The SPF Podcast

Owen Zupp - Friday, April 06, 2018

 

 

 

Hi All,

I was honoured to be a guest on Mark Dawson's 'Self Publishing Formula' podcast.

You can listen to it here...

Self Publishing Podcast

San Francisco By Air. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Thursday, February 22, 2018

 

 

 

What’s one to do, having flown across the Pacific to San Francisco? Well, I guess going flying sounds good. However, to see the city on the bay in all its majesty, I chose to take a scenic flight in a helicopter, although I did manage to organise the best seat in the house - up front and alongside the pilot.

On this occasion, the pilot was the Chief Pilot at San Francisco Helicopters, Ron Carter. With more than 13,000 hours, Ron is a seasoned aviator and having gained the ‘thumbs up’ from his passengers, eased the Bell 407 into the air from the company’s Suasalito helipad.

One thing that I’ve always enjoyed about helicopters is the immediacy of flying. There is no taxing to the holding point, well along the ground anyway. Once you decide to move in a helicopter, you are flying.

Through the clear nose-section beneath my feet, I saw the helipad fall away before we departed to the west and over the hills towards the Pacific Ocean, levelling out at 2,000 feet. Ron pointed out all manner of features ranging from old fortifications to the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge. Crossing the water we descended as we approached the southern shore, before turning back towards the bridge.

The winds of the previous day had abated, but their aftermath was a calm sky of unlimited visibility as the massive orange span of the Golden Gate passed beneath us. Ron then informed us that given the wonderful conditions, we were in for a treat.

He lowered the nose of the Bell and descended in a smooth arc before sweeping beneath the historic bridge, the water rushing beneath the skids. Then, with minimal effort, the helicopter pitched up into a climbing left turn and back over the Golden Gate. Wow!

 

 


From there we tracked back towards the city, noting historic landmarks, the stadium that the San Francisco Giants baseball team call home and the world-renowned Fisherman’s Wharf. At every turn, there was something to see, with Ron’s narration in perfect synchronisation. With the city’s towers to our left, we made our way to the Bay Bridge that spans across to Oakland, before turning back to the city and then onto the infamous Alcatraz.
Sitting in the bay, this island prison was once home to the likes of Al’ Capone with its frigid waters providing a major deterrent to escape, despite the proximity of the city just across the way. Juxtaposed to this scene of human confinement, sail boats and tourist vessels clipped across the water with absolute freedom.

From Alcatraz, there was one more pass of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sitting alongside, Ron brought the Bell 407 into the hover before smoothly rotating the helicopter through 360 degrees to offer the ultimate panorama of this beautiful city.

 

 


Thirty minutes had passed all too soon and we returned to the Sausalito helipad with a descending turn and a gentle touchdown. Disembarking, I made my way clear of the spinning rotor before turning and grabbing one last photo of the gleaming red helicopter, then the ground staff ushered me into position for a ‘selfie’ with my phone.

With a camera full of photos and a mind full of memories, the shuttle returned me to the hotel. What a tremendous day and what a magnificent way to see the beautiful city of San Francisco. I highly recommend the experience.


 

 

You Don’t Have to Hate Your Job to be an Author. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Wednesday, January 10, 2018

 

How to become an author. 

 

On occasions, authors can see their writing as a means to ultimately escape the shackles of their nine-to-five drudgery. While this is a very worthwhile goal and undoubtedly a supreme motivator, it doesn’t always have to be the case. In fact, it is possible for the ‘real job’ to complement one’s non-fiction writing and I am one of those fortunate individuals.

As a boy, I dreamed of flying. It was a dream that became a reality and after flying professionally for more than thirty years, I still feel wonder as the earth falls away from the wheels. I have no intention of leaving my world above the clouds to write on a full-time basis, but writing still fills a pivotal, passionate role within my life.

Writing allows me the freedom to step outside the very technical world of aviation and its standard operating procedures. While I still write about aviation, I would rather describe the colours of a sunrise at 37,000 feet as those first rays break the horizon, than state that it occurs at 6:19am. And while aviation is a rich environment for creating content, many professions can offer a degree of synergy for authors.

