A Little Light Reading

Despite the majority of my blog’s content, my life doesn’t consist solely of nautical-related books, movies, and interests.

But that’s not to say I didn’t get excited when I discovered one of my favorite non-fiction authors, Benerson Little, had yet another gem for me to devour.


Little is an amazing authority on pirates, sailing life, and generally anything nautical from the age of sail.

I used his books The Golden Age of Piracy and The Sea Rover’s Practice for my debut novel, Three Star Island, and am much more extensively using it for Three Star’s sequel. If you ever want to get down to the nitty gritty of everything–and I mean everything–regarding the piratical era, this is the way to go.


Shucks and Seelies and Folklore!

Last week, I hit a wee milestone.

I finished the first draft of what I hope to be my second published novel.

I’m extremely excited about it, I have to say. Since I was a little girl, I’ve loved reading about English folklore. Fairies, Black Dogs, headless coaches, and screaming skulls. So, I decided to share that love and came up with a little story involving some of those elements.

At the moment, I’m knee-deep in pre-edits, but there will be plenty of spookiness, lore, some Midsummer celebrations, and a Black Shuck, when it’s all said and done.

Oh, and a band of fairly nasty Unseelie Fae and quite a bit of romance.


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A Brief (ha ha!) intro to 18th Century Undies

In Three Star Island, Penelope gets stranded in the eighteenth century by way of a time portal that closes behind her and never lets her go home again.

This is a problem, of course, for someone who only brings one change of clothing. Especially when it comes to our modern sensibilities vs. the dress codes of 1721.

And of course, everyone wants to know about underwear, right? Right. So, what would a woman in the early 1700s wear under her dress? Not exactly what you’d think.

The shift was the equivalent to a pair of panties and a bra. One wouldn’t walk out into public in a shift, nor would one entertain guests, of course, or be seen by certain members of the family in it.


Beneath that, a proper woman didn’t wear panties as we would today. Panties were only for prostitutes. Why, you say? Well, a “proper” woman would be fully clothed when in mixed company. A prostitute, however, would be in various stages of undress, and therefore a little titillation was necessary. “Panties”, which weren’t quite like the ones we wear today, would have covered up just enough to be exciting.

In fact, doctors actually recommended women stay away from any underwear unless they were in extreme cold, as it was supposedly unhealthy for them.

This didn’t mean that some women didn’t wear “under breeches”, but this was a rare thing, and often frowned upon.

What’s Knot to Like? Sailing Speeds in the 18th Century.

Ever wonder how fast ships sailed in the age of sail? The nautical speed measurement is called a “knot”.

One knot=1.15078 mph. The speed of a ship in the 1700s varied by type, decade in which it was made, the weather, etc, but most in the early 1700s averaged 4-5 knots, although some could get as high as 20 knots.

Therefore, if you had a journey of about six hundred miles, like Penny and Will would have undertaken from the Outer Banks of NC to St. Augustine, Florida (around 650 miles), it would have taken them at the very slowest:

130 hours or about five days.


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Nautical Terms and Slang

So many sailing terms have made their way into our everyday speech. Here are a few of my favorites.

(to be in someone’s) Black Book:

Black books have been around for a long time. There was the Black Book of the Exchequer in the late 1100s, which recorded royal revenues, for example. Beginning in the 14th century, a collection of maritime laws and rules for conduct were collected in a compendium called The Black Book of the Admiralty.

The Black Book of the Admiralty listed punishments for offenses.

By the 16th century, black books started to be used to record the names of people who were up for punishment or were liable for censure.

Today, if you’re in someone’s black book, you’re out of favor with them.

(Quite different than to be in a “little black book”… which has amorous connotations.)


Today, this word means to lean, sway, or tip to the side, often violently and without control.  However, the original meaning that’s still employed when it comes to ships means to turn a ship on her side in order to clean, caulk, or patch her hull. Often, this was done on a beach — a careenage — where the the tide had gone out and the shore was very steep.


Originally, this word was a bastardization of the Dutch krengd. A “crank” was an unstable, somewhat less-than-seaworthy vessel. Today, of course, it means someone who’s irritable.


These days, the word means someone who’s a high-seas adventurer, or someone who’s daring, adventurous, a swaggering ruffian who’d just as likely kiss you as steal your rum. Or both.

When the word originated in the 1500’s, however, it was meant for a less-than-stellar, below-average swordsman. There’s a change in tack. (See what I did there?)

Stand Down:

This term is often used today as an order for someone to calm down, chill out, and cease an offensive action, among other meanings.

In sailing terms, it means to go off-duty or relax from a state of readiness.

Or, as Will orders Penny in Three Star Island when she’s trying her hardest to knock his teeth loose, “Stand down, woman!”

Spotlight on The Heart Collector by Barbara Russell

I’m very excited to share my review of The Heart Collector by Barbara Russell!

The Heart Collector was a wonderful, lushly-written read. Barbara Russell’s characters are so well-rounded and full of life, they jump off the page. Her heroine, Isabel, is at once strong and vulnerable, innocent and intelligent. The world-building is fantastic!

I especially liked the side-characters, such as Trigger, who immediately stole my heart. They’ve been written to feel real and relatable, not just flat, two-dimensional pawns to help the story along.

The steam punk setting is well-written, also, and it’s so cool for me as an American to read something set in NZ (even a fantasy NZ), because it’s an exotic twist to the genre. The steam punk aspects never become overwhelming or distracting, and it’s clear that Barbara Russell has taken her time with her world-building.

I highly recommend this slow-burn romance!