An Interview with Alice Zogg

We hare pleased to welcome Alice Zogg, author of the R.A. Huber mystery series. Born and raised in Switzerland, Alice moved to New York City where she met her husband, Wilfried. Shortly after the birth of their first daughter, they relocated to Southern California in 1967 where they continue to enjoy life. I have a special spot in my writing heart for Alice, because she’s the first person I met when I wandered into my first Sisters in Crime meeting, and her warm and open demeaner definitely influenced my decision to join!

Welcome, Alice.

For starters, I’m really interested in your sleuth. Regula “R.A.” Huber is in her early sixties, which might put her outside the age range that publishers are looking for. Did you find you had trouble generating interest in a silver-haired sleuth?

R.A. Huber is not your average sixty-something woman. She is equally comfortable in a competitive game of racquet ball against younger men, on the dance floor, racing down a mountain on skis, dressed in a long gown at a black-tie function, or simply enjoying a game of chess. What makes her unique, though, is how she chooses to spend her golden years. Unlike most of her contemporaries who pursue hobbies or join clubs after retirement, Huber opens a private investigating business.

In your fifth book,” The Fall of Optimum House”, you introduced a sidekick. What made you give R.A. someone to work with?

After having read my third book, a retired editor who is my mentor suggested that Huber might benefit from a sidekick. At the time I was deep into writing my fourth, The Lonesome Autocrat, which is set in Switzerland. It would have been unrealistic to add a sidekick to that particular story – – at least not one that Huber could keep in future books. So it was not until the next mystery novel, The Fall of Optimum House, that I created Huber’s young assistant, Andi.
Did you worry that Andi might steal the story away from R.A. when you sent her undercover to Optimum House?
Not really, I had too much fun with the fiery redhead from New Orleans, Antoinette LeJeune, better known as Andi. Also, my previous novels are written in the first person from R. A. Huber’s point of view. With the addition of Andi in The Fall of Optimum House and the books that follow, I write in the third person. This, of course, gives me a broader range; I can now go into the heads of all characters, including the murderer.
With six completed novels, you must have a routine by now. Do you outline your books? And which do you come up with first, the murder or the antagonist?
I don’t do much outlining on paper; it’s mostly going on in my head. I think about the plot for weeks before I actually write my first page. During that time I do research about location, possible ways of committing the murder, et cetera. As for which I come up with first, the murder or the antagonist, they sort of go hand in hand. I have to think up a motive, of course. With the exception of serial or gang killings – – which are not my thing as a writer – – there are only three main motives for murder: greed, passion, and self-preservation.
Optimum house is set in Big Bear. You’ve also set stories in Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, and Switzerland. Do you think it’s important for an author to vary the location of each book?
Personally, I enjoy doing a bit of travel writing; it keeps me entertained and hopefully the reader too. I always physically go to the locations set for my books, which means that I have to find a way to convince my husband that these are the perfect vacationing spots.
You’re latest novel is Final Stop Albuquerque. Tell us a little bit about this story.
Elena Campione seemed to have vanished into thin air. She had apparently left her South Pasadena residence without telling a soul. The police traced her to Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she was last seen boarding the shuttle bus to the Balloon Fiesta Park on the last day of the annual balloon festival. Bruno Campione hires R.A. Huber to find his missing wife. The investigation takes Huber to several towns in Arizona and New Mexico, while Andi pries into matters closer to home. When Elena’s body washes up at Lake Havasu, it is no longer a missing person case but a homicide. The women’s probing into the murder puts them both in harm’s way. Huber ends up in the hospital in critical condition, and Andi barely escapes with her own life.
You’re native tongue was German, but now you’re first language is English. Are any of your books translated in to German or other languages, or do you have plans to do this?
Actually, my native tongue was Swiss, which is a dialect and not a written language. In order to read and write, children in Switzerland are taught German in first grade.