So many hours are dedicated to a vocation, that a level of expertise is accumulated over time. It may be expertise directly associated with the task, or a skill set involving the management of time and/or people. Perhaps there is an element of operating outside of one’s comfort zone, or establishing a strategy to deal with making decisions. The list is seemingly limitless, but it is only when we sit down and clinically analyse what we actually do in our day-to-day that we truly appreciate its complexity.

This expertise can then be translated into content that can be directly complemented by the profession. It can open doors in terms of distributing content through industry journals, establishing a targeted audience from the outset and gaining exposure through related podcasts and speaking engagements. These are all marketing goals for any writer and sometimes they are already in place, just waiting to be executed. Furthermore, there may be access available that industry outsiders cannot attain. A full-time profession can also provide a level of fiscal stability and consequently a major weight can be lifted from the creative mind.

As with all things in life, there are no all-encompassing answers. For some authors, there is a genuine desire to break free and commit fully to the writer’s life and I respect this. However, it is also worth examining our life in closer detail as what we may deem mundane may actually be a source of significant writing content. Tap that well and always remember that you don’t have to hate your job to be an author.

Solo Flight. Chapter 12. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Monday, January 01, 2018

 12.

A Hornet's Nest.

 

Day Three. Barkly Homestead - Katherine - Darwin. 

 

I rise early once again having slept deeply for every minute. My memories have never haunted me or stirred me from sleep. Even as a nineteen-year-old paramedic I was able to stow those images best forgotten and carry on with life as I knew it and my recollections of my father at Barkly that night were no exception.

 

I consume some cereal and fruit, sling my kit bag over my shoulder and make my way by torchlight across Barkly to the waiting Jabiru. Cool, dark and quiet. These moments before dawn are magical. I unlash the aircraft from its lodgings and load my gear on board. Getting creative, I set up my tripod and camera to record my preflight routine once the sun has risen. Slowly as the daylight arrived, it became obvious that I was no actor.

 

First my attempts to film my preflight inspection are thwarted by poor camera positioning and then pushing the aircraft into the clearing takes four attempts as it was sitting in slight gully. All I captured up to that point was some quality footage of me acquiring a hernia. Finally the filming starts to take shape and once again the crowd has gathered to watch the lone pilot and his little aeroplane. Once again I pull the Jabiru a few hundred yards through the fine dirt and eroded ridges to a safe place to start the engine and get underway.

 

As I creep back along the dirt track to the runway, the Jabiru’s elongated shadow keeps me company and I pass the shredded wind-sock one more time. It doesn’t matter now as the early morning is without the slightest puff of a breeze. The long trek has given the engine more than adequate time to warm up, so after the final pre-take-off checks, I open the throttle and get day three underway.  As I depart overhead I can still see the small gathering of folks below waving goodbye. I waggled the wings in recognition of their good wishes and head for the Royal Australian Air Force base at Katherine; RAAF Tindal.

 

With the sun and wind at my back, it is a four-hour sector across to Tindal. After the first hour I chew on another muesli bar and turn the Jabiru from west to a more northerly heading over Tennant Creek. Here, just out of town there is a memorial to the late Reverend John Flynn, the founder of the RFDS, but other than that there is very little to interrupt the endless scenery ahead. Lake Woods passes down the left-hand side boasting a substantial amount of water, while the hamlet of Elliott and its mandatory airstrip sits to the north. Onwards I fly with the highway never very distant, passing through Daly Waters, Mataranka and Elsey Station where the book, “We of the Never Never” was set and many of its characters are now at rest.

 

Elliott. Northern Territory.

Out of radio range to receive the latest weather reports, the marvel of modern technology of the iPhone allows me to still access the conditions and runway in use at Tindal. I had organised my arrival at the RAAF base well in advance as a special clearance was required at this joint military-civil installation. The air force has been very helpful throughout the process and we even exchanged some photos in the preceding weeks. For RAAF Tindal is home to Australia’s No. 75 Squadron, flying the FA-18 Hornet fighter jet. By coincidence, yet again, my father had served with 75 Squadron for a period flying somewhat older fighters than those that now tear up the skies over Katherine.

