Hey all, Ellen here! It’s been a looooong time since I’ve blogged or been super present in online Engen activities. That is about to change though! Put on the kettle, and let’s settle down with a cuppa and catch up!
I was blessed to begin my publishing career at a very young age; Infinitywas published when I was 16. Getting a formal education to prepare me for a career in writing was still important to me despite this success, and so I pursued a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature from Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Pursuing my education has been, at times, very frustrating. There have been many moments over the past four years where I have felt that my education has been a detriment to my attempts at pursuing my writing career. The sheer amount of time consumed by my studies left me with very few hours in the day to write fiction, and when I was able to write I often felt that I was ignoring other priorities in my life.
School was my first priority, and to support that I needed a day job, which had to be my second priority. Sheer exhaustion prevented me from focusing on much else, including my health. There are only so many times you can spend sleepless nights researching and studying, say “screw the gym” when you’re too tired to go the next day, and pick up a bag of chips and a chocolate bar on the way home as ‘fuel’ before heading to work and repeating the cycle before all of it catches up with you. I’m goal oriented to a fault; in my pursuit of my education I let the rest of my life fall to the wayside.
Roulette, the fourth novel in the ten book Black Womb series by Matthew LeDrew gets its international release this fall with a new cover and a larger format, trending away from the “pocket paperback” size of the original eight releases from Engen Books.
The Pitch: As the teen suicide rate in Coral Beach starts to climb astronomically fast, Xander travels to Los Angeles to fight his most terrifying adversary yet… and learns that the only thing worse than looking for release… is finding it.
The novel, which occurs simultaneously with The Tourniquet Reprisal, is receiving a new edit from Infinityco-author Ellen Curtis, which is appropriate as the novel marks to first published appearance of Infinity mainstay Leigh Blackheart.
“We’ve been pushing to get the series complete and into the format we want it — in its entirety,” said LeDrew, who started the series (and the Engen Universe) in October 2007. “As we move more and more into a digital realm, it’s important to have all of the series available on that format so that readers and fans can find it all how and when they want it.”
I was asked once at a convention by a fan of the Black Womb series if I had accepted any money from the Coca-Cola company to feature their product in my novels. This was in response to that reader noticing — quite astutely — that one of that series’s protagonists, Cathy Kennessy, is exclusively seen drinking Coca-Cola. Cherry Coke, to be exact.
The short answer to the question of “Do I accept money from Coca-Cola to feature their product?” Is an easy-to-give no, but rather than leave it at that, I think the question deserves a little unpacking, because there was a time (years ago) when this really wouldn’t have been a question. But now media saturation of product placement has gotten to the point that any time we see a product in our art of in our fiction, we have to ask ourselves: is this Product Placement, Native Advertising, or K-Mart Realism?
Let’s start by looking at each of these, respectfully.
Product Placement is something we’ve all become familiar with, as it is in our face all the time. Sometimes, it’s more egregious than others. I remember seeing a movie (and I honestly can’t recall what it was, sorry) recently where a couple was getting into a car to escape someone, inciting a high-speed chase. I’m assuming this was an action movie, but it may have been a horror film. In any event, the characters get in and we cut away from them as the door closes to a shot a the car’s tail lights and them speeding away. Well that’s fine, that’s a pretty standard way of telling a story. But, at the last second, the camera tilted jarringly downward to get the silver-lettered brand name of the vehicle into center frame before the car sped off. As someone who studied cinematography (albeit briefly) this is a blatant product placement. The camera shifted in such a way that no professional cameraman would do it accidentally: he’s be fired. It was intentional product placement, and worse, it’s to the detriment of the shot and the story that shot should be telling.
I think for me that’s the line between acceptable product placement for me personally: does it take me out of the story? And that line is going to be different for different people. For example, the Transformers movies have reportedly been some of the most lucrative product placement deals in history, as the main characters of the films themselves are in fact GM vehicles. But that never takes me out of the movies, even the glamor shots of the cars when they first show up: it doesn’t say to me: look how cool GM is, it says: look how cool Bumblebee is. Some will have a different experience, of course. I find the product placement in the later seasons of Dexter to be some of the most damning, as they will frame the brand name on his stool while the action is almost happening off-panel.
But this has been quite a long digression. The point of product placement is that (or should be) that products will be needed to move the story along and make it so the character’s world seems like our world. This is K-Mart realism, which we’ll get to in a second. What changes this to product placement is that, instead of making up your own product (like Friends did with its “Big Brown Bags”) or just going with whatever feels right, the creators basically open up the bidding: whichever car company places the highest bid, that is the company that gets their car driven by the characters.