To answer your questions, no, my books are only published in English.
We’d love to know what you have planned next.
I am currently working on my next tale. Huber sends Andi under cover into a treatment facility for juvenile delinquents. The place is near Solvang, California. And that is all I’m going to reveal for now.
Thank you so much for being with us! You can find Alice’s lates book here. You can also visit her website to learn more about Alice and her books.

Is a Web Con Worth It?

Is a Web Con Worth It? An opinion by Jacqueline Vick

Writing conferences are a great opportunity for both published and unpublished authors to mingle with others for camaraderie and support; meet agents, editors, and others who can help shape their careers; and soak up information offered by various panels.
I remember my first writer’s conference – Love is Murder in Chicago, IL. I was floored by the warmth and sense of community offered by both attendees and big wigs, such as Charlaine Harris and Ken Bruen.
Now that money is tight for most people, online conferences are popping up all over the internet. But can a writer get the same benefits over the internet?
I recently “attended” both The Muse Online Writers Conference (2010 registration opens up soon!) and The PP Web Con offered by Poisoned Pen Press and the Poisoned Pen Bookstore, and here is what I found.

It’s hard to beat the costs of an online conference.

PP charged $25.00 which was then donated to a library chosen at random. Muse was free. You can’t attend a physical conference for $25.00.

Socializing takes place online, too.

Each of these conferences had chat rooms or “coffee shops”. At the PP Web Con, you did have to schedule time to visit, assumedly to keep the site from crashing.

Plenty of Panels to choose from

Both conferences offered dozens of live presentations, panels, and chats. The difference is, some of these panels were recorded and made available at any time during and after the conference to enable attendees to listen at their leisure. Some classes and panels were offered in text, some were offered as audio files, and some were full-blown video feed. My preference was the video, and my favorite was offered through Skype. I was able to type in questions and the author answered them. It was as close to being there without getting in the car and driving to the author’s home.

What about pitching?

Muse offered a lot of opportunities to meet with publishers and to pitch. Most of these companies were looking for Romance, and if that’s your genre, you couldn’t ask for a better chance to pitch your book. At PP, there was a drawing, and winning participants were able to pitch.

Will I need special hardware?

As far as hardware and programs, the PP WebCon listed the various free programs you might need, such as Skype, and a high-speed hookup will work best for conferences with live video and audio feed. You definitely need working speakers, and if you want to participate in some of the live panels, you will need a microphone as well.

I don’t believe that online conferences will replace physical conferences, since it’s difficult to get the same sense of community online, but they were both well worth attending, and I hope to see more offerings in the future.

***

Jackie Houcin

But what about book purchases and book signings? I know I would miss that feature in an online conference. What about raffles and drawings and goodie-bags? And no candid photos of myself with Lisa Scottoline, Michael Connelly or Dan Brown? Ha-ha!
And, the food! Now, I know banquet food isn’t always that great, but sometimes the fresh fruit platters, French rolls with real butter, and of course the desserts are hard to beat. (Yes, I know, we can always raid our own refrigerators if our stomachs start growling or we need something to chew on or to wake us up. But there’s something “pampered” about having your meals provided.)
On the other hand … online conferences do allow you to attend wearing your pajamas.
***
I should have mentioned that the PP Webcon did have a goodie bag filled with downloadable short stories, novel excerpts, and even entire novels. PP also gave attendees a $20.00 gift certificate toward their bookstore.
As for food, since you’re in your pajamas anyway, you can eat at the computer and no one will think you’re a piggy. (Except your significant other!)

An Interview with Pam Ripling

We are pleased to present an interview with Pam Ripling, winner of the Golden Wings Award and author of romantic women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and paranormal-romantic-mysteries.  Welcome Pam!

Pam, you write for the romance, mystery, and the young adult markets. Is it difficult to change hats, and do you ever work on more than one genre at a time?


I do, and I find it difficult to change gears—probably why it took me a few years to finish my second middle grade reader when I was churning out romance novels much more quickly. The two genres are so different, and it takes more effort for me to get into the mindset of youth books. I worry more about authenticity of voice and culture with the middle readers. I feel I have much more flexibility with the adult stuff.

