Thank you to my followers, retweeters, and most importantly my readers and reviewers!

So, having recently published several entries to my blog where I review either for a non-fiction book or the recent Star Wars movie, I think it’s time for something a little different. This entry is talking about some familiar themes: being an Indie author, the relationship that I have with my followers and readers, but more than anything it is a big thank you! Thank you to those who follow me, to those who retweet me, and especially a HUGE thank you to those who’ve chosen to buy and read my book! And if you’ve written me a review, then you get an even bigger THANK YOU! As an indie author the only means that I currently have to persuade people to read my book is through social media so if you’ve read and reviewed my novel you have my gratitude. I also think it’s time for a little reflection on the past few months…

Right, so, my book was self-published at the beginning of July 2015 and since then I have amassed a following of around 1300 people, most of whom I also follow. I am aware that I could’ve pursued this more quickly and aggressively, as I see other indie authors doing, by following many more accounts but to do so would be somewhat missing the point. I’ve tried to engage with as many of you as I can, though I have doubtlessly not done so with everyone, and I have enjoyed the majority of these interactions. In 7 months I’ve only had to block one account and have in turn been blocked by a small number, some of whom have turned out to be rather unpleasant characters, but at least one of which was down to my own stupidity. And being blocked by fellow atheists is quite a strange thing! There are lessons to be learned in the art of using social media to promote your novel and I feel I have learned them well!

I’ve also talked before about the relationship between Indie authors and their readers, yet every time I have a conversation with one of my followers who is reading my novel and they tell me how much they are enjoying it, I am again struck by how utterly unique this relationship is. Recently one of my followers tweeted me to tell me that they had bought my book and for someone like me that is always a good day indeed! Then, a short while later they again messaged me to inform me that, although they were very busy working, they were trying to find the time to read it when they could. They told me that they were “enjoying it immensely” and that they thought I “really out did myself”. This has happened a couple of times now but the days when I receive a message like this are truly wonderful. I am also eagerly awaiting the message that informs me they have finished the book and what they thought of it…

So, every time this happens, every time someone messages me to say that they have enjoyed my novel I get the feeling that this entire endeavour is worthwhile. I experience a small sense of satisfaction, and I know that, regardless of the number of books I have sold so far, I am glad that I am doing this. Then it happened again with one of my followers messaging me, someone who had previously told me that they thought my blog was “excellent”, to say that they had bought my book. Each time this occurs I am a little bit astonished and incredibly grateful. I am starting to get the feeling that I am getting somewhere, that this process is getting a little easier and that the next sale will be easier than the last. Yet I am not quite sure what has changed or why I feel like this and I shall have to have a think about it! Hopefully this feeling will continue and my sales will also do so!

Finally, I’ll end where I began with a thank you! Thank you to all of you who have followed me and seen my adverts for my book and then retweeted to help me reach a wider audience. To those of you who have taken the chance and actually either bought my book or grabbed it when it has been offered for free get double thanks! I know that doing so is taking a risk on an unknown author and I am immensely grateful to those who have done so! And even more gratitude to those who’ve finished the novel and then messaged me to tell me how much you’ve enjoyed it, and left me such lovely reviews on Amazon and Smashwords (you can find them here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z and http://tinyurl.com/pu46r2b). Your comments keep me going and I know that I owe you guys. You know who you are and you have my gratitude! Indie authors cannot be successful without the support of their fans and so I offer you one final THANK YOU! Now, onwards…

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, is available now from all electronic retailers. Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, self-publishing! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Peter Oborne’s ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’.

More and more I currently find myself reading non-fiction books and, with my interest in politics, I’m reading works that explore the current political status-quo of the world and more specifically of the UK. Recently, I read and reviewed George Monbiot’s excellent “Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain” and you can find my review elsewhere on my blog. I’m also reading Laurie Penny’s ‘Unspeakable Things” which is superb. But right now I’m reviewing Peter Oborne’s “The Triumph of the Political Class”, an incredible book that details the loss of traditional political figures in the UK and the rise of a Political Class that are distinct from previous statesmanlike figures and explains how this takeover was achieved. Right, onwards…

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I am not hugely familiar with the writings of Mr Oborne as I am a reader of the Independent, the Guardian and New Statesman and not of the papers for which he has previously written. However, I did hear of him leaving the Telegraph following the HSBC scandal where the newspaper was found to have not been reporting stories that might be harmful to one of its primary financial sponsors. Mr Oborne left the paper, disgusted with his employers conduct, and has since found work with the Daily Mail. He is one of only two columnists, the other being Peter Hitchens, for whom I am willing to visit the website of this horrendous publication to read. And like Mr Hitchens, I find Mr Oborne to be a principled reporter who is disgusted with what politics in the UK has become and with whom I have more in common than I would have thought based on their positions in the political spectrum.

