Lesbian Books, Baby!

I’m still reeling from the amazing experience of Women’s Week in Provincetown, or as I now think of it, the Provincetown Lesbian Literary Festival. There were so many book-related events all over town, you couldn’t possibly attend them all: panel discussions, readings, signings, lectures, parties, workshops. (Although I certainly did my best!)

Sometimes Only a Book Will Do

Books have been known to inspire strong feelings

And wherever I went, I had the same reaction every time: how fabulous it was to be in a room full of people who were all there because we were excited about books in general and lesbian fiction in particular (especially in contrast to the way I felt not so many years ago when feminist, queer, and other independent bookstores were disappearing right and left, publishers were shutting down, and things seemed very bleak),

All week long, what I heard over and over from participants—presenters and audience members, readers, writers, and publishers—was passion. Delight in the joy that well-told stories can give, gratitude for the effect that books have had on our lives, and dedication to creating the best literature we possibly can and ensuring that it reaches potential readers far and wide.

Books have shaped me, comforted me, instructed me, brought me pleasure and inspiration throughout my life. I am proud and honored that as a writer I am able to contribute to something I love so much. And after spending a week immersed in so many wonderful presentations and discussions, I am excited and hopeful indeed about the future of lesbian literature.

Women’s Week in Provincetown: I’ll Be There All Week [Try the (Humane or Vegan) Veal]

I really will be in Provincetown for all of Women’s Week, and I’m very, very (times lots more veries) excited. I’ll be participating in several of the events sponsored by Bold Strokes Books, so if you’re going to be in town, come on by!

Monday, October 12: Signing at Recovering Hearts (2 pm)

I’ll be joining other Bold Strokes Authors (Radclyffe, Dena Hankins, Missouri Vaun, Franci McMahon, and Laydin Michaels) at Recovering Hearts bookstore at 4 Standish Street.

Wednesday, October 14: Reading at Gabriel’s (1 pm)

I’ll be reading (my first ever!) as part of the BSB panel “It’s a Zoo in Here: Four-Legged Heroes,” moderated by Barbara Ann Wright.  Also on the panel will be D. Jackson Leigh, Franci McMahon, C.A. Popovich, Radclyffe, and Dena Hankins. Gabriel’s is located at 102 Bradford Street.

Wednesday, October 14: (Another) Reading at Gabriel’s (2 pm)

I’ll be doing my second reading ever right after my first reading ever, as part of the BSB panel “Chatty Cathy: Readings with Great Dialogue,” moderated by Kris Bryant. The panel will also feature Missouri Vaun, Justine Saracen, MJ Williamz, C. F. Frizzell, and Sophia Kell Hagin. (Gabriel’s, 102 Bradford Street).

Wednesday, October 14: Signing at Recovering Hearts (3:15 AND 4 pm)

My fellow panelists and I will be signing at Recovering Hearts (4 Standish Street) at 3:15 (Four-Legged Heroes) and 4:00 (Readings with Great Dialogue).

Thursday, October 15: Bold Strokes Books Meet & Greet (5 to 7 pm)

Join me (and lots of other BSB authors) at the Harbor Lounge (359 Commercial Street). Stop by, chat, schmooze, mingle, hang out, do the snack and beverage thing.

Saturday, October 17: Reading at the Library (2 pm)

I’ll be doing a reading as part of the panel “Knock, Knock…Who’s There? Readings That Define the Author’s Voice,” moderated by Dena Hankins, along with Franci McMahon, Ali Vali, Justine Saracen, Melissa Brayden, and Missouri Vaun. We’ll be at the Provincetown Public Library (356 Commercial Street).

Saturday, October 17: Signing at Recovering Hearts (4 pm)

All the panelists from “Readings That Define the Author’s Voice”—me included—will be signing at Recovering Hearts (4 Standish Street).

All Week Long: Lots & Lots of BSB Events

  • Author Q & A/Panel discussions
    • Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday @ 10 in the Library
  • Readings
    • Wednesday & Thursday @ 1 (Gabriel’s)
    • Wednesday & Thursday @ 2 (Gabriel’s)
    • Friday & Saturday @ 1 (Library)
    • Friday & Saturday @ 2 (Library)
  • Signings at Recovering Hearts
    • Monday @ 2
    • Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday @ 3:15
    • Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday @ 4

Plus Everything Else Going on at Women’s Week

  • Music, comedy, theater, workshops, films, dances, etc., etc., etc.
  • Check the Women’s Week website for the schedule

Y’all Come!



(Re)Discoveries: The Secret Rooms

I recently picked up a copy of The Secret Rooms by Catherine Bailey, and I’m glad I did. The cover offers “a true story of a haunted castle, a plotting duchess, and a family secret.” How could I resist?