Animaritime, a Fredericton-based Anime and Game convention welcomed Larry Gent, author of the award-winner sci-fi private investigator series Never Been To Mars to be a part of its amazing a kinetic atmosphere at the Fredericton Convention Center!
Animaritime 2015 encompasses a large number of events and demonstrations including a masquerade, karaoke, video games, board games, vendor room, artists’ alley; as well as AMV contests, art contests, and fanfiction contests. If that isn’t enough to get you excited about Animaritime 2015, they also have special guests of honor from the anime and gaming industries excited about joining us this year in addition to the constantly entertaining Larry Gent.
As a family-friendly event, Animaritime draws people of all ages. The average age of people attending Animaritime is 14-27 years old, but they see covention-goers from the ages of 2 to 102.
In honor of the event, Engen Books has made Never Been to Mars available for free on Kindle until June 30, 2015. Any fans meeting Gent for the first time at the con but who, for whatever reason, were unable to purchase his book (the most common reason for this being that they tend to sell out fairly quickly) can get it online for FREE! People picking up the book, either in print or its digital format, are encouraged to rate and share their feelings about it on GoodReads!
As of the publication of this article, Animaritime still has 2 days left! If you’re in the Fredericton area, stop in and say hello!
Smoke and Mirrors, the third novel in Matthew LeDrew’s Black Womb series is finally getting its international release, and with it comes one of the last of the updated covers, pictured left.
Originally published in 2009, Smoke and Mirrors tells the story of the trial of Adam Genblade, which brings closure to the men and women of Coral Beach… until people start showing up dead in the same manor they did when he was at large. Now his victims are forced to keep him alive in order to get their answers… or accept that it may not have been him to begin with.
The re-release of Engen titles produced under Calgary-based printer Blitzprint after the move to Lightning Source began in 2011, with the re-release of Ellen Curtis’s first collection of short fiction, Compendium. As of that time only Transformations in Pain, Smoke and Mirrors, Roulette, and Ghosts of the Past lacked mass-market paperback editions. Since then Transformation in Pain and Ghosts of the Past have been added, the latter at this year’s Sci-Fi on the Rock 9, leaving only the middle two remaining.
“The Kindle-editions really made getting the international editions a priority,” said Black Womb author Matthew LeDrew. “We’re about to expand into being able to reach a whole new audience, and we didn’t want there to be a big hole in the middle of the series narrative that was unavailable to them. That would have been marketing suicide.”
LeDrew went on to state that the international editions of Smoke and Mirrors and Roulette should have been released much sooner, but that the updates on them kept being pushed back in favor of producing new material.
The new cover to Roulette will be revealed soon, and international editions of both titles (and all active Engen titles) will be available internationally and on Kindle before the end of 2015.
Okay, this is weird. We do weird things here at Engen Books: sometimes if our fans do cool things, we’ll post it up here. Highlights have included “Block Womb,” and “Balloon Womb.” And every so often someone will post a review of our books on GoodReads, and we love GoodReads. GoodReads gives us just instant access to what we’re doing right and what people think about our books: as well as the books of our rivals, which is also nice ;).
But this week, a reader named Kelly who picked up the Black Womb series at Sci-Fi on the Rock 9 reviewed each of the books in kind, which we’ve (possibly strangely) decided to repost here as “The Black Womb Series: the Kelly edit.”
“Very interesting. All joking aside, it was a really enjoyable book to get into and I honestly couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Matthew has a way of drawing you in and keeping you engaged to the point where you don’t realize how long you’ve been reading until the book is finished.”
“Had to deal with a lot of strong emotions while reading this book. Matthew really knows how to create not only villains that you hate with a passion but also main characters that you feel so much for their plight that you can’t help but envision them as real people. Was thinking about this book and all the things that occurred in it for quite some time after I finished reading it.
Enjoyed it from beginning to end, well besides the burning hatred I felt for the bad guys.”
“The trial of Genblade. This book was a roller coaster of a story with plenty of twists and turns that keep you wondering how things are going to change and surprise you next. With fresh murders to keep you guessing who’s the cause of it all and the high emotions of the trial, it’s the kind of book that keeps you on the edge and makes you wonder if you actually know what’s going on, or if you’re falling prey to the tricks of a psychopath.”