 

 

While the weather is fine, my descent into Tindal provides me with the first real turbulence of the trip. It is now late morning and as the day warms up, invisible heated parcels of air begin to rise into the atmosphere. These rising bubbles bump and bounce the Jabiru around unkindly so I slow down to minimise the jolting on the airframe. Even so, the buffeting continues as I manoeuvre to land with one eye on the runway and the other enviously surveying the impressive line-up of Hornet fighters.

 

Over the fence at Tindal.

 

On the ground, my first port of call is the fuel bowser and then a group of sixty school-children who have come to see the Jabiru and hear a little about the history of flight in Australia. They already know a great deal about the Flying Doctors. It is an enjoyable hour chatting with the kids, even if they throw me questions out of left-field such as, “Where’s the toilet?” Taking time to spread the word of aviation among potential pilots of the future is an important part of the flight, but as the minutes ticked away, I still have another appointment with the RAAF and the rest of the day’s flying to Darwin.

A great group of kids at Tindal.

By the time I arrive on the air force’s side of the airfield I am running late. Sadly, the Chief of the Air Force, Air Marshall Mark Binskin had just departed but there is still a tremendous turn-out by the RAAF. Not only have they conveniently parked a Hornet for a photo opportunity, but these central Australian service personnel have passed the hat around at the front gate and raised $500 for the RFDS. As a farewell gift, I am given an official 75 Squadron ‘Magpie’ patch and a drink cooler that I will undoubtedly use when the day is over. I am overwhelmed by both the reception and the generosity at Tindal, but it is time to go. With the day growing older, the turbulence will also be growing in strength.

 

The Jabiru is in fine company with this 75 Squadron Hornet.

 

Once again the road winds its way northward and so do I. The flight is not as rough as I had anticipated as I settle in for the run into Darwin. Thirsty as always, I continually hydrate by drinking copious amounts of water and yet the Katherine’s schoolchildren’s fears never eventuate and a toilet isn’t needed in flight. The township of Batchelor comes and goes, but not without notice. During World War Two it had been a major air force base and a strategic element in the defence of Australia. In fact, the further north I fly, the more old airstrips became apparent. Scratched into the scrub and generally not far from the road, these forgotten runways had once provided a place to land for aircraft ranging from bombers to the classic Spitfire fighters. Now I overfly them in far more peaceful skies.

 

Further north, the state’s capital of Darwin is my rich in even more distant aviation history. For Darwin was Australia’s northern outpost where those first pioneer aviators first made landfall on their flights from Mother England. Sir Ross and Keith Smith, Bert Hinkler and even Amelia Earhart transited the Northern Territory’s capital. I ponder that thought for the moment and check my top pocket where Hinkler’s autograph is carefully stowed.

 

The turbulence I anticipated may not have been forthcoming, but now the visibility begins to decrease as the air about me fills with smoke. May is a prime month for controlled ‘burn-offs’ in the Northern Territory and now that smoke is all around me. Between the GPS and good old-fashioned map reading, I carefully steer my course and ready to enter the Darwin’s controlled airspace. With so many people following the flight on the internet I am very careful to fly by-the-book and I don’t want to inadvertently penetrate airspace without permission, even if the visibility was poor.

 

From Batchelor, I track via Manton Dam and fifteen minutes later the air is clear and Darwin lies dead ahead. Like Mount Isa, Darwin was no stranger to me as I often fly the Boeing there, but the approach to land is far tighter when you’re in a two-seat Jabiru. In a matter of minutes, I am on the ground after nearly six hours of flight time. As always, I refuel and unpack the Jabiru only this time I am met by the Lord Mayor of Darwin, Mr. Graeme Sawyer. Not a small man, he is keen to try the Jabiru on for size and climbs aboard to get a feel for the cockpit.

 

The Lord Mayor of Darwin tries on the Jabiru for size.

We chatted for quite some time before I finally make my way beyond the airport fence where I meet John Zupp for the first time. He has kindly offered to drive me to my hotel room which wasn’t far away, but it would be a long-haul with my gear at the end of a taxing day. We speak about the flight and work out how we are related. It turns out that his grandfather was my father’s uncle and had lost his leg in France during World War One.

