Friday, 23 December 2011


Welcome Readers,

Do you want to know a quick easy way to clean the silver cutlery for your Christmas dinner? An easier way than elbow grease and silver polish? We managed to get Keith to give us a tip using science to do the job for you.

Basically, silver gets tarnished on exposure to the air. The tarnish is a result of a chemical reaction between the silver and sulphur substances in the air. This produces a layer of silver sulphide on the silver. You can use polish to remove it, or you can use chemistry. Believe us, folks, the chemistry does the trick and you can get on with something else.

You need:
  • a large dish to take about three or four pints of hot water
  • a sheet of aluminium foil to cover the bottom.
  • hot water
  • gloves to protect your hands -  you will be making an alkaline solution so don't get it on your hands
  • a tablespoon of baking soda
  • a tablespoon of  salt
  1. Lay the aluminium on the bottom of the dish or a pan (BUT NOT AN ALUMINIUM PAN!)
  3. You need hot almost boiling water. Pour about two pints into a jug and put it in your sink. The reason you do it there is because you may get some effervescence or frothing. Add half a tablespoon of the baking soda and the same amount of salt salt and stir it up.
  4. Pour it over the cutlery in the large dish. Prepare another two pints of hot water and add the remaining half tablespoon of baking soda and half tablespoon of salt.
  5. Then just watch, you will see the tarnish mysteriously disappears and the silver is cleaned.
  6. The tarnish will be transferred to the aluminium, which will form as a residue on the foil.
  7. Using gloves, remove the silver when clean and thoroughly rinse and clean it in cold water.
  8. Pour the solution away.
[If you happen to get any of the solution near the eyes, wash with cold water]

The Chemistry:

This is a very simple electrochemical reaction that will not harm your silver. Essentially, Silver Sulphide in an alkaline medium will allow the sulphur in the Silver sulphide to react with the aluminium, to form aluminium sulphide, leaving the silver free of tranish.

If you are interested, this is shown by the chemical formula

3Ag2S                +       2Al                 ->          6Ag              +         Al2S3
Silver Sulphide             Alumnium                     Silver                        Aluminium sulphide

Remember to rinse thoroughly.

If you found that interesting and helpful, you may like to check out Keith's book SCHOOLBOY SCIENCE REMEMBERED, available from Amazon. To get a flavour, just check out the video clip of the book - it will only take about a minute to view. You will find it in the September archive; just scroll down it. The book is available through the West Uist Chronicle bookshop at the bottom of the blog, or directly through Amazon

All the best for a Happy Christmas

Calum Steele

Thursday, 17 November 2011


We are pleased to announce that Keith's latest book - a great gift for Christmas - The Little Book of Genius, published by The History Press is now available from the publishers, Amazon and all good bookshops. It is also available as an ebook for Kindle. You can even get it from our own West Uist Bookshop at the bottom of the blog! (Just click on General non-fiction and you'll see it.)

Have a look at the video of the book.

And here is how the publisher describes it.

At any party, there’s always one person who stands out from the crowd, because he or she talks more intelligently and tells better jokes than everyone else there. And everyone else wishes they were as knowledgeable and witty as that person.
   Thanks to Keith Souter’s The Little Book of Genius, they can be, or at least appear to be. The first part, which is based on serious scientific foundations explained in an accessible and light-hearted manner, explains some handy techniques for winning an argument, getting your point across, telling a joke and generally making the most of yourself. The second contains the essentials of what you need to know about literature, history, art, music, science, sport and other subjects, so that people will think you are cultured, intelligent and well-read.
    With the help of The Little Book of Genius, you can be the envy of everyone else at the party!

Anyway, have a look. We at The West Uist Chronicle think it is a good read.

Calum Steele

Friday, 23 September 2011


We are delighted to announce that Keith's latest novel, specially written for youngsters will be published by G-Press, an imprint of Golden Guides Press in February 2012.

It is a dark tale set in Victorian London. The action moves swiftly from the old Cross Bones Graveyard to the Thames and to fashionable areas of London. There are phrenologists, police officers, mediums, ghosts and of course - The Curse of the Body Snatchers. It is just the sort of novel that youngsters will delight in reading last thing at night!

