First Kiss – Excerpt from The Curse Servant

‘Tis Valentine’s week, ’tisn’t it? I’m not one to pile onto the steaming morass of marketing marshmallow cream that is Valentine’s Day (see what I did there?), but this year the wife and I have chosen not to add to the post-holiday bill-paying stress-a-thon, and are making our own fun. Sans roses and chocolates.

Not to say we’re not romantics at heart… and to that end, I thought I’d share a tiny snippet from The Curse Servant. Posting this excerpt was inspired by a little blog contest, and I thought it was somewhat topical. So, here you go… Ches and Dorian’s first kiss:
~ ~ ~

“Ches, you’re impossibly amazing, you know that?”

“I totally do.”

“So, I’ve wanted to kiss you for a long time now. And here we are, standing in the middle of Fell’s Point, and I’m trying to figure a good way to bring that up.”

She screwed her brow together. “Oh my God, you’re actually asking permission to kiss me?”

“I figured the worst case scenario would―”

She gripped the back of my neck and pulled my head down to hers. The kiss was slow, and anything but delicate. She moved her lips in a constant writhe, her tongue taking furtive caresses of my mouth. It was the kind of kiss that made me breathe heavy. I ran my fingers up into her hair, pulling them down her back as those curls smoothed out over the skin of her back exposed by the gown.

She pulled away and ran a slow thumb around my mouth, wiping away her lipstick.

“For future reference, never ask a girl permission for a kiss.” She turned and continued down the sidewalk. “Unless you actually don’t have permission, in which case you’re just a skeev.”

I watched her swagger up the pavement, and hopped forward to catch up with her.

“How is a guy supposed to know the difference?”

“Knowing is the entire point.”

“Isn’t that a little unfair?”

“Suck it up, magic man.”

~ ~ ~

What the hell’s happening here? Who is Ches? Why is she kissing Dorian then dropping the mic like a boss? The Curse Servant’s release date is February 26th. It’s available for pre-order now… so run and grab a copy and find out what leads up to this moment.

Why Budweiser’s Anti-Craft Beer Ad Doesn’t Worry Me… and Why it Does

Most of you are aware of my “other life.” In my spare hours I pursue homebrewing, winemaking, and have studied world beer styles in order to judge homebrew competitions throughout my area. I know a thing or two about beer, is what I’m saying. It’s a magnificent beverage, full of history and nuance, with over seventy distinct styles available to choose from. Beer is a force for connection, bringing men and women together in the pursuits of conversation, diversion, comradery, and a mutual appreciation for living life to its fullest.

So, when I see a major beer company ramp out an attack ad on craft beer, it irks me. Yes, I am well and truly irked. If you’re wondering… here’s the ad:

This is Anheuser Busch’s attempt to take a swipe at the burgeoning craft beer industry. What is craft beer, you might ask? It’s an attempt to create on a commercial level the same kind variety and quality of ales and lagers that are enjoyed around the world… even pioneering new styles to create bold flavors. Sometimes it’s just the refinement of the old standards. Often times craft beer is brewed on a large scale (Samuel Adams, anyone?). It has its own pursuits, its own goals, and sure enough its own consumer base.

Which is why Anheuser Busch feels threatened. They’re losing their consumer base year after year to the craft beer industry.

Now, here’s my token gesture of perspicuity… I admire what the likes of Anheuser Busch, Coors, and Miller accomplish. The sheer staggering volume of lager they produce over several facilities in several continents month-after-month is jaw-dropping. As is their quality control. Can you imaging producing that many million gallons of beer across the globe and maintaining such consistency over the flavor, aroma, appearance and mouthfeel of their product? It’s a science, and one they have nailed tight!

One might argue that there’s a bit too much science, and not enough art. But they are in the business of selling units. Individuals within the world of “macro” beer may take personal delight in craft beer, and the history of brewing in general. But on the corporate level… it ain’t about the beer. It’s about the profit. That’s not a morally “corrupt” thing, either… it’s just business. And it’s important to remember this when Budweiser insists its beers aren’t brewed to be “fussed over.”

Me... being "fussy."

Me… being “fussy.”

