Out of book limbo

Yes, this place has been through another of its silent periods. I was preparing two books for publication at once. How? Well, both authors had supplied cover images and Cade F.O.N Apollyon stepped in as editor for Ruth’s book. That saved me a lot of time and work.

Now available are Mark Ellott’s ‘A Moment in Time’ and Ruth Bonner’s ‘Just Call Me Roob‘. If you have an Amazon allergy, the ebooks are also on Smashwords. Hopefully they’ll also soon spread to Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Apple, and more. Most of the rest have, there just seems to be an issue with Underdog Anthologies at Smashwords that’s a pain in the arse – but they make so little I haven’t yet bothered to worry about it.

There are three more I’d like completed before Christmas, plus the Christmas anthology of course. Then I might do something I never imagined I’d do when this all started with the Underdog Anthology in December 2016. Heck, back then I thought I was optimistic to call it Volume 1, and the Christmas book will be number 13! Which would have been a bad numbering sequence, but for 2020 it’s probably quite appropriate.

In December, I might actually need to close to submissions for a few weeks.

Yes, in four years I’ve gone from wondering whether I could find enough authors to fill one slim volume of stories, to actually having to close submissions for a few weeks so I can catch up! I’ll close on December 1st so if you have that massive tome of a fantasy novel spanning ninety generations of elves all set to send, you can still send it. I won’t guarantee to do anything about it before Christmas though, three books and an anthology plus some progress on my own writing means I’ll probably manage to take a half-day off for Christmas day. Well nobody can visit, might as well do something useful with all this time.

I still have to do the three volume annual thing but since I cut all the anthology prices to the bone for the duration of this nonsense, there doesn’t seem to be any hurry. I couldn’t charge more than $1.99 for the eBook version at the moment anyway.

If only all this work made any money. If you’re looking for a surprise stocking filler for Christmas, do take a look at the Leg Iron Books selection. There’s something for everyone (except the Gary Glitters and convicted councillors) in there. The authors will appreciate every penny of royalties, they’ll appreciate it even more if the royalties are more than a pound. Seriously, there’s some talented writers on sale at bargain basement prices over there. I even have a range of my own books in there of varying thicknesses to suit almost any wonky table leg.

Anyway, I have not entirely withdrawn from the real world – well, no more than usual. Today we did manage to visit Son and the grandchildren. Granddaughter is nearly three, her mother worries that the lockdown means she’s not developing social skills. She’s my granddaughter. She has no need of social skills, she just needs blade and crossbow lessons. Grandson is eight weeks old and has already mastered the art of the disapproving scowl. They are both developing perfectly normally. If Billy Gates Gruff wants to mess with this DNA, good luck. You have no idea what you might produce.

This vaccine is really gaining some acolytes. They think it will fix everything. The fact is, this vaccine isn’t a vaccine. It’s going to insert mRNA into your cells to make them produce proteins that are foreign to the body. This is, by any measure, not a good idea. You can pretend that sex is a construct to your five-or-seven-chambered heart’s content but biochemistry – trust me on this – is fixed.

At this point the Vaccine Brigade will call me an anti-vaxxer. I am a retired microbiologist. I have been vaccinated with every legitimate vaccine going. Some that the general public never get offered because they aren’t working with the horrible things I’ve worked with. My children and grandchildren are vaccinated. The only vaccine I have ever refused is flu vaccine because it’s money-making crap. I will definitely refuse the Billy Gates Gruff’s not-a-vaccine.

Real vaccines work like this. You take dead cells or attenuated (they can’t infect) live cells or even just appropriate bits of protein and inject them. Your immune system finds them and says ‘What’s this? What’s all this infecting? We’ll have no trouble here’ followed by ‘This is a local body for local cells, there’s nothing here for you’ and proceeds to wipe them out with antibodies.

The antibody production then declines. This is normal. It does not mean you have lost immunity. It means the immune system doesn’t waste time, protein and energy producing antibodies against something it’s already defeated. It would be like an army going through a battlefield eternally re-shooting the enemy it’s killed. Waste of bullets.

Instead, the immune system cells are able to store the information to make particular antibodies against things they have seen before. They don’t need to make them all the time. When the same pathogen appears, the immune system doesn’t need to go through all the ‘What is this and how do we kill it?’ routine. It just goes ‘Oh yeah, that one. Load up Antibody 73 and get firing, lads’.

