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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

When do Virtual Friends become Real Friends?

In this electronic world we all have hundreds, if not thousands of friends. There are our Facebook friends, our Twitter followers, our Blog followers, and all the other virtual friends we meet and communicate with on the various groups we belong to.
So how do we turn these virtual friends into real friends? People who are flesh and blood, people we can hug, people we can talk to with our vocal chords rather than our fingers. Well, I recently found out when I attended A Summer Audience as part of the Love a Happy ending online group.

For those of you who don’t know, Love a Happy Ending was set up in 2011 as an online, interactive group of authors, editors and readers, and was a strictly invitation only group for the authors involved. There was only space for thirty authors and when my invitation to join came I was a bit bemused. ‘You do realise the kind of novels I write?’ was my first question, because I had never associated happy endings with my writing which is generally of the dark crime variety. Back came the answer, ‘Well, I’m sure your books are grittier than most but I presume all your books end in a good way even if they don’t start off like that.’ Apart from that, Love a Happy Ending was looking for a good mix of genres. So, still a little bemused, I joined.
Since then I’ve done my share of commenting, tweeting, sharing on Facebook, and all the other things you do when you belong to an online group. Oh, and I had a new set of virtual friends. Love a Happy Ending built its platform and became increasingly visible in the hectic world of the internet.
The idea of a readers/writers event took shape earlier this year, and gradually it became a reality. The venue was chosen, Sir William Romney’s school in Tetbury, Gloucestershire. The name was chosen, ‘Summer Audience’, and we all commenced battle to publicise it. We facebooked, blogged and tweeted like mad, in fact there was so much activity I did start to have a concern it was turning into spam.
The programme was also taking shape, speakers and workshops were arranged and it was looking good. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that I was approached to be a speaker. My initial reaction was that Tetbury is an awfully long way from north-east Scotland, but as you’ve probably noticed I’ve been blogging a bit about writer events lately and one of my blogs was on using these events as a promotional tool. You can see it on the Do Authors Dream of Electric Books site so taking my own advice I accepted the invitation and when a plea was put out for workshops, I signed up to do one of them as well.
Love a Happy ending authors, editors and readers
Okay, so maybe I set out with promotion firmly at the front of my mind, there was another much more important benefit. I met many of my virtual friends, so many I can’t name them all, but I can still feel the hugs. They were very, very real, and wonderful.
Linn Halton, author and organiser extraordinary
First of all I have to mention Linn Halton who opened her heart and her home to us and who did so much to ensure the event was a success. I take my hat off to her.

Chris Longmuir and Janice Horton
Janice Horton was the first speaker of the day with her talk ‘From Zero to Hero’. She’s done a blog post ‘The Summer Audience Event’ if you want to have a look she’s included loads of photos which is nice.
Chris Longmuir and Stephanie Keyes
Stephanie Keyes put me to shame she travelled from the US to come to the event, and here was I moaning about the north-east of Scotland! She was a marvellous company, knowledgeable, communicative and with a great sense of humour.
Harvey Black and his friend Jeremy
Then there was Harvey Black who brought his friend Jeremy along. None of us will forget Jeremy in a hurry!
Mandy Baggot singing her heart out
Oh, and I can’t forget Mandy Baggot who sang to us during the lunchtime break. There were loads of others, apologies to all of you who haven’t been mentioned, but I’m sure any readers of this blog will be able to check you all out on
Lou Graham and Jess who did a lot of the work on the day

Oops, I forgot to mention one very important person, Lou Graham and her beautiful daughter, Jess. They were the foot soldiers, always there to do the necessary practical things, there to look after us all, and they did a superb job. This was all the more impressive because there was no payoff for them. Lou is one of Love a Happy Ending’s associate readers, so she had no books to sell, no author platform to build, no gains to be made from all the hard work she put in. I salute you, Lou, you did a great job.
So why don’t you pop over to there’s loads of feedback from the Summer Audience Event and loads of great photos. Oh, and if you want a cut down taster of my morning talk it’s at
Chris Longmuir in full flow
I’m off now to see what all my real friends are saying in the virtual world.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

CrimeFest 2012

Chris - In the Spotlight - talking about 'Tartan Noir: following in the footsteps of Jekyll & Hyde

A lot of you will have guessed by now that I rather enjoy literary conferences, conventions, events or whatever. I find the company of like-minded people, stimulating. I love to listen to writers presenting talks or appearing on panels, and live in hope I will learn something from them: even if it’s only how to present myself in similar situations.

