Saturday, 21 December 2013

Uneven play field on Amazon balanced by tax laws.

The benefits of joining Amazon.com as opposed to your own countries are quite significant. You can buy kindle books from different countries sites and save money, and you can send kindle books as gifts, which is lucrative for American authors, not that I am having a go at fellow writers in the US of course, but the ways of Amazon are bizarre to say the least.
A link back to your own country's site instead of a 'Buy with 1 Click' button, and no 'Send as a gift' button either.
According to a colleague across the way her Christmas sales increase whereas mine will be under the thousand monthly sales total for the first time ever since I published last May.

It is of course swings and roundabouts though as being a Brit ex-pat my royalties are only taxed by the Philippines, but US ex-pat authors are taxed twice, by the US as well as the country of residence.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Monday, 9 December 2013

Excerpt: Volume 3 'Fight Through'

Excerpt: Volume 3

   “Mister President, those men and women are outnumbered fifty to one, they have fought and held this long despite the inadequate equipment and war stocks their governments provided them to do the job, and the fact that they are about to be over run, and where the blame lies for that, is no fault of theirs.”
A pin could have been heard dropping in the seconds that followed, and Terry Jones was not alone in realising a line had just been crossed. The President had been questioning whether there was fault in the ability of the men and women in uniform at the battlefront, but the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs had laid the blame squarely at the door of government.
The Joint Chiefs are free to criticise the Chief Executive, but on a one to one basis behind closed doors, not in front of onlookers even if they were on the staff.
The President became very still, and his eyes narrowed a fraction as he looked at his top soldier. Henry met the President’s gaze and held it calmly in the knowledge that if he were to be relieved now it would matter not one iota.
The President broke the silence.
   “A simple yes or no would have sufficed, General.”
    Henry went on to outline what they believed the enemy would do once they achieved a breakout.
   “We expect the Third Shock Army to head for Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Zeebrugge and Antwerp, with their Sixth Shock Army following on behind through the breach and to then swing south west for the French ports. What remains of Second Shock and Tenth Tank army will probably hook left and right to roll up the rest of our lines. These are their last, first class outfits and they about used up their second-class units in keeping up the pressure on us and trying to force the rivers up to this point in time. Which leaves third class units to assist in the mopping up, whilst the fourth class…those manned by troops in their forties and early fifties, will in all probability be used to secure the lines of communication.”
   The President had rested his elbows on the table before him, and his hands were clasped together, the fingers entwined and he rested his chin on the spire they formed.
   “What, may I ask, does General Allain intend to do about that?” The President followed on before Henry could answer. “There is just a cobbled together, infantry heavy division sat in the way of god knows how many tanks so does he honestly believe that will hold them until our new Corps arrives on the scene?” with that he sat upright and raised a coffee mug to his lips while he waited for the answer.
Henry responded with four words.
With a snort that sent coffee splashing across the papers in front of him, the President choked in mid swallow. An aide hurried over and began mopping up the spilt coffee before him, and the President coughed whilst fishing out a handkerchief and dabbing at a growing stain on his shirt. Leaning to one side to see past the charring aide he stared at Henry.
   “What?”
   “He’s going to attack.” Henry Shaw repeated.
The President knew what forces were in Germany, and so he had to ask himself, and Henry, if SACEUR had taken leave of his senses.
   “General Allain is quite sane Mr President; he is just faced with desperate choices at a desperate time.”
Turning back to the screen Henry continued his explanation by highlighting two NATO units sat slightly to the rear of their own lines and at either side of the expected breach.
“These two units, the 2nd Canadian Mechanised Brigade and the French 8th Armoured Brigade, are currently in hide positions and have been brought up to strength as far as possible as regard reinforcements and supplies. Once the lead enemy manoeuvre units have passed through the breach they will close it behind them, sealing the breach.”
   “General?” The President was pointing the end of a pen towards the screen.
   “If memory serves, that Canadian unit was over a hundred miles away two days ago and holding a section of the line to the north, and the French brigade was a lot further south, so who is in those positions now?”
   “The King Alfonso XIII Light Infantry Legion Brigade relieved the Canadians in place thirty hours ago, and the Lusitania Light Armoured Cavalry Regiment took over from the French 8th Armoured about this time yesterday. They are both Spanish rapid reaction units and as such carry little in the way of excess baggage so the move took very little time.”
The President was about to ask another question, clearly surprised that these moves and the Spanish units involved had not previously been even hinted at. He wasn’t certain that the Spanish units in question were even under SACEUR’s control. However, General Shaw had already turned away.
The map on the big screen panned back to encompass the south of Europe and the UK. Blue parachute symbols were clustered about the locations of airfields far from the fighting.
   “Tomorrow morning at 0300hrs GMT, elements of the Belgian, Turkish, Greek, Spanish and Italian airborne forces, along with three battalions of the 82nd and the British 1st and 2nd Parachute battalions will drop into occupied Germany to attack enemy airfields and supply lines.”
Henry paused before finishing and looked at all the faces peering from him to the screen.
   “This is a one shot deal and there will be no reinforcement or re-supply.”
The President sat listening with raised eyebrows as Henry spoke, and when he had finished the President looked around the table.
   “Why is it that this is first that I have heard of it? Why haven’t any of the European leaders spoken to me about this? Why General, was I not consulted?”
Henry gave him that answer.
   “I think you will find sir that General Allain felt that the other leaders would only have seen it as throwing good money after bad, and would have wanted to preserve those forces for the defence of their own borders. He may also have felt that by consulting you sir, it would have put you in an awkward position.”
   “No shit.” The President replied with much irony, and then as another thought occurred to him his brows knotted together in confusion.
   “So how did he get those airborne units, General?”
   “He didn’t consult the national leadership’s sir.”
Henry answered.
   “Only the Generals’.”
Andy Farman @ Goodreads
Andy's Amazon page.

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Write about what you know, research what you do not.

Write about what you know, research what you do not.

Incorporate some of your experiences into your writing, preferably the humour of the moment but definitely nothing that could be of the 'I guess you had to be there' variety, so testing it out first is a good idea.

