Category Archives: fiction

Wednesday’s Word: Kleptocracy. Say that three times fast, and then write a story.

The last few weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking: about new routines, upcoming projects and books unfinished. Planning, but not so much creating. It seems right, then, to click over to Wordsmith.org and spend some time with the Wednesday’s word of the day* — and my muse.

(I hope she’s listening.)

Today’s word:

kleptocracy. Noun. A government by the corrupt in which rulers use their official positions for personal gain.

A word and definition applicable to many, I’d say.

*****

Head of Household

Under the muted glow of the nightlight, Nora pulled at her lip. In the mirror, she could see a growing line of blood trickle down the inside of her mouth.

“Damn,” she whispered.

“Guess I got a little crazy, huh?” Glen came up from behind her and put heavy hands on her shoulders.

“Crazy!” Nora said. “You bit me.” She wriggled out from under his grip.

“Yeah, just making sure you knew who was in charge.” He slapped her ass. Nora flipped him off and marched back to the bedroom. She heard Glen laugh, but he didn’t apologize.

Glen wasn’t always so rough and crass. It wasn’t until the day after they’d gotten married, when Nora woke to the sour smell of morning breath and Glen’s face staring down at hers, that he started declaring he was now “master of her domain.”

“Good morning?” she’d said, as she’d laughed and pushed him aside. She had thought he was kidding around.

The next week, though, he began claiming her time, telling her exactly how many nights a year she could go out with her girlfriends. No more Happy Hour meet-ups or impromptu coffee dates. And “Ladies night out” was a conspiracy, he said.

During dinners, he got greedy, taking much more than his share and leaving her with scraps some nights. She called him out on it, but he told her she’d just have to start cooking more.

“The King has a right to seconds,” he said on the night she served tenderloin. “And thirds.” He stabbed at the last piece on the platter.

And after the lights went out, he was like an animal in hiding most nights. He waited until she was almost asleep and too tired to fight back and he took her. Tonight, he’d been vicious.

“How’s the lip?” Glen asked as he crawled into bed.

“I can still taste blood…just so you know,” she said.

He patted her head and turned over without saying goodnight. Nora sat up on her elbow and studied the shape of his silhouette. When she heard his breathing slow to a shallow rhythm, she reached out and put her hand on his waist.

She squeezed.

He was growing fat.

*****

They Might Be Giants – Don’t Let’s Start from They Might Be Giants on Vimeo.

* Wednesday’s Word means write something – an essay, poem, or flash fiction – based on Wordsmith.org’s word of the day and post it by midnight. Past pieces from this fun writing exercise can be found under Wednesday’s Word on the sidebar to the right.

Welcome Jenna Blum, Bestselling Author of The Stormchasers

Go get him, Karena, he said. You’re the only one who can.

And Karena knew this to be true, from the nights she was the only one who could sing Charles to sleep, the only one who could coax him off the roof, keep him from climbing the water tower, make him stop chanting that song, stop bouncing that ball, stop kicking that door. She ran out into the lot, tasting the dirt in the air, positioning herself…where Charles would either have to stop or run her down….
~ from The Stormchasers

More than once, I’ve fallen victim to the belief that I could save someone: a friend in despair, a parent on the brink, a loved one chasing a false god down a dark road. I’ve set my voice on an uncomfortable high note in hopes that enthusiasm was contagious, played counselor during marathon phone calls,  stood in the way of the inevitable and gotten pinched in the middle. Painful lessons are never pretty.

But in Jenna Blum’s amazing novel, The Stormchasers, we find a story that mixes the agony of mental illness with the beauty of landscape, the power of devotion, and the miracle of unexpected healing. A novel as much about mental illness as it is about storms, The Stormchasers gives readers vivid images of how both phenomena mirror each other in the way danger brews and crescendos, then crashes and leaves a path of destruction.

The main character, Karena Jorge, is driven in her work as a journalist and in her search to save her twin brother, Charles, from himself. She sets out on a stormchasing expedition, one that puts her in danger at times and brings her closer to a different discovery: Charles is not the only one who needs saving.

The Stormchasers, touching and poignant, is a story that I will read again. I’m so honored to host Jenna Blum today for an interview about her novel, about writing, and about karma. At the end of the interview, leave a quick comment to be entered into the drawing for a copy of The Stormchasers. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, August 30th, at high noon.