So, I’m rolling my eyes over here. Of course they’re going to roll out a caricature of a craft beer enthusiast, and slam a side of ham across our faces with their “pumpkin peach” zinger. But that doesn’t worry me. All it shows is that they feel threatened.

But here’s what does worry me… the spirit of the thing. Remember those consumer bases I mentioned previously? Those are groups of people who are not necessarily divided into mutually exclusive pools. Hell, if they were, then the Big Beer people wouldn’t be losing so much market share. However, I worry that there is, in fact, a looming culture war on the horizon, and this beer ad is just one shot in the opening salvo.

Let’s switch gears and talk about cider… earlier in the football season Redd’s Wicked Apple aired a commercial showing a happy young tailgating couple side-eyeing a cartoonish fop in a neck-tied sweater tasting wine. They elect for the cider and move on as Wine Guy appears to get high on the fumes of his wine, teeth hilariously stained in what could best be described as True Blood.

Different beverage, different commercial… same statement. You don’t want to be like these fussy people. You don’t want to be laughed at because you’re discerning. Don’t stray from social norms, dammit… Only commies drink craft beer. Only one-percenters drink wine at sporting events. THIS IS NOT YOUR CULTURE, SO ESCHEW IT!

Let’s switch gears yet further. Who’s seen American Sniper? Who’s read the kerfluffle that’s ignited online and offline over whether you like the film or you hate America? Yeah. It’s boiled down to that. You get those on the one side who recoil from the film’s gratuitous aggrandizement of the American imperialist message and glorification of our culture of racially-charged military violence-as-culture. Then you get those on the other side who are compelled by its gripping portrayal of an American war fighter, sacrificing much of what he is to secure the safety and freedoms not only of his country, but more specifically his family. You don’t hear a hell of a lot about the in-betweeners here. The movie, as with much of the current American cultural climate… is polarizing. You either side with it or against it.

So, yeah. Budweiser wants you to take sides, here. Either you’re a craft-beer swilling commie with a mustache and questionable sexual inclinations, or you’re a “hard way” American who scoffs at sophistication and discernment. Anheuser Busch, perhaps without realizing it, has managed to level the greater insult against its own client base. Rather than actually offending the craft beer enthusiasts… they’ve just painted their own brand loyalists as incapable of complexity and independent thought.

What worries me is that their fans might not even realize it.

What’s the message that AH is trying to deliver, here? Don’t overthink your beer. Don’t be critical of what’s being packaged and presented to you. Don’t evaluate its qualities and merits. Don’t be associated with people who do. Instead… just accept the brand you were given. Accept the beer your father drank. Accept what is institutionally instilled without discernment or qualification.

Jesus… when you put it that way, it’s almost chilling.

2015, New Years Resolutions, and the State of the Sloan

State of the Sloan. Wow. That sounds terribly official, like some kind of address the President is constitutionally obliged to deliver to Congress. Perhaps it’s more like a province of some banana republic. Our major export is sarcasm, by the by.

So, Happy New Year, faithful Fistful readers! I want to riff on a couple things today. The first being the much-maligned contrivance of the New Year’s Resolution.

It comes like clockwork. First we get Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Years… and then we get the fourth holiday season: people hating on resolutions. For whatever reason, people love to side-eye people for opining about their resolutions, and I simply don’t understand the invective. What is a New Years resolution? It’s a pledge to do something. A notion to better oneself. So what that most resolutions are abandoned? Does that mean we shouldn’t put credence in the aspiration? So what that it’s an arbitrary date to start considering your girth or your chosen addictions? At least we manage to take this arbitrary moment… after all, aren’t all moments arbitrary by some definition or another?

Truly, though, I get the sentiment that people should continually aspire for self-improvement, but I’m not the type to declare a thing invalid if it fails to deliver. I’m reminded of a local radio show host who expressed his distaste for those “Coexist” bumper stickers you see out there, which spell the word with symbols of major world religions. He declared these bumper tickers to be a major peeve of his, by simple virtue of the fact that people of the world will never actually coexist in peace, thus it annoys him that people think they can.

I, for one, admit that humanity may never manage to put aside our significant mutual hostilities. But I also maintain that peace is worth espousing. You might not change six billion minds, but you can help to create an atmosphere of tolerance around you. Likewise, when a person publicly mocks another’s New Years resolution, that person builds an atmosphere of defeatism and negativity.

