Introverts, Geeks and Podcasts

Lone Wolf, by F.T. McKinstry

When I was a kid, the term “introvert” had a negative stigma, like some kind of amorphous, withering social ineptitude or something. Having quite enough insecurities, I limped along thinking that what I now know are classic introvert tendencies as bad, broken, neurotic traits easily written off to being dramatically tormented.

Nowadays, light shines upon introversion as perfectly natural. People are coming forward from the shadows and owning up to it. Dedicated Facebook pages and shit. I like to think of introverts as people who process things differently. There. Vague and yet intriguing. Even so, I still avoided the title, until I mentioned this to my therapist who, bless her soul, leaned forward in her chair and laughed like a harpy. Point taken.

Harpies in the infernal wood, Gustave Doré


So after some research, the most clinically valid “Are you an introvert?” tests I could find, and some soul searching in the dusty crypts of my youth, I joined in the harpy laughter. I’m off the charts, and while I’m still not into wearing the introvert thing around, I have learned to be aware and not bite the hand that feeds me.

Enter my quest to become a 21st century author and bring myself and my work out into the light to be seen. Toward this end, I set out to do things like interviews, ask-the-author sessions, podcasts and the like. (Anyone who gets the introvert thing should be suitably chilled by this.) My first podcast was with Jamie Davis on Fantasy Focus. Jamie is a great guy, he put me at ease and assured me that editing cures all ills. So I jumped in, geek cape flying.

Until Jamie asked me an excellent question. “So tell me about the Otherworld,” he says, with a fascinated smile in his voice. I froze and spiraled to the ground like a hero with a tragic flaw.

The Fool, Rider-Waite Tarot

There is nothing as breathtaking and terrifying as the fall of innocence. This doesn’t just happen once, you know; we’re all innocent of something. In the Tarot, this pattern is depicted as “The Fool.” Here he is, setting off on a new dream, a fresh start, he’s baked by the excitement and hope of it all but oh dear! he’s headed for that cliff edge. And there’s his little dog, the voice of his better sense, nipping at his heels saying, “Hey. Um, for what it’s worth, I think this is a lousy idea…” but who listens to that noise?

The Otherworld. I’ve built fantasy empires around it. I’m half immersed in the real thing. For my own books, particularly The Fylking, I did what many high fantasy authors do and made it vast, complex and dear to my heart — but when Jamie asked me to elaborate, all I could manage was a desolate “Uhh…” It was like standing by a deep, raging river and trying to reach out to catch a cupful. Finally, Jamie rescued me and mentioned the Fae. Oh yes, I said — the river is roaring — but, I’m thinking, but this, and that, and then there’s this other thing — I dropped the cup and watched it vanish — oh gods there’s not enough editing in the world that can save this.

Of course afterward, I spent days spinning up the most spectacular dissertations of the Otherworld you can imagine. But it was too late. The Fool was still falling, deaf to his little dog far above, barking wildly. Or so I thought. It was just fine, of course. As promised.

Now wiser, I did another podcast with the folks at The High Fantasy Podcast. I fretted over things, of course, but none of it stuck. We had an epic geekfest that warmed my soul.

Finally, I was interviewed by the wonderful E.G. Stone, in which we talked about Outpost, Book One in The Fylking. It was great fun.

In closing, here’s my thumbnail definition of the Otherworld from Outpost: Terms and Places.

Otherworld: The vast realm of the unseen existing beyond time and space; the source and reflection of physical events. Inhabited by an infinite variety of beings referred to as Others, including nature spirits, elves, goblins, phooka, planetary entities and other natural forces. This includes the Fylking, who occupy the unseen dimensions and are often, though not always, respected as gods. The Otherworld can be perceived by mortals with second sight, though interaction can be dangerous and is ill advised without training and protection. See also Fylking. See posts The Phooka, Goblins and Creepy Horses.

Others

Blessed Samhain, by the way. Heed not the laughter of harpies.

© F.T. McKinstry 2019. All Rights Reserved.

The Art of Naming Cats

“One cat just leads to another.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Two kittens recently joined our home here in the northwoods. They are eight weeks old and full of life, mettle and innocence. Their names are Nori (short for Noreaster) and Skye.

As can be expected, my three adult cats are not amused. One would think I’d introduced a pair of wolves into the house. I’ve tried to explain: “Hey it’s just a little kitten. You guys have eaten things bigger than her!” Alas, this logic is lost to the wilds. But love and patience are great healers and everyone is coming around. Slowly.

Naming cats is an art form. Cats are complex, subtle creatures, hard to pin down. They aren’t reputed to have contact with the Otherworld for nothing. Being a fantasy geek, I have a large repository of interesting cat names. There’s always a temptation to go with a tried-and-true handle like Loki, Pippin or Merlin. But I also like to fish the waters for something unique and multifaceted. I use the same process to name characters in my novels. I might find a name in a glossary of Northern European mythology, a book on the magical properties of herbs and trees, or a fairy tale. Or I might just make it up.

Nori and Skye Resting

Often, a cat or a fantasy character will name itself. There’s a certain feel to this. It comes into my mind like an arrow from Mirkwood. And it works. For example, I once had a cat named Gabriel. I had no thought of naming him after an archangel but lo and behold, that name fit him. For that was his name.

Nori and Skye WranglingThis winter, I’ll be finishing a novel called Outpost, Book One in The Fylking. Woven with Norse mythology, nature lore and swords, this story delves into the richest and most heartbreaking aspects of mortality through war with the Otherworld. There’s a cat in it named Pisskin and a warrior named Othin. Pisskin was a Mirkwood name and Othin is, well, appropriate to the story. So I’ll be writing over the long, dark hours with all my felines to keep me warm…and endlessly distracted.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

For more on cats, writing and the felines that have inspired my work, check out “Puss in Books.

© F.T. McKinstry 2014. All Rights Reserved.

Elric the Fish

I am an aquarium geek. I love things that live underwater: fishes, creatures, plants. On my desk I keep a male Siamese fighting fish (Betta splendens). He has his own castle, a mountain and a forest to live in.

A cared-for betta can live several years or more, long enough for me to get quite attached. I don’t always give my betta an official name. But soon, after watching the beautiful creature flit around, showing his long fins and flaring his gills at the glass, I end up calling him something. I called my last one “Fish.” Yeah, I know, not that imaginative. But when he died, the name didn’t matter. He did.

After properly grieving Fish, I got a new betta. This one is white, like an albino. His gills, when he flares them, are the color of shadows. After going through a lukewarm collection of names I had a brilliant idea of calling him Elric, after a hero in a swords-and-sorcery saga by Michael Moorcock.

Elric LurkingElric of Melniboné is one of my favorite heroes. I don’t write that many book reviews, but I wrote one about him. An albino from an ancient race of sorcerers, he is beautiful, his gods are evil and he is tortured as all hell. And he bears a glorious, cavalier attitude not unlike that of a Siamese fighting fish.

Every writer has a muse. The gods are watching.

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