I had regular dealings with a certain famous theatre which was run largely by eccentric former, failed, or 'resting' Thespians of the Royal Shakespeare Company. There was no obvious structure to the management and much was done by verbal agreement, and much was done by unspoken agreement. I could go down there and show my warrant card at reception every day of the week and it would be a different receptionist (the daughter/niece of a minor sponsor) so I would have the same conversation.
"Is the Director or the Operations manager available?"
"What is it about?"
"A confidential operation."
"What is that?"
"It's confidential, sorry."
"Did you ring for an appointment?"
"No."
"Why not?"
"Because the matter is confidential."
Eventually I would get the Front of House Manager, or the Music Director, or once even the Head of Procurement (Catering), but I would eventually get someone with their own assigned parking space outside. The parking spaces were interesting as they swapped owners frequently because poor role performance was not grounds for sacking, merely a move. The Head of a Productions at the time of a poorly received play would be parking in the Head of Props bay for a while. I am sure you get the hang of how it was there.
"The Queen is coming to watch your opening night of Hamlet." and I would at that time then be able to get on with the initial organisational meeting with the SPOC (Single Point of Contact) if this was any other organisation of course, but they would discuss amongst themselves who was best to deal with the visit. 'Felicity from Accounting' was a frequent proposal. Felicity had not the first clue about Royal protocols, counter terrorism, Emergency Egress (bug-out routes) or possess any practical organisational skills, Felicity could not even count very well, but it was 'her turn' and of course she was so-and-so's daughter/niece, a major sponsor.
My shaking head was usually the sign that Felicity, no doubt a charming girl, was not the ideal first choice of the security forces of the United Kingdom.
Emergency Egress Routes were often misconstrued by former Shakespearean actors (now in management) and I can only presume that is was due to the absence of the word 'Emergency' in Billy's writings.
"What would be your suggestion of the fastest route from the Royal Box to ground level?" I once asked.
"That would be this way." and I followed the elected SPOC along several corridors and through several locked doors to the Green Room on the next floor up.
"We have just acquired this rather nice water colour, donated by a sponsor." would be the explanation "She would no doubt appreciate it in passing."
"No." I would reply.
"But she likes water colours!"
"No, you are thinking of Prince Charles, and no she would not see it as her personal protection officer will have thrown her across one shoulder and be moving at as near to a sprint as he can manage."

I did once have Felicity from Accounting as a SPOC but that was not because I had any say in the matter. It was not a VIP visit but it was one of great importance to the theatre.
She telephoned me at work one day.
"We want to kick off the theatre year next week on Shakespeare's birthday. So we are having Cleopatra's royal barge row up from Westminster and deposit her at the steps to be met by Mark Antony, is that okay?"
"How many rowers and what time are you going to be arriving at Westminster?"
"Four, and 9am to set up, why, is there a problem?"
"Does the barge have an engine?"
"No, just the willing lads from 'Props' and 'Scenery'.
"Well there are two things actually, the first is that it is a spring tide that morning and your rowers will probably be exhausted or still trying manfully as they catch sight of the Theatre Royal at Windsor...." (20 miles upriver)
"Oh.."
"And that day is the day of the London Marathon, so you would need to be in place at Westminster Pier at 2am at the latest before the road closures go in."
Google is a great research tool, but I suspect Billy did not Google much either.

My next book will be a comedy but I have to think of some way to manufacture two similar incidents into it.

Andy's Amazon page.
Andy @ Goodreads

Advertising....don't get me started on advertising!

Getting it out there:

I had a disagreement with Facebook on their stupid policy regarding the amount of text allowed in an advertising poster which led to some research and a useful discovery.

As I have previously stated, if you advertise with FB you should only target your book page, be it Amazon or whoever you use. You can use this to get 'Likes' for your FB page like some attention hungry teenager, but as an author you will go hungry, literally. 'Likes' do not pay the bills.

Go on to FB and search 'Advertise on Facebook', this will link you to the process. Target your countries and audience carefully, do not 'shotgun-and-hope-for-the-best'.
IGNORE the option to post your advert in the newsfeed but SELECT 'Right hand column' as this is where 80% of 'clicks' to my Amazon page originated.
I only advertised for seven days and it cost me $50 to reach 209,566 members and I received an average 170 daily clicks to my Amazon page. Whether anyone actually bought a book remains to be seen, but there you have it. The right hand column ads work much better than news feed ads.

Of course, you need to post an eye catching ad too, but I can't help you there.

Best of luck


Sunday, 24 November 2013

Writing and the Wild West


Your office chair is both your saddle and your horse, your keyboard is your low slung Colt and no matter how good you think you are, there is always some young punk who is better.

It is an unfortunate fact that there is an element of jealousy and envy in this game. Some of the worst trolls are other authors and their friends, and there are the back shooters too, just like in the Old West.

Trolling others is not going to make your books more popular, but writing a better book will.
Never respond to a troll, I have said this before, it does more harm than good.
The only defence against falling royalties is to simply keep on writing.
Accept that you are not the best writer and your book is not the greatest work ever penned.
Accept that there is no such thing as a single best writer or a single best book ever penned.

"The moment you go thinking you are the best, that is when that young punk is going to leave you lying in a dusty street at high noon." (said John Grisham of J.K Rowling...probably)

