If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book next year, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our March author interviews: Karen Pullen (3/1), Lowcountry Crime authors: Tina Whittle, Polly Iyer, Jonathan M. Bryant, and James M. Jackson (3/8), Annette Dashofy (3/15), Edith Maxwell (3/22) and Barb Ross (3/29).

Saturday Guest Bloggers in March: Maris Soule (3/4), and Virginia Mackey (3/11). WWK Saturday bloggers write on 3/18--Margaret S. Hamilton and on 3/25--Kait Carson.

Julie Tollefson won the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter's Holton Award for best unpublished manuscript (member category) for her work in progress, In The Shadows. Big news for a new year. Congratulations, Julie.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Once a Kappa" was published as a finalist in the Southern Writer's Magazine annual short story contest issue. Mysterical-E published her "Double Crust Corpse" in the Fall 2016 issue. "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

Linda Rodriquez has two pending book publications. Plotting the Character-Driven Novel will be released by Scapegoat Press on November 29th. Every Family Doubt, the fourth Skeet Bannion mystery, is scheduled for release on June, 13, 2017. Look for E. B. Davis's interview with Linda here in June!

Cross Genre Publications anthology, Hidden Youth, will contain Warren Bull's "The Girl, The Devil, and The Coal Mine." The anthology will be released in late November 2016. The We've Been Trumped anthology released by Dark House Press on September 28th contains Warren Bull's "The Wall" short story and KM Rockwood's "A Phone Call to the White House." KM writes under the name Pat Anne Sirs for this volume.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for pre-order.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Three Keys to SFF/Crime Crossovers By Jayne Barnard


Both mysteries and SFF stories need characters, plots, and world-building. In SFF, the world differs from the one readers occupy. To develop all those elements within the word count of a short story can be agonizing. Here are three keys to cutting down the word-wastage while delivering a tight crime plot in an unfamiliar setting:

  1.  Don’t describe anything about the story’s alternate world except     what’s different from the reader’s default Earth-based mental image. Only describe the bits they need to know to understand the current story.

In When the Tide Burns (appearing in BURNT, Analemma Press, August 2016), the setting is a barge moored in a garbage-packed cove as the wind is rising. This could be present time, familiar reality for coastal dwellers until the fifth sentence. The soapberry wax, all that protected their clothing and equipment from the acid spray, was down to its last sheen in the tin’s bottom corners. Not such a normal cove after all, but one holding a danger unfamiliar to the readers. That one line does double duty as both a world-building element and a spur to the menacing events the protagonist must face.

  1. When introducing characters, only describe what makes the alien, orc, or robot different from an ordinary human. Don’t bother with anything about their culture or planet of origin unless it’s vital to the plot of this story. You need to know it all; the reader doesn’t. Integrate. Don’t info-dump.

In Quest for Parts (Enigma Front, Analemma Press, 2015) we see what the protagonist sees: a scrawny, pasty, generally human-looking intruder. But… the guy stared into the sky-blue mirror, adjusting a knob at his collar with one claw. His face shimmered, gaining warmer tones while losing the sharp tips to his nose, ears and chin. This character has claws, not fingernails, and can adjust his appearance by turning a knob. He’ll need those assets later in the story, so best to slide them into our protagonist’s, and the reader’s, first impression.

  1. Make some element of your mystery one that could only occur in that particular alternate reality. Stories that could have happened down the block but are set on a space station will not be as engaging as those that require, nay, demand the setting and culture you have created for them.

In MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND (Tyche Books 2015), the inciting incident reveals this element immediately: The expeditionary airship of Baron Bodmin, ardent African explorer, has been found adrift and deserted. Its logbook is missing and no clue remains to its captain’s fate.  Only airships can stay aloft indefinitely without fuel or a pilot. Exactly where the batty baron vanished is the first of many questions for which our intrepid steampunk reporter must seek answers. 

If each sentence of your opening paragraph can touch on one or more of the three keys, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a smoothly blended crossover tale.

Jayne Barnard’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in print for a quarter-century. Her first steampunk YA novella, MADDIE HATTER AND THE DEADLY DIAMOND (Tyche Books 2015) is a Prix Aurora finalist. Her full-length mystery, WHEN THE FLOOD FALLS, won the Dundurn Unhanged Arthur Award (Best Unpublished First Crime Novel by a Canadian writer) in June 2016. Visit her at www.jaynebarnard.ca or connect on Twitter @JayneBarnard1

5 comments:

Warren Bull said...

Very interesting. Thanks for the information.

Margaret Turkevich said...

interesting concept! I enjoyed an overview of your books

KM Rockwood said...

I'm fascinated by steampunk (I have to admit I'm equally puzzled by it.) Your "rules" about presenting settings and characters that are from other worlds sound spot on. Thanks for sharing with us.

Grace Topping said...

It must take quite some imagination to create new worlds. I admire your ability to do so. Congratulations on your publication.

Jayne said...

Thanks for the comments and congratulations. After 26 years of only publishing in short fiction markets (mostly print magazines that have long since vanished) it feels great to finally have a book out, with my name on the cover. I am writing the second Maddie Hatter adventure right now; its crime plot centers around industrial espionage. It will be published by Tyche Books in time for their Spring 2017 catalogue.