Thursday, September 3, 2009

It's a Conspiracy!

By David Kearns


The great part about being a slightly whack writer is you get to call some things for what they are. Namely, the conspiracies in our lives.
Months ago I was fighting to get a UFO trilogy published. I spoke via email with one published author who cautioned me that publishing houses don’t want to touch UFO books, even in novel form because “they have all sort of agreed, UFO’s don’t represent anything extraterrestrial.”
No one will touch the subject in novel form because, there’s nothing supernatural about it? The new yardstick apparently for science (emphasis here) FICTION? Does this go for “ghosts,” Bigfoot, Skunk Ape, Werewolves as well?
Does this make sense? We have scifi novels about vampires? You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting those down at the B and N. Are they saying “well, yeah, vampires okay, but UFOs? No. “
Are vampires real?
Then, why?
“Well, it’s just because you see…”
The U.S. intelligencia is under barrage recently for disclosure about this UFO phenomenon. I’ve said before that in the absence of information the human mind will extrapolate.
But our illustrious publishers have decided, for some inane reason, that UFOs are not a subject worthy of speculation, even in FICTION. They have decided this in a dismal book market, despite evidence all over that even the standard tome which list-wise documents the phenomenon, DOES in fact sell, and if you push these enough, they will sell quite nicely.
So why not UFO fiction?
(Crickets chirping, the bells from a far off cathedral. Leaves rustling)
So, we pass up a market that is out there, living and breathing, while your publishing houses are going down in flames? Smells like conspiracy to me.
(Executives clearing their throats. Papers rumpling, editor adjusts glasses…)
Are you independent editors, or have you been braced by our government to keep mum?
The armed forces have become so knee jerk in their lies, they have even issued the same doltish reports covering sightings of our own aircraft seen chasing these UFOs, whatever the latter may represent.
In Stephenville in late 2007, military officials first explained away two F-16 Tom Cat fighters as they pursued some damned thing, whatever it was, and it was moving pretty damned fast and looked nothing like conventional aircraft. The officials stated that our own, easily recognizable Tom Cats were in fact reflections off two jet liners at cruising altitude which, for some bizarre reason of refractive atmospheric pseudo-physics, presented themselves to the witnesses as F-16s less than 1,500 feet off the ground. No explanation as to how mirages also shook window panes of the houses near where they … miraged.
They later retracted this beef and admitted six Tom Cats were for some reason defying FAA regulations in a training exercise of some sort scant meters above the tree-line.
How long will this go on?When will Big Brother at least permit honest, shit-nuts-crazy fiction writers to at least speculate what these things may be through pages of good ole fashioned science fiction novels again?
I’m sorry but I really dig those old flying saucer stories from the 1960s; the movies that scared the crap out of everybody. Am I alone?
“No, you MAY publish about aliens, so long as you’re writing an approved script for Hollywood’s MIB series.( A silly, thoroughly enjoyable venue, nonetheless.) Or so long as you are working on the next version of Independence Day in script form, or if you wrote District 9.”
Why can’t someone, namely me, publish a series of novels about UFOs the way our buddy Steven King would? Why can’t there be a Twilight series covering a group of kids who discover aliens?
“Well it’s just not done, you see… Just bad form and we don’t like you for suggesting it.”
Okay, and I hear you, and…and…I accept that I can be a pain in the ass, but, take me out of the equation and answer the damned question, WHY?! Do you even HAVE AN ANSWER? Or is it just because someone might FIRE you for even suggesting it?
I have been told in no uncertain terms that the latter is the case. Mention it at an editorial meeting and you’re out. Bigfoot? Okay! More bloodsuckers? Hell yes, bring us more of that!
This nonsense in mind, and frankly having completed my first in a series of novels, and no where to put it but in the dust bin, or on the internet, I have chosen the latter.
I began the book Monster Hole in the summer of 2005 after completing my non-fiction Where Hell Freezes Over. While writing the non-fiction and investigating Antarctica I ran smack dab into the UFO phenomenon in all its wild craziness on the web.
Curious, and suffering from delusions no doubt, I began to peel away at this onion, sieving fact from fiction, and I decided, hell yes, this would make a fine novel or two or even three.
Monster Hole is the beginning book in The Big Lie series. In 1981, a group of surfers from Melbourne Beach Florida were confronted with the inexplicable. Like Stephen King’s IT, they come back home, to Mel Beach, following the death of their informal leader, Ryan Cogswell, who now, at 43 and suffering from mania brought on by his contact with whomever, has apparently killed himself.
The story is told first person narrative through his best friend Tim Stanton. Stanton relates the story as it unfolds in quasi-diary form, through dreams visions and flashbacks and conversations with his pals at the wake and the funeral. All remember events differently.
Ryan had been up to some pretty crazy shit as well; coating the inside of his old bedroom with aluminum foil which hides, double hides and triple hides, secrets to something he had been working on for the military.
Enter the MIBs, real ones, scary mean spirited; intent on squashing the secrets.
Complicating the story is the fact the adult version of Ryan Cogswell, had been a computer engineer working on super secret projects for military contractor Camerdyne Systems Inc.
Go ahead and read it. I am working on book two, and so you can have Book 1 for your enjoyment now; not for republication or profit but for damned enjoyment. (Book 2 is simply awesome as well)
I do this because the publishing cycle will likely pass me by on the first novel, which is set in the year 2011.
I have made reading easy on your eyes by including a nice sea blue background behind white type.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Writing is a Disease part 4

