Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Not exactly murder...

by Carola

CROSSED QUILLS (Now on sale at $1.99 for Kindle or UK £1.34) is not a mystery. It's a Regency, and no one is murdered in it.

But it does have a subplot dealing with unnatural death.

It's the story of a couple of star-crossed writers. Pippa writes Radical political tracts under her deceased father's pseudonym. Wynn Selworth writes spicy Gothic melodramas under the pen-name Valentine Dred. Then Wynn inherits a noble title and must make his maiden speech in the House of Lords. He begs for help from Pippa's father, whose writing and radicalism he admires.
How can Pippa aid him without giving away her secret? Not only is her work politically dangerous, but Society would shun her if they knew about it.

How can Wynn keep his racy authorship hidden from the Ton? No one will take him seriously as a politician if they find out.

Pippa's first suggestion is to narrow his focus from all the ills of Regency England to one specific topic, where he might have a chance of changing people's minds and making a difference. Between them (though Wynn still believes he's communicating through Pippa with her father), they settle on the horrible plight of chimney sweeps.

Little boys as young as 5 were sent up chimneys to clean them. If they objected, the master sweep often set a fire to force them to climb. Sometimes, in the days when every room had a fireplace, they got lost in complicated mazes of interconnected flues:

They often suffered burns and bruises. They might suffocate in a fall of soot. They coughed and wheezed. Their masters were legally obliged to feed them but often left them to scrounge or steal for food. And in the end, if they survived to grow up, they developed "chimney sweep's cancer," later diagnosed as squamous cell cancer, usually of the scrotum.

Where did the master sweeps find these unhappy boys?  They bought them from the Poor Houses and from poverty-stricken parents. Cases were known of well-born children kidnapped and sold into the trade.

And did my fictional Wynn, Lord Selworth, succeed in awaking the conscience of the nation? Or at least the conscience of the House of Lords? You'll have to read Crossed Quills to find out the result of his crusade.

You can start with a couple of excerpts here:



Bill Kirton said...

There's no reason why a mystery should always have a corpse, is there? In fact, one of the things that's delayed my writing of a sequel to my Victorian novel is the need to introduce a crime element (because that's supposed to be my genre and it's expected). I'm much more interested in what's become of the people since the previous novel ended.
The excerpts are excellent, by the way - fresh, funny and with characters the readers will want to get to know. Good luck with it.

Carola Dunn said...

Thanks, Bill. It's been out for ages and still selling in e-version :-)

My Daisy mystery Damsel in Distress doesn't have a corpse--merely a kidnapping! But even my editor was a little concerned when the corpse in Heirs of the Body (Dec. '13) didn't turn up till p 177. However, he decided the suspense was sufficient to carry readers thus far. In my WIP, there's a body before the story begins, though it's not discovered till p. 32 ;-)

Regencyresearcher said...

Love Crossed Quills.
Mysteries don't need a body though murder does often seem to be needed to up the suspense.
I like it when there is sufficient set up of he novel so that we see what the murder upsets. If the murder comes too early before we know the people and the settingit isn't as interesting.
I like Daisy in all and every way. It is one of the few series that has been uniformly good.

Carola Dunn said...

Thank you, Rr, that's a wonderful compliment!
And that's exactly how I feel about when to provide a body. "They" are always saying show don't tell, but once you have a corpse anything you learn about that person has to be tell don't show. Also, if the murder appears right at the beginning, you don't see the change in the other characters before and after. Still, every story has a different pattern, and my WIP wouldn't work that way.

Jackie King said...

I LOVE the Regency period and will download this book for sure!

Carola Dunn said...

Jackie--I wrote 32 Regencies, plus a bunch of novellas for anthologies, now gathered into 4 All Me collections. All now on Kindle, Nook, etc.

June Shaw said...

Ah, interesting. I don't normally read Regency, but you've about make me decide to make an exception. Sounds terrific.