Tag Archives: Earth

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 wife and I are going vegetarian by stealth…

Since beginning a weekly Riverford vegetable box scheme my wife and I seem to be gradually going vegetarian which came as something of a surprise. We have been heading that way for a while but it is not something that I actually expected to happen having eaten meat all my life. I have previously written about the wonder of Riverford here: http://tinyurl.com/j58aep6 and if you have any interest in lovely, organic vegetables grown without the use of pesticides and eating seasonal produce that reconnects you with the changing year then I can’t recommend them enough. The interesting thing for me is that we haven’t made a choice to stop eating meat, our diet has changed without us really thinking about it, and now that it has it feels like it is for the better and I am glad that we have. We even bought a Riverford meat box to enjoy their organic, free-range produce but even that has lost some of its appeal and has sat in our freezer for many months.

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During this period our diet has become more varied, we are eating more beans, pulses and grains along with our veggies, we cook a significantly wider range of meals (including tofu, something I had previously dismissed) and we have rapidly reached the point where the thought of eating meat is much less appealing than it used to be. Another driver of this change is my wife’s fondness for the Minimalist Baker blog (http://minimalistbaker.com/) and the subsequent purchase of the author’s cookbook and many times when we need a recipe, an internet search leads us to her blog and the meal that we end up cooking. So far, they have been universally excellent and I recommend it as a source of useful recipes.

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We still do eat meat and I think this will continue for a while but the idea that it is required for a satisfying meal has also become odd. We cook the occasional roast chicken or a slow roasted joint and duck gumbo remains our favourite dish but then we began to lose our taste for bacon and, yes, I am aware that many say that they could never give up bacon, that is the one thing that keeps them carnivorous. We use a little for cooking quiches or to top pizzas, but I can now see a day when we won’t even eat that. Brunch now consists of eggs, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, and toast with sausages also having been dropped from our diet.

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Going vegetarian is not only good for you but it is also, in my experience, cheaper and it leads to a more varied diet. It is good for the environment and if you try to buy only organic meat and dairy, like we do, then it is good for the health of the animals involved. You are also contributing less to the varied crises that we face from the intensive farming of animals including the huge production of CO2 that this industry requires, the overuse of antibiotics in industrial farming and the destruction of natural habitats for the grain required to feed them. All in all it is a very good thing and getting away from the idea that it needs to be a choice you make to do all of these things is also good.

 

Currently, my wife and I are not fully vegetarian, and we don’t we ever actually intend to be, but eating meat is already something that we indulge in much less and it may be that we never make that choice but that it happens anyway. Eating meat may be something that we only do when we are in a restaurant or at a party where there is little choice. Actually, eating out has become more difficult due to the paucity of choices for vegetarians with often only one option on the menu. Oh, and it has also been suggested to me that I go vegan but I can never see that happening for my love of cheese is far too strong. I know that you can get vegan alternatives but the loss of all of the cheeses I love would simply be too much, I think. We shall see.

 

‘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.

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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!

Reaching ‘peak stuff’ and how it has changed my view and what I want…

So, the feeling has been building for a while but I think my wife and I have finally reached ‘peak stuff’, that is the notion that we now have enough material possessions in our lives and that we no longer wish to keep gathering more. This makes us very bad citizens in the current age when you are encouraged to buy more and to consume more and to not think about the environmental cost of all this and instead to think about the benefits to the economy. It also causes issues at Christmas with all the gift giving and receiving.

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But the reality is that we really do have enough stuff. We live in a small apartment and, unless something dramatic changes (which it actually might be, if some newspaper reports are right), we won’t be buying a house anytime soon. Therefore we can only buy and keep the stuff that we can fit into said apartment. We have moved several times in the past decade (another increasing trend among my generation and the next), including to and from Canada and this required us to shed the vast majority of our stuff (and to buy new, which was quite fun), the rest was stored to await our return. But even those things, those possessions that we decided were worth keeping, are now looking like unnecessary junk in our lives and we are considering losing more and more of what remains.

 

In addition to this, I have sold off the majority of collectibles that I owned from many years spent building a substantial Transformers and Star Wars Black figures collection. Losing that feeling of needing to own stuff means that these figures would inevitably be heading out the door, and selling them actually paid for our car. I have also stopped buying graphic novels, which has been a passion of mine for a long time (though I still buy beautiful hardcovers of series I love, my last remaining weakness). I had gradually been moving to digital for my book and graphic novel needs anyway so replacing them with electronic versions when they have been available for a good price is a good move. Most of my physical books are borrowed from the library, breaking the link between owning and reading, and subscriptions to online streaming services have ended the need to buy physical copies of movies. All that we have left are mostly mementos of our lives and our travels and I am realising more and more that we need little else.

