Secondary characters we love

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Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

Great characters make great books. Creating great characters is something that every writer works very hard at. They’re what readers remember: Oliver Twist, Sherlock Holmes, Bilbo Baggins, Lancelot. If the writer does their job right, we identify with the protagonist and experience the story through their senses.

But a story needs more than one character to come alive. The hero needs a villain, a best friend, a mentor, a love interest. Fagan, Watson, Gandalf and Guinevere are also characters that resonate with audiences.

For the author, these secondary characters can be great fun to create—and just as much work as the hero. We asked some of your favorite BestSelling Reads authors to tell us who is their favorite secondary character.

Samreen Ahsan

Of all the side characters I created, I have admired King Stefan from the [Stolen] Series. He is a tyrannical ruler whose mission is to break down his son Edward, and make a diabolical copy of himself.

Stefan is ruthless when it comes to punishment, and though he forbids his son to enjoy poetry, he himself reads poems, lives in them, and even fantasizes about the same woman his son loves. As the story progresses, he becomes more inhumane and evil towards his own son. 

Scott Bury

The character I enjoyed writing the most was Rowan Fields, the linchpin of Torn Roots, my first Hawaiian Storm mystery. She’s not very likeable: loud, opinionated, careless of others’ feelings, but she’s also passionate, dedicated to protecting the environment, and though she never admits it, deeply in love with the real hero of the story, Sam Boyko.

I have to admit, I still get a little thrill thinking about the insults Rowan throws around.

David C. Cassidy 

In Velvet Rain, the villain, Brikker is my favorite. He is cold, ruthless, sadistic … and brilliant.

His real-life counterpart would be Josef Mengele—and if Brikker were real, I’d wager he’d be far more terrifying.

M.L. Doyle

Harry Fogg (with two Gs) is a British SAS soldier and the love interest of Master Sergeant Lauren Harper in my mystery series. He is rough around the edges, a hardcore soldier, but has a brilliant sense of humor and tests my ability to write British-sounding expressions. I have to have some of his dialogue vetted by friends across the pond. I absolutely love Harry and my readers do, too.

I love all of my characters, but Granite and Pearl rank right up there as the best. They are cougar sized cats that were gifted to Hester Trueblood, in my urban fantasy series starting with The Bonding Spell. Hester, who also happens to be the embodiment of the Mesopotamian goddess Inanna, was given the cats by her demi-god lover Gilgamesh. Gil found them in room 56 of the British Museum, where they’d been magically imprisoned in stone. Once freed, the cats, who can talk to Hester telepathically, can also switch to human form. But they seem a bit confused when on two feet, so they prefer to be in their furry state. I love these cats.

Alan McDermott 

Simon ‘Sonny’ Baines is my favorite.

He has appeared in all the Tom Gray books from the very first, Gray Justice, and also appears in my new Eva Driscoll series.

He likes a little fun, but can be deadly serious when it matters.

Toby Neal

My favorite is Jake Dunn in the Paradise Crime Thrillers. An ex-Special Forces soldier turned private operative, he appears in Book 2, Wired Rogue, and in the rest of the series. Jake is all action and passion, a black-and-white thinker, a thrill seeker and fun-loving guy, and someone who is growing beyond his own comfort zone to appreciate the shades of gray in dealing justice. I tried to get rid of him several times, but my heroine pined and the stories lost zip and zing without him. He is more than he first appears, and I love that layers keep revealing themselves about him and what he brings out in those around him.

J.L. Oakley 

I have two favorite characters, both in The Jøssing Affair.

First, Tommy Renvik is a member of Milorg, the military resistance organization in Norway in WWII. A friend of intelligence agent Tore Haugland, he helps Haugland deliver arms and helps him escape to Sweden after capture by the Gestapo.

The other is Katherine Bladstad. In 1907, she is best friend to Caroline Alford. The wife of a logging mill manager, she is an outspoken proponent of hiking in the mountains and of the “New Woman,” a woman’s right to vote.