Do you take a different approach to the mystery when it’s for the middle-grade market?

Well, yes. What would seem mysterious to a twelve-year-old might fly right by an adult, and vice versa. Kids have a different focus; they can be much more “in the moment” than adults, thereby catching some types of details we would never notice. Interest level, obviously, varies widely as well. I see the whole interest/ability/availability of titles shifting downward. Teens reading what was formerly reserved only for adults, young teens reading teen lit and children and adolescents diving into more mature themes every day.

Your most recent novel,”Point Surrender”, and your upcoming release, “Cape Seduction”, each take place around lighthouses. Where did your fascination with lighthouses begin, and what additional element do you think these unique locations add to the story?

I thought you’d never ask!! I can’t really say when or where it started. The first lighthouse I visited was Old Point Loma in northern San Diego. I went there by myself, stopped off after a business trip to S.D. I was amazed by the feelings that came forth when I stepped inside. From then on, it became a quest to visit, photograph, study as many lighthouses as I could. I even joined the U.S. Lighthouse Society.

As far as story, goes, to me, lighthouses provide an unparalleled setting for mystique and romance. Lonely, isolated, romantic, mysterious, protectors, beacons, historical, challenged… these are some of the words I gather from others when I ask what comes to mind when they think of lighthouses.

Can you give us the inside scoop on “Cape Seduction”? Who are the characters and what’s the story about?

Here’s the blurb: “In 1949, up-and-coming starlet Darla Foster goes missing after the release of Cape Seduction, a tragic romance filmed in a California lighthouse. Now, sixty years later, the long abandoned lighthouse is causing trouble for its present-day owners. Has the sexy, eccentric actress returned to avenge her stolen life?”

What’s fun and unique about this novel is that it takes place in both 1948/49 and 2009/10. The chapters alternate between the two time periods, with two complete sets of characters that are both caught up in the aura of the lighthouse. Of course, the stories converge at the end, the mystery is solved, and the HEA shines in the sunset.

You also write under the nome de plume Anne Carter. Why did you decide to use different names for the various books?
Anne Carter is my middle and maiden names. Since I write for children as well as adults, I thought it might be prudent to separate the works so that young readers wouldn’t go looking for more work by Pam Ripling and come across an age-inappropriate story!
Congratulations are in order! Your short story “Just Like Jay” will be in the upcoming Sisters in Crime/LA anthology “Murder in La-La Land”. Was this a one-time venture into short stories, or do you plan to write more?
Definitely not a one-timer. I started my writing career in short fiction and even poetry. My first publishing credit came from THEMA Literary Journal, a short story I wrote after the passing of my father. I love the short format, so was excited to attempt and then submit my short to SinC/LA. I couldn’t be more thrilled for my work to have been accepted. And yes, I’ll continue to write shorts. They pose a great challenge after the freedom of 90K word novels.
I saw on your web site that you are considering self-publishing a book. Why choose a non-traditional route for this particular book?
First of all, I’ve always thought it might be a lark to self-pub. The working title of this book is THE UNMASKING OF PAULIE BINGHAM and it deals with a long-term relationship between a gay man and a straight woman. Takes place in 1980’s rock ‘n roll, London, Los Angeles, etc. Definitely out of the box, it’s quirky, romantic, and sometimes, tragic. Nothing like anything I’ve ever written, and I’d have to do a lot of research to see who might be interested in publishing it if I choose not to do it myself.
Can you tell us what’s up next for both Pam Ripling and Anne Carter?
CAPE SEDUCTION (Echelon Press) by Anne Carter will release for Kindle and other e-readers later this month and in trade paperback in Spring of 2010. Look for OLD ENOUGH by Pam Ripling, the next of the Midland School stories, to follow. Once I complete Paulie Bingham’s story, I will get to work on the third and final paranormal lighthouse mystery, working title MACKENZIE’S REACH.
Keep up with me at http://www.beaconstreetbooks.com/ , where I blog and keep my calendar updated with personal appearances.

Thank you, Pam, for a great interview! You can order Point Surrender here.