R. S. Belcher - Tor/Forge Blog

5 SFF Books Featuring Memorable Trips

by Becky Yeager

Buckle up, readers. Do you hear the call of the road? These authors did, except the routes they have planned involve stops that are decidedly elsewhere. Don’t forget to pack your map.

Place holder  of - 53Last Exit by Max Gladstone

Have you ever gone on a road trip, had everything go completely wrong, and then decide maybe it’s worth trying that road trip a second time? Ten years ago, Zelda led a band of merry adventurers whose knacks let them travel to alternate realities and battle the black rot that threatened to unmake each world. The group’s center—its heart—was Sal, Zelda’s lover. On their last mission, Sal was lost. And they all fell apart. A decade later, Sal threatens to return, surrounded by the rot. Zelda cannot face this peril alone and needs to reunite the old band. Which brings us to Road Trip 2.0 where the stakes are higher than ever.

Image Placeholder of - 33American Gods by Neil Gaiman

Shadow only wanted to go home when he finally got out of prison. Tragedy leads him to accepting a job offer from a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday to become his bodyguard. Together they travel across America on a strange road trip. There’s far more than meets the eye to the places they visit and the individuals they meet.

Poster Placeholder of - 63The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R. S. Belcher

Sometimes the road requires protectors. The Brotherhood of the Wheel descended from a small offshoot of Templars. They are a secret group of knights composed of truckers, bikers, taxi hacks, state troopers, bus drivers, and others. Their mission is to defend the roads of the world and to guard those who travel on them. Jimmy Aussapile is one such knight. He’s driving a big rig down South when a promise to a ghostly hitchhiker sets him on a quest to find out the terrible truth behind a string of children gone missing all across the country.

Image Place holder  of - 20Redwood and Wildfire by Andrea Hairston

This is one traveling act you won’t want to miss. Redwood and Aiden are gifted performers and hoodoo conjurors. At the turn of the 20th century they leave behind George and journey to Chicago, going from a haunted swampland to a “city of the future.” Their adventure is both magical and painful as they deal with trauma, a changing world, and the challenges their own abilities present.

Placeholder of  -98Deal with the Devil by Kit Rocha

Road trips are so much more challenging when the terrain involves a post-apocalyptic dystopia. Luckily, mercenary librarians are made of tougher stuff. The prospect of access to the long-lost U.S. Library of Congress is enough to convince Nina, Maya, and Dani to work with the Silver Devils, a rogue group of enhanced ex-soldiers. Together they will deal with numerous perils including no-good biker gangs and the secrets they’re keeping from each other. Now if Nina can avoid falling for the leader of Silver Devils then everything might go off without a hitch.


Our Favorite Pirate Fantasies

Our Favorite Pirate Fantasies

By Alison Bunis

Two things we love: pirates and fantasy. So you know what’s even better? When we can get them together in a good old fashioned pirate fantasy adventure.

If you’re a longtime fan of this genre, you’ll find some exciting new reads and a few old favorites to revisit on this list. And if you’ve never cracked open a pirate fantasy book before―what are you waiting for? It’s got pirates and fantasy!

At Death’s Door by Sherrilyn Kenyon

Poster Placeholder of - 86Curl up with the latest in Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Deadman’s Cross saga, an epic pirate fantasy perfect for her millions of Dark-Hunter fans. Welcome to the latest Deadmen’s Quest…

Valynda Moore was born cursed. So when she dies as the result of a spell gone wrong and is trapped in the body of a voodoo doll, she expects nothing else from her messed up life. Until the leader of the Hellchasers offers her a chance at redemption. She will join the crew of Deadmen on the Sea Witch and fight demons.
Easy enough? But nothing is ever easy for Valynda, and she must keep her wits about her or be denied her salvation and forced to watch as the entire world falls into the hands of absolute evil.

Dark Shores by Danielle L. Jensen

Placeholder of  -79This book has it all: adventure on the high seas, blackmail, thrills, meddling gods…Teriana was the second mate of the Quincense pirate ship, and heir to the people who keep the secrets of their world’s treacherous seas―until she broke her people’s mandate to help her closest friend escape an unwanted betrothal. Marcus is the commander of the notorious Thirty-Seventh legion, and has helped the Empire conquer the entire East―but he has a secret he’ll risk his life―and the world―to protect. When the two are forced into an alliance, they must decide how far they’re willing to go for a conquest they didn’t choose…

The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab

Image Place holder  of - 43No pirate fantasy list is complete without mentioning Lila Bard from V.E. Schwab’s Shades of Magic series. When we first meet her in A Darker Shade of Magic, Lila is a pickpocket with a secret and a lot of ambition: one day, she’ll have her own ship. But first, she meets Kell, one of the last magicians with the coveted abilities to travel between parallel Londons: Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Grey London native Lila doesn’t know the parallel worlds exist until she robs Kell and then saves him from a deadly enemy. With new worlds at her fingertips, Lila’s not staying home―what kind of pirate would she be if she did?

Child of a Hidden Sea by A.M. Dellamonica

Place holder  of - 57Interested in some political intrigue with your pirates? How about a portal to a hidden world? Child of a Hidden Sea checks both boxes and then some. One minute, Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley. The next, she’s in the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world: Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies, all in the middle of a political firestorm…and where everyone seems to know who she is, but nobody wants her to stay. With the help of a ship captain who would rather she’d never arrived, Sophie must navigate Stormwrack’s seas and treacherous politics, and win the right to decide her own destiny.

 Pirate Freedom by Gene Wolfe

Image Placeholder of - 6Gene Wolfe was a towering master of fantasy and science fiction. He won award upon award, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2007, and he was named a Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America in 2012. So it would be absolutely ridiculous of us to not include his contribution to the pirate fantasy oeuvre on this list. Pirate Freedom is the story of a young boy, Chris, who leaves a monastery in Cuba and finds himself in a world much harder than the one he remembers: a world where slaves are sold at auction, and the Spanish, French, and English are all battling for supremacy. When he’s offered the chance to work on a ship in exchange for food and a bit of money, Chris takes it, and so begins his life as a pirate. But as with all Gene Wolfe books, things are never quite as simple as they seem.

The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher

Maude Stapleton, one of the most popular characters from The Six-Gun Tarot and The Shotgun Arcana, gets an adventure of her own, and it’s just as pirate-filled as we’d hoped. Respectable widow Maude is raising her daughter all by herself. But like any self-respecting respectable widow, she’s got a secret: Maude belongs to an ancient order of assassins, the Daughters of Lilith, and is the heir to the legacy of the infamous pirate queen Anne Bonney. And when her daughter is kidnapped, Maude will do anything to get her missing child back―even get in the middle of a secret war between the Daughters of Lilith and their monstrous, inhuman enemies the Sons of Typhon, or follow in Anne Bonney’s footsteps on a perilous voyage that leads to the Father of All Monsters…

Pacifica by Kristin Simmons

This one leans a little more sci-fi than fantasy, but a pirate is a pirate, so let’s not get too nitpicky. Instead, sink into the romance and perhaps the ocean (it covers the world) of Pacifica. It’s a polluted, dilapidated world, so no wonder when five hundred lucky lottery winners are offered the chance to leave their homes behind and be the first to settle in an island paradise with blue skies, green grass, and clear ocean water, everyone jumps at the chance. It sounds perfect. Except Marin Carey spent her childhood on those seas and knows there’s no island paradise out there. She’s pirate royalty, like her father and his father before him, and she knows a con when she sees one. So where are the First Five Hundred really going?


$2.99 Ebook Sale: The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R. S. Belcher

Poster Placeholder of - 90The ebook edition of The Brotherhood of the Wheel by R. S. Belcher is on sale now for only $2.99! This offer will only last for a limited time, so order your copy today.

About The Brotherhood of the Wheel: 

In 1119 A.D., a group of nine crusaders became known as the Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ and of the Temple of Solomon–a militant monastic order charged with protecting pilgrims and caravans traveling on the roads to and from the Holy Land. In time, the Knights Templar would grow in power and, ultimately, be laid low. But a small offshoot of the Templars endure and have returned to the order’s original mission: to defend the roads of the world and guard those who travel on them.

