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My review of Alastair Reynolds excellent sci-fi novel ‘Revenger’…

I have been a fan of Alastair Reynolds for a really long time and I would say that he is a strong influence on my science-fiction writing. I first picked up a copy of ‘Revelation Space’, which I absolutely loved, in a charity shop when I was a student at university, tore my way through it, and since then I have eagerly awaited each of his new books. I have my favourites (I’ve always really liked The Prefect) and I felt that one or two haven’t quite maintained the high standard of his best work but I still eagerly await each new release and dread the period immediately after I devour the latest for I know the wait for the next will be long indeed. And I am glad to say that I thoroughly enjoyed  his latest, ‘Revenger’.

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Revenger is, in the simplest possible terms, pirates in space. Think Firefly meets Ocean’s Eleven and you’re in the right ball park. These characters live on ships that travel through space using massive sails that allow the vessels to be pushed along by sunlight and visit the worlds where they seek their treasure. In my mind the ships resembled the lightship that Ben and Jake Sisko build in the ‘Explorers’ episode of Deep Space Nine. The crew then attempt to break into these worlds that contain vast, unseen treasures from an age gone by and each member has a different skill set and speciality including someone who can read the ‘augries’ (I hope I spelled that right) which is knowing when a ‘bauble’ will pop open, a crew member who can assess the worth of the treasure and a few others. But the most important is the ‘Bone Reader’ and that’s our protagonist, Fura Ness, someone who literally ‘reads’ a giant skull that she plugs into. All of this works to build the work that Reynolds is creating as does the language of the novel where a man is a ‘cove’ and money is ‘quoins’ all contributes to the world building that Reynolds is undertaking.

Now, I don’t want to say any more about the actual plot, for I would rather you go away and read the book for yourself, but it is safe to say that the title is a good one for this is a story about revenge, legacy and how the choices that the characters take shape the course of their lives. One of the aspects that I like most about this particular tale is how quickly it moves along, not lingering to settle the character’s into their lives, but quickly upending them and forcing them to deal with the events that occur. Oh and, at times, it’s brutal with a particularly gruelling segment about a third of the way through that I did not see coming at all! But this brutality seems fitting, given the life that they lead, and it forces our protagonist to take control of her life and her story and chose the path that she will take. For that is what a good protagonist should do in the opinion of this reviewer.

I thoroughly enjoyed Revenger and would recommend it to any and all fans of quality science-fiction writing. The book also ends well, closing out this origin story, and providing ample room for a sequel should Reynolds choose to write one. I really hope that he does for I would like to see the next adventure of Fura Ness and her sister. He also leaves a nice, juicy mystery hanging (and his reveals are usually very good!) and I hope we get to find out the secrets of this Universe and visit it again. And thus begins the long wait for the next Reynolds story sometime in the not-too distance future. Until then!

 

My debut novel, ‘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. 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 ‘Arrival’…

I am a big fan of science-fiction in both movie and book forms. Alastair Reynolds is one of my favourite authors (my review of ‘Revenger’ is up next!)’ and my favourite movies of the last few years include Interstellar (which I think is an absolute masterpiece), Edge of Tomorrow and Mad Max: Fury Road (sci-fi? apocalyptic fiction? hmm). So I was very glad to hear of the good reviews that ‘Arrival’ was getting and which were enough to persuade my wife and I to venture out to our local cinema to see if this movie lived up to the hype. This is something that we only do very infrequently for though we enjoy movies, we can’t often be bothered to trek out in the cold (it’s really not that far, but it is cold right now!) and we don’t often want to pay the associated costs (train fares, food and drink costs and so forth) when we have plenty of movies that we can enjoy at home. But Arrival was well worth the time and the money that we spent.

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So, Arrival, for those of you not in the know, is a move in the vein of ‘Independence Day’ (ID) and Jodie Foster’s excellent ‘Contact’ in that it is one where a number of alien ships arrive on Earth and proceed to position themselves all over the globe. But unlike ID, this film takes the route of intelligence and subtlety (and not so many shots of famous landmarks being destroyed) and focuses instead on the efforts of Amy Adams (who surely should win the Oscar for her superb performance) and Jeremy Renner as they struggle to communicate with these visitors. The movie then follows their story as they begin to piece together the aliens ‘language’ and as the rival factions all over the globe do the same. I won’t say any more about the story as I don’t wish to spoil it but I do love that it gets a bit twisted at times involving the use of glimpses of the future (including a lovely bit of head-fuckery involving the Chinese leader) and it again reminds me of the brilliance of Interstellar in how it deals with all of this.

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There were some very minor things that I found silly about the movie. The idea that these aliens would in any way be troubled by the presence of the weapons that we possess and turn towards their ships is one of these. If they have the technology to suspend their ships in the strange way that they do above the Earth and to communicate without us being able to understand how, then our puny technology would surely be of no concern. It’d be like tanks worrying about cave men throwing rocks! But despite these small niggles, my wife and I both  had a great time and fully intending to watch it again before too long. We probably won’t be venturing back to the cinema again but we might purchase the DVD when it comes out.