The Billy Gates Gruff ‘vaccine’ does not do this. Bear in mind that the immune system recognises antigens – bits of surface material, not whole cells – and destroys the cell carrying them. The entire cell.

So, the Billy Gates Gruff ‘vaccine’ makes your own cells produce surface proteins that your own immune system recognises as foreign. It does not simply block the protein. It kills the cell carrying it. Your own body cells.

This is not a vaccine. This is an autoimmune disease in a syringe. I don’t care if they never let me enter a pub or restaurant or travel on a plane again. Not that we will be able to afford planes once the budget airlines have been wiped out. I am not going to be injected with this monstrosity.

You want to believe it will save you from what has turned out to be a bad flu? Fine. You go ahead. I won’t gloat, I probably won’t be one of the six people allowed to attend your funeral anyway.

You want to call it tinfoil hattery, go ahead. Or get two degrees in an appropriate subject, live through an entire career dealing with infectious disease and retire with a shed filled with lab equipment, like I have, and then maybe you’ll give it some thought.

Or maybe not. Maybe you’re excited to be injected with an experimental not-a-vaccine that claims 90% effectiveness against your own immune system’s 99%. Maybe you really want the aches and headaches of approaching arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Maybe you hate yourself so much that the agonising death of your body, cell by cell, is a delight to be savoured.

You just know it’s going to be called ‘Long Covid’, to get more idiots to take the thing, don’t you?

Meanwhile there is nobody sensible in charge. Boris is the Henpecked Premier, doing whatever his squeeze tells him to even though he must know, deep down, it will utterly destroy the country he was elected to lead.

That other bastion of Western Civilisation, America, seems to have no idea what it’s doing any more. That last election was a farce that would have embarrassed even the EU presidential election. Still nobody knows who won and I think it should be down to a cage fight between Trump and Biden. Go on, America. Election by Thunderdome. Two old fogeys enter, one old fogey leaves.

Maybe we should choose leaders who have a future beyond a rich retirement in the Cayman islands.

It doesn’t matter now. The game is on, Panoptica is approaching reality at a horrifying speed and it’s too late to stop it. Like climate change. It’s happening, it can’t be stopped, it’s not going the way they think it’s going and it’s adapt or die.

Darwin was right about that. It’s not evolution unless we turn into White Walkers. It’s adaptation.

We’ve done it before.

The big question is… how many of us have the guts to do it again?

Entertainment time – Bagboy

Late, but then it’s Halloween and that’s a busy time 😉 I didn’t manage to get a new one written – I was invited to participate in a scientific review a short while back, and agreed before asking the deadline. It was yesterday. It’s done, skimming the very tartar off the teeth of the deadline. Just like the old days 🙂

Anyway, a story for Halloween. This one is from Mask-Querade.

Bagboy

“What’s in the bag, kid?”

The boy set down his heavy bag and stared into the eyes of the grinning man who towered over him. This man wasn’t on his list.

“The head of the last person who looked into the bag,” he said.

The man laughed. “Good one, kid.” He patted the boy’s head and walked on.

The boy picked up his bag and continued on his way. Day faded into night and still the boy walked.

As the darkness closed in, the Halloween revelries went into full swing. A man shambled past him, his grin lopsided. “Hey, kid, whass inna bag, eh?”

The boy looked into the man’s eyes. Another one who wasn’t on his list. “The head of the last person who looked into the bag.”

The man snorted. “Smartass kid. Fegoff.” He staggered away.

The boy hefted the bag onto his shoulder and headed for the place he needed to be.

Denny fiddled with his mask. It was a pain to wear it, but wear it he must, even alone in this alleyway. It had advantages in his line of work. He took out his knife, admired its stiletto gleam in the moonlight and quickly resheathed it. This was his earner, his path to riches. So far it had made him enough to be comfortable and, he had to admit, it had provided a lot of fun. One day he would strike the mother lode.

Or rather, one night. Denny smiled behind his mask. It wasn’t a great mask, it was a cheap surgical mask that Denny knew did nothing to protect him from anything. Except one thing. Identification. He chuckled at the thought that in less than a year, the police had moved from arresting someone in a mask to arresting anyone without one. Times change, and they change very fast these days.