The Secret Rooms lives up to its promises. It is vividly written and allows the mystery to unfold gradually, building suspense as effectively as a work of fiction.

Strange Doingssecret rooms cover

The book opens in 1940, describing the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of John Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland (a prominent member of the aristocracy that in those days still had a powerful—though declining—role in English society). Servants whisper in dark passages. The ailing duke shuts himself away, refusing to see a doctor until it is too late. After his burial, someone breaks into the castle in the dead of night. There is talk of curses and hauntings. Much is implied, but little is revealed. Of course, I was hooked.

Curiouser and Curiouser

Belvoir Castel, ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland

Belvoir Castle, ancestral home of the Dukes of Rutland

The second part of the book describes the author’s first visit to the castle. She had been granted the rare opportunity to examine historical documents stored in the former duke’s forbidden rooms. Once there, she discovered that the material she needed had vanished—and appeared to have been deliberately removed. Her attempt to uncover the truth about what had happened is the focus of the rest of the book.

The Truth Must Dazzle Gradually

So what does she find out? No spoilers, but I will say that the answers turn out to be both terrible and deeply moving, and the satisfaction of accompanying the author as she tracks down the solution makes it worth the wait. If you enjoy history, detective stories, family drama, or just a well-written, suspenseful book, read The Secret Rooms.

Bottom line: 5 Stars (5 / 5)

[p.s. File this under art imitates life, or deja vu all over again, or something: As I read The Secret Rooms, I found myself feeling inspired as a writer. The idea of a modern scholar searching the nooks and crannies of a historic home and sifting through old papers to solve a mystery involving people from a bygone era fired my imagination. This would be a great basis for a novel, I thought. I should write about it. Then I realized I already had.]

Addendum: I couldn’t resist writing about the secret, so here goes:

When I started reading The Secret Rooms, I thought the book would feature the sort of scandalous goings on that are fun to consider when time has sufficiently distanced us from the human suffering involved—say, the involvement of Mary, Queen of Scots, in her husband’s murder, or who all Byron slept with. I didn’t expect to be infuriated and saddened, but I was. Continue Reading (Caution: Spoilers!)

Reviews of Romance by the Book

I’m very pleased to share not one, but two very complimentary reviews of my new novel. I’ll be standing over there blushing modestly while you read them.

Review from smlowry.com

Review from imjustbooking.blogspot.co.uk



Update: Book Signing in Provincetown Friday 7/3 will include 4 BSB authors

Sophia Kell Hagin will be joining Emily Smith, C.F. Frizzell, and me at Recovering Hearts Bookstore (4 Standish Street) in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Friday, July 3rd, at 2:00 p.m.

As I said in my previous post, this will be my very first book signing so I’m pretty excited. If you’re in town, stop by and say hi. And maybe buy a book. Heck, buy lots of books. But definitely say hi.

Book Signing in Provincetown Friday 7/3/2015

View of Provincetown, Massachusetts from harbor

The most beautiful place on earth (Provincetown, Massachusetts, of course). Photo by Argos’Dad [Creative Commons Share-Alike, via Wikimedia Commons]

My very first book signing will be at Recovering Hearts Bookstore in Provincetown, Massachusetts on Friday, July 3rd, at 2:00 p.m. I’ll be signing copies of my new novel Romance by the Book. Joining me will be fellow Bold Strokes Books authors Emily Smith and C.F. Frizzell.

Recovering Hearts is located at 4 Standish Street (just north of the Commercial Street intersection where the police direct traffic to and from MacMillan Wharf).

If you’re in town, stop by and say hi. And maybe buy a book. Heck, buy lots of books.

But definitely say hi.

The Women of My Dreams: Alex, Artemisia, Anne, and Helena (Guest Blog)

I am guest blogging today on the Bold Strokes Books Authors’ Blog. https://boldstrokesbooksauthors.wordpress.com/2015/06/23/the-women-of-my-dreams-alex-artemisia-anne-and-helena/

In the blog I discuss Anne Lister, a real-life Regency lesbian who in part inspired the character of Artemisia in my novel Romance by the Book. However, I’m mainly paying homage to the fabulous, amazing Helena Whitbread, the scholar to whom a lot of people (myself included) owe a huge debt of gratitude for editing and publishing Anne Lister’s diaries.  Over 6,000 pages of teeny-tiny writing intermixed with secret code, and from this morass Ms. Whitbread has crafted engaging, informative books that bring Lister’s words and deeds to vivid life. Apparently she’s now working on a biography of Lister, and I for one can’t wait.

And It’s Official!

"Jo Victor's latest romance novel is great," said Jo Victor in an exclusive interview with jovictor.com

Why settle for reading this caption, when you can read the actual book?

My new novel, Romance by the Book, has been officially released by Bold Strokes Books.