So, ‘The Triumph of the Political Class’ is a remarkable read. Truly, a remarkable read. I tore through it in a short time, far faster than I expected to, and found that I absolutely loved it. It is an incredible, thoughtful and more than a little angry work that has changed my view of politics in Britain more than a little. If you have any interest in this subject and would like to know how we got to where we currently are then you should read it and if, like me, you find it to be astonishing then you will be glad that you did. Mr. Oborne explains how our politicians are no longer political servants, instead they have become a elite all of their own whose only interest is their own power. But he goes much further.

Is your opinion that our politicians are all the same and that they are lying, thieving bastards? Mr Oborne shows that you are correct and that standards in political life have dramatically collapsed with the primary interest of our politicians now their own enrichment and not public service. Do you think that our politicians are in the pockets of the media, more specifically of Rupert Murdock? Mr Oborne explains that this is true and details the shocking extent to which it is and that the relationship between the two has now become parasitic. Ever thought that all politicians are the same and that they all work together to keep themselves in power and prevent anyone finding out what they are really up to? This book shows that you are correct and that standards in politics are now lower than is expected for the rest of us whereas in the past they were expected to uphold a much higher standard. All of this is clearly and concisely spelled out with clarity and more than a little anger.

This is a book that changes your view of politics in Britain and opens your eyes. It explains how many things that we think might be true actually ARE true! It details how we have lost control of our political system and how, with a pliant and willing media, our leaders are no such thing. They are incompetent, inept, useless and morally corrupt and they are only able to survive due to their symbiotic relationship with said media. They lie, they cheat and they get away with it! They have strengthened their own power while attacking other important British Institutions including Parliament, the Civil Service and the Monarchy, all in the name of increasing their control over our country. And since the publication of this book in 2008 I suspect that things have gotten much, much worse!

Mr Oborne clearly lays out the cause of the current malaise with our political masters which stems from one simple fact: we no longer pay for them. When membership of the political parties collapsed, and the parties were forced to find other sources of income to support them, they turned to business and corporations who willingly parted with significant sums of money secure in the knowledge that they would reap the benefits. And they have more than done so. It should come as no surprise to anyone that those who pay for the parties have their loyalties but our problems go much, much further than this. Since the Thatcher government the change in the way politics works has been truly dramatic with matters worsening with every successive change of those in power.

One of the truly stunning aspects of this book for me was how much of this damage was done during Mr. Blair’s government. Now, I’m not a huge fan of Mr. Blair and I’ve heard the cry before that he wasn’t really Labour at all. And now I think that this is correct. He was neither Labour, nor Tory. He was Political Class and not a servant of the people. And many that have followed including David and Ed Milliband, David Cameron, Ed Balls, Boris Johnson, George Osborne and others are all members of this same elite. They have little interest in fighting each other and more in fighting the electorate and increasing their power. And this will not change until the people grab a hold of the reins of politics and change many aspects of the current system.

Reading this book in the wake of the election of Jeremy Cobryn as Labour leader also makes for a fascinating twist on Mr Oborne’s words. Mr Corbyn is clearly not a member of the Political Class. He is an outsider, a rebel and thus a very clear danger to the established order where politicians of all colours protect each other from their real enemy: the people. Mr Corbyn is a normal person with actual moral standards who is now in charge of one of the two major parties. As for how much change Mr. Corbyn and his team will be able to implement, well we can only wait and see. But this book helps to explain the, frankly rabid reaction to Mr. Corbyn’s election. The Political Class fear him for he is not one of them! Also, the final section of the book details complex software used in the 2005 election to target swing voters with remarkable accuracy and this makes me wonder what techniques are now being used in the ten years since. I shudder to think.

Like ‘Captive State’, The Triumph of the Political Class is a rallying cry for people to wake up and realise how much control of our country we have lost. And without regaining this control we will never be able to tackle the huge issues that we currently face like Climate Change, the migration crisis and the control that corporations have over our countries and our lives. If you have any interest in politics I highly recommend that you read this excellent book and I hope that you take as much away from it as I did. It should help to explain how the UK got to the current situation that we now find ourselves in and if there is ever to be a way to restore faith in the system then we need to understand how we got to this point in the first place. I will now be looking out for other books from Mr Oborne and will be reading his columns in whichever newspaper he chooses to publish them in. In case I have not been clear enough, go and read this book! It is important that as many people as possible do so, so go out and find it people!

 

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My ‘rambling’ review of Star Wars: The Force Awakens (spoilers!)