By David A. Kearns

So the Navy balked at bringing the bodies home in 2005. So so no free, publicity ride on the news.

That never happened.

Talk about devotion to the cause, Dad, who was the senior officer at the time, still carries more weight than Robbie, then an enlisted man. A navy captain I had been emailing about the rescue mission called me in late 2005 asking for Dad's contact info. They wanted Dad's take on a recovery mission for the last three men; should it be done? They were going to ask Robbie the same question. I knew better than to give up my dad's whereabouts, for the sake of the project, that is. But some weird call to honor, some ingrained, slavish instinct made me do it anyway. After all, I am supposed to write the story, not direct it one way or the other.

On top of a costly war in Irag, the Navy sided with my father; not in the foreseeable future. So no free publicity. Still, I understand where Bill is coming from. He doesn’t want to risk the lives of any more Navy crews, or any sort of crews in what will be a difficult, dangerous mission. And the Navy still has Dad and Frenchy down for pilot error in the crash.

It's a bullshit call but, that's how it is. If it's all on his plate, he doesn't want anymore guilt. See? I can definitely respect that.

That captain later emailed me back and directed me to pass a salute on to my father. He said “he’s a true warrior.” And I understand that. Bill voicing this honest opinion was unpopular with the families of the dead, and difficult, personally, for him. What sort of monster doesn’t want his shipmates to come home?

That would be a warrior who thinks it could result in more deaths to an unbeatable enemy. And it just might. Antarctica, contrary to the Disney version of it, is not a safe place, at all.

Just getting there is a risk of life and limb, said my father. The roaring forties, the screaming sixties, he remembers every wave, every toss of the ship. He also remembers the crash, the fiery fall to earth and the torture on ice.

This project, this disease, has left me with my skin, and that scratched. It has left me insane, or very nearly. It has left me with nightmares.

It is estimated the George 1 remains buried, with the remaining crew, more than 100 feet beneath snowdrift and ice. A mission could cost as much as $2 million taking months of time.
In the meantime, I fight like a geek on the highway with his pants on fire, to get more page views to the Amazon listing. Not because I would get rich. But more so, because the story needs to be seen on the big screen…and then I’m all for getting rich if that is the Great Cosmic Critter’s plan. If not rich then, for the esoteric cathartic release (wink).

In truth, the story on screen would do a world of good to the families of everyone involved in the rescue, the deceased and the passed-on.

Okay, a little kvetching here. Kirkus reviews slammed me, referring to Jon Krakauer in their text. My sin of course, in the sense of not being him, and, I might add, he not being me. I am not sure what machinations this is representative of. I do know that Kearns and Krakauer would find themselves in close proximity down at the local B and N, where everything is alpha by author. My work takes on similar themes, i.e survival in frozen realms, and of course shelf space is at a premium.