It’s a paperback!

It’s an ebook!

It’s a paperback and an ebook!

“Mmm, tastes terrific.” “And just look at that shine.”



Newsflash: Romance by the Book Now Available

"Jo Victor's latest romance novel is great," said Jo Victor in an exclusive interview with jovictor.com

“Jo Victor’s latest novel is great,” said Jo Victor in an exclusive interview with jovictor.com

Romance by the Book is NOW available for purchase from the Bold Strokes Books webstore. You—yes, you!—can now get your (virtual) hands on the ebook or your (actual) hands on the paperback. [Maybe you should get both kinds. Life is so uncertain.] People all over my house are super excited about my brand new novel, and now you can be, too! Don’t delay—supplies are limited. [Actually, they aren’t…yet. Then again, why risk it?]


(Re)Discoveries: Seven Days in May

Did You Bet on the Preakness?

Triple Crown season always reminds me of Seven Days in May, the political thriller by Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey II. Well, I should confess, it has always reminded me of the *movie* Seven Days in May. Because—shame on me—I had never actually read the book. Last week I decided it was time to finally give it a try.

Unfortunately, there is no way to talk about the book without giving away the central premise, but since the hero figures it out by the end of chapter two, it’s not much of a spoiler: Seven Days in May is about a military coup against the President by members of the American military. It’s set in an imaginary near future (a decade after the publication date), so technically that also makes it science fiction (or if you prefer, speculative fiction).

Alternate History

Chep Morrison and some other guy in the Oval Office, June 13, 1961

In the Oval Office, 1961

Seven Days in May is definitely a period piece. What makes it so fascinating is which period that happens to be. I was happily reading away when I stumbled over a casual reference to Mrs. Kennedy redecorating a room in the White House. Something about it made me pause and check the book’s publication date—1962. That gave me chills. John F. Kennedy was alive when this book was written. The future stretched out in front of him, in front of the whole country, limitless and unmarred, full of possibilities that those of us living in the aftermath of his assassination can’t even imagine.

Reading Seven Days in May is part time travel, part journey to a parallel universe. It gives a fascinating glimpse of old Washington. This is a very small world where even senators drive themselves around and answer their own phones. Wealthy lobbyists host cookouts in their back yards attended by women in spike heels, and men drinking gin and tonics. Everybody smokes. Fast women drink martinis and tempt married men to stray, but only in New York City.


We may not have learned to love the bomb, but we’ve sure stopped worrying.

However, the real sense of dislocation comes from the constant presence throughout the story of the threat of nuclear war with Russia. The coup is precipitated by a disarmament treaty that the conspirators fear will leave America at Russia’s mercy. Although today the hands of the Doomsday Clock are much closer to midnight than they were when this book was written, we have lost the sense of imminent danger that the novel portrays. To really understand the characters and their actions, we need to appreciate that in the world of the story, what is at stake is not just the existence of the United States as a constitutional democracy, but the very fate of the human race.

Rated PG

Another sign of the times is the dearth of violence in the story. The stakes are as high as could possibly be imagined, and the villains are threatening to overthrow the rule of law through military force, but there is no overt threat to the President’s life, or anyone else’s. The only guns in evidence are sentry rifles (never fired), and interpersonal violence is limited to a few fisticuffs. A modern thriller would doubtless have a corpse in the first chapter, and the main character would be fleeing for his or her life before the story was halfway through. In Seven Days in May there’s a lot of sneaking around in the dark and fast driving, but no sense that anyone is in actual danger. When something bad does happen to someone (that’s a tease, not a spoiler), it comes as a real shock.

A Good Read

Aside from nostalgia, is this book worth reading? Definitely. It’s well plotted (though not as exciting as the movie—which is not the criticism it might seem: the movie was scripted by Rod Serling!) and the characters are nuanced, particularly the “good guys” (most of whom are guys—the portrayal of women is very much of its time1), and the main villain is acting (mostly) in what he believes to be the best interests of the country.

One of the story’s major themes is the role of the military in American society, and the other is duty. What does it mean to be a good soldier, and what do you do when you have to choose between following orders and doing what is right? What does it mean to do one’s duty—as a government official, as a member of the military, as a citizen? “Democracy” and “the Constitution” are fine ideals, but if it came down to it, what would you be willing to risk for your country?

Bottom lineSeven Days in May 3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)  And be sure to see the movie.

So, what does any of that have to do with the Preakness?

[Yes, this is a spoiler, but not a major one.] Operation Preakness is the code name used by the conspirators, who send messages to place a bet on the race as the signal that they are ready to strike. When one military commander refuses to make the measly ten dollar bet, the hero realizes something strange is going on. So betting—or rather, refusing to bet—on the Preakness is the key to uncovering the conspiracy.