Behind The Story: Heather L.L. FitzGerald (plus win a Kindle!)

A few weeks ago I shared a review of The Tethered World and today I am pleased to bring you an interview with the author. She is part of the Books & Beverages Blog Tour hosted by Mountain Brook Ink publishing! Each stop includes an opportunity to enter for a FREE KINDLE FIRE as the grand prize, as well as three runner-up opportunities to win a $10 Starbucks gift card! Check the bottom of the post for a Rafflecopter link for your chance to enter!  And now, everyone, meet Heather!

IMG_8077

Hi, Heather! Welcome to my blog! And my first ever interview. I’m trying to think of questions that aren’t too repetitive so please bear with me.:)

To start off, I wanted to let you know – I’m the oldest of five children and my mother started homeschooling us right after I’d finished the 5th grade. (Back in the early 90s – we were among the trendsetters!) So I related to Sadie right off the bat. I know you’ve gotten a lot of attention for having a homeschooled heroine but I just wanted to let you know how awesome I thought it was.:)

Thank you, Kat! Your mom was definitely a trendsetter:) I homeschooled my four as well, but it was much easier in the early 2000’s. You can thank your mom for me! Since homeschooling is on everyone’s radar to one degree or another, I felt like it was time to treat it as a regular part of regular people’s lives . . . because it is for so many (over 2 million families, I believe). But I did not want to make it “the point” of my story. I did not have an agenda. Someone in public school should be able to relate to the characters just as easily as a homeschooler—though they may miss a few inside jokes:)

Okay, question #1 has probably been asked before but it’s one of my favorite aspects of writing so I have to go there. We all know how an author’s mind works – the what-ifs can bunny-trail from something totally innocuous to the unique premise that makes a great story. Where did the idea for The Tethered World come from?

Good place to start! Two main places . . . I’ve always thought it would be awful to be awakened in the middle of the night by a knock on the door with bad news. I don’t function well sleep deprived and feel like I’d be a wreck if I had to handle an emergency at such a time. Seemed like a great way to start the story, LOL.

Secondly, I’ve always thought it to be curious that cultures all over the world share some common folklore. Creatures like dwarves, gnomes, and even Bigfoot are rumored to be seen around the world. These stories are hundreds of years old, sans the internet or even a newspaper. My thought was to give the creatures a common, unique origin: the Garden of Eden!

How many sequels are planned for the series? Any tidbits you can share for what we can expect in them?

It’s a trilogy. The second book, The Flaming Sword, is getting finished up now and will be out in October of this year. The third book, The Genesis Tree, will be out in July of 2017, I believe. There’s a new creature introduced in The Flaming Sword, and a secondary Point of View to keep things interesting. That’s all I care to divulge for now:)

IMG_3546

I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for romance so my interest went on high alert when a certain winged prince put in an appearance. And I’ve been thinking about sending Sadie a barrel of Ent-draughts, if you know what I mean.😉 Anyways… the minimal romance and gentler handling of grim situations made The Tethered World feel a little closer to a middle-grade novel than a YA for me. Will future sequels be about the same or can we expect the stories to mature a little along with Sadie?

Ha! I’ll make sure Sadie gets your gift:) As for the romance and peril, I’d say a limited yes. More peril, for sure. More interest between Sadie and the prince. However, I’m mindful that the book will attract a certain niche of readers in the homeschooling community and wish to keep things on the conservative side. Not that I will shy away from where the characters are headed, because to a point, they surprise ME by taking over the story. But I do want to handle the situations with my audience in mind.

What do you hope readers will take away from The Tethered World?

I hope readers will come away experiencing the joy of the journey. The journey they took through the eyes of Sadie, seeing how she grew, as well as the over all experience of reading the adventure. When I read through The Chronicles of Narnia with my kids, I didn’t want the story to end. So we read them again! My desire is to leave readers wanting more, with a good old fashioned sense of the warm-fuzzies.

Freebie question – what question would you like to answer that maybe no one has thought to ask?