If you read Kirkus also they say at the end the men all went on to "uninteresting fates" which is such a bland, bald-face untruth, I take extreme exception. My father revisited Antarctica twice. Frenchy LeBlanc underwent a recovery process for burns and double amputation, nothing short of miraculous and well documented. As to the character development in my book, (I hope some remember the difference between fiction and non) two men Captain Caldwell, and Captain George Dufek went on to make admiral in the US Navy, and the list goes on and on, all covered.

More to the point, how I had any could control what these men in real life went on to do, simply defies explanation. Not being God, I could not force my “characters” to go on and live more interesting lives, not that they didn’t.

All bore some form of trauma, either physical or psychological, and I discussed this. But I do not belabor this as the reviewer would have liked apparently. These were military men, and they did not whine. If they didn't whine to me, if they managed to keep their emotions in check, I said so. Whine? Hell, Robbie was fond of blasting me over email. Bill? Bill didn't whine. Bill got misty a couple of times. That's it. Other times he flat said "I don't want to talk about this right now."

Whine. That’s what we writers do. We bitch, piss, moan and whine to our fates; we grovel at your feet in the hopes you will buy our books, which I do here for you now.

Kirkus also mentions two more chapters were necessary to explain the reasons we went there. Possibly they have a point. Some of those details were sacrificed in edit to make the story more personal, more immediate. Additionally, the reasons we went there, the stated reasons that is, are well documented in the text.

The deeper reasons that the reviewer may be talking about? We must understand those perhaps are still closely guarded secrets that the U.S. Navy and the Joint Chiefs do not want revealed. The Navy was in Antarctica for 42 years. I more than mention the nuclear testing that seemed to pop up afterwards. Did they get all the uranium from Antarctica? I hint at the possibility here. Where do you suppose all that uranium for all those nuclear weapons came from? Thousands of warheads. Uranium is very rare. It only can be found in specific metamorphic rocks; very old rocks that only surface after millions of years of weathering. Weathering, ice, scraping, scraping, scraping?

Ask yourself, on the one hand you had all this testing going on, all these silos filling up with nuclear weapons. On the other, you had our Navy based in Antarctica, quitting the field toward the end of the Cold War. You be the judge. The Navy certainly isn’t releasing any state secrets to the son of a Lieutenant j.g. USNR, the son who took the easy route and said “Gee I want to be a writer.” I think they have their own timetable about the release of such information and they surely won’t be checking with me first.

Kirkus’s savage, freakish, sans-context yet strangely pro-Krakauer review was stripped down soon after it posted on You know why Amazon strips down reviews? Because they are obviously so agenda-driven, they present a liability to the website. Think of the millions of products. Do they give a damn if Kirkus nails me? No. They don't want some stone-throwing goon like me, coming out of the woodwork and causing a legal stink over an obvious hatchet job; the sort of review that Nanny Krakauer might have written. (scratchy voice "My Jonny could have done a beter job than this peice of shi..")Why Jon Krakauer was brought into my personal life story still irks. I've certainly never met the man. I certainly never blasted any of his work. What the hell does he have to do with a story my father told me? The reviewer would rather that Krakaur goo, have come out of my father's pizz-winky blocking my conception? It certainly sounds that way. And if that isn't a personal attack for non-random reasons, then I guess I'm like Jenny from Forrest Gump and I just don't know what love is.

I imagine it had a negative impact not only on sales but how my publisher began to view me. I didn’t know how important this one review was because I didn’t have an agent to tell me “Oh this (sweat, stammer) this is not good.” It is the one review you want to get right the first time.

As long as writers know you apparently have to get an inside track here, get some people paid off or whatever it takes, inside that fucker if that's what they want; or whatever it is you have to do. Whatever that magic thing is (and you know for certain the will not explicitly state what-the -fuck it is!) why just do that thing anyway. Do that shit first if you can stomach it. I know, I know; Keeereist it sucks to be us.

But my concern for the last few years had been getting the book out. After it came out, I watched and waited for sales to explode. I did get into the low thousands on ranking for a while. So, had I been given the stiletto? Who knows for sure? And this is where the memory of that frying pan comes to haunt me to this day.

