Thursday, April 8, 2010

Interview with Laura Bickle, EMBERS Giveaway




Today at Fang-tastic Books we have an interview with Laura Bickle, author of EMBERS
Welcome Laura. Thank you for joining us today.

Thank you so much for having me!
Q: Please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a writer.

A: I’ve been writing as far back as I can remember, scribbling down stories or drawing pictures of different worlds. I had a pretty magical childhood – my mother was a school librarian, so I spent summers in a sunshine-filled nook in the back of the library. I read about mythology and legends, dragons and things that go bump in the night. I wanted to create something that would speak to other people like those books spoke to me.

As an adult, I kept scribbling. I was initially pretty shy about submitting my work, but I gradually discovered that other people were enjoying what I’d written. It’s a wonderful affirmation of that childhood dream. I feel like I’ve come full circle, in that respect.


Q: Do you have a “day job” or do you write full time?

A: I do have a day job, working in information technology. I hope someday to be able to make writing a full-time gig…I have so many ideas that I’d love to commit to paper. I’ve got to leave many of them behind, now, but the ideas are waiting in my notes for the time to make them come to life.

Q: Do you have a set schedule for writing or do you just go with the flow?

A: I do keep a very set schedule, a habit I developed while participating in National Novel Writing Month. NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words in a month. I highly recommend the experience for all writers – it really tests the boundaries of what you think you can accomplish. It helped me integrate writing into other aspects of my life, and definitely made it a priority. DARK ORACLE, written under my Alayna Williams pseudonym, and its sequel, ROGUE ORACLE, are both National Novel Writing Month books.

I don’t write 50,000 words every month. Mostly, I try to do about a thousand a day. But it’s good to know that I can, and that I have the ability to meet deadlines and commit those ideas to paper before they fly away. Before NaNoWriMo, that was a challenge for me. I’d start a project, pick it up, set it down, and would only occasionally finish. NaNoWriMo taught me that finishing is the single most important step on the road to becoming a writer.


Q: Do you need to be in a specific place or atmosphere before the words flow? Do you have a ritual that you do before sitting down to write?

A: I like to write, hunched over my laptop, in a corner of a room I have set aside for writing. It’s a room I have all to myself, with lovely eastern sunshine. I tend to miss the sunshine, since I’m mostly an evening writer. I get the most done in the late night hours, when the house is quiet. Setting aside a space for me to write made the activity of writing seem more “real” to me.

I enjoy listening to music while I write. I compile a soundtrack of sorts for each project, and play it in the background. It keeps those sharp, critical little voices in my head lulled to a dull murmur.


Q: What is the strangest source of inspiration you’ve had? Maybe something weird that ended up in one of your books or short stories.

A: The song “Big Lizard in my Backyard” was the inspiration for a short story I wrote for Down in the Cellar, called “Ketchup.” The song inspired the character, Bert, who was a lizardlike demon responsible for keeping the Gate to Hell closed and a plague of demon sockmonsters in check. His keepers (The West Indiana Synod of the Illuminati Local 451) feed him human sacrifices, and get busted trying to pick up a hooker to placate him.

It really wasn’t as demented as that sounds…yeah. Yeah, it was. I had a lot of fun with Bert.


Q: If you could offer one tidbit of information for new writers, what would it be?

A: The single most important step along the path to getting published is finishing. The next step is having the discipline to do it again. And again. Wash, rinse, repeat. It’s the whole learning-by-doing thing.
Q: Name one thing readers would be surprised to learn about you.

A: I belly dance. Not well, but I manage to shimmy around the dance floor without embarrassing myself too badly. Unless I trip on my veil or drop a zil. That never ends well for me, but watchers seem to enjoy it.

I originally signed up for classes a couple of years ago to help me get over my shyness. I figure that if I can overcome the complete and utter terror of belly dancing before strangers, I can tackle just about anything else in life.


Q:What are some of your hobbies besides writing?

A: My husband and I are amateur astronomers. On dark summer nights, we trot around the countryside, looking for shiny stuff in the sky to stare at. I think my favorite thing to watch is the moon. Maybe someday, we’ll expand into taking pictures.

