Historically, familiars were said to be magical helpers of witches. They had the ability to shift shape, often appearing as cats, bats, or other creatures in their service to the witch. It was assumed by inquisitors that familiars, as a type of imp or evil spirit, served the witch willingly.
At other times, they were summoned by a magician, then trapped in a stone or piece of jewelry. The familiar spirit was trapped, coerced into service, like genies in bottles.
In the world of EMBERS and SPARKS, Anya has a familiar, Sparky. He’s a five-foot long speckled hellbender with eyes like marbles–a fire salamander elemental, a creature that’s the embodiment of fire. The German magician, Paracelsus, called fire spirits &mquot;salamanders&mquot;in the sixteenth century. Salamanders were long associated with fire, despite their amphibious nature, because they crawled out of forest logs cast on fires. The salamander was assumed to dwell in fire, and embodied the impetuosity, power, and destructive changeability of the flickering flame.
Anya’s had Sparky since she was a child. He’s tied to a necklace her mother gave her, which suggests that, like the familiars trapped in jewelry, he was coerced into service at some point in the past. But Sparky seems to serve Anya willingly, protecting her from malicious spirits (not to mention jealously guarding her against any potential lovers).
Life with a salamander isn’t easy. Sparky is only able to be seen by Anya and ghosts. When he’s not chasing ghosts, he’s busily getting into trouble. Aside from Anya and the ghosts, he’s only able to affect electrical fields. And electricity is delicious. He’s blown up every microwave that Anya’s ever owned. He chews cell phones and drains their batteries. He likes to lick electrical outlets, with disastrous results. In EMBERS, Anya takes him to a hospital, and he manages to wreak havoc with vital sign monitors.
But Sparky has his lovable moments. His favorite toy is a Gloworm. When he pats it, its cherubic little face lights up, much to his delight. Late at night, he curls up with his toy at the foot of Anya’s bed like any other pet, purring and chortling happily in the amber light of the Gloworm tucked between his paws.
At times like these, Anya rubs his speckled belly and imagines that he’s under control.
And Sparky opens one eye and snorts.
He knows better.
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 urban fantasy novels is available at www.salamanderstales.com.
Her most recent release is 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.
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