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Sunday, 1 January 2017

Happy New Year

I said it at the beginning of my Christmas post - Where has the year gone? and I'm saying it again. But, it's now time to stop wondering about that in order to look forward to 2017 and make our resolutions.

Resolution 1: Send my nonfiction book 'Nuts & Bolts of Self-Publishing' off to be published before the end of January. It should be a piece of cake (I hope), the first draft is complete, the cover designer geared to go, and there's only the editing! Groan! That could take forever.

Resolution 2: Finish writing my next Kirsty Campbell mystery, Bloody Murder, I'm five chapters in. It should be a piece of cake (I hope). I'm being optimistic here because it all depends on Kirsty and whether she'll share the story with me.

Resolution 3: Promote and market my books more. Nah! That won't work. I'm not very good at the 'Buy my Book' spiel, nor would I want to be because I write my books for the pleasure of writing, and the pleasure of pleasing my readers. So, scrap that resolution.

In the meantime, Happy New Year to you all and I wish you joy and success over the coming year.

Chris Longmuir

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Christmas is acoming

Where has the year gone? Christmas is almost here and it only seems yesterday we were basking in the summer sun, and I could have sworn it was no time at all when we ate last year’s Christmas dinner.

But the Christmas cards are thumping through the door, the Christmas tree is up – not mine, my son and daughter-in-law’s tree. Christmas lights twinkle merrily outside several doors in our street and I’m trying hard to get into the festive mood.

Oh, my cards, calendars, and parcels are posted. The paper for the Christmas day presents is looked out, maybe I should wrap them tonight. The pre-Christmas lunches have come and gone. But, there’s something missing! Yes, you’ve guessed it. My husband passed away eleven years ago and, as well as being a joyous time, Christmas is also a sad time, and the house feels empty.

But he wouldn’t have wanted me to be sad, so I do what I usually do, give myself a shake and count my blessings.

I have a wonderful family and I’ll be eating Christmas dinner with my son and daughter-in-law at their house, as well as New Year’s Day dinner. My granddaughter is brilliant. she looks out for me and shares her life with me. I’ve had a successful year. I now have seven books published and another two incubating. My new book Devil’s Porridge has been well received and readers seem to like it.

I’m feeling better already.

Happy Christmas everyone, and I hope you get lots of goodies, particularly books in your Christmas stocking.

Chris Longmuir

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Christmas Offer: And you don’t have to kill to get it

I think there must be a blue moon at the moment, because I never, I repeat never, do free offers. But I have one for you this Christmas. It’s free copy of the first book in the Dundee Crime Series, Night Watcher, but the offer only lasts until the 18th so you’ll have to be quick. Click the link to get Night Watcher Nearly forgot to say there are other thrillers there as well and they're all free.

Happy Christmas everyone, and I hope you get lots of goodies, particularly books in your Christmas stocking.

Chris Longmuir

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Chill with a Book AWARD by Pauline Barclay

I’ve been a follower of the Chill with a Book blog since it first started. Pauline Barclay who created the blog is someone who loves books, and she provides the most wonderful support to all authors. So, when I noticed she had started a new award scheme on her blog, I felt impelled to share this with all my followers.

Exclusive to indie authors and authors with small indie publishers, a new Award initiative from Chill with a Book is designed to promote the best from indie authors.

Founder and award-winning author, Pauline Barclay explains about the new Award, “We all know anyone can publish a book these days, and many do! Sadly not all are well written, have been edited or are structured. Unlike traditional publishing, there are no gatekeepers to decide whether a MSS is acceptable for publication for indie authors, which means anything can be published.  And, whilst there are some questionable publications on the market, there are also brilliant publications too by indie authors, and that is why Chill with a Book has created an Award. I want Chill with a Book Award not only to gain a reputation for recognising the best for indie authors but for authors to feel proud and honoured to receive the accolade. However, the Award is not for everyone, it will only be honoured to the best.

