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.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Fae, aka Crown Princess Aimee Adrianna of the Guardian Rings

Posh, Warrior Princess, Faerie, Witch, Succubus and the worlds worst driver... 

I am, as you may know, attempting to portray 'Of Demons and Blue Moons‘ central character, Fae, as a complex individual.

She is exceedingly old, wise with the years, a walking encyclopaedia, and outstandingly beautiful, appearing to be any age between 19 and 29, depending on her mood and circumstances.
Fae is also the possessor of longevity and extreme libido whilst being unburdened by inhibition. Quite apart from moonlights Achilles heel, Fae is desperately lonely, a feature she hides well. The cause of the loneliness is her longevity and others lack of it. She has been in love five times and five times, she has stood beside a grave as a loved one’s coffin was lowered inside.

Fae is very posh and proper on the surface, a very ladylike young woman styled on the 1920s and 1930s.
As a half Faerie and half Succubus, she can feed off either sexual energy or extremely large meals. She prefers the former as it also goes some way in assuaging the loneliness, seducing strangers in doorways and alleyway, constant one-night stands that do not allow for affection from either her or from her partners.

Combat wise, she would hand any ten Bruce Lees their arse in nought seconds flat. However, her mother, Lilith, has her outmatched and nor can Fae see the Shadow Demons that Lilith and the devil have created.
Fae is destined to be the mother of the Shadow Demon to rule all Shadow Demons, and also the human ruler who will lead mankind to its own destruction, at least if the devil and Lilith have their way.
She is often called ‘Slut’ but I want her to be ‘Hedonist’ in a reader’s opinion

Cerberus is Fae’s father, but he was turned into the hellhound later, as punishment for allowing Lilith to seduce him.

 Dragon's, demons, lusty warriors, both male and female, strippers, supermodels, a satyr dwarf stalker and a former Royal Marine, they are all to be found within the pages.

It will be ready for publication very soon!

Andy Farman
Cover by Sanju Nivangune
Interiors by Piero Vettori
Models: Katya Clover and Tracey Elvik

'Fae' by Vettori

'Cerberus' by Vettori

Fae, the Devil's Advocate dress and the Shisha-no-Ken belly chain.

'Fae and The Devil' by Ange10

Sabrina aka 'Sugar'

Fae, Percus and the lipstick tally

'Fae and Sabrina' by Ange10

The 'Inverted Griffin' of 'Cassandra's Spears'

The 'Kraken' of Erik Voldargamar's 'Kraken 100'

Fae's  'Fleur Di Lis with Paw faction' of the Royal House of Ring

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Katya Clover as 'Clover' the dragon rider

Interior illustration from my forthcoming supernatural novel 'Of Demons and Blue Moons'
Original interior art by Piero Vettori
Original cover art - Sanju Nivangune
Model - Katya Clover 2Clovers (NSFW)
Dragon - 'Stumble Fish' an absolute softie, really he is.

Stumble Fish followed suit at Fae’s first thought. Female rider's mind
control over male dragons was equal to that of the male riders and
female dragons. Conversely, the female dragons were smaller and mature
male dragons did not take kindly to puny male riders ordering them
about. In another season, Song Singer would begin to resent male
rider's commands. A female rider could never successfully control a
female dragon as the dragon regarded all other females of any species
as rivals. Female dragons were very territorial and more than a few
had sought out their mate’s rider, killed and eaten her.
Their heads were big, but that was due to thick bone, not grey matter.

From two hundred feet up, Fae saw a slight movement in rocks above the
canyon and the dragon swung right so as not to alert it by casting a shadow over its way.
Stumble Fish spread its wings wide and landed lightly, on the far side of an
Fae quickly removed her chaps and boots before releasing the leather
ties securing her hunting bow and quiver of arrows. The heavy oak war
bow and bodkin tipped arrows were overkill for what she now intended
to stalk. She next removed the belly chain, she would not need the
katana but the tinkling of the jewels and sparkle of gold and gems did
not lend itself to clandestineness. The warrior souls entered her with
expectation, as they always did, but she sheathed the long blade and
hung it down her back by its strap, safely out of the way.
Slipping noiselessly to the ground,naked but for her weapons, Fae ran around the side of the
outcrop that was still in shadow, her feet making no sound
despite the silence of the desert. Once she had gone, Stumble Fish
stepped over the canyons lip, gliding down the rest of the way to join
Song Singer and Scott.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Sample 'Shaw, Lt - USMC'

