In the last newsletter we noted -- without benefit of a consultation with Threefer's herd of oracular goats -- that "August is generally when the thermometer soars and headlines in the popular UK press have a tendency to announce "It's A Scorcher" once the mercury passes 70 degrees or so." Alas, as we lurch into yet another week of nigh record heat and humidity, we cannot help thinking *if only* temperatures were as low as the seventies!

Indeed, it's not just William Shakespeare's sunburnt sicklemen who are weary of August but just about everyone else as well. And speaking of Will, we better get on with this latest issue of Orphan Scrivener lest Ariel appear and, with a quaint device, make this literary banquet (oh, all right, light snack) vanish before you've had a chance to consume it.


Mary and I sent Four For A Boy to Poisoned Pen Press a few days ago -- not a manuscript, an electronic file. We haven't seen a single sentence of our last two books on paper until the edited copy arrived. Before the printer's ink hit those pages the stories existed only as electronic patterns in our computers, somewhat different, I suppose, than the electro-chemical patterns they'd formed in our heads but just as ethereal.

That's remarkable to someone who for years battled Underwood manual typewriters bought at local thrift stores. I have to admit it's easier to back up files with a floppy than with carbon paper -- a floppy doesn't leave your fingers black. And the delete key has it all over white-out, which flakes all over everything. I'm not so sure the clicking of the mouse is any less annoying than the clacking of those Underwood keys, however, and I almost miss the clunk -- ziiiiip -- ching! I got when I slapped the return bar, the happy signal I'd managed to complete yet another line.

There's one thing those braille-like old manuscripts (how come the periods on those typewriters were always sharp enough to punch the paper?) share with email attachments -- both could, and can, be rejected.

So waiting for word from our editor brings back memories I try to suppress. Yes, I've read about writers who paper their offices with rejection slips, perhaps because they are motivated by anger, and others who store them in boxes, presumably to chortle over in the future when they have become best selling authors. I knew a fellow who kept meticulous score of every submission and rejection -- literally hundreds of fruitless rejections. It reminded him he was making an effort. Me, I shredded those dismal little squares of preprinted mockery practically before I'd stopped cursing the appropriate editor.

Sorry. I know that's not the "professional" approach. I'm just being honest.

As you can imagine, you won't be seeing articles on How to Handle Rejections in Orphan Scrivener, or at least not by me. The usual advice is not to take a rejection personally. But how can you not? Consider, for example, a typical rejection:

"Sorry, your article on How to Handle Rejections does not meet our present needs."

Notice the sarcasm. "Sorry," it begins. Sure, as if they're really sorry. They don't know me from Adam. Besides, if they were really sorry they would've bought the article instead of shattering my life-long dreams. And what, exactly, is meant by "our present needs"? Well, isn't it obvious from the tone? They don't have any present needs for useless, inept, mind-numbing, garbage like my article. Why don't they just come out and say what they mean?

Some editors do. They aren't content with one-size-insults- fits-all. There was the form letter with the scrawl in the corner instructing "No more grandfather stories!!!" And the helpful printed checklist of errors on which the reader had not only taken the trouble to helpfully check off all 47 available errors from Unoriginal to Stilted Dialogue but out of the goodness of their heart had also taken the effort to insert a plethora of extra helpful hints such as "utterly wooden characters" and "totally unbelievable story line." I'm just amazed I survived so many years of such virulent assistance.

Fortunately, however, I did not heed the words of a science fiction editor/reviewer who liked to say that ten years of rejection slips is nature's way of telling you to give up writing. Thus, after acquiring enough shredded slips for a ticker tape parade, I finally sold an essay to Baby Talk and the rest is history -- or at least an obscure footnote in it.

One thing I have learned is that writers write for those who like their work, not those who don't. There will always be readers and editors who don't like a book or a story. There's no sense trying to please people who don't particularly care for what I'm doing. A writer can learn most from someone who essentially likes what he or she is doing and offers tips for improvement which is why we've learned an enormous amount from working with our Poisoned Pen Press editor, Barbara Peters.

Now I shall begin contemplating the fifth John the Eunuch novel. The thought of rejection is never so distant as when I'm getting enthusiastic over a brand new idea!


