The Rise and Fall of Lovely Sentences

Redcap. One of the most malevolent beings of the Otherworld, the goblin liked to tease Twigs with trickery, such as leaving a fetid bouquet of her mother’s favorite flowers on the steps, or offering deadly mushrooms for a soup, laughing as she refused. But as surely as the sun set each day, the wicked creature would have something far darker in mind, something that would result in a big enough puddle of blood in which to soak its cap. – From Masters of the Veil, Book Three in The Fylking

One of the grimmest realities of writing is the fickle nature of words. Sometimes, a sentence, phrase or passage comes out of the void on an angel’s wings and reminds us why we do this. And we need that reminder. Because most of the time, we have no idea why we do this.

A written work such as a novel is an ever moving, flowing being with its own agenda. Not every sentence has its place in the overall scheme of things, no matter how pretty it is. If you’re good at editing–and by that I mean you are a cold, merciless bastard–you’ll get wise to this. Sometimes, that beautiful sentence you thought of three months ago isn’t quite so beautiful anymore. It doesn’t fit, it’s irrelevant, purplish or flawed, and you would be a vain little fop to leave it in there. Your editor will surely cut it–because there’s that other thing…oh yeah, readers. Just because you think it’s a beautiful sentence doesn’t mean they will. Someone might read it, yawn and think, “What rubbish.” So there’s that.

This is the kind of thing that drives authors to drown themselves in scotch and spend the night sobbing and pissing in a gutter somewhere.

But there is hope. Your ability to bring up that beautiful sentence will allow you to bring up another, and another, and on, because creativity is infinite and ever-expanding. It is always fresh because things are constantly dying and falling away to make room for other things in a much greater picture. Just look at nature. It keeps growing, cycling and expanding, and it is always what it is. Writing is like that.

So be warned: now and then, I might play the Insufferable Writer card and drop a sentence or three out here for you to read.

If nothing else, you’ll know I’m actually working on my next book.

© F.T. McKinstry 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Way Too Many Horror Movies

Hi campers. Still hanging in there? I hope so.

I am finally working on the third book in The Fylking, after a hiatus. Sometimes life plays hardball; other times, it takes a while for a novel to brood. In this case, it’s both. I’m cool with that.

The title is still eluding me. Something about warlocks, masters, veils, crows, I don’t know. Whenever I choose something, five minutes later I’m tossing it in the bin with a scowl. But fear not. When I get more deeply into the story, the real title will no doubt make itself known with a flourish.

So I am back in the zone, apparently. Late last night, while getting ready for bed, I casually glanced into the other room and noticed something weird. High up on a window curtain, tucked into a fold, was a dark blotch, frayed at the edges, several inches in diameter. How long has that been there? I wondered.

Chilled, I peered at it. An enormous spider? No, this isn’t Australia. A scorpion? Not a Bolivian jungle, either. Oh! Maybe a little brown bat, clinging there. That could happen.

Things got darker. A stain, perhaps—but of what, way up there? Blood wouldn’t look like that. Still peering. Flesh-eating bacteria? The blotch seemed to move as I stared at it. I imagined it shooting out with unbelievable speed and latching onto me like an Alien facehugger. Maybe it’s mold. Yeah, extraterrestrial mold. It’ll slowly spread until it consumes me, the entire neighborhood, the planet.

I swear, it’s moving.

The cat is asleep on the chair underneath the curtain. Suspiciously.

Finally, I ventured over there to have a look. And then, with a shock, I realized just how far out into the water I had drifted. The culprit? An ornament of a flying gargoyle that’s been hanging from the moulding above the curtain for, I don’t know, fifteen years probably. Hey, if you look at something long enough, you forget about it. Right?

Seriously, though. What just happened?

Here’s a thought. The faculties that drive me to write dark fantasy also have me staring at the blur of a cobwebbed Gothic Christmas ornament for ten minutes like a protagonist in Stranger Things.

Put another way, the gulf between one’s perception of reality when they’re wearing their glasses or not is vast, murky and full of monsters.

Or, I just watch too many horror movies.

© F.T. McKinstry 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Books Gone Wide

It’s that time again! For all you fantasy lovers who read on Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo and Google, I’ve added three books to the mix: a short story collection, a novelette and a boxed set.

Wizards, Woods, and Gods. Swords, sorcery, love, gods, assassins, shapeshifters, wizards, wolves, war…and a badass cat or two. This collection includes twelve dark fantasy tales, including Raven of the West, a novelette that takes place in the world featured in the Chronicles of Ealiron.

