Wizards, Woods and Gods

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The Otherworld takes shape in this collection of twelve stories told on a rich, fairytale tapestry of swords, sorcery, romance, dreams, visions and verse. Ancient gardens, lost temples, cosmic alignments, immortal predators, assassins, shapeshifters, warriors and maidens will transport you to realms where the rules are different, nothing is as it seems and the heart keeps the balance of ages.

Some of these stories inspired my novels; others were inspired by them; and some take place in the same worlds. Many of these stories have been published in fantasy/scifi magazines.

This edition of Wizards, Woods and Gods, available in ebook and print, includes “Water Dark,” a novella that takes place in the world featured in The Chronicles of Ealiron. Also included are “Earth Blood,” “The Om Tree,” and “Pattern Sense,” which are available on Smashwords for free. The first edition ebook of Wizards, Woods and Gods was published by Wild Child Publishing, 2012; and Water Dark was published by Wild Child Publishing, 2013.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Click on the following stories for illustrations and excerpts.

Earth Blood – The earth keeps secrets. A warrior discovers ancient power in his veins when he’s plunged into the political corruption of a war devised to hide the truth of his mother’s death.

The Om Tree – Trees know things. A tree planted by a god at the dawn of a forest and raised in close proximity to an energy well beneath a wizards’ citadel knows a great many things. In this story, a wizard-assassin loses what is most dear to him and thereby learns the true nature of his art.

Pattern Sense – It all started with a mouse. A knitter discovers the strengths and pitfalls of an ancient power through the love of a warrior.

The War God Sleeps – When a lush, fertile land is seized by drought, a lonely hermit’s son ventures deep into the hills in search of water and there awakes a beautiful, yet terrible god whom the world has learned to live without.

The Fifth Verse – An ancient immortal entity defies the rules of her kind by falling in love with a mortal warrior, an indiscretion that leaves her grieving, pregnant and dependent on the help of a wizard whose army was responsible for the death of her beloved.

Deathseer – Under the influence of a mysterious observatory, the commander of a fearsome army is trapped in a conflict that eventually costs him his honor and the life of his brother, and drives him to accept an inborn magical ability that changes his destiny.

The Trouble with Tansy – An orphaned girl on the threshold of womanhood inherits a splendid, mysterious garden from three generations of wisewomen. When a roguish wizard attempts to impress her by disrupting the seasons, she must turn to the old powers for help.

Marked – The mother of a fey child learns the pitfalls of mingling with immortals when her boy is taken by a ferocious winged monster at the request of the god who fathered him.

Eating Crow – A masterful, wayward shapeshiftress angers a wizard who curses her by summoning a diabolical immortal hunter that puts her near death and forces her to seek the wizard’s cat, a gentle, mystical creature that alone can heal her wounds.

The Bridge – A visionary who spent her life preparing for a planetary alignment that will materialize a beautiful nature spirit only she can perceive, descends into her blackest fears when she is abandoned to a war for which she is indirectly responsible.

The Origin – A woodsman discovers that he is a god who created everything around him to know the love of a woman whose mortality drives him to the brink of annihilation.

Water Dark – In the calm deep waters of the mind, the wolf waits. This novella is 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.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

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© F.T. McKinstry 2018. All Rights Reserved.

A Zombie by Any Other Name

I hate zombies. There, I said it.

Being a lifelong fan of monsters, mythical creatures and supernatural beings, I do have an appreciation for the concept. But zombies bore me. They stagger around, looking ugly, moaning, “Rar rar rar,” and who cares aside from the fact that one could eat your brains or something if you’re daft enough to get caught. The only advantage they have is numbers.

It is interesting to consider zombies as a psychological metaphor. We all have things we try to bury: shameful memories, a guilty conscience, something devastating we never got over. We want that thing to stay dead, and we’re horrified when it claws its way out of the ground and comes after us. No getting away from it. The psyche needs to be whole, won’t tolerate bits being buried, and if you try to ignore them, they will terrorize you and eat your brains. So there’s that.