So, instead of indulging in a hearty eye-roll and public snicker on Facebook at the resolver’s expense, why not quietly tuck in the attitude and hope they succeed? Don’t hate.

For example... a good resolution would be "Stop going Full Psychopath at company X-mas parties."

For example… a good resolution would be “Stop going Full Psychopath at company X-mas parties.”

Okay, soap box tucked back under my desk… time for a quick update on my various writing projects.

The Curse Merchant, book one of the Dark Choir series, is out and about, selling well, and has just crested 50 reviews on Amazon with over a 4-star rating. I’m very happy with the BookBub promotion that went down in early December… we got LOTS of downloads!

– The short story prequel “Bait & Witch” is now available for purchase within the Chronology anthology by Curiosity Quills. It’s nestled in the midst of some high quality fiction, folks. A fine sampler of CQ authors!

The Curse Servant, book two of the Dark Choir series, is currently available for preorder on Amazon, and it seems plenty of the readers who took advantage of the Curse Merchant sales have already purchased the sequel! I LOVE YOU ALL! Official release date is February 26th.

– The Curse Mandate, book three of the Dark Choir series, has just begun! I’m already enjoying slipping back into Dorian’s brain. This book will be broader, bigger, with a few more Michael Bay explosions. I… might have lied about the explosions.

– My latest independent novel, Yea Though I Walk, is in the hands of beta-readers. Once I get feedback from them, the fate of that book will be decided. On a personal level, I feel it’s my best work yet… it was certainly ambitious! Now I’ll wait and see if this is just in my head, or if the beta-readers agree.

Oh, and as for New Years resolutions go… mine is to wrap three complete first drafts this year. I know I can do it, and hopefully thereby set a new pace for writing. By the way, last year’s resolution was to lose ten pounds. I lost twenty. BOO YAH!

I love you all… keep reading!

Fall into Fantasy, Week 17: Evensong by Krista Walsh

Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 17: Meratis Trilogy
Book One: Evensong
By Krista Walsh

Author Jeff Powell wakes up to find the impossible has happened. He is within his own novel—summoned into the fictional world of Feldall’s Keep by a spell he didn’t write. One the House enchantress hasn’t figured out how to reverse.

When the villain he’s been struggling to write reveals himself, unleashing waves of terror and chaos, Jeff must use more than his imagination to save the characters he created—and the woman he loves.
Trapped within a world of his own creation, he must step outside the bounds of his narrative to help his characters defeat an evil no one anticipated, even if he must sacrifice his greatest gift. In the end, he has to ask: are novels really fiction, or windows into other worlds?

Buy it from: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iTunes
Or add it to Goodreads


Known for witty, vivid characters, Krista Walsh never has more fun than getting them into trouble and taking her time getting them out. After publishing a few short stories and novellas in various anthologies, she has now released her own anthology, the serial collection Greylands. When not writing, or working at her day job, she can be found reading, gaming, or watching a film – anything to get lost in a good story. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario.

Find Krista online: Website  Facebook  Twitter

Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?

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  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
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Fall into Fantasy Week 16: The Disciple Series by L. Blankenship

(Sorry for being late on this… been a week!)


Welcome to the Fall Into Fantasy Tour, where we are keeping your mind off any end-of-summer blues and welcoming the cooler weather by introducing you to some incredible fantasy reads to curl up with and giving you plenty of chances to win awesome prizes!

Week 16: The Disciple Series by L. Blankenship

War is coming. Kate Carpenter is only a peasant girl, but she’s determined to help defend the kingdom and its bound saints against the invading empire. Her healing magic earned her a coveted apprenticeship with the master healer; now she must prove herself ready to stand in the front lines and save lives.

She’s not ready for the attentions of a ne’er-do-well knight and the kingdom’s only prince, though. This is no time to be distracted by romance — the empire’s monstrous army will tear through anyone standing between them and the kingdom’s magical founts. All disciples must put aside their tangled feelings and stand in the homeland’s defense.
Disciple is a six-part gritty fantasy romance by L. Blankenship. Part I through Part IV are on sale now at all major retailers
Download PART I for free! 
FREE at AmazonSmashwordsB&N AllRomance
Disciple, Part V will be on sale in August, 2014! 
Look for the final volume, Part VI, in 2015!