“F.T. McKinstry writes in a way that involves all the senses. Highly recommended.”
196 pages

Amazon ~ Apple ~ B&N ~ Kobo ~ Google
 
 
 
 
The Sea Witch’s Bargain. A hedge witch falls afoul of an ancient order of sorcerers. They know her secrets. They know her weaknesses. And she has something they want.

So does the sea witch who lures and traps her into a nasty bargain in return for protection from the sorcerers’ reach.

“Grim, eerie, almost tangible world building.”
This novelette is based on an excerpt from The Wolf Lords, Book Two of The Fylking.
43 pages

Amazon ~ B&N ~ Apple ~ Kobo ~ Google
 
 
 
Chronicles of Ealiron Omnibus. An ancient hierarchy of wizards. Votaries of the old powers. Warlords, fiends and shadows. Where the otherworld is alive, nature is sovereign and balance is kept by the sword.

These tales are driven by an assassin named Lorth of Ostarin, a complex character with a bent towards bringing things to their darkest ends. Following his redoubtable exploits, each book stands alone, happening in the same world with Lorth and some of the other characters appearing throughout.

The Omnibus Edition includes Books 1-4, maps and glossaries.
“The main character Lorth is a masterpiece.”
1060 pages

Amazon ~ B&N ~ Apple ~ Kobo ~ Google
 
 

© F.T. McKinstry 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Three Days Free!

Hi beautiful campers. Well, the world hasn’t ended yet, so how about a great deal on a fantasy novel about a dark, lawless bastard who gets pushed too far and decides to save the day—against his better judgment, of course. And so it begins.

From July 10-12, get The Hunter’s Rede, Book One in the Chronicles of Ealiron, for free on Amazon.
The books in this series are also on Kindle Unlimited.

Stay awesome. Stay strong. Read books.

© F.T. McKinstry 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Winter Webs


Greetings!

Here’s an interesting thing for lovers of nature, spiders, and all things Gothic. Last night, it dropped to a lovely -21°F (-29.4°C) here in northern New England, and early this morning, draped over the porch eaves, was a startling tangle of frozen orb-weaver spider webs.

While harmless, orb-weavers can get alarmingly big over the course of a summer, but their webs are more subtle (all the better to catch and eat you with). You don’t really notice them unless you’re sitting on the porch warily eyeing one of the hobbit-eaters perched in the center of a web glistening in the morning sun; or you unwittingly get a web in the face like an Alien Facehugger (accompanied by a near heart attack resulting from the image of a spider coming after you for revenge).

But when frozen–yikes! Looks like, I don’t know, Australia or something. Seriously, deep winter is the only time I ever notice this phenomenon.

If nothing else, it’s a fascinating reminder of who’s boss around here.

 
© F.T. McKinstry 2022. All Rights Reserved.

The Old One

In the Chronicles of Ealiron, the Old One is a primordial goddess of nature, life, death, and transformation. Often referred to as Maern, which means “mother” in the wizard’s tongue, she is unknowable in her true form, but perceived as the concept of the Triple Goddess, a being that comprises three aspects of the Divine Feminine integrated as one: Maiden, Mother and Crone. These aspects exist and are manifested in all things, whether nature, events or the shadows of the psyche.

In the world of Ealiron, wizards govern balance in the realms and gods walk among them; but both mortals and immortals revere the Old One as sovereign. While referred to as a deity, she is more like a force underlying all things. She is inexorable; she is wyrd; she is the void from which all creation emerges. Life always comes, it preserves itself to its own expression, and all things die. She is the power by which consciousness knows itself.

Maiden

She was the first woman, the only woman, the one all women knew. She was as pure as the first breath, soft as flowers and fresh cream as she yielded to him, her cry blowing through the tree in the swirling language of the lair as he broke through her maidenhead and into the eternal warmth and safety of a mother’s womb. – From The Winged Hunter

The Maiden emerges from the void as new: birth, spring, desire, unfolding. She is the individuality of a bud, an egg or a fresh idea, innocent of darkness. Her light shines like a beacon attracting its own demise, as the cycle begins.

© F.T. McKinstry

Mother

She was all cycles, all changes, all movements in the shapes of waves, circles, wells, and caves protecting the wounded. – From The Winged Hunter

The Mother is the abundance of life. She nourishes, grows, heals and protects. She is the exuberance of a blooming garden in full summer, the blush and glow of pregnancy, the instinct of a mother protecting her offspring and the healing of a warrior’s wounds.

