The Fire In Fiction


fictionAs I start to write a new novel, I ask myself: Who is at the center of my novel? Is he/she a hero, or a villain?

In The Fire In Fiction by Donald Maass, says: “Every protagonist can be a hero, even from the opening pages. That quality is essential if readers are to tag along with your main character for hundreds of pages.”

I hadn’t thought of making any of my protagonists heroes, just characters showing us how they deal with and learn from their difficult life experiences. Maass also says, “you need only find in your human being what is strong, and in your strong human what is real. Even greatness can be signaled from the onset.”

That sounds good, but I wondered how do you find your protagonist’s strength?

Step one: It depends on how you created him/her! Depending on the personality they have, you can find any kind of strength, even something small. Ex. Caring about someone, a longing for hope or change.

Step two: Provide a way for that strength to be demonstrated within your protagonist’s first five pages.

Step three: Revise your character’s introduction to your readers so they feel this story is worth their time, that it will greatly stir and impact your readers and stay with them.

It has taken me a while to determine my protagonists strength, but I think I’m getting closer to showing it in the first five pages.

Have you had success with finding and showing your protagonist’s strength in the first five pages? Any tips you wish to share?



I just bought my first investment home…

Last week I signed my first contract to purchase a foreclosed home in Ambridge, Pennsylvania! The bank’s listing agent is asking $13,900, and I negotiated the price to $13,300. The closing will be in October, and I’m so exited to tear everything out and give the house the attention it needs. I’m sure there will be numerous unexpected challenges that may try my sanity, but it will be worth it when it’s done.

Photo credit: Keller Williams


Going back to school, or the Accidental Vacation?

First Published On Larinna Chandler’s personal Blog.

“Well, that’s the last of it. You ready to go?”

My husband leaned over and kissed me as he asked. I wasn’t really ready, none of us wanted to go…but this was an opportunity to get him the education he needed to further his career.

He builds custom cars, and he fixes peoples cars. Heading west to a big car school, going back to college for him at 30 years old was a pretty huge deal. We were all excited, but sad too. Going back to college is a big life changing event, even more so when you are bringing along a wife, children and a lot of sad wishes from folks who don’t want you to leave the place you have always lived.

But, we left. And it was a somber drive. The children had never been away from their ‘gramma’. Ever. In their whole lives. The first leg of the journey felt as though we were grieving. I guess we were. I know the kids were. We drove only about five hours the first day as the kids were still crying, we had gotten a really late start and it was getting dark.

The hotel was a horrible spot to try to park at with a fully loaded truck pulling another fully loaded truck on a trailer. I wont even go into that. Suffice it to say….it sucked.

Day two found us still on the road. The kids were still sad so we stopped at the Quality Inn in North Platte, Nebraska. The trailer hauling the big ‘Ol 1955 International was a heavy haul for the Tahoe, and it wasn’t tracking the way we wanted it too. We needed to stop and adjust everything anyway. We had been to this hotel before, and it is a great place.

The kids swam for about 10 minutes, and then they just sat there  on the cold cement next to the pool and cried. And Cried.  We tried everything to console them, but they were grieving. You can’t cure grief, even if it is only temporary. Grief is simply grief…and they were hurting.

Eventually we make it to the school in south eastern Wyoming. And it all went downhill.

The school tacked an extra $7000 onto what Curtis was told he was supposed to pay back via scholarships, stafford loans and Pell Grant. But $7,000 is a big deal when you are broke as ****, and you are working toward a dream. Curt’s Customs and Repairs has been in the works for many, many years.

Then we found out that the children had to walk to school. Keep in mind, we are country bumpkins. Our west central Wisconsin town has about 463 people and the kids ride the bus for an hour to get to school. Yes, that small. That’s our roots. But, walking to school was a new thing for them and they were excited. We were a little nervous, but ready to let the kids sprout their new city wings.

Of course, and fortunately, we met a nice business owner who dabbles in the neatest little antique store. Oh, we talked for almost an hour. She reminded me so much of my friend here in Wisconsin. Antique store owners are such crafty, creative and personable people. She asked if I had checked the “offender registry”. I finally realized she meant the sex offender registry and found out my new place was SURROUNDED (well four houses all within two miles) by pedophile held houses; one was a friggin GROUP HOME for pedophiles. Off topic, but why don’t we kill pedophiles? We kill dogs that attack children, why don’t we kill other beings that assault and attack children so terribly?

