Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Writing and publishing tips

I am not an authority on publishing, but I have experienced the pitfalls, however, this free advice is not an exhaustive guide so feel free to PM me with questions.

Unfortunately, no matter how good, or bad, your book is, 90% of the writers services out there, including well-known companies, will say what you want to hear just to get your money.
No matter how good or bad the book, 100% of 'Book to Script' services are lying to you, unless of course you are already a top ten New York Times acclaimed author, your book will not be in a Hollywood producer’s hands by Monday week.
Penguin, an established company, have been prosecuted, due to the above, with their proof writers also adding errors to ramp up the cost, in addition to an ongoing right to a percentage of royalties on top of $500 for simply typesetting, formatting, and pressing an ‘upload’ button. (They offer to sell you a how-to to do it yourself, and they charge $200 for that.)
*Quite honestly, it is not that hard, and there are templates for typesetting paperbacks that work perfectly for eBooks, and free, step by step videos on YouTube for converting Word into eBook format, that are very easy to follow.*

If you do have a spare three grand for editing, but already have a great cover, too bad, they only do packages of services and will charge for cover work that you do not need and they never actually do, but that part of the package sets you back $400.

Stock Cover
Privately sourced, a book cover can cost between $5 and $500, with the low end being off-the-shelf and not necessarily relevant to your story, whereas the other end of the scale is a bespoke piece of original art, but I will come on to artists later as they are a separate headache for the uninitiated.
Bespoke Cover

If you go to the small ads it is worse, with many editorial services making the manuscript only slightly more readable. Some foreign language translations can charge £10k for 100,000 words, but by using google translate they turn it into farcical Yoda type dialogue, all done inside of a fortnight.
"Much anger you have....”, and rightly so.
Brace yourselves, the actual cost of translating 100,000 words is at least twice that amount and will take 4-6 months as it also requires foreign language proofreading by an independent editor. The estimate for translating my first book series (662k words) into French was £128k, so obviously it is only available in English.

If you do start hitting the keys, with a view to becoming the next Harry Cole, or George RR Martin, you run into the new writers Catch 22.
You cannot send manuscripts to publishers, only accredited agents can do that, and agents will only take on clients who have a celebrity status, or who have previously been published (traditionally, not independently).
There is even the class snobbery that I encountered, “Great story, but you don’t have a college degree in sociology, media, or the arts” to be dealt with.

*I am not usually a fan of anyone using back door advantages, but as the odds are stacked against most of us, I would advise using any family, or friend, connections you know of with agents and publishers in order to give your manuscript a chance, if you go the traditional route.*

The guidelines are set in stone so get it properly edited and proofread, and of absolutely not one word over 100k or it goes in the recycling.

 Trad – v- Indie

Traditional publishing reaches a wider audience, so potentially you receive greater royalties, however, the books have to be absolutely no larger than 100k words, the publishing house takes a share of the royalties, plus it may bill you for advertising, and they pay your royalties to your agent, not to you.
Traditional publishers will pay out every three months and they also have you by the family jewels as they only print what they think the public like, i.e., whatever is 'trending' (I hate that word).
You will write for one market, America, and you may have a great book on the go about Cornish Pixies, or a contemporary Pride and Prejudice, but if they say that they want hot looking teenage, vegetarian vampires, who walk by day, or Elizabeth to be a submissive who is attracted to a billionaire called Darcy, despite his ropes, whips and shackles, you write their version or you don't get published.
You should also get a professional to check the fine print of any contract; it is not unknown for the publishing house to own the copyright of everything you write for a stipulated period, even unpublished work. In such cases you will have to buy the copyright to your own work if you want to try another print house.

