Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Hollow Earth and Admiral Byrd's Incredible Story

For me, legends and myths are one of the great spices of life. It's the mystery and wonder that makes things interesting and keeps that innate explorer, that I'm convinced dwells in all of us, engaged. The irony is that I secretly don't want the legends to be proven one way or the other. Honestly, if some hunter one day drags a real sasquatch out of the woods and ends the speculation on Bigfoot, I don't think I'll be very happy. It will be amazing, but in many ways sort of a let down too, as the mystery and wonder will be gone. Although, it sure would be satisfying to see all the scoftics have to eat crow.

One of my all-time favorite myths, legends, or "theories", if you will, is the Hollow Earth Theory. The first time I heard of such a thing I was a teenager and my dad told me that there is a theory out there where some people believe that the earth is hollow, and not only that, but that it is populated by another civilization! The very idea of it fascinated me, as unlikely as it seemed.

It was hard to believe, but me being me, I had to try to find out what I could about the theory. And it turns out there are some pretty interesting stories on the subject. For example, It's rumored that Adolf Hitler believed that a pure Aryan race dwelt in the earth's center. He believed it to the extent that, supposedly, he sent an expedition--some say three--to Antarctica to try and locate an opening that would lead to this place. He assumed that this hidden civilization would have superior technology and be sympathetic to his cause. There are those who even go as far as to postulate that Hitler did indeed discover an opening and that he actually escaped into the hollow earth, and lives there to this day. Can you imagine?

Another interesting theory advances the idea that UFO sightings aren't the result of alien visitors from outer space, but are actually technologically superior aircraft that originate from inside the earth; perhaps the descendants of the lost continent of Atlantis checking up on the goings on up here on the surface. This sort of coincides with Jules Verne's vision from his novel, Journey to The Center of The Earth. Except in the book, Atlantis is discovered to be an abandoned ruin. I have even heard some people in the religious community speculate that the lost tribes of Israel were led by God into the hollow earth, and reside there to this day. How cool is that?
Hollow Earth model
The idea is not new; I could go on and on with different versions and legends about a hollow earth. Most cultures and peoples have some sort of variation of a hollow earth in their beliefs, traditions, and mythologies. Most of these traditions deal with the idea existing in a spiritual plane. Hell, for example: a place where the spirits of the damned reside with their master, Satan, in an eternal lake of fire, paying for a life of sin and wickedness.

There are many varieties of Hell or the underworld out there in religion and mythology, but what really gets my attention is the secular side of this subject. The idea of this being and actual domain of our physical world, as we know it, is what sparks my imagination. Hell can wait.

On that note, I'd like to just briefly talk about the incredible story of Admiral Richard E. Byrd of the US Navy, my favorite hollow earth story, and the one that my old man used to spark my imagination on the topic those many years ago.

It's not my intention here to go into an in-depth article on the Admiral himself, his life achievements, background, history, etc. If you'd like to know more about this early twentieth century explorer and adventurer you can check out the Wikipedia article on the man HERE.

Admiral Richard E. Byrd
The story that was told to me was that in February of 1947, Admiral Byrd decided to make a solo flight over the North Pole, just for exploration's sake. In a nutshell, as he was nearing the pole, his compass and other flight instruments went totally haywire on him, and he totally lost his orientation. One second the plane felt like it was in a steep dive, and then climbing steeply in the next.

After a few minutes of this, he quite suddenly found himself flying through a valley of lush, green vegetation. I believe one story claims that, looking from the cockpit window, the lost admiral even beheld a woolly mammoth lumbering along a hillside! According to my old man, it was at this point the compass went all crazy on him again, and the next thing he knew he was back to flying over endless miles of snow and ice. Other versions of the story tell of him actually being escorted by advanced aircraft to a city and meeting with its leaders, but this was not the story that was verbally passed on to me at the time.

He returned to the North Pole at other times in search of this green valley, but never found it again. The general consensus of people who chose to believe his report was that he had inadvertently flown into an opening that led into the hollow earth.

Now, if one were to do a quick Google search on the subject it wouldn't take long to discover that the story and the existence of a secret diary where the Admiral recorded this experience is very much in contention. And for the most part, the whole story seems to have been debunked from what I could tell. But who knows?

Debunked or not, the story itself suits my purposes, because as a fiction novelist, this is the kind of stuff that stokes my creative fires. I don't have to worry about whether the diary exists or if the story has been debunked or not. As an author, all I have to do is ask myself, Yeah, but what if? and my imagination is off to the races!

The idea of a hollow earth has fueled countless stories, myths, and legends. Not to mention even containing major religious themes. And it's no wonder. The Hollow Earth theory has got to be one of the greatest mysteries that's out there. Do you agree? I'd love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments section.

If this post roused your curiosity and you would like to know a little more about the subject, I found a great write up by The Telegraph that provides an excellent little overview on it. Check it out here.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Facing My Own Demons Through Writing

Why did I take on such dark themes when I wrote my novel, The Summoning? This is a question that has been asked of me by readers, and well ... I've  even asked myself this question a time or two. Many who know me are surprised by my exploration into such a thing as the demonic. To be perfectly honest, when I began writing the book I hadn't intended to go in that direction, and was a bit surprised myself.

In the beginning, my intention was to just write an old-fashioned, creepy ghost story. But, as a discovery writer--someone who basically makes up the story as they go--I soon found myself exploring much darker themes and subject matter than I had originally intended to. I ended up writing scenes that, quite honestly, were disquieting even to myself, and several times I wondered why I felt the compulsion to go in that particular direction.

After mulling this over and allowing the question to percolate in the back of my mind for a while, I think I can finally answer this question. But to answer it sufficiently, I think I need to relate a little story. A true story from my own childhood.

