West Uist Chronicle – Keith’s blog

THE FIRST WEST UIST CHRONICLE FLASH FICTION PRIZE

A Happy New Year to all of our readers. We hope that this will be a good writing year for you and we hope that you will consider submitting a story or two to our inaugural Flash Fiction competition.

So get out your quill and pen us a story. To make this easy (or hard, actually!) we are inviting stories of 26 words maximum, excluding the title, on any subject you like. Well, anything as long as it is not rude, racist or nasty about anyone living. So that gives plenty of scope.

You might think that 26 words is an odd number to choose (even though it is an even number), but the reason is simply that there are 26 letters in the alphabet. You can use less if you wish.

While we expect straight forward stories to be the commonest type of entry, if you feel really adventurous you may like to try writing an A-Z story. That is one that uses 26 words, each starting with a letter of the alphabet in the order of the alphabet. That is not easy, so we will allow some leeway with the letters X and Z, the only stipulation being that it still needs to read like a story.

The story element is all important. There has to be  a sense of narrative and we love little twists, if you can get one into a story so short as a 26-worder.

Here is an example of a straight story.

                                               THE TOMB ROBBER
He had expected treasure, but his neck broke when he fell into the tomb. His unseeing eyes stared as his unheard scream echoed into eternity.

An A-Z story  to show that it is possible.

                                   LOST IN TRANSPLANTATION – a case of rejection

Aorta burst causing deadly exsanguination!
Foreign gutter headlines implied jealousy killing, leaving mistress needing oxygen. Police questioned rival surgeon’s technique.
‘Unaccepted vessel was xenograft,’  yammered Zurginski.

ENTRIES

  • Submit your stories by sending them to Keith Souter (aka Keith Moray and Clay More) at dr_keith.souter@btopenworld.com   
  • Put WEST UIST STORY in your the subject box of your email
  • Include your story, its title, your name and address in the email – you will receive a reply to acknowledge receipt of your entry.
  • You can enter up to five stories
  • Free entry.
  • CLOSING DATE – midnight on Sunday 23rd January

RESULTS
We will select the top 10 stories and publish them on this blog, then the winners will be announced on Monday 31st January 2011.

PRIZES

  • 1st prize An Amazon.co.uk gift certificate or a Paypal payment of £30, plus a signed copy of Keith Moray’s latest crime novel Flotsam and Jetsam.
  • 2nd prize An Amazon.co.uk gift certificate or a Paypal payment of £20, plus a signed copy of Dr Keith Souter’s book Doctors’ Latin
  • 3rd Prize An Amazon.co.uk gift certificate or a Paypal payment of £15, plus a signed copy of a western novel by Clay More

It would be worth following Keith on Twitter for any interim announcements.Good luck!

Calum Steele
Keith Souter

FLOTSAM and JETSAM – the latest West Uist Mystery is published today

There is not much left of 2010 and we guess that everyone is getting ready for Hogmanay tonight. So this is just a quickie to say that Keith’s latest novel FLOTSAM and JETSAM is published today by Robert Hale.

This is the fourth in the series and the opinion on the island is that it is the best one yet. But don’t take our word for it, see for yourself.

The Flotsam & Jetsam TV show gained a cult following throughout Scotland by highlighting that money could be made from the debris that washed up onto remote beaches. When it came to West Uist, it brought the exciting prospect of celebrity status for the locals. Then, one fateful night, everything changed…The death of a noted scientist, the discovery of a half-drowned puppy and the suggestion of police negligence now lead Inspector Torquil McKinnon to investigate sinister events on the seemingly idyllic island. Who knows what other secrets will be washed ashore?

A Good New Year to you all.

We’ll be back in 2011 with the start of the Flash Fiction competition.

Calum Steele

THE WEST UIST CHRONICLE’S FLASH FICTION COMPETITION

We hope that you have all had a Happy Christmas. We did and we are looking forward to Hogmanay in a couple of days. Inspector Torquil McKinnon has been tuning up his bagpipes in readiness and the Padre has been trying to get his golf game in order for the St Ninian’s New Year’s day Open Championship.

Meanwhile, we at the Chronicle have been thinking as well contemplating about  the meaning of Christmas. We know that there are oodles of writers out there who are afflicted with that well known medical condition of ‘Cacoethes scribendi’ (compulsive writing) so we have decided to hold the inaugural West Uist Chronicle Flash Fiction competition early in the New Year. It will be open to all-comers, not just residents of West Uist.