Bert relaxing at the end of a long day.

Back in my room the daily routine of flight planning, blogging and phone interviews is supplemented by a load of laundry. I send a photo of Bert to the kids and call them before a good meal of Chinese food and still even more iced water. My day is over and I lie down, falling straight into a deep sleep.

 

Then my world erupts when the phone rings beside my head. Thinking it was a wake-up call, I sit bolt upright before realising that it was not the hotel phone, but my mobile phone. My heart racing with the surge of adrenalin, I answer the incoming call from a number I don’t recognise. It is Flight Service, querying a detail on the next day’s flight plan. I gather my thoughts and provide them with the information they require before hanging up and looking at the clock. It wasn’t wake-up time.....it was midnight. Ugh!

 

    Owen Zupp is a father of four, published author and commercial airline pilot.

 

 Buy 'Solo Flight' by clicking here now.

  

 

 

 

A Pilot's New Year. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Sunday, December 31, 2017

,



 

 

A Pilot's New Year.

A New Year Dawns.

 

 

By Owen Zupp.

 

 

An Excerpt from '50 Tales of Flight'


Unbelievably, the year is now down to its final hours. It has passed by leaving my children a little older and me none the wiser it would seem. The skies have again been kind to me these past twelve months, so as the champagne pops and the fireworks illuminate Sydney Harbour, my thoughts will again drift to an aviator now passed, who set me on my journey amongst the clouds.

He was a quiet man, short in stature but with arms made strong by a youth of combat and cane-cutting. He was predominantly self-educated, for drought and the Great Depression had stolen much of his childhood and any chance of a formal education. As a commando in the jungles of New Guinea, his kit-bag had been crammed with books on aerodynamics and aircraft while his dreams were of a life free of the earth’s muddy bonds. But it was merely a dream for a lad with a big heart and no apparent claim to the elevated world of aviation. At the war’s end, he traded the humidity of the jungle for the nuclear devastation of Hiroshima before finally wending his way home to Australia after years away at war.

Out of uniform, he found it hard to settle down, drifting from one sugar-cane field to another with a few belongings strapped to the rear of his motorcycle. It was hard, hot labour to bring the mighty cane down by hand with snakes underfoot and insects clinging to the raw nectar running down his bare back. At the end of the sugar season, ultimately the road once again led him to the military, but this time as a mechanic in the Royal Australian Air Force. Finally surrounded by the machines he loved, he flourished in the hands-on application of his newly discovered knowledge. With money in his pocket and a home on the air base, he would spend his free hours studying aviation and paying for private flying lessons at the civilian school just across the tarmac. His dream was coming true, although his stunted education continued to form a barrier to any career in the sky; until fate dealt its hand.

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, the air force was now depleted in its supply of post-war pilots. It called for volunteers from amongst its ranks and when a kindly commanding officer countersigned the young mechanic's application, his world was changed forever. Within 18 months he had transitioned from repairing airframes to flying fighter combat missions over North Korea. As a Sergeant Pilot he would fly over two hundred sorties at the helm of a Gloster Meteor in the lethal ground attack role which saw many of his squadron mates killed in action. On one occasion, his own canopy was blown off by enemy fire and shrapnel was embedded in his face. Even so, he limped the damaged jet home and flew two missions the next day. He returned home a decorated veteran and finally completed his formal education at night school.





He married an air force corporal who he had met prior to leaving for Korea when she had processed his departure paperwork. Together they moved from base to base before a civil career ultimately called. From international airlines to cloud-seeding, flight instruction to target-towing, there was very little that the short boy from the Australian bush didn’t fly at some stage in the next forty years. Yet in the 23,000 hours aloft and countless aircraft types, training always held a special place for him. The chance to mentor the next generation of pilots was something he valued as he always recalled how close his dream had come to never eventuating. If he saw a desire to fly in a young set of eyes, he would go the extra mile to make it happen.

