In the Author Spotlight: Blaine D. Arden on The Forester II: Lost and Alone (Contest)

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spotlight on books

The Forester II- Lost and Found cover

ScatteredThoughtsandRogueWords is happy to have Blaine D. Arden here today to talk about her inspiration for her Forester Trilogy and her latest release The Forester II: Lost and Found.

Contest:  Blaine D. Arden and Storm Moon Press are giving away one copy of The Forester (The Forester I).  To enter to win, leave a comment and an email address in the body of the comment where you can be contacted.  Contest ends 4/18.

Where the world of the Forester came from by Blaine D. Arden

Inspiration for a story is never a straightforward with me. Often different segments of a story are inspired by different sources. I started out with my idea for the Forester itself because of a number of Christmas story/winter celebration calls and the word Solstice got stuck in my mind. But that was only the beginning. I had yet to come up with where my story would take place, and who the people were.

The magic system was something that I’d been playing with for a while. Though a big fan of fantasy, I never quite understood why magic was used so often as an elitist item. Only a few would possess it, and those often held all the power. I also wondered why magic seemed something you needed as a weapon. I liked the idea of magic as an everyday commodity, something used in everyday situations—think Mrs. Weasley doing her dishes—and not just by the elite few.

In real life the talents we were born with in combination with studying hard, dictate what we become. Some have a head for numbers, some for creating things with their hands. In more than one of my worlds, a person’s energy core dictates where their talents lie and what their profession will be. And their magic? Their magic helps them with their jobs. A smith can keep his bellows going while he works, a Truth Seeker can scan objects for traces of a killer, a Forester’s energy helps him turn trees into dwellings—with the trees’ cooperation, of course.

This last profession came to life because I wanted my elves to live in trees, which in turn was inspired by a comic series I’ve always been a big fan of Elfquest (which you can read online these days). But I didn’t just want simple hollow trees. I wanted ‘real’ houses for my elves real dwellings. And that’s where the Forester comes in. He’s someone who works with trees to create the dwellings the elves live in.

An excerpt from Oren’s Right describes a Forester’s job best.

The tree was the right age to mold into a dwelling for a soon-to-be vowed couple, but it was one of the late bloomers. I smiled. Late bloomers were very much like striplings—rebellious and single minded.

The first tree I treated when I arrived here had been a late bloomer as well. I looked around the center. Children played as parents sat at the tables chatting. It had looked so different then. This tribe had been without a Forester for over a turn, and the village had been littered with tents to house all of the elves. They must have been so cold in winter.

A soft breeze reminded me of what I was doing, and I pulled myself out of my thoughts. This late bloomer refused to let me open up its core. I wasn’t worried. I would get the permission I sought, but it would take time. Rubbing my hands together until they were warm, I could feel my energy bursting to get out. “It’s all right,” I whispered as I laid my hands on the thick bark. “I won’t do you any harm; I just want to take an image.”

It was a silly suggestion. Trees had no idea what I was talking about, but it would the moment I pushed my energy into it. I needed to get the layout. I already knew it would suit the wishes of the couple perfectly, but I needed to lay the foundations, to put my markings in the right places and show the tree what I was planning.

The tree balked. Not literally, but I could feel it trying to retreat even though that wasn’t possible. Trees could do many things. Moving was not one of them.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Oren approach, but I couldn’t remove my hands now. The tree finally gave in and let my energy soak into it. It was like drawing, this phase. I could see the lines, could see the shape it would get. The tree calmed down, and I could sense its permission. Until I suggested swelling. It balked again,
then. I’d teased the tree for long enough, and with a nod and a whispered greeting, I removed my hands. I’d be back tomorrow, and the tree would let me continue then, I hoped.