IT'S ALL GREEK TO US or A MYSTERY BY ANY OTHER NAME Twang that bouzouki, break out the baklava and broach the 'ogsheads of ouzo, folks! We invite you to join us in an admittedly anachronistic jamboree (at least so far as the aforementioned trio goes) in celebration of recently received intelligence that the Greek edition of Onfer will be titled Εγκλημα στο Βυζάντιο. Our spies tell us this may be loosely translated as Crime In Byzantium. As yet no publication date is known but more on that as matters progress.


And speaking of progress, Threefer sails ever onward with a paperback edition slated for publication by Poisoned Pen Press. Again, no firm date for its appearance but Scrivener subscribers *will* hear about it in due course!


Meanwhile, Time itself courses backward in Four For A Boy. A prequel to the series, it's set in 525. John, still enslaved, is ordered by Justinian, Emperor Justin's nephew, to investigate the death of a prominent citizen who has been murdered in the Great Church. Much to the loudly expressed disgust of the excubitor Felix, the emperor orders him to work with John. Thus did Fortuna arrange the inauspicious. first meeting of two men who were to become firm friends. However, before that comes about, the pair find themselves in a dangerous web of Very Odd Goings On, in which nothing and nobody is quite as they seem. Along the way John also makes the acquaintance of Isis, Gaius, a very young Anatolius and the latter's father, Senator Aurelius. Readers will also recognise one or two characters from later books who appear anonymously but are easily identified by the unhappy circumstances in which they are, alas, discovered.

Fourfer will appear early in the new year and (you are ahead of us) we shall announce the month of publication as soon as we know it.


As readers have doubtless deduced from certain remarks made above, the events in Fourfer play out during the reign of Emperor Justin, Justinian's uncle and a classic example of a man who progressed from poverty to the purple.

Justin was an uneducated fellow who as a young man upped and left his home province of Dardania. With only the clothes they stood up in, he and two companions Zimarchus and Dityvistus (or Ditybistus) walked all the way to Constantinople to seek their fortunes. Upon arrival. the three enrolled in the ranks of the then newly-formed excubitors.

Although nothing further seems to be known about his two friends, Justin thereafter embarked upon a military career, including service in Emperor Anastasius' war against rebelling Isaurians. During that campaign Justin's life is said to have been spared due to an extremely curious intervening event when his commanding officer, John the Hunchback, was about to have him executed.. (This intervention is mentioned in Four For A Boy). When Emperor Anastasius died in July 5l8, Justin, by then commander of the excubitors, was rather unexpectedly elevated to the throne.

Justin was staunchly loyal to his family, bringing more than one of its members to Constantinople and arranging for their education and social and professional advancement. He was married to Euphemia, a slave he purchased and freed and to whom by all accounts he was devoted. Childless himself, Justin adopted his sister's son, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius (who took the name of Justinian) as his heir. In 527, when Justin was in failing health, he declared Justinian co- emperor. Four months later he died, Euphemia having predeceased him by a couple of years.

Hopefully the portrayal of the aging Justin presented in Fourfer provides a closer look at this rather shadowy figure. After all, since Justin set his nephew's boots on the road to the imperial throne, he is also in a way indirectly responsible for John the Eunuch.


Speaking of shadows, even this early in the year the nights have drawn in appreciably and despite the heat the air looks noticeably "thinner" as the quality of light begins to change as summer starts to die. While Robert Frost's plea to the hushed, mild October morning was that its hours be slow so the day would seem less short, like many others we are looking forward to much cooler weather two months hence as the glories of fall color and the fruitful harvest spread out around us all.

And just to add to those anticipated days of glory, the next Orphan Scrivener will arrive at your email in-box on l5th October. So we'll see you then!

Best wishes

Mary and Eric

whose home page hangs out in the aether at

Therein you'll find the usual suspects, including more personal essays and an interactive game as well as an on- line jigsaw puzzle (at least if you have a java-enabled browser) featuring One For Sorrow's boldly scarlet cover. For those new to the subscription list there's also the Orphan Scrivener archive, so don't say you weren't warned!