Category Archives: comedy

My review of Edgar Wright’s ‘Baby Driver’…

I have been a fan of the work of Edgar Wright for a long time. Spaced is one of my favourite TV shows and my wife and I revisit it often. I love the ‘Cornetto trilogy’, that is Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, and I thought that Shaun of the Dead was an absolute classic when I saw it in the cinema. Twice. All three are immensely funny and rewatchable and, although my initial impression of ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World’ wasn’t all that good, on rewatching I have come to love it and now consider it a favourite. All of these movies have thematic and stylistic similarities including Wright’s fondness for fast-cut editing and the choice of an excellent sound track. Which brings us nicely to his latest, ‘Baby Driver’, a movie that is literally about a guy called ‘Baby’ who drives a getaway car. So, onto the review!

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I think it is obvious upon watching ‘Baby Driver’ that it is entirely an Edgar Wright movie. Every frame of the movie has his stamp on it, every little stylistic choice seems his from the soundtrack which keeps the movie hopping along to each choice of camera angle or direction that the movie take. All of the actors involved seem to be having tremendous fun from Ansel Elgort’s ‘Baby’ to his love interest ‘Debora’ played by Lily James. Jamie Foxx does crazy very well with ‘Bats’ and Kevin Spacey brings a nice turn as Baby’s boss ‘Doc’. John Hamm also enjoys playing ‘Buddy’ the husband to Eliza Gonzalez’s ‘Darling’. And yes these are clearly code names to maintain distance from each other. At times the dialogue of the movie verges on the cheesy, which also seems intentional, playing up the kind of movies to which this film plays homage.

 

One thing that took both my wife and I a little by surprise was the tonal shift from the first to the second half of the movie. The first seems like a musical, albeit one involving bank robberies and car chases, and is very fun and entertaining with matters playing out according to the beat, Baby meets his love interest and a couple of heists go well with Baby’s spectacular driving keeping things smooth. In the second the seriousness of things is stepped up, with several bad choices leading to a dash to the end and the inevitable confrontations that come. And of course a number of the cast meet an ignoble fate, as you would expect from an Edgar Wright movie. The ending was also interesting, not going where I expected it to and veering away many of the cliché’s that could’ve been settled on.

 

Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s take on a Fast and Furious movie where the action is fantastic, the cars are driven insanely well yet unlike those tired movies this one is awesome. It reminded me of ‘Heat’, very high praise indeed, as well as ‘Reservoir Dogs’ with the soundtrack being so integral to the action. It is well worth seeing in the cinema on a large screen and I am thoroughly looking forward to revisiting it once it is out on DVD as I think it will reward multiple viewings. I shall also be eagerly awaiting the director’s next release, as ever. I can’t wait!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My atheist comedy has been offered a review by a Catholic blogger…is this good?

So, every now and then in the life of a self-published, independent author like myself something interesting happens. It could be getting your first great review, as recently happened to a friend of mine and fellow indie author Rachel Shaw (she’s the writer of a fantasy novel called ‘The Raveller’s Guild’, http://tinyurl.com/kqxnrhu), or it could be going on a podcast and talking to people about your book or maybe starting up your own blog up and finding things to talk about that you hope your audience will enjoy. For me recently it was being offered a review, something that seems to be increasingly difficult to get due to the ever increasing number of indy authors out there, and the not-that-large pool of available reviewers but the interesting part was who the offer came from: a former atheist, now Catholic blogger.

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I should explain. ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ and the sequel ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again!’ are satire novels where religious icons travel to Earth to convince us to stop destroying our world. In the first book the only person who is able to help God is an atheist and in the sequel, Jesus treads God’s well worth path making somewhat of a fool of himself along the way. Now, these clearly make fun of the various religions and of the iconography of Christianity, and I have a lot of fun lampooning what God is, who my version of Jesus is, the role of the Heavenly Bureaucracy and The Committee, a group of angels who are now in control and so on and so forth and you can find an example of the sort of humour that this book contains below.

God was in a meeting...

But these books are definitely not aimed at a religious audience. Despite that I have always wondered what someone of that persuasion would make of them and so, naturally, lots of questions start swirling around my brain. Do they really want to review my book, a satirical poke in the eye for religion, and if they do how come? I mean, it’s light-hearted fun and I certainly haven’t set out to offend anyone but I’m still left with the question of why would they want to do this? Well, they say that all publicity is good publicity but I was still confronted with the choice of whether I should I do this, do I send a review copy to someone who may, in all likelihood, give me a very bad review indeed. They could always just buy the book but in the end I did send them a free copy.

