Sotto Voce

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?


Congratulations, Giveaway Winners!

As you may know, we had a couple of raffles to kick off the launch of Sotto Voce this week, AND WE HAVE SOME WINNERS TO ANNOUNCE!

First, courtesy of Interlude Press, we have five Goodreads winners of print editions of Sotto Voce: Chavi68, Christy, Jessica, Marissa and Rivka! Your books are in the mail TODAY.

IP also sponsored an eBook giveaway on Rafflecopter. I accidentally hit "winner" twice, so we have TWO winners! Congratulations, Becky and Chloe! We'll be emailing you multi-format eBooks of Sotto Voce today!

I also hosted a couple of extra giveaways on my own...

First, the winner of a signed print edition from our launch party back in July, Carolyn—your book and an extra goodie or two are in the mail today!

And another eBook, after the Rafflecopter giveaway ended a day early, goes to...

And finally, our big winner of a wine tour of Sonoma and Napa goes to....

(drum roll...)

CONGRATULATIONS!! We'll be make plans to visit some of the sites (wineries) and scenes (wine bars) that inspired Sotto Voce!

Thanks to everyone who participated, and remember that there are still eBook (and Barnes and Noble gift card) giveaways as part of my book tour! And conveniently, what did I find on B& this morning?

Yup, the winner can use that nifty gift card to buy the book (...and more)!

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.



Thomas Baldwin, Wine Critic

One in a series introducing the characters of Sotto Voce.


Thomas Baldwin wants you to know he's worldly. Or at least, he wants you to believe it.

As the wine editor for Taste Magazine, he has a global lifestyle a lot of people would envy: the New York apartment, the designer clothes, the open-door policy to some of the best wine cellars at some of the finest restaurants in the world.

But is it really him?

Before adopting Thomas as his professional monicker, Tom Baldwin was a strawberry blond Carolina transplant who had headed north for college. He had hoped to one day work for a major daily, maybe the New York Times, but stumbled into the wine business when the sommelier at a restaurant he worked at noticed that he had a natural knack for the nuances of wine.  He climbed the ladder rapidly, and soon nabbed the job of wine critic at Taste, an up-and-coming style magazine.

He develops a reputation as a tough and influential critic, and he enjoys the trappings of his career—right up until the point where his boss informs him that he'll be relocating to California for a year.

While the California wine country might sound like a nice vacation, for Thomas Baldwin it means a year cast out to farmland, and an assignment to pull off a contest that he thinks his boss would happily rig if it meant new ad revenue for her fledgling publication. The fact that he almost has to beg the small, artisan winemakers of Sonoma to compete against the big brand name wineries of neighboring Napa—shouldn't they be begging him, really?—only makes it worse.

The immersion into this world—and a slowly-developing friendship with an enigmatic winemaker—forces him to take a different look at his life and his priorities. It also brings out some of his strongest qualities as he finds himself drawn to the lifestyle and to a relationship that may change his life.

Sotto Voce is available Tuesday from and book retailers everywhere.

Sotto Voce Playlist

Visit 8-tracks to listen to the Sotto Voce playlist.

This is part of a playlist that amassed while I was writing Sotto Voce, and the different styles—from agrarian folk to blues standards to electronica—represented different elements of and characters in the story. Tom is introduced to Sotto Voce while he's still in New York City, and Moby's In My Heart had the feel of his commute in to that first meeting with Brooke. But when he moves to California, the feel and tempo shifts to the more organic sounds of Andrew Bird and The Goat Rodeo Sessions, featuring Yo Yo Ma and Stuart Duncan. And Greg, a musician, is represented by blues, soul and rock classics. There are also moments from the story in this list, from the Banda music playing in the vineyard to Tom silently packing his bags to some acoustic Pearl Jam. 


Sotto Voce Giveaways: Books, More Books and Wine Tasting!

Between now and its release date on October 21, Interlude Press is hosting two giveaways of Sotto Voce! (And because I have ZERO HTML SKILLS, I'll post pictures and links...)

On Goodreads, US readers can enter for one of five print editions being raffled off.

goodreads giveaway.jpg

And on Rafflecopter, anyone can enter to win a free, multi-format eBook edition of Sotto Voce, ready to load on your computer, Kindle, Nook, iPad, phone or other mobile device!