Crone

The Destroyer curled her body with supple grace, caressing the depths. She moved up towards the shimmering surface in a silent spiral, hungry and inexorable. To be worthy of providing a vessel in which to hide her child, these mortals would surrender to the forces that gave him life. – From The Gray Isles

The Crone is the Unknown, the Void, Formlessness, that from which all things come and to which all things must return, from a blade of grass to a galaxy. Hers is the power of death, transformation, rebirth and regeneration. All things must pass through the darkness to know the light, and it is usually through her that one can perceive the aspects of the Old One as inseparable. There can be no birth without death; no protection without swords; no healing without destruction; and no innocence that cannot fall. Likewise, there can be no destruction without rebirth. Every phase of life depends on the other.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Old One appears in one shape or another throughout the Chronicles of Ealiron and many of the short stories in Wizards, Woods and Gods.

 
© F.T. McKinstry 2021. All Rights Reserved.

BookBub

Greetings, geeks and bookworms!

So I finally got my cats in a row (it’s a more accurate metaphor than ducks, trust me) on BookBub, a good place to find new books and authors, get deals, recommendations, author updates and the like. If you’re into it, feel free to follow me there. I won’t lose you in a creepy forest, I promise. Well. Not right off, anyway.

 

Happy Halloween!

© F.T. McKinstry 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Between the Worlds: Illness and the Forces of Wyrd

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.” ― Carl Jung

The Old English term wyrd is a feminine noun that generally means “fate.” In Germanic mythology, it is associated with one of the Norns, the weavers of fate, an arbitrary and implacable force to which all things, even the gods, are subject. In the classical sense, fate and destiny are somewhat dreary concepts. You can resign yourself and make the best of it, but the path is cast.

However, when contemplated from say, the point of view of seiðr, an Old Norse magical practice related to telling and shaping the future; or the quantum theory that everything is energy and all is connected, wyrd gets a bit more complex. From these perspectives, wyrd is an infinite, living web that exists in the present moment, where one choice can send a ripple that will touch the whole. Because we are mostly focused on the physical outcomes of these choices, it can be difficult to see the source, and easy to perceive the outcome as fated events over which we have no control.

Wyrd bið ful aræd. Fate is wholly inexorable. Or is it? When the sovereign power of choice is brought into the equation, wyrd becomes less of a spider web that hopelessly entangles us, and more of a loom on which a story is woven. A seiðr witch might change a fucked situation by peering into the web to discern the choices that created it, then plucking out the threads to allow new choices. Even when we’re affected by a choice someone else made, no matter how seemingly permanent the result, we can still make our own choices. The only thing that’s inexorable is the ripple on the web.

I’ve been sick for a long time. One of those arcane autoimmune conditions with unsatisfactory explanations, lots of theories and no cure. Life ruined from one day to the next kind of thing. The details don’t matter; these scenarios happen to people every day, and each instance is profoundly personal and subjective no matter what label gets superglued onto it.

One thing common with illness, however, is the experience of fate in all its classical glory, complete with cruel, capricious deities wielding bone needles as they cast their empty gazes over the fallen. Resisting fate is a hallmark of humanity. You’ll do anything to evade it. Fate will send you and your sword down, down to the roots of Yggdrasil for answers and there, you will drop to your knees and weep as you surrender to your own reflection in the pool.

The seiðr witch doesn’t work for free, in other words. You have to leave something behind.

And this brings me to the reason I’m talking about this on my author blog. Something happened to me by that pool, in the still point between the worlds, the spaces between the silvery strands of the web.

Stories. I had been writing for quite some time, wrestling the demons of depression — but not like this. Over the years that followed, I wrote seven novels, culminating with a series involving knitters, witches, warriors, seers, and a realm at war with the Otherworld. I wasn’t thinking about sickness, fate or my unconscious when I wrote those tales, but my heart was, and as I spun up worlds, a path appeared. I didn’t see it until years later. But it was there, an opening on the edge of an old dark forest, mysterious, kind of scary the way it snaked into the dappled shadows — but enchanting too, a portal tucked into the cold, materialistic battlefield of a modern-day illness.

Now I’m the one plucking threads. I’m making new choices. I’m spinning my own story one step at a time. I have no earthly idea where the forest path will lead…but I’m not evading it anymore.