Theirs is a secret line of knights: truckers, bikers, taxi hacks, state troopers, bus drivers, RV gypsies–any of the folks who live and work on the asphalt arteries of America. They call themselves the Brotherhood of the Wheel.

Jimmy Aussapile is one such knight. He’s driving a big rig down South when a promise to a ghostly hitchhiker sets him on a quest to find out the terrible truth behind a string of children gone missing all across the country. The road leads him to Lovina Hewitt, a skeptical Louisiana State Police investigator working the same case and, eventually, to a forgotten town that’s not on any map–and to the secret behind the eerie Black-Eyed Kids said to prowl the highways.

Order Your Copy

kindlenookebooks.comPoster Placeholder of google play- 37ibooks2 67kobo

This sale ends December 4th.


Our Favorite Female Captains in Sci-fi and Fantasy

Being the boss of a ship, whether on the high seas or in space, is a challenging job. You have to balance the personalities of your crew, your goals (be they military, trade, etc.), and the inherent dangers of the environment. Oftentimes, being a woman and the one in charge can add yet another difficulty to the job. But the #FearlessWomen in these books can handle it, because they’re serious badasses. Here are some of our favorite female captains in science fiction and fantasy. Who’s on your list?

Captain Josette Dupre from By Fire Above by Robyn Bennis

Place holder  of - 70 When you’re an airship captain, you can’t be afraid of heights. Captain Josette Dupre, the first female airship captain in the Corps, isn’t worried about falling. She’s more worried about a bullet in the back. And while she proved herself to the world in Robyn Bennis’s debut The Guns Above, that doesn’t mean the prejudice against her is going to instantly disappear. To constantly combat it, Captain Dupre must always be the best of the best. But when her hometown of Durum is occupied by the enemy, and her mother taken as a prisoner of war, all bets are off.

Captain Leela from The Ballad of Beta-2 by Samuel R. Delaney

Poster Placeholder of - 95 First published in 1965, Delaney’s short novel is framed by a graduate student’s search for the anthropological and historical meaning behind a short poem left by the Star Folk, who had left Earth in generation ships to colonize the stars. But it’s the story in between the frame that really caught our imagination–the story of Captain Leela, the alien she meets in deep space who gets her pregnant, and the Judges who declared her a “Misfit” and condemned her to death. And, of course, the Wonder Child that resulted from Leela’s pregnancy. We can only go along for the ride with Joneny, the student, as he discovers a story packed with wonder and horror.

Anne Bonney from The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher

Placeholder of  -34 The third book in Belcher’s Golgotha series, The Queen of Swords is the first to take place in the wider world, rather than in the confines of the small mining town Golgotha. In it, we follow the twinned narratives of the world class assassin Maude Stapleton and her several times great grandmother, the pirate queen Anne Bonney. Bonney’s journey serves as a guide for her descendant, but more importantly for readers, she’s a badass pirate queen who breaks out of prison and treks across Africa in search of treasure. Anne Bonney is the pirate and adventurer we wish we could be some day.

Captain General Zezili Hasario from The Mirror Empire by Kameron Hurley

Image Placeholder of - 79 If you love grimdark fantasy, but hate that it’s so often dominated by male characters, then Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire is for you. The women in Hurley’s world are the soldiers and rulers, taking charge even as they work to slaughter each other. One of our favorite characters is Zezili Hasario, the Captain General of the Empress of Dorinah. Zezili is definitely a complex woman: she’s abusive to her husband (as is the custom for many Dorinah), and often uses her mixed heritage to unnerve others. Her world, already complicated, becomes even more so when she must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.

Honor Harrington from On Basilisk Station by David Weber

Image Place holder  of - 57 When one thinks of female captains in science fiction, Honor Harrington is often the first name on the list. Debuting in David Weber’s 1993 novel On Basilisk Station, the newly graduated Honor takes command of her first ship, only to fail in her first outing. That failure leads to punishment duty: picket duty at the remote Basilisk Station. There, with hard work and a clever use of resources, Honor and her crew not only succeed in defending the station, but uncover and defuse a massive plot to invade the Star Kingdom of Manticore. From her very first posting and through the subsequent 13 novels (with a 14th coming this year), Honor Harrington embodies everything we want in our female captains: she’s resourceful, resilient, intelligent, and overall, a badass.

Zamira Drakasha from Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

While the focus of the second book in Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series is, of course, on our heroes Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen, our favorite character was without a doubt Zamira Drakasha, the middle-aged, black mother of two who ran her murderous pirate crew with an iron fist. She could leap between ships, wield her sabers with deadly accuracy, and cuddle her kids at the end of a hard day of looting. We would absolutely join the scrub watch and do whatever labor was demanded of us if only we got to join the crew of the Poison Orchid!

Lila Bard from the Shades of Magic Series by V. E. Schwab

Lila Bard was born to be a pirate. She knows it, deep down in her bones. Even after she starts going on magical adventures with Kell, she never sets aside this dream. Her first thought after meeting privateer Alucard Emery is, naturally, to steal his ship. Instead, she chooses to join his crew by becoming their thief—after killing the original crew thief, of course—and Alucard teaches her about the world of Red London. No matter how difficult the path, or how many obstacles kept getting in her way, Lila Bard knew she was meant to be a pirate. And she won’t let anything stand in the way of fulfilling her dreams.

Bonus Novella:

Captain Ann-Marie from The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

This one’s a bonus title because it doesn’t come out until August, but we think you’ll love it. In an alternate America caught up in a Civil War that ended with a divided country, an independent New Orleans sits uneasily between North and South. Haitian airship Captain Ann-Marie and orphaned street urchin Creeper must work together to save the world from a mysterious weapon called The Black God’s Drums. Between sky pirates, powerful and cagey African Gods, and a pair of very interesting nuns, Clark’s debut novella will draw you in, and you won’t want to come back to the real world.

Feature image © Greg Manchess


New Releases: 4/3/18

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

This Scorched Earth by William Gear

Image Placeholder of - 26 The American Civil War tore at the very roots of our nation and destroyed most of a generation. To truly understand the madness and despair of such a horrendous conflict one needs to pick a moment. Or see that war through one family’s eyes.

In rural Arkansas, such was the Hancocks. Devastated by a cruel war, they faced down their personal hells and in spite of it all survived. Their survival is a testament to the power of love…and the American spirit.


Box Office Poison by Phillipa Bornikova

Place holder  of - 39 What happens when exquisitely beautiful elves start getting all the roles in Hollywood? Human actors sue, that’s what. In a desperate attempt to keep the squabbling inside the Screen Actors Guild from going public, the president of SAG forces the two sides into arbitration.


The Night Dahlia by R.S. Belcher

Placeholder of  -90 Laytham Ballard once protected humanity as part of the Nightwise, a secret order of modern-day mages dedicating to holding hellish supernatural forces at bay, but that was before a string of sadistic ritual murders shook everything he believed in—and sent him down a much darker path. One that has already cost him most of his soul, as well as everything he once held dear.

Now a powerful faerie mob boss has hired Ballard to find his lost-lost daughter, who went missing several years ago.


The Barrow Will Send What it May by Margaret Killjoy

Image Place holder  of - 6 Margaret Killjoy’s Danielle Cain series is a dropkick-in-the-mouth anarcho-punk fantasy that pits traveling anarchist Danielle Cain against eternal spirits, hypocritical ideologues, and brutal, unfeeling officers of the law. 

Now a nascent demon-hunting crew on the lam, Danielle and her friends arrive in a small town that contains a secret occult library run by anarchists and residents who claim to have come back from the dead. When Danielle and her crew investigate, they are put directly in the crosshairs of a necromancer’s wrath — whose actions threaten to trigger the apocalypse itself.