Hmmm. Maybe I’m creatively drained at the moment, but I couldn’t think of one . . . so I asked my daughter! She asked me how it felt to finally hold my book in my hands. That’s a good one! I think anyone who writes has allowed that fantasy to play out in their imagination. Are you ready for the word that comes to mind? Anti-climatic. I know. Terrible word! That’s NOT how I imagined it to be. *sniff*

I’ve tried to decipher why. And I believe it’s from all the times I imagined what it would be like. Even where I would be (at the mailbox, impatiently tearing it open?). The thing is, I had no idea my book was coming—which might have been part of the problem. I order a lot of stuff in the mail and thought it was another book I’d ordered. Instead, there was MY book staring at up at me (my proof copy). Surprise definitely hit first, but on it’s heels was an undercurrent of “this is not how I pictured this going down,” LOL. The good news is, the more I see it sitting around, the more I thrill at the fact that it finally does exist. All glory to God!

Well, thank you so much, Heather, for stopping by and doing this interview. I enjoyed The Tethered World and it’s been great learning more about it and the author behind it. Best wishes with your book launch!

Thank YOU, Sparks, for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to share more about the book and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you the last few months!

—————————————–

Heather L.L. FitzGerald lives in Texas with four someones that call her mom and one special someone that calls her his wife. She homeschooled her children–one of whom is autistic–and teaches ballet at a fine arts school in Forth Worth. Heather is a member of the North Texas Christian Writers, and helps to facilitate the Manet writer’s group in Fort Worth, Texas. She loves drinking ice lattes, cloud watching, and getting lost in a good book.

You can connect with Heather on her website/blog, Facebook, Pinterest: (Belongs to her main character, Sadie), Character blog: (Sadie’s mom has a blog about legendary creatures.), TwitterInstagram, Goodreads.

—————————————–

BookTour

!Click Here for Rafflecopter Entry Form!

The tour began at Annie Douglass Lima’s blog on February 15, 2016 and goes through March 1, 2016, ending with Anna Weaver Hurtts. Please check below for the complete schedule of the tour.

Featured Authors:
Heather L.L. FitzGerald – Debut author of young adult fantasy series, The Tethered World Chronicles  
Kimberly Rose Johnson – Multi-published author of sweet romance series, The Wildflower B&B Romance
Angela Ruth Strong – Multi-published author of Finding Love in Sun Valley, Idaho, book one in the Resort to Love series

2/15 – Letters From Annie (Douglass) Lima
AND       Brent King
2/16 – Anything, Everything
AND       The Texarcadians
2/17 – Ginger Solomon
2/18 – Sandra Robbins
2/19 – J. L. Mbewe
2/20 – Plentiful Pursuits
2/21 – A Way With Words
2/22 – Autumn Macauthor
2/23 – A Greater Yes
2/24 – The Gathering Fire
2/25 – Diana’s Tea Time Reviews
2/26 – Liz Tolsma
2/27 – Sarah Ruut
2/28 – Not By Bread
2/29 – Sparks of Ember (you’re here!)
3/1 –  Anna Weaver Hurtt

The Tethered World

tethered

Blurb: “Normal” means different things to different people. For sixteen-year-old Sadie Larcen, family dynamics look a little different than most. Parents with oddball occupations? Normal. Five homeschooled siblings—one with autism? Normal.

Police knocking on the door and parents gone missing? Definitely not normal!

When Sadie uncovers the reasons behind her parents’ disappearance and the truth about her heritage, she despairs of ever feeling normal again. Especially when she learns that her mother’s interest in Bigfoot, Dwarves, and other lore extends beyond her popular blog. Sadie’s family has been entrusted with keeping the secrets of the Tethered World—home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden.

Sadie and her siblings must venture into this land to rescue their parents. Stepping out of reality and into a world she never knew existed is a journey Sadie fears and resents. But she chooses to risk all to save her family.

She’s just not sure she will survive in the process.

“Home to creatures that once roamed the Garden of Eden.” – Now that’s an interesting premise to a story! While marketed as a YA , The Tethered World by Heather L.L. FitzGerald felt more like a coming-of-age Middle Grade to me. Which isn’t a bad thing. Rather than the stereotypical YA adventure; heavy on the romance and “chosen-one” syndrome, this story focuses on family and growing up. There is very light hinting toward possible future romance and the violence is mild – tension-building but not gratuitous. The variety of mythical creatures was fun – leprechauns, trolls, dwarves and gnomes (they aren’t the same thing), nephilim (!!) and more. Christianity is a very natural part of the story rather than preached at the reader. I did feel like the story was a little slow to get off the ground – things start with a bang but then it takes a few chapters before the trio head out on their adventure. It made sense as part of the story setup but I was anxious for them to get going so I chafed a bit waiting. All in all this is a fun story, with no cliff-hanger but ending with the door wide-open to explore even more of the mysterious Tethered World.