Monday, 4 November 2013

Excerpt from Volume 1

                                                
                                                    St Johns Wood, London: 0427hrs

Carmichael had finished dressing and had put the kettle on for himself. The coffee percolator bubbled and hissed with Alexandra’s favourite start to the morning. Striding to the kitchen window he pulled open the curtains in order to behold the new day.
   “Shit!” breathed a black clad police officer of the team about to assault the rear of the address.
PC Tony Stammers froze motionless in a crouch on Carmichael’s herbaceous border; he kept his head down and attempted to imitate a lethally armed garden gnome. Lying prone and using the garden hedges as cover the remainder of his team were less than impressed.
 Carmichael had been interested in the state of the sky rather than the progress of his Liliflorae and dropped the curtains back into place. Scuttling sideways into cover the gnome mimic received a thump on the top of his helmet.
   “Next time you hug the cover, you don’t take short cuts!” hissed his Sergeant and emphasised the salient point of his argument with a second, harder blow. Constable Annabel Perry, the errant SFO’s partner, was looking at him with a despairing look on her face.
Intending to take Berria her morning coffee in the bath Carmichael raised one foot to mount the stairs when several things happened at once.
Having climbed rubber clad storming ladders at the front and rear bedroom windows four SFOs burst through in a cloud of flying shards of glass to toss stun grenades onto the landing and over the banister rail.
At the sound of the windows shattering Carmichael dropped the china cups and saucers he had held and was reaching down for a small handgun in its ankle holster.
 Berria had been rather more switched on, she knew that what would come next would be mind numbing. Placing hands across her ears she slid below the water’s surface to muffle the sound.
Four stun grenades went off with two of them within three feet of Carmichael, temporarily ruining his vision and hearing. Despite the pain in his ears Carmichael raised the gun in front of himself defensively and that was the sight that greeted the first two officers to burst through the front door.
Berria emerged from below the surface of the bath water the second she judged all the grenades had finished and heard two gunshots so close together that the sounds almost merged. Fishing below soiled undies in the linen basket she withdrew and cocked an Uzi sub machine gun and extended its wire stock before opened the door to the landing.
Hearing the sound of door being opened Tony Stammers was bringing his MP5 around to bear on the direction of the noise but he hesitated, for just a milli-second, at the sight of a dripping wet and naked blond in the bathroom doorway.
The Uzi roared, intensely loud in such a confined space, and floral wallpaper on the wall at his back sprouted several holes but his ballistic body armour stopped both the rounds that struck him at chest height, however the round that pierced his left bicep shattered the bone behind it.
Annabel Perry had also heard the door but she had dropped prone at the sound. Alexandra Berria’s only burst of fire was cut short as Annabel shot her between the breasts. The butt of the sub machine gun remained in her shoulder but Berria came out of the aim and stepped backwards drunkenly with a wide eyed and open mouthed look of surprise on her face until the back of one leg struck the bath tub and she sat down heavily upon its edge. By accident or designed the muzzle of the Uzi swung toward the prone officer. Instantly, Annabel raised her point of aim and shot Berria again, this time below the right eye.
Alexandra was left draped over the side of the bath with legs akimbo, sticking over the edge, and with her head below water now turning crimson.
At the foot of the stairs Carmichael was staring up at the ceiling whilst one of the officers who had shot him applied direct pressure on a wound dressing.
With the building secure, para medics from the London Ambulance Service entered and having told Carmichael’s first aider to save his energy they moved on up the stairs and gave the same advice to an officer working on Berria.   

Andy's book page on Amazon
Andy on Goodreads

Saturday, 2 November 2013


Excerpt, Volume 2:

One of the hardest of his own orders that Admiral Mann had to stand by, was that of rescuing survivors. His warships and helicopters reported dozens in the water. Those downwind of the chemical warheads would have no chance, but the remainder waved, shouted and blew whistles in order to gain attention.
USS Peel’s crew were fighting to shore up bulkheads, but the only safe course of action for her was to turn her stern to the seas and put her engines astern, making for the Azores in that slow fashion, if a torpedo did not find her first.
Conrad Mann would not compromise his warships integrity by allowing seals to be broken in order for crewmen to go topside and carry out rescues. He could not allow his ships to break formation, and he could not afford to weaken his defensive screen by detaching another vessel. The same went for his rotary wing assets, he needed them hunting rather than performing SAR.
All requests to heave-to or to delay ASW operations were refused, and the winking beacons on survival rafts and immersion suits fell astern, disappearing into the cold, black Atlantic night.

Twenty-one minutes later a UH-60B from the USS Gerald Ford firmed up very quickly on a contact that was coming on too fast for caution. Within another three minutes a further two helicopters began to prosecute separate contacts, but before any could drop on the hulls they rose to launch depth and the next attack began.
The soviet hunter-killers had used well the time the helicopters had been absent, and all seven began launching within minutes of each other.
SS-N-7 anti-ship missiles burst out of the black depths in welters of spray, their solid rocket motors providing the thrust that would send them at high subsonic speed towards their victims.
Gerald Ford’s TAO saw at a glance that his remaining F-14s and F/A-18s would be of no use, their attackers were within forty miles of the nearest US ship, and the aircraft were too far away to engage in time.
Standard 2 missiles roared from vertical launch tubes, tipping over as their ships guidance systems fed them data on the incoming attack.
High above the ships, the radar operators aboard the early warning Hawkeye watched the attackers come on, locked down their firing positions to within six feet, and fed mid-course corrections to the Standard 2s. Whilst they were doing all this they saw twenty new tracks appear two hundred and ninety-six miles out.
Placing a cursor on the lead inbound the operator was surprised, he had thought that he could judge speed pretty well, and he’d have guessed that these newcomers were coming in at mach one, give or take. However the speed was Mach 2.7, and these inbounds were climbing.
Selecting the Gerald Ford’s CIC on his frequency selector he spoke quickly and clearly.
   “Vampires, Vampires, Vampires…Lunch Bunch this is Eye Spy Zero Two, I have two zero Vampires, bearing 350’, Angels two five and climbing, range now at two hundred fifty-five miles!”
The TAOs reply was immediate. 
   “Roger, Eye Spy, we have them on the board.” A moment later the TAO came on again, this time on an air wing frequency.
   “Long Knife Zero One, Lunch Bunch?”
The F-14 squadron commanders’ reply was short, and to the point.  
   “Go.”
The TAO told them where, how high, and a one word instruction that meant they were to hustle.
   “Long Knives steer 349’, make Angels Twenty and buster!”
   “Roger, the Knives are in the elevator with burners on, our heading is now three four nine.”
   “Roger Knives, you have the fast moving vampires which are now levelling at Angels Thirty.”
   “Rog.”
   Long Knife Zero One had only four other aircraft with him, the remainder having already emptied their hard-points in the previous attack. Between the five of them they had eight AIM-54 Phoenix, and fifteen AMRAAMs. Sat in back the RIOs assigned weapons to targets, and fifteen seconds later the first AIM-54 left its hard-point.
   Unlike the weapons released by the attack hulls, the newcomers were not configured to single out ships; they had sets of coordinates to aim for.
   In the USS Gerald Ford’s CIC, Admiral Mann knew without asking that this was the soviets big effort, their last chance at stopping desperately needed reinforcements and supplies from reaching Europe.
The twenty fast approaching missiles were heading for the protected zone within the twin rings of warships, and they all had to be nukes.
   “Make to all ships, brace for nuclear strike…tell the inner pickets to make for the outer screens at flank.”
The plot showed all his airborne assets, and some were too damn close to them. 
   “Get the helo’s down, those that can do so in the next three minutes, it’ll take too long to secure them beyond that time…tell the rest, with the exception of Eye Spy and the Long Knives to beat feet.”
The young officer at his elbow turned to give the orders and then paused.  
   “Beat feet to where, sir?”
Conrad half smiled 
   “Anywhere but here, son.”