On the other hand, several positive reviews of my work, I feel, show a fairer picture on balance. Where Hell Freezes Over would not, sixty years after the fact, have lent itself to great ornamentation in the telling. Krakaur has the luxury to put finer detail on his works since, all his stories have happened fairly recently. I only put down what I knew was said, or happened, failing that the possible alternatives, as a trained journalist must. Additionally, and if you like, God told me not to embellish. He wanted the story to speak for itself.

I put out an open request here, to whom ever might be listening, to at least put a more legible, discernable cover on my book on Today it looks like a photocopy’s copy. You can barely make out the shape of the aircraft. I think this might help sales a bit, but, what the hell do I know.

So, writer, back to the original theme: writing as a disease. More aptly, it is a virus. Once you have it, there is no getting rid of it. Know that once you start down this path to owning it, by making a commitment to getting published, it can take you on a marvelous journey, fraught with crevasses and mountains that are glorious as they are dangerous. Know what you are getting into.

What have I learned?

1.No frying pans and Santero dealth altars to those who disappoint you, especially those who made the attempt.

2.Don’t blame people for treating it like a business and looking out for their interests first, yours a close second. This would be the agents.

3. Sometimes it's a trade off, just before the book comes out.

4. Sometimes people don't want to tell you the truth and there's nothing you can do.

5. You will come to a juncture where you must do that unpleasant thing; that they will not explicitly state what the fuck it is, like Kreskin the goddamn magician you must find out anyway then do it, do it, do it till they are satisified. The trick is recognizing the moment.

6. Remember, this is a never-ending game. If you never quit you will never admit defeat.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Writing is a Disease Part 3

By David Kearns

Check the title of this post ...oh yes it is, especially when it comes to Antarctica.

Antarctica is tricky in every way; especially when it comes to books, stories, film and web reports. There is a cult following of sorts, surrounding the last continent on earth that no one technically owns. We’re not talking about an island, which is how most school kids think about it. There it is, down there at the bottom of the world. Ice, penguins, happy-happy, dancing feet.

Oh no, we’re talking about a combined land mass of 5.6 million square miles. A world unto itself, different than anywhere else on earth and more remote than central Siberia. There is a wealth of disinformation, intentional and/or mythical, about Antarctica. Resurrected Hitler, flying Nazi UFOs, Hollow Earth theory, that sort of thing. (This image resulted from a Goog search typing in "Operation Highjump UFOs," and I love it, there are many on the web link.)

But then you have to ask yourself, why in heaven’s name did the U.S. Navy send 13 ships including two destroyer escorts, and 23 aircraft, including nine Martin PBMs (technically, bombers rigged for survey missions) three ice breakers, one battle submarine, and all the associated crews and scientists totaling 4,700 men to the continent, when cessation of hostilities had not yet been sounded? Just to please one rear admiral, Richard E. Byrd?

In the information gap, the human mind extrapolates. So to, sloggers intentionally, or duped, clog the web with nonsense to muddy the truth waters. What's real, what's not? So hard to filter when a Google search immediately downloads so much outlandish hokum along with the truth about Antarctica and my father's mission Operation Highjump.

Yet, there is this unsettling crossover between followers of the UFO phenomenon, and Antarctica and the U.S. Navy's involvement. It won't go away. UFO Reporter Billy Cox asked me about it. Did my dad see anything? Was he aware of anything paranormal there?

This past April I asked my father - a former Navy pilot, and writer - about UFOs in general and what the Navy knows about them. I pointed out that some of the UFO stuff, obviously isn't bunk. I asked him to consider the work Firestorm, ammassed by author Ann Druffel, who compiled the papers of atmospheric scientist, Dr. James E. MacDonald, who was also a former navy man. When he heard this name, dad's face grew serious. (MacDonald left)

“There may be something to it,” he allowed of the phenomenon as a stand-alone issue.

Now, does the UFO phenomenon apply to Antarctica? Did my father see anything there? He says no to the latter question, and "not that I am aware of " to the former.

And yet something of unknown origin is attached to the continent.

I have never had more computer viruses attack and whipe me out than when I was writing about Antarctica and the U.S. Navy's involvement in it, particularly asking emailed questions about it, and downloading satellite imagery concerning it. I went through three machines in four years and I consider that a little much.