Caleb Pirtle III

I only needed Chester Giddings for one scene in Conspiracy of Lies.

He was a meek, mild-mannered little man so timid that a car backfiring would frighten him, and he occupied the second-story room of a walkup hotel where my hero needed to hide, unannounced, while the bad guys were trying to gun him down.

The scene ended with one dead, police crawling over every inch of the hotel room, Chester trembling and pale in the corner, and it was time for him to go. Chester refused to leave the story. He kept showing up when he was least expected, time after time, and near the end of one of the final climactic scenes, it was Chester Giddings who took a deep breath, clenched, his jaws, tensed his muscles, gave his heart to God, and fired the crucial shot. He didn’t leave because he knew that 182 pages later I would need him, and so I did.

Raine Thomas 

My favorite secondary character is probably Finn from my Estilorian novel, Deceive.

Finn is charming, quick with a laugh, and doesn’t take life too seriously, but he has a depth to his character that helps his family and companions through many of their challenges. I loved his shapeshifting character so much that he might make it into another Estilorian story…shh! 😉

Who is your favorite secondary character?

Tell us in the Comments section below who your favorite secondary literary character is — and if they’re from a book by a member of BestSelling Reads, we’ll send you a free book!

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New mysteries and thrillers

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Mystery and thriller lovers, rejoice—your favorite BestSelling Reads authors have thrilling, chilling mysteries for you to sink your teeth into.

The latest mystery releases

Order Wired Truth from your preferred retailer.

Toby Neal: Wired Truth is the 10th book in the Paradise Crime series. Like her first mystery series, the Lei Crime books, they’re set on the Hawaiian Islands.

In this latest installment, a heist at a high-end auction house sends tech specialist Sophie on a new case hunting down a thief whose skills match her own. Even as she chases a cache of precious gems, events begun in a distant land threaten the fragile happiness Sophie’s building—and an enigmatic new partner brings challenges close to home, luring Sophie into the world of vigilante justice.

“Great character development, twists and turns! You never know how these books will end.”—Tango

J.L. Oakley: The Hilo Bay Mystery Collection: The past never forgets. No one gets away with murder.

Auntie Bee Takahashi is a retired fourth grade teacher. Her great-niece, Tawnie Takahashi, is a hard-nose Honolulu TV crime reporter. When crimes from the past touch friends and family, Auntie Bee and Tawnie—with a little help from a historian— face down the past in hopes of finding justice and healing for the victims and their descendants.

Award-winning author Janet Oakley brings history to her collection of three cozy mystery novellas set on the Big Island of Hawaii: Coconut Island, Volcano House and Hilina Pali.

“Characters that come across as warm as the sun.”—Amazon reviewer

DelSheree Gladden: Incendiary is the fourth book in the Eliza Carlisle Mystery series. For Eliza Carlisle, starting a new year means making tough choices, even if those decisions mean losing friends and possibly getting kicked out of culinary school. She’s all set to take her life in a new direction when her demented half-brother Simon’s reappearance changes everything.

Broken and more alone than she’s been since fleeing her childhood home, Eliza struggles to hang onto the fragile threads that are holding her life together. Only a comically disastrous young chef and the threats against her life pull Eliza out of her fog of self-loathing.

“It was so good I finished in less than 24 hours and it was hard to stop reading to get some sleep!”—Didiwi, Amazon reviewer

Get it on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III: Bad Side of a Wicked Moon is the second in the Boom Town Saga series of historical mysteries. Strangers pour into Ashland, an East Texas town that’s dying in the Great Depression—until the discovery of oil. Where there is oil, there are jobs, as well as con artists, thieves, scalawags, and at least one murderer.

“A series of climaxing scenes keep the reader riveted to the pages until the very end.”—Patricia J. La Vigne, Amazon reviewer

” Excellent writing! “—
Thonie Hevron, Amazon reviewer

Scott Bury: Torn Roots is the first Hawaiian Storm mystery. Vanessa Storm thought her first week on the job as an FBI Special Agent in beautiful Hawaii would be about settling in. But she’s immediately sent to Hana on Maui’s rain-soaked shore to find a kidnapped woman—and solve a possible murder.   