 

Either way, it draws attention, right, even if the opinion given is not a good one. And if the review is very poor indeed I shall still tweet excerpts from it in the same way that I do with the good reviews that I have received (like the one below). I will simply ensure that the tweet contains the words ‘Catholic blogger’ and then my atheist followers will know that the review may be somewhat biased. If he says that the book is a piece of atheist trash, that’d work for them, right? At least I hope it will. Still, I can’t help wondering whether I have made a mistake in engaging with this person.

 

Now all I can do is wait and see what they make of it and what it is that they say in their review. And wonder, as we indie authors endlessly do, if this is one of the things that helps to pull in the publicity that launches the book to a bigger audience. Here’s hoping, even if takes the outrage of the religious to help move things along. Cheers!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

Indie author? Lost your cover artist? Don’t panic…

I self-published my comedy novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, last July having spent the previous three years trying to find an agent who would represent me without success. Given that my novel is a religious satire where God comes to Earth to try to save us from ourselves and then finds that an atheist is the only person who can help him, I should not have been surprised that the agents I contacted were less than enthusiastic. The book may be something of a hard sell 😉 Despite this, I was certain that there was an audience out there who would enjoy my work. While I was repeatedly editing the novel and considering the self-publishing route I realised that I needed a striking cover, as all independent authors do, for that is the first thing that a potential reader will see and so a stunning image that grabs their attention is absolutely essential. I made some enquiries and found an artist who was willing to work with me and the image that you see below was the result.

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I was very happy with the cover, I’ve had many people ask me about it and so, when it came to writing the sequel that I never thought I was going to write, ‘Jesus Returns! Here he comes again’, I knew that I needed something that complemented the image that I already had. Unfortunately, this was when my cover artist decided to go AWOL. The last time I had checked in with her, there was a note on her website saying that she was taking time away from her business to improve her skills and come back afresh. Now she seemed to have completely gone off the grid. I emailed her, politely asking whether she would be interested in making a cover for my sequel and that she at least reply to let me know either way. I received no such reply. I waited a while, worked on the manuscript and then emailed again. And then finally, one more time just to be sure. Nothing. Eventually I came to the realisation that I needed to find another artist, that mine was truly out of the game, and that I would just have to accept that I would probably not get another one like the first and that whatever I ended up with would have to suffice, even if it wasn’t exactly what I wanted. What else could I do?

So I again began the tedious process of sending out emails and searching for her replacement with little hope of success. I contacted some artists who never got back to me and then some kind person on Twitter sent me in the direction of Natasha Snow. I sent her an email explaining what I wanted to see if she had any interest in the project as well as a link to the previous cover image. Natasha replied that my last cover was indeed quite spectacular and that she would look into finding suitable stock images and I continued to wait and see whether she could help me.

I needn’t have worried. The first indication I had that I might get the cover that I wanted was when Natasha sent me some links to some stock images that looked remarkably like how I imagined the Jesus of my novels might look. I knew that his image was the key to the whole thing and that, once that was right, everything else could be figured out. So, we agreed on the image and on the details of the design and I sat back to await the arrival of my new cover. When I received the first draft it confirmed that I had made the right choice and that this whole thing was going to work out. I loved it, only minor revisions were even needed to finish the image and, once they were done, I received the rather wonderful image that you see below…

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So, if you’re a self-published, independent author like me who’s lost your cover artist (what are the chances?) then my advice is this: don’t panic, send out some feelers, know what you want and it will most likely work out well, as it did for me. You could also check out Natasha’s website (http://natashasnow.com/) and send your business her way, if you wanted to 😉 You never know, she might make for you as striking an image as she did for me. Here’s hoping!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’…

This time I’m reviewing Terry Pratchett’s ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’, his book of collected non-fiction. I have been a fan of Mr. Pratchett’s for as long as I can remember, I read his and Neil Gaiman’s ‘Good Omens’ in my teens and every Discworld novel since then, along with most of the rest of Pratchett’s output. But before reading this book I hadn’t read much of his non-fiction output and so this collection was a joy to find and devour. I also think that it is fair to say that Pratchett, along with Gaiman, is a huge influence on my work and writings (who isn’t influenced by this pair, though) and reader reviews have even made that comparison more directly than I would ever dare (review here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z), which is lovely! Anyway, onto my review.