 

So then the question changes from what do I need to buy and own to what else do I want? I want an electric car (something else that seems right on the cusp of becoming mainstream) for I do not want to keep contributing to our humongous carbon dioxide output. I want less plastic to pass through my hands simply because I have a need to eat (why does a cucumber now come wrapped in this?). I want to eat well (our Riverford Farms weekly veg box helps with that http://tinyurl.com/j58aep6). I want the world to stop consuming fossil fuels when alternatives are finally reaching the mainstream (higher plastic use is clearly a by-product of oil consumption when we have significant quantities of oil derivatives to use) and I want renewable energy to become the norm, as I was told as a kid that it would be. My wife and I recently switched our energy supplier to Green Star (website: https://www.mygreenstarenergy.com/) who source their energy from renewables and that felt like a step in the right direction and a very good thing indeed. I also want everything that I discard to be recycled, though the rates of doing so are still dismal.

 

Finally, I want a political system in my country that works, one that meets the needs of the people and not of the elites and the Corporations who fund them. I want a truly representative Parliament, one that listens to us when they express ourselves and our concerns and then acts to help. I want enough houses to be built in the UK so that those who choose to buy are able to do so. I want a properly regulated financial system that doesn’t always seem like it’s about to bring about financial apocalypse (http://tinyurl.com/zgjg8ll). I want a powerful and well funded environmental agency that will police the actions of those who seek to destroy it, which we currently do not have (http://tinyurl.com/hszoort). And I want a forward looking political system that actually addresses the changes that are coming in the near future, like driver-less cars and ever more insecure working conditions.

 

It sounds like I want a lot, huh, but I really don’t think that I do, and I also think that many of you out there would agree with this point of view. Let me know if you do, eh. Cheers!

 

 

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. 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! 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 wife and I recently started a ‘Riverford Farms’ veg box scheme. Here’s why I think you should too…

Since moving back to the UK a few years ago I am increasingly becoming environmentally conscious and have been trying to reduce the size of the carbon footprint of my wife and I. We have switched over to a renewable energy supplier (who are cheaper than the others and called Greenstar, check them out here: https://www.mygreenstarenergy.com/), we have been eating less meat, though that also has to do with the awful practices used to raise livestock in the UK including feeding antibiotics to perfectly healthy animals and raising livestock in appalling conditions, and we are still looking for ways to do more. One of the best decisions that we made during this time was to start a vegetable box scheme from Riverford farms (website here: http://www.riverford.co.uk/). Now, I know that other veg box schemes are also available but from what I have heard they are the venture capitalist versions of this one, which is the real thing.

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So every week we receive a delicious box of vegetables delivered to our door that has never failed to impress us; the contents within look as beautiful as they should and the produce is of the highest quality. You will not find monstrously overgrown carrots in these boxes, rapidly cultivated to an oversized volume at an increased rate at the expense of flavour. You also won’t find seasonally unsuitable vegetables. Everything arrives when it should in the year and you start to feel a little more connected to the seasons. Yet another advantage is that we have tried a significant number of new vegetables including Romanesco (something like a cross between broccoli and cauliflowers and delicious roasted or fried, see picture below), different kinds of squashes, new cabbages and many more. Consequently, we have been pushed to try not only new vegetables but different meals in our desire to use everything that we receive each week.

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Along with your veg, you also receive a newsletter from Guy, the founder of Riverford, and it is obvious from first reading that he cares passionately about what he does. He wants to bring his customers the finest, freshest products that are produced in a genuinely organic way (by using natural means of controlling pests and not by simply switching to ‘organic’ pesticides, that is chemicals of an organic nature). He explains how, for instance, they use various kings of bugs to control other, invasive bugs that will damage their produce. And he talks about the use of chemicals like Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ and how potentially damaging it is to us, let alone to the environment upon which it is sprayed. Riverford’s animals, which we have not yet tried but intend to do so, are raised without the use of unnecessary antibiotics and the eggs from their chickens (which I suspect are genuinely free range) are the best my wife and I have ever tasted with bright yellow yolks. They’re delicious!

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Another advantage to this is that it has taken a significant chunk of our weekly spend on groceries out of the hands of corporations. I read and reviewed George Monbiot’s ‘Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain’ recently (link here: https://onlyanatheist.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/181/) and was appalled to learn of the bullying tactics major retailers use to get their way with not only suppliers and local producers but also in regards to the locations where their stores are sited and of how much damage they do to the local business environment when they set up shop and so I am very happy about this result. I am also glad to support a business like Riverford which has a real interest in sustainable practices and in environmentalism. These corporations do not care about the carbon cost of getting their wares to their shelves as long as they don’t have to pay for it. Riverford do care and do all that they can to reduce these costs including growing as much of their wares in the UK as they can.

So, if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint and you’d like to improve your diet by eating more vegetables that are mostly grown in the UK and France, if you’d like to try a new range of produce that will diversify your diet as well as leave you feeling a little more connected to the seasons and the changing vegetables that come with it, then I cannot recommend Riverford highly enough! Their customer service is also excellent and each time there has been a problem (always small) they have done their best to fix it and things have always worked out in our favour. They now have very long term customers in my wife and me and I hope that I also might’ve persuaded you to give them a go too. When I joined they had an offer where you received a free cookbook after a couple of boxes, and then your fourth box free, so it’s worth trying them for a month and seeing how it works for you. I hope you do!

 

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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