A Centaur’s Life Vol. 14 Story and art by Kei Murayama

Absolute Duo Vol. 3 Story by Takumi Hiiragiboshi; Art by Shinichirou Nariie

Dreamin’ Sun Vol. 6 Story and art by Ichigo Takano

Not Lives Vol. 8 Story and art by Wataru Karasuma

The Testament of Sister New Devil STORM! Vol. 3 Story by Tetsuto Uesu; Art by Fumihiro Kiso


New Releases: 1/16/18

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Blood and Sand by C.V. Wyk

Poster Placeholder of - 44 Roma Victrix. The Republic of Rome is on a relentless march to create an empire—an empire built on the backs of the conquered, brought back to Rome as slaves.

Attia was once destined to rule as the queen and swordmaiden of Thrace, the greatest warrior kingdom the world had seen since Sparta. Now she is a slave, given to Xanthus, the Champion of Rome, as a sign of his master’s favor.

Nightwise by R.S. Belcher

Image Place holder  of - 13 In the more shadowy corners of the world, frequented by angels and demons and everything in-between, Laytham Ballard is a legend. It’s said he raised the dead at the age of ten, stole the Philosopher’s Stone in Vegas back in 1999, and survived the bloodsucking kiss of the Mosquito Queen. Wise in the hidden ways of the night, he’s also a cynical bastard who stopped thinking of himself as the good guy a long time ago.


Binti: The Night Masquerade by Nnedi Okorafor

Place holder  of - 72 Binti has returned to her home planet, believing that the violence of the Meduse has been left behind. Unfortunately, although her people are peaceful on the whole, the same cannot be said for the Khoush, who fan the flames of their ancient rivalry with the Meduse.

Far from her village when the conflicts start, Binti hurries home, but anger and resentment has already claimed the lives of many close to her.


A Certain Scientific Accelerator Vol. 7 Story by Kazuma Kamachi; Art by Yamaji Arata

Cutie Honey a Go Go! Story by Go Nagai and Hideaki Anno; Art by Itou Shinpei

My Monster Secret Vol. 9 Story and Art by Eiji Masuda


Fantasy Firsts Sweepstakes

It’s November, which means we are entering the last month of our Fantasy Firsts program. We wanted to say thank you with a special sweepstakes, featuring ALL the titles we highlighted this past year. That’s 40 fantastic reads from 40 different series to add to your TBR stack! Plus, we’re including an added bonus: two sandblasted book dragon mugs, so you can enjoy your coffee or tea in style while you read.

Sign up for a chance to win:

