Winter Solstice Book Sale

Season’s Greetings! I hope you’re all well, hanging in there and finding what peace you can in this unhinged world. By way of preserving my own sanity, I’m drinking coffee, listening to Seether turned up rather loud, and watching the sun descend into the trees at all of 2:30 in the afternoon, a hallmark of the upcoming winter solstice in this northern clime.

Winter Moon Raven, by F.T. McKinstryAside from the comforting idea of the sun emerging from the primordial darkness, one of the things I appreciate about the earth’s cycles is consistency. Whatever is going on, the sun rises, the sun sets, the moon waxes and wanes, and the solstices and equinoxes continue to mark the seasons. Barring some scifi cataclysm, this is something we can count on. It’s cold, it’s dark, but spring will come.

Our ancestors celebrated this, and so do we, in whatever way. Deep in our bones, we feel it. What better occasion for a book sale? Today through December 22nd, all five books in the Chronicles of Ealiron are on sale for $0.99 each. These books stand alone as individual stories that happen in the same world with some protagonists appearing throughout. Each book includes a map and a glossary.

Book One: The Hunter’s Rede. A swords-and-sorcery tale of one warrior’s transformation by the forces of war, wizardry, betrayal and love. In this tale, Lorth discovers his destiny when his homeland is occupied by a cruel warlord with no respect for the deeper powers of the world.

Book Two: The Gray Isles. Some fish stories should be taken seriously. Very seriously. In this story, Lorth sets off on a routine mission and is drawn into the cataclysmic fate of an Otherworld being that rules the sea.

Book Three: The Winged Hunter. An immortal hunter, a gardener, and some very naughty wizards. In this story Lorth must use his darker abilities to help two powerful wizards protect a maiden from a diabolical immortal predator bent on fulfilling a curse.

Book Four: The Riven God. His greatest challenge yet, Lorth falls afoul of a backwater monarchy stained by evil, a wayward princess, and a dark order of warlocks wreaking ruin. When the wizards declare war, the northern seas churn with unrest and a war god keeps his secrets.

Water Dark. In the calm, deep waters of the mind, the wolf waits. 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. Water Dark is a standalone novella with a cameo appearance of Eaglin of Ostarin, a protagonist in the Chronicles of Ealiron.

These books are also available in paperback and on Kindle Unlimited.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The following excerpt is from The Hunter’s Rede, during a winter solstice celebration in the great forested hall of Eusiron. Lorth, a.k.a. the hunter, our deadly protagonist, uses the wild and beautiful occasion as the ultimate distraction from a dark agenda indeed. You know, it only takes one asshole to ruin it for everybody.

The hunter padded through the forested hall of Eusiron, circling to the north, light and darkness merged to unholy intention as he blended with the trees.

Beautiful and strong, graceful as a hind, the Mistress ascended the dais in the center of the Ofthos. The hall fell silent, awaiting her. She raised her face to the sky twinkling with the constellation of Laerstroc, opened her arms and spoke in the Dark Tongue. The words summoned the stars, caressed the heavens and lay like a yielding lover beneath the loins of a hungry god. The hall grew winter-still as the night fell into the darkness of the longest night, the death of light and the silence of a dormant heartbeat. Then her voice changed and suddenly shifted. Gasps, sighs and smiles rippled over the hall as everyone felt the rebirth of the sun. As the Mistress’s voice echoed away, the top of Lorth’s head grew warm, as if light shone on it from the inside.

The hall erupted into cries of celebration. Deep, drumming music shook the floor. The priestesses spun away from their places and began to dance, moving like clouds of smoke. Many of the guests had left their seats and stood mingling and watching the dancers.

Setriana stood with Barenus near an ash tree on the northwestern corner of the Ofthos. In his altered state, Lorth no longer saw her human features; she wore the face of the Destroyer in full. But she was no match for him, friend to the wolves and child of the mountains. She had made her last mistake by crossing into his territory.

Calculating the distance between every face, hand, cloak, goblet and tree, he descended into the darkness of his heart, through the sinuous movements of women, fire, smoke and the rush and cry of music and voices. He went deeper, until he wept Leaf back to life, Setriana into a muddy grave and Barenus to his sword; he cast the Faerins from Os and the Tarthian-Anglorean war into a steel-slime wreckage of blood and dirt; he descended until he forgot Leda, her ivory breast and hollow eyes until finally, he settled like frost on Icaros, his hands clutched over the rastric bite on his heart.

He stopped with a breath. The Princess of Tarth appeared through a gap in the trees, her arms folded over her belly. Her wolfish face seemed to grin, causing Lorth’s rastric scar to burn. She paused and turned, slowly, and met the hunter’s gaze.

Lorth’s heart hesitated on the edge, like a drop of water creeping, swelling, then moving to its fall. Take great care when stirring the waters of Maern, for you may not understand the consequences. Darkness flowed through his hand and into the knife in his boot.

Barenus looked up. So did Eaglin, his expression impenetrable.

In a flash as swift as a bat, Lorth threw the blade. Barenus deflected it with his sword, but he was not fast enough to stop the blade from clipping his lover in the arm. Setriana screamed and fell to her knees, holding her shoulder.

