Sean Grigsby is joining us today to talk about his novel Ash Kickers. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Dragons vs Firefighters vs the Phoenix. The scorching fantasy sequel to Smoke Eaters.
With ex-firefighter Cole Brannigan in command of the Smoke Eaters, the dragon menace is under control. Thanks to non-lethal Canadian tech, the beasts are tranquilized and locked up, rather than killed. But for Tamerica Williams, this job filled with action and danger, has become tediously routine.
When a new threat emerges, a legendary bird of fire – the Phoenix – it’s the perfect task for Williams. But killing the Phoenix just brings it back stronger, spreading fire like a plague and whipping dragons into a frenzy. Will it prove to be too much excitement, even for adrenalin-junkie Williams?
What’s Sean’s favorite bit?
Sequels, am I right?
Fans of a story look forward to the next installment. Lauded creators do their best to make something new, that holds the spirit of the first, but not the same plot rewashed and hung out to dry. So many sequels end up sucking.
Obviously, I didn’t want Ash Kickers to suck. Its predecessor, Smoke Eaters, was well-received, and anything I wrote to expand that world had big fire boots to fill. I had to crank it to eleven.
If you’re not familiar, the Smoke Eaters series can be described as firefighters versus dragons in the future. The scalies have returned from beneath the earth and have turned the world into an ashen wasteland, save for the clusters of civilization that run as city-states. Parthenon City, Ohio is where our dragon-slaying civil servants call home, and they don’t just have scalies to worry about. Ghosts, job-stealing robots, and nefarious politicians round out a gallery of villains in the first book. Ash Kickers adds a few more to the list.
Tamerica Williams is now taking the reins while Cole Brannigan is still around, leading the smoke eaters as chief. Dragons are no longer killed, but caught and used for their life-saving blood. But something new just showed up. It eats dragons, is made of insanely hot fire, and no matter how many times you slay it, it comes back stronger than ever. That’s right. I’m talking about a phoenix.
And that’s not all.
A spree of suicide arsons is terrorizing the city. The cops suspect a cult, and the fire department can’t determine what they’re using as an accelerant. It’s almost as if they’re spontaneously combusting.
But I’m here to talk about my favorite bit, and I thought I’d give you a peek at something else. A sequel provides an opportunity to write the scenes you wished you’d put in the previous book. For me, I really wanted a scene where the smoke eaters have to battle dragons attacking the city. I’m talking about crumbling buildings, scalies soaring past windows on the twentieth floor, and good old fashioned downtown mayhem.
It starts with something going very wrong:
Multiple angry roars came from behind the smoke and flames. A scaly foot broke through and landed just in front of me. I looked up to see a white, crystalline dragon head looking down at me from at least fifty feet up. Training and adrenaline kicked in as I fired a few rounds at the scaly, the lasers striking the translucent spikes protruding from its cheek bones. My efforts only chipped off a few pieces of the spikes and made the dragon flinch slightly, as if the lasers were houseflies buzzing around its face.
Then, with a snarl, the dragon opened its mouth and showed me a sparkling blue light at the back of its throat.
Well, you don’t see that every day.
Still flat on the ground, I hit my suit’s power jump. The thrusters threw me across the ground. I didn’t go far but it was enough to dodge the scaly’s attack which came out as a blinding cone of cold energy.
“It’s a fucking ice dragon!” Naveena shouted through my helmet. “Get out of there, T!”
From there, dozens of dragons stampede for Parthenon City and the fight calls for every last smoke eater in Ohio to respond. Tamerica and fellow captain Naveena Jendal have their work cut out for them.
The ice dragon breathed its fury down the street as smatterings of people screamed and ran. Sheets of frost formed on windows. A few unfortunate souls had gotten blasted by the dragon’s ice beam, turning into macabre snow people after the light passed over them.
When Naveena lowered her final finger and the ice dragon’s tail swooped over our heads to the left, she shouted, “Now!”
Both of us hit our jump buttons and sailed into the air. Our trajectory should have put us dead center on the back of the scaly’s neck. But its tail swung back as we flew through the air, slamming into me first, then Naveena. We soared together in a tangled girl ball of smoke eaters. I managed to grab onto her, wanting something to hang onto. The world spun out of my control as I tumbled into the unknown.
What follows is a high-rise battle that only gets tougher as more dragons, walking human infernos, and vengeful ghosts enter the mix. But you’ll have to grab a copy to find out what happens next.
SEAN GRIGSBY is a professional firefighter in central Arkansas, where he writes about lasers, aliens, and guitar battles with the Devil when he’s not fighting dragons. He grew up on Goosebumps books in Memphis, Tennessee, and hosts the Cosmic Dragon podcast.