How the process works:

Once a title has been accepted for consideration it will be read by a number of Chill’s readers and checked against the following criteria…

Were the characters strong and engaging?
Was the book well written?
Did the plot have you turning the page to find out what happened next?
Was the ending satisfying?
Have you told your friends about it?

Readers have clear instructions on how to arrive at their evaluation.

Authors must understand that a book accepted for consideration for a Chill with a Book AWARD does not guarantee it will receive the AWARD.

Authors of books accepted for consideration for the AWARD will be notified directly whatever the final decision.

Awarded books will be promoted on Chill with a Book’s website, Chill's Pinterest board, Chill's Facebook page and Twitter

A small fee of £16 is payable for each book accepted for consideration via Paypal (the fee is for the purchase of Kindle copies for readers and any balance left used to maintain Chill’s website and the Award programme)

There are limited places each month for books to be considered and if you are interested in submitting your title, please email Pauline at in the first instance.

Chill with a Book’s decisions to accept or reject a book for consideration is final.
Chill with a Book's decision to award a book or not is final.

“There is no doubt it is an exciting time for Chill with a Book and indie authors and I look forward to seeing great, well-written reads sporting the coveted Chill with a Book Award button on every bookshelf.”

For more information about Chill with a Book, its Award programme and indie authors honoured, click on the following links:
Chris Longmuir

Monday, 26 September 2016

Gretna and Eastriggs: Home of Devil’s Porridge

Prior to the First World War, the townships of Gretna and Eastriggs did not exist. The name Gretna, however, with its associations with the village of Gretna Green, famous for over the anvil weddings, gives the impression that Gretna is an old-established town. But Gretna Green is situated 1.2 miles further north of the newer township of Gretna.
Blacksmiths Shop Gretna Green
When the Ministry of Munitions built HM Factory Gretna, it quickly became obvious that the accommodation available in the area would not be sufficient to accommodate the thousands of workers required to manufacture the munitions. As a result, two complete townships were built by the Ministry to service the factory and house the workforce. Eastriggs was built on a 173-acre site, while Gretna’s site occupied 431 acres. There were over 1,000 permanent cottages built on these sites by the end of the war.

Eastriggs serviced the Dornock area of the factory and is 4.5 miles west of Gretna, although many of the munitionettes lived in the Gretna hostels and travelled daily to either the Dornock site in the west or the eastern Mossband site over the border in England.

Gordon L Routledge, in Gretna’s Secret War, says “Where before there were only a few farmhouses, suddenly there was a city of 20,000 factory workers and their families under the control of the Ministry of Munitions. In addition to huts for their accommodation, clubs, refreshment rooms, churches, and other buildings were erected for their benefit.”

Many of the buildings in Gretna were made of wood, temporary homes for temporary workers, and it was soon nicknamed Timbertown. The wooden houses, set out like a military grid, contained between three to five rooms and were for families or groups. However, there were also larger brick-built hostels used mainly for unmarried women as well as some permanent cottages for families. However, while the temporary hostel accommodation in Gretna and Eastriggs housed around 19,000 single male and female workers, the purpose-built permanent cottages provided space for only 550 families.
Gretna - Timber Town (apologies for the quality)
All the hostels were named after military leaders and famous people. Wellington, Kitchener, and Wolfe were situated on Victory Avenue and Burnside Road as was The Pensions Hospital, and the Maternity House Hostel. Clive and Gordon Hostels were on Central Avenue, while Mary Queen of Scots Hostel, which features in Devil’s Porridge, was located on Dominion Road. The hostels in Victory Avenue were all the larger brick-built ones, but the buildings in Dominion Road were wooden. Likewise, the women police were based in a large wooden hostel.
Central Avenue, Gretna
Both Eastriggs and Gretna were self-sufficient, providing everything needed within a town. For example, Gretna Township’s facilities included a central shopping area, a cinema, a dance hall and concert hall, churches, schools, bank, post office, bakery, laundry, assembly halls, sports grounds, hotels and clubs. It even had its own railway station.
The munitions workers travelled by train to their work areas
The Ministry of Munitions controlled all the towns in the area including Carlisle, and they imposed draconian measures to curb drinking which applied to all hotels and public houses. This included early closing times, no drinks served without meals, and no treating. It was an offence to buy someone else a drink.