Published last year, it’s now available in paperback, as well.

Torn Roots is wonderfully rich with plot and setting, but it was Mr. Bury’s command of the story’s pacing that impressed me most.”—Eden, Amazon reviewer

Coming soon

M.L. Doyle: The Bonding Blade combines ancient mythology and gritty urban mystery. Former Army Sergeant Hester Trueblood struggles to find the answer, seven years after fate bonded her to the ancient Sumerian Goddess, Inanna. When her warrior Quincy is stricken with a mysterious illness, Hester thinks a supernatural blade could be the answer to save him. Or it just might destroy the world.

“You know it’s a good book when you’re in a real-life situation and think about how one of the characters would react. That happened. It’s because of this book.”—Susanne Aspley, author of Ladyboy and the Volunteer and Granola Minnesota.

The Bonding Blade will be available on Amazon on June 19. You can pre-order it now.

Toby Neal is bringing reader favorite character Lei Texeira back in the thirteenth Paradise Crime Mystery, Razor Rocks.

Paradise is plundered by pirates.

Someone is attacking and robbing luxury yachts as they sail the Hawaiian Islands—their passengers missing and presumed dead. Sergeant Lei Texeira, with her typical leap first, look later style, dives into a case with the Coast Guard to find answers that lie as deep as Davy Jones’ locker. 

Lei is back, solving crime again! Grab this fast-paced mystery with a twist of romance, and take a trip to Hawaii with the series that’s sold more than a million copies!  

Razor Rocks publishes on August 13, but you can pre-order it from your preferred retailer through Toby’s website.

Thrillers

Find Rainy Night to Die on Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III continues the Quiet Assassin series with Rainy Night to Die. Roland Sand’s His missions for intelligence agencies are those no one else wants to tackle. The reason: Sand is expendable.

In this story, he’s sent to Ukraine to smuggle out a beautiful lounge jazz singer who, for years, has been smuggling Russian secrets back to MI-6’s home office in Great Britain. Her contact in London has been compromised. He is found floating in the Thames River. Sand must extricate Pauline Bellerose before the Russians trace the stolen secrets back to her and place a noose around her neck.

He has twenty-four hours to find the singer and remove her to safety. If she is caught, he dies.

Coming soon

Alan McDermott has been thrilling readers since Gray Justice came out in 2014, launching the Tom Gray series. His new project brings back some of his readers’ favorite characters into a new story arc featuring the beautiful and deadly Eva Driscoll.

Fight to Survive is the third book in the series. After taking on the super-secretive Executive Security Office, Driscoll has found a new life in Australia. But the ESO has been watching her every move force her to help with a high-risk mission in North Korea. After she decides to take matters into her own hands and her handlers become suspicious, time is not on her side.

Fight to Survive publishes on June 20, and you can pre-order it now.

“Alan McDermott’s books are always fast paced, full of action, and hard to put down once started.”—Bill, Amazon reviewer of book two in the Eva Driscoll series, Seek and Destroy.

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The Curious Incident of the Deer in the Nighttime

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Memorable musings

By Gae-Lynn Woods

Do personal memories ever find their way into my writing? Indeed they do. It’s a hazard of the job, cataloging every noteworthy occurrence and trying to find a home for it in a novel. (If you’re a friend or relative of a writer, rest assured, your personal life is constantly under scrutiny for future use.) In fairness, everyone defines “noteworthy” in different ways.

But take a gander at the following elements of an actual event, and tell me if you don’t also find them noteworthy:

  • a hand-me-down 1977 burnt orange Chevy Vega
  • two sixteen year old boys who share the privilege of squeezing behind the wheel of the Vega, and
  • one deer with a very bad sense of timing.
1977 Chevy Vega
1977 Chevy Vega

Maybe not so exciting when taken on their own, but when you combine them on a lonely country road after dark, things get a little more interesting.