He could have chosen one of the many colourful masks now on sale, he could have picked a mask from a film or TV character. He chose this one for a reason. Most people wore this type now, even though the younger ones had forgotten why. This was true anonymity, having the same face as everyone else. In his profession, that was an ace card.

Footsteps approached. Denny tensed and sank into the shadows, prepared to grasp the night’s earnings. He should have been working with Bob but Bob had not shown up for over a week and nobody knew where he was. So, for now, Denny worked alone.

A small figure, silhouetted in street lights, stood at the end of the alley. Denny watched through narrowed eyes. The figure had a large bag, there might be something of value in it. Would that little one risk the darkness of the alley or would they chicken out and take the long way around?

There was no motion for several minutes. Denny wasn’t even sure he was breathing, the anticipation was so great. The small figure sniffed the air and looked around. Maybe it was listening, gauging the alley as safe or risky.

It’s safe. Denny tried to push the thought into the small figure’s head. Oh, he had no belief in anything supernatural but hell, it couldn’t hurt to try.

The figure took a step forward. Its head moved from side to side. Denny kept his breathing shallow and silent. This could be a big one. The kid could be a money courier for a gang. They’d never know who took that bag of cash. Maybe it’s drugs. What the hell, I know enough junkies, I could sell them. Must be something valuable, nobody else would let a kid out with a bag that big this late.

The small figure let out a snort of breath and strode into the alley.

Denny tensed, his hand on his blade. This had to be quick. He watched the alley behind the kid in case he had a shadow, a guard or a watcher to make sure he delivered the goods. No sign of anyone. The kid was alone. Denny stayed perfectly still in the shadow of an alcove in the windowless wall.

The kid walked past him. Denny was sure the kid’s eyes flicked in his direction and he thought he saw a smile on the small face, but the kid didn’t break stride. It was a boy of about twelve, Denny guessed, and he can’t have seen anything or he’d be scared.

Ah, the old days, in the gang with Bob and Pete and Scabby Ted. We used to have so much fun with the little kids. Scabby Ted pissed off somewhere three years ago. Pete turned straight and scared, I wonder what he’s doing now?

Denny slid the long thin knife from its sheath, Just have to get rich all on my own, I suppose. He moved in silence, came up behind the boy. One hand over the mouth and a quick cut across the throat. The boy made no sound, he simply fell. Denny grabbed the bag, resheathed his knife – no time to clean it now – and ran along the alley.

At the street, he relaxed into a casual stroll, the bag over his shoulder. Just another man in a mask, carrying home a work bag. Just like everyone else. The mask hid his grin. This is just too damn easy.

Denny’s flat was small, but then there was only him and he didn’t need much space. A bigger place would just mean more cleaning. It was a decent flat, rented from the local council and, he always thought, it was pleasant enough.

He placed the bag on the kitchen table. It was really quite heavy and he wondered how that scrawny kid had managed to carry it so easily. His fingers itched to open it but… Patience. I have all night and I need a drink.

He poured a large vodka and added a splash of lemonade. His knife lay in the sink, it had moved so fast there was only a trace of blood on it from the kid’s throat. The leather sheath had gained an addition to its spreading collection of bloodstains but Denny saw that as a kind of scorecard. The staining darkened over time. Gave the sheath character.

He took a swig of vodka and stared at the bag. It was well used, worn and wrinkled. There was a splash of blood down one side. Denny smiled. Seems nobody had noticed on his way home but then it was Halloween, it was dark, and everyone was too busy having fun.

What could be in there? It felt too heavy for cash. Maybe too heavy for drugs. Stolen jewellery perhaps? Denny took another swig. Maybe the kid was homeless and it was all just worthless shit. He shook his head. That kid was clean and healthy, he hadn’t been sleeping rough. Finally setting down his glass, Denny reached for the bag’s drawstring and pulled the top open.

“I’m supposed to give you one chance.”

Denny started at the voice. He looked around but saw nobody.

“I don’t want to. Look in the bag.”

The boy stood opposite him, on the other side of the table, between Denny and the sink where his work knife lay.

“How the hell did you get in here?” How the hell are you alive? And why do you look familiar?