Slowly this little village in the middle of the forest took form, with tree dwellings and elves with and without wings living in harmony (well, not counting murder and kidnapping for the moment). And then the world grew in my head, and I realised this little tribe wasn’t the only one in this world. There were other tribes with, maybe, slightly different habits and different characters to write about. And I can barely wait to write the stories they want me to tell you all.

~~~

Blurb from The Forester II: Lost and Found:

The Forester II- Lost and Found cover“The Guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning.”

One turn has passed, another Solstice is just around the corner, and having an illicit affair with not one but two lovers-smith Ianys and shunned Forester Taruif-is taking its toll on Truth Seeker Kelnaht. If it isn’t sneaking around to find some quality time with his lovers, it’s heavy rainfall hiding traces of a missing stripling, or waiting for the elders to decide whether or not to set Taruif free. And if that’s not enough, Kelnaht fears that in gaining one lover, he might be losing another, as Ianys seems to be pulling away from them, and it looks like someone is, once again, trying to frame Taruif.

Book Details:
ebook, 88 pages
Published December 21st 2013 by Storm Moon Press
ISBN139781627570855
edition languageEnglish
seriesThe Forester Trilogy #2, Tales of the Forest #3

Buy Links:

Storm Moon Press,
ARe
Amazon

~~~

Author’s Bio:

Blaine D. Arden is a purple haired, forty-something writer of gay and trans* romance with a love of men, music, mystery, magic, fairies, platform shoes, and a penchant for wearing mostly black and purple, who sings her way through life.

You can find Blaine at

Contest: Blaine D. Arden and Storm Moon Press are giving away one copy of The Forester (The Forester I). To enter to win, leave a comment and an email address in the body of the comment where you can be contacted. Contest ends 4/18.  By leaving a comment, you are automatically agreeing you are over the age of 18.

 

The Forester II- Lost and Found coverThe Forester coverOren's Right

 

Review: The Forester II: Lost and Found (The Forester Trilogy #2) by Blaine D. Arden

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Rating: 4 stars out of 5

“The Guide mentioned puddles, but I envisioned lakes, deep treacherous lakes, and I was drowning.”

The Forester II- Lost and Found coverTruth Seeker Kelnaht, a cloud elf,  is tired of sneaking around to see his tree elf beloveds. The Solstice is approaching and nothing feels right in Kel’s world with his Triad incomplete.  His lover, a forester named Taruif, is still shunned, sentenced to 40 turns cast out for the recent horrible events (The Forester -The Forester Trilogy, #1) .  Taruif now lives on the outskirts of the village and Kel must use every trick to secretly visit him without the others finding out.  Kel’s other unacknowledged lover, the smith Ianys, visits him furtively,approaching Kel only when Ianys has a good excuse to use as camouflage for their assignation. Ianys is afraid to break a promise given to his deceased vowed and lose his daughter in the process.  Only visiting with The Guide,  their spiritual pathfinder, has Kel been able to find a measure of solace and hope.

Kel knows that the Elders are discussing reducing Taruif’s sentence, and the stress of not knowing is becoming unbearable. Ianys too is struggling with their situation and it feels like Kel is losing Ianys as well as Taruif. Then a young elf goes missing, and all the clues point to Taruif as the culprit.  Kel needs to find the stripling and return him safely to his parents before the Solstice and learn who is behind the scheme to frame his lover.  All before the elders announce their decision regarding Taruif.  Master Kelnaht must hold on to his hope as the path to happiness turns treacherous for them all.

The Forester II: Lost and Found was my first introduction to this trilogy by Blaine D. Arden.  But upon finishing this lushly spellbinding tale, I quickly returned to grab up the first story, wanting to know all about these charming characters and their complicated relationship.  I did so because for the most part The Forester II: Lost and Found is not a story that can totally exist as a standalone tale.  While Arden does supply a sufficient amount of backstory to these elves and their tumultuous relationships, these characters are so well created that the need to know more becomes almost compulsive by the end of the story.  In fact I feel that way about almost every aspect and element that Blaine D. Arden has constructed for this Trilogy and the universe these characters inhabit.

There are the cloud elves with wings and the tree elves tied to the earth and such a combined existence can bring about much pain and longing to those who cannot fly.  That is a truth that runs throughout the first two stories and its one that has haunted mankind since the first person watched a bird in flight in awe, hungering to do the same.  Arden takes this undeniable longing and threads it into multiple storylines with an authenticity that most readers will understand and relate to.

