Man vs Bookshelf

Man vs Bookshelf: Caxton

This entry is part 100 of 104 in the series Man vs Bookshelf

It happened today.

This morning, in fact. Early.

At around eight am, I picked up my latest book, Zom-B Clans, and got to it.

Two hours later, short book that it is, I was done. I had finished the book, but more than that…

I had finished my Man vs Bookshelf challenge.

I know, I know, I’m welling up too. It’s an emotional day.

A Sunday, if you’re wondering. Not for you, I know, you’re reading this on a Saturday, about two weeks from when I’m writing, but for me, yeah, it’s a Sunday.

Sunday the 19th May 2019, 585 days after I started a challenge that was intended to take me 2,352 days.

I’ve so much to say about it, but that’s jumping the gun.

I’m going to do a final stats blogs as I did after 100 days and after a year, and I’m going to do an outro. I can talk a bit more about my feelings then.

Before then, though, I’ve three more blogs to write, covering 19 books.

Starting with this one.


David Wellington and Me

Oh, I used to do the old “Author and Me” section every blog, didn’t I?

I know, I’m getting nostalgic, whatever.

Thing is, first few blogs I did, the “Author and Me” section made sense. It became a bit of a habit, and I started forcing it in even when I had nothing to say about the author, or when I’d already reviewed a book by that author.

Eventually, I dropped it, except on specific occasions. When I had something to say about an author that hadn’t been said before.

This is one of those situations.

See, David Wellington (and maybe I have mentioned this before) is a bit of a hero of mine.

It’s not because he’s one of my favourite authors (we’ll get on to what I think of his works in a bit) but because he is my perfect example of an author who made it big via the self-publishing route, before going traditional.

As an author myself, and one who is self-publishing and trying to make a success of it, I am always entranced by those who have done it, and the different methods they followed to get there.

Most seem to go the route I am, publishing their works as eBooks and paperbacks and trying to get as many downloads as possible (i.e. E. L. James of Fifty Shades fame).

Wellington, on the other hand, decided to publish his works free on the web in a serialised format, releasing several chapters a week.

It’s a publishing method that has always appealed to me, but one I have never been able to get right. You have to have the right kind of story, of course. Wellington writes action-packed horror stories that tick along at quite a pace. While the other famous example I can think of (Andy Weir with The Martian) is a funny, diary-based story.

Even if I never write a book that is right for serialised publication, it is always heartening to see authors who have made success self-publishing, even if it also makes me sick with jealousy – to my stomach.

The important thing is it shows it can be done.

Especially when the quality of the success stories is not always that good…


The Caxton Series

I picked up the first Laura Caxton book (13 Bullets) while on holiday in Florida.

At the time, I must have been a teenager (I think), and I remember loving it. It was a quick, easy tale. It was a fresh take on the Vampire myth. The characters were intriguing, and it was able to hold me from beginning to end.

Not long after reading it I picked up books two and three-99 Coffings and Vampire Zero-and, some years later, I picked up the fourth, 23 Hours.

The second two books I finished with the same speed I finished the first. 23 Hours I didn’t finish at all, until this challenge.

But did they stand up to the test of time? Did I still love them some ten years after first picking them up?

Not so much.

The story hadn’t changed, of course, and the twist on vampirism was still refreshing.

These were not handsome men and women with nothing to show they are different from us beyond sharp teeth and an aversion to sunlight.

These were bald, muscular creatures. Monsters who would tear you apart at the throat rather than give you a little bite on the neck. They need blood, and if they go without, they begin to wither and dry up, though they cannot die. They don’t just sleep during the day; they turn into mush with floating body bits in their coffins. They’re also pretty much bulletproof once they’ve fed.

So, a fresh set-up for a story. But the story itself…

Well, it goes along at a fair old pace, and there is plenty of action. The problem is, this time around, I didn’t find it that interesting. A lot of the time I realised I was skimming pages, not paying attention. Wellington’s plot let me go.

The characters are interesting enough. Driven by grumpy old Vampire Hunter James Arkley and his newest apprentice, Laura Caxton (for whom the series is named). The problem is I found a lot of the dialogue clunky, and unrealistic.

False dialogue can be hard to spot when you’re writing, and it’s something that gives me a lot of stress because it is so immediately evident to the reader when it’s not right, even if they can’t tell why, and it feels as though Wellington never quite hits the mark.

Interestingly, I thought the same with Andy Weir and The Martian. His internal narration (the ship log/diary thing) was brilliant. But when we moved away from that, and there was dialogue between the other characters, it never felt quite right.

So maybe it’s to do with serialised authors. Maybe they can’t handle the dialogue.

Though Stephen King and Charles Dickens did alright.

Overall these are decent stories. They are fun enough, and they never slow down or get too dull.

The problem is, they’re just not as good as I thought they were when I was sixteen, and while I loved them then, I wouldn’t reread them now.

Sorry, David.


Next Time

Next up, it’s something that really needs no review…

Harry Potter.

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International worst selling author Mark Ayre has been writing since before he could pick up a pen (somehow). Recently he is taking the internet by storm with his Man vs Bookshelf Challenge where he aims to read the 210 books on his bookshelf in 210 weeks, reviewing them on his blog and Goodreads along the way. He is also publishing books on Amazon, his most recent being the family suspense novel, Poor Choices, which you can find here.

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