Christopher D. Morgan
Publication date: February 28th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Joshua’s life is on the line, as he attempts to navigate through the magical world of Forestium to find the truth about his father. He and his companions will need to use all their cunning to stay alive and avoid the dark forces of the Goat. Will he find the magical orbs and open the Portallas, a magical gateway to other worlds, before he’s killed?
Joshua sets out to learn the truth about his father. Along the way, he finds friends, enemies, adventure, romance and himself.
Melachor and Veloria stopped just long enough to catch their breath.
Melachor felt Sandor’s forehead with his palm. The skin was still damp and hot to the touch. The infant’s breathing had become increasingly laboured and he was now gasping for breath.
Melachor stared at the tattered map, his hand shaking.
“Please, Melachor, we must rest.” Veloria leaned against a grungy building with the infant limp in her arms, barely able to stand. Her fatigued toddler whined as he clung to her.
Sandor continued whimpering. Time was running out. Melachor shook his head and heaved a sigh as he caught his wife’s eye. She clutched a protective arm around Jared’s shoulders. Both of them feared their toddler might also catch this plague.
They peeked up and down the filthy alleyway. Screams rang out from all directions. Pandemonium in the distance wrenched at their attention but Sandor’s wellbeing was all they could focus on right now.
“This way, Vel” he said, leading his exhausted family further into the maze of backstreets.
People had been running for cover, and the winding alleys were now all but empty. The sun’s rays didn’t penetrate into these narrow passages and a foul stench hung in the air. Shady figures lingered in the shadows, and he felt eyes staring at them from hidden corners.
The rickety, wooden buildings gave no outward sign of what lay behind each door. Melachor knew it was unsafe to bring his family here, but if Sandor were to stand any chance of surviving the illness, he needed to find a Metamorph and quickly. The pox had claimed so many lives already and time was running out for Sandor.
Although no longer a Trader, Melachor had spent many years travelling from village to village and was a good listener. It was by no means clear whether the legends were true or just tales told by drunks and con-artists. But these were desperate times. The map was the only clue they had to help them find the mythical creature, and it had led them to these backstreets. Melachor had risked his life to get his hands on the map and he hoped it was not in vain.
Veloria clutched Sandor in one hand and clung to Jared with the other. She shuffled closely behind her husband as he led them through the muddy alleys.
The family reached an intersection. Melachor looked in all directions, trying to find a familiar landmark, but his search was in vain. It had been too long since he was last here in the Southern Tip. Already one of Forestium’s largest settlements, it had grown considerably in recent years.
Meet the characters
Writing Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies has been a fascinating and fun journey for me. Particularly rewarding has been seeing how my characters have developed over the course of the writing process. In the beginning, they were just names but with each new sentence, their character developed and I sought to explore them in more detail. Come with me now and meet them all.
Me: So, Joshua, how does it feel to be the main protagonist in the Portallas book series.
Joshua: Well, It’s OK, I guess. I don’t really think about it much. In fact, all I’ve been able to think about for some time now have been the trials.
Me: Trials? Is that some sort of ritual rite of passage?
Joshua: I guess you could call it that. In Forestium, you have to pass the trials before you can call yourself a true Woodsman.
Me: Sounds like it might be something difficult?
Joshua: It is. I have to know how to hunt, use weapons, make things, track animals and lots of other things. It’s a really big deal completing the trials. I was going to do it this year, but I had to leave Morelle to find my Dad.
Me: Find your Dad? What do you mean?
Joshua: Well, Mum doesn’t talk about it much but he left when I was very young and, well, he didn’t come back. They tell me he died in battle but…I don’t know. I’ve been having these dreams and…well, anyway, we’ll see what happens.
Me: Ok, well I hope you find him. Let’s have a chat with Andrew over here. So, tell me, Andrew, how long have you been friends with Joshua here?
Andrew: Since I can remember. We’ve grown up together so we’re practically brothers.
Me: I see. I bet you can tell me some funny stories about him then?
