book is in my TBR pile – congrats and happy book birthday! :-)

  83. Jimmy says:

    - Heidi, these pictures are AMAZING!!!!!! Laura loekod stunning and LOVE her bouquet. Loved all the details. The day couldn’t have been any more perfect for them. You captured it WELL!!!!!October 15, 2010 1:20 pm

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