Have a look at the video to get a flavour of its atmosphere.

And if you want to pre-order the book either do so on the bar on the left or visit our own WEST UIST CHRONICLE BOOKSHOP  at the very bottom of  the blog.

Calum Steele

Sunday, 18 September 2011


Dice have been around for a long time. For about 5,000 years in fact. Keith was recently interviewed on the Simon Mayo Show on BBC Radio 2, about his forthcoming book THE POCKET GUIDE TO DICE AND DICE GAMES, which is due to be published in March 2012.

With photographs of dice from his personal collection and illustrations by the talented Laura Matine, this book is a pot-pouri of history, magic tricks, tips about playing dice for fun, and important information about the mathematics of odds. It is a must-read if you are contemplating a trip to a casino.

Check out the video about the book.

And if you are interested in pre-ordering it, check out the side bar on the left, or go straight to The West Uist Chronicle Bookshop at the very bottom of the blog.

Calum Steele,

Friday, 16 September 2011


Do you remember those wonderful days in the school lab? Not those days when you had to do those dreadful tests, or when your science teacher demonstrated yet another experiment that failed abysmally and the chemicals turned the wrong colour. Rather, those days when you learned about some amazing principle and felt stimulated to go home and try it out yourself. And when you did, do you recall that Eureka moment?

The West Uist Chronicle is pleased to announce that one of Keith's latest books SCHOOLBOY SCIENCE REMEMBERED is now out. It takes you on a voyage of scientific re-discovery. From the kitchen laboratory to the bathroom test site you will be able to do experiments galore, investigate the mystery of the pyramid, find things out about your body and make things fizz. If you want to re-experience those Eureka moments, then this book is for you

Did you know?
That Tycho Brahe, the great Renaissance scientist had an artificial silver nose and was assisted in his experiments by his court jester

  • That you can make a battery from a stack of coins, blotting paper, silver foil and some salt and vinegar
  • That an ancient Greek inventor, Hero of Alexandria invented a steam machine 1,700 years before James Watt built his steam engine

  • That you can make a crystal set radio from a toilet tube, copper wire, a pencil, a safety pin, a few drawing pins and paper clips, and an old razor blade
Well, you can find out here. Have a look at this video.

And if you are interested in obtaining a copy, scroll down the left hand side, or pay a visit to The West Uist Chronicle Bookshop at the very bottom of the blog

Calum Steel

Saturday, 3 September 2011


Dear Readers,

Due to much demand for some of the various books written by Keith our honorary editor we have decided to open The West Uist Chronicle Bookshop. You will see it at the bottom of the blog if you just scroll down.

We will be adding other books, not just Keith's as we go along, but why not have a look for yourself.

Calum Steele

Saturday, 30 July 2011


You might say that we have always been fairly traditional here on West Uist. Well, THE TRADITIONAL WEST  that is our headline here  is actually nothing to do with our wee island of West Uist. In fact it is a long way over the water and then a long way west from there.

 It is all about a great new anthology of traditional western short stories, published by Western Fictioneers  in the USA.

Please have a look at this great trailer from it, made by Larry Martin, one heck of a western writer. And he is pretty darned good at making videos, too.

So what is it all about:
The classic American Western returns in this collection of brand-new stories by some of the top Western writers in the world today.  Twenty-four members of Western Fictioneers, the only writers’ organization devoted solely to traditional Western fiction, take readers from the dusty plains of Texas to the sweeping vistas of Montana and beyond, in the biggest original Western anthology ever published!

Western Fictioneers was founded in 2010 to promote the oldest genuine American art form, the Western story.  Its worldwide membership includes best-selling, award-winning authors of Western fiction, as well as the brightest up-and-coming new stars in the Western field.  The organization’s first anthology features original stories by Steven Clark, Phil Dunlap, Edward A. Grainger, James J. Griffin, Jerry Guin, C. Courtney Joyner, Jackson Lowry,  Larry Jay Martin, Matthew P. Mayo, Rod Miller, Clay More, Ross Morton, Kerry Newcomb, Scott D. Parker, Pete Peterson, Cheryl Pierson, Kit Prate, Robert J. Randisi, James Reasoner, Dusty Richards, Troy D. Smith, Larry D. Sweazy, Chuck Tyrell, and L.J. Washburn.  With original cover artwork by acclaimed artist Pete Peterson, THE TRADITIONAL WEST is more than 120,000 words of classic Western fiction.