What mythical creature would you love to see in a book?

 

(Edited 03/01/16 – to anyone looking for the Books & Beverages Bloghop post)

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advanced reader copy by the author in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

Aquifer

Aqua

Blurb: Only he can bring what they need to survive.

In the year 2250, water is scarce, and those who control it control everything. Sixteen-year-old Luca has struggled with this truth, and what it means, his entire life. As the son of the Deliverer, he will one day have to descend to the underground Aquifer each year and negotiate with the reportedly ratlike miners who harvest the world’s fresh water. But he has learned the true control rests with the Council aboveground, a group that has people following without hesitation, and which has forbidden all emotion in the name of keeping the peace. This Council has broken his father’s spirit, while also forcing Luca to hide every feeling that rules his heart.

But when Luca’s father goes missing, everything shifts. Luca is forced underground, and discovers secrets and mysteries that cause him to questions who he is and the world he serves. Together with his friends and a very alluring girl, Luca seeks to free his people and the Rats from the Council’s control. But Luca’s mission is not without struggle and loss, as his desire to uncover the truth could have greater consequences than he ever imagined.

Aquifer by Jonathan Friesen is an odd book. It’s set in a dystopian Australia which was interesting and unique. While obviously taking place in the distant future, the technology seemed all over to me – many aspects felt almost primitive but then other technologies seemed quite advanced. The ever-present dials perfectly embodied that contradiction – their capabilities seemingly outweighing the archaic wrapping. I didn’t understand the technology and most of it seemed unrealistic so I had to reclassify the book from realistic-dystopian to AU-dystopian to wrap my brain around it all.

The story started rather slowly, and it had a very melancholy feel. It did a fantastic job setting the mood and environment but since I was awaiting the “story” to start, it felt a little dragged out. But once things got going, I was hooked. The land below-ground was fascinating and I was sad we didn’t get to spend more time there. Luca was an interesting character, struggling with trust and unearthing layers upon layers of secrets that his entire world has been built on. And I loved the veiled references to God and faith – it wasn’t preachy at all but it hinted and pointed at something more.

Romance is very toned down, though definitely on the insta-love side of things. This was more of a middle-grade level book in my mind. I can see this story highly appealing to boys (though girls should like it just fine). The cast reminded me somewhat of Peterson’s The Wingfeather Saga, being a bit of a ragtag group of characters. The only thing I wished for was an epilogue or one more chapter to wrap things up a bit. The story ended rather abruptly and with a few questions unanswered.  It’s like ending Star Wars after the death star explodes but without the ending award scene.

And can I just mention that I love the cover. It captures the setting and tone perfectly.

How do you feel about epilogues?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I won a copy from JillWilliamson.com in a giveaway. I was not required to write a positive review (or any review at all). The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

The Story In The Stars

Dassa
Blurb: Dassa skates toward the palace in completion of her Third Quest, unaware the Karkar Plague has returned to ravage Gannah.

On a medical starship not far away, Dr. Pik is ordered to find a cure for the plague – an unlikely assignment, given his inbred hatred of the whole Gannahan race. Duty trumps prejudice, however, and he succeeds… but that’s just the beginning of the story.

Dassa and Pik survive attack by space pirates, food poisoning, savage Gannahan beasts, and a plane crash. The hardest part, though, is enduring one another’s company.

The Creator who wrote the story of redemption in the stars has commanded her to share it with her reluctant savior. That’s not all He requires of her, but the rest is unthinkable.

The Story in the Stars by Yvonne Anderson was an interesting tale. The book alternates viewpoints between Dassa, Gannahan sole survivor of a planetary plague, and Pik, a doctor from a race of people nearly exterminated by the Gannahan centuries before. And yet Pik, as half-human – the only one of his kind – is capable of identifying with Dassa more than anyone else.

I loved Dassa and her world. She was strong, capable and amazing. Gannahan’s were a fascinating race with neat abilities. And their planet was a simultaneously scary, beautiful place that I could have read about endlessly. Everything to do with Dassa and her planet was colorful, vivid and lively. Pik, however, was a bit more uneven. He started the story with quite a chip on his shoulder but, over time, came to know Dassa and they even seemed to develop a bit of a comradery. But then he would suddenly regress a bit so I had a hard time feeling like I ever really got to know him.