First Name
Last Name
Address 1
Address 2
Postal Code
*Birth Month
*Birth Year


Fantasy Firsts Sweepstakes


  1. ELIGIBILITY: The Fantasy Firsts Sweepstakes (the “Sweepstakes“) is open only to persons who as of the date of entry (and, if a winner, as of the date of prize fulfillment) are a legal resident of the 50 United States, District of Columbia or Canada (excluding Quebec) and who are 13 years of age or older. We are sorry for the geographic restrictions, unfortunately it is required for various legal reasons. Persons who as of the date of entry (and, if a winner, as of the date of prize fulfillment) are an employee of Tom Doherty Associates (“Sponsor“) or any of Sponsor’s Affiliates (as defined in Section 5), and members of the immediate family or household (whether or not related) of any such employee, are not eligible. Eligibility determinations will be made by Sponsor in its discretion and will be final and binding. U.S. law governs this Sweepstakes. Void in Quebec and where prohibited by law.
  1. HOW TO ENTER: The entry period for the Sweepstakes begins at 9:00 a.m. Eastern Time (ET) on Wednesday, November 1, 2017 and continues through 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday, November 19, 2017 (the “Entry Period“). No purchase is necessary. Any entrant who is under 18 years of age or otherwise under the legal age of majority in the jurisdiction in which the entrant resides (a “Minor“) must obtain permission to enter from his or her parent or legal guardian, and the agreement of the parent or legal guardian to these Official Rules, prior to entry. To enter the Sweepstakes, during the Entry Period, entrants must access, complete and submit the Sweepstakes entry form (which will require entrant to submit his or her e-mail address and such other information as Sponsor may require), found in entrant’s Facebook newsfeed or alternatively by visiting Sponsor’s website located at https://www.torforgeblog.com/2017/11/01/fantasy-firsts-sweepstakes-15/ (the “Website”) and following the on screen entry instructions. The Facebook entry form may be pre-filled with information provided by the Facebook platform. There is a limit of one entry per person and per email address. All entries must be completed and received by Sponsor prior to the conclusion of the Entry Period. Entry times will be determined using Sponsor’s computer, which will be the official clock for the Sweepstakes. Normal time rates, if any, charged by the entrant’s Internet or mobile service provider will apply. All entries are subject to verification at any time. Proof of submission does not constitute proof of entry. Sponsor will have the right, in its discretion, to require proof of identity and/or eligibility in a form acceptable to Sponsor (including, without limitation, government-issued photo identification). Failure to provide such proof to the satisfaction of Sponsor in a timely manner may result in disqualification.
  1. WINNER SELECTION AND NOTIFICATION: Following the conclusion of the Entry Period, one (1) potential Grand Prize winner(s) will be selected in a random drawing conducted by Sponsor or its agent from among all eligible entries received during the Entry Period. The odds of winning will depend on the number of eligible entries received. The potential winner will be notified by e-mail (sent to the e-mail address provided by the entrant when entering), or using other contact information provided by the potential winner, in Sponsor’s discretion. If the initial notification requires a response, the potential winner must respond to Sponsor’s initial notification attempt within 72 hours. The potential winner is subject to verification of eligibility and may, in Sponsor’s discretion, be required to complete, sign and return to Sponsor an Affidavit of Eligibility/Release of Liability or an Affirmation of Eligibility/Release of Liability, as determined by Sponsor, and, if legally permissible, a Publicity Release, collectively, a “Declaration and Release” for residents of Canada) and any other documentation provided by Sponsor in connection with verification of the potential winner’s eligibility and confirmation of the releases and grant of rights set forth herein (as applicable, “Winner Verification Documents“), within seven days of attempted delivery of same. The potential winner if a U.S. resident may also in Sponsor’s discretion be required to complete and return to Sponsor an IRS Form W-9 within seven days of attempted delivery of same. If the potential winner is a Minor, Sponsor will have the right to request that the potential winner’s parent or legal guardian sign the Winner Verification Documents on behalf of the winner, or to award the prize directly in the name of the winner’s parent or legal guardian, who in such event will be required to sign the Winner Verification Documents and/or, if a U.S. resident, an IRS Form W-9. If the potential winner is a Canadian resident, he or she will be required to correctly answer a mathematical skill testing question without mechanical or other aid to be administered via telephone, email or another manner determined by Sponsor in its discretion at a pre-arranged mutually convenient time. If the potential winner cannot be reached or does not respond within 72 hours of the initial notification attempt or fails to complete, sign, and return any required Winner Verification Documents or, if a U.S. resident, IRS Form W-9 within seven days of attempted delivery of same, or in the case of a Canadian selected entrant, fails to correctly answer the mathematical skill testing question without mechanical or other aid, or if the potential winner does not otherwise comply with these Official Rules and/or cannot accept the prize as awarded for any reason, “then the potential winner may be disqualified and an alternate winner may, at Sponsor’s discretion, be selected from among the remaining eligible entries as specified in these Official Rules (in which case the foregoing provisions will apply to such newly-selected entrant).
  1. PRIZE: One (1) Grand Prize(s) will be offered. The Grand Prize consists of one (1) hardcover copy of THE GUNS ABOVE by Robyn Bennis, one (1) trade paperback copy of RED RIGHT HAND by Levi Black, one (1) hardcover copy of ROAR by Cora Carmack, one (1) hardcover copy of THE ALCHEMY OF MASQUES AND MIRRORS by Curtis Craddock, one (1) hardcover copy of CHILD OF A HIDDEN SEA by A.M. Dellamonica, one (1) trade paperback copy of TRUTHWITCH by Susan Dennard, one (1) hardcover copy of CROSSROADS OF CANOPY by Thoraiya Dyer, one (1) hardcover copy of DEATH’S MISTRESS by Terry Goodkind, one (1) hardcover copy of STEEPLEJACK by A.J. Hartley, one (1) hardcover copy of DEADMEN WALKING by Sherrilyn Kenyon, one (1) hardcover copy of EVERY HEART A DOORWAY by Seanan McGuire, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE HUM AND THE SHIVER by Alex Bledsoe, one (1) trade paperback copy of RANGE OF GHOSTS by Elizabeth Bear, one (1) trade paperback copy of A NATURAL HISTORY OF DRAGONS by Marie Brennan, one (1) trade paperback copy of SERIOUSLY WICKED by Tina Connolly, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE LIBRARIANS AND THE LOST LAMP by Greg Cox, one (1) trade paperback copy of DANCER’S LAMENT by Ian C. Esslemont, one (1) trade paperback copy of FORGE OF DARKNESS by Steven Erikson, one (1) trade paperback copy of FINN FANCY NECROMANCY by Randy Henderson, one (1) trade paperback copy of ROYAL STREET by Suzanne Johnson, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE EYE OF THE WORLD by Robert Jordon, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE SHARDS OF HEAVEN by Michael Livingston, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE MAGIC OF RECLUCE by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., one (1) trade paperback copy of RIDERS by Veronica Rossi, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE WAY OF KINGS by Brandon Sanderson, one (1) trade paperback copy of A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC by V.E. Schwab, one (1) trade paperback copy of THE EMPEROR’S BLADES by Brian Staveley, one (1) trade paperback copy of UPDRAFT by Fran Wilde, one (1) ARC of THE MIDNIGHT FRONT by David Mack, one (1) mass market paperback copy of THE SIX-GUN TAROT by R.S. Belcher, one (1) mass market paperback copy of THE DINOSAUR LORDS by Victor Milan, one (1) mass market paperback copy of THE SLEEPING KING by Cindy Dees and Bill Flippin, one (1) mass market paperback copy of TOUCHSTONE by Melanie Rawn, one (1) mass market paperback copy by THE INCREMENTALISTS by Steven Brust and Skyler White, one (1) mass market paperback copy of CROWN OF VENGEANCE by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory, one (1) mass market paperback copy of IMAGER by L.E. Modesitt, Jr., one (1) mass market paperback copy of LAMENTATION by Ken Scholes, one (1) mass market paperback copy of THE ETERNA FILES by Leanna Renee Heiber, one (1) mass market paperback copy of KUSHIEL’S DART by Jacqueline Carey, and one (1) mass market paperback copy of AMERICAN CRAFTSMEN by Tom Doyle, and one (1) set of two Book dragon mugs. The approximate retail value (“ARV“) of the Grand Prize is $551.56 USD. All prize details that are not expressly specified in these Official Rules will be determined by Sponsor in its discretion. The prize will be awarded if properly claimed. No substitution, cash redemption or transfer of the right to receive the prize is permitted, except in the discretion of Sponsor, which has the right to substitute the prize or any component of the prize with a prize or prize component of equal or greater value selected by Sponsor in its discretion. The prize consists only of the item(s) expressly specified in these Official Rules. All expenses or costs associated with the acceptance or use of the prize or any component of the prize are the responsibility of the winner. The prize is awarded “as is” and without any warranty, except as required by law. In no event will more than the number of prizes stated in these Official Rules be awarded. All federal, state and local taxes on the value of the prize are the responsibility of the winner. For U.S. residents, an IRS form 1099 will be issued if required by law.
  1. RELEASE AND LIMITATION OF LIABILITY: By entering the Sweepstakes, to the fullest extent permitted by applicable law, each entrant on behalf of himself or herself and anyone who succeeds to entrant’s rights and responsibilities including without limitation entrant’s heirs, executors, administrators, personal representatives, successors, assigns, agents, and attorneys, and with respect to minors entrant’s parents and legal guardians (collectively the “Entrant Parties“) releases Sponsor, each of Sponsor’s Affiliates, the licensees and licensors other than Entrant Parties including authors of each of the foregoing, all other companies involved in the development or operation of the Sweepstakes, Facebook, the successors and assigns of each of the foregoing and the directors, officers, employees and agents of each of the foregoing (collectively, the “Released Parties“) from and against any and all claims and causes of action of any kind that entrant and/or the Entrant Parties ever had, now have or might in the future have arising out of or relating to the Sweepstakes, participation in the Sweepstakes, the use of the Website, the provision, acceptance or use of any prize or any component thereof or any use of the entrant’s name as permitted pursuant to these Official Rules, including without limitation any and all claims and causes of action: (a) relating to any personal injury, death or property damage or loss sustained by any entrant or any other person, (b) based upon any allegation of violation of the right of privacy or publicity, misappropriation, defamation, or violation of any other personal or proprietary right, (c) based upon any allegation of infringement of copyright, trademark, trade dress, patent, trade secrets, moral rights or any intellectual property right, or (d) or based upon any allegation of a violation of the laws, rules or regulations relating to personal information and data security. Each entrant on behalf of himself or herself and the Entrant Parties agrees not to assert any such claim or cause of action against any of the Released Parties. Each entrant on behalf of himself or herself and the Entrant Parties assumes the risk of, and all liability for, any injury, loss or damage caused, or claimed to be caused, by participation in this Sweepstakes, the use of the Website, or the provision, acceptance or use of any prize or any component of any prize. The Released Parties are not responsible for, and will not have any liability in connection with, any typographical or other error in the printing of the offer, administration of the Sweepstakes or in the announcement of the prize. The Released Parties are not responsible for, and will not have any liability in connection with, late, lost, delayed, illegible, damaged, corrupted or incomplete entries, incorrect or inaccurate capture of, damage to, or loss of entries or entry information, or any other human, mechanical or technical error of any kind relating to the operation of the Website, communications or attempted communications with any entrant or Entrant Parties, the submission, collection, storage and/or processing of entries or the administration of the Sweepstakes. The term “Affiliate” of Sponsor means any entity that directly or indirectly, through one or more intermediaries, controls, is controlled by, or is under common control with Sponsor. The term “control” means the possession, directly or indirectly, of the power to direct or cause the direction of management and policies of an entity, or the ownership, directly or indirectly, of more than fifty percent (50%) of the equity interests of the entity.
  1. GENERAL RULES: Sponsor has the right, in its sole discretion, to modify these Official Rules (including without limitation by adjusting any of the dates and/or timeframes stipulated in these Official Rules) and to cancel, modify or suspend this Sweepstakes at any time in its discretion, including without limitation if a virus, bug, technical problem, entrant fraud or misconduct, or other cause beyond the control of the Sponsor corrupts the administration, integrity, security or proper operation of the Sweepstakes or if for any other reason Sponsor is not able to conduct the Sweepstakes as planned (including without limitation in the event the Sweepstakes is interfered with by any fire, flood, epidemic, earthquake, explosion, labor dispute or strike, act of God or of public enemy, communications failure, riot or civil disturbance, war (declared or undeclared), terrorist threat or activity, federal, state or local law, order or regulation or court order) or in the event of any change to the terms governing the use of Facebook or the application or interpretation of such terms. In the event of termination of the Sweepstakes, a notice will be posted on the Website or Sponsor’s Facebook page and a random drawing will be conducted to award the prize from among all eligible entries received prior to the time of termination. Sponsor has the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify or prohibit from participating in the Sweepstakes any individual who, in Sponsor’s discretion, Sponsor determines or believes (i) has tampered with the entry process or has undermined the legitimate operation of the Website or the Sweepstakes by cheating, hacking, deception or other unfair practices, (ii) has engaged in conduct that annoys, abuses, threatens or harasses any other entrant or any representative of Sponsor or (iii) has attempted or intends to attempt any of the foregoing. CAUTION: ANY ATTEMPT TO DELIBERATELY DAMAGE ANY WEBSITE OR SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM ASSOCIATED WITH THIS SWEEPSTAKES OR UNDERMINE THE LEGITIMATE OPERATION OF THIS SWEEPSTAKES IS A VIOLATION OF CRIMINAL AND CIVIL LAW. SHOULD SUCH AN ATTEMPT BE MADE, SPONSOR HAS THE RIGHT TO SEEK DAMAGES (INCLUDING ATTORNEYS’ FEES) FROM ANY PERSON INVOLVED TO THE FULLEST EXTENT PERMITTED BY LAW. The use of agents or automated devices, programs or methods to submit entries is prohibited and Sponsor has the right, in its sole discretion, to disqualify any entry that it believes may have been submitted using such an agent or automated device, program or method. In the event of a dispute regarding who submitted an entry, the entry will be deemed to have been submitted by the authorized account holder of the email address submitted at the time of entry. “Authorized account holder” means the person who is assigned an email address by an internet provider, online service provider or other organization (e.g., business, educational institute, etc.) that is responsible for assigning email addresses for the domain associated with the submitted email address. An entrant may be required to provide proof (in a form acceptable to Sponsor, including, without limitation, government-issued photo identification) that he or she is the authorized account holder of the email address associated with the entry in question. All federal, state, provincial, territorial and local laws and regulations apply. All entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be verified or returned. By participating in this Sweepstakes, entrants on behalf of themselves, and to the extent permitted by law on behalf of the Entrant Parties agree to be bound by these Official Rules and the decisions of Sponsor, which are final and binding in all respects. These Official Rules may not be reprinted or republished in any way without the prior written consent of Sponsor.
  1. DISPUTES: By entering the Sweepstakes, each entrant on behalf of himself or herself and the Entrant Parties agrees that, to the maximum extent permitted by applicable law, (a) any and all disputes, claims and causes of action arising out of or connected with the Sweepstakes, or the provision, acceptance and/or use of any prize or prize component, will be resolved individually, without resort to any form of class action (Note: Some jurisdictions do not allow restricting access to class actions. This provision will not apply to entrant if entrant lives in such a jurisdiction); (b) any and all claims, judgments and awards shall be limited to actual out-of-pocket costs incurred, including costs associated with entering the Sweepstakes, but in no event attorneys’ fees; and (c) under no circumstances will any entrant or Entrant Party be permitted to obtain any award for, and each entrant and Entrant Party hereby waives all rights to claim, punitive, special, incidental or consequential damages and any and all rights to have damages multiplied or otherwise increased and any other damages, other than for actual out-of-pocket expenses. All issues and questions concerning the construction, validity, interpretation and enforceability of these Official Rules or the rights and obligations of the entrants, Entrant Parties and Sponsor in connection with the Sweepstakes shall be governed by, and construed in accordance with, the laws of the State of New York in the United States of America without giving effect to any choice of law or conflict of law rules or provisions that would cause the application of the laws of any jurisdiction other than the State of New York. Any legal proceedings arising out of this Sweepstakes or relating to these Official Rules shall be instituted only in the federal or state courts located in New York County in the State of New York, waiving any right to trial by jury, and each entrant and Entrant Party consents to jurisdiction therein with respect to any legal proceedings or disputes of whatever nature arising under or relating to these rules or the Sweepstakes. In the event of any conflict between these Official Rules and any Sweepstakes information provided elsewhere (including but not limited in advertising or marketing materials), these Official Rules shall prevail.
  1. USE OF INFORMATION: Please review the Sponsor’s Privacy Notice at https://us.macmillan.com/privacy-notice. By entering the sweepstakes, entrant hereby agrees to Sponsor’s collection and use of their personal information in accordance with such Notice, including the use of entrant’s personal information to send email updates about Tor Books and other information from Sponsor and its related companies.
  1. WINNER NAME AND RULES REQUESTS:For the name(s) of the winner(s), which will be available two weeks after the conclusion of the Entry Period, or a copy of these Official Rules, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to Fantasy First Sweepstakes, Tom Doherty Associates, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Winner name requests must be received by Sponsor within six months after the conclusion of the Entry Period.
  1. Sponsor: Tom Doherty Associates, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. The Sweepstakes is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