“It doesn’t matter. Soon it will be over, or maybe I should say it will begin.” The boy smiled. “Do you remember me?” He lifted his head. Scars criss-crossed his neck, one of them recently healed.

“It can’t be. That was seven years ago.” Denny ran his tongue over his dry lips. That kid died, and if he had lived he’d be an adult now.

“I won’t tell you my name. You and your friends never asked for it. After the things you did, I have no reason to give you the one last chance I’m supposed to but those are the rules. So, I’m supposed to tell you not to look in the bag.” The boy leaned forward. “I have to tell you what’s inside.”

Denny swallowed, the vodka buzz in his head making this whole thing feel unreal. “Well? What’s inside?”

The boy grinned. “Your darkest dream. Your wildest imaginings. A thing beyond mere money and human materialism. Eternity. A thing whose value can never be counted. Whether you look inside is up to you. I cannot force you either way. It is entirely your decision.” The boy sniffed. “If you don’t want to look then I take the bag and go. Then you’ll never know.”

Denny took a breath and regretted it. The alcohol surged in his veins. “If I open it, do I get to keep what’s inside?”

“Yes, I suppose that’s one way of putting it.” The boy smiled at the floor. “If you look inside, the bag becomes yours. If not, I take it and leave.”

I should have added less vodka and more lemonade. The alcohol fuzzed Denny’s thoughts. He narrowed his eyes. “There’s a trick here, isn’t there?”

“Yes.” The boy answered at once. “I don’t want you to know in advance what’s in the bag. It is a thing of great value to me. So yes, I am trying to trick you.” The boy’s smile never wavered. “Even so, the choice is always yours. You can look in the bag or I take it away. Make your choice.”

It had been rather a large glass of vodka. Denny struggled to make sense of the conflicting thoughts in his head. The boy could not be here. He could not be who he claimed to be, that boy was dead. If he had somehow survived, he’d be close to twenty now. If it was him he had no reason to reward Denny for the horrors they had inflicted on him. If he was a ghost, how could the bag be real? It was real, solid and heavy. It contained something important and the boy didn’t want him to know what it was. That last thought beat out the others. The bag had something of value in it and Denny wanted it.

Denny reached for the bag. He pulled the top open wide and looked inside.

Bob stared up at him

Denny wanted to recoil, to close the bag, to forget the severed head he had seen, with its moving eyes and silent mouthings of horror but he could not look away. He had to watch as the head decayed at a frightening speed until it became a skull, then drop into an abyss of flame. It’s like the bag is a portal to Hell.

“It is.” The boy’s voice seemed far away. “You stay in the bag until I get the next one. Then your head goes to Hell.”

Denny wanted to answer but the cracking in his neck prevented it. Vertebrae separated, muscles tore, tendons turned to jelly. Then he was looking up, out of the bag, at a headless body that slid out of his line of sight. All he could see was his ceiling.

The boy’s face smiled down at him. “You won’t be in there too long. I have one more to find. Once that’s done, I get to rest.” He sniffed. “You see, I didn’t completely hate what you did, even though I was terrified and forced into it, so I was condemned to Hell anyway. I despised you and your friends for that more than anything. It turns out my hate was strong enough to do a deal. If I deliver your four souls before you have a chance to redeem yourselves – not that any of you are likely to try – then I get released.”

Denny moved his mouth but no sound came out.

“Oh forget it, you have no lungs and no larynx now. You’ll never speak again.” The boy gathered the drawstrings. “In Hell you will be a silent head and nothing more. Only the demons will hear the music of your screams.”

Denny moved his jaw. What about Pete? He was the one who went back to normal life. This kid can’t get him now.

“The last one is Edward Scabrous. The one you called Scabby Ted.” The kid’s face disappeared as he pulled on the drawstring. “Your friend Pete was the first I caught. He’d become a scoutmaster. He liked small boys.”

Darkness enveloped the interior of the bag. All that was left was the feeling of the bag being lifted and the boy’s last words.

“As did you.”

Time for a day off

The Halloween book is loaded up on Smashwords, Kindle and Amazon Print. Now we wait for the inevitable problems but tomorrow is a day off for me. I think I’ve earned it. Here’s the front cover.