I also collect and read Tarot cards for fun. As a writer, it’s really instructional for me to see the hero’s journey displayed in pictorial form.

Q: What can you tell us about your current work in progress?

A: I am finishing up on ROGUE ORACLE, the sequel to DARK ORACLE. DARK ORACLE is out in June, and ROGUE will be out in 2011, under my Alayna Williams pseudonym. DARK ORACLE introduced Tara Sheridan, a criminal profiler who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes. In ROGUE ORACLE, Tara’s destiny becomes further enmeshed with Delphi’s Daughters, and ancient secret society of oracles. With the help of a federal agent, she’s trying to stop a Chernobyl survivor from selling nuclear secrets on the international black market.

Q: OK, now onto what we’ve all been waiting for: let’s talk about your newest release EMBERS. Please tell us a little about the book.

A: By day, Anya Kalinczyk is an arson investigator for the Detroit Fire Department. By night, she's a ghost-hunter who uses her powers as a medium to devour malicious spirits. With the help of her fire salamander familiar, Sparky, and an eccentric team of ghost hunters, Anya must stop a serial arsonist from summoning an ancient entity that will leave Detroit in cinders on Devil's Night.

Q: The book is set in Detroit, will all of the books in this series be in Detroit? And is this a fictional Detroit or a pretty accurate Detroit (aside from all the urban fantasy stuff)? And why Detroit?

A: All of the books will be set in Detroit. The city has such a fascinating and rich urban landscape, plenty of intriguing places to tell stories, that I don’t think I’ll run out.

The Detroit I describe in EMBERS is as faithful as I can make it to the original. I took tours, analyzed maps, and picked the brains of people who’ve lived there. The landscape includes many real places. For example, Detroit has a defunct (though recently resurrected) salt mine that stretches beneath the city. I was fascinated by that hidden world underneath the streets, and made it the nesting place for a dragon.

In SPARKS, the sequel to EMBERS, I was fixated upon the abandoned Michigan Central Station. It’s an amazing structure, fallen into decay. It was the perfect place for me to create a way station for ghosts traveling from this world into the next.

And as for the reason behind choosing Detroit…Detroit’s a great city. The history behind it is incredibly compelling, and the Art Deco architecture makes for a wonderful setting. And when choosing a city for an arson investigator with a fire salamander familiar…part of that history infamously includes fire. The destructiveness of Devil’s Night has waned in recent decades, but there are still people who remember it.


Q: It mentions in your bio you are a Midwest girl, I am curious (being a Michigan resident myself) if you have ever lived in Michigan since your newest book is set in Detroit?

A: My husband is from Detroit, and I have family from Michigan. My husband’s been dutifully playing tour guide and answering my nit-picky questions about the city. He’s a very patient muse.

Q: I see you have a lot of experience writing about criminal stuff- EMBERS takes that a step farther to work with arson, how did you come up with that idea?

A: I have an educational background in criminology, and have worked in and around criminal justice for many years. As a result, dark things occasionally rattle out of my brain and squirm onto paper. Learning about arson was an exciting chance to dip my toes into something new.

Q: Next up in the series is SPARKS, what will Anya have to face next?

A: In SPARKS, Anya’s investigating a rash of spontaneous human combustion cases. With the help of the ghost hunters and a soul collector from the Underworld, she must track down the supernatural source of the fires…and keep Sparky’s newly-hatched newts safe from a malicious celebrity psychic.

Well thank you for joining us today.

Thank you so much for having me!


More information on EMBERS and SPARKS can be found at http://www.salamanderstales.com/

More information on DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE can be found at http://www.alaynawilliams.com/

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.
On.
Off.
On.
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.


Would you like to win a copy of Embers by Laura Bickle?
Leave a comment on this post with email info
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Contest Closes Tuesday April 13 Midnight EST

Winner Announced on Wednesday April 14

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36 comments:

cait045 said...

I am already excited to hear Embers is going to be a series. I love series.


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Sherry said...

I really enjoyed the interview and the excerpt this sounds like a very good book.

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Robin K said...

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tetewa said...

I've been hearing alot about this one, sounds good! +5 for being a Fang-tastic Book follower! tWarner419@aol.com

SandyG265 said...