Despite popular opinions and statements from our military, there are secrets, namely UFOs, and perhaps Antarctica, among many others, they just would rather we not think about or discuss.

Jamming, disinformation, and this sort of thing are part of modern warfare components. I have no proof whatsoever that such tactics were used on me. I do have he very shit's trail of dead computers and a lot of questions. (A more standard image of Operation Highjump, right)

The last computer of mine sits in my garage like a murdered sailor in an alley; hundreds of photos from the Highjump mission, satellite shots, locked inside. If I salvage and import them to my newest machine, am I tempting fate again? Many did make it into the book Where Hell Freezes Over.

On the more prosaic side, something indeed is kept secret there, if only the extent of the wealth in mineral deposits which could destabilize world powers; if only scientific discoveries that would shatter geologic and perhaps religious theory, or perhaps new species of life previously unknown or unforeseen. Who really knows?
Whatever those secret somethings are, there are people in power who, I am convinced, would rather we not talk about all of it, or publish about it. And if we do publish, they would rather we do so quietly, as I have done, but not to my design. There are things I have taken from the operational reports which I include in the book which I am convinced, are problematic to the U. S. Navy, to this day. If only shipboard procedures and operations which remain in effect.

To what extent was pressure exerted on publishers? Again, I have no idea, but I have my suspicions and honest opinion based on years of struggle and whipsawing by the Navy with regard to the recovery effort. I have spoken to one former CIA analyst who told me part of her job was sifting through popular books, magazine articles and even novels, searching for material which could compromise the interests of her agency or the United States. The question becomes, what do you do next, should someone inadvertently let the cat out of the bag? Do you somehow pressure folks, quash sales? The latter seems self evident if money and time is spent in the former activity. You certainly wouldn't wave and smile at the problem, would you?

If the Navy does recover the men, I predict they mean to do so quietly and they will control the story every step of the way. The splash will happen after it is done. They want to protect my father, I believe, doing him honor that is deeply, deeply touching after sixty years. They wish to honor the families, but there are also other details such as the reasons they went there, they wish to remain mum about. I have included what I found in the documents, in the book.

My dad’s plane crash happened roughly twenty four hours prior to President Harry Truman signing the order of cessation of hostilities. A seemingly small detail I included in my work, but one which was later picked up on by explorers such as Lou Sapienza who, along with Lopez's nephews and others, has made collecting the remains a public-relations crusade.

Lou points out in this crusade that this timing of the crash BEFORE Truman's public address, made Lopez, Hendersin, and Williams, technically, casualties of World War II; perhaps the very last American casualties in the conflict. And we know exactly where they are. The only problem is the difficulty in retrieving them. They are also the first three American servicemen to die in Antarctica, lending them all place names on the map.

My father would not publish his own work The Silent Continent about Antarctica until 1955. In it, Operation Highjump and the crash of George 1, was a smaller story imbedded in the larger tableaux of Antarctic exploration.

I got to write the book he wanted to write but couldn’t, because much of the granular details about Operation Highjump, ships movements and so on, were classified as he wrote, and only released between 1956 and 1958. The Navy knew Bill was working on this book, his co-author Beverly Britton was still a Navy Captain but they wouldn't release the material from classified status.

Later burdened with family responsibilities, his work for TIME Inc., Bill tried to amass the work amid all the kids and job responsibilties, but never put all the pieces together. I know this pained him. Friends of his contacted me after I published.
One nice lady in Vero Beach said; “That was the book Bill wanted to write all along.” She had been his admin at TIME in Atlanta, and she remembered he had boxes of documents kept in his office. These were some of the boxes I rummaged through at his home in Stuart, Florida but apparently there had been more.
I want to emphasize that my book barely touches on the UFO phenomenon. It is mentioned in wonderment at all the nonsense that accompanies the subject of Antarctica and Operation Highjump on the web.
If I were a smart Navy counter intell officer, and I didn't want people to remember this operation to Antarctica - this monstrously-expensive, wild hair the Navy got at the end of World War II - I just might love to see it attached with nonsense like flying Nazis. Then, of course, after all the old vets die, why, we just tell everyone it never happened at all.
If you want to read a UFO book that will really bake your noodle, read Firestorm by Ann Druffel!

