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Monday, 29 December 2014

A guid New Year tae ane an’ a’ and mony may ye see

That’s the traditional Scots welcome on New Year’s Eve, known as Hogmanay in Scotland. A time of celebration,drinking, and first footing to see out the old year and welcome in the new year.

Some say the name, Hogmanay, has French roots, others say it originated from the old Norse, and it seems the celebrations are a throwback to that of the winter solstice among the Norse, as well as customs from the Gaelic celebration of Samhain. However, I doubt that any of the revellers on Hogmanay will be worrying about where the name or customs come from when they welcome in the New Year.

Hogmanay has always been a big end of year celebration in Scotland, with Christmas coming a poor second, although that is now changing. However it wasn’t so long ago that Christmas was not a holiday in Scotland, the influence of the protestant reformation was to blame for that. I can’t recall exactly when Christmas became a holiday in Scotland but it was well into the 1950s. Before that many people exchanged their gifts and celebrated on the winter solstice – Hogmanay.


There are several customs associated with Hogmanay. The house has to be cleaned from top to bottom on Hogmany as it is considered unlucky to welcome the New Year into a dirty house. The act of cleaning the whole house was called the redding, because it was getting ready for the new year.

Debts had to be paid by New Year’s Eve, as it was bad luck to usher in a new year with an outstanding debt.

Any knitting has be completed before the old year passes, failing that all the stitches should be removed from the needles.

It is unlucky for visitors to be admitted to the house before midnight has struck on New Year’s Eve, and they are likely to be refused admittance.

At midnight the man of the house opens the back door to let the old year out, and then opens the front door to let the new year in.

It is common for people to gather in the town centre waiting for midnight to strike, and on the first stroke of the chimes, known as The Bells, people link arms and sing Auld Lang Syne.

First footing starts immediately after midnight, on the last stroke of the church bells, and signifies a celebration of the new year which has just arrived. A first foot is the first person to cross the threshold of a friend or neighbour, their first visitor of the year. He should be male, and tall and dark. The first foot should present symbolic gifts to bring luck to the householder. These gifts range from salt, coal, shortbread, whisky, and black bun (a type of rich fruit cake). The householder then gives food and drink to the guest and they may party on until early morning, or alternatively the first foot will take his or her leave and visit a procession of houses. At least that is the traditional way. Nowadays, first footing is done with a bottle, and the first footer offers a dram (drink) from it to the householder, and vice versa.

Many of these customs were prevalent for a long time, but progress has caught up and a lot of these old customs have fallen by the wayside. No longer is it possible to open your door to complete strangers and welcome them inside to give them their New Year dram. Television programmes ensure many people sit in comfort at their firesides instead of congregating at The Bells. In fact many people are reluctant to venture to the town centre for The Bells, as what used to be a good-natured, friendly gathering, has become significantly rowdier. At one time the drinking never started until midnight, in fact it was thought unlucky to open your bottle before The Bells started. Nowadays people start drinking much earlier in the day.

Official, organised celebrations have taken the place of these informal gatherings. Events like Edinburgh’s torchlight procession, or Stonehaven’s fireball swinging festival.

But however people celebrate the coming of the New Year, the Scots will always let their hair down on Hogmanay.

So, until I see you after the New Year, lang may your lum reek, and a guid New Year to ane an’ a’ and mony may ye see.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Ebooks – Time to Take Stock

Chris Longmuir at the launch of  Dead Wood
The International Book Prize winner, 2009
Every author who publishes eBooks is fascinated by sales figures.
It’s easy to check sales figures on Amazon’s Kindle publishing platform so the newly published author may be unable to resist the urge to keep checking, and may visit the reports section of the site several times a day, noting with glee every single download of their book. However, with the publication of more books, plus the development of a more blasé attitude, these visits lessen, tapering to once a day, then maybe once a week, finally ending up at once a month, in order to check the sales figures for that specific month. I don’t think I’ll ever get too blasé to omit the monthly check.
Of course, many authors juggle their prices and offer promotions, and it’s a good idea to keep checking whether these have resulted in additional sales. For me, it’s too much effort to go down this route, and although I did try it a couple of times, I discovered it made no difference at all to my sales figures. So I reckon I won’t be doing any more juggling, or going down the promotional road again. I am wondering, however, whether the VAT (Value Added Tax) increase from 3% to 20% will have an effect on sales because it will push up the price of all eBooks.
It is of value, though, to run an annual check to see which of your eBooks has performed best. So, given it’s December, the last month of the year, I thought I would have a quick tally to see how my eBooks were doing. So here are the results:-
My top best-selling eBooks
1.  Night Watcher