Andrew: More than a few. He can be quite stubborn when he wants to but his heart is always in the right place.
Me: I bet. Are you practicing for these trials as well?
Andrew: Sure am. We’ve been practicing at Lake Morelle for the past few months, Joshua and me, that is. Not that I need to practice, of course. It’s his aim that we need to work on.
Joshua: Hey, who’s the one that’s never caught a Flarret before?
Me: That’s great. Well, you keep helping him, Andrew, and I’m sure the two of you will pass through those trials with flying colours. So, who do we have here?
Sarah: Oh, well, I’m Sarah. This is kind of awkward. I mean, I’m not very good at this interview thing. I mean I could be, but I’ve never really tried it. I suppose it’s really easy. All I have to do is answer your questions really, isn’t that right? I mean, I can do that. I talk to the animals all the time so it can’t be that different. Of course, they don’t talk back or anything. Well, I suppose they do but not the way you and I talk. I mean, that would be silly, and…
Me: Ahem. So, OK, tell me, Sarah. What do you do? I mean, what sort of skills do you have? Joshua tells me you have lots of skills.
Sarah: Oh, gosh, well, I don’t know really. I mean I can cook, I suppose. Forestium has some wonderful shrooms and it’s easy enough to throw together some Liffle leaves or Bergle root or something. It’s amazing the number of ways you can cook boiled shrooms you know. Let’s see, oh, yes, well there’s hunting, which I guess I’m OK at. I mean, I’ve never caught a Wood-boar or anything but I did accidentally catch a Raetheon once. It sort of stumbled into my trap. You see, it had a broken wing and…
Me: Well, that’s terrific Sarah. I tell you what, since we don’t have a lot of time left, let’s have a chat to this young boy over here.
Galleon: I’m not a young boy! I’m an Imp. Don’t tell me! You’ve never heard of Imps either, right?
Me: Um, well, actually…no…I…
Galleon: No, I’m not surprised. Honestly, you’d think people would be a bit more sensitive to these things after all these years.
Me: Um, OK…well…
Galleon: Some interview this is. I mean really! I’ve had more interesting interviews with a Wood-boar that died of unnatural causes. I don’t suppose you have any Wood-wine around here either?
Me: Well, that’s really about all the time we have. I want to thank Joshua, Andrew, Sarah & Galleon for stopping by and telling us a little bit about themselves. I’m sure we’ll catch up with them again in another Portallas book sometime soon.
Christopher Morgan is an author, blogger, IT Manager, graphics artist, businessman, volunteer and family man living in Melbourne, Australia. Much of his time is spent volunteering for his local community. He creates visual learning resources for primary school children, which are marketed through his company Bounce Learning Kids. He is also involved in local civics and sits on various community & council committees.
Christopher was born in the UK and grew up in England’s South East. At age 20, he moved to The Netherlands, where he married Sandy, his wife of 28 years. Christopher quickly learned Dutch and the couple spent 8 years living in the far South of that country before they moved to Florida in 1996. After spending 7 years in Florida, Christopher and Sandy sold their home and spent the next 2 years backpacking around the world. Christopher has visited around 40 countries to date.
Whilst circumnavigating the globe, Christopher wrote extensively, churning out travel journals. He and Sandy settled back in the UK at the end of their world tour, where their two children were both born. In 2009, the family moved to Melbourne, Australia, where they now live.
FORESTIUM is Christopher’s debut novel and is the first in the PORTALLAS series.
Q&A with Christopher D. Morgan:
Actually, not until quite late in life. In fact, I was never very good at English when I was in school and writing was always a chore to be avoided at all costs. Being blessed with unintelligible handwriting wasn’t helpful either. Later in life, however, articulating myself through the written word became something I really started to enjoy.
Do you have a favourite place to write?
Not really, but it does have to be in a quiet environment. I’m very easily distracted. When I’m in the zone, I tend to quietly slip off to a cosy spot and get my nose down into the keyboard. I wrote Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies entirely from the family home. Often on the sofa, but sometimes on the bed or at the computer desk. I haven’t tried going to a writer’s retreat yet. Perhaps I’ll reserve that for a special occasion.
