Thursday, July 14, 2011

Midnight Snack- Flash Fiction by Laura Bickle

Midnight Snack
By Laura Bickle

Something jerked his tail. Hard.

Sparky awoke with a start. Instinctively, he clutched his Gloworm toy close to his body, its plastic face lighting up. Sparky lifted his spade-shaped salamander head, blinked sleepily.

His tail trailed off the edge of the bed into darkness. He slowly reeled it back from the edge. His tongue flickered out of his mouth, sticky from sleep. He smelled the sour, corrupted smell of a ghost. Ghosts were like roaches. They came at night, creatures feeding off the emotional debris of humans. Annoying pests.

Sparky’s human lay stretched on the other side of the bed, asleep. Anya’s head was jammed under the pillows, muffling her oblivious snoring. Sparky shoved his beloved toy closer to Anya for safekeeping.

He padded to the edge of the bed and peered, upside-down, into the blackness. Something pale and diaphanous seethed under the bed. Sparky pressed his feathery gill-fronds forward, hissing.

The thing in the darkness hissed back. It scuttled forward, charging at Sparky. Sparky snapped at it, and it retreated.

Sparky lashed his tail in irritation. Stupid little spirit. Probably had hitched a ride with some of Anya’s garage-sale relics. He hopped back into bed, stomping over Anya. He planted his feet in her ribs and licked her shoulder to wake her. Anya was a Lantern, a spiritual medium who devoured ghosts. She’d eat it for breakfast. If he could get her ass out of bed.

“Sparky.” Anya wrapped her arms over her head, mumbling: “Go back to your bed.”

The salamander glared at the pet bed on the floor in disdain. That was for dogs, not elemental familiars. Insulting.

Sparky mewed insistently. Anya swatted at him, knocking the Gloworm off the floor.

Sparky huffed, emitting a raspberry-like sound from his gill-fronds. He hopped down to the floor to rescue his toy from the thing under the bed. If Anya wasn’t going to wake up, he’d have to get rid of the ghost himself.

White light oozed from under the bed. The pathetic little ghost wasn’t even powerful enough to coalesce into a shape with fixed boundaries, just a puddle with tendrils reaching for the toy. When the ectoplasmic fingers touched the Gloworm, the plastic face lit up.

Not my toy!

Sparky pounced on the ghost, tearing into it with his powerful salamander jaws. It squeaked and growled, but Sparky didn’t let go. The ectoplasm felt cool in his mouth as he shredded it, like a dog with a wet newspaper. Three or four quick gulps, and the ghost was gone.

“Mmmph.” Anya slurred, snagging the toy to toss it onto the bed next to her.

Sparky leapt up beside it. He stretched his distended belly out beside Anya’s hip, belching a sulfurous bubble of gas.

From the mound of pillows, Anya snored.

Sparky rolled his eyes. Keeping this human safe was tough work for a familiar.

Get more of Sparky in Laura Bickle's Embers and Sparks, you can even read a guest blog form his point of view at The WormHole


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.

A free excerpt is available here.

EMBERS is available now from and Barnes & Noble.

Anya Kalinczyk #2
Pocket Juno Books
Mass Market Paperback, $7.99
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 combustion.

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

A free excerpt is available here.


Laura Bickle said...

Thanks for having Sparky over for a chat, Roxanne!

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Ooh, a new Sparky story - love!

Jillian said...

Love the little Sparky story!

Laura Bickle said...

Thanks, Jeffe and Jillian! Sparky sends his lurve!

Barbara E. said...

I enjoyed the cute Sparky story. Loved both Sparks and Embers, they were fantastic.

Laura Bickle said...

Thanks, Barbara E! I'm so glad that you enjoyed them! :-)

Stella (Ex Libris) said...

Aww, how cute! THank you Laura for such a cute Sparky story, he is the best! So adorable :-D Hard for me to remember how big he is actually, lol ;-p

JenM said...

Fun story. I love Sparky. I hope Laura has a chance to write more books in this series.