The Metamorphosis of a Book Cover

Earlier this year, I released a novella called The Crossroads Bargain, a gothic fantasy tale about an old forest with a dark history, a tryst with an elven lord, a lot of unexplained deaths and disappearances, and a faerie curse cast in a centuries-old crossroads bargain.

I created the cover art in the usual way. But for some reason, it unsettled me; it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. There were nervous whispers. I brushed them aside, knowing full well how reckless that is.

Just recently, I did a painting of a scene from the book, in which our protagonist, a sensitive, tormented sort, fades into the faerie realm and there sees the hall of an elven lord tucked into the forest. As I worked on this, a calm whisper suggested that it might make a good cover image.

Okay but I’m keeping that spiderweb.

Then, I suddenly thought of a title, from a saying in the story that describes what to do on a crossroads if you want to summon something from the otherworld:

A northward gaze; a wish as clear as a mountain stream; and a willingness to sacrifice the unimaginable.

Yeah, that little bit of advice causes all manner of horrors, by the way. But never mind that. My new cover came together so beautifully, I decided to change it. It captures the vibe of the story well.

A Northward Gaze is now available on Amazon. Oh, and about those crossroads instructions. Don’t try that shit at home.

© F.T. McKinstry 2023. All Rights Reserved.

A Northward Gaze, A Novella

Previously published as The Crossroads Bargain by F.T. McKinstry.

Elspet’s mother died between the worlds, her staring eyes as milky white as a lily. A common occurrence in their bloodline, it is said. Even marrying into Aelfwine, an old family with as many secrets as trees in the dark wood that borders the estate, did not qualify her to be buried in hallowed ground. This fact is not lost on Elspet, a sensitive, tormented soul who has inherited her mother’s wayward interest in the Fae.

Grieving amid a turbulent household of superstitious servants, the mysterious disappearance of her father, and an ambitious aunt with a draconian agenda, Elspet begins to see things in her bedroom wallpaper. What begins as a mesmerizing portal to the Otherworld, however, becomes all-consuming when a beautiful elven lord slips through and captures her heart. Only Elspet knows the reason for the series of grisly, unexplained deaths that flood into the wake of her lost innocence.

What she doesn’t know is the high cost of consorting with the Fae. When her otherworldly trysts begin to result in impossible events, she is driven into the forest for answers. But not even the village witch or the Fae themselves can stop her inexorable descent into her mother’s fate. After a devastating loss, Elspet is drawn into a war between her lover and his enemy—an elven warlock who cursed her bloodline on a crossroads centuries ago.

To end the curse, she must destroy him with a secret whispered in a dream.

Novella, 120 pages
Available on Amazon.
Read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

© F.T. McKinstry 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Tolkien Meets Poe

I am a passionate and dedicated fan of high fantasy; that is, any world other than this one and preferably one that smacks of a fairy tale, though not in a wholesome way. You know, like those old, dark Irish or German fairy tales that are not written for children. Beautiful things cast long shadows, and the summit is never far from the abyss kind of thing. Think J.R.R. Tolkien meets Edgar Allan Poe.

I started reading these authors roughly around the same time, when I was a kid in the 70s. Tolkien changed my life, I’ll just say that. Among other things, Poe’s short stories and a steady diet of Dark Shadows messed me up properly and got me hooked on Gothic Horror.

So this kind of crept up on me recently, the way the universe sometimes gives you a bitch slap so you’ll recognize what you’ve been looking at all along. While I love Gothic Horror, especially the supernatural–ghosts, werewolves, vampires, witches and the like–I never sat down and tried to write something like that, not specifically. But it was there nonetheless, slinking around in my work like a shadow in the corner of my eye.

Then this happened: A story flashed into my head. It was right out of one of those 60s pulp Gothic Horror novels, with a voluptuous sex kitten in a white nightgown fleeing over the moors from a black castle on the hill. It also featured the kind of fairytale lore I like to write into high fantasy novels. Yeah. My subsequent internal dialogue went something like this:

Writer me: I don’t know how to write this stuff.
Smarter me: You’ve been writing this stuff for years.
Writer me: Rubbish. This isn’t fantasy.
Smarter me: Um. It has elves in it.
Writer me: So. He’s not–
Smarter me: He’s a fucking elf. Beautiful, moves between the worlds, enchanting, seductive, and sneaky. So he’s not from the House of Fëanor, big deal.
Writer me: It’ll suck. You suck.
Smarter me: Whatever. Get to work.