“You couldn’t sleep either?”

At the whisper, I looked up from struggling to lace my boots with trembling hands. My master stepped into my dormitory room, adding his lamp’s light to my candle.
“Why must I dress as a boy?” I whispered back. Perhaps I was not so buxom, but I doubted I’d fool anyone. “This makes little sense.”
“Patience.” Master Parselev placed his lamp on my writing-table and checked my packed bags. “They’re gathering at the chapel already. None of us got much sleep, it seems.”
The straw mattress creaked when I stood, boots laced and the woolen hose sagging between my thighs. I ran my fingers around my waist, under my layered cotes, to check the drawstring. “Are these right, Master?” I’d strung the hose and braies together as best I could guess and as memory was my Blessing I had no excuse for failing. Men’s underthings weren’t much concern to me — if I saw such, or more, it was while the man lay bleeding on the surgery table.
“If they stay up, it’s right. Good. This too.” He slung a heavy felt cloak across my shoulders and pinned it on. The hood buried my face in shadows; my blonde braid, even wrapped around my head, would give me away.
I asked, “Master, this journey will be long, won’t it?” Parselev had given me more clothes than I’d ever owned to pack in those bags. All heavy winter woolens, too. “Shouldn’t you go, then?”
He looked down at me, mouth quirking to one side. Master was a greybeard, said to be over a hundred years old, but his kir kept his eyes bright and his face lightly creased. I had only been his apprentice two years. Surely I could not be ready for this.
“It must be you, Kate,” was all he said. He carried one of my bags, and I took the other.
Wreathed in breath-clouds, we crossed the Order’s campus. Low on the horizon, the slim, waxing crescent of the Shepherd hung golden, all seven of his Flock scattered in the sky behind him. He gave the only hint that dawn was coming. The cloak kept me marvelously warm, even in the chilly breeze. No frost this morning, not yet, but it was only a few weeks off.
Master un-bolted the side gate and led me to the door of the Grand Chapel. Horses waited on the grass, many horses chewing at their bits and shaking their heads, most of them with knights in the saddles. The knights’ black tabards, worn over suits of mail, had a white horse embroidered on the right shoulder and two gold stars on the left, marking them knights and Prince’s Guard as well. Kite shields and bucket helms hung on their saddles, in easy reach.
Several of the horses stood with empty saddles, collectively held by a couple of pageboys, and that gave me pause. I’d never been on a horse; I was only a peasant girl. But it could not be so awful, I told myself, so I gripped my cloak a little tighter and followed Master Parselev inside.
My new boots rang too loudly in the empty chapel, and when I slowed to lighten my step I fell behind. Only one lamp burned on the high table before the icons, and its light was mostly blocked by those gathered below the two steps. Faces were cast in shadow as they turned toward us — all looming in the dim light, some cloaked like me, others not — and I knew none of them. I kept my head down as I joined my master before them, glad the hood hid my face.
“Not ready, Elect?” one asked, his voice low but strong. “Who’s this?”
“My apprentice will safeguard the travelers,” my master answered. “She has —”
“What?” The man stepped closer, his shoulders blocking out the light.
“Majesty, she’s my finest student.” Parselev put up a hand when the stranger reached for my hood.
My knees trembled as the word echoed in my head. Majesty. I stood before the king of Wodenberg. Wobbling a bit, I dropped to one knee in obeisance, fist pressed to my heart. The king yanked off my hood while I stared at the flagstone floor, pulse pounding.
“This girl?” the king demanded. “You trust a mere disciple with this mission?”


L. Blankenship started writing animal stories as a kid and it’s just gotten completely out of hand since then. Now she’s out publishing her gritty fantasy and hard science fiction adventures. L grew up in New Hampshire but currently lives near Washington, DC.

Want to get involved with the Fall Into Fantasy promotional tour?

  • Don’t forget to join us at the Facebook party here
  • If you are interested in joining up as a blogger, you can always sign up here. We are happy to welcome more bloggers into the fold as the promotion continues. 
  • If you are an author or blogger and want to sign up to help with the party, please fill out this form.

