A little piece of heaven

I hadn’t ventured down that street for a year or more. Hadn’t crossed their tiled threshold for even longer. Speed and convenience had won out. But at what cost ?

The room was bright, buzzing with possibility, enticing with colour and variety. I felt a smile crease my face, a lightness invade my being, an excitement take hold in my heart. All my senses had instantly become stimulated in this wonderful bookish atmosphere.

The sales girl was helpful, knowledgeable and pleasant. She directed me to exactly where I needed to be. Handed me the very article I was seeking. And then left me to wander the shop. Oh and it was hard to be sensible. Almost impossible not to give in and buy, buy, buy. I was in seventh heaven.

So many eye-catching displays. Hundreds of books stacked, lying flat, fanned out in semi-circles, juxtaposed to dramatic effect. Some good ideas for Mirren Jones’ book displays at author events in the future.

I instantly made a vow. Never again online book buying. A few pence off, an instant response, next day delivery. Who REALLY needs that?

Instead I’ll be visiting my local Waterstones or Independent bookstore on a regular basis for the sheer feel-good factor. And to see what is out there, handle the products, study the covers, read the blurbs, and with a sensible head on, select some gems for today, and mentally store the names of more for later.

In fact, my request to Santa this year will be a whopping big book token.

And my New Year’s resolution, will be to see our new novel, Never Do Harm on Waterstones bookshop shelves all over the country. I remember the thrill I felt a decade ago when I saw Eight of Cups, Mirren Jones’ first novel, sitting on the shelf in the Perth branch, in-between Lloyd Jones (Mr Pip) and Sadie Jones (The Outcast). We were in very good company indeed!

8 of c perth

Books can sit with other objects too of course. At Court Robert Arts Centre Christmas Fair nr. Raglan, Monmouthshire, Never Do Harm was positioned next to the sculpture ‘Titania’ by Christine Baxter, which inspired its striking cover.  The result was a stunning display.

book display two court arts

Books can even BE a sculpture!

The environment plays its part too. Here we are at St Andrews University Union for Freshers’ Week. A bit lonesome as the only author present. Although Mirren’s blouse does a good job of creating atmosphere!

Mirren in St Andrews

Barter Books in Alnwick, the old railway station, complete with buffet, miniature trains and platforms is a wonderful setting for a huge second hand bookstore. Another world, time out to wander, read at few pages, delight at what turns up – there really is no comparison. (Pity the authors don’t benefit second time around.)

barter-books

When you think about it, online shopping is a very poor experience when it comes to books. Mirren and Jones will be browsing real bookshops from now on!

 

‘Never Do Harm’ – published at last!

Never Do Harm

With the release of our second novel, Never do Harm, a mere ten years after the debut novel Eight of Cups, a new chapter in our creative writing partnership begins.

Once again we will be thrown into marketing, author appearances and social media activity, whilst juggling all of this with family and work commitments.

But the long-awaited birth of a new book, despite the challenges is always exciting and we look forward to connecting with our readers and receiving feedback about the novel.

Although both of our novels are contemporary fiction, Eight of Cups is a saga, whereas Never Do Harm is a psychological drama.  It is set in in the Scottish NHS, a context we know a great deal about, having both worked in it for many years.  All characters and story-lines are fictional of course, although we have drawn widely on our experiences of both general practice and hospital settings!  The book retains the Mirren Jones hallmarks of a Scottish backdrop, shortish chapters, humour as well as darkness, and credible characterisation.

The striking cover to our new novel is a story in itself – one for the next blog post.  It shows an image of the sculpture ‘Titania’ by the brilliant figurative sculptor Christine Baxter of Court Robert Arts Centre, Monmouthshire, and we are delighted that she has given us permission to use it.

The Story

Two doctors bound by friendship, riven by deceit.  An oath or a threat?

Never Do Harm

Hugh is a successful hospital consultant, arrogant, egotistical and hugely ambitious. He is admired and loathed in equal amounts by his colleagues, and humours his long-suffering wife Anne. His lifelong friend Alan is a hardworking General Practitioner, valued by his patients, if not by his partners and staff. He’s on the cusp of burn-out, and increasingly cynical about life, yet still loved by his magnetic wife Simone – a French sculptress of bronze figurines.

Like all doctors, they took the Hippocratic Oath, swearing to ‘Never Do Harm’, and keep it for 30 years. But in private life must the value still apply? What if temptation arises? Can betrayals remain secret? Who is being harmed?

The novel sweeps from France to Edinburgh, largely set in the Scottish National Health Service in the new millennium, a challenging time of intense organisational change.  By turns dark and humorous, this psychological drama explores the meaning of ‘harm’ – both intended and unintentional, and begs the question:
HOW FAR CAN YOU EVER TRUST ANYONE?

Available on Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats and gaining good reviews.

Buy Never Do Harm

Book reviews on Amazon and Goodreads are very important these days and influence sales greatly. Please leave your comments on these sites after reading our books – they will be greatly appreciated! Thank You.

 

Do free books have value?

Perhaps a complicated question!

front cover high resolution
by Mirren Jones

For the reader a free book may be hard to refuse.  From the author’s perspective, it’s a different story.  After all the hard work of writing, editing, publishing and marketing, it seems counter-intuitive to give away one’s books. For the self-published author there will be a real cost in giving printed books away and a loss of royalties for both these and traditionally published authors.  Yet everyone seems to be doing it, and it’s become de rigueur in promoting ebook sales – a way of  encouraging downloads, reflected in higher sales numbers and rankings. So, we’ve joined in the freebie giveaway activity, and taken advantage of Smashwords special promotion, currently running until March 11th.