You may remember that our own Keith Souter writes with several different hats. This time he has his western hat on and has a story in the anthology under his other name of Clay More. 

He is proud to have a story sitting in the anthology along with some of the best western writers in the world.

The Traditional West is available now on Kindle and will be out shortly in paperback.

Calum Steele

Tuesday, 17 May 2011


Keith was at Waterstones in the Ridings in Wakefield on Saturday 14th May, signing 6 titles that were on display. It was great fun and he had an enjoyable couple of hours chatting to customers, signing books and drinking tea.

Keith signing some of his novels and medical books at Waterstones

Calum is now going to crack the whip a bit and get him to finish the next West Uist mystery. He can't wait to find out what happens to him in this one!

Friday, 13 May 2011


We are now well into conference season. They are great fun to go to, to meet colleagues, chat about projects that we all have on the go and just immerse yourself in the subject for a day or two. The trouble is that once you have been there for a day you start to wish that you were somewhere else, or doing something different - like writing your novel or playing golf.

I was at a conference down in Norfolk last week and took time out to visit the Swaffham Museum. It has a rare wee exhibition about Howard Carter, the Egyptologist who discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. He had been brought up in Swaffham, a fact that I had been unaware of all those years ago when I was a frequent visitor to the area, for my wife's father had been the Rector at Cockley Cley, a nearby village.

There is a facsimile of the tomb in the museum. You can look through a sort of window and see what it looked like. Then press a button and you see a film clip of Howard Carter crawling along a corridor. Then Lord Carnarvon asks anxiously, 'Can you see anything?'

Carter replies 'Yes, wonderful things.'

For a moment it felt as if you were there.

I have to confess to having a fascination with Tutankhamen, and the whole story of  Carter and Carnarvon. Over the years I have built up quite a library on archaeology, especially Egyptology. And although I know that it is all bunkum, I have a fascination with the story of the Curse.

I am sure everyone will have heard about it. The ancient curse supposedly warned anyone who dared to attempt to desecrate the tomb that they would die a horrible death.

The Egyptologists ignored the curse, of course, then strange things started happening. Carter's canary was eaten by a cobra, and some time after the dig Lord Carnarvon received a mosquito bite on his cheek. He subsequently nicked it shaving and soon after developed septicaemia, and died in a Cairo hotel. The lights went out in Cairo and seemingly at that very same moment Lord Carnarvon's dog at home in Highclere Castle howled, rolled over and died. And then over time a number of people associated with the dig died.

When Carter examined the mummy of the King he found a scar on the cheek. It was said to be on the same side as Lord Carnarvon's.

Such is the stuff of legend, and most of it has been debunked as sensational journalism with scant regard to facts. Yet it is a compelling story which has inspired many writers. I think it was etched in my own mind when was an aspiring writer.

I remember the excitement I felt when I heard that  the famous Tutankhamen exhibition was going to come  to London in 1970, complete with the golden death mask. I queued up for hours to see it. Years later I visited the tomb itself in the Valley of the Kings and guess what - I was bitten by a mosquito on my cheek!

My daughter Kate reminded me about it when I told her that I had been to the Swaffham museum. The thought of it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Although I have been scientifically trained, there was still a part of my mind that had wondered about the curse when the mosquito decided to feast on me!

Saturday, 7 May 2011


The flag is at half mast up at St Ninian's Golf Course today. Seve Ballesteros has lost his battle with cancer and passed away this morning. He will be sadly missed by golfers all over the world.
A golfing legend

We were fortunate enough to see him play several times when he was dominating the world of golf. He truly was a genius, conjuring up shots that no-one else would think of playing. Indeed, probably only a handful of the great players would have had the ability to play them.

The Reverend Lachlan McKinnon will be holding a special memorial service at St Ninian's this afternoon at 2pm, then he and Torquil plan to play nine holes in his memory. Anyone who is free around three o'clock is welcome to join them.

Seve Ballesteros RIP.