I have asked Keith to sort out the details, since he has some experience as a Flash Fictioneer, having won a couple of  prizes (including the 2006 Fish Historical Open Page Prize). He is still a bit dazed after the the successful performance of his play, so maybe this will get his feet back on the ground! It would be good to get some work out of him at any rate.

Anyway, the format will be finalised over Hogmanay and we will publish the details here once 2011 has begun. If you use Twitter, then if you follow Keith, he’ll be putting an anouncement out as soon as we are ready to kick off. Just click on the link here and follow him.

http://twitter.com/#!/KeithSouter

That’s all for me for now. And if I don’t get round to posting again, on behalf of everyone here at The West Uist Chronicle – have a Happy New Year.

Calum Steele

A MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS

It has been a tough year here on West Uist. Not with the weather, but with all the adventures and the changes that have been taking place. Of course, if you have read Keith Moray’s latest book FLOTSAM and JETSAM you will know about some of them.

It has been fairly cold this winter, but we are lucky with the weather generally and don’t seem to get the snow that you folk on the mainland seem to have been having. But what we do get is wind. Plenty of it. And that is why the Black Houses have been such an enduring feature in the Hebrides for centuries.  Believe me there is nothing so nice on a winter’s night when the wind is howling around the chimney and the windows are being lashed with rain, than to sit down by the fire with a dram of Glen Corlin, a good book, or even better, the latest edition of The West Uist Chronicle.

We are just about finished for Christmas. The latest issue of the Chronicle is done and dusted and will be in the shops by now. Inspector Torquil McKinnon and I are meeting up with Keith at the Bonnie Prince Charlie Tavern later for a quick drink before we head off for our traditional Christmas Eve attempt to catch a fish for Christmas. We have never managed it yet, but we live in hope.
So folks, just think of the three of us rowing out onto Loch Hynish with our rods and our nets, ever hopeful.

On behalf of everyone here at the Chronicle, and indeed on behalf of everyone on West Uist, we wish you a very Happy Christmas.

And maybe you’ll join us for a dram by a good peat fire some time.

Calum Steele

COME DRAW WITH ME with Artist-Illustrator Andrew James

Andrew James is a talented young artist who has recently illustrated one of Keith’s books
 SCHOOLBOY SCIENCE REMEMBERED.

It is due to be published in the summer of 2011.   His deft touch has perfectly captured the essence of the book and brought many of the experiments, scientific principles and theories to life.


The book is dedicated to Sir Patrick Moore.

I very much enjoyed working on the book with you, Andrew. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Thanks, Keith, I enjoyed working on the book too!

Well, I was born and bred in Newcastle upon Tyne, where I had a pretty normal but creative childhood – I was always drawing, coming up with ‘crazes’ of hand-made FIMO toys, or scribbling my own little comics, many of which were ‘mass produced’ by hand, standing up and colouring on top of a white chest of drawers, looking out of the bay window in my bedroom. I’ll never forget the day my Dad offered to photocopy some comics for me – even 1990s reprographics seemed like a kind of magic.
My parents are both teachers, so there was always paper around the house, along with pens, pencils and the encouragement to do something creative with it! I was a quiet kid, happy playing with my toys (most of which ended up being extensively customised, or having some kind of immense cardboard vehicle or diorama constructed for them). Early on, I found that I liked making my own stories and adventures just as much as consuming other people’s, so writing them down and illustrating them seemed like the obvious next step.

I currently work on the editorial team at Titan Comics, where I work on a selection of licensed titles, chief amongst them Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which spreads over three distinct comics at the moment. 

 I may not be illustrating my own creations for a living, but I get the chance to stretch a lot of the same muscles – I do a lot of writing and editing of articles and comic book scripts, tweak artwork and colours digitally to meet with licensor approval, letter all the strips, and generally get involved in as much of the process as I can get away with! I love rolling my digital sleeves up and ‘playing’ with the Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign sides of things – well, as much as my long-suffering designers will let me. I try to serve the comics, rather than blindly putting my own stamp on everything and treading on a lot of toes, but I like that I can muck in across a number of disciplines.
I am envious of people who can draw. You transformed many of my daubs into really interesting pictures. When did you realise that you had this skill, and how have you developed it?
I’ve always loved to draw. The first things I remember drawing were ‘detailed’ pictures of the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, aged 7, in the art area of my first school, the day after the first episode aired. At that point I was still convinced it was a show about some turtles and a teenaged mute, but I’d been bitten by the drawing bug and from then on was the ‘class artist’ (along with my best friend at the time).

