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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 paulinechill@hotmail.com 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: www.chillwithabook.com
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.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Pauline Barclay’s New Book: The Wendy House

I have been a friend of Pauline Barclay ever since I was part of Famous Five Plus which she organised and managed. That group is no longer operational but we have remained friends ever since. She now runs the fabulous blog Chill With a Book it’s worth taking a look at it because she recommends great books. So when she told me she was publishing her new book The Wendy House on 3 September, I begged her to let me see the cover, and now I’m sharing it with you.

So, here it is:

Cover Reveal: The Wendy House by Pauline Barclay



When Nicola changes overnight from a bright, happy young child into a sullen, rebellious girl, ceasing to show interest in anything or anyone around her, her parents struggle to understand why. As she develops into a difficult, troubled, hostile teenager they put it down to hormones, believing it will pass. Yet Nicola goes from bad to worse and no matter how much her mother tries to reach out to her, it seems she is hell bent on self-destruction. When she leaves home at seventeen, rushing into the arms of a man ten years her senior and quickly becoming pregnant, her despairing mother almost gives up on her. A decade later, the events that stole Nicola’s childhood and changed the course of her life threaten finally to destroy her. She knows if she is to cling on to her sanity she must tell her mother the dreadful secret she has carried all these years, but her fear that she will be met with disbelief, hostility and branded an evil liar drives her to the edge.

A heart-rending story of betrayal, secrets and gripping fear.

Publication Date: Saturday 3rd September
Genre: Women’s Fiction / Family-Noir


The Wendy House is available in Kindle for pre-order on all Amazon sites including


A little about Pauline



I am from Yorkshire, but have lived in several different locations including, Suffolk, Surrey and Holland.  Today, I live on one of the beautiful volcanic islands of the Canary Isles with my husband and our two gorgeous rescue doggies.

Years ago I gained a BA (Hons) degree from the Open University, today I spend my time writing fiction. I have five books published, plus a 20 minute short festive story.

My passion is to write about events that happen in life and change everything for those involved as well as those caught up in the maelstrom. I want my characters to sit at your side, steal your attention and sweep you up in their story. Stories that will bring tears to your eyes, have you laughing out loud and sometimes, what they share with you, will stay  in your hearts for a very long time.


Twitter: @paulinembarclay
Instagram: @paulinebarclay


Monday, 22 August 2016

Devil’s Porridge & Gretna Munitions Factory

Illustration of part of Gretna Munitions Factory snapped at the Devil's Porridge Museum, Eastriggs
I’ve set my new murder mystery book, Devil’s Porridge, in Gretna and I thought you might want to know a little about the munitions factory where two of the murders (fictional) take place.
In August 1916, 100 years ago this month, H.M. Factory, Gretna, Britain’s largest First World War cordite producing factory, became fully operational. It was a highly secret facility, codenamed Moorside, situated in a remote area which, it was thought, would prove difficult for German planes and Zeppelins to reach.
The site chosen for Gretna Munitions Factory was a large, sparsely populated, green field area, on the shores of the Solway Firth. The land was acquired by the Ministry of Munitions at the start of the First World War, and various farms situated there were taken over by compulsory purchase orders.
The first surveys of the site were completed in early 1915. Construction work commenced in August 1915, with work going on around the clock. Several thousand Irish navvies were drafted in as construction workers, 600 rail trucks loaded with building materials arrived daily, and there were approximately 30,000 people working on the site at any one time. Production in some areas started in June 1916, and the factory became fully operational in August 1916, producing over 800 tons of ammunition each week. The women and girls responsible for producing this ammunition were nicknamed munitionettes by the newspapers.
The factory was two miles wide and over nine miles in length, beginning at Dornock/Eastriggs in Scotland, and following the coast of the Solway Estuary to Mossband near Longtown, in England. It had 30 miles of road, 125 miles of railway track, 34 railway engines, 100 miles of water main, a water treatment plant handling 10 million gallons of water every day, a power station, a telephone exchange, bakeries producing 13,000 loaves and 14,000 meals daily, and a laundry for approximately 6,000 items on a daily basis.
There were thirty Paste Mixing Houses – six to each nitroglycerine section – where nitroglycerine and guncotton were mixed together into cordite paste at the Dornock end of the factory. To make the paste, the munitionettes kneaded the guncotton and nitroglycerine together with their bare hands in large lead tubs, the result resembled dough or thick porridge, and earned the name Devil’s Porridge. The end product, the paste, was then transferred to the Mossband area to make into cordite, a propellant which had been in short supply prior to the construction of Gretna Munitions factory.

The factory was self-sufficient with its own water mains, steam boilers, a hydraulic plant, a refrigerating plant, a power house for generating electricity, and a railway system within the site which also connected up with the main North British and Caledonian Railways. In addition, two new towns, Gretna and Eastriggs, were built. I will talk about them in my next blog post.
Most of the action in my new book 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:



Friday, 5 August 2016

Murder, Mystery, and Munitions: Devil’s Porridge hit Amazon’s shelves this week


This book has been nagging me to write it for a long time now, but I kept putting it off to write other books. However, it’s been niggling at me, and nagging me, demanding to be written.

I suppose one of the reasons I kept putting it on the back burner was the simple one, that it wasn’t one of my Dundee crime books. All my previous murder, mysteries have been set in Dundee, either in the present day, or in the past. But this one is set in Gretna, where the government built a massive munitions factory in 1916.

My main character is Kirsty Campbell, you might remember her from The Death Game as Dundee’s first policewoman in 1919. This time I’ve taken Kirsty back two years to 1917, and based her in Gretna as one of the lady police who were based there during the First World War. Ever since I read about these policewomen providing a service in Britain’s munitions factories, I’ve been fascinated by them, and that’s one of the reasons this book nagged me to write it.


Devil’s Porridge is a complex story with quite a lot of characters, and I write in my usual multi-viewpoint style. It’s about my pioneering policewoman, Kirsty Campbell, who teams up with Beatrice Jacobs, a Belgian refugee, who is on a spying mission at Gretna for MI5. They come together to protect Sally, a young munitionette, who has witnessed the aftermath of a crime when the Silverwood Munitions Factory, in East London, explodes. Sally, who lost her home and all her possessions in the explosion, which flattened most of Silvertown, is sent to work at Gretna. But the killer, the man she can identify, is at Gretna as well. In the process of protecting Sally, Kirsty and Beatrice become embroiled with saboteurs, Irish revolutionaries, a German spy, and a killer without a conscience.

I’m not telling you any more about the story because I don’t want to spoil it for you. But Chill with a Book described it as ‘a criminally good read’.

Chris Longmuir

You can buy Devil’s Porridge as an ebook or a paperback:

UK         Amazon.co.uk – ebook               Amazon.co.uk – paperback
US          Amazon.com – ebook               Amazon.com - paperback