On their own, a minefield and barbed wire entanglements would not keep a VC or NVA sapper out of the fire-base lines, it would just slow them down. It took alert men with guns, booby traps and trip flares to achieve that.
Night did not bring any relief from the mortars; it joined forces with them to provide cover to the sappers who may soon attempt to infiltrate the perimeter.
Schermuly, mortar and artillery illumination rounds, plus flares dropped by ‘Spooky’ helped to aid the defenders but the light from the flares was, of course, also of assistance to the enemy, in particular to his snipers.
Earlier in the day, the enemy had mortared the flanks of the fire-base, dropping HE rounds upon the slopes until they noted the lack of secondary explosions. The impossibility of having a mined, cover-free, kill zone in a fertile jungle setting was presenting itself as a problem for security once more.
For the previous four hours, the enemy had largely concentrated his fire between the western and northern sides of the perimeter. The occasional round would land somewhere else but generally the pressed men of the ARVN company elsewhere on the perimeter counted their blessings. The same could not be said of the veterans, those advisors, Montagnards and visiting troops with a previous war, or a fire-fight or ten, under their belts, these men did not get to call themselves veterans by accepting given situations at face value. The enemy was up to something.
The Empire Quartet was waiting at a small gap in the sandbags on the south-east side of the perimeter. It was, in effect, a modern day sally port, a secure entryway through the fortifications. Only wide enough for one man to squeeze through at a time it was near invisible from the outside. A weighted frame, wrapped in barbed wire and bedecked with nails acted as the ‘door’, one that could only be opened from the inside. None of the men wore webbing equipment or carried firearms; they were armed with various edged weapons. WW1 era trench knives served the two sons of ANZAC, these knives incorporated a knuckleduster and a sharp, bone penetrating, stud on the hilt for cracking skulls. The trench knives made Peter’s Fairbairn/Sykes fighting knife and Dip’s Kukri seem positively civilised in comparison.
With all visible skin blacked out with camouflage cream they waited in the darkness next to a fighting position manned by a trio of the largely untrained ARVN troops who had been foisted upon 'Ben' Gunn.
The moon was about to slip below the horizon but by its light Dip could see the nearest ARVN soldier’s eyes, which were wide and fearful. In a way, Dip Rai sympathised with the men who had been dumped here because they expendable and their high command apparently expected the fire-base to fall. It was the unspoken policy of the general staff to follow President Diem’s wish to preserve the best troops and equipment for use against internal coup attempts, not military incursions by hostile external forces.
Most of the ARVN at Fire-base Zara were getting it into their heads that it was sink or swim, time to fight or die, not hide amongst the villagers as a few had attempted before the civilians were evacuated.
Beyond them, over the sandbag wall and wire, lay the dark hillside that sloped away until it met the jungle. The intervening ground was their kill zone, which the manuals stated should be prepared by the clearance of undergrowth and the removal of any natural undulations or folds in the ground that may offer cover to an enemy. Even before mortaring had left shell holes to hide in there had been a foot high growth of grass and plant life taking hold. It was not a lot of cover for attacking infantry but it was ample for a stealthy man to approach the perimeter.
The defenders remained alert and expended schermuly para-illuminators at infrequent intervals but unfortunately the distinctively loud crack of the percussion cap igniting the propellant is then followed by a sky rocket ‘whoosh’, accompanied by a trail of sparks, giving three seconds warning that it is going to get bright for at least forty seconds. By the time the flare is alight beneath its tiny parachute the enemy is already hugging the ground.
Replacing the trip flares and booby-traps that the mortaring had destroyed was the fire-bases best insurance against surprise intrusions.

Friday, 17 April 2015

Armageddon's Song, Volume 6, Artwork

As my map illustrations did not find universal favour in the previous volumes I have stretched my art skills a bit in a couple of instances in order to put a face to some of the aircraft in the prequel that younger readers may never have heard of:

Friday, 3 April 2015

Removal of the 'Map Illustrated' editions.

Unfortunately it is just not possible to view anything other than the most basic of maps on a small screen. Kindle may allow you to upload a file of 200MB in size but they then compress it and picture definition and resolution suffer accordingly. Apple only permit a maximum upload of 10MB which is half the size of the map illustrated book files, so there is the same state of affairs in existence if you reduce the quality before uploading.

I do apologise to those who complained to Amazon but you seem to have forgotten that each book is a novel, not an Atlas, the maps were to enhance the story, not the other way around.
The maps will remain in the hardcover and paperback versions of course, but until some software is invented that gives good quality graphics at a low byte count the maps will not return to the electronic books.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Sample: 'Of Demons and Blue Moons'

The beat of wings grew closer, no longer gliding silently out of the night sky and suddenly a naked and heart-stoppingly beautiful woman alighted, though a touch heavily, upon the roadway. Great bat wings, one sliced deeply enough by Fae’s blade to prevent any further gliding, remained partly open, dripping blood from the wound and a forked tail flicked in a feline display of ill-temper. The gloss of her jet black hair held an electric blue tinge that exactly matched her eyes. She walked in the identical fashion to which Fae walked, with a sinuous roll of the hips and a gentle bounce of firm breasts that was completely provocative, even if the sideways glance this young woman treated Scott to was one of unveiled contempt.
She looked somehow familiar…?
 As she passed Scott he saw that she also wore upon her right buttock the same mark that Fae carried upon hers. Their bodies were almost identical, aside from tan and colouration, and even their age, though hard to judge, seemed similar.
Scott expected Fae to leap into the attack but instead she merely stood poised to defend herself, allowing the raven haired vision of deadly beauty to stride by unmolested as she approached the flung trident. 
As if he had suddenly been doused in ice water the shock of recognition came to him. That hair, those eyes, that face and body, the girl’s blatant ‘on-heat’-stride, performed as if upon a fashion house catwalk, but he could only point stupidly, open mouthed, for a moment.
Isn't that…?”

“Yes,” Fae cut in. “One’s mother.”

Friday, 27 March 2015

'Shaw' sample

The inclusion of a SAR crew as characters was unplanned, I intended only to write a hot extraction but it took on a life of its own. An estimated 300 words became 4000+ as that part of the story more or less wrote itself over the course of eight hours, yesterday. 

