Category Archives: humour

My review of Christopher Brookmyre’s ‘Places in the Darkness’…

I have been a fan of Christopher Brookmyre for a long time ever since I first picked up a second hand copy of ‘A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away’ all the way to present day and his latest, ‘Places in the Darkness’. I have read and enjoyed every book, hunting around to find a copy of ‘Boiling A Frog’ and then seeking out each that has come since, usually from my public library. He has actually become one of my favourite authors and I look forward to each new release.

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Most recently I reread ‘Pandaemonium’, a tale where a class of Scottish school kids run into actual demons and carnage ensues. It’s a tremendous read and genuinely graphic as there are significant losses on both sides. But it is also very funny and quite touching, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. His latest is quite a step away from the usual, being as it is science-fiction, and not either a comedy book or a straighter edged detective novel.

“Places in the Darkness’ is set on a station in orbit that is supposed to be the breeding ground for humanity’s first venture out into the stars but of course things are not that simple. I won’t go into the specifics of the plot except to say that it combines Brookmyre’s trademark wit, his experience with writing detective stories featuring a hardboiled detective, in this case Nicki Fixx, and her straight-laced superior, Alice Blake, who fits more easily into the science-fiction part of the narrative.

As should be expected there has been a string of murders in the supposed utopia but ‘Places in the Darkness’ is not really a detective story. Its social commentary, as all good sci-fi is. Those on the station are trapped in a cycle of low-wages which forces everyone to have two jobs, usually one of which pays better than the other. The seedier one, of course, encouraging an underworld where anything can be obtained for the right price which is exactly how those in power like things. The sci-fi elements of the story concern the influence of technology on our lives as well as the control that those who develop said tech have over us, all of which is very ‘Black Mirror’, and I love it.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Places in the Darkness’ and it was nice to see an author whose career I have followed doing something different, while bringing along all that he had learned from their career as a comedy writer. It appears that Brookmyre’s next novel will now return to the seedy world of Jack Parlabane, his signature character, and I will be looking forward to that too, but should Brookmyre choose to return to the world of Nicki Fixx and Alice Blake, I will enjoy whatever happens next. I heartily recommend that you give ‘Places in the Darkness’ a go, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cheers!

 

 

My self-published nove;, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: https://tinyurl.com/yce6bvtg. Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My thoughts on the release of Jesus Returns, a book becoming a trilogy, and having fans…

So, ‘Jesus Returns! Here he comes again…’ is finally out! The long-delayed sequel to ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, and a book that I did not actually expect to write, has been released to the world and it’s a nice, yet funny feeling. I wasn’t going to write this book as I’m not fond of sequels unless they are absolutely justified. Some of my favourite writers (I’m looking at you, Neil Gaiman) have only written stand-alone novels, with the occasional little aside back into a world, and so I wasn’t going to continue the saga of God, His angels and the humans who end up being roped into helping them.

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But then I got sick and the idea for the novel came to me in a fever dream and that was that. Seriously, that is exactly what happened! Once the idea was in my head I had to start writing it so that I could meet the main character, enjoy writing him and see where his story went. That’s just how this whole writing works for me, once I have the idea I have to get it down and go with it, whether it’s a flash fiction piece, a short story, a novel or a whole trilogy of books! So I did and I’m glad that I did.

And now the initial book has become a trilogy and that’s where I intend to conclude matters. In the first, God came to Earth and worked with an atheist named Jeffrey to save the world. In the second it is the turn of Jesus to step in his father’s footsteps and work with Jeffrey’s wife, Melissa, in the service of saving mankind. The third will focus on Jesus’ child, Lillith, and the alliance that she will forms with the Lord of Hell. As for the rest of the plot, well I haven’t that out yet figured but I have started it and so I intend to continue until it is done, provided I can find the time.

And time is the obvious issue. I started writing Jesus Returns a few years ago, I concluded the story and edited it and then life, as it does, got in the way. Its release was delayed due to several factors. First, the speed at which my wife and editor gets through it which is not very quickly at all (I don’t have the money to hire anyone else!). Second, the amount of work that she gave me to do to get it to the standard that it needed to be before I would be happy letting others reading it. That took a while but each and every change improved the novel and it was worth the effort (as it always is when she reads it!). Third, we moved across the country, putting everything on hold until we had settled in. But now it is out and I am glad!

As any author, independent or otherwise can tell you, finally finishing and releasing your book is a really interesting feeling that is both scary and exciting. When friends started asking me when the next book would be out, I was suddenly aware that people were waiting on me and that they were excited for the sequel. That was new and it also adds pressure for I hope they like it! It also makes me feel like what I am doing is worthwhile for if people are looking forward to my next novel then they must’ve enjoyed the last. However, awaiting their verdict is a stressful time and now comes the waiting!

