This issue of Orphan Scrivener arrives not so much trailing clouds of glory as dragging along a fog of dust, for summer is a-coming in, and if you had any doubts about it perhaps you might care to glance out of your window and observe the local youngsters celebrating their two months or so of freedom in assorted and sundry (or in some areas, sun-dried) ways.

School's out and so is this newsletter, so we'll leap right into the fray.


Occasionally I find myself wondering if those eternal motion machines that are the young ever pause long enough to contemplate the enjoyable sight of the lengthy vista of days -- nay, weeks -- stretching out before them when the summer holidays finally begin.

Why, the time rolling out ahead seemed endless to us when school was at last out, with those menacing back-to-school sales so far away at the other end of the summer as to be easily ignored -- and just as well since once they arrived we would have to get the number 4 bus into town to buy school supplies and new tennis shoes, which in turn meant that the new term was not far off and thus soon it would be time to drag ourselves off to the grey Victorian building in which we laboured, to again wrestle with French verbs, toil over geometry exercises and try to recall the names of all the Hanoverian rulers in the correct order -- all these tasks being carried in that strange chalk-and-old- books atmosphere that seemed to permeate every school in which I ever set foot.

Thinking on it now reminds me that my last school holiday was largely spent sprawled on my bed devouring cookers (cooking apples) so tart my teeth almost shrank from them as I chewed away while reading as many books as I could borrow from the library. It was a particularly hot summer that year and our fashionable frou-frou sponge-skirted petticoats ensured that those of us who considered ourselves trendy suffered mightily for the privilege. But the unaccustomed heat -- for when it's above 72 degrees in England, it's inevitably described in the media as A Scorcher -- made my shady room, the pile of green, shiny-skinned cookers and the even larger stack of books with covers of all colours even more attractive to one who was already a bookworm and fruit-lover. The noise of the neighbours' children playing all over the roadway -- despite living in houses with hanky-sized gardens that were nonetheless large enough to allow games of Traffic Lights or Statues or Tag without any risk of getting run over by the mobile fish and chip shop or a passing coal lorry -- was easily ignored, even though our windows were wide open to whatever breeze might meander in, bringing with it the scent of the two small lilac trees growing by the corner of the house.

Because even if those kids had spent their entire summer practicing playing euphoniums outside our front door, I should have taken no notice at all -- I had flown off on the magic carpet of books and would not be back until teatime. And so those long, golden afternoons unwound to the gentle rustle of pages turning and the piling up of apple gowks (cores) until it was time for tea. And when the washing up was done, the tea-towel hung up to dry and the plates and cups and cutlery put away again, there would still be time for a chapter or two or more to be read as shadows started to advance, shrouding the raspberry canes in the back garden and fingering the windows. Soon there would come that strange hush that creeps in between the time when workers arrive home for their evening meals and when they go out for the evening. Every night that quiet calm fell around the house like a kindly mantle and while it was true that, to the despair of my parents, I would probably be found in the kitchen at midnight frying up bacon and eggs, still I knew that tomorrow would proceed at the same slow pace, and the next day, and the day after that as well.

But it was recalling that this would be my last long summer holiday before I joined the work world that really added to its strange enchantment and, I think, to the sense that time was flying, bearing us all along willy-nilly faster and faster towards adulthood. It all seems dreamlike and far away now.


Just a couple of short items this time around but hopefully they'll still of some interest.


We've now received publication details for the sixth John story listed in the last Necessary Evil. As we mentioned last time, And All That He Calls Family is set to appear in Mike Ashley's THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF HISTORICAL WHODUNNITS: A NEW COLLECTION. The anthology will be published in August by Robinson in the UK and Carroll and Graf will issue the US edition as THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF MORE HISTORICAL WHODUNNITS in October.

As to our contribution, this time around John arrives at the estate of a recently deceased personage to investigate a curse tablet dredged up from the well-- and discovers that some rather odd goings-on are, well, going on. Admirers of the herbalist Hypatia may be interested to hear that she also appears in this short story, by the way.


Not long after the last Orphan Scrivener went out into the aether, we were delighted to hear that Twofer was a finalist for the 2001 Best Mystery/Thriller/Suspense IPPY (Independent Publisher Book Award). The Ippy for this category went to Tracon (Paul McElroy) and the other finalist was Bleeding Out (Baxter Clare). As historical mysteries do seem to tend to be rather overlooked, we are happy indeed that Twofer was named in such interesting company. A complete listing of winners and finalists in all IPPY categories can be found by pointing your clicker at database=18news.fp3&-layout=iparticle&-response=art.lasso&- recID=37873&-search


Since the last newsletter Mary and I sent Three For A Letter to Poisoned Pen Press. We wished to make the third John the eunuch mystery a bit different from the first two and I suppose I'm still too close to the task to tell how well we succeeded.

