Murder Most Otherworldly

Ally Shields lives and writes in the Midwest, not far from the Mighty Mississippi River, the setting for Awakening the Fire, the first book in her Guardian Witch series. Having grown up in river towns, Ally tries to put the flavor and charm of the region into her stories.

When not writing and reading, Ally loves to travel or spend time with her Miniature Pinscher, Ranger. You can follow the author through her website or blog at and purchase her book online in several digital formats. A print version will be available soon.



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I might as well confess right up front. I never intended to write a supernatural mystery, urban fantasy or paranormal whatever. The story I had in mind was to be a mystery with cops and criminals and maybe a courtroom scene or two. But along about day two my heroine suddenly announced she was a witch. I blinked at the computer screen several times, trying to make sense of that. What was a witch doing in my traditional mystery?

Worse was yet to come. She brought all her friends—and enemies. Vampires, werewolves, elves, woodnymphs, even a demon or two. That’s when I realized I had a lot of work ahead before I could begin writing. I had to learn how my normal world would interact with the supernatural creatures—the Otherworlders. And what exactly could these beings do?

It wasn’t easy to figure it out: online and library research, re-reading some of my favorite books in the fantasy and horror genres, and hours of thinking and scribbling. I built my world, page by page, including settings, character abilities, and pondered over how the humans would react to all the magic. Making things up was fun.

Being a mystery lover, one of the best parts was imagining all the ways and means to commit murder in this new world. There were so many intriguing possibilities with supernatural strength, extraordinary speed, claws, fangs and witchcraft, including the dark arts. So I had to give my cop her own arsenal: the ability to shoot fire from her fingertips and a collection of protection charms and spells. In spite of her magic abilities, I decided Ari would usually rely on her wits, her martial arts training, and two ordinary weapons: a derringer loaded with silver bullets, and a fighting knife, similar to a stilleto.

After all this world building, surely I was finally ready to start writing the story.

Not quite yet. Arianna Calin might be a witch, a supernatural being, but she was still a cop. She had to act like a cop, not a vigilante, and certainly not like one of the monsters. Sometimes her job would require her to work with the human police and with human laws. So, I had to make the magic somehow blend and balance with a legal system not based on magic.

While I like to think of myself as a recovering attorney, that I’ve left the law behind and am free to let my imagination run, I know that even in fiction the good guys can’t always break the rules and still be the good guys.

So I worked out a compromise between my human cop Lt. Ryan Foster and my Otherworld cop Ari. What happens in the Otherworld community stays in the Otherworld community, unless it involves humans. Human victims or suspects force them to play by the human rules, worrying about legal niceties like search warrants and chain of evidence. This was a tough concept for Ari to accept, it was even harder for her vampire consultant Andreas De Luca. While I haven’t completely got them on board, most of the time they stay on the right side of the law.

And when they step over the lines . . . it’s because something really, really evil made them do it. AS