Guest post: Romance, fire salamanders and Embers


by Laura Bickle

BickleWe continue our celebration of Valentine’s Day with a guest post from writer Laura Bickle. Laura is talking to us today about her debut urban fantasy novel Embers:

Love’s a weird thing.

It’s a weird thing to experience, and it’s definitely a weird thing to write about. Trying to distill that confused, irrational feeling onto the page is like trying to hold a raw egg in your hand. You think it should be easy. After all, everyone’s experienced some kind of love, right? You manage to hold the slimy, viscous egg for an instant, and then it oozes through your fingers.

In Embers, my protagonist has a hard time hanging onto the yolk, too. She’s got love in her life, many kinds…but, as for so many of us in real life, there’s no one person that can be her everything. Anya is a fire investigator by day. By night, she works with an eccentric group of ghost hunters, chasing down malicious spirits. She’s the rarest kind of medium, a Lantern – where other mediums can communicate with spirits, she devours them. She’s an outsider among outsiders. She’s got one foot in the material world, and one foot outside of it.

She does experience unconditional love, though. Anya has a fire salamander familiar, Sparky. She’s had him since he was a child. He doesn’t speak, and no one else can see him. But he’s always been at her side, and always will be. Even if that means that he won’t sleep in his own bed, which certainly interferes with Anya’s love life.

Anya has the love of friendship from some of the members of her ghost hunting group. Some of the group’s members are afraid of her. But Katie, the group’s witch, is like a sister to her. And with Brian, the group’s tech guru, there’s the chance for something more. Brian’s ordinary. He has no special powers, no ability to see into the darkness beyond what his instruments show him. And Anya loves him because he’s ordinary. He’s a touchstone into the solid, physical world. He’s human.

But Anya, like all the rest of us, wants to be understood. She wants someone to see the darkness in her, and tell her that she’s not a monster. That’s why she falls for Drake, a serial arsonist. He’s the only other Lantern she’s ever met. He understands who and what she is. She doesn’t need to hide or pretend around him. Only problem is…he’s using his power to awaken an ancient power that threatens to raze Detroit on Devil’s Night. Drake’s lost touch with his humanity, which is the thing she loves most about Brian.

Love is weird. Love is both reflective – we want someone like us, who understands us, and won’t judge us. It’s also a search for completeness. We want someone who balances us, who is more human, more honorable, kinder – the kind of person who makes us want to be a better person.

I don’t know if that kind of person will ever exist for Anya, someone who combines all these qualities. I suspect that she’ll have to learn to find those qualities within herself before she’ll be a good partner to someone else.

But I like watching her search for it.

Bio: Laura Bickle is an urban fantasy writer, tech goddess, and feral cat rancher. She’s the author of Embers and Sparks for Pocket-Juno Books in 2010. Writing as Alayna Williams, she’s also the author of the Dark Oracle series of novels. Embers and Sparks follow the adventures of Anya Kalinczyk, an arson investigator pursuing a serial arsonist with the help of her fire salamander familiar and an eccentric group of ghost hunters. More information is available at

Laura also writes under the pen name Alayna Williams, and has another urban fantasy series debuting in 2010 from Pocket Books. Dark Oracle is the story of a criminal profiler, Tara Sheridan, who swore off criminal profiling after narrowly escaping a serial killer. By combining Tarot card divination with her own intuition, she must find a missing scientist who has unlocked the destructive secrets of dark energy. More information on this series is available at