Monday, March 7, 2016

BOOK SPOTLIGHT + GUEST POST: "Fire Within" by Ally Shields

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A hidden evil stalks the city…

Ari Calin refuses to believe her human friend Eddie murdered a vampire—in spite of his confession. Her human partner Ryan thinks the case is a slam dunk, even though there’s no weapon and no witnesses, but Ari’s not about to let her friend take the rap without finding out more.

 When Ari attends a charity event on the arm of a handsome werewolf, she finds someone she never expected to see again—Andreas De Luca, the charismatic vampire she used to date. When their eyes meet across the room, memories come rushing back. His kiss, his touch, a savage death…and a terrifying magical bond. A reconnection is the last thing she wants. Only by staying away and forgetting Andreas can she hope to avoid the Legend of Ramora.

 But when vampires keep dying, one thing becomes clear: Riverdale has a serial killer on its hands, and Andreas could be next. Ari begins to fear there’s more to it, though. Something truly evil is stalking the city, waiting to take control…


The auditorium of the Arts Center was packed. The annual Charity Auction always drew a large crowd, not only of bidders but those who came to see and be seen. It was one of the biggest community events of the year. For an exorbitant entrance price, each person earned the right to free appetizers and wine and the opportunity to bid on a lot of things he didn’t need. Ari ran a cynical eye over the merchandise. And, in her case, many items she couldn’t afford. Like the perfectly ordinary-looking granny vase with a starting bid of $3,000. Of course, she could just ogle at all the rich and famous of Riverdale. It was expected. Looking around at the crowd, Ari estimated there were more oglers than bidders, but the auction always met its goal.

The two couples dutifully filed past the tables and viewed the choices in the silent auction. Brando kept up a running commentary on the city officials and wealthy patrons he recognized. Steffan placed a bid on a case of wine but was immediately out-bid by the couple behind them in line. He grinned at Ari, shrugged, and they moved on.

Ari paused when she spied a champagne dinner for two from Club Dintero. She wouldn’t be bidding on that. Claris’s attempt to hurry them past, to skip that particular auction item, brought a frown to Ari’s face. Like she wouldn’t notice. Apparently, Claris wasn’t convinced the past was in the past.

Ari’s frown deepened. She knew she had been a little touchy on the subject of Andreas and his club. Unbidden, a series of scenes flashed through her head: strong arms holding a grief-stricken young witch; a dark figure singing on stage, the crowd captivated; the same sexy figure sipping Chianti; a forbidden kiss. Ari determinedly brushed aside such highly selective memories. Those were only the good things—and there were some not so good. She flashed a reassuring smile at Claris and turned her attention to the next item, a spa package.

As if Ari’s traitorous thoughts had conjured it, a surge of Otherworld power touched her. Vampire. And not just any vampire. Sensation raced across her skin, her witch magic singing in recognition as the air shimmered with his dark, slightly wicked energy. She whipped her head around, focused on the front entry, and there he was.

Andreas’s dark eyes captured hers from across the room. Her breath caught, and like always, that compelling swirl of power wrapped itself around her, beguiling, irresistible. She barely registered the presence of the other vampires with him. Seconds, perhaps hours or years, passed with her caught in his gaze. As suddenly as it came, the magic withdrew, leaving a void. Andreas turned away and said something to the woman at his side. His companion laid a possessive hand on his arm.

Shaken, Ari took a shallow breath. After eight months she’d thought her reaction to him would be diminished. She’d be the last one to deny Andreas De Luca was heartbreakingly attractive, despite being one of the undead. That still didn’t explain his almost paralyzing effect on her.


Ally Shields was born and raised in the Midwest, along the Mississippi River, the setting for the Guardian Witch urban fantasy series. After  earlier careers as a teacher, lawyer and Juvenile Court Officer, she turned to full-time writing in 2009. She still lives near Des Moines with her Miniature Pinscher, Ranger. When not writing or reading, she loves traveling in the US and abroad. Way too often she can be found on Twitter.

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Do Minor Characters Really Matter?
Absolutely. Well…if they're created for the right reasons. I believe there are rules, even for these unsung heroes and heroines. I have three. It isn't enough for the supporting cast to be cute, colorful, or interesting—although that's important too—but whether they're human or paranormal, the first and main criteria for their existence is to be necessary.
Every minor character should bring something to the story. Even if they serve a single purpose and make a nameless appearance, they still hold an irreplaceable spot in the storyline: the landlady who overhears an argument the night of a murder, the hotel concierge who hands the victim a mysterious message, or the slinky vampiress who makes Ari jealous in Fire Within (Guardian Witch 2). Of course, minor characters often hold more vital roles—side kick, best friend, partner, lover, bad guy—and may even move into the role of a main character in one or more books in a series. These characters need to be crafted with a depth that rivals the major players, complete with goals, history, emotions, appropriate attire, and believable behavior/diologue.
Rule number two is sometimes a fine line to walk, but minor characters can't be allowed to upstage the hero/heroine. Most authors have had a character take over—probably often if they're a pantser who writes without an outline (count me guilty)—but these shots at independence from a minor character should be quickly squelched. That's where cut and paste is handy. Those wonderful paragraphs or scenes can be saved for the character's own manuscript…some other day. Horatio Jones in Burning Both Ends (Guardian Witch 3) was such a character for me.
The last rule is particularly important in a series where the author has more time and space for developing secondary lines. On-going secondary characters should exhibit character growth. If they've been written so that readers care about them, I believe authors have to provide an ending, closure, showing the character's ultimate success or failure. I can't ask readers to get involved and then leave them dangling on the last page.
Okay, I've talked about how I work, but I'd love to hear what you think. As a reader, do you remember minor characters? Do you care what happens to them? Does your favorite author give them life?

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