**UPDATE: Because of Irene’s visit to the East Coast, and subsequent power outages over the weekend, I’m going to postpone the drawing for a copy of Jenna Blum’s novel until Thursday, Sept. 1st.**

CC: In a recent and compelling essay on the website, Style Substance Soul, you talk about a childhood fascination with tornadoes and reasons why you chase storms (even after the novel has been published). Did the idea for THE STORMCHASERS stem from your personal experience on the road with Tempest Tours, or was it your research with them that took root and sealed your strong connection with the chasing community?

JB: That’s a great question! I had the idea for THE STORMCHASERS–a novel about a bipolar young man who chases tornadoes when he’s manic and his twin sister, who basically chases him–long before I started chasing storms with Tempest. In fact, I wrote an abbreviated draft of the novel in my graduate MA program at Boston University, back in 1996.  I didn’t have a stormchasing community before I started chasing with Tempest to research subsequent drafts of the novel, and what I didn’t expect were the lifelong friends I would make chasing.  I chase with the same people every year, my esteemed mentors and friends like me who are still learning, and they are my storm family. THE STORMCHASERS continues to introduce me to new folks in the chasing community, for which I’m profoundly grateful.

CC: All of the characters in your novel are written in such a way – authentic and relatable – that readers will think of them long after they close the cover of your book. Do you have a special technique you use, early on in your writing, for developing characters?

JB: Thank you for the generous comment about my characters!  I suppose they come off as real because to me, they are real.  They just happen to exist in a dimension halfway between the ether and the paper, hovering somewhere above my head.  My first job as a writer is to get them out where others can come to know and love them the same way I do.  I’ve been told that my characters are lovable despite their flaws–or sometimes hateful because of them or sometimes just plain flawed–and I take that as proof I’ve succeeded in getting them down as real people.  Because who among us isn’t flawed?

When I’m first getting to know the characters, I start by writing down everything I know about them, which ranges from macro big-picture stuff–basic family history–to the fact that Charles Hallingdahl, for instance, the brother in THE STORMCHASERS, ate only green food as a child. Not all the details make it into the novels.  But because they’re part of the character, I write them down.  More details reveal themselves as I go along, and the biggest struggle is to remain true to the characters’ characters, to not graft behaviors onto them because it suits the plot or it’s something I myself would do.

CC: In your career, you’ve traveled all over and seen a variety of landscape. Do you have a favorite place that you’d love to call home or visit time and again?

JB: Again, a great question, and one that strikes a poignant chord with me these days, because although I’m proud to say I have a home in Boston and a house in rural Minnesota where my mom and grandmother were born, I’ve been on the road at least 300 of 365 days in the past year.  One night, when I was checking into a hotel in Florida, the desk clerk looked at my MA license and said, “Wow, you’re far from home.” I thought: Yes, I sure am, both literally and metaphorically. I’ve traveled and divided my geography so much that I’m not sure where my central home is.  But I love my writing community and friends in Boston.  And geographically, my heart belongs to the heartland.  The landscape of the Midwest and the High Plains makes sense to me and allows me to breathe freely–all that space and big sky.

CC: What are you reading these days?

JB: Galleys!  I have the privilege of reading books before they’re published to supply authors with quotes for their book jackets (you’re like Ah-ha, *that’s* where those come from). It’s a great kind of sneak preview.  I read Rebecca Rasmussen’s incredible debut THE BIRD SISTERS and Kaira Rouda’s inspiring novel HERE, HOME, HOPE.  Three novels I highly, highly recommend for 2012:  Anna Solomon’s THE LITTLE BRIDE, about a Jewish mail-order bride who ends up in the Dakotas.  Nichole Bernier’s THE UNFINISHED WORK OF ELIZABETH D., about a woman discovering her best friend’s secret life after that friend’s death.  And Jami Attenberg’s THE MIDDLESTEINS, which is about food, family, love, life, and loss–all the important stuff–and will tell you why it’s vitally important to include cinnamon in pastry.

CC: What advice do you have for writers on the rise?

JB: Usually I would cite Winston Churchill here:  “Never give in, never give in, never give in.” And that’s still true. But in today’s swiftly changing publishing landscape, it’s also important to be open to new ways of doing things. There’s no room for a lazy writer these days (if there ever was!).  Expect to do your own legwork, your own homework, your own promotion.  Use social media. Reach out to and support as many other writers as you can.  It’s good karma, and that must always come back to help you in the end.