It has two from me among the thirteen stories it holds. I’ll post one of them here as a taster when it finally gets through all the trivial complaints. Hey, in 2020, optimism is a dead thing.

So we face more silly lockdowns. They don’t work, masks don’t work, flu is currently killing ten times as many people as the ‘pandemic’ we are supposed to be scared of but then it’s all in the numbers.

So. If ‘cases’ are positive tests but deaths are low, then the virus is far less deadly than flu. If we accept that over 90% of ‘cases’ are false positives then the virus is more deadly than flu but its transmission rate is so pathetic as to render it irrelevant.

Which is it? can you really believe both at once?

A surprising number of people actually can hold this doublethink in their heads with no problem.

I can’t, but I am learning to imagine how it works.

Into the Abyss

Pretty busy here. Brakes are fixed, now one tyre has developed a slow leak. I think I might just keep pumping it up until 2020 is over. If I fix it, it’ll just set something else off. This one is easy. I even have a compressor.

Okay. Currently looking at a 12 story book for Halloween with some absolute beauties in there. The quality of writing from the authors just keeps getting better, there was hardly anything to edit this time. I suppose it’s the result of practice but whatever it is, it’s definitely working.

The deadline for closure is still 22 hours away and since all editing is up to date we can handle a slightly late one or two, as long as we know it’s coming. Contracts aren’t out because I’m still haggling over the title (it has to be on the contract) but that has to be decided by tomorrow night. This could be in print in a week. There are already two stories in for the Christmas anthology, even though it’s not yet officially open for submissions for a week or two yet.

I have one in there that stems from the logical result of eternal lockdowns, and wouldn’t you know it, the government have now enacted laws by edict that make it possible. Parliament is now just a shouting house, the government are taking no notice of them and not telling them in advance what they are up to. We don’t have a Parliament. We have a junta running the country.

So why are we paying the rest of them?

More local lockdowns are coming on the basis of less than ten positive tests. Hospitals are empty, you have to make an appointment to go to casualty and if they sold off the NHS now, hardly anyone would even notice it was gone. They’d only notice when the TikTok dancing nurses videos stopped. It’s been effectively closed for months for most people. Matt Handoncock is definitely in the ‘sell the NHS’ camp and the NHS are determined to help him do it.

The masks are not going away any time soon. I’ll have to get some even scarier ones. Criminals are loving it. Before all this, if you went into a shop masked you’d immediately raise suspicions. Now you get shouted at if you don’t. I await the first massive bank heist in which the CCTV can’t tell who is robbing it and who works there.

Masks don’t do a damn thing to protect anyone, but so many people have signed up to the Religion of the Mask now that they will not hear it. The masks are their saviours, they will not let them go. Ever. They genuinely don’t realise that there is no going back, there is no return to what we used to consider normal, and that they are the ones responsible for that.

We are staring into the abyss, and the edge we are standing on is crumbling.

Rebooting Panoptica

Currently I am battling Amazon. I loaded Wandra Nomad’s book yesterday and Amazon responded with ‘There is stuff in this book that’s already been published by someone else’.

The only issue Wandra and I can think of is that one of the stories in her book -Dust Mote Meanderings – was published in Tales from Loch Doon (UA11). All the rest is previously unpublished. If that’s all it is it can be resolved, hopefully, very quickly. I just have to wait for Amazon to respond.

I have another Mark Ellott short story collection and a book by Gastradamus in the queue now, and those might also throw up the same issue. Just have to deal with it when it happens. There is also another book on the way from Wandra Nomad. Well, it’s not as if I’m going anywhere for the foreseeable future…

The Halloween anthology (UA12) is also getting stories and so far Mark Ellott is the only male author in there. Him and three women authors. Come on guys, where are you? Six stories in and submissions are open until September 30th. Yeah, I know, I have to write one too. I have some ideas.

Panoptica, though. I started hard on this one last January, then it stalled when my father died and the world has gone to hell in a handbasket since then. It did give me time to think though.

I was concerned about 10538’s brain chip. It could block memories and insert false ones. It seemed maybe a bit too far fetched. Recharging all his chips was easy. Cybermen (Dr. Who) and the Borg (Star Trek) had that covered for me. They stood in alcoves to recharge – and interestingly, they were doing this before real life wireless charging had been invented. Now it has been, maybe they will be too.