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Guest Post by Sharon Bayliss: “It Can Only Get Brighter From Here”

I want to introduce my Fistful Faithful to one of my top-five favorite Texans, author Sharon Bayliss. Sharon is in the thick of her December People series… a series which fans of the Dark Choir might do well to go investigate. Lots of overlap here, folks… Sharon’s world is repleat with wizards living normal lives, whenever the Cosmos allows. There’s intrigue, magnificently catastrophic consequences for magic, and families torn apart and mended back together through the power of love and hate alternatively… I’ll let you decide which is which.



I think I’ve primed the pump enough, so I’ll hand the reins over to Sharon for the day, and allow her to discuss the Winter Solstice, and what it means.



On the winter solstice, the dark wizards in Destruction take a moment to celebrate the darkness itself. It’s a moment of acceptance and celebration of who they are–a time to experience darkness without fear or shame.

However, winter solstice celebrations are truly all about light. The winter solstice is one of those glass-half-full or glass-half-empty things. You can call it the darkest day of the year, or you can call it the day the light returns. Either way, you’re right. But for the majority of cultures, the winter solstice is all about the LIGHT.

Look familiar?

St. Lucia’s Day – Mostly celebrated in Scandinavian cultures. On 12/13, a young girl dressed in white carries candles to celebrate the triumph of light over darkness.

Christmas – The 25th was chosen as the day to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Christian light of the world…not a coincidence.

Hanukkah – The Festival of Lights itself! A celebration surrounding a light that overcame the darkness.

Saturnalia – An ancient Romans celebration of the sun god, from 12/17-12/23.

And of course just about any pagan or Wiccan celebration of the solstice will involve some kind of ritual or ceremony with light.

In the December People Series, not just winter wizards celebrate the winter solstice. All kinds of wizards do. In fact, spring and summer wizards celebrate the holiday as much winter wizards, and probably make an even bigger deal out of it. When the winter solstice passes, it’s time for the sun to return, which is reason for light wizards to party hard.

For this reason, some believe that winter wizards whose magical date falls after the winter solstice are fundamentally different from winter wizards whose magical dates fall before the winter solstice. The ones who land on the spring side are tending toward light, and the ones that fall on the fall side are tending toward darkness. Just a few days can make a big difference in how they see the world. This also tells us something important and dark about fall wizards. It also makes you wonder, if you’re a winter solstice witch or wizard, does that make you the darkest kind of evil there is…or the birth of life itself? Or…both?

About the author:

Sharon Bayliss is the author of the dark wizard family drama, The December People Series. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.

Semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Awards and #1 category bestseller in coming of age fantasy.
About Destruction:

David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything.

Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn’t a choice.

Eleven years ago, David’s secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without.

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David’s wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

About Watch Me Burn:

David Vandergraff lost his home, his job, and contact with his oldest son, but remains determined to be a good husband and father despite being a dark winter wizard.

His resolve is tested when a flyer for a missing girl–who happens to be a summer witch–begins to haunt him. David believes a spell needs to use him to save her, so he follows the magic’s command and looks into her disappearance. His teenage daughter Emmy resents him for caring so much about a random stranger. But when she uncovers some disturbing evidence close to home, she begins an investigation of her own.

David and Emmy quickly learn that the mystery is not only about a missing girl they barely know, but a deeply personal story that impacts everyone they care about. As their world crumbles, they fear the warning may be true—never mess with summer wizards, because the good guys always win.

Enter to win!! Get a paperback of your choice of Destruction OR Watch Me Burn. International entries welcome. Also join The December People Winter Celebration for more giveaways!!

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The Curse Servant now available for pre-order through Amazon

Never one to bury the lead… the post title basically says it all!

The Curse Servant is now available for pre-order on Amazon… right here:

But wait, there’s more! The release date has been moved UP! Curse Servant will now be released on February 26th, 2015.


So, if you’ve read The Curse Merchant, liked it, and want to read more… you don’t have to wait until May. Pre-order now, and it’ll deliver on Feb. 26th. It’s a hell of a book. A bit grittier than Merchant, a bit gloomier, and a bit more dire. Just the way I like it!