From there, it was just a case of sticking with it, until my GCSE art course very nearly stuck a stake in my love of drawing. I had a succession of terrible teachers, one of whom made us sew a collage of seashells for a whole term. All I wanted to do was draw, and learn how to draw better, but aside from one excellent morning where we were shown the building blocks of a human face, it was an impossible struggle to actually bring illustration into art lessons. I clung to Lichtenstein and the like as we swung through the history of modern art, but the lack of practical skill teaching obliterated any enthusiasm to follow the subject through to A-Level, which was a real shame. I wish I’d been able to specialise in illustration at school, but the focus is on objective marking schemes, hoop-jumping, and pointless pamphlets of preparatory sketches, usually produced after the final piece. If I’d been able to do a GCSE in How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way, I’d be a lot better at scribbling than I am now!
After that, I decided to devote myself to ‘serious literature’, i.e. the type that comes without pictures. I still wrote a (not very good) novel during sixth form, and planned a blockbuster children’s adventure series that was going to make my fortune, but I was kidding myself all along about the not-drawing thing. Half of the preparatory material for the books was illustrations or acrylic paintings, and my notebooks were all still scrawled with pencil sketches. It was around that time I first got the internet and a scanner at home, too, which got me into digital art and colouring in a big way.
It wasn’t until the first week of my English degree at Cambridge that I picked up some comics again, and realised what I really wanted to do. 🙂 Luckily the English courses are flexible enough to cram in four or five novels and an essay a week and leave just enough time to re-learn how to draw.
I started Dubious Tales (www.dubious-tales.com), my now long-concluded webcomic, in my final year at university, mainly to force myself to write, draw and colour a page every week. I think it worked out pretty well, and I’d love to have a schedule that had enough spare time that I could do one again! One day soon I’ll get around to challenging myself to see whether I can colour a page more quickly than I used to – one page of Dubious Tales used to consume a whole Sunday for colours alone…

What projects are you working on now?
Always a tricky question! Although the day job is doing its best to get in the way (I seem to spend a lot of time redrawing or recolouring bits of pages to meet approval these days – work that tends to follow me home, where the computer is better!), I’ve always got a good few projects on the go – some more serious than others. I’ve just gotten a graphics tablet, so I’ve been spending a few weeks getting used to that and experimenting with various pieces of art. I’ve been revamping my blog (dubiousaj.blogspot.com/) with the aim of putting up a lot more sketches and coloured pieces… a plan which of course has fallen by the wayside, as Christmas is always horrendously busy! I’ve just wrapped up a couple of commissions, as well as ‘painting’ my Christmas card for this year.

There’s a lot going on. I just need to find enough time and focus to finish some of my projects! And of course, getting them printed or published is another uphill climb altogether…
Who have been your biggest influences? What type of books, films, music do you like?
The sad but true story is that most of them are pop culture collaborations, rather than individual artists (which isn’t to say I’ve haven’t gone back to find out exactly who was responsible, or, in more than one case, ended up working with them…). Childhood was a succession of shiny 80s cartoons that left an indelible mark and made me want to tell stories (even toyetic ones!) – Ghostbusters, Turtles, Transformers. I absorbed a love for comics alongside them, and all the visual vocabulary that goes with it, without even realising. Tintin gave me a love for the ligne claire style.
Star Wars and endless probably-too-adult-for-me-at-the-time science fiction novels (Larry Niven, Kim Stanley Robinson, Greg Bear) were my bread and butter through my defensibly nerdy teens. The X Files added horror to the SF mix, and Buffy demonstrated you could have your pop culture references and eat your high emotional drama too.