© F.T. McKinstry 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Woodland Snippets

The saying “Can’t see the forest for the trees” is a lovely way of describing how we can get so caught up in the details that we miss the big picture. The opposite can also happen, of course, where our focus is so wide, we miss the details. The ability to shift perspective like this is handy generally, but to my mind, particularly so in writing and art. One needs to be able to stand back and get in close, often at the same time.

Now and then, I’ll notice a detail in one of my paintings that’s interesting on its own. This could be a patch of brush, a leafy branch, a sapling, some flowers, a wolf, a ferny hollow. It might be featured in the work, but more often, it’s not — and that’s what makes it interesting.

So I had this idea of fishing out some of these details, tinkering with colors and moods, and creating new images. Here are some samples; click to see a slideshow. You can also check these and other images out on Fine Art America, where you can buy them on cards, prints, and cool stuff like puzzles and yoga mats, among other things.

© F.T. McKinstry 2021. All Rights Reserved.

The Hunter’s Rede on Self-Publishing Review

The Hunter’s Rede, Book One in The Chronicles of Ealiron, where the Otherworld is alive, nature is sovereign and balance is kept by the sword. The books in this series are driven by an assassin named Lorth of Ostarin, a complex character with a bent toward bringing things to their darkest ends. These books stand alone as individual stories that happen in the same world with Lorth and some of the other characters appearing throughout. Each book includes a map and a glossary.

Below is an editorial review of The Hunter’s Rede from Self-Publishing Review. See it on SPR here.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

“A lethal warrior without banner or cause rises to heights of heroism he never sought in The Hunter’s Rede by F.T. McKinstry, a dark and thoroughly fun new fantasy saga.

Tapping into the best elements of high-genre writing, with cryptic wizards, dark powers, and jaw-dropping plot twists, this character-driven knockout is a thrilling pleasure to read. The sprawling new realm of Ealiron is ripe for storytelling, and newly hooked fans will be pleased to know this is only the first in a four-part series.

Lorth is one of the most compelling new fantasy characters in recent memory, summoning shades of Drizzt Do’Urden, Aragorn, and other legendary loners from fantasy lit. Not only is he the most feared and well-paid assassin in the realm, having served the Wizards of Tarth for years, but he is a self-taught practitioner himself, which makes him doubly dangerous, and intriguing.

However, when he falls out of favor with those who have newly seized power, and kills one too many of the wrong people, the enemies begin to close in on him from every side, and fall to his blade. An unparalleled hunter being on the other side of the chase makes for exciting reading, as do the visceral battle sequences and graphic details from this author’s slicing pen. However, this novel is not all sword-swinging and sorcery – there is expert plot-crafting at work as well, not to mention multilevel world-building, original rules for magic, and a compellingly dark streak of philosophy.

The exposition is doled out like delectable crumbs, leading readers gradually deeper into this world, but still ensnaring them fully within the first few chapters. A lyrical meditation on darkness within the human soul, peppered with gripping action scenes that feel cinematic in their effortless intensity, this is a must-read work of fantasy, puppeteered by an author with an ear for authentic dialogue and vivid descriptions. The caliber of the writing deserves additional praise, as the dark mood is rarely broken, and every line of prose feels heavy with intention. “As he waited for Death’s exhale,” or “throbbed with prickling fire, like a glowing coal” are just a glimpse of the subtly brilliant lines that tie this novel together.

There is plenty of “journey narration” in an epic adventure like this, but the frequent twists of language and artful descriptions keep even the longest stretches of travel engaging. There are very few weak points in the writing that stand out – self-referential questions, overuse of internal monologue, and occasional lapses in point of view – and there are some overly familiar tropes and bland narration that could use another editing pass, but these issues are few and far between, and pale in comparison to the sincere pleasure of the reading experience. McKinstry has a masterful pen, one born for this niche of darkly epic storytelling.

All in all, this is a stellar first installment of the Chronicles of Ealiron series, with massive potential to be a heavy-hitting standout in the genre.”

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Hunter’s Rede, Book One in The Chronicles of Ealiron.Only wizards and hunters know the true meaning of darkness. Lorth of Ostarin, a highly paid assassin with the rough skills of a wizard and a penchant for bringing things to their darkest ends, is about to discover there are worse things in the dark than him.

Amazon

© F.T. McKinstry 2021. All Rights Reserved.