We decided on day two that we had to go home. Our family. The kids Gramma, for the kids, for my oldest who couldn’t move away from his Dad and step-mom. They love him…and he does exceptional at his school with his teachers, but starting a custody battle that pits parental units against parental units isn’t something we wanted him to endure. He’s never known strife between his parental units, and I wasn’t intending to start. The kiddo needs normalcy, and his dad and incredibly loving step-mom can give him that, rather than a fight over “who gets the kid”. That’s not for this sensitive little dude! Well, he’s WAY taller than me now, but he is still my little boy!!

So, here we are. Ready to go home….Home. Where our roots are. We get ready to jet and my bank account is empty. Bone dry. Now, I KNOW I didn’t spend it! But where did it go? Fortunately, I had JUST signed up for online banking and after a lot of trial and error on my (supposedly) smart phone I was able to access my account. Three times our ‘new home’ and ‘new landlords’ had charged us for the spot we were staying. Draining the account.

So here we are, at a hotel. In the middle of no-where Wyoming, stranded. On a holiday Weekend, because the banks are closed. My book royalties won’t come in for some time.

So we spent the weekend making the best of everything. We are here. We are together. We are family. We are one.

So we laughed. We sang songs. We watched Harley and the Davidsons. We watched car shows and planned out our next car build that was in the works when we left. A 1941 Chevy Coupe.  We weren’t able to sight see or run around the country side but we did find a Wendy’s one mile away that served up 50 cent frosties! That was quite the find! We found a neat little Safeway store that had really good deals. And some not so good.

We found that living here in Wisconsin where Cheese isn’t always cheap…but it’s GOOD…so being in Wyoming and seeing “real cheese” that said Sharp Chedder on the label, we bought some! It might have said sharp chedder but it was more like colby cheese with just  a slight hint of mild chedder in there. Kind of tasteless, but it was on sale for $1.48 for an 8 oz block.It was most certainly not the kind of Aged Sharp Chedder that we get anywhere in Wi.

Ultimately, Tuesday after Labor Day the banks opened back up and I called my bank. My bank is full of awesome folks. They said, “They did what???” and then they made a few calls and fixed it in about five minutes!  My account was operational again! Woo-hoo!

So…we started the journey home. All went well until somewhere in the middle of Iowa. We  stopped for gas and noticed one of the trailer tires developed a huge lump in it and some of the tread was peeling off. No big deal, we’ll just change the tire…only the rim we bought to fit the trailer…didn’t fit.

We spent a good hour or so changing the tire on the rim and a bunch of stuff to get the trailer and truck back on the road. Most people would have been stranded until a mechanic could come to the scene. Fortunately, Curt has changed tires on the rims many, many times before by hand and he made it look  nice and easy, and  about  hour later we were back on the road! We did call a mechanic shop two miles down the road to change our tire on the rim,(because we were feeling exceptionally lazy)  but they said “we want to close early tonight. So sorry, you’re on your own.”

The part where Curtis had to run over the flat tire with the front tire of his Tahoe made for some confused faces on the way past us! What on earth is that guy doing? A few truckers and car guys passed. Gave my Curtis the thumbs up. They knew he was breaking the bead of the tire so he could take the tire off the rim that DID fit the trailer.They sure wanted no part of that, and looked away quickly after they waved. One guy waiting for the air hose after we changed the tire on the rim was convinced that the tire could never sufficiently bead on the rim with a regular gas station air pump. It did. It almost always does!

We arrived safe and sound back home after the trip. No stops by cops, no major mechanical issues, everyone healthy. Everyone happy to be home. Everyone safe and sound. Back from the accidental vacation.

Moral of the story? Everything is always how you look at it. Would we have been right to be pissed off, stay pissed off and tell everyone about how it was unfair? Of course we would have. But that’s ok. By looking at everything good about it, we can weigh it out. Of course we were angry, but that doesn’t mean we should have spent the entire time being angry.

Yes, we could have posted numerous hate-filled F***MyLife diatribes. We actually had many reasons to be pissed off. Stranded. Hardly any money. No sightseeing. Spending the last bit we had on a new receiver hitch so the trailer would track better. School messed up. A ‘swarm’ of ‘yucky’ people. But we didn’t. That isn’t us. We have children to lead, to follow our example. I want children who see roadblocks, speedbumps and all those life changing things as stepping stones. We don’t always get our way.

Sitting back blaming everyone and each other for shit, even if it is deserved doesn’t help anything. I want kids to problem solve, to see us making the best of every situation. And we did. We had our selves a REAL “Accidental Vacation”!!

Life is exactly what you make it. WE could have made it a living hell. We could have EASILY made it our own living hell. Trapped in a hotel room a thousand miles from home. Barely any money. Bitching to everyone who would listen so we can make them miserable too. We could have taken our frustrations out on each other, snapped at each other, “this is YOUR fault!” It would have been miserable for us, and for the kids…and everyone around us.