Calum Steel
Keith Souter

Thursday, 14 April 2011


The earthquake and tsunami that has devastated Japan has left masses of people in need of help. Our friend and fellow writer Charlie Whipple, who writes westerns as Chuck Tyrell has put together a collection of his short stories set in Japan, which is available as an ebook for about a dollar (it is available on Kindle for 69p). He and the publisher are donating the entire proceeds to the  victims of the earthquake and the tsunami. Please spare a little cash and buy the book, it is great read!

The book is called A MATTER OF TEA, after the title of the first story which won the 2010 Oaxaca International Literature Competition. It is an enchanting tale written by a master story-teller.

Charlie lives in Japan and has experienced past earthquakes, but nothing like this. He writes:

So I decided to let you read these stories and help the people in Tohoku at the same time. Buy this book for a buck -- well, for 99 cents -- and I and my publisher will give all the income we receive from your purchases to worthy charities that are helping in Tohoku. I will personally pick the charities and I will personally report to you about what has been or is being done.

Help me out. Buy this book of stories about Japan. Get your friends to buy a copy, too. Spread the word. Help me help the victims of Japan's horrendous earthquake and tsunami.

If you want to find out more about Charlie or buy the book (AND PLEASE, PLEASE BUY IT) then visit his blog:

Or you can buy it directly for your Kindle from by just following the link to the left.


Calum Steele
Keith Souter

Sunday, 20 March 2011


If you are in Wakefield on Saturday 26th March, come along to the first ever Friends of Sandal Castle event.  FACT OR FICTION.

                                 It takes place 3-5 pm at Sandal Castle Visitor's Centre.

                                                        All welcome

                                                         Free entry

                                                   Soft drinks and cakes 

FICTION -  Keith will be reading from two of his novels:

THE PARDONER'S CRIME - a mystery set in the days of Robin Hood  

THE FOOL'S FOLLY  -a mystery set during the Wars of the Roses

FACT - Helen Cox, a local historian will be talking about the history

                                                  It should be entertaining!

Monday, 14 March 2011


The world has been horrified by the pictures and news of the devastating earthquake and the tsunami that has hit Japan. We were relieved to hear that fellow western writer Charlie Whipple, who writes as Chuck Tyrell, is safe. He and his family are OK, but the country is in bad shape. He lives in Chiba, at the southwestern tip of the earthquake destruction. There are huge queues for supplies and power supplies are being rationed.

Chuck Tyrell writes brilliant westerns for Black Horse Westerns, Solstice Westerns and Western Trail Blazer.

Please buy one of his westerns available from Kindle via Amazon Kindle Store or through Smashwords.


Chuck Tyrell

This was Chuck's first western novel, originally published by Robert Hale's Black Horse westerns in 2005, now re-issued as an ebook by Solstice Westerns.


Chuck Tyrell

“Sometimes a man’s gotta take a stand.” – Shawn Brodie, aged 14.

Arizona, 1882. Falsely accused of theft, Shawn Brodie is sent to serve three years in the Hellhole called Yuma Territorial Prison. Lamb to the slaughter, maybe?

This is what they are saying about it:

“Remarkable. A page turning thriller set in a frontier prison where a boy convict learns about the tough world of survival as he grows into a man. Told with gritty courage and honesty – a surprising blend of East and West, it’s a coming-of-age story like none you’ve ever read.” – Corinne Joy Brown, author of McGregor’s Lantern, Sanctuary Ranch, and Come and Get it!

“Though young, Shawn has the strong moral fiber to survive, no matter what comes his way. Chuck Tyrell has produced a memorable hero and a grim, gritty yet very real tale of brutality leavened with kindness, despair salved with hope, and ultimately an inspiring testament to a young boy’s journey into manhood.” – Ross Morton, author of The $300 Man

"Chuck Tyrell has brought authenticity and poignancy to a western with a difference..."
– Jack Martin, author of The Ballad of Delta Rose.

We are sure you will enjoy the read.

Calum Steel
Keith Souter

Sunday, 6 March 2011


Welcome back readers!

Many apologies for the interruption of The Chronicle. The thing is that we've both been busy. Keith has been writing three books and I - well I've been involved in a bit of a mystery on the island. You'll be able to read about it in due course, in the novel DEATH IN TRANSIT.