© 2017 Macmillan. All rights reserved.


New Releases: 6/27/17

Happy New Release Day! Here’s what went on sale today.

Mad as Hell by George Noory

Image Placeholder of - 60 As the candidacies of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have proven, Americans are mad as hell about the problems facing our country. George Noory hears these problems every night, all night, and this is how he would deal with them. This is Mad as Hell.


The Queen of Swords by R.S. Belcher

Place holder  of - 83 1870. Maude Stapleton, late of Golgotha, Nevada, is a respectable widow raising a daughter on her own. Few know that Maude belongs to an ancient order of assassins, the Daughters of Lilith, and is as well the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Anne Bonney, the legendary female pirate.

Leaving Golgotha in search of her daughter Constance, who has been taken from her, Maude travels to Charleston, South Carolina, only to find herself caught in the middle of a secret war between the Daughters of Lilith and their ancestral enemies, the monstrous Sons of Typhon.

Twelve Days by Steven Barnes

Poster Placeholder of - 76 A paranormal thriller from master storyteller Steven Barnes: A broken family struggles to hold itself together against a plot to unleash global genocide.

Around the world, leaders and notorious criminals alike are mysteriously dying. A terrorist group promises a series of deaths within two months. And against the backdrop of the apocalypse, the lives of a small shattered family and a broken soldier are transformed in the bustling city of Atlanta.


Any Minute Now by Eric Van Lustbader

Eterna and Omega by Leanna Renee Hieber

Going Home and Downriver by Richard S. Wheeler

The Weaver’s Lament by Elizabeth Haydon


Beasts of Abigaile Vol. 1 Story and art by Aoki Spica

Freezing Vol. 15-16 Story by Dall-Young Lim; Art by Kwang-Hyun Kim

Hour of the Zombie Vol. 5 Story and art by Tsukasa Saimura


Books to Read If You Need More Heroes Like Wonder Woman in Your Life

by Lauren Jackson, Senior Publicist

If you’re like me and you saw Wonder Woman opening weekend (and are possibly planning on seeing it again this weekend), I know you’re craving more warriors, pirates, explorers, and revolutionaries of the “badass woman” variety. Tor is here to help with nine books that’ll inspire you to become an Amazonian warrior of Themyscira.

Poster Placeholder of - 63 Red Right Hand by Levi Black
Charlie isn’t a hero; she’s a survivor. Already wrestling with the demons of her past, a diabolical stranger reveals that she wields a dark magick, and he wants her to use it. But ultimately what she does with her power is in her hands.
Image Placeholder of - 73 Firebrand by A. J. Hartley
Once a steeplejack who scaled the highest buildings in the city of Bar-Selehm, Ang Sutonga is now an investigator, working to expose political corruption and quash the xenophobia and racism taking over her city. Instead of climbing to great heights, she must go undercover and expose the darkest secrets of the rich and powerful before they destroy Bar-Selehm.
Image Place holder  of - 2Skullsworn by Brian Staveley
Pyrre Lakatur made an appearance in Staveley’s beloved Chronicles of the Unhewn Throne series, but her backstory tells how she became the badass priestess serving the god of death. Hint: it involves a lot of mind-blowing swordplay and bloodshed.
Place holder  of - 86 Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan
Throughout this five-book series, readers follow the always daring and often dangerous adventures of Lady Isabella Trent, dragon naturalist, as she goes to the far corners of the world in the name of scientific discovery.
Placeholder of  -97 The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis
Josette Dupre is the Corps’ first female airship captain, patrolling the front lines of battle all while contending with a crew who doubts her expertise and an aristocrat hellbent on cataloguing and exposing every moment of weakness. But, when her enemies make a move no one was prepared for, Josette comes into her own and shows everyone what a “weak woman” airship captain can really do.
Roar by Cora Carmack
Known for her contemporary new adult novels, Carmack’s heroine in Roar, Aurora, turns fantasy tropes on their head. In the course of the novel, Aurora transforms from a powerless, sheltered princess, used by power-hungry men, into a true force of nature… literally (and we’ll leave it there).
Updraft by Fran Wilde
When Kirit Densira, a trader, breaks an obscure law, she’s forced to atone by learning the rules and becoming a part of her world’s governing body, the Singers. But as she gains more knowledge of her new craft, so does her doubt that the laws are right. So… what does she do? The only thing she can do: start a revolution.
Everfair by Nisi Shawl
This alternative history novel doesn’t lack for diverse voices, especially ones that have been historically silenced. One of them belongs to Lisette Toutournier, a queer spy who founded the book’s titular country… one that serves as a safe haven for native populations of the Congo during the disastrous colonization by Belgium.
The Queen of Swords by R. S. Belcher
What happens when a descendant of pirates and assassin has her daughter kidnapped? RS Belcher answers the question with Maude Stapleton, who hunts for her daughter, Constance (who comes with her own impressive powers), while also staving off cults that want to use her for their own, nefarious ends.