For my own part, I still have a hard time understanding why there is so much mum silence from the Navy about what they were doing there more than sixty years ago? Why so much push back, on questions about a plane crash that happened there on the second to last day of 1946?
I also freely admit that writing my book was made so much easier by the information age and the internet. It would have taken my father a decade to accumulate all the background information readily available on the web.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Writing is a Disease! Part 2

By David A. Kearns

By now, it's late 2003 and I am still not giving up.

But the stress and insanity of writing, and fighting through this process led me to a place where I felt sure I could hear the wants and hopes of the three dead men buried beneath the wing of the George 1. Months this went on, months.

Is anyone coming back for them? Did anyone even care that they were down there?

In dreams I sensed I could hear the catabatic winds; the sandpaper scratching and sizzling snowdrift blasting on metal during the fierce gales. Above that sound, the lamenting call of a lonely man in the wilderness. (George 1 final mission crew below right.)

These strange delusions, you might call them, came to me at night, mostly in the half-waking state, or in REM sleep.

In one of these dreams I am like a ghost following my father, watching him from above. He’s sitting down at a fancy hotel ballroom in New York City talking with his best friend Max Lopez, the navigator who died in the crash. Bill doesn’t know how to explain to Maxwell that he’s dead. Doesn’t know how to ask him to forgive him. The kicker is, Max is also fighting the same impulse. Because in the reality of this dream, Maxwell survived and Bill died. A different universe; slightly different outcomes based on Newtonian and quantum physics; a game of inches and milliseconds leading to alternate realities for both.

A writer shoots up in bed, covered in sweat, clutching his chest.

I think literary agents need to think about moments like these, which for me were common-place, all throughout the process of writing about this horrific plane crash and miraculous rescue, and were compounded by the hell of rejection, the freeze-out of an unsympathetic industry that, over and over, just didn't seem to give a damn. Sometimes it isn’t a game; sometimes the stuff we go through is very real and very scary.

Convinced now, that my mission to publish was sacred, as well as personal, onward I plodded. Completed manuscript in-hand, I started from scratch. But this time, I went directly to the publishers.

I suppose I can’t thank Thomas Dunne’s senior editor Ruth Cavin, enough for breathing new life into this project.

In late 2003 early 2004, she took a chance on a total unknown; a man famous only in his own mind for what he had written. Ruth left word in an author's guide to literary agents, that, 'hey, writer, if you send me a complete manuscript, I will read it,' which sounded like a pretty damned good deal to me. True to her word, she did read it, and she loved it.


I don’t know what behind-the-scenes pressure transpired from those other entities I had, by force, abandoned after the coming-out of the novel was announced in St. Martins brochures, but I suspect there was some sort of "Hey, hold on a minute!"

I do know Charles Spicer, top dog at St. Martins Press, which owns Thomas Dunne Books, had hand-written rejected what had been under my former agent, called Highjump:The Story of the George 1 back in 01/02.

I am sure it must be frustrating to see the very book you pitched rejected, then accepted when the author himself pitches it back to the same house through an imprint. In one of the departing shots my former publisher had quipped something to the affect that he was sure if I went on my own, Simon and Schuster wouldn't be grabbing it up anytime soon. And he was right, it wasn't Simon, it was St. Martins, through Thomas Dunne Books.

I did not want this to happen to this former agent of mine. It has to be embarrassing. I'm sure in some circles, well, this just isn't what one should be permitted to do, or even consider doing to a well-connected agent. Heavens, no! But I was not going to stop fighting for my project for anyone's sake. If I wouldn't stop for my own health, welfare, sanity and bank account, why would I stop for a literary agent, or a former publisher, who both refused to take me seriously?

I do know I signed a contract that exposed myself, and only myself, to liability if anyone came out of the woodwork to call foul because of alleged past, legal entanglements. No one did of course, because they had no case. Consulting a family attorney backstopped everything I came to believe. I owned the project now without having to ask for permission (is it amazing folks they get you thinking like this?) from anyone.

Attempting to scare me with legal threats was an empty bluff. There had been no need for crazy letters back to them for this because apparently, this sort of thing goes on all the time in this lovely industry. Nice.