The hall erupted into a surge of blades and cries as the High Guard took up arms.

The Raven of Eusiron towered to the heights like a storm casting living shadows.

If you are under attack by a wizard, think nothing.

Absurd advice. Icy wind cut through the hall, and the stars swirled like water. As Lorth attempted to gather himself in the darkness, he discovered he was not alone there. He collapsed to the floor as it joined the stars and consumed him.

Stay well and enjoy the holidays.

© F.T. McKinstry 2020. All Rights Reserved.

The Evolution of an Antagonist

Annihilation, by F.T. McKinstry

Eadred took the orb into his hands. Something glimmered inside, a tiny star tingling in his palms. His heart began to pound as a force gripped his chest, swirling, writhing, searching. Stars, whales, sun and moon. Her wrath boomed across time, shredding the veil. Terns, seals, white horses roaming the cliffs. She wept in the oldest tongue, her grief and desperation raising tempests. The dead, their pale eyes staring. Her child was gone. She crashed the Gates, sending them soaring end over end into the stars. Then she turned, her emerald slitted eyes fixing on Eadred as she raced, spiraling in a black, spiky maelstrom toward the wound in his heart left by a witch.

WIZARD, she roared, splitting sea from shore. – From The Gray Isles

As any writer will tell you, characters in stories take on lives of their own. Imbued with the forces of creation, the psyche is immensely arcane, and the act of creating something, whether it’s music, a painting, a garden, a book — anything, really — is always a bit mysterious. As for characters in a novel, they have a way of appearing in the writer’s imagination of their own accord, with their own agendas. To me, it feels as if they exist already, in a story that’s happening somewhere, and I’m just tapping into it.

The main protagonist driving the books in the Chronicles of Ealiron is one Lorth of Ostarin, a wizard and elite assassin in service to the Keepers of the Eye, an ancient order of wizards who keep balance in the world. He is sent on assignment to a remote northern archipelago called the Gray Isles to discover why another in his order, a fey, volatile wizard named Eadred, broke his vows to the Eye in an egregious breach of conduct he never explained or attempted to defend. Lorth’s task of getting Eadred to tell him what happened, however, goes straight to hell at the outset, spiraling into a manhunt, a costly encounter with a sea monster, and some nasty backwater politics.

With long hair the color of snow, eyes the color of reindeer lichen and a silvery breath of Elven blood in his veins, Eadred is a powerful rogue element, a trickster whose tormented machinations have gained him great knowledge which he uses to help prevent a rising cataclysm. But aside from Eadred’s having been cursed by a witch and later banished to the isles, we never learn the specific events that drove him to forsake his wizard’s mantle and leave a trail of bloodshed and woe over two realms.

The Gray Isles, by F.T. McKinstry

Ealiron: The Gray Isles

For years, I thought about pulling Eadred’s backstory from the shadows and writing it into the book, but all I got were vague impressions, almost as if his past was hidden from me and Lorth alike. The book felt incomplete, somehow, until earlier this year, when the mists cleared and I saw not only the old wounds and workings of Eadred’s mind, but also the rugged string of events that made him the madman who appears in the original edition of the book. In a fury I wrote it down, wove it in, had the whole work beautifully edited, and the third edition was born. Huzzah.

Sneaky Serpent, by F.T. McKinstryFor the record, I’ve added this to my Hah! Fuck You 2020 list. It’s a short list, but hey, we’ll take what we can get.

In keeping with the season, all four books in the Chronicles of Ealiron will be $0.99 on Amazon over the week of the winter solstice, from December 15-22. You can also read them for free with Kindle Unlimited.

Stay tuned, and stay well.

© F.T. McKinstry 2020. All Rights Reserved.

Yuletide Wolves

Winter Light

Yule Greetings!

Each of the eight seasonal festivals in the Wheel of the Year have a certain magic around them, a spirit that connects all living things to the cycles of the sun and moon. The Winter Solstice is especially powerful, as it marks the rebirth of the sun from the darkness of the longest night. I live far enough north where this a clear transition; it gets dark at four in the afternoon, and when the bitter cold descends, one feels mortal. Knowing that the sun will return is a wonderful thing.

Solstice

I love the pristine silence of the longest night, like something finished and yet hopeful. It can feel daunting, a Dark Night of the Soul when the darkness is so all-encompassing it seems there was never light and never will be. This is a tricky thing about transformation. It’s also where the magic happens.

So I couldn’t think of a better day to release The Wolf Lords, which is haunted by these themes. The demons you think are safely dispatched return to claim their due. Warriors, witches and those who know the loneliness of power face a dragon of darkness, and to prevail, they must do the unimaginable.

Bring it on. Where would we be without demons, goblins, elves and immortal warlocks?

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

The Wolf Lords Cover Art Book Two in The Fylking.

The Destroyer of the Math Gate has not been idle in the sun’s turn since he nearly defeated the Fylking, his ancient enemies. Wounded, bitter and bent on reprisal, the immortal warlock has gathered an army. He has acquired a spell that will damage the veil between the worlds. And he is waiting.