The Lin Tau trail

Up on the trail, at the same time as the message was being transmitted, Tin stepped to the side of the trail to watched his men tramp sullenly uphill, avoiding his gaze.
He removed his pith helmet and wiped the sweat from his face and the headgears leather brow band. This was the second day in a row without rain and there was barely a cloud in the sky so the rainy season was well and truly over. The ground was drying out, so the misery of carrying several pounds of cloying mud on your boots was absent but this was small comfort to his men. Any farmer who had yet to plant a root and corn crop was going to find the work arduous; the sun would bake the ground to the hardness of concrete over the next few days.
He had felt accusing stares aimed at the back of his head as they obviously felt that their officer was somehow to blame for the uphill hike. Tin, however, was not in a popularity contest and to his mind the sooner the South was beaten, the sooner he could get back to his studies.
His radio’s  frequency range spanned the medium and high frequency bands, just 1.5 to 6MHz, the downed aviator(s) from the crashed T-28, for that is who they believed were transmitting, had a VHF radio, 30 to 300MHz. He could not hear when they transmitted but signals intelligence could and kept Tin updated. Tin had assumed that by the time he had got this far that the enemy aviator’s position would have been triangulated, but that was certainly not the case. He regretted not collecting Thet from the ammunition supply labour crew; the Montagnard was by far the best tracker in his small unit. His best bet now was to find the crashed aircraft and track the enemy on foot.
Taking his new map from his pocket, he quickly orientated it in order to pinpoint their current position. They were due east of the clearing near the pagoda and this trail bisected it. By staying on the trail, they could pass the pagoda and pick up the old trail that had been the centre of the previous night’s battle. The crash site was not far from there.
Tin replaced the helmet and snapped at the man at point, urging him to greater effort.


Phoenix Zero Four

Captain Leo Marx, USNR, Lieutenant (JG) Christian Durant, USN, Petty Officer 3rd Herman Frey and Seaman Efren Lubay were the crew of Phoenix Zero Four. Captain Marx was enjoying his second war, the first being at the controls of a Sikorsky H-5 in Korea. His civilian job did not cut it in the excitement stakes, ferrying passengers between Idlewild, New York International Airport, and the Pan Am Building.
Lt (JG) Durant was not entirely enamoured with his first war, although he had only been into three hot LZs in his two months in-country, his fear transmitted itself to the aircraft when he had control. He was beginning to think he was not cut out for a life of danger, and privately yearned to be home in Vermont, New England.
Petty Officer Frey was Zero Four’s crew chief and he hailed from Georgia. Herman kept himself to himself but he did not particularly like Vietnam because it was full of Vietnamese. Herman was bipartisan in his bigotry though as he did not like white people from the next town either. It made for a slightly uncomfortable working relationship with the rescue swimmer, Seaman Efren Lubay, a Filipino from Luzon, who had joined the USN via the Philippine’s Enlistment Program. Seaman Lubay, on the other hand, had previously been unemployed for two years since graduating from nursing college, there being more nurses on the job market than there had been posts. Efren was aware of the crew chief’s prejudices but he kept his mouth shut and did his job.
Efren was manning his M-60 machine gun, clamped to a ball-socket mount at one of the two portside windows in the troop compartment. The mount was not standard, it had been fabricated in a shanty built machine shop at Subic Bay by a cousin of Efren’s, in between converting US surplus four seater jeeps into eighteen seater jeepneys. The Filipinos are the kings of mechanical adaption.
On the starboard side, the aircrafts single cargo door had been slid open and locked in place. There were pintle mounts available for the Choctaw’s other M-60 position but it impeded entry and exit through that cargo door. Herman had his M-60 suspended from bungee cords in the doorway, which was a best-alternative-option move. It limited the door gunners to short, three to five round, bursts but it was better than what their opposite numbers on the Shawnee’s had going for them. Both M-60s had canvas catchment bags on the side to catch the spent cases and links. Only in the movies is the spent brass allowed to be ejected unchecked where it can be sucked into an air intake or up into the rotors.
Offensive armament for the Choctaw had been tried out by the US Army in the form of 2.75in rockets in boxy, un-aerodynamic, launchers, and .50 calibre machine guns in fixed, forward firing, positions but the aircraft was not of a sufficiently robust design for gunship adaption. It was a troop/cargo and anti-submarine platform. Even the attempt to enhance its defensive weaponry had been halted as ill-advised as the 1917 model .30 Browning caused vibration that was detrimental to the aircraft’s handling characteristics. The French had mounted 20mm cannon in the cargo doors of some of their H-34s in an effort to create a gunship, but the weapons were limited to single shot operation because of all the above reasons and it required a great deal of  maintenance to keep their Choctaw gunships airworthy.

Captain Marx kept a good lookout for other aircraft as they neared the Highlands. If the fighting around Zara escalated further they could well have additional close air support sorties, launching from Tan Son Nhut, traversing this piece of sky.
“Phoenix Zero Four, Rodeo Zero Seven?”
“Hold dry at eight grand, three minutes out from Audrey, copy?”
“Phoenix copies.”
He heard two clicks in his headset as Mike acknowledged and Leo flicked over to ‘intercom’ on the cyclic control.
“You got it.” He told Lt Durant, declaring that he was handing over the flight controls. He felt the young officer placing his feet on the tail rotor control pedals and grip the cyclic and collective.
“I got it.” Christian already had butterflies in his belly and everyone else in the aircraft felt the moment of transition, from rock steady to slightly jerky.
Leo watched Christian and felt the nervous movements on the controls before his hands and feet left them. Reaching down to the comms panel on the centre console, which sat between both pilots positions, he disabled the pilots intercom feed to the crew chief and gunners headsets in the troop compartment.
“Young man, you have to learn to relax on the controls... just tune out the fact that this is a war zone.”
“Sorry, sir.”
“Sorry doesn’t cut it anymore, Christian.” He looked from his map and down at the ground. “Orbit here.”
Leo reached down, but his finger paused above the intercom feed switch.
“Once Rodeo gives us the ‘Go’, you are flying the actual extraction, understood?”
Christian’s head turned towards him, his nose beaded with sweat, and looked at the aircraft commander with worried eyes before looking forward once more.
“Understood, sir.”
Leo Marx re-enabled the troop compartment intercom feed and resumed the business of looking out for conflicting traffic, with regular glances at the instruments.