And don't forget, I'm sponsoring my own giveaway! If you pre-order Sotto Voce from the IP Store, Amazon, or any other book retailer (here's one in Australia!), you can win a tour of the wineries, restaurants and locations of Sonoma and Napa that inspired Sotto Voce. You have to be 21 to enter and you will have to get yourself to California (sorry, airfare not included), but one you're here, you'll join me on a day of chauffeured wine tasting and site seeing in Sonoma and Napa. 


Done... maybe.

My review and edit on the proofread is done and filed as of just a few minutes ago. Many revisions, several additions. I'm exhausted and delighted. There will no doubt be some things to review and revise, but the biggest hurdle is cleared.

I now want to sleep for a week, but I'll opt for curling up with a glass of white Bordeaux in my big rocking chair. 

A Moment of Surreal Self-Promotion

I've been on the road this week, living with slow wifi and a lot of mañana in the Land of Enchantment, so thinking about, let alone writing about, the actual business of writing hasn't exactly been front and center.  

But this morning it kind of hit me: the surreal moment of looking at the Interlude Press online store and seeing some very familiar book cover art with a virtual price tag attached: Sotto Voce, $15.99. 

In talking with some of the other IP authors, it's interesting to hear when the reality of it all hits home. For some, it's when they turn in their manuscripts. For others, it was dealing with edits. For many of them, I think it's when they first see the cover art. 

For me, it was the book store moment, and that Publishers Weekly Review that still leaves  me a little dumbfounded.  Despite years of being published in newspapers, or having words I wrote echoed by an executive or a politician they were written for, this is the first time I've seen my name—or at least, my pen name—attached to something for sale. 

It's an odd moment. 

For anyone who publishes, it should be a moment of accomplishment, and of some pride—a helluva lot of work goes into publishing a novel. Yet not too much—there is the constant balancing act of being grounded and humble, of not celebrating too much. It's stranger still for someone in the business of PR, promotions, and marketing, because  for the first time in my life, I am promoting myself, rather than an industry, an idea or someone else's product. 

Something to worry about mañana, I suppose. For today, I have a proofread to finish reviewing and a winery to visit.

Available for Pre-Sale on Tuesday...

You can’t be rushed when you’re making wine. You have to give it patience and care, and be willing to accept it for whatever its chemicals and nature deem it will become. You can make adjustments here and there, to be sure, but nature will ultimately dictate the outcome. There are some things you simply cannot force. A great wine, made with love and care, is one of them.

* * *

New York-based wine critic Thomas Baldwin can make or break careers with his column for Taste Magazine. But when his publisher orders him to spend a year profiling rising stars of California’s wine country and organizing a competition between the big name wineries of Napa and the smaller artisan wineries of Sonoma, his world gets turned upside-down by an enigmatic young winemaker who puts art before business.

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. 

Release Date: October 21, 2014.

Pricing: $15.99 print / $9.99 multi-format eBook (US price)

US/Canada: Order the print edition from the Interlude Store before October 21st and receive the DRM-free, multi-format eBook for free.

International Orders: Sotto Voce will be available to order from most book retailers starting October 21st. Submit a copy of your receipt to by December 21, 2014 and receive the eBook for free.

The Juggle

The next few weeks are all about juggling.

The Syrah, what hasn’t been devastated by birds that puzzled out the vineyard netting, was sitting at 23 brix last night, so I’ll be starting the routine of collecting and cleaning the various bits and pieces of harvest: the crusher destemmer, the fermentation barrels, all the way down to the buckets used for collecting the fruit off the vines. ETA for crush: sometime this week.

Crush is followed by the primary fermentation period, when my life seems to be spent largely in the barn, punching caps and monitoring wine chemistry at all hours of the day and night.This goes on potentially for weeks, depending on whether I am able to pull all of the fruit at once or not, before the wine is pressed and sealed off for racking.

It’s a long and involved process, and it’s hitting just as the workload is picking up in Sotto Voce and work-related responsibilities.

The proofreader’s edit arrived this weekend for my review, and I’m grateful to have a few weeks with it due to time constraints that are only exacerbated by the fact that I have a harvest to bring in. Since my typical work day has been running at about 14 hours lately, this is going to be interesting.