Our book Eight of Cups is now available free for one week only, in e-format via this link:
https://www.smashwords.com/books/view…

Please share with your friends, and then hopefully they will buy our new novel ‘Never Do Harm’ which is currently being edited (slowly!) and soon to be electronically available.

Transporting your Readers to the World of your Story

The theme for this year’s Blairgowrie Book Festival, Bookmark Blair, is PLACE.

A strong sense of place is important for transporting your readers to the world of your story. A well-crafted sense of place is often said to be like another character in the story, adding depth and a unique atmosphere’. Fiona Thackeray.

I’m looking forward to attending Fiona Thackeray’s writing workshop on the Saturday morning 11th October, as I am well aware that my powers of description nowhere near match my ability to write dialogue. In her writing, my co-author Jones is far more accomplished and focused on the external world than I am and we have had to learn to shift our natural writing styles to become more similar, and allow the story to become more internally coherent.

Road to the Isles 112
Road to the Isles

Having recently returned from The Isle of Lewis where Eight of Cups was conceived and progressed, I am reminded of how important place can be to mood, action and intention. In the Outer Hebrides, the weather and the landscape reduce man’s presence to something far less significant than is normally experienced. It is a place of big skies, racing clouds, beautiful rainbows, swirling and powerful winds, stunning beaches, bleak and silent moors and an ever-changing environment in which any action must take place.

Continue reading “Transporting your Readers to the World of your Story”

Compare and Contrast

Although it is many, many years since I last sat an English Lit exam, the instruction to ‘compare and contrast’ can take me right back there. Knowing plenty about one of the pieces but not enough about the other! Trying to make what I did know, fit some kind of structure. Hoping that it wouldn’t be too obvious that most of the quotations came from the favoured text.

The phrase came to me quite involuntarily this week when reading two very different books in tandem – Stoner by John Williams (a work of fiction) and Where Memories Go by Sally Magnusson, (part memoir, part research and reporting into the effects of dementia on memory.)

Two very different reads set in highly dissimilar contexts and yet the overriding feeling that remains is of having walked the road step by step with the author. William Stoner is a university professor in the 1930s-50s in Tennessee, initially amazed to find himself an academic when he had expected to return to his father’s small farm to continue to scratch a living. His life is in many ways low key and uneventful; he is probably forgotten very quickly once he hangs up his gown. And yet his acceptance of a life full of disappointment and sadness is quietly inspiring and laudable.

Continue reading “Compare and Contrast”

The forgotten bookshelf: my life flashed before me

Image

Yesterday, I had a surreal experience. While dragging myself round a typical Saturday’s chores, I was waiting for the tumble dryer to complete a 10 minute towel softening stint, when my eye was caught by an adjacent bookshelf. My tumble dryer is located in a cupboard on the upstairs landing – a multi-purpose storage area, home to a mini Chinese laundry, innumerable boxes of family photos, a spare uncomfortable futon for the foolhardy who’ve imbibed one too many, and loads of books gathered over the years, and shelved in no particular order.  Or are they? I was taken aback, and taken back through the years by an apparently random shelf of books which seemed to encapsulate the key periods and interests of my lifetime.

Heidi by Joanna Spyri – the mountains in summer, the wildflowers, the alpine hut, sleeping on a bed of straw.  It was a far cry from a life in a Dundee suburb, one of my very first loves and prompted a detour to visit  Heidi-land while in Switzerland a few years ago.

Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon – a school reader, and the first novel to touch an invisible place where roots, primeval attachment and a burgeoning sense of identity lay. One of the few books I have returned to several times over the years.

Across the Great Divide  by Jim Wilkie – a history of professional football in Dundee, evoking memories of pride, excitement and quality time spent at Dens Park with my late father every second Saturday from age 10 to 18.

Everything Elvis by Helen Clutton – the book of facts I could probably have written myself such was my appetite for all things Elvis from the days of Blue Hawaii onwards!  Very useful on quiz nights. Continue reading “The forgotten bookshelf: my life flashed before me”

Lasting impressions

Mirren and Jones frequently post reviews on Goodreads. Sometimes it is weeks after finishing a book that we get round to expressing our views, and it is interesting to reflect on that process. Speaking for myself (Mirren), I often find that I am left with a lasting impression rather than an accurate memory of the content of a novel, and want to express that impression in terms of a feeling or emotional memory. For example, Helen Dunmore’s book ‘Your Blue Eyed Boy’ has an arresting prologue. Its words captured my interest and imagination immediately, and that gut response has remained with me. Here is what she had to say about blackmail.

Blackmail doesn’t work the way I always thought it would, if I ever gave it a thought. It doesn’t smash through the clean pane of life like a stone through a window. It’s always an inside job, the most intimate of crimes. Somebody in the house has left that little window open, just a snick. The person who leaves it open doesn’t know why. Or else doesn’t want to know. From outside a hand reaches into the gap, and the window creaks wide. Cold air comes rushing in. I see that hand now, each time I shut my eyes to sleep.

In our second novel (in-progress), Never Do Harm, we have tried to grab the reader’s interest and create commitment to read further with our introductory chapter. See what you think. Here are the first few lines as a taster.

It’s an everyday situation for her.
A bar.
A man.
A drink.
Again and again until demand, or luck, runs out.

Today it’s the same bar as yesterday. Bar Caravelle on Rue de la Partigon. Nothing fancy. And it’s the same drink as yesterday too – vodka, with just a splash of water. It warms her up, and after a few she begins to feel numb, and that’s good, it helps with whatever follows.

Would that tempt you to read more?