The boys are my twin brothers, who at 6′ 4″ barely fit into that Vega. Even with the driver’s seat pushed all the way back, their knees still cradled the steering wheel. They were coming home from basketball practice one evening, minding their own business, when a deer dashed out of the brush and smacked into the side of the car. The poor thing hit the car hard enough to knock itself out and leave a dent in a fender. My brothers, good Samaritans and smart enough to know that there was no way our mom would believe that they weren’t responsible for denting the car, hoisted the unconscious deer into the Vega’s hatch area, and then one of my 6′ 4″ brothers folded himself in half, climbed into the tiny hatch area with the deer, and held its feet just in case it woke up on the drive home.

Alas, Mom did not believe them despite the presence of an unconscious deer in her car and reassurance from her husband and her Sheriff’s deputy brother that yes indeed, deer do occasionally get the timing wrong and run into a car instead of in front of it. My brothers suffered mightily for the damage that deer did to the poor little Vega.

Until, that is, the same thing happened to my mom in her big ol’ honkin’ brown Oldsmobile.

Same road. Same time of day. Same spot on the fender. Different deer, one hopes.

Mom did not bring the deer home as proof of how the big ol’ Olds got dented, but she forgave my brothers. Grudgingly.

Did I use all this in a story? Oh yes. In The Devil of Light, after my fictitious Grove twins hit the deer, they got distracted by a glow off in the forest and go to investigate. That leads them to a fire pit where a human foot has just been burned. Toward the end of the book, their mother gets hit by a deer (on a different road), and ends up being held captive by a cult.

I’m not sure it’s possible to keep our memories and our writing separate. And I think that’s a good thing. A touch of reality adds flavor and more often than not a little hilarity. Who couldn’t do with more of that?

Gae-Lynn Woods

is a Texan who has traveled the world, lived overseas, and come back home. She and her husband, British jazz guitarist Martyn Popey, share a ranch in East Texas with a herd of Black Angus cattle, one very cranky donkey, and The Dude, a rescue kitty with attitude.

Gae-Lynn writes the Cass Elliot Crime Series. When she’s not playing the roadie, tending to cows, fixing fences, or digging post holes, Gae-Lynn is working on the next Cass Elliot novel and the next Companion Novel featuring Maxine Leverman, Cass’ best friend, who makes her debut in Avengers of Blood.

Gae-Lynn can be found:

Facebook   |   Twitter   |   Google+   |   Goodreads   |   LinkedIn   |    Website   |    Blog

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Personal memories and fiction

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Literary musings

By D.G. Torrens

Personal memories in my writing has featured a great deal. My first book, Amelia’s Story, was filled with personal memories as it was my autobiography.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash

However, transferring those memories to the page is not quite as easy as you would think. Accuracy is key.

If you are writing a true story, it is imperative you can back up what you are writing about. For example, documentation, permissions from corporate, local and governing bodies, depending on what your story is about. It may be your story, but researching your past events for accuracy is important.

I personally revisited all the places from my past that feature in my book. This was to refresh those memories that I would be writing about. It really made a huge difference as it reminded me of things that I had long forgotten about.

This can have its pitfalls as memories forgotten are not always good memories. I had to prepare myself for an emotional roller coaster of a ride.

Personal memories have also featured in my fictional novels, too. When one of my characters is going through an emotional time in their life, I often draw from a personal memory that will make me feel the emotions my character is going through so that I can write her/his emotions with accuracy, thus making my readers feel the character’s emotions also.

I guess, it is a bit like when an actor methods acts for a part in a movie. They get into character for the part. I do something similar for my writing.

D.G. Torrens

is the author of 14 books, including the bestselling trilogy, Amelia’s Story #1, Amelia’s Destiny #2 and Amelia The Mother #3. This is an emotion-charged true story that the author wrote for her daughter.