When the first publisher dropped their end by not sending me the second half of the advance, after they let all deadlines for objection lapse, the contract was dead; and in effect, no sale had been made, which also let me out of my contract with my agent. When I suggested she draft a new contract and she balked and delayed, didn't quite know what to make of a new writer who would actually do this, it was all the more reason to leave. All of which I explained to everyone involved in the dead deal.

A word on New York City: yes, sometimes it is cliche, every cliche you've ever read about the publishing business. Sometimes, if you don't live there, day-in, day-out, they don't think you have the mental snuff required to read a contract written in the English langauge, and understand it. I have had the good fortune of being a reporter covering lame ole city council meetings in Brevard and Indian River counties, of Florida. That's where my bread and butter business lived, in the long, drawn-out clauses of contracts. This gave me a decent bullshit and out-clause detector.

So again, do I have proof that these my former business partners jumped on TD for taking on my book? No and no one ever said a word. But I do know that, curiously, just before the book was set to print, folks at TD wanted me to change the name from Highjump:The Story of the George 1 to Where Hell Freezes Over: A Story of Amazing Bravery and Survival.

They also wanted to put a helicopter on the front of the book.

I didn't like the title at first which I thought cumbersome and potentially offensive to the families of the dead men, but immediately worse to the outcome of the project was this notion of a helicopter on the front cover.

Helicopters had very little to do with the actual rescue of my father and his five shipmates. Back in 46/47 they tried to use them on the rescue, but these aircraft didn’t have the range to actually fly over the continent from the seaplane tender trapped beyond the ice shelf, especially with blade icing, which destroyed at least three helicopters on the mission during rough landings. So a picture of a helicopter over an icy hillside was factually inaccurate. These weren't involved in the rescue other than to scout for cracks in the self ice for the ships.

The planes that found and rescued the men were Martin Mariner PBMs just like the one that crashed. It is a gorgeously ugly aircraft. There has never been anything like it, and there never will be again.

I know my father didn’t object to this helicopter thing on the cover, but I know James Robbins, the other remaining survivor, would have raised not just a little hell with me, for sure. Robbie is a stickler for details. He considers this story personal property, and I understand that.

Angry at my father on some of the specifics of the story, he very nearly refused to cooperate with me at all, but finally, through gentle coaxing, I managed to gain his trust. I swore up and down to he, and my dad, there would be no bullshit in the book. I certainly couldn't put it on the cover.

He did cooperate through phone calls and dozens of emails.Bill and Robbie have not spoken to each other in some time. They are the last living survivors of this crash. I still don’t understand all the animosity that I walked through like a mine field but I try to make sense of it in the book.
So, in interest of pleasing Robbie and mostly Robbie, who could prove my harshest critic, I relented on the title with the publisher, perhaps reducing the publisher’s fear of exposure to liability.

And in trade I pretty much, politely and point-wise (getting better at the game) demanded that the distinct profile of a Martin Mariner PBM seaplane grace the cover.

The book was, I suppose, conveniently placed next to “Hell Freezes Over” the live album by the Eagles on This bothered me, but I was assured the publisher had my best interest in this regard.

One of the keys in securing Thomas Dunne was a renewed interest in the story. The New York Times had done recent features on the story of the George 1 as the Navy was considering a mission to collect the remains of Lopez, Hendersin, and Williams. This was in 2004/05.

But again history stepped in to thwart that. The war in Iraq, which was supposed to be over in one or two years, dragged on, scrapping a recovery effort, and scrapping the free publicity which would have resulted from it.

History, circumstance and Antarctica seem to go together in some strange ways, time and again. They seem to conspire to keep secrets buried there, and hidden forever.

Writing is a Disease! part 1

By David A. Kearns

Writing is a disease that makes you crazy. It’s a malady whose only known cure is more writing; to hopefully bring us all the acclaim, fame and wealth we crave.
I believe that anyone who works at it more than thirty hours a week struggling to get published, wants all of the above. They tell you no? They are after some esoteric, cathartic release? I say they are lying, if not to you then perhaps to themselves. Yeah, maybe they desperately want that book to be seen on shelves, not for the money, but then why? Fame. It’s the ultimate ego boost “I did that! I mattered! This book is now in the Library of Congress. Go me!”