So I did. It’s a novella called A Northward Gaze. A manor hall bordering an old forest with a dark history, a family curse, a string of grisly, unexplained deaths and a fey young woman who sees otherworld beings in the floral patterns of her bedroom wallpaper. Spoiler alert: Our aforementioned elf is one of them and he’s up to no good. Well, maybe. Maybe not. The Fae are tricky like that.

 
 
 
 
© F.T. McKinstry 2023. All Rights Reserved.

The Sea Witch’s Bargain

This story is based on an excerpt from The Wolf Lords, Book Two of The Fylking. It’s a tale about a hedge witch, two dodgy ravens and a sea monster with a score to settle. It is included in Wizards, Woods and Gods, a fantasy short story collection.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The wise tell tales of Otherworld beings one must never tangle with. Powerful, elusive and malevolent, these beings will lay traps around one’s ignorance and need, if given the chance. But once in an age, a mortal comes along who dares to either cross or bargain with such creatures…and a darker tale is born.

Ingifrith, an ordinary hedge witch, thinks little of such tales until she falls afoul of the Fenrir Brotherhood, an ancient order of sorcerers who serve the Wolf Gods of the North. 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 Brotherhood’s reach. Fleeing for her life with nothing but a scrap of advice given to her by a demon warlord, Ingifrith must use her wits to trick a seasoned pirate out of a stolen charm, a feat that will either get her killed or placed in the hands of the sorcerers hunting her.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Read Wizards, Woods and Gods for free on Kindle Unlimited.

© F.T. McKinstry 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Raven of the West

In the calm, deep waters of the mind, the wolf waits.Raven of the West

A tale of desire and deception told on a fairy-tale landscape of arcane texts, herbal lore, visions and disasters at the hands of the powerful. Raven of the West is a standalone novelette that takes place in the world of Ealiron, and features Eaglin of Ostarin, a main character in the Chronicles of Ealiron.

Originally published as Water Dark by Wild Child Publishing, 2013.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

In the western-most crumbling halls of a mountain citadel lives a lonely wizard named Urien, a master of his art and the fledgling priest of a primordial goddess served by healers, warlocks and assassins alike. Though his training is extensive, no training could prepare him for a broken heart. For years, he has lived on the fringe after losing a powerful wizard on the verge of ascension. But such wounds do not hide well, and when Urien delves into the darker powers at the bidding of a shady priestess, his heart reveals itself as a grim warning from the goddess herself, in the shape of a wolf.

In the wake of this unsettling experience, Urien discovers that his most gifted apprentice is in grave danger. A series of swift-moving mishaps including a second warning and a badly backfired protection spell lands Urien into a nasty situation that exposes not only his deepest desires but also the black machinations of the priestess who deceived him. When she wields her full power against him, he must reconcile his heart in order to save himself and the ones he loves from isolation and death.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Short story, 50 pages
Third Edition
Edited by Leslie Karen Lutz
Map: Ealiron: Sourcesee and West

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

“This is my introduction to the literature of FT McKinstry, and I’m positively in love with her writing style!” – R.A. Sears, The Ragnarok Legacy

“An engaging dark fantasy. It was very well written, plot driven, and pulled me in immediately.” – Wicked Readings by Tawania

“A tale that should delight both fantasy fans and devoted followers of F.T. McKinstry. It provides an unexpected conclusion keeping the novel rather cryptic and mysterious…” – Writer Wonderland

“Like her full length novels, this story is well thought out and told in such poetic, beautiful language. A very enjoyable story!” – Amazon Customer Review

“As a long story, this is an ideal length for deepening our understanding of the psychic forces at play in the world of Ealiron. The story focuses on the complex interplay of four characters and explores their powers, their secrets and their loves, their battles of wills, their manipulations and treacheries, their sense of tragedy and loss. – Michael D. Smith, author of the Jack Commer series

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Amazon
Read for free on Kindle Unlimited.