As an independent author it’s hard to know how to gauge success. Selling the first copy of your book feels like a small victory. Getting your first review (if it’s positive) is huge! Reaching ten copies sold is a significant step when you don’t have the backing of an agent or a publishing company. Finishing a sequel feels and putting it out there is also an enjoyable thing. But finding out that friends and family have also become fans of your work is really something nice and truly special! Here’s hoping they like Jesus Returns and will be back for Lucifer and Liliith, as soon as I can get it done that is. Cheers!

P.S. I’ll be going back on some of the podcasts on which I’ve been before and I’m really looking forward to it! Shouldn’t be long so look out for it!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: https://tinyurl.com/yce6bvtg. Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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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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One year on: an update on writing, sequels and interesting developments…

A few days ago was the one year anniversary of the day that I self-published ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ and so now seems like a good time for some thoughts, some reflection and for me to post an update for all that’s happened and that I have been doing since then. The first thing I should say is that I can’t believe that it’s been a year already! It has flown by, as it always seems to do, and what a fun ride it has been including getting some great reviews and appearing on a number of atheist podcasts. The sequel is also proceeding nicely, I’ll talk about this more below, as well as an interesting aside that happened in the past week. Anyway…onwards!

The first thing I want to say is thank you to many people, from the guys and girls who first took a punt on my novel and were then kind enough to write reviews for my book (you all know who you are and how grateful I am to you!), to those who invited me onto their podcasts for chats about atheism, politics and of course my novel. These people have all been remarkably generous with their time and I currently have ten reviews of the book, including three five star reviews, with an average of 4.3 stars out of five. That’s fantastic and you all have my thanks!

As well as writing and appearing on podcasts, one of the other things I have also done this year has been to post as often as I can to this blog on everything from comics like ‘Rumble’ and ‘Mind Mgmt’ to reviewing non-fiction books like Johann Hari’s ‘Chasing the Scream’, George Monbiot’s ‘Captive State’ and many others. I’ve also written about my appearances on atheist podcasts, my recent experience of working in retail again after many years in science, and other random bits like my reviews of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Captain America: Civil War. Basically, anything that’s caught my interest or that I love I’ve written about in the hope that I can persuade others to enjoy the things that I do.

I also wanted to post an update as to the sequel to ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’ which is again back in production now that I have been able to find some time to actually do some writing! I am having a blast working on this book, which is now more than halfway done, and I hope to finish it soon now that I have the time to do so (though the real possibility of a decent full-time job in the near future would make this more complicated!). Of course, once the writing is done, the editing process will begin and that often takes as long as the writing, so the release of this novel might be further in the future than I hope. But unlike when ‘Only an atheist’ was released (and I was more than a little apprehensive), I can’t wait for people to read ‘Jesus Returns’ so I certainly have the motivation to keep going!

Finally, I wanted to end on an interesting note that also seems to warrant some discussion. My brother’s fiance is Australian and, on a recent trip back to her homeland, she sent me and my family an intriguing message. She said that she was having a conversation with a friend about atheists like Sam Harris, a fellow neuroscientist and author, and she happened to mention me and my novel (for it is always good to have friends and family willing to proselytise on your behalf). Then something interesting happened. It seemed that her friend had already heard of me and my book and had even seen the cover (which he thought looked like Socrates) but not via me, my twitter account or my appearances on atheist podcasts. There was a brief confusion where it seemed that Penn Jillette may have been the source of the information (I have since confirmed with him on Twitter that he was not) but nevertheless my brother’s fiance’s friend had heard about the book from somewhere, some podcast that was seemingly talking about it.

And this is truly exciting for if people other than myself are now talking about and suggesting my novel to other people then suddenly it feels like this thing might be taking on a life of it’s own. I am aware that this could happen, that the novel might be found by the right person, someone with the right connections  and then things could escalate. And even if this wasn’t that moment, I am still intrigued and I know that event still could happen and that is an exciting thought indeed! So if anyone knows of any podcast or outlet that is talking about my novel (without me as a guest), then please get in touch so that I can make contact with them directly. That would be very helpful.

To sum up, it’s been an exciting year with some standout moments and I hope that the next one is as enjoyable. I’m hoping to finish ‘Jesus Returns’ in the near future and then the novel will be released when I am happy with it. Which will undoubtedly take some time! And then I’ll have to see what happens next in this series and whether or not it will continue (I’m already thinking of a sequel so it probably will). Hopefully the journey that I am on as an Indie author will and bigger things are to come. Here’s hoping!

 

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, 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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