The Alfa Potyemkin left its charge to clear datum whilst the Alfa itself descended to 1200 feet and sprinted north at 30 knots. Once there sonars registered the unmistakable signature of a nuclear event he would send his detailed report, declaring that the army no longer had anything to fear in Europe
   The first AIM-54 was a clear miss, detonating in the wake of the lead missile, but the second scored on it. It was not a spectacular explosion, the complex mechanisms necessary to enable a nuclear reaction to take place, were simply destroyed. Nuclear weapons do not have impact fuses, and they don’t even go off if an aircraft that should be carrying them should fly into a mountain. They just are not that sort of explosive device.
   The board on Gerald Ford’s CIC recorded the hits and misses, and there were more of the latter than of the former as thirteen still remained.
With all there ordnance expended the F-14s turned northeast, clearing the way for the warships not yet involved with the sea-skimmers.
   Far below, the battle raged on.  
West of the carrier, the frigate USS Hallemville fell out of line, with what remained of her superstructure ablaze and flames roaring through rents in her hull. Her sister ship the USS Gallishere was one moment forging through heavy seas with spray fogging the air above her bows and her Phalanx gun hammering to the north, and then was engulfed from view by smoke flecked with fire. When the wind swept the smoke clear moments later she was gone, with only the still falling debris to confirm that she had ever having existed.
Being more sporadic, and coming from far wider spaced firing points, a greater number of warships had been able to engage this attack than the previous one.
USS Normandy had only expended half of her re-filled magazine during this attack, and now she began launching in a different direction.
Although this current turn of events had been allowed for, Conrad could see that there was more than a fair chance that one or more were going to get through.
   “Do you know how to pipe ‘Up Spirits’ young man?” he said to the young officer without turning.
The ensign frowned, unsure as to whether he had heard the admiral correctly. 
   “Sir?”
Admiral Mann turned his head and smiled. 
   “Never mind, wrong navy…and even they don’t do that anymore.”
Five of the soviet weapons escaped the Normandy’s best efforts, to tip over and descend. Two were five miles apart, and a few seconds ahead of the remainder, achieving three times the speed of sound in their descent toward the ocean.
Milliseconds separated the pair as they reached 10,000 feet, and their onboard systems completed the tasks they had been programmed for.
   Orbiting at 26,000 feet the E-2C Hawkeye was the first casualty.
EMP, the electro-magnetic pulse produced by nuclear events, fried electrical circuits, and then the weapons thermal output lifted the twin-engine aircraft to 39,000 feet, well above its maximum ceiling. Before the super thermal had carried them to that altitude the Allison T56-A-427 turboprops sputtered and faltered, starved not of fuel, but of air. The little AWAC aircraft was then caught by the blast wave, and swiped from existence.
Admiral Mann did not know it, but they had gotten off lightly. Only two of the five missiles had detonated, and in doing so they destroyed the remainder that followed behind them.
   On USS Gerald Ford’s starboard side, her external sensors burnt out, and in so doing triggered alarms throughout the vessel. The same went for all the surviving surface warships, whatever their position the part of the vessel facing ground zero had optical and sensor equipment frazzled by the unbearable light that heralded the detonations. EMP also did its worst on those electrical systems not shut down and shielded. Communications and radar were lost throughout the fleet and until the back-up systems came online, they were deaf and blind.
In the carriers CIC the board had gone blank and the officers in charge of the various departments harangued their technicians to boot up the back-up systems and get the show back on the road.
Being inside the double rings of warships, though close to the northern perimeter, USS Gerald Ford was closer to ground zero than any other surface ship, but still 30 miles from it. Her starboard side’s paintwork had been bleached several shades lighter than the rest of the ship, by the thermal pulse.
The blast wave took all of three minutes to reach the carrier, but still had the strength to heel her 104,000 ton bulk over by twenty degrees.
The TAO braced himself against a bulkhead until the ship righted itself, and then barked at the personnel in CIC. 
   “Come on people, no one’s sailed through the after effects of one a nuclear strike before, it could get pretty damn stormy pretty damn quick, and we’re still blind………get those systems back up, NOW!”
His words were prophetic, as the huge warship heeled over once more with the assault of an 80 foot wave moving at as many miles an hour.
   Captain Sonderland had remained on the bridge, despite the heavy lead lined blast shutters that prevent anyone looking out of the screens. Gripping the arms of his chair he had trouble recollecting whether he had been on a ship as large as this before, in what seemed an equal to the worst storms of his long career. They were sailing blind and he did not like that one tiny bit, the bridge radar repeater remained blank despite five minutes of promises from technicians, and so he ordered the bridge lighting extinguished and the shutters hand cranked open.
For all he could see, once that had been accomplished, they could as well have been left in place for all the good it did.
   Massive quantities of water had been vaporised by the air-bursts  and what greeted him outside was the thickest fog he had ever encountered.
Leaving his chair he stood beside the helmsman, squinting his eyes in an effort to penetrate the murk, and decided that until radar had been restored he needed a lookout on the bow. He was weighing up the dangers to such a lookout, should the easterly wind change and blow fallout across the vessel when he saw something ahead. A faint orange glow, much defused by the thick blanket of fog, which had altered the otherwise uniform vision of nothingness.
He had time only to mutter to himself. 
   “What in hells name is that?” before the Gerald Ford slammed into the burning hulk of the USS Hallemville.

Andy's books on Amazon
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Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Sample: Volume 4 'Crossing the Rubicon'



Sample: Volume 4

RAAF Pearce, nr Perth: Western Australia: Same time.

