Autumn is advancing and despite occasional high winds and frogstrangler downpours, the foliage is by and large still clinging desperately to the trees, unlike some years when the majority of leaves have fallen before reaching peak colour. As this issue is written yellows dominate, with some ruby patches displayed in corners where red oaks lurk, but the beautiful scarlet of maples can as yet hardly be spotted. With colder overnight weather on the way it's entirely possible a week from now there will be a positive confusion of colour across the landscape.

And speaking of colourful confusion, Talbot Munday once referred to a foreign city as a chaotic jumble flaunted in the face of discipline, which we feel is not a bad description of Orphan Scrivener, as subscribers will discover if they feel inclined to read on...


Sadly, of late there has been an epidemic of tree felling in the county. Thomas Campbell would get no satisfaction from pleading with the woodman to spare the beechen tree, even though most would agree with Edna Ferber's declaration that a stricken, living tree, is -- apart from man -- probably the most touching of wounded objects.

I for one strongly dislike seeing trees cut down. This may well been the result of living in childhood in inner city neighbourhoods where trees were few and far between, except those which somehow or other flourished in cemeteries. And even beyond their beauty and service as valuable assets to humanity, there are many who, as I have, plant trees for departed friends and family, considering them wonderful memorials to those we care about.

I still think so even though assassin trees have three times directly menaced the occupants of Casa Maywrite.

On one occasion, my co-writer and I were strolling through a very pretty forested area in upstate New York admiring the autumn foliage. Passing along a narrow path paralleling a wide stream we suddenly heard a loud creak, turned, and looked back just in time to see a fully grown tree topple over in stately fashion, crashing down on the very spot we had crossed just a minute or so before.

As Thoreau so wisely observed, even trees won't die without groaning but that creak wouldn't have been enough warning to get out of the way.

Then came the night a split second flare of violet light announced lightning had struck a pine behind our house, leaving the stricken tree leaning not so much protectively as in a distinctly menacing fashion towards the building. So, regrettable though it was, the tree had to be removed. It was approximately eighty feet high, the arborist estimating it was about as old in years, and in a sad tribute to man's ingenuity and the defencelessness of nature it took about five hours for it to be cut down and its remains taken away.

And finally there was the unforgettable occasion during a wind storm when a particularly nasty gust howled in, striking a tree next door at such an angle it pushed it right over. It hit the ground with a terrific thud that shook the entire house. Again it was a pine, but by great good fortune it fell in the only place it could have landed without significant damage to either our house or theirs or anyone's buggies.

While it's sad to see trees being cut down and carted away, I endeavour to bear in mind Carlyle's observation that when oaks are felled forests echo with their fall -- but at the same time hundreds of acorns are silently sown.

Let's hope they flourish, despite representing possible future assassin trees, all of 'em.


Not a large budget o' news this time round, so quickly enough read...


We recently had the nod from Poisoned Pen Press to complete Elevenfer, currently the Ms With No Name, and thus much of our time is now taken up in constructing the first draft. All going well and Fortuna smiling, this entry in the series will appear late next year. Set is Greece, to which, as Constant Readers will recall John has been exiled, it reveals something of his earlier life though it is not a prequel but rather involves how, as is so often found in real life, events can and do return to affect us decades later.


The weekend after the last Orphan Scrivener appeared, news arrived of Mike Ashley being presented with the Sam Moskowitz Archive Award, given for possessing a significant collection and using it to inform others. It's another way of saying it's an award for research. A glance at Mike's body of work shows his sterling contributions as well as his many anthologies. It was Mike who published the first short story about John, so our current series is all his fault given it was he who opened the gate for us. Congratulations to Mike on this well-deserved honour!


Some call them reprints. We prefer to think of them as golden oldies occasionally reproduced to give newer subscribers an opportunity to read earlier essays. Thus Mary's next appearance on the Poisoned Pen Press multi-author blog will not be familiar to those good souls who signed up for Orphan Scrivener after October 2005. Well, not unless they happened to peruse the archive on our website. In any event, Leaps, Foot, and Leaves details Brown Leaf Reed's only public appearance as an interpretative dancer and will leap into sight as if by magic on October 18th at However, If that topic does not appeal, point your clickers any time to to discover a mess o' blogs by our fellow PPP authors. There's bound to be something of interest leaping out at you before you leave.


This morning I picked up extra canned goods at the grocery. We're stocking up for the winter. Being snowed in is more tolerable when the shelves are full.

Driving home I realized it felt like autumn. The sky seemed bigger. The light fell less heavily across the fields and mountains. Maybe it had to do with the angle of the sun, or the thinning foliage.

It was around this time of year that my grandfather built the corn hut in the midst of the soon-to-be frozen furrows in the back garden. Corn shocks lashed to a wooden framework formed the walls and roof. Wheelbarrows-full of fragrant pine needles cushioned the floor. A canvas drop cloth hung from the doorway kept out the wind.

My friends and I used it all through November until winter's snows and winds brought it down. Inside, the air was a still, frigid pool, colder than outside, until you became accustomed to it. We would sit with a flashlight in the springy pine needles, exhaling luminous clouds, while we laid out plans for the week.

By the end of November, the garden was frozen. The remains of the hills from which the potatoes had been unearthed, the craters marking where the largest of the rutabagas had been pulled up, would remain, fossilized, until spring, along with the straight rows of corn stubble and tangles of blackened vines.

When we ventured out from the hut to explore we always found a few enormous cucumbers and a squash or two that had hidden successfully beneath the vines and eluded harvest. By November, their camouflage had withered, and they lay exposed, misshapen, frost-bitten and half translucent, preserved in the midst of decay.

It was in the corn hut that I traded my complete set of Davy Crockett bubble gum cards for some plastic trucks I can barely recall. I had collected the cards over the course of a sweltering summer. That was another world, and what had happened there no longer seemed important in November.

I was remembering the corn hut when I hauled my winter supplies into our house, which is somewhat larger and a bit warmer than the hut. Maybe a primitive internal clock was warning me that winter was on the way. An instinct we humans still have that senses things we can't quite identify rationally, urges us to buy large cans of tomato sauce and extra bottles of curry powder. To seek shelter, nestle down in pine needles, or turn on the space heater.


Speaking of cold weather, not to mention misery, we'll return on December 15th to leap back into your email inbox with the next issue of Orphan Scrivener tucked securely under our arms.

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, our bibliography, the Doom Cat interactive game written by Eric, 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! Intrepid subscribers may also wish to pop over to Eric's blog at or visit our shadow identity M. E. Mayer's blog at And just for the heck of it, we'll also mention our noms des Twitter are @marymaywrite and @groggytales and our author page is at Drop in some time!