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So, ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ includes all manner of articles Pratchett wrote from the 1970’s to almost current day where he talks about things ranging from what his life as a writer was really like both at home and on the road, to his thoughts on paying taxes or on education, to how much his life changed since he announced that he was suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s. The articles range from the absolutely hilarious to the heartbreakingly poignant and I don’t remember the last time I read or saw anything that made me laugh as much as this book. And it’s non-fiction! But Pratchett knows how to set up and deliver a joke and the speech’s that he gave must surely have been absolute barnstormers. I had to continuously pause when I was reading the book so that I could stop myself from laughing too loudly on the train to work. I think I might even be scaring the other passengers a little! Oh, well.

Pratchett also covered matters that he clearly felt strongly about including the need for regulated assisted suicide in the UK (or assisted death as Pratchett prefers to call it) so as to reduce the suffering of people with terminal illnesses to how poorly funded Alzheimer’s research is compared to things like cancer research. These articles obviously have a different feel that the openly comic ones that the book starts with but they are nevertheless a joy to read.  As with Gaiman’s ‘View from the Cheap Seats’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/zklvpvp), there’s a strong sense when reading this book of the author talking directly to the reader and that is just wonderful! As a young, self-published author with no agent, publishing house or support network, I am yet to go on a book tour or do a signing but I’m hoping to get to that point someday and Pratchett’s words on what it is like and how to cope with the stresses of said life are invaluable. These articles are also incredibly entertaining too which always helps!

As a fan of his work, I’ve read the vast majority of Pratchett’s output (I still have to read ‘Nation’, his best book according to the author, so I shall definitely have to hunt that out) and this is one of the one’s that I have enjoyed the most. I expected to enjoy it, but not nearly as much as a I did. ‘A Slip of the Keyboard’ is a joy to read from start to finish, through the early articles and letters onto his life as an author to his fight against Alzheimer’s and how much his life changed when he announced he was suffering from the disease. I highly recommend this book to any and all writers out there as well as to fans of his work who simply want more of his writings to read, even if what we all really want is more Discworld novels.  Pratchett has left an incredible legacy and this is one part of said legacy that deserves to be read and enjoyed by as wide an audience as possible. So go out and read it people!

 

My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has TWELVE reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers. It’s sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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The rise of religious comedies and satire…

So, last summer I self-published my debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, through Amazon and Smashwords. This novel is a humorous look at what happens when God, who has become ensnared in the bureaucracy that Heaven has become, travels to Earth to convince humans to stop ravaging our planet and the only person who can help Him is an atheist. Hilarity obviously ensues. I am also in the process of completing the sequel, Jesus Returns: here he comes again, and will self-publish this at a later date.

Now both are obviously satirical and not that serious and are meant to be taken as anything as the silly fun that they are intended to be and since publishing the novel a small, but growing, number of people have read it and written me some lovely reviews (see here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z). I will also soon be appearing on some atheist podcasts, something I am very much looking forward to (though they will require some very late nights which I am less keen on) to talk about the novel, as well as my experience of being an atheist. I hope you will take the time to listen to the shows and enjoy them!

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Yet, when I had self-published the novel a funny thing happened: I began to notice an increasing number of other religious comedies around. When I travelled on the London Underground I would see posters advertising them as well as reading articles in newspapers. Things like, the Book of Mormon, from the creators of South Park, that is still playing at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London and that I intend to see this when I can find the money. Then I saw a Guardian article about the new play from Gary Sinyor, NotMoses, that is playing in London at the moment and which features a not-too-bright God. Then I saw an advert for ‘Hand to God’, the play currently running at the Vaudeville Theatre and I began to wonder about the increasing prevalence of plays, books and movies that openly satirise religion.

Hand to God

Now, comedies that mock religion are nothing new, the obvious example being the brilliant Life of Brian from Monty Python. Hilarious and eminently quotable, this movie has obviously influenced much of what has come since. Kevin’s Smith’s Dogma is another excellent and very funny religious comedy and an obvious comparison to my novel given the subject matter. Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s wonderful ‘Good Omens’ also plays with religious characters in a way that only that pair could and provides many laughs as well as the humanity that was apparent in so much of Pratchett’s writing.

