As this newsletter is written, trees are almost visibly turning orange, brown and yellow and a raw wind rustles through their barer-by-the-day twigs so it looks unlikely that last year's spectacular colours will not be repeated. Geese are already leaving, their departure marked not by the tinny, crackling voice of the announcer informing us that the train now leaving Platform Three will be stopping at , but rather by an eerie yelping which when heard during the night hours reminds listeners of folk tales concerning the supernatural Wild Hunt or perhaps Gabriel and his ratchet hounds racing through the dark sky in pursuit of damned souls -- or in some areas chasing a long dead but still wildly unpopular local landowner or magistrate.

Even in these modern times there's something poignant in the air during these dying days of summer. Despite autumn's fruitfulness and golden days, its scattered frosts, cold days and thinning sunlight remind us that winter will soon be coming down the pike. Thus we scurry around to make sure we have a box or two of canned comestibles and a supply of candles stashed away in the pantry Just In Case.

On the other hand, when in the l9th century Thomas Hood spoke of shadowless autumn listening to the silence, he was perhaps more fortunate than he knew. Silence is not, alas, the case today, for whereas autumn has indeed arrived it has also brought with it (as you've doubtless already noticed) this latest edition of Orphan Scrivener, never a quiet production at the best of times!


We've never been ones to toot our own cornus, but we've got to say we were well ahead of the Hollywood pack when we introduced Sir Thomas, the red-haired barbarian who claims to be a knight from the court of King Arthur, in One For Sorrow.

This startling claim comes about because a few days ago it was revealed that Steven Spielberg is to film an Arthurian series for HBO, presenting the familiar tale in a very different light from the well-known romantic legend.

His interpretation could, however, still be described as Romantic in that Camelot will be a Roman fort rather than a towered town. Arthur, or rather Artos since the writers are using Romano-Celt versions of character names, will now be a blacksmith -- a very inventive way of explaining how he drew a sword from a stone, that is, created it from iron ore -- and apparently one based upon the notion that blacksmithing was regarded as somehow magkical at the time.

Thus not only will Excalibur as such not appear, but also there will be no band of chivalrous knights or Round Table. There will, however, be what is described as a "brotherhood of companions", who will be dressed not in courtiers' clothing, but in woollen cloaks and leather jerkins. Doubtless our Thomas, who sported similar duds, would have got along very well with any or all of them!

Further details of this as yet uncast production can be read at the Daily Telegraph website by pointing your clicker at

Meantime, speaking of Thomas, he has become increasingly insistent that he must return in Fivefer. So are Cornelia and Europa so it increasingly looks as if there'll be a bit of a Onefer reunion next time around. Now all we have to worry about is the possibility of Ahasuerus suddenly revealing himself to be Merlin in disguise!


The ticker's been fairly quiet of late, but we do have a couple of news items for you this time around.


Four For A Boy is moving forward, with ARCs soon to be trundling their merry way through the thundering presses of PPP. Publication of Fourfer is set for February, which month also marks the second anniversary of the appearance of the first Orphan Scrivener. How time flies!


The Mammoth Book of Egyptian Whodunnits, edited by Mike Ashley, was published in the US this month by Carroll and Graf, having been issued in the UK in September by Constable Robinson (an eminently suitable name for a publisher of mysteries, come to think of it). Anyhow, the eyecatching view of the pyramids on the US edition's cover entombs a couple of dozen stories, penned by Elizabeth Peters, Lauren Haney, Michael Pearce, Lynda Robinson and Paul Doherty among others. Lurking in the throng, our offering -- Chosen Of The Nile -- relates how protagonist Herodotus solves a strange disappearance involving a locked room, or rather temple.


My nephew is a runner, although a lot faster than I am!

The first time I saw him compete, the course ran across and around the edge of a grassy field and seemed, improbably, to be all uphill, rather like an Escher print. Despite this strange effect, he ran the two miles without stopping. It was a huge achievement on less than three weeks in training.

After congratulating him, I wandered back to the finish line, where the grass was already littered with exhausted early finishers. As I watched competitors enter the chute I was amazed. Every runner doubled over in pain, or staggered, or collapsed. Some were being helped away, crying, faces screwed up in agony. These were not even the winners, but the rest of the pack streaming in behind them.

It struck me as an inspirational sight.

There were no cash prizes involved and yet all these young runners were enduring discomfort, forcing themselves to their limits, just for the satisfaction of knowing they had done their best.

I'd seen my nephew battling his way up the last long uphill stretch, wobbly-legged, face redder than any frost-touched maple leaf. Afterwards, the first thing he asked me was "Do you think I could've gone any faster?" I told him, honestly, I didn't think so, that he had given it his best shot.

It seems to me that most writers of fiction should cultivate that attitude.

We live in a society that pressures us to measure ourselves not by own our yardsticks, our personal values, but by how well we can achieve goals largely set by others. For the most part, achievement seems to measured in terms of money produced. Writers can't entirely ignore the goal of making money. The time we work to produce income is, unfortunately, the same time we need to write.

However, to measure writing solely by the money it might make is to misjudge the craft, to miss entirely its essential nature. Writing is about communication and expression. It's an intensely personal activity.

People often refer to the "business of writing", but the act of writing, translating one's ideas into words, is not a business. Selling writing is a business. Publishing is a business.

I've always been puzzled by authors who treat writing as nothing but a money-making proposition, who pride themselves on being hard-headed business persons first and foremost. Why would any truly competent business person choose to waste time writing? It's hard to imagine any more ridiculous business proposition than producing a novel.

Fiction writers need to take the approach of all those runners who will never win a race. The reward for endless hours of effort, sacrifice and pain is simply to discover just how good you can be.

When I ran road races and lined up at the start with 500 other runners, I knew I'd never finish anywhere near the leaders, let alone win, but I took pleasure in extending myself. To be honest, writing is a little different for me than running was. Aside from the fact that I did not have Mary to carry me half the distance, there is always some possibility that one of the books we write might (like the unfortunate stylites in Twofer) catch fire and leap to the top of the bestseller list. A minuscule chance, to be sure, but perhaps a better one than I had of winning a race, which would have required about three hundred runners to break their legs all at once.

Having written that, I have to wonder. Is it me or the nature of writing? I set out to pen an inspirational piece about authorship and conclude with an image of hundreds of broken legs. Perhaps I'd better forget about submitting anything to the Chicken Soup series!


Even in what he described as his most memorable year Edgar Allen Poe rather depressingly wrote of crisp leaves and ashen skies on a night in lonesome October. Hopefully this mid-October edition of Orphan Scrivener has not produced a similar effect on its readership, especially since the next issue will darken your in-boxes on l5th December, that part of the annual cycle when days are short and night clangs down early.

And speaking of cycles, we must now hop onto our bicycles (as the British say) and get moving in order to send this issue winging out into the aether. See you next time!

Best wishes

Mary and Eric

who invite you to visit their home page, hanging out on the virtual washing line that is the aether, and to be found 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!