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

Wizards, Woods and Gods

The Otherworld takes shape in this collection of twelve stories told on a rich, fairytale tapestry of swords, sorcery, romance, dreams, visions and verse.

You never know what a wizard will do, so it’s best to be prudent. Concocting a nasty poppet might get you hunted by a wolf. Turning spring to winter will certainly get you turned into a grasshopper and fed to a frog. But whatever you do, don’t ever shapeshift into a cat and eat a wizard’s crow.

Strange and full of shadows, woods are a staple of every good tale. Trees hide things, wondrous, tricky things best to avoid. Witches like forests, where they wait for wily lovers and knit spells with ash needles. And if you’re lucky, you’ll find an ancient tree that knows many wicked things indeed.

It’s a good bet that if you encounter a god, you’ll be changed in some way. But once, in the dawn of a forest grove, it was the other way around. It’s also generally wise not to awaken a sleeping god, especially a warrior the world has forgotten. And of course, falling in love with a god is, well, daft for a start.

Some of these stories inspired my novels, others were inspired by them, and many of these stories were originally published in fantasy/scifi magazines.
The first edition ebook of Wizards, Woods and Gods was published by Wild Child Publishing, 2012.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Click on the following stories for illustrations and excerpts.

Earth Blood – The earth keeps secrets.

The Om Tree – Trees know things.

Pattern Sense – It all started with a mouse.

The War God Sleeps – An age of ignorance ends on the edge of a sword.

The Fifth Verse – The wise men of the world called her a Shade.

Deathseer – Death doesn’t take sides.

The Trouble with Tansy – Gardens are made of darkness and light entwined.

Marked – Beware the pitfalls of mingling with immortals.

Eating Crow – It is never a good idea to anger a wizard.

The Bridge – Gods appear to wizards as one thing; to warriors, another.

The Origin – Things aren’t always what they seem.

The Sea Witch’s Bargain – Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned–let alone a sea witch.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Third Edition
196 pages
Reviews
Story Illustrations

Read for free on Kindle Unlimited.
Amazon

© F.T. McKinstry 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Gods and Cats

Love is whole. Love cannot be divided from itself. Love knows all paths, where even gods and cats are blind. – From The Old One’s Domain

The greater a wizard’s power, the bigger his problems—and the higher the price he pays for not attending to them.

Order of Raven, by F.T. McKinstry

Standard for the Order of Raven

Urien of Eyeroth belongs to the highest order of the Keepers of the Eye, a hierarchical order of wizards who maintain balance in the world of Ealiron. He has the ability to shapeshift into flora, fauna, earth, or fog. He can cast an apparition or merge with the minds of gods. He knows the Dark Tongue, a primeval language spoken by the votaries of the Old One.

He also has a broken heart. And it has driven him to make some lousy decisions.

Excerpt

Raven at Night, by F.T. McKinstryUrien of Eyeroth, a Master of the Eye of the Order of Raven, hurried along the winding forest path beneath a sky shrouded in midnight. Restless wind stirred the trees, and the air smelled of rain and moldering leaves. The light from his torch painted the barren forest in shades of his own reflection, black-haired, gray-eyed and pale for want of a touch. He pulled his cloak close, unable to determine which made him more uncomfortable: the dreary woods or the new moon settling onto his heart like a cloud of moths.

Earlier, he had been ensconced in a comfortable chamber high in the citadel of Eyrie, home of the Keepers of the Eye, reading a text on the principles of structure and formlessness. He had not wanted to leave when the sun descended into the mists, and dusk cloaked the land in damp, unpleasant cold. But he had agreed, under the hollow gaze of the high priestess Wilima, to look into the Void.

He had to ignore his unease that something bad would happen if he did not.

Raven of the West, a tale of desire and deception told on a fairy-tale landscape of arcane texts, herbal lore, visions and disasters at the hands of the powerful.
 
© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.