Indie writing will never be as cool as being in an indie band. Many publishers will not entertain anyone who has been independently published, and bricks and mortar bookstores will be cutting their own throats if they stock your work, as the big publishers will cease to supply them. Very unfair, but quite legal due to the EU.
eBooks are a viable alternative and they were exempt VAT until the big publishers persuaded the EU to cancel value added tax on paper books and load it onto eBooks, where most indies dwell.
I can still pay the bills, and I sell a few more paperbacks and hardbacks than before, as a result of the EU action, but eBooks are where the money is.
I once wrote eBooks for all the online electronic publishers, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords etc, but only Amazon will plug indie books and I know this because I could not have fed a goldfish on the sum total of the others sales. The others push what the publishing houses pay them to promote, not Indie work, and, Apple is far more interested in music and film. Apple iBooks site is badly indexed, without even an icon of the book covers or descriptions of the story.

Interior illustration for eBooks on Kindle

Learn to read and write HTML/CSS code, or easier yet, just pay a teenager to do it.
Amazon Kindle use a code called MOBI, which was written in the 90s, and Amazon still use MOBI 0-0-1, which will not convert images properly on anything except kindle readers, iPads and iPhones. The images are tiny on Tablets and everyone else’s smart phones.
If you do not do this, Amazon will take your book down.


If you go for traditional publishing then do not bother. They stylise it, and any existing cover will be binned along with interior images.

As an Indie, bear in mind that a book cover is a ‘lure’; it has to catch the eye, even as a 1” x 1.5” onscreen icon. Dark colours do not do that, no matter how beautiful the work, so choose colours wisely.

I used Photoshop to create the first five of my covers, but my advice is that you should probably get a professional, not your neighbours son or daughter who has an O Level in art. 
A bad cover repels potential buyers.


You have to pay at least half upfront, and in $US, even for proof of ability, so do not ask for freebies, even from unknowns, and get yourself a PayPal account before looking.

Many artists, even the established ones, are often flaky, up themselves, or both. Getting the image you paid for, and getting it in this lifetime, can be akin to herding cats.

A website is not proof of ability, nor the photographic evidence that it displays.
I found a very affable gentlemen who had an encyclopedic knowledge of comic book art and sword and sorcery novels, plus their cover artists and interior illustrators. He had been a fan of the artwork since his youth and had spent his redundancy payout in an attempt to emulate Frank Frazetta, McClaverty, Ken Kelly etc etc, as an artist. His proof of ability was impressive, but nothing that followed was anything near as good.
I have five beautiful ladies, all serving or retired glamour models, Katya Clover, Tracey Elvik, Rachel Garley, Luana Lani, and Natalia Andreeva, aka, Delilah G, who permit me to use their image as artist's references for characters in book illustrations. In return, they get the original artwork to frame, but obviously the image has to be flattering, and this particular artist managed to turn them into 40+, haggard and in no way resembling the character.
Whoever drew the proof of ability image is a mystery, but it certainly was not him.
He returned my deposit without argument, and I hope that he does eventually achieve that skill which he needs as he really was a nice guy. 
There are more fakes and wannabes than there are real artists

An email agreement is a legally recognised contract, so remember that.

Even if you are not much of an artist, it can save time and money to remember that a picture paints a thousand words (plus, English may not be your artists first language)  and if, for example, your story involves a beautiful exotic dancer distracting werewolf sentries, then roughly draw it, like this, or patch and paste images together, so that your artist knows what you are on about.

When you are establishing working practices you will want to see a sketch of what you have described (or sent them along with your own rough image). Some artists will state that they will only make a set number of free changes before charging extra, but it is up to you, every artist is different, however, never be tempted to make changes yourself without at least asking their permission, or first buying the copyright. They own the work, even if you paid them to create an image that was your idea. Your book could be banned and you could wind up in court as copyright gives an artist tremendous power, for example, if you ask for a book interior, or cover, and print off a copy to frame on your wall, you are breaking the law if you did not buy the copyright first. Additionally, just to drive home the power of copyright with another example, in theory, a portrait artist can sue you in order to hang wallpaper that does not detract from the impact of his masterpiece.  

Colour interiors quadruple the books minimum retail price and therefore hinders sales.

Complex images (too much background detail) do not translate well onto smart phone screens, so keep it simple


Ensure all images are at least 300DPI/PPI (Dots Per Inch / Pixels Per Inch) but a higher DPI is better if you want images on Amazon Kindle as they greatly compress the book files on uploading, resulting in loss of high definition.