But we didn’t. We reveled in being together. And while we couldn’t drive the Snowy Range Scenic bypass, or see the historic ghost towns, territorial prisons and old US Army Fort ruins….we did see a lot of other things.

A praying mantis on the hedge. Birds we have never seen before. We scraped up our change and bought the kids fried ice cream from the mexican restaurant next door. They’ve never tasted it before, so it was a real treat. We watched the sun rise over the mountains. We walked hand in hand to a few parks. We watched fish swim in a lazy little pond on the edge of town. How beautiful life truly is!

When we left, we gifted a woman who was terribly down on her luck the remainder of all the food we had packed. She got cereal, canned meats, potatoes, onions, pasta and all sorts of things. We also left her the milk and yogurt from the fridge since we couldn’t take that with on our journey home. We were able to help someone, and it felt great.

We stayed social media silent and drove home without saying a word to anyone, except my boy,  and we have been surprising folks over the last couple days! How fun it has been surprising folks who thought we were going to be gone for a year! How great it was when the babies went back to their regular school and ALL their friends ran up laughing and crying and hugging them. Life is awesome!

Negative begets negative. Positive begets positive. We stayed positive the whole time. Or as much as we could. It is the only way you can go through life. Things will always work out. They will always get better. If plan A doesn’t work, there is an entire alphabet of plans behind that one. Pick one.

Life is full of surprises. Things didn’t work out exactly like we planned, and that is ok!
Things didn’t go the way we wanted them too, and that too is perfectly ok!
Life isn’t supposed to go the way you expect. You can have plans, but know that all plans in life are negotiable. Your life is yours alone to live. It’s great, and it’s all yours, go out there and make the best of every single moment that you have been gifted with!!


I’ve always thought that the New Year should be celebrated in September. The school year starts then, as does the college year and, for me, most of my jobs have started in September.

In September, the summer slips into autumn, the air clears, the mornings are cold and crisp and the lethargy of the warm season fades away. I want to start something new.

The countryside is beautiful, fruits and berries are plentiful, the trees turn from green to gold, copper and scarlet, harvest is celebrated and Christmas lies ahead. I love September. My garden (below) is full of colour.


January is totally unsuitable for celebrating the new and looking to the future. The days are short (at least where I live), the weather is wet, cold and gloomy, and the lethargy of summer has been replaced with the lethargy of winter overindulgence.

April would be an acceptable substitute, but I’m going for September.


In Favour of September

The heart of winter is not a fit start

For a new year, or a new anything.

The dull days are short and gloomy and part of the misery of winter

And spring feels far away and all news is bad.

Reports of war and famine on the news again

And it’s hard to find a reason to be glad.

Echoes of Christmas excess, chain us to our bodies,

And weakened by the dark and cold,

We succumb to pestilence and flu.

January’s bite is far worse than its bark

So how come this month gets to start something new?

I sink in despair until I remember,

Another new year will start in September.


What do you think?




A Burning Tradition

1017629_213471375478723_2011213679_nThe procession was somber as the rag-tag group carried the ship through the tent-lined paths to a clearing. There, a woman dressed in a dark linen tunic started a fire with flint and steel.  She used her hand to protect the tenuous flame from the wind until it caught the tender, then her bobbing torchlight led the way through the dusky stillness to the water’s edge.

Though a crowd had gathered, few spoke, as the designated individuals lit their torches from the main flame and set their part of the boat on fire. From time to time, pained sounds escaped, as if someone were trying not to cry and failing. Fragile tendrils of smoke curled into the still air, then a man stepped forward to propel the vessel out into open water. It rode the lake’s small currents, heading for the

This ritual has been going on since Pennsic War 30. (I just came back from 45) So for the last fifteen years, Baron Garwig of the Kingdom of Ealdormere, has been creating a Viking ship to burn in the memory of loved ones

I can’t really explain to you how moving it is to have this tangible way to express your grief.  Those who have lost a friend, family member, or beloved pet, come and place mementos such as a favorite collar or piece of jewelry on the craft. The year I lost my grandmother, I put a shield on the lovingly constructed ship, and I was honored to be one of those chosen to carry it to the water’s edge.

viking-ship-lake-picThese special moments are important in our lives. I wanted to share this Pennsic tradition because I think it embodies much that is noble in the human spirit: compassion, a willingness to help, and a desire to remember.

If you want to learn more, Pennsic has its own newspaper, and one of the articles dealt with this subject.  The Pennsic Independent is a great way to discover more about what goes on at ‘war.’

Do any of you have traditions that bring family and friends together? I’d love to hear about them. Until next time…