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.

 

Grand themes, and specific contexts

Having recently attended Fiona Thackeray’s workshop at Bookmark Blair on ‘Place’, I am now thinking about universal themes and specific contexts. If we look at Eight of Cups, then the grand theme might be ‘attachment’ or ‘mid life’ and the specific context is the lives of six girls who meet at University in Edinburgh in the 1970s.

Our current work-in-progress, Never Do Harm, will then be about betrayal, and the setting – the relationship between two doctors in the modern medical world in Scotland.

Talking of Place, we were delighted to be invited by Nancy Christie who had read and enjoyed our blog, to provide a stop off for her on her digital world tour. She hopes to travel through the ether to England, Scotland, Europe and the World during October!

The theme of her collection of Short Stories Travelling Left of Centre (or to be more exact ‘Traveling Left of Center!) is Fate and the context is people who are unable or unwilling to seize control over their lives, such that they allow fate to dictate the path they take—often with disastrous results.

This collection of stories includes:

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You know creative genius when you see it

You know creative genius when you see it. The authors whose words transport you so easily to other previously unknown worlds with their descriptive powers. The artist whose painting captures your eyes as you pass and keeps calling you back as you try to move on. The dancer who can hypnotise and thrill through a seemingly effortless display of balletic grace and energy. Oh to have their gifts.

On my annual trip to the Edinburgh Fringe I was fortunate enough to experience two awesome performances from singularly talented writers and performers. Justin Butcher in Scaramouche Jones unveiled his creation’s fascinating character during a fast paced and richly coloured journey through his 100 year life. I hung on to every single word so as not to miss a single twist or delight.

Bob Kingdom was Dylan Thomas for the 90 minutes of Dylan Thomas, Return Journey – amazing physical resemblance secondary to the mellifluous voice and his skilful weaving of the poet’s wonderful writing into an enactment of scenes from his latter years. I came out of the little makeshift theatre in awe of both Thomas and Kingdom.

So when Angela Jeffs asked me just recently ‘why do you write?’ I might have answered – ‘Yes, why do I? When I could never aspire to the literary heights.’

Here is my answer –

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Character description: “You’ll remember her”

‘You’ll know her by her brown wavy hair, healthy tanned face and of course she’ll be wearing lipstick.’

Those were the instructions my Western Isles friend Jean gave to her neighbour who was collecting me from the ferry in Stornoway last week. I’d met the girl once before two years ago and she was supposed to recognise me by that description (and she did!).

It made me think about how we describe characters and what we might consider important. Jean might well have said, ‘She’s middle aged, a bit overweight and has ten-to-two feet.’

When Jones and I were serving our creative writing apprenticeship working together and apart on our debut novel ‘Eight of Cups,’ we had not only to create characters in our respective heads but also communicate with each other so that we shared a common perception and sense of who each of these people were.

As a result of that process we developed a very useful ‘Character Descriptor Sheet’ which I’ll be sharing at the Mirren Jones workshop, ‘Is There a Novel in You’ in Blairgowrie, Perthshire on 12th October, as part of the Bookmark Blair book festival.  It’s a light hearted interactive event designed to generate ideas for stories, work up characters and share tips and tricks. For example, we always select and allocate an astrological sign to each of our characters. Research around typical characteristics of each star sign can help us to enrich character descriptions and their actions.

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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”