The story is very religious – I liked the idea that God arranged the constellations on every single planet as a story of His love. (And the one negative review on Amazon amused me with it’s accusations of heresy – um, it’s a fictional what-if!) In many ways the story was more about Pik than Dassa – getting past his pride, prejudices and misconceptions to surrender himself to the Lord. Meanwhile Dassa struggled with the burden of being the last of her kind and the violent inclinations of her race (everyone has a thorn to battle, right?). So most of the book was focused on Dassa sharing God with a resistant Pik, throughout all their adventures.

While I loved the Gannahan’s, there was one small aspect of them that I didn’t think quite made sense. But it’s difficult to go into without being slightly spoilery. The Gannahan’s have an ability to tap into their spiritual connection – their Meah. So while all Christians have the Holy Spirit, they literally have a direct line of communication. It was an interesting concept (wouldn’t it be great if God spoke to us as regularly and literally as He does to them?). And when they are about to die, they drive out to a holy place, deep inside a mountain, and walk through a portal into Heaven. Their family, watching them leave, literally sees them welcomed into Jesus’ arms. (This may only be for their king’s – I wasn’t clear on that part.) But if the Gannahan’s only discovered God after their almost-invasion of earth so many centuries ago, where did this holy room and portal come from? It’s not a critical plot point, but it niggled at me.

The one aspect that I really didn’t like was that, almost from the beginning, Dassa felt God telling her she is eventually supposed to marry Pik. And so all her interactions with him felt slightly tinged with ulterior motives – bringing the guy who frequently acted like a slimeball to salvation so she could stomach to marry him (and so he’d even want to). And then the book ended before any hinted romance. After putting up with his attitude for the entire book, I was expecting a little romantic payoff!😉 I also didn’t understand the one-year time jump at the very end. Why the gap?

All that being said, I found Gannahan such a fascinating place that I look forward to reading the next in the series. And hopefully getting to like Pik now that he doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder!😉

Do you expect a little romance in most books?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Swept Away

I’ve read a lot of inspirational historical romances over the years. I started with Janette Oke’s books when I was in my early teens and have read most other popular authors since then. I’d guess it’s a typical rite of passage for teens raised in conservative Christian families. They’re mostly the same and I’ve enjoyed them for the most part, as a pleasant way to pass the time, if nothing epic. So I really wasn’t expecting much different when I picked up Swept Away by Mary Connealy. But I am pleased to report I was pleasantly surprised!

9261 SweptAway_mck.indd

Blurb: Swept away when her wagon train attempts a difficult river crossing, Ruthy MacNeil isn’t all that upset at being separated from the family who raised her. All they’ve ever done is work her to the bone. She prayed for a chance to get away, and then came the raging flood. Alive but disoriented, she’s rescued by Luke Stone…so unfortunately, there are more chances to die in her immediate future.

Luke is heading home to reclaim the ranch stolen from his family. But the men who killed his father are working hard to ensure Luke doesn’t make it alive. He has no choice but to keep moving. Still, he can’t just abandon Ruthy, so she’ll have to come along.

His friends–a ragtag group of former Civil War soldiers–take a fast interest in the pretty gal. Luke thinks that’s rather rude–he’s the one who found her. And the more time he spends around the hard-working young woman who is a mighty good cook, the more he finds himself thinking beyond revenge and toward a different future. For the first time in a long time, Luke is tempted to turn from his destructive path and be swept away by love.

Swept Away is cute, funny, witty, nail-biting – and full of references to an aspect of the civil war that I knew little about. I was impressed because the entire book felt essential – no silly extra scenes, no time wasted – it was constant movement. And they kissed – a lot! And implied more! O_O the scandal!! (But not too detailed or excessive and the later was within the bounds of marriage – it is clean inspirational romance after all.) And Mary Connealy’s women have spunk! Something I have a complete abhorrence for, and the reason I no longer read certain authors, is spunkless women. Also, the story quickly becomes about much more than merely getting Luke’s ranch back – it added the tricky dynamic of saving a woman and her children from an abusive situation. I liked that the reasons for the conflict of the story became more external and less selfishly motivated.

