‘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!)”

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?

Words, glorious words!

At a practice meeting recently, I asked fellow primary care team members to sum up their reactions in one word or phrase to our Practice Safety Questionnaire results. As is often the case, their responses took seconds but spoke volumes –

  • reassured
  • not surprised
  • I’m glad we all think the same. 

I was later reminded of the power of a few well-chosen words when reading and laughing at a scene in Karen Campbell’s novel ‘And This is Where I Am’.

and this is where I am

When Somalian refugee Abdi asks a local Glasgow worthy how business is going, the aforementioned ‘Jimmy’ replies ‘Fair tae pish’!

And closer to home, when a friend enquired by text ‘and how are you?’ I found myself searching for that colourful phrase from my Dundonian grandmother’s rich fund of local dialect: glessy-ersed.

One of the discoveries Mirren and Jones made when collaborating on their first novel Eight of Cups was that Mirren enjoyed writing dialogue, while Jones was drawn more to descriptive prose.

So here’s one for Jones, from Mirren’s current bedtime reading – Your Blue Eyed Boy by Helen Dunmore.

The front door looks as if it’s been shut for ever. The windows peer, reflecting the dark sky, giving nothing out of what happens inside.  A wave of senseless panic makes me fumble the car keys as I fit them into the lock. I won’t look back.

your blue eyed boy

See Mirren’s review on Goodreads for more detail.