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Arrival is a truly excellent movie that will be enjoyed by anyone who enjoys intelligent, complex science-fiction stories (though it is easily understandable and well told) but I did wonder what the three teenage boys a few rows ahead of us made of it and whether they had been anticipating a more ID style story with all of the action that movie displays. Funnily enough, my wife enjoyed ‘Arrival’ even more than I did, declaring it her pick of the year so far and one of the best films she has ever seen. Let’s see if ‘Rogue One’ can pinch that spot before the year is out, personally I doubt it. Not because I don’t think Rogue One won’t be a great movie, it just has to go some way to best ‘Arrival’. It really is that good, go see it!

 

My debut novel, ‘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. 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 ‘ramblings’ about the pitfalls of using social media to promote your

So, for my twentieth blog post, I thought I should actually ‘ramble’ about something that is directly relevant to the purpose of this blog and to the reason that I am on social media: the promotion of my novel ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’. That is, after all, the main (but not the only) reason that I write this blog and why I am using Twitter, and having recently reviewed several non-fiction books, I realised that I really should try to post on relevant topics more often. This time I am talking about the pitfalls that indie authors like myself can fall into when using social media in an attempt to find an audience and to convince said audience to actually read the work that they have produced. For it is not an easy thing to do so here are my thoughts on how to do so with a little grace.

Now, I am hardly an expert in the use of social media to promote your work, but I do feel that I have learned a thing or two since engaging with this medium and in the past few weeks I have had a few interesting exchanges that have increased my knowledge and actually changed the way that I have been using it. As many others do, but to a lesser extent, I follow accounts in the hope that they will follow me back and if they choose to do so, I then take the opportunity to tweet them an advert for my novel. So, I have carefully crafted this tweet to be upbeat and friendly and I have had far more positive responses to it than negative, but still it doesn’t always work out that way. On the positive, sometimes I will be told how stunning the cover is and that opens up a conversation nicely. But I do still I get the occasional bad reaction.

One such reaction came when I tweeted at one of my followers and they responded immediately with an unpleasant retort and then blocked me. I thought that was more than a little harsh when a simple unfollow would have sufficed but what can you do? Another reaction occurred when I followed a fellow atheist, they followed me back, I tweeted my greeting and they expressed their annoyance at me ‘shilling’ my book to them. Now, this is not the only reason that I follow people, but it is the principal one, and I can hardly complain when I was doing exactly that. This person then asked me (somewhat indirectly) to unfollow them and I obliged for I am not trying to piss anyone off. Still, the exchange left a somewhat sour taste though I was still glad they didn’t block me. But it left me wondering how I could refine the way in which I use twitter and since then have I reduced the number of times per day that I send out my tweets about my book.

So, I am again struck by the delicate balance that Indie, self-published authors like myself have to strike between advertising their works to their audience, and not pestering them too much and thus driving them away. I followed an author in the past few weeks whose time-line was an endless stream of thank you messages to their new followers that completely dominated my feed and so I quickly unfollowed them. But I am also aware that the time immediately after someone has followed you is the best chance to say hello, let them know about your novel and to show them the book cover. I know that my cover image is one of the best things that I have when seeking to advertise my book, along with short excerpts and highlighting the reviews that I have been given, and I know that I have a truly memorable cover, but the line between someone seeing this image enough times to snag their interest and being annoyed can be quite thin. And no matter how good your cover image is, your followers are likely to get tired of it eventually. I know that I would in their shoes.

In the past few weeks I have also taken to trawling my list of people that I am following in an attempt to remove those who have recently chosen to unfollow me. I am still trying not to expand my following list too quickly and this allows me to remove those who no longer have an interest in my novel and replace them with others who might. I don’t blame those who do so as it must become tiresome following an author who is using Twitter for promotional purposes, and actually I am now more aware of how many times some of my followers must have seen my cover image, and so I am grateful to those who choose to stay. I recently noticed several of my followers had chosen to leave and I was very sad to lose a few of these accounts, including someone who is a tiny bit famous and who’s work I admire and who followed me despite having little reason to do so, but there is nothing you can do once they choose to leave.

As ever with these things, you have to take the good with the bad and accept that you are using twitter for a purpose and that sometimes people you follow will not like what you are doing. I am aware that popular opinion writers for newspapers and magazines that I read have it far worse than I do (though I have received a little bit of that flack from time to time when tweeting about their articles) and I know that I have relatively little to complain about. I am also aware that this may change as more people read my book and I am still waiting for the day when someone religious reads a novel in which God comes to Earth and the only person who can help Him is an atheist. I am certain that it will happen and also that that will be an interesting day for I am very curious as to what they will make of it!