So what sort of books has Keith been writing? Well they have been on diverse topics - one is going to be about Aspirin - the wonder drug, another is about Talking, and the third is about Dice and Dice Games.
Have a look in the column alongside.

Aspirin and Talking will be out this summer alongside Schoolboy Science Remembered. We are excited about that one.

Here's what the cover says:

A fantastic foray into the world of science and schoolday experiments which involve turning household goods into exciting but informative experiments. Dr Keith Souter explains the science behind the simple but fun experiments and, by understanding how they work, it will also help to explain the world around you from the position of the Harvest Moon to the composition and osmosis of food and drink. Discover how to make your own kaleidoscope, crystals and even a steam turbine from an old cocoa tin and why you ll never want to compost a floppy potato again. A must-buy book for everyone interested in what happens when and why. The Theory of Everything is contained in these fact-filled pages. Did you know? Steam engine designer, George Stephenson, was inspired by a kettle lid rattling under the pressure of steam Moth balls or Alka Seltzer can be turned into a self-propelling boat Mirrors can be used to help people recover from strokes and even paralysis

It is illustrated by Andrew James, the subject of an earlier interview.

Calum Steele

Monday, 31 January 2011


We at the Chronicle take a pride in our investigative journalism. There are no other journalists like us on West Uist!

We have great pleasure in giving you a little information on our three winners.

First,  Simon Sylvester, whose winning 26 word story LAST ORDERS took first prize.

Simon Sylvester

Simon was born in 1980. His short stories have been published in magazines including Smoke, Gutter and Fractured West. His nanofiction collection 140 Characters is published by Cargo Crate, and he writes new stories daily on

Photo by

He lives in Cumbria with the abstract painter Monica Metsers, earning his crust as a teacher, journalist and labourer. 

His nanofiction collection is available as an ebook or as a print on demand paperback from Cargo Press at

Why don't you check out his stories on twitter and his collection on Cargo Press. Just click the links.

And in second place with his story MEMORIES

Andy McNab
I was born in 1986 in deepest Yorkshire.

I have dabbled in History and Law at various institutions in Hull, London and York for several years now.

I am an avid reader and I have always fantasised about writing something of my own, but a lack of confidence has hindered me from putting pen to paper.

Fortunately in my haste to hide from my textbooks I stumbled upon the addictive medium of FLASH FICTION. And thought I would try my luck.

This is my first attempt at writing anything and I am very happy that people seemed to enjoy my story!

And in third place with his story D.I.D. SHE DO IT

Joe Lunn
I was born in 1985 in Cawthorne, Barnsley. You can follow me on twitter!/Joelunn07

I have been interested in writing stories from a young age although not so much in my teen years. This competition has given me great encouragement to write more stories in the future.

This is the first time I've entered a writing competition and I was extremely pleased and surprised to have done so well. I guess the endless hours I've spent watching crime movies  and episodes of C.S.I. have inspired me to write my story.

This is my first attempt at writing anything and I am very happy that people seemed to enjoy my story!

And we certainly enjoyed all of your stories.

Congratulations again, guys!

Calum Steele
Keith Souter


Good morning folks,

The poll finished last night and we have three clear winners:

First prize         LAST ORDERS by Simon Sylvester
Second Prize     MEMORIES  by Andy  McNab
Third Prize       D.I.D. SHE DO IT by Joe Lunn

All three winners will be notified by email this morning and their prizes will be on their way this week.

These three stories consistently topped the final long-short list of 26 stories. All three were well crafted, told a story and had a twist. And the results speak for themselves. The public liked them.

Congratulations also to all of the writers who made the long-short list. Every one of them had its strength and deserved to be there.

Thank you also to all those writers whose stories did not make the list. As we said before, it was a very hard task whittling it down to a list of 26 stories. We literally had stories from all round the world.

Please come back later. We will try and get some information on these winning writers.

Calum Steele
Keith Souter

Sunday, 30 January 2011


Dear Readers,

The flash fiction competition is heating up. The votes are still coming in, as you can see.

The order at the top of the leader board has shifted:


And in 4th place   KYOTO

Still half a day, so anything can happen.