Storms

I don’t think of these things when I’m writing. the story unfolds from the depths somewhere, and I’m often startled by what comes up. In the early stages of Outpost, my latest release, one of my protagonists is set upon by nonhuman warriors stinking of death and resembling once-human men. As I got into this, I suddenly stopped in horror and thought, Zombies? Am I writing about zombies?

DraugrOh, no no no. No zombies here. So I did some digging into my tricky mind and remembered an undead creature in Norse mythology called the draugr. This creature is a bit more sophisticated. In Old Norse, draugr means “ghost,” but it’s closer to a vampire. Accounts vary, but generally, the draugr are described as walking dead warriors with superhuman strength, the ability to shapeshift, and the unmistakable stench of decay. They are implacable, seek vengeance and will kill anything that crosses their nightly rampages.

In Outpost, these beasties bear some traditional attributes: the smell of graves, unnatural strength, the ability to move with uncanny speed or to vanish into mist. But they are also created by a warlock and given life by an immortal with its own agenda. The essence of a mortally wounded warrior is captured as it flies and imprisoned in the last body it knew. They are not bound to the night and, because of their otherworldly origin, they appear half somewhere else, are demonic and malevolent, cannot be killed and can only be released by the magician who captured them.

Warlock

This ancient magic is forbidden, of course, but who ever listens? When dealing with the draugr, one experienced warrior’s advice goes something like this: Forget honor. While inhumanly strong, the draugr are only as skilled in arms and familiar with the land as the men they once were. Distract and disable. If overrun, flee.

Well. At least they don’t eat brains.

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.

Water, Earth, and Shamanism

The process of writing a story has a way of revealing one’s knowledge or fascination in terms that extend beyond conscious understanding. A powerful lens into the nature of experience, metaphor conveys information that literal explanations can only attempt. Somewhere inside, our hearts make the connections.

Generally speaking, the ancient practice of shamanism involves learning to perceive those connections via a journey into the Otherworld, the realm of essence and the source of exteriorized reality. This typically happens during some years-long cataclysmic life event such as illness or loss whereby the shaman endures the dissolution of personal boundaries, limitations, and false perceptions, and thereby emerges from the Otherworld not only expanded but also connected to the source. It is essentially a mystical experience.

Mistress of the Sea, by F.T. McKinstry

Mistress of the Sea

When I began writing The Gray Isles, I didn’t sit down and think, “How about a story about shamanic initiation?” It started as a story about a young fisherman’s son named Hemlock who has big dreams that contrast miserably with his lot in life. Through him, I embarked upon a sailing trip over the shining waters of an attractive cliché and was promptly accosted by a sea monster with its own ideas. My story grew into a novel complete with tempests, swords, and teeth.

The shamanic initiation often heralds a crushing landslide of doubts and questions about the nature of reality. It’s hard to ignore the forces of the Otherworld when one’s life falls apart at the hands of one’s deepest dreams and desires. At the same time, everything one once imagined possible becomes an illusion in the face of actual experience. It’s a paradox. Transformation inherently implies death: one can’t change unless something is released. For the shaman, this is everything that blocks connection to the Otherworld and understanding of his or her place in the overall scheme of things.

Hemlock of Mimir, by F.T. McKinstry

Hemlock of Mimir

Hemlock’s journey begins with a classic refusal of the call. His perception of reality is shaky as it is, even by the estimation of the wizards he serves, ironically. But he has a deep, visceral connection to the sea. When it shows itself, he naturally assumes it’s just another fantasy. When he gets the idea of trying to prove otherwise—to defend his sanity, of course—he crashes headlong into the implacable clutches of initiation.

This takes Hemlock down, rends him asunder and spits him out on the other side. Now a lost soul, his roots to the earth begin to disintegrate beyond his control. But, cruel as they are, the forces of the cosmos are on his side in the guise of wizards and assassins—and the sea itself, a literal metaphor in this case. A bridge between earth and water, Hemlock is transformed quite nearly to the destruction of everything around him. So it goes. Who would possibly sign up for such a thing if they knew what it would mean?

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Cover Art, The Gray IslesThe Gray Isles, Book Two in the Chronicles of Ealiron.

The legends of sailors and wizards collide in an epic tale of witchery, secrets, curses, and the birth of an immortal.

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