Bonfire Night is traditionally the busiest night of the year for British fire brigades but the past month or so at Casa Maywrite has given November 5th a run for its money, given it was largely spent stamping out assorted conflagrations sparked by 'Orrible Technical Problems after a computer conked out.

As might be expected with anything connected with the Internet -- assuming you are able to connect to it -- there were times we found ourselves agreeing with Goethe, who declared that the solution to every problem is another problem. But as you see, we finally wrassled the situation to the ground and here we are again.

With our newsletter having passed its hundredth issue, we decided to celebrate with a bit of nostalgia. We therefore present a Golden Oldie edition featuring reprints of a couple of its earliest essays -- Mary's appeared in the first Orphan Scrivener back in 2000 and Eric's followed an issue or two later. Somehow Longfellow's description of memory's leaves making a mournful rustling in the dark seems somehow appropriate....


Imagine, if you will (shades of Rocky Horror) the Innocent Scrivener sitting in the basement, steaming mug of coffee in hand, mulling over the next bit of golden prose, when...without so much as a by-your-leave or a warning creak, the light fixture falls off the ceiling, swinging in a graceful Pit-and-Pendulum arc bringing it less than a foot away from Innocent Scrivener's arm in a budget recreation of the famous chandelier scene in Phantom of the Opera. With liberal amounts of coffee distributed around the domestic scenery, of course.

The light fixture in question is trough-shaped and sports two light sabre type bulbs. Fortunately neither exploded. But there it was, swinging gently in the draught from Scrivener’s surprised shrieks, as visions of the entire ceiling coming down began to dance through assorted heads. Swift remedial action was needed. So while one party held the thing up at arm's length out of harm's way, another raced off for the stepladder. Soon the rogue light was precariously propped up on a stack of reference books pile precariously on the stop step of the ladder, thus keeping its not inconsiderable weight off its wiring and terminating its graceful meanderings.

Upon closer examination, the reason the light had fallen was discovered. The thick wooden board to which it was attached had been fixed to the ceiling material, not an actual beam. Much sage nodding of heads and agreement that it was amazing that it stayed up there as long as it had. A handy relative spent an hour or two re-installing the light but unfortunately the necessary measuring and drilling and hammering upset the cat, whose conniption at the rapid descent of the light had caused it to take cover under the sideboard. After a noisy few moments, it took itself off upstairs in a huff, arriving at the upper floor just as the dinner guests arrived. With their young and rather excitable Pomeranian. So the cat fled back downstairs and hid somewhere in the false ceiling, to emerge some hours later looking very disgruntled and not a little dusty.

Not surprisingly after all the excitement, dinner was served a little late, but at least it was available to be eaten, since luckily it was not until the following day that the water supply was lost for several hours. But we could see quite well to look for it, as by then the light fixture was firmly back in place with several extra screws attaching it to the beam for additional security. In fact, said its re-installer, it was now so well attached that we could hang an elephant from it without it falling down again.

But please don't send us elephants to test his hypothesis. The shock might be too much for the cat.


A shortish ticker tape is unspooling this time round, so at least it won't take long to read!


Geordie Night was trotted off to Poisoned Pen Press for editorial scrutiny on Tuesday. A sequel to The Guardian Stones, it's set in December 1941. Our protagonist Grace Baxter has now joined the Women's Auxilliary Police Corps and is now living in the Benwell area of Newcastle-on-Tyne. However, as our header declares, all is not well in Benwell....


Waiting, a short story by Eric appropriate for Halloween reading, will be published by Kings River Life on 22nd October, on which date it will be the first story appearing at


The spotlight continues to shine on Eric! His latest appearance on the literary stage deals with the difficulties of dial-up Internet access. Talk about irony, it ran in Midcentury Modern Magazine less than a week before his computer crashed and access problems ensued.


Poisoned Pen Press recently reorganised its website, at the same time unveiling its new logo. The site is now publishing in-depth articles about the process of writing, mysteries in general, and the business side of writing fiction. Point your clickers to


Meantime, Eric's nostalgic essay about his grandparents' garden and what was rustling among the phlox was reprinted last month in Texas Gardener's Seeds newsletter. Interested parties, point your clickers at


A few weeks ago I was walking at dusk listening to the sounds of the countryside, the hum of the mile-distant highway, the chirp of crickets, the mournful groaning of cows in an unseen pasture and perhaps the most typical background music of warm evenings in the eastern part of the United States, the trilling of peepers.

It's a sound I've heard since I was a child, coming sometimes from an obvious direction such as a marsh, at other times seemingly from everywhere as if the chorus were emanating from the surrounding air. The tree frogs that produce this magical and mysterious sound are, however, things I've always taken on faith, like Tibet. On a few occasions during the day, I've glimpsed tiny amphibians making their way silently across the forest floor and wondered if these could be those unglimpsed peepers. But at night, whenever I've sought to approach the source of their singing, whatever is making the sound has fallen silent, leaving me to search dark branches in vain.

On this evening the sun had already vanished behind the low rounded mountains. Houses on the hillside opposite my path glowed dimly. The dirt road I was walking still held some light from the sky but deep darkness had puddled along the edges of the fields and under the trees beside the road. As I passed a tree that was little more than a silhouette against the sky I thought I could make out that distinctive trilling, distinguishable from the night blended sounds coming from all around.

I left the road and went a few steps into the knee-high grass in front of the tree. Predictably, the frog ceased abruptly. I took a few more steps toward the tree anyway and stopped to scan the inky confusion of branches, barely discernible against the sky. Maybe I've become more patient than I used to be, because rather than resuming my walk I decided to wait for awhile. To my surprise, after a few minutes the frog resumed its serenade.

Where, I wondered, might a frog perch? I ran my gaze down the tree trunk, checking where each shadowy branch joined it, and finally, not much more than a yard from my face, I saw a movement -- a tiny frog's white neck pulsing in time with its singing. The peeper was no larger than the end of my thumb and I could make out little more than the pale neck but the sight amazed me more than anything I'd seen in a zoo, let alone on any television nature show. For years I had listened to this sound and now, finally and unexpectedly, I was looking at its source.

A lot of things had gone on in the world that day. I'd checked the news on the Internet. Politicians had emitted a lot of words that might have been important if any of them could have been believed. There had been heinous crimes, tragic disasters and horrific accidents that had been of paramount importance to those involved but which, sadly, had not taught me anything I did not already know about human nature and the fragility of life. Glimpsing the tree frog had, for me, been that day's most important event. Usually, it is the non-newsworthy events that are most important to us.

This is why I will always defend fiction against those who claim that it is inferior to nonfiction, because it does not deal with "reality." Fiction, I think, is best when it illuminates those things that are important to us personally in a way that nonfiction, or fact-based fiction, cannot. We don't live in the news headlines or in the lives of people in the news. The fiction writer, in describing the small things that he or she finds important, can shed more light on what readers find similarly important than any network news reader could.

Which is maybe just my excuse for writing about seeing a tree frog.

But maybe not.


Speaking of frogs, we'll hop off into the aether after a brief reminder the next issue of Orphan Scrivener will leap into subscribers' in-boxes on December 15th.

See you then!
Mary R and Eric

who invite you to visit their home page, to be found hanging out on the virtual washing line that is the Web at There you'll discover the usual suspects, including more personal essays, a bibliography, and our growing libraries of links to free e-texts of classic and Golden Age mysteries, ghost stories, and tales of the supernatural. There's also the Orphan Scrivener archive, so don't say you weren't warned! Our joint blog is at Intrepid subscribers may also wish to know our noms des Twitter are @marymaywrite and @groggytales Drop in some time!

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