Sotto Voce

Where I'll Be...

It is book fair and convention season, and with #RT16 behind us, I have two more signings coming up in the near future.

This Sunday (May 1), I'll be at the Asheville Zine Fest in Asheville, NC. Yes, that's right, North Carolina. Interlude Press wrote up a great post about why it is standing behind its commitments in the state, and we'll not only be selling and signing our books, but we're also going to be working hard to raise some funds for Equality North Carolina, a group fighting the good fight against HB2.

And on Sunday, June 5, I'll be signing copies of Sotto Voce (and maybe talking a little about Luchador) at The Ripped Bodice in Culver City, CA. WHOOHOO! If you haven't been to the Ripped Bodice yet, it's a one-of-a-kind book store that's kind of mecca for readers of romantic fiction. I'll be there with Christopher Rice and IP's own C.B. Lee in celebration of Pride Month. The Ripped Bodice is an awesome store, and this is a great chance to check it out and get some books signed! I hope to see you there.

How Do I Love My Local Library? Let Me Count the Ways

I've had this post in my draft folders for months, and this morning, an email from my local library prompted me to take a look, revise it, get it out there. 

I love libraries, have since I was a kid. When your dad's an educator, there's a good chance you'll spend quality time in your local library, and a good chunk of my childhood was spent in my hometown's lush archives, a historic building that fits the very image of a classic, small-town library.  

I think I got my first library card—pre-digital—roughly around kindergarten. And it got used—hard. A lot of after school hours got spent in the A.K. Smiley Public Library, and I developed a lot of literary loves there—from my still-beloved Dr. Seuss and onward, through those awkward "I love every book with horses" years to Hemingway and Austen, and then Wolfe and Leonard.

In the first weeks after Interlude Press launched, it received a note from a Tumblr-based reader who said she couldn't afford to buy all the books, but had put in a request to her local library. Ends up, it resulted in the very first order IP received from a library—the Carnegie Library, which ordered copies of AJ DeWall's Forever Man.

Since then, a lot of people have asked their local libraries to stock IP books. Lilah Suzanne's Pivot and Slip has taken up residence at the Harvard Library. Sotto Voce is in the Los Angeles Central Library, a personal thrill, because in the not-too-distant past, I looked out on that gorgeous building on a daily basis.

But this morning, I found out that my current local library—a modern steel-and-glass building alongside a performing arts center—had ordered my book, at a reader's request. And for me, that's something special. It's not the biggest library in the world, but it's my current home base for books, and for relocating when I need to pack up my laptop and get a change of scenery. Maybe people will read it. Maybe they won't. But it's there, and available, and I've got a big grin on my face.

So here's my pitch, as a kid who got her first library card at age six: If you want to read an IP book but are strapped for but are strapped for cash, head down to your local library (or its web site). And while you're there, fill out a request for asking them to order the books you'd like to read. If there's one thing we learned at the American Library Association convention, it's that librarians are looking to diversify their collections—and they're open to your suggestions. 

Are you in SoCal?

Do you want to get your copy of Sotto Voce signed? Or would you like a buy a copy and get it signed, or even just stop by and say hello?

I'll be signing at the Romance Writers of America California Dreamin' Writers Conference this Sunday. More than 70 authors will be signing their books from 2 pm to 4 pm at the Embassy Suites hotel in Brea. The signing is open to the public and you don't need to be registered for the conference to attend. 

So feel free to drop by, get your book signed, and talk a little wine!


Sotto Voce Among PW's Best of 2014

I'm going to grant myself a moment of giddiness. Just a moment. I promise, it will be fleeting.

But a year ago, I never would have imagined this. And whatever happens with my future as an author, I will always be able to look back and know that this happened:


Interlude Press novels Forever Man and Sotto Voce are both featured in Publishers Weekly’s Starred Reviews Annual, a special edition featuring the trade magazine’s best reviewed books of the year. The edition, available as a free download, includes reviews of all 2014 books receiving PW starred reviews last year. Of the roughly 9,000 books reviewed by PW in 2014, only 1,011 received the PW Star, a coveted mark of distinction among the books reviewed by the magazine.

According to PW, “A star says many things: that the book is special in its subject matter; superior in execution, ambition, and bravery; that it’s highly readable; and that it convinces PW’s reviewers and editors that it should be singled out in its category.”

Since IP’s launch last July, five of our titles have been reviewed by PW: Forever ManSotto VoceThe Bones of YouChef’s Table and Right Here Waiting. 

One of the cornerstones of IP is to publish quality books that are both well-written and beautifully designed. Congratulations to all of the authors, and our thanks to PW for the recognition.


While the original review was published months ago, this is a reminder of a moment of great happiness, and a lengthy and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has purchased and read my little book on love and wine.

Greg Kennedy, Winemaker and Owner, Rhapsody Vineyards & Wine

One in a series introducing the characters of Sotto Voce.

+ + + 

Don't talk to Greg Kennedy about being the next big thing. 

Don't talk to Greg Kennedy about millennial marketing. 

In fact, if you want to talk about developing a brand name, Greg Kennedy would rather you simply not talk to him at all.

The enigmatic winemaker at the heart of Sotto Voce comes across as a bit of a loner when we first meet him, and it's by his own design. A trust fund baby with the weight of family expectations on his broad shoulders, he followed his parents' plans for his future just long enough to complete an Ivy League education, claim his trust fund and move to the remote hills of Sonoma County in California's wine country.

Sipping at the rich red wine, he shared his story of the smart kid who grew up with piano lessons and school orchestra, who came out to his family in his early teens and eventually declared his wish to pursue a degree in music. He spoke of a successful family, seemingly uncomfortable with his sexuality, who refused to subsidize a college education that wouldn’t lead to a respectable career and held both his tuition and a trust fund hostage to conformity. 