There was nowhere else in Britain quite like Gretna Munitions Factory and the surrounding area. This was why it made it such a fascinating setting for Devil’s Porridge, my new Kirsty Campbell Mystery novel.

Chris Longmuir
You can buy Devil’s Porridge here:

If you would like a free short story featuring DS Bill Murphy from my popular Dundee Crime Series then click the image or visit my website to fill in the form to tell me where to send it.
Meet Bill Murphy long before he became a policeman. Get a taste of the child that made the man.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Bloody Scotland Photo Gallery

Scotland's International Crime Festival which has been dedicated this year to the memory of William McIlvanney, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Not only is the festival dedicated in his honour, but so too is the Scottish crime Book of the Year Award, now named The McIlvanney Prize.

Stuart MacBride and Caro Ramsay opened the crime festival with their own distinctive brands of humour which left the festival goers wanting more.

They were followed by the hilarious, if somewhat, foul-mouthed duo, Mark Billingham, and Chris Brookmyre. As an aside, Chris won the McIlvanney Prize, and will go down in history as the first recipient.

Chris and Mark sneaking off the stage before anyone has a chance to ask for a refund.

Scotland the Grave was hilarious as each author defended their own part of the country. Catriona McPherson fought the corner for Galloway, Douglas Skelton threatened everyone with a police cosh in an effort to come out ahead of the others, Gillian Galbraith thought Edinburgh was the best crime location, and Russel D McLean defended Dundee. He's a nice lad, Russel. He gave me a shout out by saying he was the only crime writer writing about Dundee until Chris Longmuir (me) came along a couple of years later and then said very complimentary things about my books which I'm too modest to repeat.

Val McDermid, talking about her new book, was next on the programme for me. Val is always entertaining and I enjoy listening to her.

Alanna Knight, a very dear friend and one of my favourite authors presented a new drama production with several willing authors acting the parts. Alanna is on the left of this photo introducing the play and it's actors before the action starts. Gordon Brown, the author not the politician, made a very imposing policeman, although I don't think he needed to keep order while Alanna was speaking.

And here is Gordon, our imposing policeman, reporting to Inspector Faro, who looks a lot like Stuart MacBride.

Now we can see the full cast: Stuart MacBride heading the proceedings, Gordon Brown standing guard on the suspects.

And to finish off Saturday the male authors and female authors pitted their wits against each other in a hilarious quiz. There were a couple of later events, but my granddaughter comes with me to these festivals. She loves them. So the Curly Coo or Darling Clementine wasn't an option for us.

I don't suppose any other crime festival asks the contestants to guess crime show theme tunes played on the bagpipes. But this is Bloody Scotland and anything goes.

Lin Anderson and forensic soil scientist Professor Lorna Dawson were digging up the bodies on Sunday morning. These forensic events are always full of fascinating information.

Next on the agenda was Victorian Gothic with Oscar De Muriel setting his historical crime novel in an Edinburgh lunatic asylum, and E S Thomson featuring a mystery set in a crumbling London infirmary.

Witness the Dead concentrated on how good a witness anyone in the audience would be. The crime author panel was quizzed by Professor Graham Pike, an expert in eyewitness identification, on how their fictional character would investigate the crime which had been shown on the screen, while the audience were asked to identify the criminal. Needless to say, quite a lot of people made the wrong identification despite having clearly seen the perpetrator.

This photo gallery is simply a selection of events I attended, but there were many other events I didn't attend because there were always three choices to pick from. The dilemma at Bloody Scotland is always what to choose and what to miss out on.

I hope you've enjoyed my photos of Bloody Scotland, and if you haven't been to it yet then you really must put it in your diary. It's an unmissable event.