I like the fact that the book is set in Detroit. I don't think I've ever read a book set there.

+5 follower as sgiden

Anna Dougherty said...

I've seen this book featured around the web and would love a chance to read it. Tarot cards are so much fun- cool that she included her hobby into her book.

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mbreakfield said...

This series sounds good.
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Roxanne Rhoads said...

I just finished reading Embers and it is awesome. I love the fact that it is set in Detroit and mentions landmarks and places I've been (I live about an hour from Detroit). The unease and economic situation is mentioned too, the feeling is perfect.

I'll be posting a full review soon.

Roxanne Rhoads said...

one minor thing in the book I noticed- the football stadium it is called Ford Field, not Detroit Field

Don't know if that was a slipup- or because of Ford's trademarked name

Becky said...

I have heard great things about this book!!

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Laura Bickle said...

Thanks for catching that one, Roxanne! It must have snuck past all of us. ;-)

My husband is from Detroit, making research for EMBERS a blast. He loves playing tour guide in his hometown.

I'm glad that you're enjoying the book, and that so many of you are looking forward to it. :-)

Bethie said...

Please enter me. This looks so good.

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elaing8 said...

Great interview and excerpt.

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KMichelleC87 said...

This book looks really good. Thanks for the contest.

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Kelsey said...

I'm a Google follower.
I tweeted: http://twitter.com/Door2Wonderland/status/11839756647.
I linked on my right sidebar: www.thedoortowonderland.blogspot.com.
I follow on Twitter. My username is Door2Wonderland.
I also have your button on my sidebar.

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van_pham said...

This book sounds great, thanks for the contest. Looking forward to reading it!


van p.

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Estella said...

I enjoyed the interview. Don't think I have ever read a book with a salamander familiar. Makes me very curious about the book.

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Stephanie said...

This was a very interesting interview and I was glad to learn more about the author. Thanks for the excerpt.

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Laura Bickle said...

Estelle, salamanders don't get nearly enough attention! I imagine that they have felt quite neglected since Paracelsus' time, due to the lack of press. ;-)

Sparky, Anya's fire salamander familiar, was a fun character to write. He's a composite of many pets I've owned over time. He's impish, petulant, snarky, and adorable. He's possessive of Anya and fascinated by electricity, which sometimes makes for a bad combination.

Sandy Jay said...

I loved the excerpt. Sparky sounds like a lot of fun. I can't wait to read the book.

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Lisa R said...

This book and "Sparks" are already on my wishlist. This sounds like a series I'd throughly enjoy. And I do love a good series that doesn't wait a year between books.

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Karen W. said...

Thanks for the interview!

EMBERS sounds awesome!

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angel28140 said...

I've heard great things about Embers. Please enter me.

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Cecile said...

Please count me in!!!
I am a follower *(oh you meant stalker) of Fang!
Thanks for a cool contest!

Christa Holland said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christa Holland said...

I'd love to win this book... it sounds so interesting! Thanks for the giveaway.

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Laura Bickle said...

Lisa, I hope that you enjoy SPARKS, too. Much to Anya's chagrin, Sparky decides to have some newts! He's picked Anya's bathtub as a nest, and she gets really sick of washing her hair in the kitchen sink really fast.

It'll be out in September...not too long of a wait!

Marianna said...

I likey the cover. I def wanna read this! Woot~

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booklover0226 said...

I look forward in reading Embers and reading more about Sparky!

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halukacy said...

Can't wait to read this!

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Laura Bickle said...

I'm so excited that you all are looking forward to the book!

*Envision a five-foot salamander doing a happy dance.

donnas said...

Sounds really good. Please include me.

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Barbara E. said...

I enjoyed the interview and I'm dying to read Embers even more now. I love the fire salamander familiar, the ghost hunting, and the setting in Detroit - a city I'm not at all familiar with. I enjoy reading books set in different areas, it gives me a chance to learn a little bit about those places.

Laura Bickle said...

Barbara, my husband is from Detroit. He's been playing tour guide for me for the series.

pixie13 said...

Sounds pretty interesting. Please count me in. Thanks!
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throuthehaze said...

Sounds good and I love the cover :)

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