It was warm and sunny, far too nice to be in school on a day like today. The heavy old wall clock ticked away hypnotically as Nikki and the rest of Miss Goldmeyer’s second grade class cast longing looks out of the window. 
After a long and bitter winter the spring was here at last.
Chalk scratched upon the slate blackboard as Miss Goldmeyer hurried to write out their assignment before the lunchtime bell sounded its gentle chimes.
   “NBC RED ONE!…STATION SCRAMBLE!...NBC RED ONE!...STATION SCRAMBLE!”
Miss Goldmeyer placed down her chalk and turned to face the room full of six year olds.
   “Girls, quickly and quietly now, open your desks, put away your books and man your aircraft!”
With a jolt Nikki came awake, the klaxon screaming in between the tannoy's order for a general scramble, to get all serviceable aircraft off the ground and warning of a suspected incoming nuclear, biological or chemical weapon attack.
   “NBC RED ONE!…STATION SCRAMBLE!...NBC RED ONE!...STATION SCRAMBLE!”
Candice was fighting with the zipper on her sleeping bag as Nikki rolled free of hers, tugging hard she released her RIO and grabbed her helmet before sprinted for the door.
   In the corridor she was shocked to see two armed personnel, ‘Adgies’, Air Defence Guards in full nuclear biological and chemical warfare suits with respirators and helmets, looking like bipedal insects with torches gesturing at them to go left, not right, down the central corridor of the accommodation block. Panting she burst through the doors at the far end to see an open back four ton truck, its canvas removed and with its tailgate down just starting to pull away, it was almost full. Aircrew from a half dozen different nationalities were stood holding on to the tubular frame meant to support the missing canvas roof and sides.
1 Squadron RAAFs flight of F/A 18Fs attached to Peerce tore down the runway in pairs, a perfect minimum interval take-off, and Nikki found the need to scream at the top of her voice in order to be heard over the Super Hornets.
   “WAIT!”
The truck did not stop but the driver was keeping the speed right down as he watched them in his wing mirror, and the two USN aviators sprinted after it.
Hands reached down, Nikki tossed her helmet into one helpful pair of hands and grasped another, being hauled physically aboard where Candice joined her a moment later.
Someone pounded on the truck cabs roof and the driver floored the accelerator.
Several of the other passengers were pulling on NBC suits one handed, hanging onto the trucks roof frame with the other; others were in various stages of donning theirs. Neither Nikki nor Candice had been issued that item. Theirs was in the stores aboard the Nimitz awaiting their collection, and their signature for them of course.
An already suited RAAF squadron leader had a mobile pressed to one ear and his other arm looped around the roof frame with the palm pressed hard against the other ear, trying to listen.
   “Is this a drill?” Candice asked.
   “Hell no.” a voice answered. “The bastards nuked Sydney.”
   “But our ship is there!” She blurted.
   “Not any more it’s not, darlin’.”
   “Fuck!” exploded Nikki angrily. “That’s the second time.”
Someone shone a penlight at the name-tag on her flight suit.
   “Oh, you’re that Pelham!” another faceless voice said, with a little bit of awe.
   “No such thing as too many veterans in the ranks, welcome aboard Lieutenant Commander.” said another.
The truck held Australians, New Zealanders, Taiwanese, Singaporeans, Filipino’s, Japanese and Americans. Nikki was unique in being the only American present to have seen air combat in World War Three, but the Asiatic crews on the truck had all lost that particular cherry.
The Anzacs still had that bitter-sweet, and terrifying experience to come.
   The truck went onto two wheels as it made the turn towards the dispersal, the driver working the gears but barely coming off the gas as he applied the clutch. The tailgate rose and fell with a crash, bouncing open and closed, dangerously unrestrained, the locking pins and chains whipping against the paintwork. No one was going to risk broken fingers and other bodily harm by capturing the tailgate, so a clear space existed where the whipping chains held sway, the crewmen and women pressing together defensively back towards the cab.
   “Brace! Brace!”
The driver made no attempt to slow for the speed ramp but steered so that the front wheels took it square together. First the front wheels left the tarmac and then the rear axle, Candice screamed as the truck became briefly airborne before slamming down hard on the front axle and bouncing wildly.
   “God, but it’ll be a relief to get off this truck and back into combat!” Nikki said with feeling and the laughter erupted, a nervous release for some of the other passengers.
   They were not the only vehicle delivering pilots to the flight lines and Nikki could even see crew on push bikes pedalling furiously.
Shouted conversations were taking place around Nikki during the breakneck ride, but these were drowned out by Pratt & Whitney turbofans and General Electric turbojets.
   The first aircraft to release their parking brakes were Australia’s last pair of F111Cs, leaving their camouflage net ‘hangars’ and taxiing at high speed, anti-shipping ordnance in the shape of four AGM-84 Harpoons each carried on under-wing pylons. Right behind the F111s were a trio of Republic of Singapore F5 Tigers with a mixed AA and anti-radiation load-out.
   As soon as he could be heard the Australian squadron leader shouted for attention, putting away the mobile phone he had been pressing to his ear.
   “Listen up, we’re doing this one on the hoof so I’ll keep it simple. RV for everyone is 100 miles due West at Angels fifteen. ‘Barrier Reef’ is the call-sign for AWACS on this and they are working on an anti-shipping strike so keep your ears to your radio but no speaking unless first spoken to. Radio silence people, let’s not give the bastards advance warning we are on the way!”
No writing was required and no questions were asked.
   “Any Navy here?”
Only Nikki and Candice qualified there.
   “Can you Elephant Walk?”
   “Yessir, I flew Tornado’s on attachment with the RAF in Germany.” Nikki replied, but Candice looked blank.
The squadron leader nodded, satisfied and address everyone present.
   “Once again, observe radio silence until you are called by Barrier Reef.” He paused for emphasis. “Watch the Marshals', keep it tight and we’ll all get off the ground and get a shot at payback!”
   As the truck reached the dispersed aircraft it slowed but did not stop and aircrew dropped over its sides, rolling as they hit the ground only to rise and sprint to their charges.
Nikki leaped out, landing and rolling before running the remaining distance. She couldn't find the damn entrance under the camouflage netting at first and was cursing as it was hauled up by rope from inside.
However long she had been asleep had been enough time for the ground crew to fuel and arm their Tomcat. Two AIM-7 Sparrows, four AIM-9 Sidewinders and a pair of AIM-54 Phoenix sat on the pylons.
   “What’s an Elephant Walk, sir?” shouted Candice to the Australian squadron leader as they both landed on the grass and arose.
   “About fifty miles a day, lieutenant.”

