‘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.

 

Bullets – to shoot or not to shoot?

My first typewriter was a portable Smith Corona, acquired second hand in 1968.

smith corona manual typewriter
Smith Corona manual typewriter

I had to thump the keys to make an impression, and insert Tippex paper to correct any mistakes. That was no easy task if I was also producing carbon copies. My most challenging project was to type up three copies of my husband’s MSc thesis  on this primitive machine. By the end of it I knew all about glass ionomer cement and had a stinking headache and repetitive strain injury to boot.

I now find that such a machine is a period piece and has a certain monetary value!  Maybe I should have kept it.

In the late 1980s I graduated to an electronic model. Still a typewriter with inked ribbon, but this time requiring a lighter touch and with the benefit of a single line display.  A chance to review the last few words before they were printed.  A real step forward.

Continue reading “Bullets – to shoot or not to shoot?”

Spring has arrived – rise and shine and write!

It’s a recurring theme in Mirren’s house. Should we listen to our bodies and effectively hibernate in the winter? Or should we push through, toughen up and get out there? We know what we’d prefer. And then along comes a hint of Spring and the lengthening of the days. We wake up with the light, start sorting out the garden implements, and look forward to walking home from work once the threat of being run over in the ‘gloaming’ has passed.

We’re listening to our bodies and doing what comes naturally.

When it comes to writing, the muse was hiding during the depths of winter. Banished by any reasonable excuse or pressing other engagement, or preferably an early night.

Diane, one of the main characters in our first novel, Eight of Cups, suffered badly from the ‘Winter Blues’,  withdrawing from herself and her family and getting deeper into depression as the months wore on.  Here she is in October 1999, entering a particularly difficult phase of her life.

Continue reading “Spring has arrived – rise and shine and write!”

What exactly is a ‘writer’?

When people ask me (Mirren) what I do, I tend to say ‘I’m a Medical Practice Manager’ and sometimes I might add, ‘Oh, and I do a bit of writing too.’

As I begin to think about retiring from my day job, and concentrating more of my time and energies on writing, I wonder whether one day I’ll answer simply, ‘I’m a writer.’

The doubt resides in the question – What does being a writer actually mean?

That I am a published author? That I write books? That I spend the majority of my waking hours creating written pieces of work? Or that other people think my writing is good?

The facts are that with my co-author Elaine (Jones), I have had two non-fiction books published by a mainstream medical publisher, have independently published a debut novel and have another with a complete first draft. And still I wonder if I am a writer . . .!

Continue reading “What exactly is a ‘writer’?”

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:

Continue reading “Grand themes, and specific contexts”

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 –

Continue reading “You know creative genius when you see it”

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.

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‘Listomania’ (including the top 10 attributes in a co-author!)

It’s summer. The sky here in Perthshire is heavy with threatening rain clouds and we keep fingers crossed that the weekend will stay dry. It’s also the season for lists. That time of the year when the newspapers run out fresh ideas to fill their many column inches.

And so we see:

o Twenty recommended activity holidays for families
o The most sought after hotel rooms this month
o And even ‘The Ten Best Elvis Lookalike Dogs‘ (here’s one!)

Elvis lookalike dog

So while we’re on the topic of lists – here is my list of The top ten attributes in a co-author.

In no specific order.

  • Complementary strengths – resulting in something that is greater than the sum
  • A shared view of what makes a ‘good’ piece of work – so that the output of the creative minds converge
  • Honesty – about all things pertinent to the writing process
  • The ability to give and accept constructive criticism – so that differences are a spur to improving quality
  • Flexibility over deadlines and progress – which will be inevitable, and may not apply equally
  • Respect for the other person – for their feelings, values and hopes
  • Reflective – and willing to engage in a learning experience
  • Fun and interesting to be with – that’s what helps keep the momentum going
  • Supportive and positive – you’ll need that when the going gets tough for you

Does anyone have any more suggestions?

And now for the ubiquitous list of Top summer reads. All enjoyed by Mirren at one time or another with feet up, beach or pool-side.

Continue reading “‘Listomania’ (including the top 10 attributes in a co-author!)”

Meet our Guest: Valerie Holmes

Image

We’re delighted to welcome author Valerie Holmes today as our first Guest on Mirren Jones’ Diary.  Valerie is a well-established writer, having had over 30 titles published by Linford Romance/Mystery series, which are now finding their way into the eBook world.  She writes both contemporary and historical novels.  She is also an experienced creative writing tutor, working with The London School of Journalism and Writing Magazine.

 

MJ:  Hello Valerie – it’s great to have you as our very first guest here – thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed.

 VH:  Thank you for asking me as a guest onto your blog. It is very kind of you both.

MJ: We’ve lots of questions for you Valerie, but let’s start with one about the very thing we’re engaged in right now  – Guest Interviews.   We’re hoping we meet your high standards on this with our interview because you’re very successful and well-versed in conducting fascinating Author interviews yourself – you’ve 19 on your Blog (starting in January 2013, at the rate of one per month) with well-known and award-winning authors such as Peter Lovesey and Jo Beverley.

VH:  That is very generous of you to say so.

MJ:  What is the particular appeal of these interviews for you personally, and how do you go about choosing authors for upcoming slots on your blog?

VH:  When I decided to open a blog, I wanted it to be a place that would share inspiration and experience. I have been fortunate to meet some very experienced authors in my career to date, who have served their apprenticeship. Their careers and advice are inspirational and I hope that new writers who read my blog would find them so too.

Continue reading “Meet our Guest: Valerie Holmes”