Still, had I gone too far with the brain chip? Had I crossed from plausible into absurd? Here are some quotes from a real world article –

And the goals were striking: a mass-market brain implant that could be installed by a robot via same-day surgery.

The device looks like a very thick coin or miniature hockey puck, and it contains all the hardware needed to keep the implant functional. This includes a battery large enough for all-day operation and the hardware needed for wireless inductive charging.

– It’s absolutely necessary for a device that will be communicating via a low-bandwidth interface like Bluetooth.

The chip will also allow the electrodes to be used to stimulate neurons,

I needn’t have worried. The Brain Chip is real and ready to be tested on humans. Sure, it’s being developed with good intentions, but then so was nuclear power. Someone is going to hack this thing and once governments get hold of the controls, well… then everyone needs to worry because once it’s in, you can’t just dig it out. Not unless you want an inch-wide hole left in your skull.

Well that’s that problem sorted. The genderless society is well under way too and I now have a solution to how children have no idea how they were born and adults have no concept of death, other than through accidents. The real world is following the fiction very closely… unfortunately.

Within the writing lay the problem of 10538’s recovered memories. As he explained them to Doc, it meant repeating earlier chapters. That was starting to get tedious.

So I have to restart Panoptica. Not entirely from scratch but some rearranging is needed. I’ll use the lead in stories to start the book, showing how the world developed, and start the book proper when he gets on the train to Pensionville. All the backstory can then come out as his brain chip is sequentially shut down. I had already explained why it can’t be simply removed. That backstory will, of course, come out in reverse but that’s not an insurmountable problem.

I already knew where the story was going, the issue was in how to get there. Now I think I have a better idea of how it all pans out, thanks to Elon, the Billy Gates Gruff and the other maniacs making this all come true.

Let’s see if I can get to the end before they do.

Well that didn’t work

Early in the Big Covid Scare I dropped the prices of ebooks on Leg Iron Books to 99 cents. There was a small effect in the latter end of the first quarter (to the end of May). Subsequently I put all novels and single author ebooks back up to $2.99, still a good price. I can’t do much with the print books, almost all the money goes to Amazon anyway. That free shipping? It’s not free. The seller pays it. We get pennies per print book and putting up the price just means the cost of postage goes up in proportion. Sneaky…

So, this quarter (June to August) is a disaster. I’ve been plugging Leg Iron Books on Twitter, Parler and Gab (the latter two are mostly political so I don’t know how much use they’ll be for marketing, and the rampant ‘Da Joos Did It All’ on Gab has somewhat put me off going there).

There’s a Leg Iron Books page on Facebook that gets a few more likes every day but that doesn’t mean they’re buying anything. Linking to all the writers I can find on social media isn’t working. They want to sell books, not buy them. I have to find where the reading addicts hang out.

Goodreads does not have publisher accounts. You can get an author account on there if you want to jump through hoops. It’s a pain of a procedure and I’m not sure how much good it does. I have an author account and don’t think it’s sold a single book.

I thought lockdown would be ideal for selling books. Seems most people have taken it as their cue to actually exercise as an excuse to go outside, or to stay in and make banana bread. Okay, I know a lot of people are suffering financially but hell, I made those books so cheap! The anthologies are all still at 99 cents and even they are only trickling. It’ll be a long long time bnefore I see a return on those.

This quarter’s sales have been disastrous. The only book that sold was a print book that didn’t even have an eBook version! So, cutting prices didn’t really work. I won’t do that again. At least I learned another marketing thing that doesn’t work.

Sorry, authors, I have failed you this quarter. I’ll try something different in the next quarter.

What I really need is a scandal that gets the Daily Mail interested. That’s the most effective book selling device I’ve ever seen.

Calling Mr. Plumtree

I received a story for the next Underdog Anthology tonight. It’s a good one. Unfortunately the author (E. Townsend) has an email that has rejected every account I have as spam. I can’t contact her.

Hopefully she will read this and get in touch with an alternative email, but if anyone knows her, please let her know about this post.

Thanks.

UPDATE: The author has now been in touch. So far there are three stories in for this anthology and it’s only been officially open for less than 24 hours.