Excerpt: The Queen of Swords by R.S. Belcher

amazon-1 bn-1 booksamillion-1 ibooks2 79 indiebound-1 powells-1

Image Placeholder of - 52

1870. Maude Stapleton, late of Golgotha, Nevada, is a respectable widow raising a daughter on her own. Few know that Maude belongs to an ancient order of assassins, the Daughters of Lilith, and is as well the great-great-great-great-granddaughter of Anne Bonney, the legendary female pirate.

Leaving Golgotha in search of her daughter Constance, who has been taken from her, Maude travels to Charleston, South Carolina, only to find herself caught in the middle of a secret war between the Daughters of Lilith and their ancestral enemies, the monstrous Sons of Typhon. To save Constance, whose prophetic gifts are sought by both cults, Maude must follow in the footsteps of Anne Bonney as she embarks on a perilous voyage that will ultimately lead her to a lost city of bones in the heart of Africa—and the Father of All Monsters.

The Queen of Swords will become available June 27th. Please enjoy this excerpt.

One: The Devil (Reversed)

She swore an oath that the child would be born in freedom. The baby’s first breath would not be in the stinking air of the Marshalsea Prison, even if it took her last breath to see to it. The English guard had been true to his bargain, and that made it worth the pain. His price for the secret of escape, for looking the other way, was the gold in her mouth. She had ripped the back tooth out with her bare hands. After months of starvation, and, before that, a bout of scurvy on Jack’s ship, it was easy, and that pain was nothing compared to the contractions.

The trap door was where the guard had said it would be. It led to a small tunnel—a simple storm drain, designed to slow the overflow of sea water if yet another hurricane hit the island. She crawled through the damp darkness, unable to drag herself on her belly anymore with the baby, so she did it on her side, pausing every few feet in the pitch blackness to gasp in pain, and curl up as best she could as another contraction wracked her body. They were coming closer together but her water had not yet broken.

After what seemed an eternity, she caught sight of moonlight beyond the grate at the end of the drain. She heard the sweetest sound she had ever known, the crash of the waves, the hiss of the sea foam. The ocean did what it always did, it promised freedom.

The storm drain’s grate was loose in the crumbling mortar channel just as the she had been told. If she were her old self, she could have kicked it free easily, but starvation, illness and the child in her belly had all conspired to sap her strength. She gripped the bars and pushed, then pulled, with all her might. She was so damned weak, now. It made her angry.

As she gritted her teeth, struggled with the bars between her and the welcoming sea, that snotty bastard, Willie Goode, forced his way into her mind. He had thought he could have her, right there in that alleyway in Charleston. He was sixteen and she was twelve. He outweighed her by a good fifty pounds, the slobbering, full-gorged lout. He had pinned her and began to pull at her skirts. The pressure of him on her, the sour smell of his breath, her heart was like a hare, thudding, kicking in her chest. He was so strong, so insistent, like his pego poking her stomach. She remembered London, what had happened there, and bit off Willie’s ear. When he screamed and rose up she drove her knee into his bollocks and was satisfied when she felt a pop. It took two grown men to pull her off the sobbing little git.

She wouldn’t let the bastards win then, and she had no intention of doing it now. With a final grunt and gasp, she tore the bars free. They fell with a dull thud to the ground, her arms loose, like rubber, fell with them. Her water broke then and she knew she didn’t have much time.

The pain was intensifying. She crawled out of the pipe and let the cool, damp air of the beach caress her like a lover. It took great effort, but she stood, resting her hands on her knees for support. A contraction knifed through her, taking her breath away, but she refused to fall. She staggered across the wet, packed sand toward the tumbling waves. She stood at the edge of what the sea had claimed for itself; the rushing foam tickling her dirty, scabbed feet. She looked up at the moon, as swollen as her own belly. She smiled at the pockmarked orb burning silently with ghost light, its scars and wounds making it even more beautiful. “Good to see you too, luv. Been too long,” she whispered.

The water covered her feet now and grabbed greedily at her ankles as it sped past her. Tide was coming in, the sea’s way of telling any sailor worth his salt it was time to move on. The pain came up sharp and sudden; it made her feel as if she had to void herself. She breathed through it. The wind and the surf were her midwives. She gulped in air when the birth pain passed. She tasted blood in her mouth where once there had been gold.

She wandered farther out into the water, up to her waist. For a moment she thought of the nasty saw-toothed sharks—the wee ones—that prowled the shallows, eager for a tasty leg to claim. But after the night she had endured to be here, she knew she could wrestle any fucking shark and win, probably claim a bite out of it too, she was so hungry.

The pain came again, like her insides knotting and trying to spill out of her hat. She gave a little shriek but muffled herself, the water lapping against her belly was helping. She began to time her breaths to the rhythm of the tide. She had once acted as midwife, along with Mary, to a hostage off a Dutch sloop. Neither of them knew a fucking thing about delivering a kid, but Calico Jack figured since they were both women it was instinctual or some such shit. She recalled that breathing through the pains seemed to help, and pushing—pushing was good—but Mary had argued with her that the girl had to wait to push. “Wait for fucking what?” she had said, “A goddamned invitation?” In the end it hadn’t mattered whether she pushed or not. The baby came on its own. It lived a few breaths longer than its mother.

There was a shiver down her spine as the pain stabbed her again, and then again, coming closer and stronger with each passing moment. The urge to push was maddening. The waves smashed against her and still she stood her ground, the cold water splashed across her face, the sea pulled at her trying to draw her deeper into its embrace, and still she stood.

She raised her head to scream; she forced her eyes wide open looking up at the mute moon and the uncaring stars. In this moment she was the universe—her, a petty thief, a liar, pirate, adulteress, murderess. In this final effort of breath, she was a goddess, the creator, and all the cogs spun in the heavens just for her.

The baby arrived beneath the dark churning waters of Mother Ocean, and she did not fall, even as her knees buckled and her legs became like seaweed, she remained on her feet. The child arrived swimming, vibrant and hale. She gathered the infant up in her arms. As it broke the surface, the child snorted the saltwater from its tiny nose and let loose a scream, an angry howl of protest at life itself. She laughed as the baby spit, and cried.

“Ah, marriage music,” she chuckled. “You go right ahead and get it out, wee one. This may be your first, but it sure as hell won’t be your last cry.”

She held the child up to examine and tisked when she saw the tiny penis. “So, it’s a boy, you are then. Well, lucky you, lad! This chamber pot just got a little rosier for you with that twig between your nethers.” She laughed and pulled the baby to her bosom, spinning and trying to dance in the waves. She was dizzy and weak but she also felt high, like she had been smoking the poppy. She hummed a tune from her childhood in Cork, “Molly Brannigan.”

The baby screamed then slowly calmed himself. “I know,” she said, “as a singer, I’m a bloody fantastic dancer.” He nuzzled into her small breasts and she helped him find a nipple. The child drank eagerly and she could feel him sigh and relax in contentment. “Not much of a meal, I’m afraid, wee lord,” she said. “My milk’s gone dry from my stay in the governor’s digs, but take what you can.”