Use 'Microsoft Office Picture Manager' to reduce, or increase, the size of an image without losing image definition.

     Audio books

     Audio books are the only format I have not published in, but I looked very carefully at the possibility as it can also be achieved online.
For a traditionally published writer, it is doable IF the publishing house picks up all the costs.
For an Indie of limited means, the cost of voice actors, and the major chunk of royalties the audio book publisher claims, is prohibitive, and if you offer the actor(s) a percentage of the royalties by way of payment, you will be unlikely to ever see a profit.
That, at least, is how it currently stands with audio books.

No Links for myself as I am not after anything in return, but links for the Indie hearted and also to my favourite, very reliable, artists for book covers and interior illustration. 

Sanju Nivangune (covers, line work and digital painting of 'Shaw' and 'Of Demons and Blue Moons', traditional pencil for Katya Clover as 'Clover Iwasaki', and Tracy Elvik as 'Lilith' for OD&BM2's cover.)

Yuri Platov - Yuri speaks Russian and Google Translate is truly awful at that, so use http://www.systranet.com/translate/ as it is a little less awful, but keep it simple.
Natalia Andreeva as the Griff (Griffin/Dragon hybrid) riding warrior princess, Natalya of Paladin.)

Richie is gifted, she produces very detailed pencil portraits.  (Luana Lani as a witch who prefers aircraft to broomsticks, and Natalia Andreeva as 'Princess Natalya of Paladin')
Richie Pulvera - Traditional graphite pencil

Get started as a Kindle writer

Print-On-Demand Paperback (absolutely free, the books are only printed when ordered.)

Print-On-Demand Hardback (again, it is free, but the Createspace templates are 100% better. However, you can use the Createspace templates on Lulu’s upload system without bother)

Word to eBook formatting vid by Ben Macklin for PC, *but do not do the patch and paste to notebook, not for Kindle books, save it as an RTF file instead, otherwise it removes all italics and styling as well as the HTML unfriendly code that is hidden within Microsoft Word*.

Word to eBook formatting vid by Tom Corson-Knowles for  MAC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8sMzotvhGQg

Sunday, 17 April 2016

'Shaw - Lt: USMC'

Well, the writing of Shaw went on and on, passing 200k words and looking to need another 30-50k to finish the tale, so I have made his story into two books, with 'Shaw - Captain' still ongoing.
Great map work by Nathan Anderson, nothing too complex but HD enough to storyboard the action. Great cover by Sanju Nivangune.

The first of two prequels featuring Henry Shaw, USMC: Terry Jones, CIA and Peter Dawnosh, Royal Marine Commandos.

In the WW3 series, Henry was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Terry was Director of the CIA and Peter Dawnosh was Prime Minister of Great Britain, but in 1963 they are in a place that few Americans had ever heard of, Vietnam.

The country is under attack from the communist North but within its borders it is a  cauldron of dissent due to corruption and religious persecution.
With surplus equipment and a shoe string budget, US advisors are attempting to train and equip the South Vietnamese  armed forces to defend themselves in order that the USA can withdraw.

2Lt Henry Shaw, USMC, is an advisor and assigned to a firebase close to the border in Quang Tri Province. Henry will not compromise in terms of honour and integrity and this brings him into conflict with the commander of the ARVN special forces for the province.

Major Joshua Washington, US Army, Korean War veteran. Despite racial prejudice, Joshua came up through the ranks and he is determined to fix the flaws in modern US military thinking. Infantry skills have been lost due to an over reliance on missiles to win battles and wars. Joshua knows that poor training costs lives, but that is not going to happen on his watch, not if he can help it.

Lt Peter Dawnosh, Royal Marines: Peter comes to Vietnam as an observer with three other instructors. The 'Empire Quartet', as they are known, a Brit, an Australian, a Gurkha and a Maori, all veteran jungle fighters with experience in post-WW2 Malaya and Borneo, and unwilling to passively observe from the relative safety of a firebase.