   The ground crew, suited up already in the charcoal impregnated trousers and smocks but without gas-masks on, had already started up their F14 and the crew chief held up for her the weapons safety pins that had been removed. The aircraft was hers and ready for combat. Nikki was lowering herself into her seat as Candice climbed the ladder.
   Candice fumbled with straps.
   “Relax Ma’am.” A technician shouted and deftly connected radio jacks, oxygen and her flight-suits air bladders.
   “First time?” meaning her first for real mission with war shots.
She nodded.
   “You’ll do just fine!” he yelled over the engine noise.
A ground marshal’s illuminated wands signalled them forwards urgently and a moment later Nikki got the thumbs up that all personnel and equipment were now clear.
   She released the parking brake.

The marshals were linked together on a stand-alone radio channel, working in unison.
   “What’s an Elephant Walk, Nikki?” asked Candice.
   “This.” Nikki replied simply.
The marshal waved them forward with both wands before pointing one wand angled down to their right wheel and the other moving up and back.
   The Tomcat left the ‘hangar’ behind and turned right onto the taxiway.
Candice twisted around, looking at aircraft of all types that had appeared in front and behind.
   “You've seen pictures of herds of elephants walking one behind the other, holding the tail of the elephant in front with their trunks?”
   “Sure?”
   “That’s how this procedure got its name. It’s the fastest way to get everyone off the ground but its kinda tricky.” Just as if to highlight the point the jet blast from the F16 ahead of them caused the Tomcat to rock violently.
   “I guess we don’t do this that much in the navy?”
   “Not until they build a carrier the size of an airbase, no.”
It was like a conveyor belt; the line of aircraft moved steadily on and as they reached the end of the taxiway the aircraft immediately turned onto the runway where scant seconds later, when the preceding aircraft were only a couple of hundred yards down the tarmac they received clearance to take off.
Every airworthy aircraft on the base was on the taxiways or hurtling down the runway.

   The marshals’ job now was to keep an eye on the interval between each aircraft to avoid collisions or aircraft being flipped over by jet blast. The marshals had their respirators still in pouches around their waists and ear defenders on their heads instead.  
   Nikki and Candice had their oxygen masks unsecured.
Eventually they were near the end of the taxiway in third place, a marshal signalling the two F-16s ahead of them to turn onto the runway and run up their engines

   A flash overhead made them look up sharply through the canopy but there was nothing to see and it was not repeated.
The marshal pointed the illuminated wands sharply down the runway and hunkered down in a squat, clear of wings and the ordnance hung off the F16s hardpoint’s.
The Falcon’s pilots opened the throttles and the two aircraft powered down the runway.
   “Our turn now.” Nikki said, looking at the crouching marshal.
He did not rise and the glow of the F16s engines got further and further away. As they lifted skywards Nikki frowned.
   “What’s the delay?” Candice asked, puzzled.
A cold shiver ran down Nikki’s spine.
   “Put your mask on Candy!” she hurriedly clipped hers in place and ensured the oxygen was flowing.
   “What?”
   “Mask on, do it now!” she ordered.
The marshal remained squatting on the edge of the runway, his back to them. 

Had an aircraft been making an emergency landing he would have signalled them to hold, but he had not moved a muscle.
Nikki came off the brakes and the Tomcat turned left onto the runway, but Nikki did not wait for the marshal, she immediately pushed the throttles forward to full military power, the afterburner kicking in.
   “What about the marshal?” an alarmed Candice exclaimed.
   “He's dead, Candice.”

Andy's books on Amazon

ANDY FARMAN on Goodreads

Saturday, 26 October 2013

World markets for writers.


Markets are an odd thing, particularly on Amazon. I am writing a series of novels about a, obviously, fictitious World War Three. There a mixture of characters from the many nations on both sides of the fight, good and bad, but America is not the focus; it is one of the players and shares the stage.
It sells very well on Amazon.co.uk with eighty plus reviews but it is not as well received in the USA with fifty odd. Those who like it the most on Amazon.com tend to be Australian rather than American, according to the reviews, which is odd as so far I have only featured a single Australian submarine and its crew.
Canada has a lot of mentions and a main character is SACEUR, Supreme Allied Commander Europe, a canny soldier. However, I think I have sold fewer than fifty copies on Amazon.ca. Looking at my fellow alternative historians I see they fare just as poorly north of the Great Lakes.

The reasons I have been given for Americans less than rapturous receipt of the book is that they are used to being the focus, the cavalry coming over the hill to save the planet, and it is not an unreasonable a viewpoint. Additionally, a vast number of Americans writing about America is going to typecast the flavour of what they expect to read.
‘Flavour’ or 'Flavor' now there is another item, spelling. I get complaints from some Americans that they find my ‘bad’ spelling an irritation. Once I have finished this fourth and final book in the series I will publish a US edition of all the books, one with fewer U’s and more Z’s and I will get back to you on how well that floats.

Foreign language translation remains beyond the means of most Indies. How the book translators have not priced themselves into extinction is a mystery as they expect you to pay their mortgage, grocery bills and kids private school fees for three months while they work on your book.
If you want independent proof reading of their work? well that is another five grand.

I would like to break into the Chinese market, it is massive and only a stones throw across the South China Sea from my house, but that not only involves a translator but an entirely different way of writing.
The State controls everything and they have a paranoia about world opinion. No novel involving Chinese aggression will see print (or pixel), no stories of China and military conquest of another country will be permitted and therefore online publications and eBooks of strange storms sweeping individuals and units back in time, or across to a parallel universe abound, because the State is happy for Chinese armoured brigades to kick 18th century Samurai ass.

If anyone has suggests, or a pair of magic red shoes to break into those markets, please feel free to share.