“Things take quite the interesting turn here. Despite terrible things happening, for once a lot of it seems to be in the background and hint at things to come later rather then throwing the main characters for a loop time and time again. You get a better feeling for the people who have been struggling all this time and a new appreciation for the strength that some of them possess. It has a feel as though it’s the calm before the storm. ”
“Like how Matthew says in the From the Author section, this book goes to such an incredibly dark place. This is the storm that was hinted at coming in the last book and it doesn’t disappoint. It is not a long book, but the timeline that is given keeps you turning pages and devouring the story to try and figure out how things end up the way they do before you get to the ending that is briefly viewed at the beginning of the book. Parts of it make you want to weep for the loss of innocence, but then there is at least one major part that keeps you crying out for blood as the climax reaches an amazing high. I feel it leaves you with a need to find out how things go from here and I have to admit I was left with tons of questions that require reading on in the series to find the answers for.”
“In a way this book encompasses a lot of things I was expecting, but then introduces more elements that I had no idea were on their way. Xander goes on to enjoy what he has and then ruins it for himself, that was expected, but then what I wasn’t expecting was for other things to work out so smoothly. I don’t want to go into detail as it is the kind of thing that is more fun to read for oneself rather then hear it from someone else.
Really interested in seeing what happens with the new element that was added and honestly curious as to how it fits into the overall story. Also, the very end of the book hinted that I may be right in a few assumptions I had, but still didn’t give enough to confirm anything. Can’t help but continue with the series now that I’m well and truly hooked. Over halfway through and still unable to put the books down.”
“Finally some answers to questions that have been bugging me for a couple books now. Though for how pleased I am to have been proven right in some of the assumptions I had, how this book plays out made me incredibly sad. It was painful to see what happens to some people who honestly do not deserve it, but then in a way this ending was coming for a while now and it cuts into Xander far more then someone just reading his story.
I feel for the characters here so much that I actually found myself tearing up as I finished the last page. This book has a lot of powerful emotions tied into it, so be careful how much of your heart you put into all the present characters as you read on in the Black Womb series.”
“Even though I’ve been spacing my reading out so as to read one novel a week, after the last book in this series I couldn’t help but keep going right away. Matthew signed this book for me and wrote “And here Black Womb gets even weirder” and when I first read that I did not realize how true a statement it was. The universe of Black Womb has given hints that there is a lot more to it then just the events happening to the main characters and this book dives into that. It begs the question of how do you deal with danger when it is not the usual story of people having chosen to kill and commit crimes without caring how they hurt people, but rather something outside of humanity?
Then there’s Xander. Someone who wants to be a hero but keeps losing that which he cares about the most the more he tries to do the right thing. Watching Xander struggle with loss in the form of addressing someone who is no longer around is an interesting take on his character and in a few cases made me smile through the sadness I felt after the last book.”
“This book was a trip. Trying to figure out exactly what is happening and who is behind it all before anything could be revealed by the end of the book was difficult and I found myself surprised by the truth regardless. Although this book did make me start to consider that perhaps Mike could easily make a main character in his own way. Mind you he seems like he would fit better into a detective novel rather then a horror one.
In any case I’m not going to say too much about this one as I feel I would risk ruining it for anyone who wants to work on figuring things out for themselves as they read it.”
“At last everything draws to a close. This novel contains more then any other book in this series and ends in a way that may seem disappointing to some, but I couldn’t help but love how appropriate it is. Flowing from one event to the next, it keeps you tense as you try to find the hints of what is about to happen before it can surprise you. I found myself on the edge of my seat and unable to put the book down as I devoured the story.
In a way I don’t feel as though anything I could say about Chains would do it justice. So I will leave it at this: If you’ve enjoyed the story thus far then this book will bring you a lot of enjoyment as you draw closer to the end of Black Womb.”
One of the most enigmatic and divisive characters in the current Engen- Universe roster is Leigh Draco, otherwise known as Blackheart. One very important reason for this is her status as one of the only characters to legitimately be a mainstay of both of the longest-running Engen- Universe series: Black Womb and Infinity.
Publication schedule-wise, Blackheart first appeared in 2009’s Roulette: but this doesn’t mark her first chronological appearance. As seen in the 2012 short story Revving Engen by Matthew LeDrew, the titles Black Womb and Infinity occur at roughly the same time, meaning that while the murders that would mark Coral Beach were taking place, the young thief known as Leigh Blackheart was meeting Theo Flaherty on the streets of Los Angeles.