D.G is a mother/writer/blogger who has a dream to inspire as many people as possible through her story. To show those with little hope that dreams can come true.

D.G is a prolific writer and in 2013, her works were recognized by BBC Radio WM, where she has given several live interviews in the BBC studios in Birmingham, UK. Thereafter, D.G. became a regular Headline Reviewer for the radio show for the next 12 months.

She currently has 15 published titles, and plans to release three more before the end of the year.

Visit her:

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Memory musings: The stories of strangers

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I meet them. I don’t know them. But I listen to them. Their words have kept me in business.

By Caleb Pirtle III

He was a man growing old before his time and facing death.

It was inevitable, and Harold knew it.

I sat with him on death row in the Texas prison.

He couldn’t remember the crime.

It was murder.

He couldn’t remember the time.

It was night.

And he figured he was guilty.

Harold was a stranger.

He intrigued me.

So I wrote about him.

I met Porter Waggoner on a tour bus heading south.

Mornings were always the same.

Porter Waggoner at the Grand Ol’ Opry in 1999. From Wikimedia.

Nights were always in a different town.

He and his band had already made over two hundred one-night stands for the year, and the miles were still rolling past him.

He wrote songs.

He sang songs.

He was addicted to the spotlight.

He loved to night fish when he was home.

He was on the lake at the end of a long tour.

He had drifted off to sleep.

A boat came around the bend, and the spotlight hit him in the face.

Porter grinned.

“I woke up singing “Carroll County Accident,” he said.

He was a stranger.

He fascinated me.

So I wrote about him.

The old man had lived the blues.

He was blind.

He didn’t have a lot of money.

He sang for tips.

He sang in a little bar at the end of a dead-end Mississippi road.

He had been in love, he said.

She had loved another.

And every night he sang about them.

Lost loves.

Shots in the night.

Unmarked graves.

What did he know about their deaths?

I asked him.

He winked.

He kept right on singing.

The blind blues singer was a stranger.

His story snared me.

So I wrote about him.

He ran a late-hours Fort Worth nightclub he called The Cellar.

Live music.

Loud music.

Waitresses floating from table to table in their underwear.

Bring your own bottle.

Bring as much as you want.

Pat Kirkwood supplied the ice and the cokes and the tonic.

Pay a cover charge.

Drink all night.

Kirkwood didn’t need advertising.

He simply called the law.

Women are taking their clothes off, he said.

Then he called the newspaper.

Police are raiding me at midnight he said.

The next morning, his name and photograph were plastered all over the front page.

Can’t get page one advertising?

Pat Kirkwood did.

Other nightclubs sold booze.

Kirkwood sold sin.

And he was good at it.

But he would never forget the night the Secret Service agents sat all night and drank all night, and by one o’clock the next day, a President lay dead in a trauma room.

Pat Kirkwood was a stranger.

But he was always a person of interest.

So I wrote about him.

And that’s the reason I wrote my Memoir of Sorts.

The book’s not about me.

I’m just the man with the notepad and the nineteen-cent ballpoint pen.

But I talk to strangers.

And every stranger has a different story.

Caleb Pirtle III published his Memoir of Sorts in 2017. Find it Amazon.

Caleb Pirtle III

began his career writing about history and travel. He learned quickly, however, that what happens is never as important as those who make it happen. Many of those people have made their way into his novels.

He is the author of more than 65 published books, including the new noir suspense thrillers, Golgotha Connection, Secrets of the Dead, Conspiracy of Lies and Night Side of Dark. His other novels include Back Side of a Blue Moon and Friday Nights Don’t Last Forever

He has written such award winners as “XIT: The American Cowboy,” “Callaway Gardens: the Unending Season,” “The Grandest Day,” “Echoes from Forgotten Streets,” and “Spirit of a Winner.” His nonfiction works include Gamble in the Devil’s Chalk and No Experience Required.

Caleb earned a journalism degree from The University of Texas and became the first student at the university to win the national William Randolph Hearst Award for feature writing. As a reporter for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he received both the Texas Headliner’s and Associated Press Awards.