Good Omens

But it got me thinking that maybe we might be entering a new era where we see many more comedies that are not afraid to openly mock religion. And I have to say that it’s about time, for satire is one of the best means by which you can strip something of its power. You only need look at something like the brilliant ‘Spitting Image’ to know how effective humour can be in doing this and to realise how badly the UK needs a show with the biting power that this one had. Or an equivalent of the Daily Show, Nightly Show or Last Week Tonight that focuses on mocking our current politic scene for there is surely much to mock and an abundance of material to work with.

Life of Brian

I really hope that this trend keeps going and that we will continue, no matter how tricky it can be at times, to mock and satirise religion and all that is inherently silly in these mythologies, concepts and institutions. I am hoping to finish and self-publish ‘Jesus Returns’ and that by promoting my work and the satirising of religion, that I am contributing, in some small way, to this discussion. For Jesus will indeed be returning to Earth and hilarity will again ensue. Until then, I will go and see The Book of Mormon and guest on atheist podcasts and contribute to the going mockery of all religions. For they really, truly deserve it! Oh, and I’ll be reading Justin Lee Anderson’s ‘Carpet Diem’ when I can find the time. I might even review it too! Cheers!

EDIT: Balls! I completely forgot to include ‘An Act of God’, the play brought to us by David Javerbaum, the writer behind “The Last Testament: A Memoir by God”, another to add to the growing list of religious satires and comedies…

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My debut novel, ‘Only an atheist can help Godsave 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, and reviews of books and movies! Also follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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Ramblings part 2: self-publishing, and ebooks vs. physical books…

Right, so it seems that I’m supposed to post a blog entry weekly, which seems like a lot of work to me so we’ll see how it goes, but for now I’m keeping up. Here is my second entry, surprisingly on schedule, and this week I’m rambling about self-publishing through websites like Amazon and Smashwords, my chosen method for publishing my debut novel, and the future of physical books and ebooks as it seems to me.

OK, so I’m relatively new to the industry having only self-published my first book, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, a few months ago. I have a second book in this series, entitled ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, in the works and I also plan to self-publish this book when it is eventually finished. But I also have another book, ‘Balancing Act’, which I am currently still trying to publish though the traditional route of finding an agent and having them represent me to a publishing house. So far I haven’t had any luck, but in my opinion ‘Balancing Act’ is a much easier sell to these houses than my other works. It’s a science fiction story set in a near-future dystopia (yup, one of those!) featuring a man whose defining characteristic is that he has a split personality and lives with a significant number of ‘voices’ in his head. These ‘voices’ help him navigate the difficult world he lives in and, for now, that’s all I’ll say about that.

Anyway, I’m getting off topic. I hope that I have more luck finding an agent to market this book, strange as it is, but if I am again unsuccessful I know that will not be the end of the matter, as it would once have been. And that is something that I like very much. I have to wonder how many great, unsold novels there are out there sitting in drawers, waiting to be discovered, never read by anyone besides the author. Now they can all be published on Smashwords (and other available providers) and the battle these days has shifted to getting your work noticed. I recently engaged with social media in my quest to find an audience and, if you are reading this blog that is likely how you heard about it. And though I may not yet be all that savvy as to its uses, I’m enjoying myself and exploring the medium and finding that it’s quite fun.

As for ebooks, well I think it’s becoming apparent that they are the future of publishing. My wife and I recently returned to the UK from living in Canada after almost 5 years and, having settled in, one of the first purchases we made was for a well-known brand of tablet that can be used to read ebooks. I also purchased a subscription to Marvel Unlimited at, in my opinion, a ridiculously low price and I can now read as many comics as I want on this device. Reading books in this way is new to me and I am of course still reading physical books, but I can now see a time when I might not. I’ve grown up reading physical books, I love them, I buy them, I borrow them and I keep them. I have a large collection of graphic novels but I can now see an end to this situation and also that ebooks are, undoubtedly, the future.

Ebooks sales have increased dramatically in the past few years (http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/feb/01/the-ebook-is-dead-long-live-print-digital-sales) and it’s looking likely that, as with physical copies of television shows, movies and music, physical books will likely not survive forever. When choosing between physical copies of the things we buy and electronic files that are easily accessible and do not require storage, the files will eventually win. And, despite my love for books and CDs, in my opinion, actual physical copies should not win. When there is a simple, easy and more direct route to reach your audience it is obvious that physical books eventually will no longer be produced.

