Welcome Friends,

It has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life to be able to write this story, and to assemble a wonderful team that was able to bring all the elements together so that we could share it with all of you. We hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as we did creating it!

We recently received a very nice review from Kirkus Reviews, who is well-respected for their tough and honest reviews where they said, “Alicia does come across as an intelligent, science-minded heroine for the modern era, and the story has a fresh ecological focus.” – Kirkus Reviews. One very good point that was raised in the review had to do with some of the environmental themes in the book and how I handled them, as a writer. And so, I would like to talk about an element of the story and how it came to be. I am referring to the character, Gran’Tree.

Family, friends, and the importance of trees!

You probably recognized themes of family, friendship, and compassion throughout the story you just read. The characters accepted one another, some reluctantly at first, despite their vast differences and assumed biases. They grew to become better as individuals and as a team. But in the story there were also themes of conservation. Mankind’s excessive plundering of the land is what led to the separation of the realms. Nature has always been a very important element in my life, as it is in Alicia’s. Why then, you might ask, would I make a tree—one of the most important things in nature—the villain?

A pair of majestic yellow pines. Gran’Tree’s younger cousins.

Trees bring great benefits to our world. They produce oxygen, clean pollutants from the air, and protect us from sun, rain, and even wind. Their strong roots hold the soil in place to reduce land erosion. And just like Gran’Tree, many store tremendous amounts of rainfall, which helps prevent flooding. But what happens when someone, or something, gains too much power?

Without spoiling anything, there will be further adventures for Alicia in the Wild Side. You will learn more about the Ancient Ones and how the realms became separated. One of the things you will learn is the origin of Gran’Tree. He is in a place he does not belong, with powers that he should not have. And in 1887 a very wise man, Lord Acton said, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

A villain is born.

I do not want to talk about politics while discussing a book for young readers, but I must admit that I was influenced by the current political climate in 2018. When one individual gains too much power, and lacks the wisdom regarding how best to use that power, it can throw off the balance of things, just as Gran’Tree’s great power threw off the balance of nature in the Wild Side.

Gran’Tree is just as much a victim in his world as is anyone else, which you will learn. He is also unfortunately, a victim of my own storytelling. You see, Gran’Tree’s character was created in stages during the process of writing this book. The first stage was the decision to have the lake absent in the Wild Side. I wanted Alicia, and the reader, to clearly understand that she was no longer in her world. But why was the lake gone? The answer to that question was stage two, the water was disappearing from that realm. And so The Drying was created! This led to the third, and final, stage of Gran’Tree’s creation. I needed a character that could be taking all that water.

As I mentioned, trees naturally store great quantities of water. And one of my favorite majestic trees in the forest is the yellow pine. As a child, I would pick off small pieces of their puzzle-shaped bark, and then try to place them back in the same spot that I removed them from. One summer when I was young, I had a small tree house between two of the trees that had grown close together. Now, almost forty years later, the remains of that tree house can still be seen. To me, those trees were always big and strong, and so different looking from the rest of the firs and pines in the woods. And from those memories, Gran’Tree was born.

The puzzle-like bark of a yellow pine.

Thank you to all, including the trees!

So, dear readers, please understand the value of trees in our world. Not only do they bring great beauty, but they are also home to many woodland creatures, provide much needed shade, and most of all they have tremendous benefits for the environment. We all need to recognize that the natural resources we have are limited, and must be saved and shared to maintain a balance in our land.

Thank you again for reading. This book would not have been possible without the collaborative efforts of the team at Z Girls Press and Calling Card Books who were my publishers, editors, and designers. I also want to thank my artist Gloria Miller Allen who spent many a waking hour on the beautiful illustrations. Finally, a big thank you goes to the early readers whose input was very important in the creative process and helped me shape the final story.

I can’t wait to share with you the further adventures of our strong and intelligent heroine, Alicia.

Michael Foster