Nine years ago, I got serious about getting a book published. I chose a story I knew well, the plane crash and rescue of my father and his shipmates in Antarctica in 1946/47. This had the best shot, I thought. I was right and Where Hell Freezes Over, was the result. There’s the book cover, right there. See it? GO ME!

Non-fiction is an easier sell if you can claim attachment to the story, if you are an expert. I had attempted to get numerous fiction pieces published. All rejections. All day long.

I don’t do what most writers do; try to get one piece published, find no luck, then quit the industry. I move on to the next project, the next idea, the next book. I must have six completed novels in various stages of draft. Some of them are pretty damned good, if I do say.

Tired of the erosive rejection process, I began what seemed a monumental task of interviewing two survivors, numerous ancillary figures, experts on everything from the military, to glacial geology.

Meantime I got a top-flight agent interested, which was a HUGE boost to the ego. That, in itself, can save a project; having an agent say yes. Writers don’t talk about this enough. That deal might not work out, as was my case, but knowing an accredited agent deep in the industry even looked your way, can keep you going, when it seems the entire world is against you.

Too bad it didn’t work out with her. Why? When we got the proposal together and sent it out to publishers, history stepped in at the last second. The date she had chosen to send the proposal out? Sept. 19, 2001; eight days into the 9-11 tragedy.

Months went by. Finally in December, my agent hooked me up with a smaller, military publisher. She sent me a long list of rejections from the big houses. The words “plane crash” were instant killers. There was only one plane-crash topic worth talking about now. No others existed, nor would they, in the minds of the publishing houses. The platitudes were all there; the usual boiler plate language, “we don’t know how to market this.” Etc. etc. ad nausea. One did think the writing could be tighter. One admitted my lack of platform was an issue.
But these latter rejections only serve to make one work harder. So we went with the smaller house who said yes. Here’s where things got dicey; having a publisher, in my case, a bad one. I had signed a deal giving my agent a healthy cut of the movie rights since she and a subagent in Hollywood, also a huge name, would split the commission. If the book deal was sold, they would retain these selling rights in perpetuity.
But, that didn’t happen. Why? The publisher was in the process of drastic cutbacks and restructuring, leaving one man to handle too many projects, mine included.Still, I would not give up. I adhered to the letter of the contract. I held up my end.The advance was $4,000. Two-thousand up front, $2,000 due after completion of the first draft.
That second installment never came. My one-armed paper hanger at the publishing house let deadlines slide by without a word, well outside the confines of the contract. An effective no sale. Excuses, and more excuses. No edits, only a two-page document with general, meandering comments leading me nowhere.They were not willing to even consider drafting amendments to the contract, which would have been a show of good faith, in my view. A contract un-followed, un-adhered to is what? What is that? A guideline? A ‘sort of’?I was forced to fire the publisher.
They might not have had time for my project, but now, having plodded down this road, to the exclusion of everything else, professionally, I certainly did. And by now, I saw the full potential of this project. I began to believe it was worthy of a big house and I was right all along, damned right.
I tried to warn everyone that my train was leaving the station. No one took me seriously.
My agent expressed a strong desire for me to stick with this publisher. Looking at it from her end, you see why: the movie rights. If the sale sticks, she has exclusive right to sell these, forever and ever, amen. And it will make a fine film one day. I remain convinced.She and I were now outside the timeline of our own contract, as well, and there was no sale here. I advised her to draft a new one and I would consider it.
When she balked, I said I was moving on. Through her assistant her agency effectively threatened to sue me if I went to someone else or through another agent.
I fired off many nasty grams and crazy letters at this point. I could not help myself in this regard. Mistake. Big mistake. Not leaving her agency, but smite leaves an impression. “I break with thee, I break with thee, I break with thee!” Utterly a useless activity in business. If you get into this situation, tell them once, move on. Don’t hit people over the head with a frying pan. Don’t build imaginary voodoo dolls and Santero curse altars in your mind; don’t drink yourself into a state of infantile stupidity like I did and going “I smite thee as I leave thee” That sort of bullshit. It’s a waste and it haunts in the end.
(more to come)