The Fenrir Brotherhood is an ancient order of sorcerers who serve the Wolf Gods of the North. Haunted by a dark history, the brotherhood keeps to itself—or so it is generally believed. But the older something is, the more secrets it keeps, and the Wolf Lords have not only unleashed an army of demons across the land, but also let the Destroyer in.

When the Veil falls, war erupts and the realm is faced with legions of Otherworld beings, it is left to a sorcerer hunted by the Wolf Lords and a company of King’s Rangers broken by grief and trauma to find a hedge witch whose secrets could change everything.

Unfortunately, she is hiding between the worlds.

Little Tree, by F.T. McKinstry

Outpost Cover ArtHaven’t read Book One yet? Oh dear.

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

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

Winter, Writing and The Wolf Lords

Celtic Stag

Yuletide Greetings!

It’s the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. In the north where I live, seeing “First Day of Winter” on a calendar elicits a blank stare, because it has usually been winter for a month or two already. The same thing happens on the vernal equinox around March 20th. It’s the first day of spring somewhere, but not here, although there is a different feel in the air.

Snowy Woods

I love this time of year. It gets dark late in the afternoon, and between the distant sun and the dreary weather it feels dark all the time. There’s a spirit haunting the woods, pale, hungry, staring inward with black eyes into the void, the point of conception. For me, writing is like this, a continual series of winter solstices, a dark place where there’s nothing, then suddenly a shift happens and the words flow out like the return of the sun.

BearAside from this, well, somewhat tormented view of things, I love the dark season because I get to curl up like a growly bear and get some work done while the snow blows and the temperatures plummet. Right now, I’m working on Book Two in The Fylking, called The Wolf Lords. That’s a working title, but it’s growing on me and I’ll probably go with it. At some point, on a sunny day when the light is brilliant on the snow, I’ll pull out my oil paints and get to work on the cover art.

The Wolf Lords. Oh yes, the realm of Dyrregin isn’t wartorn for no reason. There’s always someone or something plotting trouble there. Just when you thought, after the bittersweet ending of Outpost, to relax and enjoy yourselves, the shadow of mayhem is rising again, this time from the Fenrir Brotherhood, an ancient order of sorcerers with some nasty issues and a new ally of which the Fylking would not approve.

So if you haven’t read Outpost, get your copy today and prepare yourselves! The Old Gods are watching and waiting.

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 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Return of the Sun

Winter Light

Winter Light, by F.T. McKinstry

What is the true meaning of darkness?
Darkness is the source of light.

~ From The Hunter’s Rede

Wishing everyone a Merry Yule. Enjoy the season!

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

The Source

The Source, by F.T. McKinstry

Greetings on this Winter Solstice!

The shortest day of the year captivates the imagination and connects us to a universal truth that’s often easy to forget in the throes of life. A seed in the earth about to germinate, a flash of inspiration in the depths of despair, light emerges from the Void.

The winter solstice brings living things to an instinctual awareness of the Source. The moment the shift happens there is a spark, a sigh, a ray of hope. The days will now begin to lengthen. Little wonder this is a time of celebration. No matter how dark it gets, the light always comes, usually when the darkness is complete.

The Hunter is Gone

Being creative and somewhat broody — ok that’s an understatement, how about Underworldish — I’m a seasoned veteran in the Dark Night of the Soul. As many times as I’ve stood before the abyss, each time is always the very first time, as if I’ve never done it before. It never ceases to amaze me, the Void’s powers of resilience and renewal. “But this time is different,” I say. “No light can come out of this.” Hel knows it’s no different. It’s always the same. Light comes from the darkness.

This finds its way into my art: novels, stories, poetry, paintings, gardening, music, aquariums — it’s everywhere. I stare into the abyss every time I type a word, hold a brush to a canvas or put a seed into the dirt. I listen to death metal looking for a glint of the sublime. I fret over my seedlings in the greenhouse one moment and mercilessly pull weeds from the ground the next. I stand in awe each 21st of December, like a votary of the Dark Night, waiting for the light I know will come. The sun is reliable, after all.

“Only wizards and hunters know the true meaning of darkness.” – From The Hunter’s Rede

“Gardens are made of darkness and light entwined.” – From The Winged Hunter

“In the dark, a call to love; in the light, a bridge.” – From “The Fifth Verse“, Wizards, Woods and Gods

“Where the heart yearns, there is the point of Mystery. Though the Old One holds in her arms the seeds of new awareness, healing and light, she cannot be seen or understood by the seed itself.” – From Water Dark

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

Winter Light

Winter Light, by F.T. McKinstry

In the north where I live, light in the wintertime is precious. The days are short and the sun hangs low, making it feel like afternoon or evening even in the height of day. The shadows have a long, abiding air about them and the warmth of the sun feels strange, not quite real. Shining brightly, it paints stark white lines on the sleeping trees, brings color from the gray and glitters on the snow and ice. Wildlife responds to the scant warmth with gratitude.

The Otherworld is near.

Photography Prints

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