She looked at the tiny squirming thing in her arms and for a long moment she considered forcing it back under the dark waters until it was still. It had no life worth living at her breast, that was sure and true. She thought back to all that had come before this in her life, and how often she had prayed to never have been, yet here she was. She recalled hearing Mary’s screams a few cells down from her only a month ago, as her own baby arrived. After a time there was only the baby’s screams and Mary was silent. Eventually guards came and took the child and Mary’s body away.

She and Mary had both pled their bellies after the trial when they had been captured along with the other survivors of Calico Jack’s crew. But Mary had found her way to Hell anyway, and she knew it likely if she tried to flee with a baby at her hip, she would soon be at Mary’s side again. So all reason, all her instincts, told her to drown the child and be on her way.

She glanced up at the moon again. The heavens were no help at all, as silent in their regard as they were beautiful. She sighed and looked down to the face of the baby boy. “You have any notions on this?” she asked. He grunted and released his first shit, dropping it in the ocean. “I couldn’t agree more, lad,” she said with a smile. “How could I drown anyone who already has such a perfect understanding of how all this works?”

She bit the birthing cord free as she walked slowly back to shore, the taste of the infant’s blood mixing with her own, and the brine of the sea, in her mouth. She spat and tied the cord off with a reef knot, muttering as she did, “Right over left, left over right, make a knot both tidy and tight. There, you go—your first sailor lesson, my wee lord.”

She was exhausted, cold and starving. She needed to tend to those things and she needed to be off this accursed crown-kissing island by dawn. She tore at her filthy gown and used the fabric to clean and swaddle the baby. Off to her left, down the cove she could see the silhouette of town against the brilliant moonlight. There she would find roast pig, and bread and cheese and bitter grog and wine, sweet, sweet wine, and a proper bathtub, and loot, and sails to take her away from here. But first she would need to find steel, and with it gold, to make all the other things possible. She hefted her son, headed toward the sounds and smells of the port and plotted her first crime with her boy as an accomplice.

It was the devil’s hour when she entered the common room of the Witches’ Wrath. The Wrath was built on top of the corpses of the taverns Port Royal had once had in the golden days before piracy was outlawed on this island, and before the great earthquake had destroyed most of the city. The righteous claimed the quake was the anger of God Almighty, sweeping away the pirate nation and all their blood money had created. She knew well enough, though, that God annihilated saint as easily as sinner and didn’t give a fuck where the tithe came from.

The stink of the place—pungent human smells, the fetor of old ale, all poorly hidden behind the sickly sweet vapors of burning clove—was familiar to her. To her surprise, she found she had missed it, missed the parrots squawking as they drank their fill of ale from discarded flagons, missed the chattering of the monkeys and the booming laughter of the sailors, the tittering of the wenches. A good tavern was all of life on display, a sweating, mumbling, drinking, fighting, fucking museum.

She had acquired clothing—warm breeches, decent, if somewhat-too-large boots, a tunic and a vest. Her greasy red hair fell well below her shoulders. She wore a cocked hat she had crimped off the same fine fellow who had donated the rest of her clothes—he wouldn’t be needing them anymore. She wore the tricorne low, to allow the shadows to hide part of her face but she made no attempts to pass for a man at present. Her sleeping son was strapped to her chest in a sling she had fashioned from her prison gown. She carried the dead man’s steel, a heavy and well-worn machete, in one hand, and rested the palm of her other hand on the butt of the pistol hanging from the wide sash wrapped about her waist. There was a subtle change in the current of conversation when she entered. Eyes flicked to rest upon her, sizing her up as a victim, weak and ready to be culled, or as one of the hunters. When she felt the attention, sensed the menace, she smiled a little. She was home.

“Port,” she said in the cant, the secret language of the old pirates. She dropped a few Spanish reales on the bar. The tavern keep frowned; then his face lit with surprise, and she knew he had recognized her. He slid the bottle to her. The tavern keep smiled. She saw most of his teeth were black or absent. He deftly pocketed the coins.

“Glad ta see you avoided gitting noozed,” the keep replied in the cant. “Din’t think they could git a rope about that pretty neck, Lady Calico. Too many brains in that skull of yours for the rope to fit about it. Sorry ta hear about your man’s demise.”

She took a long draw off the port. It was the sweetest thing she could recall after a year of stale water and maggoty bread. She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “Shit,” she said. “I told Jack I was sorry to see him in the gallows with his lads, but if he’d fought like a man, he wouldn’t have had to hang like a dog.” The tavern keep had a laugh like a cannon going off. “Herodotus Markham? Where is he?” she asked. The tavern keep nodded toward the rear room. An old man with a mane of gray hair, and a tattered red velvet coat, sat on a bench, smoking a pipe.

“Makes his way here every few nights,” the keep said. “He’s dying, but it’s a slow kind o’ dying. Still the smartest man I ever knew—not that all skull music will keep him breathing one more day.”

She slid more silver to him, “for your service, and your silence.” The keep nodded and the coins vanished. She took the bottle and headed for the back of the tavern. A dirty hand shot out of the darkness as she walked past a table of men, grabbing her. “How much you selling the brat for, luv?” Her blade was at the man’s throat before the utterance had finished leaving his lips.

“A damn sight more than I wager you’re willing to pay,” she said. The hand slipped back into the smoky darkness.

“I told you it was her, ya tosspot!” she heard one of the other sailors hiss as she walked on. “Yer damn lucky she didn’t lop your sugar stick off.”

Herodotus Markham looked as he had when she had last seen him just before she, Jack and Mary had stolen the William. He resembled an old country squire—a gentleman of means who perhaps had fallen on hard times, or maybe had been laid upon by ruffians. His white wig was in disarray with faded ribbons of red still grasping on for dear life to the tail of it. His velvet coat was a deep burgundy marred by stains, faded by the sun and the salt of the sea. The coat had burnt patches and every cuff and collar was frayed. His face sagged like a half-empty sack of potatoes. His florid complexion was a combination of old rouge and too much drink. The only part of him that wasn’t sad was the wicked, steel glint in his dark eyes. It was the last place anyone would care to look and the only place that told you this broken-down old man was still very dangerous.

Markham’s face lit up when he saw her. “Rough with black winds and storms,” he recited, “unwanted shall admire.”

“Always charm with you, Dot,” she said, sitting down next to the old man. He hugged her and she returned it. Markham gasped as the baby made a cooing sound from his hammock across her chest.

“A babe!” he exclaimed and she couldn’t help but laugh at his surprise and delight. “Oh my sweet girl! Is it Jack’s?”

“That’s the prevailing theory,” she said, adjusting the infant in his snug hammock. “Best I can figure he would have been conceived just before we took off with the William, or maybe on her.”

“If it was on ship that makes him a true son of a gun,” Markham said, “a sailor-born, just like his mother.”

“I wasn’t conceived on a ship,” she said, taking a long pull off the bottle of port, “more likely the scullery maid’s closet. Da gave Ma the goat’s jig in between her changing linens, sometimes during.”

Markham puffed his long churchwarden pipe and shook his head. “No,” he said, a wreath of tobacco smoke preceding his words, “If ever I met someone born to the tides, it was you, Annie. You’re more a sea dog than old Calico Jack, Charlie Vane, or any of their ilk.”

She laughed. “One big difference,” she said, “I’m still breathing.”

“It’s the end of the golden age of the freebooters, lass,” Dot said. “The world will be less legendary, less wild, without them. We’re replacing pirates with politicians.”

“I always found pirates to be a damn sight more honest,” she said. “They tell you up front what they’re going steal from you.”

The old man chuckled. It turned into a dry, booming cough. “Come to say good-bye have you, girl?” She knelt and took the old man’s hands in her own.

“Yes, I have to be gone by first light. I need one last favor from you, Dot,” she said. “That chest Jack left with you before we took the William, do you recall it?”

“Aye,” Dot said. “The queer one, painted up with all those strange marks on it. Oh, yes, I recall it well. Sometimes . . . sometimes at night, I think I hear . . . singing coming out of it.”


“A strange language, one I’ve never heard,” he said. “It sounds like a lot of voices, like women.”

“I need it,” she said.