He saw that desire in me from a young age and set an example that I still aspire to achieve. As an instructor, he was unsurpassed and held in the highest regard by his peers. He had the knack of explaining complex concepts in simple terms with a million ‘rules of
thumb’ to match. For him, flight was always magnificent, but never elite. He cringed at the brash, slicked-back, sunglasses brigade but had endless patience for the struggling student who was trying their very best. He had fought in the jungle and stared down the tracer bullets that struck his jet, yet he never swore in front of women and always stood when they entered the room; he was old school.

To me, he passed down so much more than the manipulative skills needed to fly an aeroplane. He instilled airmanship, a sense of command and an ultimate respect for the aircraft and the environment in which it operates. He loathed complacency and arrogance and highlighted that disciplined flying presented the greatest challenge and the most satisfaction. He set the bar very high and I was privileged to have such an outstanding mentor.

So as another year draws to a close, spare a thought for that special person who inspired you or guided you in your fledgling hours aloft. Revisit their lessons and strengths and give thanks for their patience and knowledge. Recount some of their anecdotes and share them with friends and family this New Year’s Eve. It is a real gift to take to the sky, but without a steady guiding hand along the way, the journey can be fraught with potential dangers and self-doubt.

If it’s possible, make contact with your mentor and thank them for their effort. It will mean the world to them and offer a chance to share the hours that have been logged since you last spoke. I would dearly love to speak with the man from the bush who taught me all that I know today and hear more of his pearls of wisdom. However, for me, that is no longer an option as cancer took him nearly twenty years ago when I was still a young bush pilot taking my own first steps. Even so, as I sit around this New Years Eve I will spare him a thought and a silent word of thanks. He was the best pilot I ever met. He was my Dad.

Flying Officer Phillip Zupp M.I.D. AM (US) 1925-1991


 

 

My Next Book. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Saturday, December 30, 2017

 

My next book? It is still a very frequently asked question. As mentioned previously, I am writing the story of my mother's life

Edith Blight, as she was known before marrying my father, was a country girl from Kempsey. A WW2 'Hush Hush Girl' (radar operator), among a number of other things, her life was dramatically marked by tragedy until she met my dad six years after the war's end.

This is a tale of love and loss and a lady that forged her own frontiers in a very different time.

Much of the research was completed a few years ago and I interviewed mum a number of times before her passing. Today, these files are stored on my computer. However, mum was also a prolific note-taker, diarist and letter writer with numerous photo albums to support her words. As such, I have a sea of research material, which is a tremendous position to be in. Reading her notes in her own hand, I can still hear her voice - it's a wonderful feeling.

I am well into the first draft and her character and emotion is definitely coming alive through her words.

I'll continue to keep you posted as I venture along this writing journey.

Cheers,

Owen

Organising some of mum's handwritten notes.

Release Your Inner Author. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Saturday, December 30, 2017

Start writing your first book. 

1976. Don't wait decades to start writing....like i did!

 

Casting my mind back, my writing journey began long before my first book was published in 2007. As a schoolboy, I possessed a passion for creative writing. The freedom of releasing thoughts onto a page and sharing them with others was one of the most satisfying experiences of my childhood. If there was a writing bloodline, it undoubtedly flowed from my mother’s side.

But something happened along the way. I stopped writing.

On completing my schooling, I went into two rather technical fields – firstly as a paramedic and then as a pilot. My reading habit was forced from novels to manuals and everything else in life pushed my writing into the background, other than disorganised passages in disorganised notebooks. This would continue for twenty years until my life as a pilot was turned on its head through the collapse of the airline I was flying for.

While helpful, the consultant in the government employment office reminded me that my skill set was very narrow, or to use his words, “Highly skilled, but totally unemployable”. From that instant, I made a resolution to never be solely reliant upon any single vocation ever again. Despite eventually gaining employment with another airline, I set about completing a Masters Degree and this led to consulting work and in turn, technical writing projects. Yes, once again I was buried in manuals. The remuneration was worthwhile, but I soon realised if I was to write concurrently with my full-time profession as a pilot, the passion needed to be there - and it wasn’t.

At first, I wrote for free for various journals and then I worked up the courage to pitch a story to a magazine that paid. It was the story of a fateful mission when my fighter-pilot father was wounded on a low-level sortie over North Korea in 1952. Once accepted, the story had to be written, printed out and posted with a CD-ROM of images to the editor and some months later it would be published.