Thanks, Jenna. And, for all you readers out there, don’t forget to drop your name in the comment section for a chance to win a copy of The Stormchasers.

JENNA BLUM is the New York Times and # 1 international bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US and THE STORMCHASERS.  She is also one of Oprah’s Top Thirty Women Writers. For more information about Jenna Blum and her bestselling novels, visit her website, follow her on Twitter, or Like her page on Facebook.

Between Panster and Plotter: Finding a Middle Ground

look downstairs into stairwell whirlWhen it comes to writing, I’m a “pantster,” as they say; I spit out drafts of a story in one forward motion, without looking back.

That’s the kind of writer I started out as, anyway.

The first essay I wrote (and submitted…poor editors) was a cathartic experience, in which I hardly glanced back even to edit. And, the novel I’m working on right now poured onto my computer screen during a frenzied dash to win a NaNoWriMo banner in 2009. Or, was it 2008? It’s a little murky now, sort of like that first draft.

But lately, I’ve been reading James Scott Bell’s book on plot and structure, and I’m discovering a middle ground between writing a first draft with one eye open and pre-planning a story scene by scene. Bell’s book gives writers a look at the basics of plot and story structure, using a set of principles he calls “the LOCK system.: Lead, Objective, Confrontation, and Knockout.

“That novel,” as I affectionately call it, still needs a lot of work, so I picked up this book with the aim of applying it to my draft — to see what I was missing, figure out what might be holding me back. What I’m discovering is that, even though I haven’t finished Bell’s book, understanding the LOCK system is changing the way I see this WIP (in a good way) and giving me new insight on how I approach all of my fiction.

Seeing how my novel incorporates the four LOCK principles, I’m more confident that the plot can work. More interesting, though, is the new perspective I have on an upcoming short story deadline. I was invited to join a group of writers and contribute a 10,000 word story to an anthology, and now there’s more than a self-imposed deadline looming on my calendar. This short story will stretch my skills as a writer, I’m sure, and I love a challenge (she says, knees shaking). If this were pre-Bell days, I would sit down with a main character and a first line and go with them, face my fears and see what happens. This time, though, I’m brainstorming more before I write, thinking through the lead and his objective, considering confrontations and a possible Knockout ending.

Whether or not pre-planning will change the outcome of the story, I don’t know. And, I’m not giving up on writing by the seat of my pants completely. There’s something about this simple planning, though, that gives me a teeny bit of confidence as I approach this story. And, maybe…just maybe…all the “thinking time” (as Roz Morris calls it in her excellent book, Nail Your Novel) will mean less time at my computer.

Since finding time to sit and write at my laptop seems almost impossible these days, I’ll take the “writing” however it comes.

Has your approach to crafting your stories changed lately?

Keep It Light: Stories that Surprise You

On a quiet morning last summer, I ran my fingers along the row of books on a shelf in our living room. I stopped at one heavy-weight: The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, 2nd edition. The table of contents listed over fourteen hundred pages worth of stories by must-read authors: James Baldwin, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor.

With pages as thin as a hymnal, the words inside demanded reverent attention, just the same.

So, I was surprised to find “A Giant Step for Mankind,” by Woody Allen, first on the docket. Not that Allen isn’t a great writer, but I hadn’t considered placing him in the same circles with Hemingway or O’Connor.  I also hadn’t considered just how much I would learn from the story, about character description and the effect of a skillful narrative.

Sounds serious, right?

But, Allen’s story is about three scientists who almost discover the secret behind the Heimlich Maneuver. I laughed out loud the first time I read it, with its high register language describing the research done around “dinner-table choking.” I’m still laughing. At passages like these:

This one, describing a character —

Met my two colleagues today for the first time and found them both enchanting, although Wolfsheim is not at all as I had imagined. . . His beard is of a medium length but seems to grow with the irrational abandon of crabgrass. Add to this thick, bushy brows and beady eyes the size of microbes, which dart about suspiciously behind spectacles the thickness of bulletproof glass. And then there are the twitches. The man has accumulated a repertoire of facial tics and blinks that demand nothing less than a complete musical score by Stravinsky.