Terry Jones, a young CIA field agent who left four East German agents dead in the snow of a Berlin park, is now in Vietnam with a new cover, that of a First Officer with Air America. Terry has a key role in a forthcoming major operation, but is a mole in CIA Station - Saigon feeding intelligence to their hosts and to the communists?

Megan Grainger-McVanie, CIA operative with a near-genius IQ. Megan specialises in pillow talk, using her cover as Bethany Robertson, an air hostess with loose morals and an eye for rich, powerful men. So far, two operations have been blown, seemingly by accident. Megan must discover if a leak exists, and the mole's identity, before the country can be saved from itself.

Small unit actions, firefights on jungle trails and The Almo re-enacted on a lonely hilltop, far from home. These are combined with a tale of political corruption and the murky world of espionage in 1960s SE Asia.


Henry, three advisors and a dozen Montagnards were firing at targets they could see, and into cover from which muzzle flashes or gun smoke were being emitted. The roar of gunfire was deafening and with hardly a breath of breeze in the air the blue haze of cordite hung over the narrow river like an ever thickening blanket between the opposing forces.
This was not a contest they could win, their ammunition was limited to what they carried and they had to keep moving. The gunfire had pinpointed their position for all the enemy in the area and to stand and fight meant being pinned down and surrounded.
Joshua shouted to those on his right, pointing to himself, self-designating as their fire team leader before yelling at the top of his voice.
<i>“GO!” </i>
The advisors fell back ten feet, while the major covered them, keeping up the rate of fire.
Crawling low to avoid the incoming small arms fire that was chewing up the underbrush, filling the air with wood chips and diced leaves, the advisors then turned, resuming the firefight.
A Montagnard went down screaming, hit by shrapnel through the lower back, and Joshua grabbed a shoulder strap, dragging the slightly built man back into deeper shadow when he too was struck a blow and knocked on his face. He felt no pain and could not locate the wound although his right hip and thigh felt wet.
<i>“Break Contact!”</i>

All books by Andy Farman on Amazon

Saturday, 20 February 2016

The 'Sword-of-the-Dead' by Andy Farman

The Shisha-no-Ken katana (the Sword-of-the-Dead)  from the book series 'Of Demons and Blue Moons'

The hellhound seemed to read her thoughts.
    “If you mean to recruit the human then you must move swiftly for they know who slew their brother… he may be dead by the end of this day.”
    “What do they intend?”
    It coughed, bringing up a stinking sludge that pooled on the floor.
    “There are six more Shadows and you cannot defeat them all, one will either seduce you or behead you, and then you will be reunited with your mother as a succubus for all eternity, as damned as I am.”
    “I asked you what it was that they have done?”
    Cerberus ignored the question, nodding one head at the yellow bile staining her carpet.
    “I bring you a gift.”
    Within the mess she saw the gleam of gold and knelt with care, a wary eye upon the hellhound as she extended her free hand and dipped the index finger into the mess. The bile vanished at the application of faerie magic, leaving a beautiful chain of gold from which hung diamonds, rubies, emeralds and a single sapphire, thirteen in all.
    “Hold it up to the light, girl.”
    She did so and within each stone she saw movement.
    “It is the Shisha-no-Ken, the Sword of the Dead,” Cerberus declared, “You must wear it about your hips at all times.”
    Fae looked from the exquisitely lovely item of jewellery to the hound.
    “It will not become a weapon until you have worn it… to wear it is to be accepted by the souls of the swordsmen and warriors trapped within the gems, and their skills become your skills… put it on now as time is short.”
    She stepped back warily, putting distance between the beast and herself. She ruined a perfectly good leather-bound armchair by stabbing the tip into it, where it was within easy reach.
    Warily, she stripped off the shirt, standing naked as she clasped the belly chain and draped it about her hips.

    It looked lovely, but nothing happened, nothing at all.
    She glared accusingly at the hound from whose throats now issued rumbling laughter.
    “Where days of sweet words fail, it is but the work of a moment for a gift of gold and jewels to have a beautiful girl naked, and you are every inch the beauty that your mother was.”
    Her hand moved towards the dagger’s handle.
    “I but jest at your expense, girl… remove the chain but retain a grasp of one end.”
    “Which end?”
    “It matters not.”     
    Unclasped at the hip the free end swung down, changing, no longer a fabulously expensive adornment but now the weapon was a Katana, the blade of a Samurai warrior.