Heading out of my teens and off to university, Spaced had a huge effect on me – I owe Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes a great debt. A triple whammy of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ Watchmen (the ultimate back-to-comics cliché, but perhaps less so at the time), Ultimate Spider-Man and Y: The Last Man got me back into reading comics, but it was Craig Thompson’s Blankets that made me want to try for a career in them, and John Allison and Scary Go Round that showed the webcomics way.  Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim neatly accompanied me through the last five years. There are too many to count, really, and I keep remembering others I’ve left off the list – Japanese TV doramas, the manga of Naoki Urasawa and Katsuhiro Otomo. I’ve just gotten into Community of late, and it’s basically the sitcom I’ve always wanted to write. One less thing for me to do! 🙂

My inner child gives me a high-five every time I work on an old favourite, which keeps the enthusiasm going through the approvals process, but my personal work incorporates pretty much everything going. I love work that hops across genres, or which combines them in new and unexpected ways. Horror rubbing up against comedy, character pieces in the middle of sweeping epics. I like internal narrative cohesion (rather than kitchen sink approaches to storytelling), but as life doesn’t fit into genre boundaries, I like stories that don’t either.
Musically, I like songs that tell stories, too, as well as bands that have a unique energy. Los Campesinos! The New Pornographers, Stars, Hefner, Feist, Lykke Li, Rilo Kiley… Long lists. I can do lists. 🙂
Films-wise: Grosse Pointe Blank, Eternal Sunshine, Donnie Darko, Brick, Linda Linda Linda, Only Yesterday, Back to the Future… And it’s Christmas, so I’m looking forward to the annual festive viewing of Die Hard
I tend to burn through novels as well, when I do get the chance to sit down and read them (usually on train journeys), but it’s tricky to pick long-term favourites. After gorging on ‘literature’ for my degree, I usually find myself gravitating towards relatively lighter fare, which seems less like a moral failing as the years go on. 🙂
What are your ultimate aims artistically?
I’d love to be able to make a living by producing my own material – whether that’s novels, comics, colouring, drawing or, ideally, some combination of everything that I do. Which is a tricky proposition in itself, especially as I’m often guilty of starting five different projects when inspiration strikes and tiring of them when the first flush of energy dies out. I’m looking to work with more collaborators to make sure there’s always someone demanding the next pages of a script, or the next colours, or the next concept.
The trouble with my approach is that I get the biggest buzz out of ‘research and development’ – my favourite thing at work is coming up with new concepts and projects and putting together the initial volley of plans – it’s the making them a reality where I most often come a cropper. A phalanx of clones would seem to be the only answer…
What are your aims professionally?
See above! I’m still working on the master-plan, basically. I’m definitely feeling the need to get a move on, of late, so it’s time to knuckle down and produce some actual content.
What advice would you give to other artists and illustrators?

Find more time to draw than I do, for a start… and finish things! The advice I see most often is ‘persistence’, and it’s the piece of advice that comes up the most often because it’s the most useful, and also, as an artist, usually the last thing you want to hear! Your art will get better the longer you stick at it, the more you draw, paint or colour, the more you absorb influences and work on your style. You’ll find more and better opportunities for yourself the longer you go looking for them. And most importantly, no matter if you’re working in straight-up illustration or comics, look outside of your field for inspiration. Read widely. Read the news. Investigate photography, portraiture, art from all over the world. Everything that challenges you to take on influences outside of your narrow range of experience gives something extra to your own artistic vocabulary, even if you’re not consciously synthesising it.

Most importantly, try to get out of your comfort zone. Left to my own devices, I can happily draw only the things that I know I can draw. But it’s only by tackling the things you can’t – and being ready to fail, and fail often – that you’ll get better. If you’re producing your own comic strip, try a little schizophrenia and write a script for it without limiting yourself to what you can draw. You might be cursing your Writer Self later, but you’ll also be pushing yourself in new directions. Even better is a challenge like Schoolboy Science, which involved a lot of photo and diagrammatic reference and unexpected illustrations.
Finally… if you’re drawing people, studying anatomy and how clothes fold will always make your work better. One day I’ll take a sabbatical and do sketches of nothing but…
Where do you see yourself in ten years?

Married, happy, and telling my own stories in as many ways as possible. Anything else is very hazy at this point!

Thank you for your time, Andrew
You’re welcome, Keith!

FLOTSAM and JETSAM – the latest Inspector McKinnon mystery

The Flotsam & Jetsam TV show has gain a cult following throughout Scotland over the last few years. As regular viewers will know, it shows that money could be made from the debris that gets washed up onto remote beaches.

Well now it has come to West Uist, and it could turn any of the residents into a celebrity – if they just happen to have something strange to show. A skeleton in the cupboard, for example.

It gives us at the Chronicle great pleasure to announce that the fourth crime novel by our good friend Keith Moray will be out in late December.

