Virtual Book Tour

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!

Book Tour Stop: On Strong Female Characters in M/M Romance

I have two stops today on the continuing Virtual Book Tour for Sotto Voce, so first I would like to feature my post at the Unabridged Andra book blog, where I got a chance to talk a bit about strong female characters in M/M romance stories.

Not everyone thinks that strong female characters have a place in romance stories featuring men. I disagree, and Sotto Voce is a good example of that. In fact, I think it's safe to say that the two characters in the book with the strongest sense of self—whether you agree with them or not—are the women in their lives.

From my tour post today:

Last week, someone told me that readers of M/M romance don't want female characters in their stories.

I find that odd considering that M/M fiction has such a strong female readership. Whoever these people are that don't want female characters in their novels featuring gay romance, I'm not one of them.

And apparently, I'm not writing for them, either.

That's because some of the strongest characters in Sotto Voce are the female supporting characters, Brooke Clifton and Carmen Sandoval.

These two women have a solid sense of self, and aren't afraid to pursue their dreams. In fact, it's almost a misnomer to call Brooke and Carmen supporting characters, because in many ways, they're the ones pulling the strings.

While the heart of Sotto Voce is a romance between Tom, a wine critic, and Greg, an artisan winemaker, their story would not have happened without the scheming of Brooke and Carmen.

Tom's California odyssey happens because Brooke, his publisher, has plans to increase the stature and ad revenue ofTaste Magazine. She invites Tom to her office under the guise of planning his publication calendar for the year, when she has actually already done that for him, going so far as to having booked his hotel and rental car and having found him a renter for his New York apartment. And the fact that Tom is recently single helps to ensure his participation. Brooke has manipulated him brilliantly, and continues to do so throughout his California assignment.

Carmen Sandoval, the president of a Sonoma trade association, also uses her strong will to shape events. The common link between Tom and Greg—having known Tom since college and becoming one of Greg's closest friends in the Sonoma wine community—Carmen fiercely defends the industry she represents. And while she isn't shy about using friendships to help her achieve her goals, she also quietly goes about protecting the friends and relationships she values.

Both women initially go to great lengths to downplay their mutual vulnerabilityeach otheruntil they find a way to exorcise the demons of their pasts and define their own terms of happiness.

Without the influence of these two strong female characters, the romance between Tom and Greg could never have occurred. So I say, keep bringing the strong female characters in M/M fiction. As allies, antagonists, friends, colleagues, truth-tellers or obstacles, they can add another wrinkle to help bring the story to life.


Interested in winning a free multi-format eBook of Sotto Voce, or maybe a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card? Then stop by the Unabridged Andra blog today, where you can also read an excerpt from Sotto Voce.

Book Tour: On Wine Gods and Topless Pickup Trucks

Today's stop on the Sotto Voce Virtual Book Tour is the All I Want and More book blog, where I got a chance to talk about wine, mythic gods and the inspiration of a certain pickup truck. Be sure to drop in at the blog for your chance to win a Sotto Voce multi-format eBook or a $25 Barnes & Noble gift card.


On Wine and Mythology in Sotto Voce, Or Why Dionysus Is the Hot God of Wine

When I first started writing Sotto Voce, it was inspired by two things: a hot guy in a topless pickup truck and the Greek and Roman gods of wine. Oddly, the two converged.

Long before I had even outlined the book, I had written a short story in a fan community about a wine critic who decided to crash a secret harvest celebration by winemakers, a bacchanalia. According to legend, bacchanalia were Roman festivals of Bacchus, the god of wine, freedom, intoxication and ecstasy. They were based on the Greek Dionysia—festivals honoring the Greek god of wine Dionysus and celebrating the harvest—and were held in strict privacy, and initiates were bound to secrecy. What little is known of the Bacchanalia is often depicted as torrid, debauched, drunken rites.

In this story, the wine critic is spotted by a toga’d winemaker playing Bacchus for the secret party—a hot, toga’d winemaker playing Bacchus.

And that’s where, I realized later, the wheels fell off the story. Because Bacchus, as a Sonoma winemaker once told me, is “not the guy you want to be. Bacchus is old, and the mileage is showing. He’s let himself go. Dionysus is young and hot.”

Technically, many will argue that they are one and the same, that Bacchus is the Roman name for the Greek God of the grape harvest, Dionysus. I think the better interpretation is that Bacchus is Dionysus after 50 years of hard partying.

Before (Dionysus):



After: (Bacchus):

Source: Wine Appellation America

That’s right. Every time you see depictions of that cherubic, balding guy hoisting a glass of wine, you’re celebrating the wrong God of Wine. It’s young, hot Dionysus you should be celebrating.

I got a chance to remedy that in Sotto Voce, to briefly revisit that moment when the lovers, Greg and Tom, attend a private bacchanalia party to celebrate the end of the harvest in Napa and Sonoma. This time, the winemaker Greg turns down the opportunity to play Bacchus.

“I would have liked to have seen you in a toga,” Tom, the wine critic, tells him. “But I think you’re more of a Dionysus.”

And as for the guy in the topless pickup truck? What’s his role in all of this?

Well, the mystery man in the International Scout—who I don’t know, but occasionally see around the neighborhood—is the original visual inspiration for Greg Kennedy.

His code name?


Wine and Love

On today's tour stop at Carly's Book Reviews, I was asked about wine and love...

Carly: Wine and love. They go hand in hand. Both can be dry and bitter or full bodied and rich. What are your thoughts on this comparison and how does it play into your story?
Erin: I fear that I'm going to end up sounding like a pretentious wine snob if I'm not careful, but I'm going to do my level best to answer this. 
Here's the thing about wine, especially so-called "big" wines, the reds that are designed to be opened after they have some age on them: they change. They grow. They evolve. They become something they don't start out as. 
So do relationships, or at least the ones that are destined to last. 
Think of a bright white wine as being like a summer romance. It's light and lovely, full of grass and flowers—but it's short-lived. Sauvignon Blancs, Roussannes, Viogniers and the like are meant to be enjoyed young. You make them. You bottle them. You drink them. They don't age well. They are bright, joyous, summery flings that you enjoy for one season, and then move on to the next vintage. 
But a big red—a Syrah, a Cabernet, a Malbec, a Meritage blend? These wines are meant to last, to age, to develop over time. Try to drink them right after bottling and you'll have a wine that may be drinkable, but feels tight, wound up, uncomfortable in the glass and on the palate. But let it rest for a while, let nature do its thing with that wine, and in time, the wine's edgy corners will smooth out. It will mellow. It will gain subtleties and nuance that it may have only hinted at in its youth. 
To savor the wine at its peak, you have to pay attention to it, and make sure to time its opening well. Left too long in the bottle, wine can be compromised by outside influences and spoil, turning the wine to vinegar. 
In Sotto Voce, Greg and Tom start out feeling a bit like one of those summery white wines. There's an undeniable spark—and a date stamp on the time they have together. 
And though I prefer to compare their relationship to the growing seasons in the vineyard, they are much like that big, complex red wine that's meant to improve with time. Outside influences could have soured their relationship, but it becomes clear that they have something that's meant to reveal itself over time, rather than simply unravel. 
The moment they begin to pay attention to the complexities and the potential of what they have together, it becomes clear they have a relationship that's meant to get better with time.