And this —

Today was a productive one for Shulamith and me. Working around the clock, we induced strangulation in a mouse. This was accomplished by coaxing the rodent to ingest healthy portions of Gouda cheese and then making it laugh. Predictably, the food went down the wrong pipe, and choking occurred. Grasping the mouse firmly by the tail, I snapped it like a small whip, and the morsel of cheese came loose. Shulamith and I made voluminous notes on the experiment. If we can transfer the tail-snap procedure to humans, we may have something. Too early to tell.

Taking these quotes out of context doesn’t give the story the spotlight it deserves. Bound alongside “The Metamorphosis” and “Hills Like White Elephants,” “A Giant Step for Mankind” reminds me that writing should vacillate between serious and fun. Because, as a reader, I want a good belly laugh as much as I want a story that brings me to tears; it’s a bonus if the story does both.

Have you read “A Giant Step for Mankind?” What’s hiding between the covers of a book on your shelf?


* This post has been edited from its original version, published in September 2009

Boxing, Writing, and Mrs. Quinn

This is how I feel right now...

I took a boxing class once, learned the art of the jab, the uppercut, the hook. I even sparred with a guy, but he just played nice. He knew I didn’t pack much of a punch.

If he’d really fought me, though, knocked me out even, would I have gotten back in the ring to face him again?

Maybe. If I really loved boxing. But, I’m too much of a softy, and I’m a definite people-pleaser. Even if I did get him with my mean, left hook, I’d have been apologizing profusely in between subsequent ducks.

How does this relate to writing? A couple of Wednesdays ago, I let the day slip by — without saying a word. I’d planned on writing a flash fiction piece, taking on Wordsmith.org’s word of the day, whipping out a story from scratch to post here by midnight. I had an intro, had an idea, and spent the entire day (and then some) wrestling with the story, circling the first paragraph, looking for an opening.

But that story tossed me around like a rag doll and knocked me flat, so at 1am I called it.

It would be easy to take a little failure and turn it into a big sign, to throw that story to the curb and maybe even abandon word prompts all together. But, I love word prompts, and I love flash fiction (and, honestly, that story isn’t dead, it just isn’t finished).

So, I’m getting back in the ring.

Today’s word on Wordsmith.org:

stupefy. verb tr.: 1. To make someone so bored or tired as unable to think clearly. 2. To amaze.

PS. I spent all day on this story, and now I can barely see how it goes back to the word of the day. But, hey…it’s a story.

*****

Mrs. Quinn

Nicki fell in love with Mrs. Quinn on that first day of eighth grade Algebra. It was the way she wrote her name on the board that caught Nicki’s eye. Mrs. Quinn stood at attention – in her tight bun, stiff shirt, and a long skirt that hung just over the tops of her shoes – and let her hand draw out her name in a smooth series of hills and valleys and curliques.

Mrs. Quinn.

Even her algebraic expressions, with all those X’s and Y’s, showed flair. Never mind the way her skirt shimmied back and forth, to the rhythm of a song, Nicki was sure, during an intense moment of factoring.

But, she especially loved Mrs. Quinn because of the way she handled Jenny Baker, when she caught Jenny on exam day with a cheat sheet stuffed up the sleeve of her Abercrombie and Fitch hoodie. Mrs. Quinn drew a big, fat zero on Jenny’s paper and said “Aber and Fitch, as you call it Ms. Baker, has no place in Algebra, and cheating on a test gets you a visit to Mr. Harper’s office.”

“Mrs. Quinn,” Jenny held out her hands. “I’ll miss the football game if I fail this test! I’m head cheerleader!”

Mrs. Quinn ignored Jenny’s boo-hooing and showed her the door.

“Jenny’s pissed,” Nicki’s best friend Amy told her later in Study Hall. “She said she’s gonna have her mom call a lawyer.”

“For missing the game?” Nicki asked. “Serves her right.”

Nicki tried to push her hair back out of her face, but her Cerebral Palsy got in the way. Her hand circled in front of her forehead a few times, but it kept missing the hair. Nicki was tired after working through her Algebra homework and writing out her English assignment; her Cerebral Palsy never cooperated when she was tired.

“I got it,” Amy said. She tucked the hair behind Nicki’s ear and shook her head as she went on about Mrs. Quinn. “She’s cold-hearted, Nicki. I mean, it’s like she’s got no love. It’s Homecoming!”

