Chocolate, Metal and The Wolf Lords

I’ve just put the last line down of The Wolf Lords, Book Two in The Fylking. I should be dancing around, and some ghostly part of me is, I suppose, but the rest of me feels empty. Every time.

Staring into the void. It’s like something from the book itself, a nasty warlock’s spell that brings everything into some bleak dimension, throwing mortals, demons and gods alike into an existential crisis.

Let’s see. Chocolate, coffee, ice cream, scotch, they might help. Metal, naa, that doesn’t count, I’m always doing that. Well, chocolate too, for that matter. Oh, and coffee.

 
Editing! That’s next. Fortunately, I’m one of those sick bastards who loves editing. Under my reign, this will be bloody–and when my editor gets hold of it, then the real carnage will begin. Just in time for Halloween, my favorite time of year.

 
Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.

A gate between the worlds.

Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.

Until now.

“The tone is excellent, reminiscent of some of the earliest examples of grim Norse fantasy.” – G.R. Matthews, Fantasy Faction

Finalist, SPFBO 2016

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Wolf Lords Cover ArtThe Wolf Lords, Book Two in The Fylking.

A wounded immortal warlock bent on reprisal.

An ancient order of sorcerers hungry for power.

Warriors beset by armies of demons and immortals.

And a lonely hedge witch whose dark secrets could change everything.

…If only they could find her.

 
 
© F.T. McKinstry 2017. All Rights Reserved.

In Praise of Editors

Stalking Hemlock

Hemlock

Never underestimate the value of a good editor.

Like many writers I often entertain the delusion that I could edit my own work to completion. I’m an OCD head case. I can’t read a cereal box without editing it and Facebook gives me hives. You don’t ever want to hand me a piece of writing and say, “Hey, look this over and tell me what you think?” I’ll get the same look in my eye as a cat does when it sees some hapless creature within its grasp.

Enter my editor. She has magical powers. I got the first part of my manuscript for Outpost back from her today. It looks like a medieval village after a Viking raid—but wow, is it good. I was astonished by all the things she saw. Once again, I found myself shaking off the spell and marveling at how familiarity gives the illusion of safety.

I can’t wait to delve into this. My book is about to get wings and shine.

© F.T. McKinstry 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Writing and the Fairy Dust of Familiarity

Oona Creeping, by F.T. McKinstry

Oona Creeping

Consciousness dislikes chaos. Like cats pacing the borders of the yard, we tend to treat familiar things as safe and reliable. It gives us a sense of security. Given that familiarity makes a lot of arbitrary assumptions about reality, however, I personally think it’s an illusion, a convenient facade that makes it easier to deal with things. That’s natural enough, but when it comes to writing, one wants to be careful.

I recently finished a novel. It’s entitled Outpost, interestingly, a term that implies an unfamiliar place in some context or another. I finished it, revised it, edited, polished, washed and repeated until every word was as familiar as the lines on my hand. I’m weary of looking at the thing, truth be told. I put it in the capable hands of my editor.

Now things get interesting (note the mild sarcasm). Being familiar with one’s words is insidiously comforting. The process of writing, both mystical and miserable at the same time, has a way of making one’s work beautiful. Oh yes, the Universe is singing its brilliance because after all, suffering is noble. This is perilous, like being dusted with fairy glitter. You might think you’re looking at a nice green field with flowers and butterflies but those flowers have thorns, there’s a cat lurking in the shadows, the butterfly is headed for a spider’s web and the lambs are fleeing from an impending earthquake. Chaos is everywhere. This is what a good editor will see, because she isn’t strung out on fairy glamor or glossing over the goblins with a palette knife heaped with love and imagination.

Hemlock, by F.T. McKinstry

Hemlock

A useful exercise is to put the book aside for a time, let the fairy dust wear off and go back to it with a more objective perspective. This only works if you’re able to face reality without the high. If something nags you or doesn’t look right, don’t brush it off for fear of chaos by deciding it’s fine. It probably isn’t. It takes strength and courage to see through familiarity and let the work evolve.

These days, everyone is a writer. So I see a lot of things on the internet about How to Know If You’re A Real Writer. That’s a big topic fraught with nail biting. But I figure one of the criteria is knowing what it’s like to wake up from the fairy glamor with a nasty headache, a broken heart and some healthy skepticism.

In other words, chaos is a writer’s friend.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
Until now.

© F.T. McKinstry 2015. All Rights Reserved.

On the Outpost of Void

Outpost Void

Day before yesterday I wrote down the last line of Outpost, the first in my new fantasy series The Fylking. It’s big, epic and beautiful–and yikes do I feel weird. I should celebrate by dancing around or having a scotch or something. Instead I feel empty, as if everything has changed and now I don’t know what to do. I’m wandering around here like an idiot.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, but it always feels like it. I call it the Void and usually feel it after finishing a novel or a painting. I feel it in the fall after cleaning out the gardens. The creative force is awesome; it comes along and sets me on fire, and when it passes there’s a letting go, a scary, sad, dark place where the fire used to be. I want to crawl into it and cry.

It’s not as if the novel is finished. Oh dear no, I have much editing to do, and then I’ll send it to my editor so she can do her juju on it. But that’s the easy part. For now, I need to give the Void its due. It’s the source and culmination of all things.

Hmm. Suppose I could start by cleaning the cataclysm that is my desk.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtOutpost, Book One in The Fylking.

A race of immortal warriors who live by the sword.
A gate between the worlds.
Warriors, royals, seers and warlocks living in uneasy peace on one side of the Veil.
Until now.

© F.T. McKinstry 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Hemlock and Editing

Hemlock, by F.T. McKinstry

Hemlock

I recently came upon a series of amazing photos of animals camouflaged in their natural environments. They are very good at this. True to form, my cat Hemlock can vanish like a ghost when she’s of a mind.

So I just finished editing my latest novel. By “finished” I mean for the time being, because well, my publisher was waiting and I can only tinker with it for so long. Stephen King says it nicely: “To write is human, to edit is divine.” Yes, and I’m burnt. But while basking in the warm glow of having handed the beastie over to my editor, I had an interesting thought.

Mistakes hide in manuscripts in much the same way creatures camouflage themselves in the wilds. A missing or a wrong word is not as beautiful as Hemlock, of course. But I have to acknowledge how clever words are at hiding in seemingly harmless passages. It’s a testament to the power of the imagination that one can look at that egregious grammatical blunder sixty five times and not see it. Then suddenly, like magic, there it is sitting in the garden under the bushes.

They shapeshift too, you know. But that’s another story.

 
© F.T. McKinstry 2013. All Rights Reserved.