I had to research Camp Andersonville afterwards and found it simultaneously fascinating & horrifying. I’m sad Andersonville was halfway between where I attended college and my home as a teen and yet I never knew to stop by there on the commute. While Swept Away is the first in a series, it is a spin-off from a previous series. I’m excited to read more and see what happens with side-characters that I enjoyed.

Do you enjoy books that highlight a unique historical event?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

 

Glass Girl

Glass Girl

Blurb:“The ice cold fear I’d felt, not knowing if Wyatt was alive, pressed into the wall with other girls and surrounded by guys who were unspeakably brave, hit my body again in a wave.

“This was trauma – the gift that keeps on giving.”

When Meg Kavanagh finds herself in the unthinkable role of grieving sister, she discovers some harsh truths–parents aren’t perfect, life’s not always sweet, and the dead don’t write back. Her famous artist mom grieves by slowly disappearing, and her dad copes by moving them to a small town in Wyoming.

What she finds in Wyoming blindsides her.

His name is Henry Whitmire and he’s a rancher’s son who pulls Meg into his larger-than-life world and shows her that the best things in life – like falling in love and finding mercy – require uncommon courage. 

The only way to describe Glass Girl by Laura Anderson Kurk is using words like powerful or impactful or — you get the picture. When I turned the last page and set the book down, I was unsettled. This is the kind of journey that requires days to digest. Yes, it was that good.

There were so many aspects about Glass Girl I enjoyed. Initially, what enticed me to the story is that most of it takes place in Wyoming. Having married a Wyoming boy and lived there for five years, I was excited to read a book that took place in an all-too-often-overlooked state and read the viewpoint of a transplant like myself. And I had no trouble slipping into the setting – I pictured the small town of Buffalo, WY until the book clarified that they were closer to the Worland/Thermopolis area. Slightly different scenery but same Wyomingite vibe.   In fact, the only inconsistency I found was a scene where Meg experiences hot springs for the first time. Speaking from my own first encounter, there is no way she would not have noticed and commented on the heavy sulfur smell. Believe me, it’s a shock when you aren’t expecting it!!  ;)

If I step back and analyze the book critically, I didn’t love the romance.  If I was a teen perhaps I would feel differently but as a mother… Henry was sweet and kind and, frankly, a little too perfect. My biggest issue was how the two of them were constantly completely alone, one of those times she actually sat on his lap while wearing a bathing suit, and they went on an overnight trip (albeit with semi-competent adult supervision). Meg was foolish at times and exposed herself to several dangerous situations but they were realistic teen scenarios and I don’t think she really had a Christian faith to fall back on at those points in the story. But Henry did and so I found his deliberately exposing the two of them to constant physical temptation disconcerting mainly because he seemed to have no qualms over it.

But the true gem of the story is Meg’s journey in learning grace, mercy, forgiveness and love. In applying them to her classmates, her family, and ultimately herself. It’s difficult to explain but the entire subject-matter is handled so thoughtfully and deeply. It’s powerful and woven throughout the entire book in a growing theme. I think a reader would be challenged to experience Glass Girl and not emerge a better person – a Christian with a deeper faith.

Do you enjoy introspective books?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I won a copy from lisagodfrees.com in a giveaway. I was not required to write a positive review (or any review at all). The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Stealing The Preacher

stp

Blurb:  On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw and presented to the man’s daughter as the minister she requested for her birthday. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted

For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?by the memory of the young woman he left behind–a woman whose dreams now hinge on him.

Stealing the Preacher by Karen Witemeyer is a cute, light-hearted, fun romance. I found the situation of an ex-outlaw father kidnapping a preacher as a birthday present for his daughter too funny and the bewilderment both Crockett and Joanna faced was even more amusing. Their relationship developed believably and sweetly and I really enjoyed the elements of faith throughout the story – these are characters who live with their faith permeating their lives and it came across realistically and not preachy. There was a dash of nail-biting tension at the climax that had me ridiculously worried considering I knew there was no way the book could not have a happy ending.😉 The historical details about painting and artistic-style were really interesting.  Also, I didn’t realize this was second in a series until after I’d finished it and I’m looking forward to reading the others!

What amusing situations have you enjoyed in a book?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received an advanced reader copy from BethanyHouse in a giveaway. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.