Chris Longmuir

If you would like a free short story featuring DS Bill Murphy from my popular Dundee Crime Series then visit my website and fill in a form to tell me where to send it. Meet Bill Murphy long before he became a policeman. Get a taste of the child that made the man.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Devil’s Porridge: the munitionettes who risked their lives to make it

My new murder mystery book, Devil’s Porridge, involves munitionettes who mixed the volatile substance known as Devil’s Porridge So, following on from my previous post about the munitions factory where they worked, I thought I might share with you some of my research into the women who produced the ammunition which helped to win the First World War.
Gretna munitions factory was a massive place which employed something like 30,000 workers, many of whom were the women and girls the newspapers had nicknamed munitionettes. These munitionettes risked their health and their lives in the munitions factories during the Great War, although no recognition was given to them at this time.
Cordite Section Mossband
HM Factory Gretna was established to produce Cordite RDB a propellant required for the manufacture of bombs. The end result, the cordite, was produced at the Mossband end of the factory site and resembled spaghetti. However, my novel, Devil’s Porridge, focuses on the opposite end of the site at Eastriggs where the devil’s porridge was mixed. This was the paste that was used to make the cordite.
Devil’s porridge was the name given to the paste which the munitionettes kneaded and mixed with their bare hands as if they were making a massive loaf of bread. The mixture they were kneading, in the large lead tubs, was gun-cotton and nitroglycerine, a highly explosive substance.
The name ‘devil’s porridge’ was coined by Arthur Conan Doyle, in an article, he wrote for the Annandale Observer, published in December 1916. He said: “The nitroglycerine on the one side and the gun-cotton on the other are kneaded together into a sort of devil’s porridge. The least generation of heat may cause an explosion. Those smiling khaki-clad girls who are swirling the stuff round in their hands would be blown to atoms in an instant if very small changes occur. The girls smile and stir their ‘devil’s’ porridge, but it is a narrow margin between life and death.”
Not only did the munitionettes risk their lives mixing the devil’s porridge, they also risked their health. Fumes from the acids they used affected their breathing and caused their hair and teeth to fall out, although I think there was less risk of their skin turning yellow which was caused when munitionettes worked with TNT (trinitrotoluene) and led to them being called ‘canary girls’. As far as I can tell, HM Factory did not work with TNT.
Some quotes from munitionettes:
“I remember once a girl was killed in the factory, up at Broomhills, the acid point. They said dirt had gotten into the gun-cotton and that was what caused it.”
“The acid plant was a nasty place. Whiffs of acid would keep coming over every now and again, and use to fairly take your breath away. My gums were all poisoned with the acid and I had to have all my teeth taken out.”
“We worked in three shifts and we went to work in trains with wooden seats. We changed into overalls and hats to cover all our hair and shoes that must not touch the ground outside where we worked.”
Munitionettes going into the railway station on their way to work
The munitionettes came from all levels of society and from all over the country, to work at Gretna Munitions factory, and afterwards, they returned to their previous lives because there was no longer a role for them in peacetime Britain. Their contribution to the war effort was soon forgotten and it is for this reason I have dedicated my new novel, Devil’s Porridge, to their memory.
Most of the action in Devil’s Porridge, takes place in Gretna township, one of the new towns built to service the factory workers, and in a mixing station at the Eastriggs end of the site, hence the name, Devil’s Porridge. I have incorporated munitionettes, Irish navvies, the women police who patrolled the factory, and I’ve thrown in a German spy for good measure. Naturally the sabotage, assassination, and murder elements of the plot are solely fictional, but quite a lot of factual information has been woven in, and I hope you won’t see the join between fact and fiction.
My next post will cover the two new townships, Gretna and Eastriggs. Following that I will do a post covering the involvement of the newly formed Women’s Police Service, and the ‘lady police’, at Gretna Munitions Factory.
Chris Longmuir
You can buy Devil’s Porridge here:

If you would like a free short story featuring DS Bill Murphy from my popular Dundee Crime Series then visit my website or click here and fill in a form to tell me where to send it.
Meet Bill Murphy long before he became a policeman. Get a taste of the child that made the man.