Ink Stains Newsletter – October

Popular Newfoundland novelist Paul Butler is a prolific and well-reviewed writer of historical novels such as Titanic Ashes, Cupids, Hero, 1892, and NaGeira. Paul also offers writing and editing workshops which were very helpful to me in my earlier writing days, and I’ve always been grateful for his early support and encouragement.

Thanks to Paul for featuring my collection “Cold Seasons” in the October issue of his newsletter, “Ink Stains”!

Cold Seasons

Cold Seasons by Keith Collier

Find Paul online at https://paulbutlernovelist.wordpress.com/

Remembering the Ocean Ranger

The Ocean Ranger on Wikipedia

On February 15th, 1982, the exploratory, semi-submersible drilling rig Ocean Ranger capsized and sank off the coast of Newfoundland. All 84 people were killed in Canada’s worst maritime tragedy since the Second World War. 56 of them were from Newfoundland.

I grew up hearing about the Ocean Ranger disaster, but I didn’t learn many details about it until I went to university. I had always had the impression that the rig just disappeared one night in a storm, but the full story of the disaster, the doomed attempts by the crew to save the rig, the helplessness of the onlookers, and the failed rescue attempts is far more heartbreaking.

Unsurprisingly, the disaster is important in Newfoundland’s recent cultural, and economic, history. The oil industry has transformed Newfoundland over the last 30 years, and the Ocean Ranger was part of the original wave of exploration that created today’s era of relative prosperity.

One of the most well-known cultural responses to the disaster is Ron Hynes’ song “Atlantic Blue.” Hynes considers it one of the most difficult and important songs he’s ever written.

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“Cold Seasons” is Here

A project I’ve been working on for a few months now is finally completed, and I’m thrilled to announce that my first mini-collection of stories is now available on Amazon! It’s my first foray into self-publishing and my first collection.

Cold Seasons

Cover design by Matthew Byrne

This collection consists of five linked short stories, totalling about 13,000 words.

  • “Summer Break”
  • “Smoke in Winter”
  • “Street Scenes”
  • “The 12 Days of Christmas”
  • “Westbound Trains”

Three of the stories were previously published in The Newfoundland Quarterly, while two appear here for the first time.

Check it out at http://www.amazon.ca/dp/B00SSKZS1K

The Book Assassin

This week’s challenge over at Chuck Wendig’s Terrible Minds blog is to randomly choose three things from three different lists and create a 1,000 word story with them.

I got a library, an assassin, and a bomb. It’s nice when things work out.

The Book Assassin

Some books were never meant to be written.

Quarto reflected on this as he tightened his cloak around his shoulders. The rain was steady, but his hat and cloak were thick and waterproof. Rainwater filled the gaps in the cobblestone streets, and darkened the facades of the ancient buildings which grew ever more ancient as Quarto made his way deeper into the narrow alleyways. Finally he stood before a door. He knocked firmly with a gloved hand.

The man who answered appeared elderly, but opened the heavy door with little effort. He regarded Quarto for only a moment, then stepped back to allow him to pass through the doorway.

“Greetings,” said Quarto. “A pleasant evening.”

“Indeed,” said the man who had opened the door. “May I take your things?”

Quarto removed his dripping hat and cloak, and handed them to the man.

“Your boots and bag as well,” he said.

“My boots?” said Quarto.

“Our collections here are quite precious,” said the man. “Priceless, and irreplaceable, and quite delicate. We do what we can to keep out the mud and rain.”

“I understand,” said Quarto. He placed his boots by the entrance and, removing his notebook from his leather satchel, handed that over as well. The man took them, then disappeared into an adjoining cloakroom. As he turned Quarto noted the brief flash of steel beneath his formal jacket.

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Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

In the spring of 2008, I visited France and Belgium with my sister. Among our many stops were the D-Day beaches at Normandy and several World War I battlefields and memorials, including Vimy Ridge and Beaumont-Hamel, although in truth most of northern France seems like one never ending memorial. The place is heavy with history.

I published this article in The Newfoundland Quarterly later that year. In honour of Remembrance Day, I’m posting it here.

Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

“It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault only failed of success because dead men can advance no further.”

– Major-General Sir Beauvoir de Lisle, Commander British 29th Division

The Danger Tree

The Danger Tree at Beaumont-Hamel, 2008

The case arrived by courier one day in April, all the way from Ottawa. The General Manager called me into his office to open it.

Inside were the medals of Tommy Rickett’s, on loan from the Canadian War Museum. They were nestled inside on the foam padding: The Victory Medal and the British War Medal, the “Mutt and Jeff” of First World War military medals. The French Croix de Guerre with star, and one other.

The Victoria Cross looked small in the case. If you didn’t know that it had a story to tell, it could almost be insignificant, just a piece of bronze and crimson ribbon.

*

Two weeks later I was driving from Normandy to Belgium, roughly following the route of the Canadian Third Infantry Division in as they moved across Europe towards Germany in 1944-45. One look out the window and you know this is tank country, rolling fields divided by roads and hedgerows.

Suddenly in the distance were the pylons of the Pont de Normandie, big inverted Y’s reaching up from the ground to carry the A29 Autoroute over the great River Seine. It looked mystical in the mist, the biggest bridge I had ever seen.

I was traveling with my sister, and she had the same reaction. ‘Do we get to cross that?’ she asked. After the next turn, the next crest of the hill, the river came into better view.

Yes, we do.

The speed limit on the autoroutes is 130 kilometres an hour, and we were across the two kilometre bridge in less than a minute. The big Y pylons soared above us, while below us the Seine moved lazily towards the English Channel and sea.

This trip was a succession of bodies of water to be crossed: the Atlantic, the English Channel, the Seine River.  We had taken the ferry from Portsmouth to Ouistreham and the Normandy landing beaches, Juno Beach and Pointe du Hoc and later Mont St. Michel where the Couesnon River empties on the salt flats.

But those were all behind us now. Ahead of us lay Belgium, french fries and good beer. But we weren’t leaving the battlegrounds of France just yet.

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Landwash

A few months ago The Independent launched it’s online literary & arts journal, titled “Landwash.” They’ve launched two issues so far and I was happy to have stories featured in both.

“Landwash” is a collection of stories, poetry, photography, art, and commentary on contemporary Newfoundland and Labrador arts and culture, filtered through the unique post-Confederation revolutionary lens of The Independent.

Landwash Vol. 1, Issue 1:

Landwash Vol. 1 Issue 1 Cover

Landwash Vol. 1 Issue 1

My contribution to Issue #1 is “Sleigh Bells,” a short story I wrote a couple of years ago (and another Christmas-themed one!) based on stories I heard growing up in Bay D’Espoir.

Landwash Vol. 1, Issue 2:

Landwash Vol. 1 Issue 2 Cover

Landwash Vol. 1 Issue 2

“Undercurrents,” my contribution to Issue #2, is also based on people I knew growing up, but is also a reflection on industry and development and its affect on small town Newfoundland.

I should have a story in Issue #3 as well. Keep an eye out for it at www.theindependent.ca!

© Copyright Keith Collier 2014.