On the Lin Tau Trail.

The sudden appearance of the little spotter plane, and the sound of its firing smoke markers, caused Tin to reassess his intentions.
He had be working under the assumption that the T-28’s survivor(s) would follow their escape and evasion doctrine by putting as much distance as possible between them and the crash site before calling for rescue. It now seemed certain that they had done otherwise and were in the vicinity of the large clearing the helicopters had used to snatch the villagers from his grasp. Perhaps someone was too wounded to follow that course of action?
The T-28s had then taken them by surprise, suddenly overflying him and his men, seemingly following the line of the trail on a bombing run. He and his men had scattered before realising that they were not the target and in fact were undiscovered, semi concealed by overhanging branches. The sound of helicopter rotors came to them immediately, echoing elusively as it circled somewhere, making it impossible to discern its direction or the distance to it.
The use of small-arms against enemy aircraft had been drummed into the men during training, the need to aim ahead of an aircraft by a given number of aircraft lengths, as dictated in other armies, was impractical in this terrain. Volume fire, that was the method taught, to make a snap judgement on the aircraft’s line of flight, and firing with all available weapons at an imaginary fixed point that the enemy must fly through.
Tin briefed his men quickly and had an air sentry, with a whistle; follow two hundred yards behind, just in case the enemy fighter bombers returned, taking the same line as previously flown.
With the machine gunner assistants just an arm’s distance from the gunner’s backs Tin resumed their hurried hike towards the clearing.

LZ Audrey.

Mike orbited LZ ‘Ted’, hoping to induce an element of uncertainty into the minds of any VC or NVA still in the area. However apart from a brief glimpse of what had to be Henry, emerging from the jungle shadows on Audrey’s southern edge, only a Buddhist monk in his saffron robes, watching Mike from the pagoda’s roof, were sign of any other human activity in the vicinity.
“Phoenix this is Rodeo… Jupiter’s East/West ordnance run did not attract any ground fire, same story with their egress bearing.”
His radio crackled, Leo Marx voice responding calmly.
It was never going to get better than this.

“Phoenix copies… approaching from the east… will advise on egress intentions when the survivors are on board,” replied Leo before looking across his shoulder at Christian Durant and pointing with emphasis in the direction of LZ Audrey.
This was the acid test and Christian felt his heart begin to pound as he turned onto a heading of 225° and lowered the collective, beginning a rapid descent and gaining speed.
The perspex canopy and lightweight magnesium airframe were not proof against bird-strikes, let alone bullets, and not even flak jackets were available to flight crews so Christian felt vulnerable every time he climbed up into the aircraft’s elevated pilot’s positions. The pilots sat forward, and above, the troop compartment where the enemy could always see them in their aircraft fuelled by 115/145 Avgas, 337 gallons of it when full and built of the same stuff that makes flares burn bright and hot.
The aircraft did not have a built-in fire extinguisher system, just the crew chiefs hand-held one.  The drill for dealing with engine, clutch and transmission fires on start- up, aboard ship, was to shut down, kill the fuel feed, climb out and help push the thing over the side. A fire on a H-34 Choctaw was impossible to put out.
When the army had been given the task of trialling and assessing the H-34 they had recommended parachutes being worn at three thousand feet and above, stating that an in-flight fire would turn an emergency auto-rotating Choctaw into a torch with still a thousand feet to go.
Parachutes, like flak jackets, were not issued.
Little details like those seemed to plague the young Lt (JG) Durant.

The roof of the pagoda was already visible above the trees, the LZ was situated 200m before that, not hard to spot owing to the napalm burning on its northern edge.
Leo unzipped the top of his olive green, one piece, flight suit and fished out his binoculars; he wore them on a strap around his neck for easy access. Putting them to his eyes and peering ahead through the cockpit canopy he panned them across the clearing and its surrounds. It was on a very gentle gradient just before the steeper slope down to the coastal plain and the breeze was carrying the burning jungle’s black smoke away to the north west. The surface of the LZ was unobscured by smoke from the fire.
“Christchurch this is Phoenix, throw smoke!”
A few moments later, Christian and Leo spotted a growing splash of red against the green background.
“I see red?” Leo transmitted.
“Red is correct.”
With the survivors position pinpointed Leo switched briefly to intercom.
“Here we go… twenty seconds, get ‘em onboard and we are gone in thirty.”
Leo positioned his feet just clear of the pedals and lightly curled his fingers around both collective and cyclic, ready to take control if Christian was hit.
Christian’s mouth was dry, his heart was beating a tattoo and he could do nothing to stop the slight shaking of his hands. They descended below the level of the clearing and he felt Captain Marx give him a quick, critical, look.
Christian arrested their descent, catching it on the collective and beginning an ascent parallel to the hillside, keeping the trees sixty feet or so below the Choctaw’s fixed undercarriage.
He could now see faint wisps of the red smoke appear above the trees.
Three things happened at once, a small hole appeared next to the compass, the perspex above his head shattered, showering him in shards, and something warm and wet hit the right side of his face.
He could feel strikes on the fuselage now, the airspeed indicator gauge exploded, sending glass splinters flying about the cockpit, which started to fill with smoke from smouldering wiring inside the instrument panel, stinging his eyes and making him cough. Petty Officer Frey was screaming in pain on the intercom and the master fire light shone red, like a beacon, through the smoke.
A quick glance to his right revealed Captain Marx sitting upright but unresponsive; his face was missing due to a high velocity round entering through his groin, deflecting off a collar bone and exiting via the bridge of his nose.
Christian depressed the transmit button on the cyclic control stick.
The Choctaw breasted the crest of the slope and Christian felt through his backside the beginnings of a stall.  The RPMs were falling and they lacked both height and enough forward momentum to reach LZ Audrey. He continued transmitting. “SHIT!... WE’RE GOING DOWN!”
Flicking from ‘TRANX’ to ‘INT’ he barked a warning. “BRACE! BRACE! BRACE!”