He served as travel editor for Southern Living Magazine, and his travel writing was given the National Discover America Award three times. For more than two decades, Pirtle was editorial director for a custom publishing company in Dallas.

He has also written teleplays for network television.

Find more about Caleb at his:

Website   |   Blog    |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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Memory and dialog

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Monday musing

By Scott Bury

Photo by Max Goncharov on Unsplash

How does memory factor into my writing? Thinking about this brought me to one of my earliest memories: July 31, 1965. 

On that warm, sunny Winnipeg summer day, I was standing on the front steps of my parents’ home. My father was sitting on the top step in front of me, and around me were some other kids from the neighbourhood.

I cannot remember what the conversation was about, but I can remember that at one point, I said, “today is the first day of August.” I remember feeling that I was kind of going out on a limb; I remember not being sure that what I said was true.

“Not quite,” my father said. “Tomorrow is August first.”

And I can remember, strangely enough, feeling pretty good about that—about being close to knowing the date, because I was sure that none of the other four- and five-year olds there had any clue what the date was. I can remember at least one of them being surprised that I was as close as I was. After all, even a grown-up could err on the date by one day, right?

I was four at the time (now you know my age). There were no cell phones to check the date and time on. Phones then were heavy, clunky black things tethered to the wall by stout wires, or screwed to it in the kitchen. Actually, every family I knew had only one phone.

We also all had black-and-white television sets—huge wooden crates with a screen maybe a foot across. I remember how my parents and I used to fiddle with the rabbit-ear antennas on top, or the fine-tuning dial around the channel-changing dial beside the screen to try to clear up the image on the screen.

I remember the white stucco house with the blue wooden trim that we lived in. The front yard seemed as wide as a park, and I remember the oak tree as immense, with a canopy that gave enough shade for family picnics.

I don’t know whether this memory directly informs my writing. But I have always loved blue-and-white houses, and I was immediately taken with Cycladean architecture when I saw pictures of it during high school. 

Unsplash

But there is one lesson I think we can draw from this. Think of your own favourite memories. They’re probably not about big, dramatic events. They’re probably of quieter moments with your families, when you’re not doing anything in particular. No one says anything life-changing.

If there is something about this memory that has any effect in my writing, it’s that. People don’t usually speak in full sentences, and what they say does not seem memorable, at first. And yet, that’s what we do remember. At least, I do. 

This is where I find a lot of fiction writers go wrong. They try to pack so much into dialogue that it sounds false. Listen to some of the everyday conversations around you. People almost never speak in full sentences, they make mistakes all the time, they start sentences, change their mind part-way through, backtrack part way and substitute words. And if you ever tried to re-create the funniest, most enjoyable, laughter-filled conversation you ever had on paper, it probably came out as gibberish. This is why most politicians sound false: they’ve prepared what they say.

I know that stumbling speech with little import makes for bad reading. But still, I remember those quiet times and those gentle conversations, and to me, they’re the most real memories I have.

Scott Bury

can’t stay in one genre. After a 20-year career in journalism, he turned to writing fiction. “Sam, the Strawb Part,” a children’s story, came out in 2011, with all the proceeds going to an autism charity. Next was a paranormal short story for grown-ups, “Dark Clouds.”

The Bones of the Earth, a historical fantasy, came out in 2012. It was followed in 2013 with One Shade of Red, an erotic romance.

Since then, he has published mysteries, thrillers and a three-volume biography, the Eastern Front triology: Army of Worn Soles, Under the Nazi Heel and Walking Out of War, the true story of a Canadian-born man drafted into the Soviet Red Army in World War II.

Scott’s articles have been published in newspapers and magazines in Canada, the US, UK and Australia.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, he grew up in Thunder Bay, Ontario. He holds a BA from Carleton University’s School of Journalism. He has two mighty sons, two pesky cats and a loving wife who puts up with a lot.

Learn more about Scott from his:

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