Guest Post: Embers + Sparks by Laura Bickle
This is actually the first part of The Hallowed Ones tour for me. Today we have a guest post by author, Laura Bickle, as well as promo information for Ember and Sparks, the first two books in her Anya Kalinczyk series. On the 6th of January, I’ll be hosting the second part and have a review of The Hallowed Ones for ya’ll.
Conversations with Ghosts
Guest post by Laura Bickle
Talking with the dead isn’t a new pursuit.
I’ve always been curious about how it happens, from both historical and modern perspectives. In my Anya Kalinczyk books, my ghost-hunting protagonist is the rarest form of spiritual medium, a Lantern. Where other mediums in her world allow spirits to use their hands and voices to communicate, Anya devours and incinerates them. As you can imagine, there was a lot of fun research that went into the story about ghost hunting and mediums. I was intrigued by how conversing with ghosts has changed – and also remained the same – over time.
Modern ghost hunting involves investigating haunted sites in search of proof of life beyond death. Ghost hunters and other paranormal investigators often attempt to record data from their experiences using a variety of equipment beyond personal anecdotes. Such investigations can make use of EMF meters, thermometers, cameras, motion detectors, and audio recordings to capture evidence of paranormal activity. There’s a plethora of new evidence-collection devices available, with more invented and adapted as time goes on.
With all the technology used by ghost hunters and the recent popularity of such investigations, it may seem that such activities are a new phenomenon. In fact, organized attempts to contact ghosts have their roots in Spiritualism, a movement that peaked in popularity between the 1840s and the 1920s. As a belief system, Spiritualism assumed that spirits of the dead could be contacted by humans. Spiritualism relied on mediums, living people who have the special ability to communicate with spirits, to bring the words and deeds of the dead to the masses.
In 1848, two sisters, Kate and Margaret Fox, claimed to contact spirits through rapping noises. The experience of rapping by their audiences was considered to be vivid evidence at the time. Their experiences and the experiences of other mediums in the movement sparked widespread public interest in the afterlife. Seances, table-tipping, Ouija boards, and automatic writing became popular entertainment, even parlor games at parties. Communication with the dead became democratized, in a sense. It could be witnessed by ordinary people.
The movement began to wane under accusations of fraud. In the 1920s, stage magicians such as Harry Houdini campaigned to expose mediums defrauding grieving families. As analysis began to replace belief, many efforts to contact spirits were exposed as delusional or predatory.
Still, the interest in life after death is perennial; across cultures, it‘s a topic for philosophers and theologians. But the Spiritualist movement brought the search to the masses. Ordinary people were able to touch and see evidence of an afterlife for themselves.
Modern ghost hunters are the heirs of much of those grass-roots efforts. Ghost hunters come from all walks of life, and are ordinary people with an interest in the afterlife. But we now live in a scientific age. Armed with technological tools, many ghost hunters depart from Spiritualists by embracing skepticism, rather than blind belief in things that go bump in the dark. By embracing scientific methods, such investigators are likely to come closer to the truth than the Spiritualists that came before.
The curiosity is the same, but the methods have changed. Rather than seeing contacting spirits as a game, modern ghost hunting views contact with the dead as an investigation, worthy of measurement and accumulation of evidence, not as a form of entertainment. As a result, we may come closer to answers, answers that curious people a century before could only speculate about.
Embers (Anya Kalinczyk #1) by Laura Bickle
Publisher: Pocket Juno Books
Published: 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.
“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 Tor.com
“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
Sparks (Anya Kalinczyk #2) by Laura Bickle
Publisher: Pocket Juno Books
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 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.
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
Laura Bickle has an MA in sociology-criminology (research interests: fear of crime and victimology) and a BA in criminology. She has worked in and around criminal justice since 1997. Although she does read Tarot cards, she’s never used them in criminal profiling or to locate lost scientists. She recently took up astronomy, but for the most part her primary role in studying constellations and dark matter is to follow her amateur astronomer-husband around central Ohio toting the telescope tripod and various lenses.
Writing as Laura Bickle, she’s the author of EMBERS and SPARKS for Pocket – Juno Books. Writing as Alayna Williams, she’s the author of DARK ORACLE and ROGUE ORACLE.