I must say that after watching the Australian Open tennis final and seeing our lad Andy Murray falter, Keith and I needed something to lift our spirits. This flurry of voting is doing just that.

We have really enjoyed this competition - some really great stories.

Calum Steele
Keith Souter

 PS We are looking forward to the French Open now!

Friday, 28 January 2011


The competition is still close. A surge could see anyone rise up the table.

Currently the order is:


with in 4th place

Calum Steele
Keith Souter


Most of the votes are on the board now! A few votes are still missing. Our records show that every story has at least one point on the board.

This is certainly showing the same main contenders:


Still plenty of time to catch the leaders.

Calum Steele
Keith Souter

Thursday, 27 January 2011


The top positions are as at the time of posting are:




Dear readers and voters,

There is still trouble at the poll!

Not just here, but in polls around the world, it seems. The trouble is that the votes come in, then disappear again after a while. The totals opposite this article are not accurate.

The only thing for us to do is keep a close watch. We are maintaining a manual tally and adjusting it with the votes that come in. Rather than reproducing the whole listing, we will post the top 4 positions, and only change them when and if another joins them on the same numbers, or knocks them out of the top four.

The top 4 at the time of posting are:


Calum Steele
Keith Souter


Dear readers and voters,

We are afraid that there has been a technical problem with the poll and the recording is showing the results for two days ago. But fear not, we have been able to keep a tally and we shall continue to do this manually.

New voters please keep voting.

We can assure you all that this will be done entirely accurately  and there will be no shenanigans! As all our readers know, The West Uist Chronicle is known for its journalistic integrity. We stand up for the people and we will do our utmost to ensure that we protect each and every one of our writers in this competition. Despite the technology we are going to ensure the fairness of this competition.

Calum Steele


Hi folks,

If you have popped in to check on how your story is going you may be surprised to see that the poll seems to be showing the vote count from a couple of days ago. We are trying to find out what has happened. A technical hitch has occured and we are trying to have it fixed.

We checked this morning and it was fine, then votes have been lost. It seems that we are not the only poll affected, though!

Sorry, bear with us.

Please bear with us.

Calum Steele
Keith Souter

Tuesday, 25 January 2011


Right folks, here we have the long-short list for our flash fiction competition. We thought the fairest way to get to the winners is by public vote. So here are the stories. Read them all and select the one that you think is best. Voting goes on until midnight on 31st January. The top three stories will win one of the prizes, as we announced earlier, and which you can see if you scroll down. In the event of ties the editorial team will decide.

Our congratulations to everyone who made it onto the list. Good luck to you all.

Calum Steele
Keith Souter

Monday, 24 January 2011


Well, we've done it! After numerous cups of tea, some debate and a lot of agonising, we have whittled the entries down to 26. That seems an appropriate number, since 26 was the wordage allowed.

Here are the selected stories, anonymized for you to have a look at.
& Keith

All Ben can do, (except fight Guy harder), is join karate lessons Monday night. Other possibilities quite resemble solitude.
Tough, unmerciful violence withstood xenophobic youth zabernism.

Andy's backhand created deuce. Eagerly Federer gasped, highly irritated, jeering knowingly like McEnroe. Notorious opposing player quickly reveals Swiss tennis "unbeatable's" vulnerability with xerophytic youthful zeal.

For peace of mind Graeme packed the parachutes with absolute precision every time. This gave him confidence that they would hit the ground at 120 mph.

It went on for years. And then, one day, she said ‘yes.’ It was whispered, hushed, involuntary, panted. It cut him to his addled core.

They walked up the hill together, father and son. He emptied the little urn from the top of Wasdale; he walked down on his own.

The RSPCA had a strong case all along, and now Schroedinger’s defence lay foundering on the news that the cat was most definitely dead.

Torrents of it, soaking, drenching. Really rather pretty. Still, I’m sure the nurse will notice sooner or later, and wheel me back inside.

An irrational Robyn Diamonds had lacerated Jacks vertebral artery. His wife Maddison Byron laid covered in arterial spray, distraught and realising the anagram of her name.
[ D.I.D – Dissociative Identity Disorder]

He grasped the book, the old man's eyes an ocean, swirling and deep. "But why now? Here?". No reply. "But...". Exhausted, he drifted into the darkness.