2.  Dead Wood (rounded up because it’s only been on sale for 7 months)

3.  Missing Believed Dead

4.  The Death Game

5.  Ghost Train (short stories)

6.  Crime Fiction and the Indie Contribution
7. A Salt Splashed Cradle

8.  Obsession (short stories)
In terms of author earnings the list would look the same with the exception of 5, 6 and 7. Number 6, my non fiction book Crime Fiction and the Indie Contribution, which sold less than half the number of copies compared to Ghost Train, earned approximately four times more than Ghost Train, and A Salt Splashed Cradle, my historical saga earned three times more. Therefore my two lowest earners are my two cheapest books, no wonder I refer to them as loss leaders. In fact, when I think about it, the profit from the sale of either of these books wouldn't even be enough to cover the cost of getting into the toilets at Edinburgh Station.
Compiling these figures was interesting for me, from the point of view that my Dundee Crime Series is selling better than the other books, which indicates to me that series are popular. The first book of the series, Night Watcher, is consistently selling far more than the others, even my International Dundee Prize winning book, Dead Wood. But I suppose that only indicates that readers like to read book one of a series first.
The other interesting thing is that my two loss leaders, selling at 0.99c/77p, are at the bottom of the leader board, and the $4.99/£3.00 books are doing far better (NB: the UK price will rise after 1st Jan due to VAT increases)
The Winner is



Note: From 1st January 2015 the VAT (Value Added Tax) charged on ebooks will increase from 3% to 20%. I won’t get anything extra, but the government will!
Chris Longmuir

Monday, 15 December 2014

Ooh! I Feel Wicked

Wicked - The Musical
The reason I feel wicked is because I’ve just had a fabulous afternoon at the Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre, watching Wicked. The musical was one of the most entertaining I’ve seen for some time, and the storyline was ingenious, revealing a different take on the Wicked Witch of the West featured in L. Frank Baum’s Wizard of Oz. Oh, and I really connected with the Wicked Witch of the West, more than I did with Glinda. So, after watching the show, if you had a choice of being wicked or good, what would you choose?

My granddaughter loved the show

To take it further, if I gave you the choice of which character you would want to play in one of my books, what would you choose? When I left my last job to concentrate on being a full time writer, I did a survey of everyone in the department. And, because I worked in a senior position in a Local Authority, that was a lot of people. Without fail, everyone said they would rather be the villain than the hero. And I must admit that in most visual shows, such as films or television, the baddies do seem to have the roles with more depth to them.

But how easy is it to write from the villain’s point of view? And how many villains are truly bad? In fact, if you go to see Wicked, you’ll find out that the heroine is the Wicked Witch of the West, and Glinda, the Good Witch, is far from being perfect.

As a crime writer, who writes in a multi-viewpoint style, I often have to get inside the villain’s head, and into their skin. It’s the only way characters come alive. So, it can be quite an uncomfortable experience. However, no character is totally bad, and even good characters have their flaws.

Let me tell you about Tony, a really bad guy who has a large role in Dead Wood, Book 2 of the Dundee Crime Series. He’s a Mr Big, who runs his own little crime empire in the Scottish city of Dundee. You wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Tony, and he does some vicious things. One of his operations is the night club, Teasers, and he is not averse to taking advantage of the pole dancers who work there (that’s putting it politely). I won’t go into all the the things he gets up to because I wouldn’t want to spoil the book for you.
However, Tony has his good side as well. Despite his activities with his pole dancers, he regards these as simply diversions, and in his mind is loyal to his wife. He has a strong sense of family, and has a strong protective streak as far as they are concerned, therefore the anguish he feels when his daughter is murdered, is palpable.
I must admit I have a soft spot for Tony. But that’s maybe because I’m wicked!

Chris Longmuir



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