In the troop compartment, Efren had pulled Herman away from the open door. A round had first entered through the thin belly, missing the main fuel tank, a 115 gallon, self-sealing bladder, and then it penetrated the deck before hitting the crew chief in the lower left leg. It missed the bone but nicked the posterior tibia artery below the knee. The round had exited without causing further wounds but had then all but severed Frey’s safety line. Efren could do nothing about the crew chief’s wounds until the aircraft stabilised, and the shouted warning on the intercom to brace made that doubtful. He held tightly on to Herman Frey to prevent him sliding out of the open cargo door. What remained of the safety line was unlikely to take his weight.

Christian allowed the aircraft to sideslip to the left, applying pressure to the left pedal, turning the damaged helicopter to face the line of trees marking the edge of the slope.
Nose down, the tree tops seemed to rush at him but they cleared the edge, just, brushing the tree tops and the starboard gear carried off a souvenir, trailing behind like ten feet of green bunting.
They were hit again as they passed back into view of enemy troops on a steep trail, his side window shattered and the pedals bucked once, hard. He thought that he felt a slight vibration in those rotor pedals now, but they were gaining airspeed and this was translating to the rotors.
The stricken machine dropped below the level of the attackers, the incoming fire ceased and the RPMs grew.
In a detached way, Christian was vaguely aware that for a person of his nervous disposition he was taking this awfully well, the shakes had gone and even his heart had ceased its kettle drum solo.

The Choctaw had something in common with the T-28 Trojan and B-17 Flying Fortress, it was also powered by a Wright Cyclone radial engine. Mounted at a 45° angle in the nose, with a drive shaft running up between the pilots seats to the clutch and gears sited above the troop compartment. A titanium firewall across the engine compartment bulkhead gave some protection from engine fires, but no such measures existed to inhibit a fire caused by damaged and overheating gears.
His hand hovered before the fuel pump switch, hesitating, but the things he had been taught to do now were to turn off the fuel pump, lower the collective and auto-rotate down to a suitable landing site. There was none of those currently available, just jungle, with shoulder to shoulder trees.
The combination of the shattered side window and perspex panel above his head had cleared the smoke in the cockpit. He pulled back gently on the collective and their descent slowed, putting them back on an even, though shaky, keel.
Therefore, they had airspeed and increasing RPMs and despite the fact that something was broke they weren’t falling out of the sky. The fire warning light was still shining brightly however.
He turned onto the bailout heading, 124°, taking them towards the nearest friendly forces, and keyed the intercom.

As soon as the machine began flying straight and level, Efren elevated Herman’s injured leg, propping it up on one of the benches lining three sides of the troop compartment. It caused even louder screams from the crew chief but he ignored them and tore open the leg of the fatigues. Before he could get to work though, Lt Durant’s voice sounded in his headset.
“How’s the chief?”
“Arterial bleed… got to clamp it.”
“Stop what you are doing and stick your head out the door, look up at the gearbox and also forward, under and back… any sign of fire, any smoke trail?” the lieutenant asked. “Do it now.”
Efren put opened field dressings in the crew chief’s hands and placed them against the entry and exit wounds.
“Press hard!” he instructed via the intercom. “Back in a second.”
Checking that his own safety line was undamaged and secure, Seaman Lubay braced himself, reaching up to get a firm grip on the winch strut. Efren leaned far out in order to see upwards, before lying on his belly to look beneath the fuselage.
The 90 knot slipstream tore at him, threatening to tear him loose and set him dangling above a green jungle canopy, speckled with patches of white mist, five thousand feet below.
Efren edged back into the safety of the troop compartment.
“Speak to me.”
“No fire, not much smoke… some, but not much… and a hole in the tail, maybe baseball size.” Efren realised he had not heard Leo Marx’s voice since they were hit. “How’s the Captain, sir?”
Leo was dead, Christian knew this because blood was not jetting out of his awful wounds, and it couldn’t without a living heart to pump it. He was, however, leaking blood courtesy of gravity, his seat was awash and it was running down to the floor of the cockpit, pooling below the aircraft commanders set of pedals.
The cockpit and troop compartment were separated and there was no way Efren could reach it in flight, so he could not have aided Captain Marx anyway, even if Leo’s wounds had not been immediately fatal.
Efren had liked the captain, a good officer and one who had not held Efren’s skin colour against him, unlike the crew chief.
The chief was pale with shock and blood loss, barely able to continue the direct pressure and Efren got to work, looking for the damaged artery.
The vibration was increasing, making it difficult to clamp it off. He checked his watch, noting the time as he would have to release the clamp again briefly every ten minutes. Limbs need blood or you lose them.