Andy's books on Amazon
Andy on Goodreads

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Volume 3 'Fight Through'

It was a strange experience with this one. A chunk of the book written in 2004, and believed lost, was found on an old floppy disc. Parts of it I hardly remembered writing. It was however the style which was most notable, to me at least. I wrote those words at a time when there was an immense amount of stress at work. I had been a front line copper for twenty four years and the earlies, late's and night duty shifts were starting to tell on my health in the form of blackouts caused by high blood pressure.
It had always been my intention to return to the front line after a years break up in the offices, but my wife was rather more practical.
"Why do you want to go back 'on team'?"
"To finish my thirty years  chasing burglars over back gardens, not sat behind a desk."
"Why? Will you get a medal?"
"No."
"Will they put up a statue?"
"No."
"Then you are an idiot."
As usual she was right.
There followed six more years as a police officer but performing a role that had absolutely nothing to do with being a policeman. I had a great time for the last years and no operation I planned ever went wrong in a critical fashion, because I planned them the army way, not the police way.
Those six years reprogrammed my head. Try being Mr Nicey when dealing with incidents in the inner cities, it does not work, you have to have a level of aggression just below the surface. You have to take charge.
'Civvies' fell into four categories. 'Suspects', 'Victims', 'Witnesses' and 'Family', I just did not deal with anyone outside of those categories until I wound up in a suit and tie, sat in a teachers office in Peckham listening to plans for an under 6's end of term fancy dress carnival of a pixies and frogs theme.
Clearly there was fifth category, 'Normals'. I had to learn to get along and work with normal people from then on.
So the head which wrote the confrontation between the President and Henry Shaw, is no more, I just hope that the words coming from the new 'me' can still provide a good read.



Saturday, 28 September 2013

The Armageddon's Song Companion


The plan is to have the 'Cast' and the 'Terminology & Acronym' tables in a proper format, one that does not become a splodge on uploading. I will also add a bit of background to some of the characters as well as some trivia unearthed during the research for the books.

My aim is to have a free kindle 'Companion', and if I can produce it really cheaply, then as a 30 page handout in paper form also.

Update - 30th November 2013 - It did not happen unfortunately, but I forgo royalties to keep the price down. The second edition is out now for free for five days on Amazon though.

Andy's books on Amazon
Andy on Goodreads

Saturday, 29 June 2013

I was asked who the characters in Armageddon's Song are based upon, and to be honest there are a few who are amalgams of people I have met throughout my life.

'The President' is an easy one, as I tend to picture a situation and hear dialogue form before I write it I found that the 'ideal' of a President I was trying to describe was not a real person but rather one created by Aaron Sorkin, at least so far as speech and mannerisms in my minds eye anyway. President Josiah Bartlet as portrayed by that great American actor Martin Sheen pretty closely fits the bill. Mine of course is a little more complex as you will discover. A good man by nature who may have trouble sleeping some nights owing to the dirty political waters he is forced to do business in.

Regimental Sergeant Major Barry Stone, 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards is a mix of three terrifying individuals (if you happened to be a young soldier in the British Army in the early 1970's) RSM Torrance, Scots Guards, who reigned over the Infantry Junior Leaders Battalion at Park Hall, Oswestry in Shropshire.  Garrison Sergeant Major 'Black Alec' Dumon  The Guards Depot, Pirbright, Surrey and later Garrison Sergeant Major London District, and finally Regimental Sergeant Major Barry Smith, 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. Sarn't Major Torrance was outwardly fierce but inwardly fair and an ideal individual to be dealing with a couple of thousand 15 year old schoolboys who had to be turned into the next NCO corps of the British infantry.
'Black Alec' is of course a legend. Those dark sunken eyes and unblinking, cold stare. 'Captain Black & The Mysterons' except for that voice, the gruff Yorkshire accent that barked a command out on one side of a parade square and the flowers in their beds outside Battalion Headquarters a quarter mile away would wilt and die.
RSM Smith was a pretty good actor I think. The act was to make everyone, including young subalterns, believe he was permanently angry and a heartbeat removed from downright furious.
I was on barrack guard one night when one of the old soldiers, an 'old sweat' with a few campaigns under his belt, and as it turned out at least one demon, went berserk. He had a rifle and bayonet attached  to it in a barrack room he was trashing. The Picquet Officer wanted to arm the Picquet Sergeant, with obvious consequences should the soldier in question make a fight of it, which he would have. The RSM intervened, whatever old trauma was troubling the soldier, he knew about it. He sent everyone away except for a couple of us and he waited out the storm, entering on his own an hour later and spoke in a normal voice for long minutes before exiting and handing me the rifle before leading the soldier to the medical centre, speaking quietly to him all the time.
Next day RSM Smith was of course again a heartbeat removed from downright furious.


General Henry Shaw USMC, another easy one, but also oddly out of time.  It was back in 2004 when I added General Henry Shaw and in my mind Henry is Tom Selleck as 'Frank Reagan' except that 'Blue Bloods' wasn't screened until 2010. Possibly Mr Selleck played another role around that time which was solid, professional and reliable to the end in character. If I say so myself I do like General Henry Shaw, I could serve under a leader like that.

Sir James Tennant, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police is to me 'Foyles War' Michael Kitchen a very good British actor of the finest type.



Keeping it real

The heady-ish rise up the ranks in authorishness, or should that be 'being more authorish'? 
Neither of course are correct and the Grammar Gestapo are doubtless closing in as we speak.
Some of my fellow indie authors make a great deal about correct grammar and will launch into blog debates at length, preaching to the choir when what they should be doing is writing, and carving out a successful career.

To that end I have been watching my own, less than meteoric rise, up the ranks care of Amazon.com's 'Rank' application on Author Central.
Up from 280,000th at the end of April 2013 to 3,816thth today, which sounds far more impressive than it actually is.
In the interests of keeping it real, if a public library had upon its shelves each day that same number of different books available for the reading public to check out, I would be the least read book.
Best I tell Mum to stop clearing a space on the mantle shelf in expectation of it being occupied any time soon by the Oscar of all writing awards that the Daddy of all Authors is awarded.

Monday, 24 June 2013

From Pixels to Ink

This is my third career, the first lasted seven years and consisted of running around the countryside with guns.
The second involved running around cities with a silly bit of wood called a truncheon, but the last six were cool because I got to hang with TV and movie crews on location, eat really good free food, and fast track through the notoriously slow and strict security at the BBC, all with a flash of the badge.
Going to Buckingham Palace for briefings and meetings was cool too but I had to use the tradesmen's entrance at the side.

But I digress.

The point I was trying to make was that all that experience did not teach me how to format in HTML, how to increase DPI from 72 to 400, or what a gutter was, other than the usual usage of the term.

I converted my two Kindle formatted novels, and the abridged editions into print format and uploaded them to a print on demand company which assured me the cost of production would be $6.10 minimum list price to produce the 500+ pages in each.
The novels were re-uploaded twice as this guttering business had not taken, but then I received an email all was satisfactory. I logged on, pressed 'Proceed' and looked upon the finished product, and the price...$16.10.