“I got accepted to Princeton, Yale and Cornell.”

“Yale has a great music program,” Tom said.

“And Cornell was furthest away,” Greg added.  

But peel back the layers of Greg Kennedy, and there's much more to him than a denim shirt and  surly attitude, much of which he actively hides. Though guardedly private, the young vintner also earns the respect of his winemaking peers, and ultimately sacrifices his privacy to help his community.

We learn that Greg is smart, caring, a little shy and more than a little lonely in the isolated hillside retreat he has built for himself—as far away from his upbringing as possible. But remnants of that world follow him to California, both in the form vintners from rival wineries as well as an attractive New York wine critic who is trying to organize a competition between the big name wineries of Napa and the artisan wineries of Sonoma.

I loved writing Greg Kennedy. He's a series of contradictions— a quiet leader, a lonely man who chooses to cut himself off from the world of his youth, and a smart guy with integrity who sometimes makes poor choices. 

He also happens to be that hot guy who doesn't entirely grasp or care about how attractive he is.

Greg is the heart of Sotto Voce, a winemaker who is passionate about his craft, and learns to be passionate about love.


Sotto Voce is available on Amazon, B&, at the Interlude Press web store and by order from from bookstores everywhere. 



Brooding Heroes and Why We Love Them

Unfortunately, today's tour stop at Happily Ever After Book Blog got waylaid by a hacker who took the blog offline over the weekend. So I'm going to go ahead and post today's column on brooding heroes here...

* * *

When I first started to draft Sotto Voce in the fan community, there was a lot of talk about the Greg Kennedy character, and how he was "dark, brooding and hot."

Dark. Brooding. Hot. 

Two of those three make perfect sense when we're trying to sort out what we find attractive in a hero. But what is it about brooding men that we find so hot?

In concept, that shouldn't be an attractive character trait, not really. Because "brooding" is really just another word for "grumpy".

But here we are, time and time again, talking about "brooding heroes". And I won't lie—I fall for them like everyone else. 

So what gives? How is it that a brooding man is hot, while a grumpy man is just annoying?

I suspect that a brooding hero suggests that there is something underneath that grumpy external layer—that there is depth to his concerns. And if it's a "brooding hero," it's likely that those layers will reveal something in his back story or in his priorities that make him complex, relatable and maybe even a bit vulnerable in ways we did not first suspect.

That's certainly the case with Greg Kennedy, the winemaker in Sotto Voce. When we first meet Greg, we know him to be smart, hard-working and a bit reclusive. We also discover that he is moody, somewhat volatile, and stand-offish. But we also discover that he is generous with his colleagues, protective of the people he cares about, and yes, a bit lonely.

"That day in the vineyard, when you asked about Rhapsody being isolated?...It is. It was, especially when I was first getting my footing here. I just really felt alone," Greg tells Tom, the wine critic to whom he is drawn, confessing a long-ago fling that haunts him. "He was someone I knew, someone familiar."

And eventually, we find that there are reasons why he has isolated himself from the world, and that vulnerability is what ultimately opens him up to love.

Ah. There it is. Peel back the layers, and underneath than moodiness we find a man we can love.                                       

So for me, at least, it isn't necessarily a brooding nature that makes this character hot, but the suggestion created by his moodiness that there is something more to him that makes me want to know him more.

That, and maybe I have a thing for denim shirts, open-top trucks and dark aviator sunglasses.

Book Tour Stop: Wine, Love, Patience and Change

The second of today's book tour stops is at the Untamed Spirit blog, where I was asked to comment on a description in the summary of Sotto Voce that appears in promotional material: Sotto Voce is the story of love and wine, and how both require patience, passion, an acceptance of change—and an understanding that sometimes, you have to let nature take its course.

Winemaking is not a craft for people looking for instant gratification.

From seedling planting to first harvest can take three years. The crop takes a year to grow, and months to ferment, then more months rack and bottle. After that, depending on the grape varietal, wine may need to rest in the bottle for years before it is ready to be enjoyed. And no matter how much cutting edge science is employed, winemaking is deeply influenced by nature itself: from weather trends to bug and bird damage to the chemical makeup in the vineyard soil.

The relationship at the heart of Sotto Voce is a reflection of this.

Greg and Tom both have to deal with the cards they are dealt, both individually and as they find themselves drawn to each other. Neither initially wants anything to do with the project dictated by Taste Magazine.

Tom enjoys a life that feels rooted in New York, although he rarely finds himself at home—and uprooting himself to live in an agricultural zone was not his idea. Greg, who is settled in a somewhat isolated life, doesn’t trust the corporate interests behind the Taste Challenge to have Sonoma’s best interests in mind, and isn’t interested in the attention that the New York-based periodical could focus on his very private life.

As they get to know each other and acknowledge an attraction, they have to accept the fact that they can’t rush into a relationship until after their responsibilities to the Napa versus Sonoma contest are completed. The nature of their responsibilities—Greg as a contestant and Tom as a columnist and sponsor of the competition—force them to take their time.

Like the winemaking process itself, Greg and Tom are forced to adapt to changing circumstances as they adjust to their attention that the event focuses on them and on Rhapsody Vineyards and Wine. If they find a way to successfully navigate the surprises life throws at them, they may find that relationships grow richer with age.


Thanks to the Untamed Spirit blog for hosting the stop today, and if you're interested in entering to win a free Sotto Voce multi--format eBook or your chance at a $25 B&N gift card, be sure to drop by there and enter the drawing!