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

Sunday, July 23, 2017


That charming scalawag, Phil Johnson, proprietor of the salty piratical podcast, Under The Crossbones, interviewed me last year about my contributions to pirate lore, Alias Hook, and The Witch From the Sea.

Last week, he reached the milestone of Episode 100! And he generously invited me to participate in the celebration with a brief update on what I've been up to since.

And I wasn't the only one. This graphic hints at some of the novelists, historians, and musicians he's had on the air who are filling him in on what's new with their various swashbuckling enterprises.

So, hoist the colors, and let's wish Phil fair winds and fortune for his next 100 episodes!

Saturday, June 24, 2017


Okay, this image has nothing to do with my book!

There is no moment when candle smoke rises up in the shape of a sailing ship to lure Tory out to sea. (Although, maybe there should have been — if only I'd thought of it!)

This is just a random image I found while cruising the cyberseas, which I posted on my Pinterest page for The Witch.

But isn't it cool!

It captures perfectly the spirit of adventure and romance, along with the dark undercurrent of longing, that inspires Tory's adventures!

(Sadly, I have no idea where this image comes from, but I'll post the info if I ever find out.)

Sunday, April 16, 2017


Those who follow me in my day job as a movie critic know that I have a thing about dolls.

On Oscar Night, I have been known to dress up Barbies as the Best Actress nominees.

But as a writer of fiction, I love to create doll versions of my characters.

Finding the dolls at the Goodwill or junk shops, making appropriate clothes for them, and, okay, adulterating them as necessary (facial hair, etc.), is the next best thing to writing them, for me.

There's something so cool about seeing them in 3D!

So here are the dolls I did for The Witch From the Sea. It took me forever to find a brown-eyed doll with the appropriate skin tone for Tory, and a brown-eyed male doll with rooted hair (not painted-on) for Jack.

(Although I had to but some extra doll hair and add his sailor's pony-tail myself.)

The Matty doll was a gift. Rooted blond hair and sky-blue eyes, he came in the original Disney/Mattel Beauty and the Beast set; this was the doll under the Beast outfit!

It's funny that I had to deconstruct a Beast doll to get my Matty — since my next novel is actually about Beast!

(Beast: A Tale of Love and Revenge, coming from Candlewick, March 6, 2018.)

But that's another blog!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


Sea turtles off the coast of Cuba!

These marvelous creatures remind Tory that all the women in her mother's Mohawk family are members of the Turtle Clan, descended from their mothers, and their mothers before them, all through time.

Having been an outsider for so much of her life, Tory is glad to be reminded that she is part of such an ancient lineage!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016


Ahoy there, pirate fans! Feast your ears on my first podcast!

Last month, it was my pleasure to be interviewed by the effervescent Phil Johnson—stand-up comic and pirate aficionado, proprietor of the salty website, "Under the Crossbones." And today, our podcast went live!

It's a swashbuckling half hour or so, where we natter on about my books, pirate movies, and the allure of all things piratical. And I devote a deal of air space talking about The Witch From the Sea, and how she came to be born, first in the stewing cauldron of my imagination, and then on the page.

 So hoist a pot of rum and check it out here!

PS: My interview starts at about the12-minute mark.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015


Before she runs away to sea, Tory goes to a fortune teller in Boson who reads the cards for her.

They weren't necessarily known as "Tarot" in those days, but copies or variations on the woodblock-printed deck now called the Tarot of Marseilles had been published and were in circulation for a hundred years before Tory has her fateful reading.

Tory's card is The Star, which signifies hope and looking forward. This is a modern version, of course, by the artist calling herself bluefooted, but I really think it captures Tory's yearning spirit.

And it's so beautiful!

Here's the link.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Want to see what Tory's world actually looks like?

Trim your sails for my new board for The Witch From the Sea on Pinterest!

Okay, it's true, Tory, Jack, Captain Hart, Nada, and all the rest are fictional characters. (As far as I know...)

But  the West Indies of the 1820s was, of course, a real place, full of danger, adventure, social ferment, and the siren song of opportunity—legal and otherwise.

On my Pinterest board, you'll find maps, vintage illustrations, and a selection of objects from the period.

Pulp novel, ca. 1930

Also, take a look at some of my favorite female pirates, both historical and fictional.

(Like the 19th Century engraving of the notorious Mary Read, above, who allegedly bared her breast to prove her gender to the surprised opponent she'd just mortally wounded in a duel.)

Also, check out some wild items of female pirate ephemera, from pulp book covers to cigarette cards to fashion, that I've discovered while cruising around the Interwebs.

Every generation has its own ideal vision of a pirate lass!

My mission is to find and post as many as I can! Stay tuned...