Career suicide

You want to be published by a big name publisher? Here’s how it works.

The likes of Penguin Random House are not going to talk to you. Send them your work, they will ignore it. They will only talk to agents. Why? Well, any agent will tell you why.

A good agent is going to get a bag full of submissions every day. Just imagine what Random House would get if they were open to authors directly! The agent does not read the submissions. They go into the ‘slush pile’.

The slush pile readers will then sort through the submissions and will pass the good ones on to the agent for consideration. The agent will sort through the filtered submissions and pick maybe one or two to answer.

Now, those slush pile readers have a big mound of stuff to get through. They are actively looking for a reason to ditch every one they pick up. That’s not malicious. They might have a hundred, and the agent wants five or less. They have to sort out the dross quickly. Is the cover letter slapdash, is the first page full of spelling errors and bad grammar, is it a tedious opening? You could go in the reject pile in the first three lines of your story.

You have to get past those overworked slush pile readers. Then you have to get the agent’s attention. Then, if the agent takes you on, they have to try to persuade a publisher to take you on. All this is hard to get through. You have to get through layers of filtration before you get to the big publishers. Even then, if the book flops, they won’t be interested in your next one.

So, getting into a big name publisher is hard. It’s worth it, you’d get a big marketing department, seriously professional editors and cover artists, all for free. But it is really, really hard to get in.

It’s also worth considering that agents and publishers are a fairly small industry. They mostly know each other. If you behave like a dick to one agent, your name will be mentioned over coffee and other agents will recognise it when you try submitting to them. Agents are busy people. They don’t have time to assuage egos or play politics or deal with dicks. They have so many submissions that having a name they can ditch at the first hurdle is really helpful to them. Don’t be that name.

Given that it is murderously difficult to get a foot in that door, who would be so stupid as to throw it all away over a tweet?

These four authors just did exactly that.

They think they are making a point but they are not big names. There won’t be a huge list of agencies begging them to sign up – and they have just marked themselves as ‘difficult to work with’. One of them has three novels published. Well… so do I. So does Mark Ellott. Three is not a big number. When you are at Neal Asher’s level of output then maybe you can afford to be a bit shirty at times (he never has been, as far as I know) but three novels? No, you are not a big earner for the publisher nor for the agent. You could have been if you hadn’t bailed over a hurty tweet.

These four authors were signed up to the same agent as J.K. Rowling. I quite like the films, never bothered with the books or merchandise. CStM is a big fan though. J.K. Rowling, loathe her or hate her, is a big name in the publishing world. Being with the same agent is a big win for any author whether they like her or not. It doesn’t, or shouldn’t matter what she thinks of trans people to the other authors.

Heck, I don’t like Stephen King’s ‘woke lefty’ attitude. I still read his books and I would love to be taken up by the same agency. Stories are not real, sometimes authors are not the wonderful people you want them to be, but this is your career here. Are you really going to throw it all away, after getting over those massive hurdles, just because you’re a bit miffed by what another author has said? Well, apparently so. I wouldn’t. These authors just cast themselves adrift over a tweet. Good luck getting another agent.

Heck, I don’t even want them at Leg Iron Books. I am not going to play political correctness, I am not bending my knees unless I drop something. I frankly don’t care about anyone’s sexuality or melanin quotient or whether they have all their limbs in the right order. Leg Iron Books is about writing. If the writing is good, it’s in. If the story is good but the writing needs a bit of work, still it’s in. So far I have enough submissions to keep me busy but not enough to need slush pile readers to filter them.

I am only interested in the writing. I do not care if the author writes while candles burn at an altar to Satan. I don’t care if they have posters of Hitler in their kitchen or Che Guevara in their bedroom. Not my business. Only the story matters. Naturally, I will not publish either white supremacy nor black supremacy nor any colour supremacy nonsense. I will not publish anything that deliberately sets out to incite hate or division.

But… if someone sends in a ghost story they wrote while cross-dressed and listening to Stalin speeches and the story is a good one, the author’s personal preferences are not my concern.

Would I publish an overtly religious book? Sure, but there are religious publishers far bigger than me who would take it on and it would do better with them. The same is true for an overtly gay or gushily romantic novel. They sell really well but there are much bigger publishers specialising in those books. So if you were to send me a story in those genres I won’t reject it (unless it’s a crap story) but I might recommend you try the bigger boys first. They aren’t all tied to agents like the top presses.