Wielding only a pen; gods and kings knelt before him. Now from the Market Stage only groundlings stood laughing as the sword flashed down.

He saw sumptuous alpine passes, flawless white sands and turquoise waters, colossal erupting mountains and craggy, gnarled and crooked forests as his fingers scanned the Braille.

 Tommy gun sang and crimson blood danced in the apartment. But she was at the fight with him and he was at the club with her.
After a year I've tracked down the man who stole my identity. I'm following him. He goes into an alley. He's cornered. He turns. It's me.

As we try to divide up the CDs we play the music we fell in love to. Maybe I'll leave tomorrow.

The dawn is cold. The past is dim. The drink was strong. The pain is hell. Who are you? Don't wake. I'm gone. 

Todd was a man of science, Jonas of theology. "What created the Big Bang if there was nothing before it?" mused Todd. "God?" mused Jonas.


Police interviewed him about a crime he didn't commit. Innocent but a fool he spat in an officer's face and spent the night in jail anyway.


They marched for peace, waved banners and started a riot. He watched from a distance, shook his head and said, "They just don't get it."


Lachlan collected worms in a cup and hid them under his bed. By night his worms were missing and he was afraid to go to sleep.

"I CAN'T believe that you still can't tie your own shoelaces," said his wife, waiting. "Nor can I," he muttered, to himself. And then he fell ...

THE woman, aged 20, a student, stood at the door, staring at the man who had knocked, disturbing her studies. "I'm your LibDem candidate," he said.

HE had heard about 1984. He now knew what it meant, as the computer popped up with a message saying his profile had officially been deleted.

"Body twenty-seven, Inspector," McTavish said, trailing bloody footprints.
 "The Alphabet killer?"
 "Same M.O.."
 "Twenty-six bodies, twenty-six entrails... Why didn't he stop?"
 "Because he's discovered Chinese."

my prnts dn’t ndrstnd m :(

 On the Path of Philosophy two teddy bears fish beneath the cherry blossom.

THERE is a man who walks round Scarborough wearing a ski mask.
I always wonder why he wears it and sometimes I think about asking him.


This is a wee apology if you have tried to ring the Chronicle office. We are just so busy at the moment trying to sort through all these wonderful short stories that folk have sent in. Literally from all over the world.

As soon as we have worked out a short list - although because of the high standard of entries it is probably going to be a long short list - we will be back with normal service.

Keep tuning in and we'll have the list soon.

Calum Steele

Saturday, 8 January 2011


Can you write a 26 word (or less) story? We are running a competition this month. The details of entry and examples are right after Fiona McDonald's interview.

Calum Steele
Keith Souter

VAMPIRES, ALIENS AND FAIRIES - an interview with talented Artist and Illustrator Fiona McDonald

FIONA MCDONALD is a classically trained artist whose passion for toys manifests itself in the compulsive making of dolls and puppets. Her life size cloth and mixed media figures have received international acclaim and are eagerly sought after by collectors.

Apart from writing and illustrating her own books Fiona recently worked with Keith on THE LITTLE BOOK OF GENIUS,  to be published by The History Press in October 2011.  This happy link up was forged by our wonderful agent, Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors.

The Little Book of Genius
Keith: I very much enjoyed working on the book with you, Fiona. Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?

Thanks Keith. I loved doing the pictures for the Little Book of Genius, and I enjoyed the text as I worked – I must say I’ve learnt a lot.

I was born in Armidale, NSW Australia in an area called New England. It was founded by a McDonald, probably a relative, but certainly with strong Scottish ties and I think the town’s population reflects that.

I hated school and left in year 11, the second last year of secondary school. And I have never regretted it.

I went to art school in Sydney. Julian Ashton’s is Australia’s oldest independent art school and it is one of the few left that teaches classical skills of drawing, perspective, anatomy etc. To pay for my tuition fees I cleaned the premises, including the toilets and made the ritual lunch time pot of tea in an enormous tea pot. Art school was one of the highlights of my life.