I can still remember the fax being slid under my hotel room door. My wife had copied the article and sent it to me in the middle of the night as I slept on the other side of the world. The sheer joy of that first feature ignited the spark and I was set on the road to authorship at that point and I have never looked back. My only regret is the two decades that my creative angst was buried within as life got in the way.

Personally, I am not one for New Year’s resolutions – I am just one for resolutions. However, as 2018 is upon us there is possibly a degree of synergy in play. Make this the year that you begin to write. It may be a feature article, it may be the first chapter of that book that you have always contemplated. Whatever burns within, sit down and begin. And then persist.

It won’t necessarily be easy, but nothing worthwhile ever is. In your favour are the wealth of resources in circulation on the internet that are specifically designed to assist fledgling authors, such as podcasts.

Don’t wait any longer, release the author within now and open a whole new chapter of your life. You won’t regret it.

Best wishes for 2018.

 

My Top 5 Podcasts for Independent Authors and Publishers. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Friday, December 29, 2017

 

 

I have been able to find my feet as an independent author and publisher, predominantly through the medium of podcasts.

 

My first independently published eBook was a rather haphazard affair which I hurriedly published before boarding an aircraft bound for Hawaii and yet by the time that the aircraft touched down, hundreds of copies of ’50 Tales of Flight’ had already been sold. The initial reviews were fantastic, although a few critical ones fairly commented on the cover and the chronology – two elements that I was able to revise with minimal fuss.

 

What those first sales and reviews highlighted to me was that I needed to become more informed if I was to pursue this creative endeavour further. Fortunately, the ‘Indie’ scene is comprised of many generous individuals who are prepared to share their journey and knowledge and in many cases, this is done via a podcast.

 

There are many podcasts for independent authors and publishers, but here are five that I have continued to listen to regularly for varying reasons. To avoid repetition, I will say that they ALL serve to educate the budding Indie in the core elements, but each podcast also brings an additional perspective that makes it different in its own way. Consequently, these five podcasts each bring a unique piece to the puzzle. Hopefully, this list will assist you.

Cheers,

Owen

 

1.       Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula.

Everything from A to Z.

For those in the know, Mark Dawson is an extremely successful author in his own right. Hosted by James Blatch and Mark Dawson, this podcast covers a range of topics through interviews with a range of guests encompassing all aspects of both writing and publishing. Mark Dawson is also well known for his courses in online advertising for authors and this podcast frequently offers an insight into this critical phase of a book’s life once it has been written.

 

2.       The Creative Penn.

The Authorpreneur.

Like Mark Dawson, Joanna Penn is well known in the industry as a successful author in both fiction and non-fiction realms. Her Creative Penn podcast is particularly informative in the business of authorship. Through open discussion, Joanna actively demonstrates how a successful author needs to have many strings to their bow to create a viable writing career and that an author needs the mindset of a CEO as well as that of a creative.

 

3.       The Portfolio Life with Jeff Goins.

A Writing Life.

Jeff Goins has written a book discussing the concept that real artists don’t need to starve and quotes historical figures to support the concept. As the title of his podcast would suggest, Jeff takes a holistic approach to the author’s journey, embracing both the technical and the philosophical keys to creating a writing life – or portfolio.

 

4.       The Sell More Books Show.

Staying Informed.

The world of independent authors is dynamic to say the very least. Hosted by Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen, this podcast is a weekly one-stop shop to keep pace with the latest developments in writing, technology and marketing. One could spend hours attempting to harvest the same information from numerous news feeds, but they all come to meet in this one podcast.

 

5.       Self Publishing Journeys.

You Are Not Alone.

This podcast by Paul Teague is probably less known than the preceding four podcasts, however, what it offers is an insight into the author’s journey at a range of levels. From Paul’s open and honest podcast diary, to a range of guests at differing stages of their writing and publishing careers, the listener can feel at one with like-minded authors. This podcast reaffirms that there is light at the end of the tunnel through the experiences of others.

Solo Flight. Chapter 11. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Tuesday, December 26, 2017

 11.

Distant Voices.