With the shot-up instrument panel, Christian had to guess at their airspeed but the still functioning RPM gauge explained why they were gradually losing height, the altimeter read 4100 but the vibration was making it hard to make out the digits.
He was continuously looking for clearings, but the Choctaw was a biggish aircraft, from forward blade’s tip to those of the tail rotor’s measured 65.7 feet, with 56 foot diameter blade span. He had not seen any 70 foot long by 60 foot wide clearings, not yet anyhow. He did not have binoculars of his own with which to assist his search, although Leo’s were in easy reach, still hung about his neck but blood had fill the eyepieces.
Looking at his own map for clearings was tricky, unlike fixed wing aircraft there was no automatic pilot and no way to trim it so that it flew straight and level without a hand on the controls. He got his map out but the gale howling through the cockpit whipped it open, plastering it to his face before ripping it away and out of the gaping panel above his head. Leo’s map was still in the captain’s lap but as equally as unusable as the binoculars, and for the same reason.
After five more minutes he picked out the line of the highway from Lin Tau to Quang Tri, but the term ‘highway’ was open to interpretation. The jungle closely flanked the two-lane road, which was 30 feet wide, at best.
Ten miles on, the first paddy fields, two of them, appeared before the road and Christian saw armoured vehicles stationary on the highway, a whole bunch of them stretching back towards Quang Tri.
This, he thought, must be ‘Marvin’s’ 17th Mechanised Regiment.
They were not big fields but they were big enough, of sufficient size to feed the small hamlet along one edge, and plenty big enough to put the Choctaw down safely, he decided.
A high, wide dyke ran between the fields, with broad spanned fig trees growing atop where they could provide shade to field workers on hot days.
Like all paddy fields, they were a communal concern for the hamlets and villages they served. They were also the communal latrine, the residents producing a constant supply of fertilizer. A near perfect food chain with 100% recycling.
Unless the surface were to be churned up the smell was barely noticeable, provided you happened to be upwind, of course. It would take a fortnight for the hot season to dry them out.

Christian gently reduced speed on the throttle, which topped the collective, and immediately the vibration decreased but the aircraft wanted to turn to the left.
He applied counter pressure on the pedals but they bucked  violently, so he increased power. The bucking relented but the vibration returned two fold.
He had to do something to reduce speed and altitude because sure as eggs were eggs they couldn’t stay up there all day. The chief needed a hospital and the aircraft needed repair.
He could barely make out their altitude, three thousand and something, the dial was almost a blur. He braced his feet on the pedals and reduced power again, cautiously, and lowered the collective gently.
It bucked like a bitch whilst trying to turn left, almost throwing his feet off the pedals and after a few seconds he could tell that at their current rate of decent they were going to overshoot the fields and highway to land in the trees beyond. He could slow to a near hover and descend at a steep angle under reduced power with both feet on the right pedal, and the aircraft was not going to like that, it was already shaking like a dog with ticks! If the vibration was related to the engine feeding power to the tail rotor then perhaps that was the cause of the increasing vibration?
His best course of action was therefore to throttle back, brace the right pedal and auto-rotate down before pulling on the power and flaring to a safe landing in the accepted manner, was it not?
It turned out that it was not one of his better ideas.

Christian turned into the wind, all but closed the throttle and lowered the collective to enter autorotation. The aircraft dropped, although under his control and with an eye on the altimeter, which was unwinding rapidly. His legs were almost straight, restraining the aircraft from turning left.
It was working!
At 500 feet he poured on the power and pulled back on the collective to recover from the auto rotation.
A giant hit the airframe with a baseball bat as the tail pylon sheered.
He lost almost all fore and aft cyclic control and the aircraft began to spin like a sycamore seed.
He really did not have time to be scared, five hundred feet is not a lot of room to play with. He closed the throttle and turned off the fuel pump, master battery switch and magneto.
They were nose heavy, of course, because of the engine sitting below his feet. When the airframe hit the the ground first, if it landed evenly on its undercarriage, the momentum would carry the main rotors down to slice through the cockpit and the gear assembly above the troop compartment would smash down to crush or trap anyone who was in there.
The only way to prevent that was to ensure the blades hit the ground first and the aircraft landed half on its side, preferably the left.
Just before they hit, Christian applied full left cyclic and the world tilted to the right. The blades struck the morass of the field’s surface on the left side, digging deep but not under power so they bent rather than sheared, braking the rotor head to a halt. The left side of the helicopter had hit hard enough for the air to be  driven out of Christian’s lungs and for his safety harness to leave deep welts in his flesh. A great wave of dark effluent was flung outwards, its crest higher than the tops of the fig trees on the dyke that it pebble dashed.
As hoped, in those last few seconds before impact, the aircraft came to rest with the sunlight streaming through the open cargo door, an escape route for the chief and Lubay.  Just as well, for the aroma of faeces and the ammonia scent of old urine was being joined by that of Avgas fumes.
The co-pilots seat was on the left side so that side of Christian’s body was submerged. He kept his mouth firmly shut  as he fumbled to release his harness.