    She gasped, shuddered, going up onto tiptoes with her back hollowing and her eyes wide with surprise as she was invaded. The thirteen souls that were captives within the gems shouted their joy within her head, exploring her, enjoying the sensation of again having a body and senses, even if that body was female and a novelty to all but three. Once ‘at home’ they took stock of the situation and whispered suggestions to Fae as to how best to deal with Cerberus.
    In an instant she knew each warrior’s name, their history and the crimes that had led each to be imprisoned in the jewels.
    Nikuya, ‘The Butcher’, whose name said it all.
    Funanori, ‘Sailor’, a naval officer turned pirate.
    Chīfu, ‘Chief’, headed a company of sell-swords.
    Shōgun, ‘General’, lost a war but refused seppuku, the ritual suicide.
    Uma, ‘Horse’, also gifted in ways not connected to the martial arts and his popularity with his superiors wives and daughters were his undoing.
    Nōnēmu, ‘No Name’, a samurai who betrayed his master and bore a further curse which prevented him from uttering his name.
    Chīsana, ‘Tiny’, a mountain of a man, food was his vice.
    Paiku, ‘Pike’, master horse archer, slew his own family in a fit of misguided rage.
    Kasasagi, ‘Magpie’a gifted warrior, turned master thief.
    Kinu no yōna, ‘Silky’, a con artist.
    The three girls had been known as the Ninja Mitsugo, The Ninja Triplets, Rōzu, ‘Rose’; Keshi,‘Poppy’ and Kurōbā, ‘Clover’, a trio of dancers, singers and assassins who fell in love with their final target and slew each other out of jealousy.
    After a moments distraction, their combined experience, skill and dexterity became as second nature to Fae, and once ‘at home’ they took stock of the situation and whispered suggestions to Fae as to how best to deal with Cerberus. She could tune them down but not completely out although they were well practiced at knowing when to be silent.
    She may well be their first mistress but she was not their first host.
    Fae was most adept with Gladius, Rapier, Sabre and Claymore, although she had handled countless others in the category of ‘sword’.
    “It was made by a master.” She hefted it easily, feeling its weight and despite never having held such a weapon before it became an extension of her arm, the blade sang as she swung it, pirouetting first one way and the next, moving smoothly into each of the prime stances.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Conundrum time

Which image to go with?

The very talented French artist, Fabrice, is creating some 22 pen and India ink images for the major characters Bio pages.
In the paper version the reader can see these at the rear of the book in the indices, and in the Kindle it will be managed via hyper-linked pages for rapid navigation.
The all important character is the eternally beautiful Fae, with her many centuries worth of wisdom and experience, especially with sword, bow and spear.
Which of these two versions of Fae most closely fit you idea of what she should look like?
Vote 'A' or 'B'

Friday, 29 January 2016

Many thanks again to the lovely and charming Katya Clover for her permission to use her image as a book character, 'Clover Iwasaki'
'Clover, into the light, from deaths dark shroud' by Sanju Nivangune

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Cover, 'Of Demons and Blue Moons', the first in the series

Sanju Nivangune is about to begin the second books cover. Alas, Amazon refused to advertise the first book, despite strategically placed hair bra and parapet.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