The point of Leg Iron Books is to get new authors into print. To give them something they can put on a CV when applying to an agent. To get them noticed by the big names. It’s never going to develop into a rival for Penguin Random House. It’s a starting point. If a big publisher ever wanted to buy out an author contract I am not ever going to say ‘no’.

I don’t care what authors do in their private lives. I am not going to police their social media and I will not be impressed if other authors do that to them either. I am not going to install any kind of ‘diversity programme’ and I am not interested in re-education of any kind. I have a PhD. There is no more education I need.

An author walking out on an agent is of no consequence whatsoever. There are a hundred in the queue behind every single one of them. Every day. It is not only a pointless gesture, it is an incredibly stupid one. These four have just trashed their hard-won careers for no benefit at all. Nobody will even remember them, the agency will take on four new authors and those four ‘woke’ ones will disappear into obscurity. J.K. Rowling continues unaffected.

Still, if you are an author looking for an agent, this one has suddenly acquired four vacancies.

Lockdown collapses

I see the press are still trying to take down Demonic Cummings over his trip to Durham, in which he might or might not have met someone else. Meanwhile they seem unfazed by the huge crowds in London protesting about a man killed in a part of the world our government has absolutely no jurisdiction over. The same thing is happening in Berlin, in Copenhagen and other places too. What do they expect their governments to do about it?

Have they fallen for the ‘EU is everything and controls the world’ mantra? Nobody outside the EU gives a flying fuck what the EU thinks and, increasingly, neither do those inside it.

Even Donnie Trumpton has no say over the US police. That’s down to individual states. As far as I know he doesn’t control the FBI or CIA either. Police matters seem to be controlled by state governors, even by city mayors. Like in London. Saddo Khan controls the metropolitan police. People blame Boris when the Met do stupid things but he’s not in charge of them. The mayor is.

So what can anyone in the UK do about a police force in another, faraway country, where even the president has no power over them? Not a damn thing.

Italy, naturally, is different. They are currently having big protests over something else entirely. Something their government actually can do something about. Something ours is supposed to be doing something about.

Richard Burgergone, the noisy lump of overpaid MP, has been on Twitter complaining about kids going back to school. It’ll be a disaster! The Plague will kill them all! I haven’t seen a word out of him over gatherings of hundreds of people shouting slogans and presumably spouting potentially infected spittle by the bucketload. Perhaps he’s okay with all that. The BBC seem to be. So do the rest of what passes for news these days.

So am I, really. It’s very nice of these people to act as coal mine canaries for the rest of us. Is it safe to gather in groups of more than six now? Is it safe to hang around with a huge mass of strangers, like in, say, pubs? Is it safe to travel the country to attend a mass protest and then travel back again? There’s only one way to find out and these people are kindly doing it for us.

If, two weeks from now, the bodies haven’t started piling up in the streets, then there’s no more danger and everything can go back to normal. If they do pile up, it’ll only be these lunatics and nobody needs them around anyway.

One thing these protests have done for sure. If there is a resurgence of the virus when lockdown eases and they try to blame Boris, all he has to do is point to video of those crowds. There’s where the blame lies, and that’s the funniest part. In trying to bring down Boris they have given him an easy way out of lockdown. He could cite those crowds as a reason to just drop all restrictions and any second wave of virus won’t be his fault. It’s the fault of the loony Left.

It will never cease to amaze me how they manage to backfire every single time.

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In other news, Leg Iron Books is still holding eBook prices at 99 cents (US, the price in other countries will vary because it depends on the exchange rate and local VAT) until lockdown is over. Then they will go back up to sensible prices. The eBook anthologies might stay at 99 cents because well, they make no money anyway. They are there to advertise the authors and Leg Iron Books as a whole.

It’s also time for quarterly royalty payments and this time, everyone has at least one sale. Including me, at last! Okay, the amounts will be tiny because of the bargain prices on the eBooks but the authors are getting that little bit better known. Financially, it’s not great but in terms of promotion it’s done quite well.

Soon though, I’ll have to put the novel/single author prices back into a decent payback for those authors. They can’t all stay cheap forever.