The printers have not explained this discrepancy, but it was obvious that hardbacks at paperback prices may sell but paperbacks at hardback prices never will.

My trilogy, at least in print, is now a six part 'ology', which required work on the covers so as not to confuse the buyer.

The Kindle books sell five hundred times better than the paperbacks though, as in I have sold one.

Well it kept me busy I suppose.

Next thing to do is get them translated.

Andy Farman's Novels on Amazon

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Ah, reviews and stars. Either the nectar of Gods or the bite of an asp.

I have been fortunate so far in not to have any malicious comments or surreptitious visits by unscrupulous fellow  authors of military fiction, although I have been warned that both exist.

Genuine readers are moved to comment for two reasons, they either love all the hard work you put in and the way the prose flow, or they hate it enough to tell the world.

Being in the writing game is the same as being back at school, except whereas the author is sat at his or her old desk (with the old cement hard chewing gum stuck on the underside by pupils long since moved on), the teacher is the great reading public.

Getting a review is like getting your homework back, and if you are like me you move the pages with trepidation like a poker player down to his last ten bob looking at the hand he has been dealt and gulping audibly.

Five Stars is the same as getting an 'A' and knowing your Dad is going to let you go out and play with your mates at the weekend.

Four Stars is an encouraging 'B+' and you still get to go out and play.

Three Stars is a 'C' and you may get to have a kick around in the local park but your Dad will expect you to be home by 3pm and hitting the books.

Two Stars is a 'See Me' and not even a chance at watching John Wayne on the afternoon matinee TV movie.

Do I need to point out that One Star is a 'Continues to disappoint' in red ink' and you may not even get any pocket money this week?

Of course no reviews can be even worse, a complete indifference to your best efforts and being sent to bed without any supper to-boot!

Reviews:




Volume 1 (UK)

Volume 1 (US)


Too racy Madam? Try on this Abridged size then...

The learning curve continues.......

It is something akin to being hit in the face with a wet fish when you look at your detailed book sales and see someone asked for a refund. "Why?" you ask yourself, but the publisher does not see fit to supply any feedback. Two hundred and four copies sold between 26th April and 12th June will help with the grocery bills but three people hated it enough to ask for their cash back. That is a box of babies formula!


I was fortunate that two thirds of the returnees were good enough to contact me. Both had bought the first volume for their sons but had not seen the introduction's comments about a spy removing her clothes to learn the secrets of others, as sufficient indication that there lurked some sexual content within.

Arriving at her Kensington flat Svetlana powered up her computer and selected a classical music CD that she placed in the drive before carefully removing her hand made Italian shoes and unpeeling like a second skin the Emilio Pucci sheath dress to stand naked but for sheer black hold-up stockings.
The dress, like her looks, was a tool of her trade. Lingerie would have been visible through the £2000 garment and spoilt the desired effect had she been stopped by the police.
As the music began sounding through the speakers either side of her PCs base unit, Svetlana leaned across the keyboard and carefully placed fingers over three separate keys, and paused, letting the music flow forth. If anyone else had been present they would have observed an exquisitely formed young woman in her mid-twenties, clad only in stockings and whose tan lines and full Brazilian showed a preference for G-strings as beach wear. The gleam of Chinese gold at her nether region where a stud pierced a particularly sensitive item, and a pair of tattooed dogs paws on her right buttock gave hint of a somewhat kinky vein running beneath that chic and apparently sophisticated surface.

Apparently overtaken by the strains of Bizet’s Farandole from ‘L’Arlesienne’ and frozen in some Pre Raphaelesque pose, Svetlana closed her eyes as she listened. Thirty-nine seconds into the piece she depressed all three keys simultaneously before logging online. With the anti-tamper software thus neutralised and therefore no chance of the powerful electromagnets incorporated in the speakers from being activated and frying the hard drive, the auburn locks bounced on her shoulders and tattooed buttocks as she strode elegantly on thick piled carpets through the flat to the shower." 

It is a passage that what I would describe as being more sex in silhouette than the graphic swinging-off-the-chandeliers-and-full-on-penetrative-descriptive variety. 

Sex-in-silhouette would not of course find favour with ones Granny, indeed the only Granny Approved Porn  can be summed up in just four words at the end of a sentence in a book, or accompanied by the camera panning up to the sky before fading out. "And so to bed" was steamy enough for Granny, much to Granddads chagrin.
However, the feedback had value and I learned from it. *Contains some sexual content now sits as a warning at the foot of the intro, and in order to cater for the under 18's I spent an hour editing the text and cover in order to produce an Abridged Edition, which I can happily report was eventually bought by both.

Armageddons-Stand--Abridged-Version-ebook

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Volume 2 in the trilogy...and back to school

The second book in the trilogy had a number of proofing issues owing to my becoming very much used to producing one off operation briefings and operation plans for all manner events, from small protests to the policing plan for Europe's largest Latin American Carnival. I was a one man band ten years ago and my workload was hefty for each of the three hats I wore. Glossy works of literature that would be archived the day after the operation simply did not require much in the way of finesse. Provided that everyone arrived on time, in the correct equipment, in the correct transport, were fed and knew what was required of them then who really cared if an apostrophe was missing?

Enter Nick Gill, a thoroughly good sort, a well educated and solid kind of guy who does care, very much.
Nick sent me back a sample of the first book he had proofed.
There were so many highlighted errors it looked like a STOP LIGHT.
My style of capitalisation and punctuation  was ruining his enjoyment of reading it. 
Where there is one Nick there are sure to be many others.
Why spoil all those years research and writing by lazy penmanship, was his reasonable argument and whilst he held down a demanding job he proofed the first hundred pages of the second volume during his daily commutes.
ARMAGEDDONS SONG volume 2 'Advance-Contact'

First novel and something of an IT learning curve

ARMAGEDDON'S SONG  'Stand - To' was published on 20th April 2013 and out as a Loss Leader, being my first effort as a novel, and for the first five days it was available as a free download on Kindle. One hundred and thirty eight downloads in the UK, five hundred and sixty five downloads in the US and eighty four elsewhere around the globe.
Hopefully that will result in interest in the two other novels in the trilogy. 
ARMAGEDDONS SONG Volume 1 'Stand-To'