 

Day Two. Barkly Homestead. 

 

Minutes after I depart Camooweal, I leave Queensland and enter the Northern Territory. There are no dotted lines on the ground to confirm the fact, just a reminder on the moving map of my GPS.

 

The Barkly Highway continues on its way as I enter my fifth and final hour of flight time for the day. Buzz Aldrin once described the lunar surface as “magnificent desolation” and while there is still vegetation below, I can understand to some degree what he meant. There is a real beauty in a vastness void of man. It makes one feel so small and insignificant and yet can inspire the mind to a deeper level of reflection. Perhaps it brushes away the illusion of self-importance and offers a sense of perspective in its place. Whatever it is, I draw a deep breath and smile at the remote world around me.

 

Gradually the earth becomes redder and the green tinges more sparse. Only the occasional bore breaks the trend like an outback oasis. The highway comes back towards me and if I allowed my eye to follow its thin black line I can just see a small group of buildings, but little more. It is Barkly Homestead and that isolated gathering is to be my home for the night.

An Outback Bore.

 

I nose the Jabiru over into a speedy descent, partly for efficiency and partly out of an enthusiasm to land. The red dirt runway is not far from the road with a thin track seeming to join it to the greater community. As I join the landing circuit overhead I struggle to interpret the windsock which appears to be hanging very limply. There are no water masses, trees, smoke or flags to offer any tell-tale signs of the wind direction or strength either. It is strange that the conditions are so calm when I had been enjoying a very healthy tailwind for the last half an hour.

 

Nevertheless, given the conditions I decide to land towards the settlement so after landing I can simply taxi off into town without having to backtrack down the runway. I position the aircraft to land, but as I enter the final stages of the approach it is obvious that conditions are not calm at all. I can sense the aircraft drifting sidewards over the ground on the base leg, pushing me towards the airfield. Then as I turn to line up with the runway the picture outside isn’t correct and it is apparent that there is a tailwind pushing me at speed towards the runway.

 

I decide to abort the landing attempt and fly a ‘missed approach’. As I pass the wind-sock at this lower altitude, it becomes obvious why it was hanging limply; there is virtually nothing left of it. Just a few shreds of cloth hang from the ring at the top of the pole, offering no worthwhile information about the wind speed or direction. As aircraft are designed to ideally land into wind, I reverse my intended landing and proceeded to touchdown on the fine red silt of Barkly Homestead’s runway without any further drama.

 

This windsock had very little left to say.

Taxiing from the airstrip ‘into town’ is an adventure in its own right. It is not so much a taxiway built for aeroplanes as a track built for four-wheel drives. The surface is far from level and the undergrowth reaches out from either side. I maintain a slow pace, conscious of not striking the propeller and watching each wing tip in turn to avoid banging into a branch. It is challenging, but I love it! This is outback flying. This is the flying of my youth.

 

I emerge from the scrub into a clearing where a lone fuel bowser stands ready to fill the Jabiru’s thirsty tanks. When the propeller comes to a halt, I pause for a few minutes to complete the paperwork, sign off the flight details and take in the scenery around me. I climb out and pop Bert onto the engine cowling to pose for a photo for my children, while I wait to see if anyone emerges from the buildings over yonder.

 

Bert takes a breather at Barkly.

As I wipe down the Jabiru’s flanks like a sweaty mare, I am met by one of the locals with a shake of the hand and an iconic “G’Day’. He assists me in getting the fuel pump started as it was being cantankerous and didn’t want to start. After a nudge here and there, the pump motor begins to hum and I fill the Jabiru with fuel as kite-hawks sweep in circles overhead.

 

I am directed to a parking spot near the caravans, but the track looks a touch too narrow for me, so I opt to pull the Jabiru by hand to its resting place for the night. Dragging the aircraft by its propeller, it bobbles and bounces along the uneven track as I contemplate a shower and a hot meal. Finally I have the aircraft parked and unpacked, by which time a small crowd of interested onlookers have arrived to see the aeroplane in the midst of their cabins and trailers. Despite feeling decidedly weary, I show a number of people the Jabiru and explain the purpose of my flight. As always, the Royal Flying Doctor Service crest and motto on the aircraft provided a central starting point for the questions.