However, one ongoing issue I have with buying ebooks is the price. It is not realistic, despite the wishes of the publishing industry, that an ebook, an electronic file that costs much less to make and distribute, should cost anywhere near as much as a physical copy. After all, you’re not paying for all that has gone into making the book: the paper, the printing, the shipping and the physical store (or online retailer) at which you buy the item. And if you take out all of those costs then the price inevitably should drop. The publishing industry knows this, but they do not wish to upset the stores that sell their merchandise, nor for the competition between physical and electronic versions to impact on each other’s sales. And, for the moment, the two seemed to have reached an equilibrium (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/11335718/The-Kindle-is-dead-the-book-is-back.-Or-is-it.html).

I also realised, from seeing people using ebook readers while they travel, that this was my (potential) audience, even without the backing of a publishing company. Indeed, one of the lessons of the rise of independent authors is that publishing companies might not even be needed much longer. Authors will always require the services of agents, editors and publicists but publishing houses are no longer strictly required. They, undoubtedly, can still do things that indie authors, for now, cannot but we shall see for how much longer that remains the case. Until that day I shall continue to seek their services for my, hopefully much more easily marketed, science fiction novel. We’ll see…

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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Welcome to the blog of Matthew James, author of “Only an atheist can help God save the world”!

Hi there and welcome to the blog of Matthew James, author of ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’! Now, if you’re here because you have been redirected from either Twitter or Reddit then I hope you will give me a chance to convince you to give both my blog and my satirical novel a go. Hopefully you’ll find something you like. My blog is entitled ‘Rambings’ and on it you’ll find articles about comics, movies, politics, and of course my novel, as well as the self-publishing process and Indie authors, of which I am one. Anyway, onwards!

So, my novel asks the question of what does God do when he finds out the extent to which humanity is destroying the Earth? Well, He travels to Earth to talk to us and try to persuade us that we should stop what we are doing and save ourselves and our world. Unfortunately, Heaven has become a bureaucracy that He, due to His somewhat fiery temper, is no longer in charge of and now God must obtain permission from The Committee, run by His former voice, Metatron, to even come to Earth. And when He gets here He finds that the only person who can help Him is an atheist called Jeff. This is as much as I wish to say for I do not want to spoil anything.

I recently self-published this novel on Amazon and through Smashwords and you can find it at all electronic retailers for whichever device you choose to read it on. In an effort to convince you to give the novel a go, here is the opening lines from the book and a review from someone who follows me on Twitter who did just that and really enjoyed it. If you would like some more then there is a sample chapter (about the first 10% of the book) available to read for free at these sites and if you also enjoy that then I hope you will buy it 😉

“Chapter One

In which we meet God and explore the situation He now finds Himself in, we find out who the power behind the throne is, and a decision is reached

Meetings, endless meetings or how God got into this situation in the first place

God was in a meeting. God was always in a meeting and these days they seemed to stretch to eternity. And God could tell you a thing or two about eternity. But these meetings were necessary.

In the beginning it was just Him and He didn’t have to suffer meetings. But the Universe had continued to expand and God, even as all-powerful as He is, had needed help. So he’d created the angels and, for a time, they had all gotten on famously. The angels had carried out His will and pitched in with all of the necessary management tasks that continued to endlessly pile up. They had even helped Him to keep His temper when it all got a bit too much.

So the angels were necessary and God had accepted that. He knew that a smaller Universe would’ve allowed Him more time by Himself but a larger one produced so many more interesting things; worlds to explore, creatures and creations to investigate.”

And here’s the review that someone left me…

“I really enjoyed this book, it’s witty, intelligent, and it has a good pace to it. If you like Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett you will probably enjoy this book. Don’t take this book too seriously though, it’s a comedy caper, not a religious book, but it might have you thinking about life the universe and everything in a couple of places.”

You can see the review, as well as a couple more, here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z

Now, I’m an atheist and this book is very much written with a sense of fun and only a pinch of seriousness. I hope that it combines a little of The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy with some of Good Omens and Kevin Smith’s Dogma thrown in. And thankfully that is what those who have read it have been telling me. My pen name is Matthew James, but this is not my real name, for when you publish a book that satirises religion, even relatively gently, it seems a good idea to maintain some distance between yourself and your work. So if you do like what you have read and you buy my book and you enjoy it then let me know on Twitter or Reddit or at the email address below. I’d love to hear from you! I’d also love it if you told your friends and family about the book and helped me to spread the word for that is the only way someone like me can succeed. Cheers!

You can find me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1 and I’m on Reddit as MatthewJames1. You can also email me at onlyanatheist@mail.com if you have something to say.

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