Guest Author & Giveaway: Laura Bickle

I’m a fan of Laura Bickle‘s writing, but I’m also a fan of the lady herself. (No she didn’t pay me to say that. *g*) Embers, the first book in the unique Anya Kalinczyk series, came out earlier this year – and Sparks (book 2) has recently been released. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Laura over here for a guest post and giveaway.

Here’s Laura on ‘magical places’ (totally appropriate considering how cool and magical her worldbuilding is) – and stick around until the end for a giveaway. 🙂



Magical Places
by Laura Bickle

There are some places in the real world that have just stuck with me as I write, and have managed to work their way into my fictional worlds. These places have their own magic, their own special gravity that pulls pieces of stories around them.

When I was a child, I visited Serpent Mound with my grandfather. It’s the largest effigy mound in the U.S., shaped like a serpent swallowing an egg. The serpent coils over a preternaturally-silent meadow that smells like sunshine and fresh-cut grass. No one really knows what it was used for, and I always wondered. In my stories as an adult, it became the burial ground for a dragon in EMBERS, haunted by a ghostly woman who keeps guard to make sure the dragon sleeps: www.greatserpentmound.com

The Detroit Salt Mine, which was closed down for a period of time, is another such magical place. Stretching for miles beneath the city, it’s a series of glittering caverns. You can taste the salt and feel it crunching underfoot. It made the perfect lair for another sleeping dragon in my books

Detroit Salt Mine

The Detroit Museum of Arts captured my imagination. DIA houses a piece of the Ishtar Gate, and the tiles show an image of a Babylonian dragon-like creature called a Sirrush. This artifact inspired the idea that Anya has a piece of the mythological goddess, Ishtar, within her. It also gave me a name for the dragon sleeping in the Salt Mine. The giant dragon, the granddaddy of all fire elementals, became a Sirrush in the world of EMBERS.

Michigan Central Station stands as a ruined hulk in Detroit, a husk of a building with broken out windows overlooking debris and unused train tracks. But you can still see its bones, how beautiful it was when it was built, when it stood in a city that was called “The Paris of the East.” Despite the graffiti inside and the lack of electricity, it’s easy to imagine it as I did, as a way station for traveling spirits in SPARKS: www.forgottendetroit.com/mcs/photos.html

What magical places in the real world have you written or read about? Are there some that inhabit larger amounts of real estate in your head than others, places that are absolutely unforgettable?

Laura Bickle is the author of EMBERS and SPARKS from Pocket-Juno Books. 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. More information on her work can be found at www.salamanderstales.com

“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, Tor.com



SPARKS:

WITHOUT A TRACE. 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 plaguing 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, the 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.

Laura is giving away TWO signed copies of Sparks – just leave a comment on this entry by the end of the day Monday, October 18th, and I’ll announce the two winners soon after. Giveaway is open to all – get commenting!

73 Comments


  1. Hi Karen!
    Thank you for introducing me to Laura Bickle and her writing. Her series sounds intriguing!
    I tried to order EMBERS from Book Depository but it’s out of stock. (Sold out! *Yay for Laura*)
    Will try Borders next…
    Thank you to Laura for sharing here today. (& for the haunting pictures).
    Magical places in the world…
    I’ve got to say Ireland, Scotland & Wales.
    (Just read about them. A lot.)
    🙂
    All the best,
    RK Charron

    Reply

  2. Heehee – I’ve never been there, but I’ve put a medical technology facility inside Dundas Driving Park in Ontario, Canada 😉

    As for reading, the Neon Graveyard and its underground lair in Vicki Pettersson’s Signs of the Zodiac series is so freaking awesome 🙂 (I’ve only read the first three books, so ssh on spoilers.)

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    1. Tez, I’m totally adding Signs of the Zodiac to my TBR list! I love lairs! Thanks for the tip.

      Reply

  3. These books sound fabulous! And I’m frustrated now because I come from Michigan but never knew about the Detroit Salt Mine – I will DEFINITELY be visiting next time I visit home! Please enter me in the giveaway if it’s open internationally.

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    1. Steph, the Salt Mine is very cool…and it’s now open for tours! You can taste the salt in the air…just the perfect dragon cave.

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  4. Once I got a book and inside it came a bookplate (or big, square bookmark, as I see it -and use it) from Embers, and it has been on my wishlist since then. I didn’t know the second book in the series was out yet, I think it’s a sign for me to finally order Embers! I love female strong leads, spirits and investigations!:D

    I’ll love to enter this contest, but please, only toss my name on that hat if international entries are allowed. Thank you 😉

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  5. The books do sound amazing. I have not read this author yet and would love to read her books. Thanks for the contest!