One thing I am sure of is that the writing was arduous, more so for me, than the writing of One For Sorrow or Two For Joy. It seems every time I learn a bit about an aspect of writing I learn there's something else I should've been thinking about as well but never bothered with before. Transitions? Don't they just kind of...happen?

The increasing difficulty of the job surprises me because I always imagined writing would naturally get easier -- just another of many misconceptions I nurtured, along with my dream of being an author, practically since I could hold a crayon. That's plenty of time to grow a fine crop of misconceptions.

In particular I underestimated how much plain hard work is involved once you begin to write professionally. An aspiring author might take half a lifetime to produce a publishable novel but then, in most cases, he or she (or they) have to do it all over again -- in the space of a year. Then they repeat the process the next year, and the next...if they are fortunate enough to have the opportunity.

Writing is, I think, more like a job than matching the winning numbers on a lottery ticket. Sure, we read in the newspaper about Joe Shmoe who wrote that gripping page- turner "Flaming Pizza of Desire" while scrubbing pans at the Greasy Spoon Diner and then, practically before he had bundled his handwritten manuscript off to a Major New York Literary Agency, was drying his fingers on a contract for more then the gross national product of Paraguay. But we also read on the same page about John Shmoe of Cat's Elbow Corners who just won $25,000,000 on the Lotto.

First-time authors have been known to get mega-bucks deals and, hey, someone's got to win the lottery. But while few would argue that buying lottery tickets is a viable career path, one occasionally sees aspiring authors whose thought is that nothing will do but they will write an instant bestseller. Is a thriller about a lawyer embroiled with middle eastern terrorists while on an expedition to Mount Everest climbing the Bestseller Lists? Then it's time to bone up on crampons and falafel and get writing!

Fortunately, Mary and I never entertained the notion that writing is a lottery. We went about it like any other job, starting small -- or I should say short -- by writing stories for anthologies and magazines. After we had a better idea of what we were doing, we wrote a "practice" mystery novel, to prove we could write at that length, made an effort to sell it in line with our expectations of a sale (small), did not succeed and moved right on to writing One For Sorrow. When it was completed we queried here and there but quickly decided we'd have a better chance of being noticed by an independent publisher.

After Poisoned Pen Press bought the manuscript we reworked it as needed under the guidance of our editor Barbara Peters and in the process learned a lot that an editor at a Big Publisher could never have taken time to try to teach a pair of novice novelists. Then we applied the lessons to Two For Joy, which sold well, had even better reviews than One For Sorrow and has actually won an award!

And now we've just finished Three For A Letter.

Will we ever have a bestseller? With a Byzantine eunuch as a protagonist, only if the general population has the discerning taste of those of you reading this newsletter.

Will we continue to work at our craft and gain a larger audience? We certainly hope so.

Writing isn't really about hitting the jackpot. Rather it is about knowing that readers are enjoying your work. Mary occasionally visits library web pages so we know our books are on library shelves all over the country -- in Schenectady, NY; Stillwater, OK; LaGrange, IL; Osh Kosh, WI. There's a library in Alaska that has Two For Joy and it's currently checked out!

It amazes me, the idea of our book, sitting on the shelf of some distant library in a place I've never seen. When I was a kid, it was visiting the library that hooked me on books, on the magic of the bound pages that would transport me to other worlds and allow me to lead other lives.

It is still magical but now we give back, just a little, to the magic.


As this newsletter grows longer and time gets shorter, may we then conclude by mentioning in passing that this link

will take you to Poisoned Pen's Threefer page, and yes, John' s adventure really does feature a herd of fortune-telling goats as well as a whale. Well, we said it would be somewhat different from the first two books!

Speaking of two, we'll see you again in a couple of months as the next Orphan Scrivener will trundle in from the aether. and hang about in your email in-box on August l5th.

Best wishes
Mary and Eric

whose home page lurks about at

Therein you'll find the usual suspects plus more personal essays, an interactive game and an on-line jigsaw puzzle (at least for those who have java-enabled browsers) featuring One For Sorrow's striking cover. We've also just added a page listing mystery-related newsletters of various kinds, while for those new to the subscription list there's the Orphan Scrivener archive, so don't say you weren't warned!

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