Do you have a writing routine or process that you adhere to?
Oh yes. Typically, I’ll kick off a chapter with brief one-liners that describe the events to come sequentially. There could be anywhere up to 50 or more of these for a given chapter. I do this to map out the scene or chapter and then convert each one in turn into a paragraph or two. This process is repeated until all the one-liners are gone. That’s actually the hardest part, I think. I’ll then scour what’s written repeatedly, fixing and adjusting. Of course, that last part is never truly finished – ever.
Where did you come up with the name Portallas?
Initially, it started quite literally from the word PORTAL. This quickly led to the word Portallas and the idea of having some sort of portal that would link worlds together. An interesting aside is that Portallas actually started out life as Portallus. Unfortunately, portallus.com was already taken, but portallas.com was still available, so a hasty name change took place. Despite the master plan I have in my mind, I wrote Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies deliberately to stand on its own merits as a standalone book.
Do you have a favourite amongst all your characters?
I have a real soft spot for Sarah, as do many others. She embodies many of the characteristics I’d wish for in my own daughter. She’s a strong, independent, resourceful and brilliant young woman – not to mention absolutely beautiful. Of course, she has her flaws. She tend to ramble on a bit (much to the annoyance of Andrew).
Do you have any advice for other aspiring authors?
I’m still learning as I go but there are some things that I can advise others that may wish to follow in the path: - Go for it. Really, just do it. You may be pleasantly surprised. Even if you fail, it’s better to have tried and failed than to wonder for the rest of your life whether you could have done it or not. - If you are going to publish a book on a budget, don’t scrimp on the editing or the book cover – at least, make those your primary focus. Everything else is expendable when push comes to shove. - Don’t get conned. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done, as there will always be people looking to take advantage of someone with a need.
The making of a Book Cover
Many authors turn the creation of their book covers over to a book cover artist and, well, hope for the best. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll get something that’s not really good. Book cover artists are very good at…well, making book covers. Conversely, however, you could specify exactly what you want, get exactly what you want, and still end up with something that’s not particularly great. Authors are really good at writing but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be very good at other things, like book cover design. The key thing here is to see in your mind’s eye about how you want the book cover to turn out and to know ahead of time whether that’s going to be a good book cover or not – something that’s a bit trickier to get right.
Creating book covers is as much an art as it is a science and it’s usually one of those things that gets most authors in a bit of a twist. It’s no wonder either, since there are plenty of people that really will judge a book by its cover. Getting the cover right can really make or break a book as far as sales is concerned. You could have a terrific work of art but it still doesn’t woo people. Similarly, you could have something that’s really very basic but just springs off the page at you. In life, it’s often said that the only people you should never shy away from paying are the taxman and your doctor. In writing, your money needs to be in the editing and the book cover. If you have to choose where to spend your money, that’s where it needs to be spent.
For Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies, I had a very specific idea in my mind for exactly how I wanted the book cover to look – right down to the very last exquisite detail. Once I had that image formed, it was then a matter of translating that into the appropriate instructions for a good cover artist. Luckily, I found one and she was incredibly pleased that I had provided her with so many detailed instructions. In my brief, I had described what I wanted in 44 separate bulleted items, covering general details, technical details, description, text and more. It was a 3-page document with 1,700 words and included 17 example URLs that each illustrated the sort of thing I wanted for each of the separate elements needed for the design.
During the process of putting the book cover together, I worked very closely with Mihaela on getting the details right. She provided me with samples at various stages of construction and we had an open dialogue between us. We couldn’t find the right stock image for the character in the pose I wanted so she contacted a re-enactment club local to where she lives and arranged a photo shoot – again, based on my description of what I wanted. This added a few days to the overall process but it was worth it, as anything else would have been a compromise.
I’m extremely pleased with the results of the book cover for Forestium: The Mirror Never Lies and, fortunately, feedback has been universally positive. Is it a really good book cover? You be the judge!
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