'Shaw' excerpt:
The wind was howling through the cabin, drowning out the baby’s cries, and without his seat straps Mike had freer movement to turn and check but communicating was difficult. Passengers were a rarity and he had no headset for the observer’s position
Mother and baby were physically unharmed, as was Henry, so only Mike had any injuries, the flying glass had opened the left side of his face, which was bleeding heavily. He had also been hit in the left side of his chest, but try as he may, he could not detect an entry or exit wound, nor any trace of bleeding, but the pain was slowly taking hold. It was puzzling, the bullet had all but driven the breath from him, and so there should be an obvious wound in evidence.
Mike explained briefly, but adding that he was not currently experiencing any light headedness or weakness.
Barfight Zero Nine checked out the battered Bird Dog, top, bottom and rear.
“Rodeo, Barfight?”
“Go ahead?”
“You have a few holes, an antennae that appears to have been shot away… and as well as some oil leaking from the engine cowlings underside, you are losing either coolant or fuel in a slight vapour trail.”
The Continental O-470 engine was air-cooled so it would not be glycol that he was losing. Mike checked his gauges, the engine temperature was okay, so too was oil, at the moment, but he certainly seemed a little light on fuel. The Bird Dog had a maximum range of 530 miles and he had been half full when he was on the ground at LZ Audrey, so that equated to 265 miles, plenty of reserve for him to reach Quang Tri, 136 miles distant, the nearest airfield.
After some quick calculations he knew that with the current loss rate he had barely enough to make it.
Quang Tri’s single runway ran NW/SE and he was flying into the headwind from the east, which was not helping his predicament whilst he still had fuel. However, once the propeller shuddered to a halt he could well need that easterly, at least until he turned onto finals and lost its benefits.
 He was currently flying at 5,000ft and declared his intention to climb to 10,000ft. He would have preferred to fly higher but he was not a paediatrician and did not know how the baby’s little lungs would cope in an unpressurised cabin.
The Bird Dog had a 9:1 glide ratio, meaning that it could cover 9 kilometres for every thousand metres of altitude lost. In theory at least, that gave him 90 kilometres, a shade under 56 miles, to play with once the fuel ran out. That was always assuming that the fuel outlasted the oil. His oil pressure was reducing and the engine temperature had climbed a couple of degrees. If the oil ran out first he would have to shut the engine down in order to avoid a fire.
The sky was a deep blue and only out at sea could he see the first clouds forming.
Time passed as clouds and the Cessna closed on each other, the small flat six ran smoothly and it was, Mike decided, the kind of day to be chilling beside a beach with cold beer at hand in the Keys, not shot up in a SE Asian war.
He tapped each gauge in turn, seeking an accurate indication of the fuel and oil that still remained. The oil pressure gauge was hovering over empty but the fuel was already in the red. His engine temperature was high, but not dangerously so, but that could alter pretty damn quickly.
The faint outline of the Thach Han River appeared, glistening in the sun, 30 miles distant. Beside the river lay the airfield, not yet identifiable in the heat haze.
Barfight Zero Nine stayed with them but the other five Barfighters and Jupiter’s T-28s peeled off, entering the circuit and landing to refuel and rearm.
There was no warning, no dramatic moment with the engine coughing and spluttering, the 213hp Continental simply stopped as the last drop of fuel was consumed. The propeller, its blade angle design the result of mathematical equations and skilful engineering to ensure the efficient conversion of brake horse power from the engine into useful thrust, was now as useful as a dead stick, hence the term.
It was not silent in the small cabin without the engine noise, the wind still whistled through the shattered windows and bullet holes but at a greatly reduced rate. The air speed indicator wound down from 130 to a mere 45MPH.

It was still busy on the ground with the constant arrival of aircraft requiring rearming and refuelling, but that came to abrupt end as Barfight informed the tower that Rodeo Zero Seven was ‘dead stick’, no engine. In Flight Ops they chalked ‘WOB’ on the board next to Mikes call sign and sortie number as Barfight declared ‘07’ had wounded on board. The ambulance and fire truck had scrambled and were sat a safe distance from the end of the runway with motors idling, waiting to follow the aircraft as it touched down, or indeed if it ploughed into the trees short of the runway threshold. There was an unmarked route through the wire entanglements and mines beyond the perimeter which the drivers had memorised for such eventualities.
Rooney got the word early, of course, and left the mess hall to watch, standing near the runway with crossed fingers.
Seven of the Trojan T-28s, which had been involved in the rescue, landed first and the crews also made their way over. Major Sherman, the 19th TASS detachment’s CO, sought them out for a first-hand account of what had befallen Phoenix Zero Four and Rodeo Zero Seven.
“Were is he?” asked a voice, and Rooney saw that it was Hector Ortega, wiping his grease and oil covered hands with a kerosene soaked rag, Airman Lynch was at his side, shading his eyes from the sun as he peered up at the sky.
“Probably planning on short finals.”
“Why is that?” asked young Lynch.
“Winds from the east, not the north west, the way the runway is laid out,” Rooney explained. “When he turns in he’ll drop a-ways… hot day like this the air is less dense, it could be like riding a winged brick when he turns onto the approach.”
“Damn, we just got done fixing it only this morning.”
“Well look at it this way, maybe it was your doing such a good job is the reason he is coming back at all, Airman.”
Rooney noticed that Captain Dunstan was stood a little apart from everyone else, and he thought that 19 TASS’s Executive Officer looked exactly like those people who go to watch NASCAR just for the chance to see someone die.
They heard the sound of Rodeo’s shepherding T-28 first; it was circling above a slowly moving speck that had to be the Cessna O-1A Bird Dog.