From Sydney I went to the Blue Mountains, two hours west of Sydney with my young daughter. It was in Katoomba that I began developing my cloth dolls. These started as toys for my daughter based on an imagined and longed for doll from my own childhood. I took the results to a local gallery and they took them on and sold them.

I began wiring them inside and painting them with oil paints and they got larger and larger till they were life size and could no longer be called dolls.


After my son was born I enrolled in university and studied Italian and English literature. This led to a pause in my art as I got further immersed in the world of Dante and Milton.

I am back doing art now. I’m drawing, painting and designing knitted dolls and other toys. I am trying hard to make a living out of these activities but have to resort to teaching every now and then.

Keith: I am envious of people who can draw. You have a wonderful and very unique style. When did you realise that you had this skill, and how have you developed it?

From childhood! Well, at least I have always had the passion for it. 
I loved drawing princesses with long curly hair only I left out the noses because they looked awful. I doodled my way through high school. I still have some of my old books and the margins are full of intricate and delicate drawings.

Keith:  What projects are you working on now?

I’m working on a book of knitted vampires for Search Press, they have brought out Knitted Babes, Knitted Aliens and will shortly release Knitted Fairies. I finished the manuscript for a history of textiles for Remember When, an imprint of Pen and Sword and I am working on a book about the 1920s for them at the moment. And I’m doing some large, detailed pen drawings.

                                                                    To Sleep

Keith: Who have been your biggest influences?

I have been in love with a group of women artists who were closely associated with the Surreal movement: Dorothea Tanning, Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo. I also adore Paula Rego’s work.

What type of books, films, music do you like?

Music – I like lots of different times and styles from medieval to rock. I hate bland music. I play baroque flute and recorder with a small group here in Armidale.
Books- I read lots of children’s and young adults’ novels. I can’t go past a good who- dunnit though.

Keith:  (Cough, cough.) I know someone who writes passable who-dunnits! But on a serious note, what  are your ultimate aims artistically?

I want to make a decent living out of art and writing. I’d love to be able to produce work that I want to do and then to sell it. This is probably not very realistic these days. I would certainly settle for regular illustrative work.

What are your aims professionally?

Apart from making a living from my art work I want to open an alternative toy shop. Granny Fi’s Toy Cupboard, specialising in handmade and unusual toys. I want the shop to look old fashioned and to act as an antidote to all that modern plastic and inanity. I like dolls to have character and to act as companions and confidantes to children. I feel that the kind of play I did with my cousins, as a child, is getting rarer. WE used our toys as the cast of thousands to support us in our conquests of space, the ocean or when we were teaching school and fighting dragons. The toy shop is an idea that keeps coming back to me so I think I will work on it to make it happen.

                                                            In the Toyshop

What advice would you give to other artists and illustrators?

Firstly, hone your technical skills. You can never have enough drawing skills even if your style is very stylised. And then go for your passion. Work, work, work. And grow a really thick skin so you can accept rejection after rejection. But don’t give up. Bounce back, reassess your work and push your foot into as many doors as possible.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

It is funny you ask this question. I have just joined a women in business mentor group as a mentoree. I have just been answering the same thing for them only it was in six years. My answer was that I would be busy, as it was pre-Christmas, 2016, in my Granny Fi’s Toy Cupboard, helping my staff sell, wrap toys and give out sweets to children. I also said I’d have some of my music students playing beautiful carols outside the shop door. I don’t want to be tied to the business but want to be able to sell my own, as well as other people’s, designs through it. I think it would be lovely to have a toy shop. I guess this means I have never really grown up. I would also dearly love to have some fiction publishes, aimed at children and young adults of course.

Finally, the strange thing is that we may be related. My mother’s side of the family are McDonalds. Your daughter visited the UK this year. Unfortunately I had to go up to Scotland and we missed each other. Have you any plans to return to the old country?

I’m sure we are cousins somewhere along the line, Keith. And if I can make it 2011 I will be over. I think must do it. I have a very strong desire to visit Britain, Scotland in particular. My McDonald family came to Australia around 1880 as free settlers and almost straight away ended up in Armidale. I take my Scottish heritage very seriously. Beatriz, my daughter fell in love with Scotland long before she got there and she was even more in love when she left. I know I will be the same.

Thank you for your time, Fiona
It’s been a pleasure Keith.