    Misha
    mishamary@gmail.com

    Reply

  6. I love Big Bend in Texas. It’s beautiful! Of course, I also remember my dad getting car-sick on the drive since it twists a lot (lol)… also, the ocean in Massachusetts is an even more vivid memory for me. Since I live in the middle of Texas, that first gulp of sea water was SO unexpected! : )
    Thanks for the giveaway.

    Reply

    1. Christa, I live in the midwest, so I know about the magic of seeing the ocean for the very first time. I think that I was eleven or so. I couldn’t believe how darn big it was! Last time I saw the ocean was a few years ago…Cannon Beach, Oregon. That’s another magical place that I’d love to write about (though the Goonies beat me to it!).

      Reply

  7. Thanks so much to Kaz for having me here! 🙂

    RKCharron, I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Maybe someday!

    Tez, I’m totally adding Signs of the Zodiac to my TBR list! I love lairs! Thanks for the tip.

    Steph, the Salt Mine is very cool…and it’s now open for tours! You can taste the salt in the air…just the perfect dragon cave.

    jen7waters, I’m thrilled to learn that those postcards are making the rounds. 😉

    Christa, I live in the midwest, so I know about the magic of seeing the ocean for the very first time. I think that I was eleven or so. I couldn’t believe how darn big it was! Last time I saw the ocean was a few years ago…Cannon Beach, Oregon. That’s another magical place that I’d love to write about (though the Goonies beat me to it!).

    Reply

  8. This sounds like an intriguing series. I’d love to win a copy and check it out.

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  9. What a nifty post! I’d love a chance to win if it’s open internationally (UK). The book looks and sounds different and intriguing.

    Reply

    1. Thanks, tricia! Fire salamanders really haven’t gotten much press since Paracelsus’ time, so I thought they were overdue for the spotlight. 😉

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  10. The catacombs in Paris! When some of the graveyards in Paris had to make room for housing, the bones that were dug up were placed in the catacombs and are there still.
    I read about the catacombs in a dutch comic (January Jones) and thought they sounded creepy, but also a weird and magical place to visit.
    I actually did visit them when I was in Paris and was surprised to find they weren’t creepy at all, but in fact very peaceful.

    Reply

    1. Carien…I would so much love to visit the catacombs! I’m very jealous that you got to see them in person…and intrigued that they were so peaceful.

      *Sparky waves at Sullivan*

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      1. The weirdest thing was that they made decorations with some of the bones. Pillars and such.
        I will try to dig up the photos we took once we are settled in our own house again.

        *Sullivan waves back at Sparky and sulks because he hasn’t been to Paris yet either*

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        1. I’d love to see them if they turn up!

          Poor Sullivan. You must take him on your travels! 😉

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  11. I love going to cities and looking, really looking, at some of the old buildings. In New York, the facades of a lot of buildings are unchanged above the first or second story, so you can see some really interesting architectural details. One of my favorite places was recently renovated, the old Pan-Am Clipper terminal at LaGuardia. I love art deco and am so glad they brought this building back to life.

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    1. Karen, I love art deco. I’ve never been to New York, but might get to go next year. I’ll put that one on my list!

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  12. I haven’t written about it, but someday, I intend to; the Nelson-Atkins Museum of art in Kansas City has a sort of magical feel to it. There’s some collections – the Chinese collection specifically – that feel like there’s just something different about them, like they’re not just ordinary objects.

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    1. Elizabeth, I adore museums. I included a piece of the Ishtar Gate at the Detroit Institute of Arts in EMBERS, and many pieces and ghosts in their collection in SPARKS. I could lose myself in museums. Sigh.

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  13. I’d love to throw my name in for a copy! The cover looks amazing.

    It was great to see you at the Maggie Stiefvater signing btw 🙂

    Reply

    1. Thanks, Hester! I really lucked out. The artist is Chris McGrath, who does the covers for Butcher’s Dresden Files.

      Reply

  14. You know, this is a series I’ve always meant to try. Both covers have been repeatedly catching my eye. I think I should give in soon.

    The Detroit Salt mines look really cool!

    (I don’t suppose you could delete my previous comment since I completely messed up in filling out my website in it?)

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    1. The mine is very, very cool, Janicu. I’ve never heard of another mine that’s actually beneath a city like that.

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  15. I’m drawing a blank on locations right now, but since Embers has been staring at me from my TBR pile for a while now, I’ll definitely toss my name in for a signed copy of Sparks.

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    1. Hi, Janicu…the mine is very, very cool. I’ve never heard of another mine that’s actually beneath a city like that

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  16. Oh my gosh! That looks so cool! They’re going on my to-read list for sure. 😀

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    1. Thanks, LCD! I really appreciate you stopping by. 🙂 The books were a lot of fun to write – hope they’re fun to read, too!

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  17. Thanks, Alice and tricia!

    Carien…I would so much love to visit the catacombs! I’m very jealous that you got to see them in person…and intrigued that they were so peaceful.