As the line Mike was taking closed on that of the runway’s approach he began a gentle turn, reluctant to lose a single unnecessary foot in altitude. They had lost 8,000ft in gliding this far, which highlighted the difference between what an engineer’s slide rule says should occur and what actually happens in reality.
Their rate of descent increased as they lost the wind’s air flow over the wings, causing Juiqi to call out in fear. They were indeed descending more rapidly than Mike was happy with. He applied left rudder, yawing 40° into the wind and leeching some of its buoyancy.
Just off the line of approach was a dark area on the ground, a true blot on the landscape, an area which had proven to be a popular mortar baseplate position for hit and run attacks by the Viet Cong. In order to deny to the enemy the cover of trees and foliage, that area had been thoroughly napalmed.
Mike guided the Bird Dog above it and smiled as they were buffeted from below by the small, but welcome, thermal that the dark area produced. Seeking out dark patches on the ground, such as woods, ploughed fields and built-up areas, was a well-known technique used by glider pilots and birds, but unlike lightweight gliders and avians, his aircraft was too heavy to fully capitalise on it, it could not soar upwards in a spiral to greater altitude.
Every little bit helped though, at this point.
Having transited that small area, Mike renewed his former south easterly course.

As the Bird Dog grew larger, and lower, those on the ground gave voice to their feelings, shouting encouragement that Mike could not of course hear.
Ground crews stopped what they were doing to watch the drama unfold and clerks left the air conditioner’s balm to step outside and watch, and then to join in.
Rooney, Hector and Airman Lynch were shouting as loudly as anyone, it was infectious and even the base commander had stepped out of his office to watch. Only Gordon Dunstan wore a veiled look of anticipation.
The voices fell silent as the glide became a dive.

‘Ground Rush’ is a sensation familiar to all parachutists, as well as any air traveller who has stared at the ground as they came into land, that transition of the senses from ‘floating’ to ‘falling’. Henry’s view was a little limited but that sensation arrived as Mike cancelled their yaw to the left and the aircraft’s nose dropped steeply.
Peering awkwardly around the girl’s shoulder he could see that the minefield set before the airfield’s perimeter was looming up, not the runway. 

Mike’s eyes flicked from the altimeter to the air speed indictor and back, picking his moment before cashing in the airspeed that the dive had built up, trading it for lift, pulling back on the column with wings level. They soared above the mine field and cleared the 8 foot high coils of stacked barbed wire, separating it from the runway, with three feet to spare. As the speed bled off and gravity was about to take over he flared, settling the Bird Dog onto the tarmac in a perfect three pointer and rolling to a halt.
He was blocking the runway but in a moment there was no shortage of willing hands to push it clear across to the hangar it had left only a few hours previously.
Mike climbed painfully from his seat after retrieving Ali’s photo and returning it to his wallet. He was favouring his left side, almost hunched over, and drying blood coated the left side of his face from the cheek bone on down, matting into the cotton of his flight suit. He turned back to the runway, raising a hand high in a gesture of thanks as Barfight Zero Nine touched down on the tarmac.

Juiqi and the baby were taken to the ambulance and Henry helped Mike fend off the congratulatory slaps on the back as they followed.