Seeing as the new Star Wars film has finally arrived and I saw the movie last weekend with my wife and family I thought I would offer my thoughts on it for my next blog post. Before I do so, I’ll tell you a little about my relationship with this universe and what it means to me. I should also say that I will be talking in graphic detail about the events in this movie so everything will be spoiled. And I do mean EVERYTHING! If you haven’t seen it yet don’t go any further, go and see the movie and then come back to see what I thought. You should experience it as unspoiled as you can, I did and I was glad! If you’ve seen The Force Awakens then please continue…

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So, I am a fan of Star Wars. Not a huge fan, but a fan nevertheless. When I was quite young my mother, my brother and I would watch one of the original trilogy movies every Friday night while my dad was out playing squash with his friends. Consequently I saw them a great many times while I was growing up and I know them quite well. When the Special Editions were released I then saw SW in the cinema for the first time. And recently I revisited them in their original versions when I discovered that a friend had the versions of the DVD’s that came with the original prints. Having done that, I have to say that those versions of the movies remain the best ones, in my opinion. Nothing added to the movies since have improved them in any significant way, and some of the additions detract from the pacing of the movies. So, despite some shaky effects, I definitely think the originals are easily the best versions of the films.

Also, seeing the movies recently I revised my opinions of them significantly. I realised what a great piece of cinema the original Star Wars is, how quickly it zips along and how it expects the audience, despite being dropped into a new universe, to keep up. It treats them with respect and that pays off. The second film is quite brilliant and that movie was superbly directed by Ivan Kershner. Since then none of the subsequent movies has quite captured that excellence. Return of the Jedi is a car crash of a movie, especially given the information available as to what it could’ve been had George Lucas not fired the director and taken the reigns himself. Nothing in it works like the first two and most of the plot can be dismissed as silliness. Until my recent viewings I quite liked Return but having seen it as an adult with something of a film education, I now cannot see it as anything other than the disaster that it so clearly is. It sucks. I’m also not going to discuss the terrible prequel trilogy as the less said about those the better.

Anyway, onto The Force Awakens. Before seeing this movie I’d heard pretty good things. The critic whose opinion I value most, Mark Kermode of the BBC Radio 5 live show and Wittertainment, very much enjoyed The Force Awakens and so I went in with my interest piqued. My impression of the film wasn’t helped by the projector breaking fifteen minutes into our showing and my wife, my family and I then having to reschedule for a showing later in the day. Despite that I really did enjoy it. It was fun, it zipped along like the original and I had a really good time. The new characters were excellently played by the young cast and the original cast members all did their jobs well, helping to please returning fans. The effects were stunning, as they should be, and the joy of returning to this universe was tangible.

Focusing the plot on the new characters and only using the original cast members sparingly also worked really well and I’m glad this is the approach they took. Clearly, they want these new characters to be the next generations SW and for them to be integrated into the existing cast without the reboot that Star Trek required. And I can also see that Abrams and his team have achieved what they did with Star Trek by reinventing this universe for a new audience who’ve grown up with the prequels and cartoons available to the current generation. There’s no doubt that this movie has been handled well by a smart director with a good team putting together a modern version of Star Wars and that’s exactly what it is.

So, the plot twists, (and, as I said, SPOILER!) for some reason I managed to see them all coming and I am usually terrible at seeing things like that. My wife often figures out the twists before they happen but in this instance it was me who realised that Kylo Ren was either Luke or Leia’s son, that Han was going to be killed, and that Rey was also the offspring of another original cast member, most likely Luke. Despite seeing all of this coming, every twist still worked really well and impacted as it should. Killing Han echoes information available online for events that were in the original Return of the Jedi plot and making this movie about the offspring of the original characters gives the film a lovely legacy approach that I like. Actually, my other primary experience of the SW universe is in the SW Legacy comics, of which I own the entire run in nice hardcover volumes, and I can see the influence of this run in the movie. Besides focusing on a descendent of Luke Skywalker, the comics also include tales told from the perspective of Stormtroopers and that part of the movie feels directly influenced by Legacy.

But, despite all that I like the movie does feel like a very well done, modern Star Wars greatest hits with original cast members thrown in because to do otherwise would be silly. You have, among others, an attack on a new Death Star (which they even joke about), the goofball scene where Han and Chewy grapple with a monster (a la the trash compactor scene) and Rey running around inside an imperial base, avoiding stormtroopers in a manner similar to Episode IV. There’s little that I feel is new and that detracts from the experience somewhat. Of course, the scenes where Leia and Han interact are just superb and I don’t mind admitting that I shed a tear or two during them. I was also moved by Han’s death, as anyone who loves the original movies must surely be (where was his funeral?!?) and I look forward to seeing the impact of these events in upcoming films.

I guess that my overall impression of the movie is that I enjoyed it, it was tremendous fun and I came away thinking that it is definitely a Star Wars movie and that is a huge compliment. Not since the end of Empire has that been the case. But I was also a little underwhelmed, certainly more so than I had been during parts of the film when I had been immensely enjoying myself. Now that The Force Awakens has been released and Abrams and his team have established where things are and the new status-quo I would really like to see the next film exploring new territory and doing something more interesting than simply attacking yet another Death Star (even if they say that’s not what it was). It was still a lot of fun and a pleasure to see all of the characters that I grew up watching back on the big screen. I just hope that the next movie does something more with all that it has established. Here’s hoping!

 

Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on comics, politics, self-publishing and my novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ which is out now at all electronic retailers! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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