I love Arden’s descriptions here, whether she is letting us feel the burden of loss that Kel is feeling or the complexities of flight under adverse conditions.  And overlapping all of those elements is a layer of investigation and discovery carried out in search of the missing elf.  Looking for clues while flying through the woods or over a meadow, how wonderful an idea!  Kel has a cadre of elves working with him, similar to an elf forensic team.  They scan the soil, search under leaves and moss, make casts of footprints as they gather evidence to the crime.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the story.  I found it not only fanciful but fascinating.  Here is an excerpt:

We drew a rough map in the mud, indicating our discoveries and the possible directions to go next, and divided the routes amongst the three of us. After Ellon and Vroni took flight, Brem held me back, insisting I sit down and have a cup of tea to warm up first, though I suspected he only did it to give me a moment to catch my breath. Sometimes, he reminded me of my mother.

Despite the rest, my wings were more sensitive to the cold than they usually were. I shivered with every breeze, and my speed wasn’t optimal. The first place I landed held nothing of interest, and neither did the second. It took me longer to reach the third destination, with fatigue setting in, but even before I landed, I knew I’d find something. The earth was as muddy as the rest of the forest, but I still spotted footprints as I descended. Footprints of which parts seemed washed away in the rain. Well, that’s what it would look like from up close, but from here, the line seemed too clean, too sharp to be natural. I’d guess someone tried to sweep their tracks with a branch.

Studying the footprints, I found a piece of fabric next to the clearest of them, stuck in the mud, half hidden by fallen leaves. Thanking Ma’terra for the end of the rainfall and preserving this evidence, I performed a quick cleansing before digging out the fabric and wrapping it in goshe leaves.

As I examined the partial prints, the Guide’s saying came back to me. “When flood runs dry, stones stop sinking.” I shook my head. I had no idea how he did it, but he was right… again. Granted, I didn’t find stones, but the footprints and the line in the mud would have been hidden from sight had it still been raining. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry anything that would allow me to make a cast of the prints, so I secured them by covering them with goshe leaves I pinned to the ground with sticks. Not allowing myself any mistakes, I checked the fourth destination, even knowing I wouldn’t find anything there.

In Truth Seeker Kelnaht, Arden has created a sort of Master Elf Inspector and it works magically as well as realistically.  And like any good Inspector, Kel has junior detectives helping in the search and providing insight along the way.  Brem is one such character, strong and sure in his beliefs.  Loved this character too. Brem will be leaving for his own Truth Seeker role in another village and I hope that Arden allows him his own mystery or two in another story.

And then there is the romance and Triad relationship between Kel, Taruif, and Ianys.  The Forester II: Lost and Found starts with the three elves pulled apart by the painful circumstances of the first story.  Told from Kel’s point of view, we are never quite sure what the other two elves are feeling or thinking which adds to our understanding of the stress that Kel is under.  There are scenes that help convey the love and deep feelings that all three elves hold for each other.  And while I wanted a little more romance, ultimately their need for each other came across without additional scenes required. Both Taruif and Ianys appear and disappear often from the narrative because of the need to hide their continuing relations with Kel but that also keeps both characters at an arm’s length from the reader.

I felt that of the two, Taruif was the most accessible of the lovers with Ianys pulling away from his lovers, from their standpoint, for most of the story.  And while there is some resolution here for the Triad, there is clearly more to come in the final chapter. Both the first story, The Forester (50 pages) and the second, Lost and Found (88 pages) are short enough in length that they can be read in one sitting, one right after the other, which is what I recommend.

The Forester, The Forester II: Lost and Found and Oren’s Right,  which can be found in Storm Moon Press’ Carved in Flesh anthology, are all a part of Blaine D. Arden’s The Tales of the Forest universe.  I will eagerly await the last story in The Forester Trilogy.  If you are new to this universe, start with the first Forester story and work your way forward.  I think you will find this as elven world as addicting as I do.

Cover art by Nathie Block.  This cover is just gorgeous.  It’s lush, a visual treat and so perfect for the story within.

Book Details:

ebook, 88 pages
Published December 21st 2013 by Storm Moon Press
ISBN139781627570855
edition languageEnglish
Buy Link at Storm Moon Press

Books in The Tales of the Forest:

The Forester (The Forester #1)
The Forester II: Lost and Found (The Forester #2)
Oren’s Right
The Forester II- Lost and Found coverThe Forester coverOren's Right