Nicki didn’t feel one bit bad for Jenny, though, and she knew Amy was wrong. About the love part.

Nicki thought about how Mrs. Quinn looked her straight in the eye when she handed back her papers. She left pretty cursive notes on them that said “Great job!” and “You’re a natural with numbers!” and never wrote something stupid like “practice your penmanship.” She spelled out weekly homework assignments on the board like they were poems, rolling the letters together in delicious combinations and always ending the stream of instructions with a loose and curvy line underneath.

Mrs. Quinn loved math and she loved writing notes on the board and – according to Jenny – she loved Mr. Harper. Amy told her that Jenny said she saw Mrs. Quinn making out with Mr. Harper after school one day. Even though Jenny was a liar, Nicki imagined Mrs. Quinn writing him notes.

Filling the page with pretty letters.

Nicki wondered if Mrs. Quinn would sign them, “With love, Bethany.” If she would round off her Y with a flower or a heart or tease him with one of her smooth, curvy lines underneath.

* photo credit: jnyemb on Flickr

Interview with Author, Kaira Rouda, on Her Debut Novel Here, Home, Hope

Yesterday, I posted a review on Kaira Rouda’s debut novel, Here, Home, Hope. Today, I’m honored to host Kaira on my blog, where she talks about writing the novel, balancing life as Mother and Author, and taking note of the most important tip for success.

After the interview, leave a comment to be entered into the giveaway: a free copy of Here, Home, Hope. Random.org will choose the winner on Tuesday, July 5th, at high noon.

CC: While HERE, HOME, HOPE is your first novel, you were already a successful entrepreneur and published author (your nonfiction book, REAL YOU INCORPORATED, received great reviews on Amazon and Goodreads). How was the process of writing and publishing a novel different from your other endeavors?

Kaira Rouda

KR: Writing a novel is completely different than writing anything else. You’re right!  I think I have written in every type of format from radio and television commercials, to product catalogs, to press releases and web copy, newspaper and magazine pieces and a nonfiction book. Real You Incorporated: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs was to me a celebration and culmination to an amazing career building a company as a woman entrepreneur. I had so many lessons to share, so many women I had learned from that I wanted to profile. In nonfiction, it’s pretty much that: here’s what I know, here’s how I did it, and here’s what I hope will work for you. Straightforward, but I hope, too, inspiring. The response to that book continues to be amazing and I love hearing from women across the country who have taken that book to heart.

And now, I’ve finally donned my fiction writer hat – a hat I’ve dreamed of wearing since 4th grade. After we sold our company and I became a consultant I said to myself, now is the time.  In Real You Incorporated I had helped other women articulate and go for their dream. I knew what mine was. It was time to try, again. You see, I’ve been trying to be a published novelist, off and on, for 15 years – and that’s a lot of rejection slips, as you can imagine. For me, the process of writing is a pure joy. I love it – and writing books has been my escape for years. I decided to give it one more chance and fortunately, this time, the timing was right.  Seeing my novel on the shelf in a bookstore is one of the most thrilling moments of my life. Truly.

CC: I love the book trailer for HERE, HOME, HOPE! The music is a perfect match for a book that’s upbeat and “genuinely hopeful” (as quoted in Jenna Blum’s blurb). I imagine much of this book was a joy to write. Do you have a favorite scene or chapter?

KR: Thank you! I love the book trailer, too! An old friend, Pete Howland, and his firm Edge Creative produced it for me and it was their first book trailer. His wife, Heidi, is the lovely voice in the trailer and I chose the music! It makes me smile that you enjoyed it. Here, Home, Hope was a joy to write. I had a great time creating the characters and they’re all close to my heart.  So, picking a scene is tough, but I’ll tell you one of the hardest  scenes to write was Chapter 16, Bob and Kelly’s encounter in his empty house. I wanted to capture the tension, the threat, the possibility of violence,  without  going over the edge.  Because, as you and the wonderful Jenna Blum noted, the book is “genuinely hopeful”.

CC: I know you are mother to four teenagers (let me just say — wow). I’m raising two young children, and there are days when two feels like four. How do you balance life and writing?

