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.

 

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”

‘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!)”

An author with “a great face for radio”!

Having worked in academia and in organisational development in all sectors of the NHS for many years I (Mirren) am very familiar with giving feedback.  There are recommended techniques and formulas. For example, Pendleton’s rules focus on the appraisee:

• ensure that she is ready to receive feedback;
• ask for her observations first before you share yours;
• focus on what has gone well;
• rather than count her faults, jointly identify and agree areas for improvement.

That’s all fine and well. I’ve been appraised many times and been handled both gently and harshly. One boss who didn’t like me airing my views in an open forum because they differed from his, almost reduced me to tears when he asked for ‘a quiet word’.

Recently, however, I’ve experienced feedback of a different kind. Not about the quality of my work, or my level of understanding or development. More about how I look and sound.

Jones and I agreed we needed some more recent photographs.  So it started with a professional photo-shoot.  John from Alyth Photography came to the house, brought a flattering background cloth, positioned me so that my best side was apparently on-show and taught me to stand with my body at an angle and my face to the front to minimise my width! I can’t fault his work but I was shocked at the final result. Was that matronly woman really me? Great photo! everyone said. Shows that even positive feedback can hurt!

Kirkmichael Summer Festival hosted a ‘Meet the Author event’ last month.

Authors poster 2014 final-page-001 Continue reading “An author with “a great face for radio”!”

Is the film as good as the book?

One positive by-product of having a foot operation is that my weekly trip to the yoga class, and twice weekly practice of karate have been replaced by several visits to the cinema.  So for once I can say I have seen almost all the Oscar winners in their prizewinning roles.  I can recommend without hesitation The Dallas Buyers’ Club, Gravity and Philomena.  Blue Jasmine was a disappointment.  And somewhere in between lay American Hustle.

On last week’s excursion I went to see The Book Thief, the film of the hugely popular book.  It generated that ubiquitous question – is the film as good as the book?

Continue reading “Is the film as good as the book?”