When I was about ten, maybe eleven years old, my friend, Danny, invited me over to spend the night at his house. He had just purchased a new pup tent and wanted to give it a try. We pitched the tiny, triangular, nylon shelter in his backyard, and unrolled our sleeping bags. Under a velvet summer sky, bejeweled by a billion gleaming stars, we settled into our bags. And with the chirruping of nearby crickets providing the perfect soundtrack, we began one of the most ancient rituals since the beginning of boydom: telling ghost stories.

Now keep in mind, we were only ten years old. At the time, the scariest story in my entire repertoire was the one where the boyfriend goes to let his girl out of the car after their date, and finds a bloody hook hanging on the door handle. Well, after a little bit of this, Danny's mom came out to check on us one last time, before turning in for the night herself. She asked us what we were doing, and when we told her, her eyes grew large and she said, "Do you guys want to hear a true scary story that happened to my grandpa?"

"Well, yeah!"

This grown, adult woman, mother of little children, then proceeded to fill our innocent minds with a tale of evil spirits manifesting themselves and demonic entities paying a horrifying visit to her grandfather as he slept in his bed one night. I'm talking real Exorcist stuff here! When she was finished with her terrifying tale, she abruptly wished us a good night and left. At the time, my little, ten-year-old brain had no comprehension of demons or evil spirits. To me, the devil was this insubstantial, cartoonish guy with a pitch fork and a goatee that whispered in your ear, and tried to make you sneak a cookie out of your mom's cookie jar.

I remember laying there in the dark, absolutely horrified by what I had just been told. In fact, I fully expected a pale, leering face to materialize in the empty space above me at any second. After that, the unnerving concept of receiving an unwanted visitation from demons or evil spirits stuck with me ... for years. I dreaded nights and bedtime. Almost every night, I went to my bedroom like a condemned man to the gas chamber, certain in the knowledge that THIS would be it. This would be the night they would come.

One night, the terror was enough that I felt compelled to go to my father--as ashamed as I was--and tell him about this consuming fear. I told him that I was afraid that evil spirits were going to visit me. I'll never forget my dad's reply as he sat in his green and gold plaid chair, most likely missing the ten o' clock local news broadcast.

I shared with him how the fear of evil spirits appearing to me was dominating my thoughts lately. "I just can't stop thinking about evils spirits coming to me," I said.

He looked at me and said, "Well, if you keep thinking about it so much, they probably will."

I'll never forget how those words thundered into my soul like the very clap of doom. My legs barely had the strength to carry me up the stairs to my room, where Satan, himself, surely sat waiting for my arrival.

Fortunately, Satan or his denizens never manifested themselves to me, and as time wore on, my fears abated. But my belief in the existence of these beings never faded. Having a strong religious upbringing, the reality of the dark side was an ever present reality to me.

My guess is, that this period of time in my childhood left a deeper scar than I realized--those things still frighten me. I think that as I set out to write something scary, my subconscious dredged up out of my psyche the need to face my old fear. I think that through writing about these things I was, in a sort of cathartic way, confronting the past. Perhaps, as the protagonists in my novel battled the forces of evil, in some way, so was I.

I offer this up as an explanation for understanding, not as an excuse or an apology. I'm proud of The Summoning and how it turned out. I know there will be people who read it that will be disturbed by some of the subject matter--it's a horror novel, it's meant to be disturbing. But it's also not just a horror story. It's a romance too. It's about the power of love, friendship, and loyalty in the face of evil. I'm confident that people who read the novel will come away from the experience satisfied.

And yeah ... maybe a little disturbed too.

A New Chapter About to Begin

I'm so nervous as I write this. Nervous and exhilarated at the same time. I'm just a few days away--if all goes as planned--from publishing my first book, The Summoning. It's been a five year journey from that fateful night, when I sat down at my computer and typed out that first chapter. And now here I am on the verge of seeing that effort to fruition.

Will anyone bother to read it? Will the people who do read it, like it? Who am I to publish a novel? And then have the gall to actually ask people to pay me money to read it? Will people just see me as an amateur with an unattainable dream? I mean for crying out loud, I'm not even a college graduate! What was I thinking?

These doubts, these esteem-destroying questions have been prowling about, slithering through the nooks and crannies of my brain like rattlesnakes over the last five years, over a lifetime, actually. And now, the moment of truth looms on the horizon.

I struggle to keep these fears and doubts in check. I'm in the long game, I tell myself. Patience and persistence is the key. I remind myself of the path to success of some of my favorite writers. Stephen King was a struggling high school English teacher living in a mobile home and selling short stories to magazines for meager compensation when his Carrie made it big. Dean Koontz had published thirty novels before anything he had written finally hit a home run. Brandon Sanderson had written twelve novels and had them all rejected before finally publishing. Stories like this are the norm for authors.

I take comfort in the belief that The Summoning is a good book. I think there is potential there, if I can reach the right audience. I don't have a big name publisher that can send me on book tours, or set me up for radio and tv interviews, take out ads in newspapers. Word of mouth will be my best chance at discovery, and this actually gives me hope. I think it's good enough that people will talk about it with their friends and family. A recommendation from a friend has to be the most powerful form of advertising an author can hope for.

In the meantime, keeping true to my Viking heritage, I continue to plunge forward into unknown seas. As I write this, I'm happy to report that my second novel is nearly halfway finished. I said I was in it for the long haul. I plan to release some details about the second book as it nears completion--sooner than five years this time.

I know I'm on the threshold of a long journey that will be fraught with pitfalls and perils, but also potentially filled with immense reward and gratification.

So let it begin. Unfurl the sail, grab an oar, and ... ROW FORTH!