Calum Steele

FLOTSAM AND JETSAM
The Flotsam & Jetsam TV show gained a cult following throughout Scotland by highlighting that money could be made from the debris that washed up onto remote beaches. When it came to West Uist, it brought the exciting prospect of celebrity status for the locals. Then, one fateful night, everything changed…The death of a noted scientist, the discovery of a half-drowned puppy and the suggestion of police negligence now lead Inspector Torquil McKinnon to investigate sinister events on the seemingly idyllic island. Who knows what other secrets will be washed ashore?

COMING SOON!

ASSISTANT EDITOR TURNS PLAYWRIGHT TO SCOOP PRIZE AT DRAMA FESTIVAL

It gives me great pleasure to see my assistants make their mark in the literary world. From time to time Keith Souter helps me out here at the Chronicle and I rather think that it would be fair to say, he has picked up a tip or two from working with the professionals.

             
While he was up here a few weeks ago we went out and did a bit of bird-watching round Loch Hynish. As all you nature watchers out there know, there is no better place to see the Sea Eagles and the Golden Eagles than right here on West Uist. It gets cold mind you and a dram or two of good old Glen Corlin malt whisky never goes amiss. Anyway, maybe it was whisky or maybe it was the muse that lurks around the loch, but he came up with the idea of writing about the bird hide. Whatever it was, he wrote a short one act play entitled HIDE. It is a comedy about a young couple going into a bird hide – but things don’t turn out as either of them expect!

             
Well, the play was selected for performance by good professional actors at the Hotbed Drama Festival in Cambridge over three days of the festival. And it won a prize!

We will need to get him writing another play for our own West Uist Literary Festival. And if course, if you need a reminder about the last one, just read the first book in the series, THE GATHERING MURDERS

Calum Steele
Editor

MURDER SOLSTICE

Finlay McNab, the Black House museum curator was passionate about the Hoolish Stones, the ancient stone circle that had stood on West Uist for countless millennia. He had spent years trying to decipher the strange markings on the stones and was suspicious of the cult-like group that had taken over Dunshiffin Castle and who were preparing to celebrate the summer solstice. It seemed that his fatal mistake was to challenge their beliefs on Scottish TV.Yet Inspector Torquil MacKinnon had many other things on his mind, not the least being the disturbingly attractive Sergeant Lorna Golspie who had been sent to the island to investigate the way he ran his station. Was it enough to distract him from the forthcoming Murder Solstice?

The third novel in the West Uist series.

WRITE A CLERIHEW POEM FOR US AND BECOME A PUBLISHED POET

In our search for poems the West Uist Chronicle has narrowed its remit down a bit. We invite folk to write a simple four line poem, called a Clerihew.
             The Clerihew is a simple four lined poem named after its inventor Edmund Clerihew Bentley (1875-1956). He was a fascinating character who wrote the celebrated crime novel Trent’s Last Case.
             The clerihew is a biographical poem with the rhyming scheme A,A,B,B. the first line consists of  the person’s name. You can write about historical characters, friends, or famous figures. Just take care, since nothing libelous will be published! Not a bad idea to write about an historical figure.

Here is one to give you the idea. It is about Scotland’s own ‘bad’ poet.

William Topaz McGonagall,

Dundee’s poet of verse abominable.

He fancied himself a tragedian and thespian supreme,

until he was booed off stage in his final death scene.
           
            That is it. Simple to do. A bit of fun.

            As we said before, no prizes, just an opportunity to have your Clerihew poem published in The west Uist Chronicle. To enter, just put your poem and your name in a comment box after this article. You will have to create an account with Google or one of the other accounts, but it is dead easy to do.
            So away with you. get your pen and paper and give us a Clerihew

Calum Steele
Editor

WE ARE SEEKING POETS!

The West Uist Literary Festival drew in droves of poets and poetry lovers. The island’s very own Gaelic fisherman poet Ranald Buchanan’s  latest book of verse has been a best-seller throughout the Western Isles and now we are looking for folk to follow him.

We are  inviting you poets to send us in a short poem of no more than 14 lines on the subject of Wind, in keeping with our last post. It can be shorter, even a rhyming couplet.

But please, no silly ones about bodily wind! Ecological, humorous preferred.

No prizes, simply publication on The West Uist Chronicle. Become a published poet!

How to do it – simply post it in a comment to this post. If some good wee poems blow in, we’ll post them in next week’s issue.

Good luck.

Calum Steele