My usual round of these events can include writers’ appearances at local events, but the conferences, festivals and conventions, usually include the Scottish Association of Writers’ conference at Erskine Bridge, and the Harrogate Crime Festival. This year, however, I decided to stretch my wings and go to CrimeFest, billed as the International Crime Fiction Convention, in Bristol. And later on in the year there will be the very first Bloody Scotland festival at Stirling. That’s a must go event as well.
So before I could change my mind I submitted my booking for CrimeFest, and what a convention that turned out to be. I went early to Bristol because I have relatives there and also because I was drawn to two of the literary tours arranged in conjunction with the convention. The first of these was a guided tour to Oxford, followed by tea and scones with Colin Dexter, the creator of Morse. I’d met Colin Dexter on a previous occasion when he came north to a conference arranged by Angus Writers’ Circle, so I looked forward to meeting him again. But the thing that really drew me to this trip was Oxford. I’d never been there and thought I would like to see it.

The tour set off and I soon discovered I was the only Brit on the coach. The others were Canadian, American and Australian. There were fifteen of us so it didn’t take the group long to gel, and I made some really good friends.
Wednesday was a family visit day, and I caught up with relatives I hadn’t seen for many years.
Soon it was Thursday and the start of the convention. I got my tickets, programme and goody bag. Some lovely books in the bag, I couldn’t help but think about the added weight to my suitcase! And of course, one of my pals, Michael Malone was launching his first book, Blood Tears, at the convention, so I would have to buy that as well – more weight!
I quickly scanned the programme, which also held photos and brief bios of all the speakers, including my photo. It’s always a bit of a thrill when you spot yourself in one of these. Then I fished my tickets out of their envelope, as well as several small sheets of paper with a list of shortlisted authors for the edunnit awards, the audible awards etc. Apparently this was a competition with prizes for the entry which guessed the winner correctly and was subsequently drawn out of a lucky dip. More about that later.
The afternoon was taken up with panels, and after the panel discussion there was a prize of a bag of books for the person who asked the best question. I didn't ask any questions because I dreaded adding more weight to my suitcase! Then Peter Guttridge interviewed Frederick Forsyth. I hadn’t heard Frederick speak before, because the year he was scheduled for Harrogate was the year of the floods and he didn’t get through. So that was a treat.
Panel on 'International Cops' 
Moderator Caro Ramsay with Anders Roslund, Michael Stanley(Michael Sears), David Jackson, & David Hewson

Oh, and I can’t forget the CrimeFest Pub Quiz night. I had a lamb curry I wished I hadn’t ordered (say no more), and we didn’t come bottom in the quiz, we were somewhere near the middle, so that was okay.
Up at the crack of dawn on Friday, and lots more panels to attend, plus I was sweating (sorry, ladies don’t sweat, they glow!), because I had my speaking slot at four o’clock. It was a twenty minute slot listed in the programme as ‘In the Spotlight’. Four o’clock came round all too soon and it was time to deliver my talk Tartan Noir: in the footsteps of Jekyll and Hyde, but it went well, and four of the attendees declared they were my fan club. It was awfully nice to think I had a fan club.
So now my slot was over I could settle down to enjoy myself, oh, I forgot to say, my favourite crime author, Jeffery Deaver, was the last speaker of the day. However, the day wasn’t finished, there was the Crime Writers’ Association’s Dagger Shortlist Announcement Reception. After that I went out for a lovely meal with Caro Ramsay and her partner. A lovely end to a lovely day.
Saturday was hectic with panels, as well as top notch speakers in Lee Child and PD James. They are always popular. Then later on we had David Hewson and a cast member (sorry can’t remember his name) of The Killing being interviewed by Barry Forshaw.
Later there was a reception for Million for a Morgue, presented by Professor Sue Black, Jeffery Deaver, Peter James and Lee Child. Million for a Morgue is a fundraising project to raise funds for a new morgue, or as it is known in Scotland, mortuary at Dundee University. Everyone who donates gets to vote for the crime author they would like to have the morgue named after. Lee Child reckoned that Jeffery Deaver should have the morgue named after him because he was the only one who looked like an undertaker!
We went straight from this reception into the Gala Dinner. I was dreading it in a way because of my experience with the lamb curry the previous night. However, the meal was excellent and the company great. Oh, and you remember those slips of paper which were entries to a competition, well mine was the first out of the hat and I won an MP4 player plus a bagload of audiobooks. How I got them home I will never know because the bag was so heavy.
Sunday morning and the pace seemed a little less hectic, just as well because we were all flagging by that time. Two lots of panels and a session of Criminal Mastermind, and that was it. CrimeFest was over. So the afternoon was left clear for another family visit.
But I’m not finished yet, because my second tour was scheduled for Monday. And that was an Agatha Christie tour, with coffee in the Grand Hotel, Torquay, where she spent her honeymoon. Then off to Torquay Museum which has an Agatha Christie room, no photographs allowed for copyright reasons. We finally wound up at Greenways, Agatha Christies home, overlooking the River Dart. Again no photographs inside the house for the same reason. Our guide was John Curran, an expert on Agatha Christie, who researched her notebooks and wrote Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks.
A wonderful end to a wonderful literary event. Will I go to CrimeFest next year? You bet your bottom dollar I will.