KR: I learned a long time ago that balance is something you swing through on the way to something else. What we all need to remember, especially us moms, is that what our kids really want is a happy mom. If you’re happy, they’re happy, so we need to define lives and careers that work for us as individuals. My “balance” won’t be the same as yours, or anyone else’s, but if it’s right for me, that’s what’s important. And, we need to value and support each other’s choices. Once we begin to do that, genuinely, as women, we’ll be unstoppable. And I have to say, I do have an amazing partner in my husband, Harley, but no – he is not as perfect as Patrick, Kelly’s husband, in Here, Home, Hope.

CC: What are you reading these days?

KR: I am a voracious reader. At any one time, I’ll have two or more books going. I recently finished VIOLETS OF MARCH by Sarah Jio (loved it),  was lucky enough to read the ARC for BEST STAGED PLANS by Claire Cook (loved it), and I’m diving into WATER FOR ELEPHANTS right  now (I can’t believe I haven’t read it yet!). This month another special book is released, Amy Hatvany’s touching novel, BEST KEPT SECRET. I had a chance to read it as an ARC, too, and highly recommend it. Do you want me to keep going?

CC: Do you have any advice for writers on the rise?

KR: Aside from writing, I’d recommend reading. Voraciously. The best writers I know are readers. They love books, their own and others’. They celebrate the written word and they see the publishing industry as a world of new possibilities today. Stick up for other authors, too. Be supportive. That’s your job as a part (or hopeful part) of this industry. One of the most amazing outcomes of publishing my first novel has been to become friends with wonderful authors across the country. Women such as Eleanor Brown, Caroline Leavitt, Sarah Pekkanen, Katrina Kittle, Jenna Blum, Amy Hatvany, Claire Cook, Robyn Harding, Talli Roland and many more. These women embraced me, and my dream, and I hope to return the favor. That’s the power of sticking together.

It’s an exciting time to be in this industry and it has been an amazing journey for me. The most important point: don’t give up.

~

You can find more information about Kaira Rouda, her novel and her nonfiction books, on her website. You can also follow her on Twitter or Like her on Facebook. And, don’t forget to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of HERE, HOME, HOPE!

Book Review: Here, Home, Hope

“I believe the saying that people come into your life for a reason. And things happen, like cancer scares, to keep us moving forward. Trying new things.” ~from Here, Home, Hope
~

There comes a point in our lives, sometimes more than once, when we reach a crossroads or a dead end, complacency or crisis, and we realize that change is inevitable, even necessary. Some of us pack up and move, others get married or have a baby, a brave few branch out into new careers or hobbies.

In Kaira Rouda’s debut novel, Here, Home, Hope, we are introduced to Kelly Johnson — a mother of two, a domestic engineer, and a woman in flux. Coming off of a recent breast cancer scare, and beginning to understand (and accept) that her sons no longer need every minute of her attention, Kelly Johnson sets out to find a new purpose for herself.

As it says in “About the Book” on Kaira Rouda’s website, “Kelly takes charge of her life, devising a midlife makeover plan.”

In her quest, Kelly discovers a passion and a hidden talent for a new career, as well as an appreciation for old friends, young teenagers, her life and her home.

Here’s a sneak peek at the book:

Kaira Rouda, herself, is a woman redefined, moving from Author of women’s business books to Novelist. She aims to translate her real life goals, of enlightening and empowering women, into the fictional tale of Kelly Johnson. There’s much to appreciate in Here, Home, Hope (and some to envy), like the value of risk-taking, the importance of genuine friendships, and of the support of a loving husband — who’s devotion goes unnoticed by Kelly at first. However, as a reader, I would have liked to see the story spend a little more time on some of the bigger issues broached in this novel, like eating disorders and depression.

On the other hand, many readers prefer books that don’t perseverate on the darker side of life, and, as Jenna Blum says in her book blurb, Kaira Rouda’s novel is definitely “upbeat” and “hopeful,” a light read. So, if you’re looking for a story with a taste of real life and a feel-good ending, you’ll enjoy Here, Home, Hope.

And, tomorrow just might be your lucky day. I’ll be hosting Kaira Rouda here for an interview, where she’ll talk about the move from writing nonfiction to novels and the one thing that so many of us strive for in life: balance. Stop by tomorrow’s post as well, get to know a little more about Kaira and her novel from her perspective, and enter the giveaway: one free copy of Here, Home, Hope.