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Laura Bickle is on fire! To learn more about her work, please click image.

Every now and then I meet my match in, uh, what I think we can fairly call quirk. *Grins.* I firmly believe today is one of those days, and Laura Bickle is definitely one of those authors. (Those of you who have been here a while are equally likely to take that as invitation or warning, and for you, I say . . . thank you for paying attention all these months. LOL!) As for *all* of you, I invite you to settle in and brace yourself for one of the highlights of your day. And since I *know* our guest will leave you wanting more, be sure to stick around to the end to find out how you can win a copy of EMBERS. (You’ll be glad you did!)

**Giveaway closed** Congrats to our winner, Anna!

Welcome, Laura! I couldn’t help but notice your web addy, SalamandersTales. There’s got to be a story behind that! What is it?

Thanks so much for hosting me today! I’m super-excited to get the chance to meet you and your readers!

I have a minor obsession with salamanders. Okay, a major one.  When I was a little girl, I used to find them under rocks in clear streams. They were pretty rare to find, and I was always excited to see one before it slipped away. They’re like secrets – rare and thrilling.

As an adult, I wrote a SPARKS and EMBERS, which deal with an arson investigator and her fire salamander familiar. Fire salamanders are the elemental avatars of fire, and they haven’t gotten much press since Paracelsus’ time. Sparky, the fire salamander in my stories, likes to gobble ghosts and chew on electrical cords. He spends his nights curled up at his keeper’s bed with a Glow-Worm toy tucked under his chin.

Oh, dear. I’m giggling, yet I totally see you saying this with a straight face. I LOVE it! Such a totally original idea. (I never pictured salamanders with teeth, so the electrical cord thing? AWESOME.) Your bio states you and your chief muse co-exist with five “mostly reformed” feral cats. Having had my own less-than-stellar experience with feral cat, may I ask what the most terrifying (or comical) thing they’ve done has been?

I’m also the crazy cat lady, the Cat Whisperer…or resident sucker. Every tom cat in a ten-mile radius brings his pregnant girlfriends to me.

Funniest story…hmmm. I had one who had a hard time distinguishing between the water bowl and the aquarium. He’s blind in one eye, and has depth perception issues. He’d sneak a drink from the aquarium every so often. I have no idea why – extra flavor?

Once upon a time, he fell in. There was flailing, splashing, and howling. It wound up with him cowering under the bed and me with scratches on my arms from trying to help him out. And the fish were traumatized.

After that, I put a cover on the aquarium.

BUAAHAHAHAHAAA! That poor kitty! I’m almost ashamed to laugh, but, um, just *almost.* Man, where’s the video camera when you need it? LOL! Okay, I’m trying to get serious here—let’s talk about your work. Can you tell readers about your books? How do the books in each series fit together?

SPARKS and EMBERS are probably best summed up as “Ghostbusters in Detroit with dragons and arson.” 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.

DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE (by my alter ego, Alayna Williams) are a mashup of magic and science that appeals to fans of the X-Files and Fringe. They’re about a criminal profiler, Tara Sheridan, who uses Tarot cards to solve crimes. Tara’s a reluctant member of an ancient society of oracles tracing their lineage back to the Oracle of Delphi. In ROGUE ORACLE, Tara and her skeptic partner, federal agent Harry Li, are on the trail of a Chernobyl survivor who’s selling nuclear secrets on the international black market.

THE HALLOWED ONES is my YA thriller about an Amish girl who must confront not only a massive disaster unfolding in society at large, but also the darkness brewing in her own community – think “Witness” meets “28 Days Later.” It will be out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s Graphia teen imprint in Fall 2012, with a sequel in Spring 2013.

Um, wow—that is one intense lineup! I am in awe of your creativity. While I’m scraping my jaw off the ground, fill us in. What might readers be surprised to learn about the plot or characters of EMBERS?

Sparky the fire salamander in EMBERS has been around a long time, much longer than his keeper suspects. He’s chased vampires with Van Helsing, snuggled with Joan of Arc, and was largely responsible for the Hindenbug disaster.

And he still has his teeth? I’m even *more* impressed. (Seriously, I am so digging Sparky. Epic-genius idea, Laura!) Let’s have some fun with EMBERS. What’s the first sentence?

Truth burned. It always burned, even in the dark, cold hours of the morning when nearly everything slept.

Oh, wow. That one has me by the throat. How about an excerpt … three sentences long! Yep, that’s it. Three!

A dark giggle rattled through the priest’s chest, expelled into the air like condensation.

It was then that she realized that the dream wasn’t her own imagination, idly filling in the blanks of the history of St. Florian’s ghost.

It was one of Mimi’s memories, one of her most treasured ones: the time she drove a priest to suicide.

You’re good, Laura. *So* good! Which scene of EMBERS would you most like to experience for yourself? From whose POV?

I think I’d like to experience a slice of life as Sparky the salamander. I’d really like to know what ghosts taste like…and the invisibility power is a bonus.

LMAO! What are you currently working on?

My YA paranormal thriller, THE HALLOWED ONES, is due out in September from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and there will be a sequel too! The heroine is an Amish girl who must confront not only the possible destruction of the world outside, but also the threat of darkness inside her own increasingly fragile community.

You have an amazing body of work, Laura. (Wait. Did that sound like a really bad pickup line or what? Rest assured, Laura and I are each happily married to our respective husbands, so no awkward moments here. Moving on….) Let’s take a closer look at the featured title, EMBERS.

EMBERS | blurb & links

Anya Kalinczyk #1

Pocket Books

Mass Market Paperback, $7.99

ISBN: 978-1439167656

April 2010

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.

MORE INFO & BUY @  Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble

Laura Bickle | bio & links

Laura Bickle’s professional background is in criminal justice and library science, and when she’s not patrolling the stacks at the public library she’s dreaming up stories about the monsters under the stairs (she also writes contemporary fantasy novels under the name Alayna Williams). Laura lives in Ohio with her husband and five mostly-reformed feral cats.

AUTHOR LINKS @ Website |Blog| Facebook| Twitter

Thanks so much for hosting me today!

**GIVEAWAY**

My pleasure, Laura! (No, really, I’ll be smiling all day after that cat story! LOL.) Readers, as promised, Laura has generously offered to give away a copy of EMBERS, and to enter to win it all you *have* to do is comment with your email address. However, I’d very much love for you to share your funniest, craziest kitty (or other critter) stories. (And I know I don’t have to tell you all this, but play nice! No animals harmed, other than perhaps their pride, mkay?)  I’m looking forward to your stories. Have a fantastic day, everyone, and thanks for spending part of it with us!