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.

 

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!”

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”

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.

Continue reading “Character description: “You’ll remember her””

Let there be Light


The concept of light has always been important to me.  I love the sunlight, prefer being out of doors, hate the dark, and loathe the short winter days.  From a recognised date in October, until the sun begins to return to this hemisphere, I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder due to lack of light.

When it comes to writing and being productive, I can reflect back happily on two months during winter 2011, on mornings spent writing in Tenerife, after a leisurely cup of tea on the sun-bathed balcony.  Eight weeks and a third of a book drafted, with still time to show visitors around, visit local markets, dine out on wonderful fresh fish and walk daily unencumbered by coat, hat or scarf.

The Canary Islands in winter are home to many creative snowbirds, headed south for the ideal conditions to live out their intended life.

Where would your ideal place to write be?

Continue reading “Let there be Light”

The Writers’ Blog Tour

Welcome to the Diary of Mirren Jones – a new stop on the Writers’ Blog Tour. We hope you’ll enjoy your visit, and will go on to sample the blogs of other writers, highlighted below. We are part of a growing international community of writers, working to introduce each other’s blog to a wider audience. Christine Findlay, Chair of Bookmark Blair, (Blairgowrie Rattray and The Glens Book Festival) in  Perthshire, Scotland invited us to take part. (see www.cfindlay.blogspot.com) We in turn have invited the writers Angela Jeffs (Scotland), Heidi Garrett (USA) and Marc Mordey (Wales).

More of these lovely people later, but firstly, by way of introduction: MIRREN JONES is the pseudonym for the creative writing partnership of Marion Duffy from Scotland and Elaine Atkins from Wales. We have been writing together for 17 years: non-fiction books, journal papers, articles, academic courses, workshops, short stories, poetry and a novel.  And we’re still good friends!  Marion currently works as a medical practice manager, and Elaine was formerly a senior NHS manager – our experiences bringing realism to our novel- in-progress, Never Do Harm.

In common with all writers in the Blog Tour we hope to give you some insight into our processes, plans and progress by answering four key questions.

Continue reading “The Writers’ Blog Tour”

Destination – Room 101

Room 101 first appeared in George Orwell’s dystopian novel ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’. It was a torture chamber in the Ministry of Love in which the Party attempted to subject a prisoner to his or her own worst nightmare, fear or phobia. The emphasis shifted in the BBC comedy television series Room 101 from facing fears to identifying and then consigning pet hates to a fate worse than death in Room 101.

Mirren is angry with herself this Saturday morning and has decided to work on that anger by identifying all the things that currently annoy her and then metaphorically locking them in Room 101, possibly never to be seen or experienced again.

Firstly goes that full bag of Cadbury’s Chocolate Eclairs greedily consumed yesterday evening after a hard day at work. No more combating tiredness with empty calories. They can stay there for at least the six weeks it apparently takes to change a habit (Do you really believe that?).

Continue reading “Destination – Room 101”