A swashbuckler set in the West Indies of the early 19th Century, THE WITCH FROM THE SEA is a love story, a coming-of-age adventure and an eccentric comedy of manners about a woman who runs with the pirates to free herself from the conventional "rules" of gender, race and class.

Tory Lightfoot, an orphan of mixed white and Mohawk blood, flees the stifling gentility of 1823 Boston for the freedom of the open sea. But the merchant ship on which she stows away is boarded by pirates off the coast of Cuba, and Tory is forced to join the pirate crew to save her life. Making herself useful as both log-keeper and spy, she begins to earn a measure of the independence she craves. But fate, fever and the relentless U. S. Navy West Indian Squadron close in, and Tory must risk her hard-won freedom to save the man she loves.
"I highly recommend this book to any lover of historical fiction."
— The Historical Novel Society Review
"The Witch From The Sea is that rare creation, an historical romance with guts as well as glamour. Wild-spirited Tory is an irresistible character."
— Nautical historian Joan Druett (She-Captains; Hen Frigates)
"I am in love with this book. A+."
Reading Rocks / YA Fiction Review

Thursday, March 29, 2012

ART of the WITCH

Once upon a time, pirate stories were considered strictly kid stuff, or else the province of capital-R Romance novels with brawny, half-naked rogues fondling their flintlocks splashed across the covers.

I was going for something more radical, a grown-up historical adventure novel with pirates, told from a woman's perspective.

This was my original concept sketch for The Witch cover art. Pretty atmospheric, no? The full moon, the pirate vessel, a woman, um, evidently rising up out of the middle of the ocean like Esther Williams in one of those gigantic MGM aquatic musical numbers.

Well, think of it as metaphor, just as the pirates in my book function as a metaphor for the freedom Tory craves.

I'm a little superstitious about rendering my character's faces; I don't want to interfere with the reader's imagination. But when I published a chapter out of The Witch as a short story in the pirate fanzine No Quarter Given, I drew this illustration to go with it.

 (Hmmm... I wonder if it's too late to re-do The Witch as a graphic novel...) (Read more)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


From Tory's Log ~

When fierce winds rattled the eaves, my mother said it was Gay-oh, the giant imprisoned in the House of the Winds, struggling to break free. But the more he fought, the harder the winds blew and the more entangled he became.

When blue lightning tore open the black sky, Mama said it was only Grandfather Thunderer frightening off the witches before he bestowed the gift of rain on the people of the earth.

"Fortunately, he hasn't run off all the Hotinonshonni witches," Papa teased Mama, "for I was surely bewitched when I met you."

I asked what it meant, that strange, long word, and Mama said, "My family, the People of the Longhouse. The Mohawk."

My mother was small and fine-boned, with a coppery complexion, long, shiny black hair, and laughing eyes. My father was fair-skinned and lanky, his eyes light grey, his high forehead framed by coils of reddish frizz. My brothers were fair and freckled like our Papa. They had all run away from Boston together after Josh and Andy's mama died, for the peaceful countryside of Stockbridge. Papa said Boston was full of savages.

My hair was brown with a rusty sheen, not black, with more than a trace of Papa's unruly curl. But I was dark like Mama.

"Am I ...Hot-a-shonni too?" I asked, mangling the unfamiliar mouthful on my tongue.

"One half," said Papa. "One half Mohawk Indian. But you're also one half Scot. The People of the Loch," he added in a thickly congealed accent that made Mama laugh. "But most important, Victoria," he told me, more seriously, "you must never forget you are American. One-hundred per-cent. Like all of us."

Friday, March 2, 2012


Ahoy there! Welcome to the website devoted to my historical adventure novel,  The Witch From the Sea. 

Cruise these waters to learn more about my heroine, Tory Lightfoot, and the world she lives in, the West Indies of the 1820s. Coming soon will be links to pirate history and Caribbean history, as well as portfolios of historical images from the era.

Here you will also find late-breaking news about my two sequels to The Witch: Runaways: A Novel of Jonkanoo, and the final chapter of the trilogy, A Comedy of Marriage (under construction as we speak).

And watch out for occasional guest blogs from the pages of Tory's secret logbook. Written down during the long nights on board the black schooner Bless├ęd Providence, these are recollections of her life and adventures before she joined the pirate crew.

So surf around, check out the reviews, read a sample of the book, and enjoy the ride!

—Lisa Jensen,  Santa Cruz, California