 

As the crowd dwindles, I check into my cabin for the night. It is a simple, clean and tidy demountable building and just as I remember it from my stay here with my father twenty years before. In fact, the very cabin we stayed in is a mere two doors away and once again a strong sense of sentiment runs through me. However, it was not the time to idly ponder just yet as I still have phone interviews to conduct, blogs to write and emails to answer. Only then can I sign off the day behind me and ready for the one ahead.

 

The night is almost upon Barkly and the wind is beginning to die down. The colours of the sunset beyond the water tower are amazing and I decide to farewell the day in silence beside the Jabiru. The last rays of light subside and I enjoy the warm, dark silence a little longer.

 

The end of the day at Barkly Homestead.

Finally, I head across to the restaurant where some good outback fare is on the menu. Steaks that could have been cut from dinosaurs and all you can eat salads, vegetables and chips. The Irish waitress that takes my order tells me how she is working her way around Australia and this outback whistle-stop was her latest destination. I admire her free will but couldn’t help thinking of the gulf that exists between Belfast and Barkly.

 

Back in my room I make one last call home to Kirrily and the kids before turning in. In the absence of streetlights the room is pitch black with the silence only occasionally broken by a passing ‘Road Train’ or wildlife scratching around in the scrub outside. My mind steps through time as I recall the last time I had rested at Barkly on another dark, dark night. It was an evening that I have never forgotten.

 

It was set to the soundtrack of my father’s breathing; rhythmic, deep and gradually slowing. Yet despite his fatigue from the day’s driving, sleep was not forthcoming and eventually his voice moved bodiless about the room. The sound of his creaking bed gave way to steady pacing as he moved unseen. This very quiet man stopped and then began to speak in a way that I have never heard.

 

Made anonymous by the night, he spoke of a childhood of hard times and the shame of a farm lost. He spoke of war, blood and death. Hour after hour, my father delved deeper and deeper into his soul as I lay awkwardly in silence.  He jumped from the steamy the jungles of New Guinea and a patrol gone wrong to the frigid hills of Korea and the devastation he witnessed at Hiroshima. The recollections were only interrupted when he offered up answers to questions I would never dare ask. His mood swung between acceptance and raging hate and only when the clock passed 2am did the pace subside to infrequent muttering before he finally lay down and his breathing slowed into sleep. I had not said a single word.

 

Now I lie alone, two rooms and twenty years from that night. I have often wondered if he knew then that he was dying and felt a need to purge his being of those things that had never been uttered. I will never know, although I have my suspicions. For him, his journey was nearing its end that night at Barkly. For me, I still have so far to go.

 

Remote Sunset.

 

 

 

 Read the full story of 'Solo Flight' here.

 

 

 

My Amazon Kindle Daily Deal. By Owen Zupp.

Owen Zupp - Saturday, December 23, 2017

 

 


The email from Amazon arrived and I was very suspicious. I had received similar emails in the past, so the first thing that I did was to contact Amazon regarding its authenticity. Good news - it was genuine and my book, ‘Without Precedent’, had been selected for an Amazon Kindle Daily Deal.

There was minimal notice given, so I set about notifying my mailing list and spreading the word on social media. Unfortunately, it was a deal for the Australian Amazon website, so it did not reach out to the huge US market where ‘Without Precedent’ is a constant performer. However, I was not about to look a gift horse in the mouth.

For the uninitiated, on selecting your book, Amazon nominate a date for the promotion and also assign a heavily discounted price. While this may reduce the royalty margin, it is offset by the increased volume of sales and the opportunity to reach a greater audience. Discoverability is the tough part in this game at times.

The day came and went and my sales were roughly seventy times greater than my usual daily sales of the title. Yes, seventy. As you can see, that satisfactorily offsets the discounted price. It also enhanced discoverability as my overall sales increased in the following weeks.

In summary, if you are selected for an Amazon Kindle Daily Deal, it is certainly worth it. It may have been even more successful if I had a greater audience and reach, but I’m still working on that. And if the deal is extended to the United States, one can only imagine.

Happy writing to you all.

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