“Of course, love, but are you sure? There’s something damned in that box—it’s the devil singing,” Dot said. “It makes me dream of some steaming, scorching place—of unforgiving heat, of a city made out of . . . dead things. I think I dreamt of Hell.”

“That box is this baby’s birthright and the final share due me from Jack,” she said. “It will lead me to a big enough score to lay down my sword. Can you fetch it for me, Dot?”

“Of course. Meet you here before dawn?” he asked. She stood and helped the old man to his feet as she did.

“No,” she said. “The north docks, near Fort James and the custom houses.”

“Done,” he said and headed for the door without another word. She got the impression Herodotus was glad to be ridding himself of the box and wanted to waste no time doing so.

She sat back on the bench and took another long sip on the bottle of port. The box was not natural—she knew that—had known it since she and Jack had taken it from the cargo hold of that merchantman headed back to England from Africa. One of Jack’s crew, a Spaniard named Thiago, had jumped from the crow’s nest onto the deck below, screaming of a city of monsters that was eating the dreams out of his skull. He screamed a name as he took his fatal plunge, “Carcosa.”

Both she and Jack had awoken from dreams of the necropolis squatting still and silent in the middle of some verdant, primal place. When they made it to port, they had consulted the smartest man either of them knew—Herodotus. He had no wisdom for them, but promised to keep the box safe.

She never told Jack but she, alone, had a final dream of the bone city. In it she stood in a sunbaked courtyard, vast like an arena. The floor of the place glittered with rubies, millions of them. She stood before a shining statue of a woman, flaring with the light of the bloated, red sun. The statue was at the center of the arena, and was made of gold and ivory, diamonds and other precious stones, a king’s fortune a hundred times over, or a queen’s.

She was going to find that city and claim its treasures and its secrets, and she knew, she knew the first step on that path was the box, and then to head for Africa, from which it hailed. Now sitting alone in the noise and life of the Witches’ Wrath, she recalled the eyes of the statue in her dream. They were terrible, the immortal gaze of a goddess—regarding her, judging her with eyes darker than a murderer’s soul, burning red at their core, hotter than any earthly forge.

She rubbed her eyes, and pushed the memory out of her mind. She realized then how much she wanted a pipe and some good tobacco.

“Now,” she said to the baby slumbering at her breast, “what do I do with you, you little snapper?” She noticed a man sitting alone at a table writing with an inkwell and pen in a ledger, occasionally popping his head up to look about, or to drink from his tankard. He was a slender man, his hair and beard the color of wheat. She rose, and moved towards him.

“Nate?” she said. “Nate Mist? I’ll be a fussock, it is you!” The man turned, frowning at first, but then broke into a wide smile once he recognized her.

“I heard your neck got stretched, Annie,” Mist said. She raised the port in salute and Mist raised his tankard.

“Haven’t found a rope clever enough.” She said. “I’m surprised to see you here. I heard you were back in England—a writer they said.”

“Publisher,” Mist replied. “Oh, and down here I’m going by Charles Johnson these days—Captain Charles Johnson. Ran into a spot of trouble back home. Thought I’d travel a bit and see if I could finish my research on the history of pirates I’m writing.”

“Well, ‘Captain,’” she said laughing and taking another drink, “I’m a walking, talking expert on that lot.”

“That you are,” Mist said. He flipped to a fresh page in his ledger and dipped his pen in the inkwell. “Let me ask you about . . .”

“You’ll make a pretty bob off me and all my dead mates, won’t you, Nate?” Mist began to answer, but she waved her free hand to dismiss his reply as she sat at his table. “I’ll give it all to you, mate—you were always a good lad back then—always an honest sea dog. I’ll tell you the tale of the last days of Calico Jack and his crew. How old Eddie Teach supped with the devil and stole some of his cursed gold for himself. I’ll tell you the story of how we came across this great metal vessel the size of a hundred galleons! How it traveled under the waves and was captained by a mad genius.”

Mist leaned forward, frantically scribbling in his ledger.

“I’ll tell you the time I was stricken by the black mark—the one all pirates fear,” she went on, knowing she had Mist now, her eyes locked with his, her voice weaving her stories tight about him, “and how I had to filch wine from Neptune himself to dodge that curse. You want to know about the island where immortal cannibal children are led by a ten-thousand-year-old boy who has no shadow? I’ll give all the secrets of the pirates and the worlds they’ve been brave enough to sail through to you and you alone—enough for a hundred books—but first I want you to swear an oath to me, and do me a service, Nate. I want you to swear it on that god of yours that keeps getting you in so much trouble back home.”

“What’s the favor, Anne?” Mist asked.

She set the bottle on the table and slid her arms around and under the baby. “This,” she said. “Take him to my da in Charles Town, Oyster Point.”

“Carolina? The colonies?” Mist said. “I was thinking of sailing north in a few days. Why don’t you just go yourself?”

“I have something to tend to first,” she said. “You tell my father to keep him safe and I’ll be along once I’m finished.” She placed a bag of coins before Mist on the table. “For him and for you. Do you swear you’ll keep him safe and deliver him to my kin?”

Mist looked at the baby’s face, then to hers. “I swear it,” he said. They spit in their palms and shook to seal the oath. “Now,” she said, “let me start by telling you about the Secret Sea . . .”

Night was unraveling in the East; threads of pink, orange and indigo frayed where the sky met sea. Herodotus hobbled along with the small chest. Sailors, eagerly preparing to leave with the morning tide, darted past the old man. There were shouts, curses, songs and orders in a dozen languages, all along the crowded row of docks and piers. Markham turned to look about and found himself facing a slender sailor, a man, his face shadowed with dirt that hinted at a beard. His long red hair was tied in a ponytail, the rest under a cocked hat. He wore a vest and tunic, a heavy blade and pistol held fast by a sash around his waist, breeches and boots. A ditty bag was hung over the man’s shoulder. The sailor smiled and Dot finally recognized her.

“You’re damned good at that, lass,” he said, keeping his voice low. She laughed and even that has a rough, male sound to it.

“Lots of practice.” She nodded to the box. “Thanks, Dot.” He handed her the oddly painted wooden cask and she held it with both hands. “My ship is off in a few moments.”

“You be careful with that twice-damned thing,” Herodotus said. “Where’s the boy?”

“Safe and on his way to my family in the colonies,” she said. “Here,” she said handing him a purse full of coins. She had managed to increase her dwindling stolen stakes with a few games of bones on the docks while waiting for Dot. “There’s a ship leaving later today for the Carolina colony,” she said. “You remember Nate Mist? He’s a passenger aboard, and I’ve secured you passage as well. Nate has my boy, taking him to my da. I’d consider it a kindness if you’d accompany them and see to my boy until I return.”

“Nate’s a good man,” Markham said, nodding. He took the purse. “Very well, perhaps the change in climate will be good for what ails me.”

“Thank you,” she said. “And don’t worry. I’m taking this thing home, scoring one last haul of loot, and then I’m quits with this freebooter life.”

Herodotus laughed until he began coughing again. “I’ll believe that when I bloody see it,” he said. “You’re born to this, Annie, moon and tide, steel and gold.”

“Well, I’m retiring to be a proper lady,” she said with a grin. “One of goddamned means, to boot. Good-bye Dot. Take good care of yourself and my lad.” They shook hands and she began to head for the gangplank of one of the ships.

“And good luck to you too, Lady . . .” Herodotus paused. “Anne, what the hell do I call you, now? Lady Rackham? Cormac? What?”

She turned and gave the old pirate sage a wink. “I always liked my married name,” she said, “liked it better than I liked the fucking marriage. I’ll stick with that one, I think.”

“Fair enough,” Herodotus said. “Then good luck to you, Lady Bonny.”

Copyright © 2017 by R.S. Belcher

Order Your Copy

Placeholder of amazon -49 Place holder  of bn- 79 Image Placeholder of booksamillion- 90 ibooks2 23 indiebound powells

The owner of this website has made a commitment to accessibility and inclusion, please report any problems that you encounter using the contact form on this website. This site uses the WP ADA Compliance Check plugin to enhance accessibility.