Captain Marx’s body hung suspended by his seat’s straps and Christian climbed up past him and out of the right side cockpit hatch without try to recover him from the wreckage. He was dead but the crew chief was not, and Lubay could not lift him out of the wreck unaided.
Once  out and standing on top of the, now uppermost, starboard side, Christian went to the cargo door and looked inside the troop compartment. At 200lbs, Petty Officer Frey was twice the weight of 5’2”, Seaman Lubay, but the Filipino was trying to get him out rather than extracting himself.
Christian heard a splashing in the paddy field behind him and turned to see two US advisors and several ARVN troopers hurrying towards the downed machine. Steam was pouring out of the nose cone and gear compartment as hot metal encountered the field’s filthy water. From a distance it could be mistaken for smoke preceding a fire, but they came at a run anyway.
As their rescuers climbed atop the machine, Christian lowered himself into troop compartment and helped Lubay lift the semi-conscious crew chief up. Hands reached down, grabbing Frey and lifting first him out, and then Lubay and Christian.
Again on top of the wreckage, Christian could smell the smoke that was now issuing from the cockpit. He went towards the open hatch but a hand caught his shoulder, restraining him.
“Don’t be a fool!”
It was one of the advisors, an army major, and Christian knew he was correct even if leaving Leo Marx did not seem right.
Jumping down, they hurried in the wake of the remainder, wading to the dyke and clambering up its side.
He turned to look back at the Choctaw, seeing the first flicker of flames through the perspex of the cockpit canopy and then the fumes from the remaining two hundred gallons in ruptured tanks within the belly ignited explosively.
Phoenix Zero Four blew herself apart and burned, her dead AC still strapped to his seat.
It was too sad a sight for him to watch and he turned away, only then noticing they had an awful lot of company on that dyke.
A half dozen trestle tables, covered with crisp white sheets had been placed there, and atop those sat the regimental silver of the 17th Mech’s Officer's Mess. Ornate, burnished tableware holding roast quail, saffron rice and imported, honey roast ham, amongst other dishes. It was the officer’s campaign lunch, a throwback from French Colonial days.   Only the sheets were not crisp and white anymore, the silver no longer shone and the food was no longer edible, being thoroughly drenched in effluent, as were the officers.
It probably did not help much that he started to laugh.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Fae, half Faerie princess, half Succubus and complete badass! Dad's a demon and Mum is a witch so it is fortunate she is on the side of the good guys... well at least most of the time.
'He crouched to look inside, seeing only ancient gas and electric meters, along with unwanted household items, all covered in dust along with a stack of old newspapers, long yellowed with age.
“Trust me,” she said, reading the suspicion in his mind.
Careful not to bang his head on a stair joist, he entered, found the switch and gaped in surprise when he flicked it on as the cluttered items vanished with the light. Instead of bric-a-brac he found boxes of ammunition and some two dozen weapons. He switched off the light and again found himself amid clutter and cobwebs, obviously one of Fae’s magical wards was at work.
“One would suggest that you choose something befitting the issuance of close quarters mayhem as well as something with a little distance… such as the M82 Barrett with a 29” barrel as opposed to the 20” version? Although you will find that the Zeiss 6–24×72 scope is superior in half-light conditions when compared against the Leupold & Stevens Mk4 M5 rifle scope that some are known to favour. The sights’ weight differential is a shade over an ounce but the long term benefits should be obvious… not that one claims to be an expert, of course.”
He stuck his head out to look quizzically up at her.
“If it is all the same to you I would rather not lug thirty pounds of ironmongery around.”
“If you wish to split hairs it is actually 30.2lbs, unloaded, but that should not be a problem for a big strong boy like you,” she winked at him. “However I merely jest at your expense as there is of course no iron involved.”
“Why ‘of course’?”
“Iron is a poison in the supernatural world.”
He frowned and pointed back to the fireplace in the room they had just left.
“I saw you stoke the fire with an iron poker?”
“Indeed you did, but one is not currently in the supernatural world, now is she?”
Fae shooed him back inside.
“May I suggest that you at least test the weight as I imagine you may indeed be favourably impressed?”
The Barrett slid easily out of its rack, weighing no more than about 10lbs.
“What is it made of?”
“I have on many occasions been called a minx, a slut, jezebel, trollop, harpy, whore, daughter of Satan, spawn of Beelzebub, and a bad cook, but thus far one has never been accused of being a metallurgist Mr. Bennett, so how on earth would I know?”…

Missed deadlines through typhoons, dengue fever and over optimism.

Perhaps one day I will meet the deadline set in my head but at least I have publicly announced a date only to miss by an embarrassingly large amount.

Still forging on with 'Shaw'. 