    Karen, I love art deco. I’ve never been to New York, but might get to go next year. I’ll put that one on my list!

    Elizabeth, I adore museums. I included a piece of the Ishtar Gate at the Detroit Institute of Arts in EMBERS, and many pieces and ghosts in their collection in SPARKS. I could lose myself in museums. Sigh.

    Thanks, Hester! I really lucked out. The artist is Chris McGrath, who does the covers for Butcher’s Dresden Files.

    Hi, Janicu…the mine is very, very cool. I’ve never heard of another mine that’s actually beneath a city like that.

    Thanks, Dan-Phi and Teresa W! I hope you enjoy.

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    1. Haha!! 🙂

      Yeah, I installed a cool plug-in that let’s you do it (but the threads can only go on for about 5 comments before it stops).

      Kaz

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  18. Sounds great. Thanks for sharing! I love mountain scenes. Something about them just adds to the effect for me. Along with of course cities I have visited of lived in, really adds to the story when you have seen the actual location. For places that might not really exist, I agree totally with the person above and the lair in the Signs of the Zodiac series is absolutely amazing.

    bacchus76 at myself dot com

    Reply

    1. Mountains are lovely. Got a chance to vacation in West Virginia a few years ago, and the hiking was spectacular!

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  19. Wow!
    I must admit I haven’t read these yet, but it;s never too late, right?
    Because they both sound spectacular, action-packed and with a kick-ass heroine!
    What more can you ask!!!!

    And may I say that the covers are absolutely fantastic?

    I’d love to read these!
    Please enter me in the contest!!!

    yvantis[at]hotmail[dot]com

    Reply

    1. Thanks so much, Kelly! I hope you try them and enjoy them. 🙂

      And I’m completely over the moon about the covers. 😉

      Reply

  20. Embers was a great introduction to Anya Kalinczyk; Sparks is on my to read pile–something great to look forward to. Most magical place is definitely Ireland–such a small country, but so full of magic you’d swear it was Pangea.

    Can you give us any updates on a third Anya Kalinczyk novel?

    Reply

    1. I’ve never been to Ireland…but would love to go sometime.

      I’m contracted for EMBERS and SPARKS. I hope that they sell well enough for a third contract. If I get the opportunity to do it, I promise that it will be utterly kick-ass. With a phoenix.

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  21. I have Embers but I haven’t read it yet. My TBR pile is a bit large right now 🙂

    It does look really good though, which was why I bought it in the first place…can’t believe the second one is already out!

    Please enter me in the contest!

    Reply

    1. Thanks so much for picking up EMBERS, Poppy! I hear you about the TBR pile…mine is in danger of causing an avalanche at any time! 😉

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  22. I’ve read your other book Dark Oracle, but haven’t read this series yet. Sounds pretty interesting and I have read some good reviews. Wouldn’t mind adding it to my growing TBR pile! I’m in!

    jessbess2505[at]yahoo[dot]com

    Reply

    1. Thanks so much for trying DARK ORACLE, Jessica! I’m thrilled that you picked it up, and thanks for stopping by!

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  23. I’ve heard many good things indeed about EMBERS so it’s one I’ve had on the TBR for quite some time. It sounds just like something I’d love.

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  24. I’ve been dying to get my hands on Embers and Sparks! There has been so many gerat things mentioned about this series around the bologshpere! Thanks for the great post!

    mleger0546(@)rogers(.)com

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  25. I haven’t read either Embers nor sparks 🙁 hoping i get my chance here 🙂

    Please enter my name and pick me !

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  26. The book sounds good. I’d love to win a copy.

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  27. Hi! I didn’t know her but it definitely sounds like something that would interest me. I’d really hope to win a copy, hope the constest is open internationally (I’m from Italy)!

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  28. Oh wow, that sounds really interesting. You ask what places have stuck with us? For me, one place is Charleston South Carolina, and it is featured in one of my Novels.

    The mountains are another magical place to me. Any mountains.

    Thanks!
    Julie

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    1. I’ve never been to Charleston, but I hear that it’s really beautiful.

      And I’m entirely with you on the mountains. Someday, I’d love to spend time in the Rockies!

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  29. As soon as I saw the cover for Embers, I knew I had to read it, and now after hearing about it, I’m desperate. Very exciting and great post 🙂

    Emily

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  30. In England there are several places with chalk drawings on the hillsides. You can see them for miles around but when you get up close you can hardly see they are there.
    Nobody is really sure why they were created.

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    1. Wow, Eva…that sounds really cool. I’m gonna have to look that up…I wonder how they were able to make sure huge drawings that make visual sense from a distance?

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  31. I loved the first book and I can’t wait to read the second one! Too many books, so little time …

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    1. Hi, Spav! Thanks for trying EMBERS!

      I feel your pain…my TBR stack is in danger of taking over the entirety of my desk. 😉

      Reply

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