Next up, either a review of the brilliant comic series Mind Mgmt by Matt Kindt or Owen Jones’ ‘The Establishment’, I haven’t decided which yet. And yes I know that my staying focused on writing about being a indie author didn’t last very long. Oh well 😉

 

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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Ramblings: Twitter and its uses for self-published, independent authors…

So, for my latest blog post, I want to talk about the use of Twitter, as well as other social media websites, for self-published, independent authors like myself. Now, I’ve only recently discovered what Twitter is and how it can be useful. Prior to using this website for promotional purposes I did not really see the point in it, I even mocked it. Then I changed my mind, I created a personal account and began to get involved. I followed some people I like; authors, bands, comic book creators, columnists for the newspapers I like to read, that sort of thing; and I began to see how it could be useful.

Since creating an account I have had some interesting experiences. I heard about a few events on Twitter before anywhere else. I experienced the news of the death of Terry Pratchett through this medium and saw the reaction of many people I respect. The Cecil the Lion story was in my feed before I saw it on the news. Actually, I think the only reason that this story, and many others, made the news was due to the reaction on social media. I realised that one story would often dominate my Twitter feed for the entire day as it bounced around the network and I began to see the power of this medium to influence the world around us. There were many others but that is not the point of this post. The focus is on the use (and pitfalls) of social media for self-published authors, so onwards!

Now, I am hardly an expert at the use of Twitter for promoting your work but I do feel like I have learned much from my short time using this medium. My formula is this: I send out a small number of tweets a few times a day, advertising my book, I post quotes from the novel to give a flavour of the work, I tweet out a link to my blog with a description of this week’s post, and I try to draw attention to the nice things that people have already said about my book. I am not the first person to advertise in this way but I am also quite careful. I do not tweet endlessly about my book for that would bore people very quickly indeed. I have unfollowed other writers for doing just that. I am also not looking to increase the number of people that I follow too quickly as I actually like to engage with those who choose to follow me. And it works the other way too. Were I to have millions of followers it would not be possible to engage with the majority of them but that is not a problem I currently have. Not yet, anyway 😉

On the whole, the people I have interacted with have been nice and often willing to retweet my inanity. In the first few days of having an account I was fairly obnoxious. I tweeted at a considerable number of people who had not chosen to follow me and though many ignored me some, very kindly, retweeted my advert about my new book. Eventually I realised that this was not really acceptable behaviour and I refined my formula and now I only tweet at those who have chosen to follow me. And even some of those have immediately blocked me. But I am also having fun with the medium. I have managed to get myself retweeted by some people whose work I very much admire, even if my tweets were promoting their work. Still, it is always fun when that happens.

And I’ve undoubtedly made some mistakes. I’ve waded into conversations that I should’ve left well alone and I’ve been duly rebuked. I’ve been blocked by a few people for being a bit stupid. Never for anything serious, but, for example for saying things that seemed funny in my head, but clearly did not read as such to the person receiving them. Eventually I learned that text carries no inflection or intonation and so you must be very careful with what you say. I’ve run into some very unpleasant people with views that I consider repugnant and we’ve had some interesting discussions. But so far I have yet to block anyone who has not blocked me first. I doubt this will last. I’ve also been blocked by someone I had a conversation or two with and very much liked and I have no idea why they did this. The discovery was quite perplexing and I was left wondering what I had done. Clearly they had not liked something that I had said but then that is what happens when you put your opinion out there. Others will not always agree.

I have yet to really encounter my first persistent troll and have found that the best way to end an argument is to simply stop replying. Now, this may give the person with whom you have been arguing the feeling that they have won the discussion but sometimes that is simply the price to pay to get out of a spiralling debate. And those discussions are usually worth leaving as soon as you can.

So far, to a small extent, my use of social media is working. I now have several people among my followers who have told me that they have read my book and have then given me rather lovely reviews (you can find them on Amazon http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z). I also know of some others who are reading the book and letting me know whereabouts they are and I hope to hear their thoughts on the novel in due course. And it is a wonderful knowing that you have managed to persuade even a small number of people to read your work and knowing that somewhere out in the world people are (hopefully) enjoying the novel over which you slaved! 😉

I also recently discovered Reddit, another useful tool for those wishing to promote themselves and their work. I actually discovered it by accident when someone else posted a link to one of my blog posts. I got around 300 visits that day, far more than I had ever had in a single day before, and I so rushed to the site to work out how I could repeat the trick. This site is also not without its pitfalls but I have been able to draw more attention to my blog than I had without it so I recommend that you give it a go if you have a book or a blog to promote. It might help!

Now, I know that all of this doesn’t exactly amount to a coherent strategy but as I am making it up as I go along that is not surprising. I also don’t know if I will get the success that I wish to achieve with my novel through the use of Twitter and other social media but I know that I would not have a chance without it. Without the backing of an agent and a publishing company, independent authors will get nowhere without some means by which they can promote their work. And I feel that I am making ground and gaining traction, even if the process is slow. Really, bloody slow. Still, it’s better than nothing and without it I doubt anyone other than my friends and family would have read it. It’s an uphill struggle but for now there’s nothing I can do but keep on climbing!

 

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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