    'Hooded lanterns with red filters gave the passageways within the bowels of the USS Topcliffe a hellish atmosphere. The stench and humid warmth produced by the close packed and unwashed men of the 999th Infantry was gone though, replaced by the cold and damp of the English Channel.
Even before the ship’s engines had begun to slow, the regiment had lined the passageways in order of loading; thirty-six men to a Higgins Boat, aka the LCVP, Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel.
1st Battalion would emerge on deck on the port side and 2nd Battalion on the starboard to climb down the scramble nets and into the Higgins boats as they came alongside. It was a risky enough undertaking in daylight upon a calm sea, and the regiment had rehearsed the manoeuvre for almost an entire night, the previous month. On the conclusion of the fourth attempt the Navy had been satisfied enough to sign off the exercise as a success, but they had pointed out that the 999th had enjoyed the benefit of moonlight and the relative calm of The Solent.
    On this night off the coast of Normandy, the conditions were very different.
The loading plan was straightforward; Able, Baker and Charlie Company, of both battalions, would emerge on deck through hatchways in the forward part of the superstructure, while Dog, Easy and Foxtrot Companies used the aft hatchways. They could load eight craft at a time, four either side of the ship, and in training it had taken ninety minutes to fill all of the sixty-six Higgins boats required to carry the regiment’s two battalions. So far, Dwight estimated, as he shuffled forward another step at the head of 4th Platoon, it had taken at least that long to disembark Able and Baker Company.
Dwight had managed a couple of hours sleep earlier, but he knew he was in the minority. The rolling motion of the ship and nerves had kept most awake, buoyed up by nervous energy and Lucky Strikes, chain smoked to the extent that the men and equipment smelled like used ashtrays. Some had passed the time gambling, others in writing and re-writing letters to loved ones. Dwight had written his own letters when still back at Folkestone racecourse He had never been close to his father, so the three thin envelopes he had handed to the company clerk were for his mother, kid brother, and for Maggie of course.
    After another half hour of the one-step-and-wait waltz Dwight reached the rail at the height of a rain squall, helping his men over the side and ensuring they had a firm grip of the scrambling net; he could barely make out the men’s outlines in the almost pitch darkness, let alone identify them, and they had to shout against the wind for their names to be heard. The ship was rolling with the action of waves far higher than they had encountered in training, making the job of the coxswains in the Higgins boats challenging, to say the very least. The sailors were on the nets, using their experience to judge the movement of the waves, telling the heavily burdened riflemen when to make the perilous step from the netting to the boat.
    Dwight was the last man of 4th Platoon on the netting, the gap between the ship’s steel side and that of the Higgins boat altering unpredictably. A freak wave lifted the boat higher and defeated the coxswain’s best efforts to avoid a collision but the hands that gripped Dwight and hauled him upwards were those of the sailors who had read the waves, and seen it coming before he himself had realised the danger. Dwight was able to lift his legs clear of the assault boat’s side as it slammed into the ship’s hull with a booming sound. Without doubt his legs would have been crushed but for the two men who were just dark shapes on the netting above him. He opened his mouth to shout his thanks but a voice cut him off.
    The boat rose again and Staff Sergeant Forde reached over to take a firm grasp of Dwight’s webbing belt as additional insurance, as Dwight obeyed the unknown sailor’s shouted instruction, letting go and being pulled into the dubious safety of a small, flat bottomed plywood boat on an angry sea.'

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Armageddon's Song at Apple iStore.

World War 3 - Now!
The Fiery Hell Of Global War In The 'Armageddon's Song' Series Now Also At Apple iStore Books.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

“Do not judge a book by its cover.” An invalid maxim.

If we are talking about people then I readily agree that the old saying still holds true. If you are an author though, and you believe a bad cover will not negatively effect sales then you are clearly about to be disappointed.
As more bricks and mortar book stores close their doors forever the reading public go online to find new reading material. Paperback, Hard-cover, eBook and Audio books now appear as tiny icons on computer screen and electronic devices. Which icon will you right-click to read the title’s description, the one bearing the work of a professional cover artist, the humdrum stock cover that only sort-of relates to the title, or the one which looks as if the images were cut from various magazines and glued to a side of A4 before being scanned?
It is a world of vanity that we live in, one where appearances count more than ever, but as always you get what you pay for. If you go directly to your next door neighbour’s son because he has an A Level in Art from the local Secondary Modern school you may be pleasantly surprised with the results but the likelihood is that you will not.
Shop around; be aware that there are wannabe artists, time wasters and outright fakes out there so do your research. I found two excellent artists on a site called but there are several other sites with talented artists and photographers. Learn the difference between ‘digital modelling’ and ‘digital painting’, it is significant, and one may fill your needs whereas the other may not. If you lack the means to hire models and a studio then these guys and gals are a cost effective solution which you would be wise to explore. Traditional 2D artists and photographers also have pages on these sites and all will display examples of their work.
From experience I have found that if it takes more than three days for an artist to respond to your initial contact then move on, try someone else. If you find yourself chasing an artist for results then you may have to cut your losses and look elsewhere, you would not have paid cash on the barrel for the finished project so do not burst a blood vessel, chalk it up to experience and find someone more reliable. 
If you suspect the authenticity of an image in an artist’s portfolio just right-click on it and follow the drop-down menu to ‘Search Google for this image’ and if it appears with accreditation to another artist you may have to discover which one is the real deal and who is the phoney.
I have already stated in an earlier article that you should not expect free samples of an artist’s work as proof of ability, so ask their rates in advance and most will have PayPal accounts so the process is quite swift.
Artists are like computers, at least that is my recent experience, in that they can produce what you ask for but not necessarily what you want. None of the artists I know are mind readers so be clear in what it is that you have in mind and providing a visual for them will help enormously. Sanju Nivangune and Piero Vettori are the two talented artists who I found and both speak good English, but it is not their first language and over half of the artists you will find online are not English speakers, which is another reason for clarity. Google translate has come on leaps and bounds since its implementation a few years ago so your online communications will not read like a text conversation between Yoda and Jar Jar Binks. Use it, it works.
The bottom lines is that you want to be as proud of the cover as you are of the interior, hiring an artist may not be cheap but it is a worthwhile and very necessary investment if you want a return on all those months, or years, it took you to write your book.

The Linkedin article.