All posts by matthewledrew

Return of the Hal-Con!

Nelson the Robot
Nelson the Robot

It’s been a year already, somehow, and Hal-Con is back to take the science-fiction world by storm October 26th – 28th at the Halifax World Trade Convention Center!

Engen Books authors will be there for their third year in a row, bringing new novels and merchandise for fans and newcomers to enjoy!

Authors on site include Matthew LeDrew (Black Womb, Gang War) and Ellen Curtis (Compendium, The Tourniquet Reprisal). Also in attendance: Jay Paulin (Gristle while you Work), who will be doubling his efforts as both Engen authors and Ink’d Well Comics creator!

Engen will be hosting and participating in several writing panels throughout the convention, so be sure and make it down to as many as you can if you’re interested in Engen or in writing in general! Panels include:

Writing Good Fiction Workshop
6:15pm – 7:00pm Friday, October 26, 2012
Workshop Room 4

Stargazer Soiree
7:00pm – 9:00pm, Friday, October 26, 2012
Summit Suite

Writing Wrecks
11:30am – 12:15pm, Saturday, October 27, 2012
Workshop Room 2

Young Author Panel
1:15pm – 2:00pm, Saturday, October 27, 2012
Workshop Room 1

The Most Dysfunctional Writing Panel EVER
2:00pm – 2:45pm, Sunday, October 28, 2012
Workshop Room 4

The Tourniquet Reprisal
The Tourniquet Reprisal

Engen also debuts, for the first time ever, The Tourniquet Reprisal: the sequel to 2010’s smash-hit Infinity. Infinity was released at the first Hal-Con and developed a strong fan-base there, who have been eagerly awaiting the sequel for two years.

Also being released in the new, international edition of Black Womb, revised and expanded throughout, the first of the original five Black womb books to be reinvented as such.

New-to-Halifax includes light|dark, an anthology featuring the work of two Halifax natives; Gang War, the ninth book in the much-beloved Black womb series; and The Man with the Hole in his Head, the first book from the newest Engen-author Kevin Woolridge.

Be sure to keep up with us on Twitter, Facebook, and our WordPress to keep track of our up-to-the-minute photos, reports and changes!

See you all there and hope you have a lot of fun!

Preparing: Hal Con 2012

Hal Con 2012
Hal Con 2012

Alright, things are probably going to be a little slow around here for the next little while while I / we gear up for Hal Con 2012!

Big stuff going on this year: three panels to look forward to (anyone interested in writing should attend), also launching The Tourniquet Reprisal, the long-awaited sequel to 2010’s infinity!

Also new-to-Halifax will be the ninth Black Womb book, Gang War, and light|dark, a collection that should excite everyone as it features stories from two Halifax natives!

Also: new edition of Black Womb is finally here. Yah! About time right? It’s only been two years. It’s been revised and expanded throughout, so even previous fans might want to check it out.

Have a great day!

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

The Man with the Hole in his Head official launch!

The Man with the Hole in His HeadThis Saturday (August 21st, 2012) at 5:30pm at the Grand Bank Regional Theater, join Engen’s newest author Kevin Woolridge is celebrating the release of his first novel The Man with the Hole in his Head.

Be one of the first to pick up this adventurous and witty supernatural thriller and meet the creator of The Little World himself, Kevin Woolridge.

The event will be held at 16 Water Street, Grand Bank, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Link to the Facebook event here.

Kevin Woolridge joins the fold

20120708-100732.jpg Okay, the contracts are signed an everything is good, so we can finally say that this August brings the newest Engen book: The Man with the Hole in his Head by “Little World” creator Kevin Woolridge.

The novel takes place outside regular Engen continuity, and has me really excited. It’s honesty the best thing I’ve read this year.

It’ll also be the first Engen book to have a simultaneous digital edition along with the print edition. Yah the Future!

Check it out:


Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

History of Smoke and Mirrors

So you may have noticed a pause in the “History of” blog posts. That, largely, is due to Smoke and Mirrors. Because it is really, really hard to talk about this book without ruining it and the two that came before it.

I’ve confused people before by saying this was the second book I wrote. But it is. Transformations in Pain was shoved in the middle long after the fact. So, this is the truest sequel to Black Womb.

I think it goes way back to a dvd or VHS special again or something. At some point, somebody told me that what people wanted in a sequel was the first movie, again. I disagree with this on principle. I think people want a continuation of the same story, and that’s what Smoke and Mirrors is.

I was also aware of the popular conception the sequels were not as good as their originals, and was trying hard to not let that happen with my series (as young as the series was at this point).

So, armed with these two philosophies, I wrote SAM (as we call it around the office now). It was written to be a direct continuation of the original story and not suck.

Despite what people will tell you, it failed on both counts (keep reading, I’ll explain).

When reviewing Smoke and Mirrors, Jay Paulin said:

…easily be the best book – thus far – in the series. As it stands, it may be the most entertaining.

He’s wrong.

I say this because nobody has read the original Smoke and Mirrors. It came out a year after Transformations in Pain because I was so unhappy with it I literally rewrote the entire thing. Not one word is the same. All the events are the same (mostly) but the way they’re presented is like night and day.

The new Smoke and Mirrors, as it saw print, is considered one of the better books in the series. While other books are my favorite, I can certainly see where people are coming from. In moves at a good clip and has a great little plot. I recommend it. 😉

Conceptually speaking, there are two “new” characters in this book: Megan Greene and Natasha Mayer. Both are lawyers, and both are based (very loosely) on women I went to high school with (they’re women now anyway, and I’ve been told the term “girls” can be derogatory). I think they both had aspirations of becoming lawyers. I know one of them became a nurse. Anyway, their plots are unique, but both read early editions if Black Womb and provided helpful comments along the way. 😉 And, just like the characters in Black Womb, they quickly grew to be nothing like their real-life counterparts and “characters” in their own right.

I really can’t talk about the plot. Go read it, people. Lol.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

Character Development: A Great Main Character

So I was browsing through my old blog posts and trying to find some inspiration for this weeks (easy to do by clicking the archive button above!) and I stumbled across the list of the four intended Virtual Writing Seminar outlines I gave to you guys almost a whole year ago. The one for Character Development read like this:

Character Development: what makes some characters pop and others just fizzle?

That sounds like a simple enough mission statement, right? And yet I’m realizing I didn’t quite deliver on that. The existing VWS’s on Character Development have been great, but they don’t quite reflect my original (flawed?) intention of the series. So that got me thinking: what does make some characters pop while others are just stale? I don’t pretend to be an expert, but I have spent the better part of my life examining and dissecting what makes one particular character great: Xander Drew, star of the Black Womb series. So let’s take a look at that and see if we can see what makes him “pop,” and along the way maybe we can see what makes main characters pop in general. VERSATILITY One thing that I think works great to Xander’s benefit is that he has the ability to work well in many different situations and in many different genres. So many characters in fiction aren’t versatile enough to be put in different situations. They’re humorous characters that don’t work in serious situations or serious characters that don’t work in humorous situations, or any number of other bad combinations. Not only does this limit the character, it’s not very realistic. Nobody in real life is just one things. Almost everyone is capable of behaving in different ways. People are capable of even behaving out of character, even though that’s traditionally chalked up to bad writing in literature. Xander isn’t like that. While he can be both funny and serious (often at the same time, taking a cue from my own personality), he’s also versatile in many other ways as well. It wasn’t planned this way, but he can function and even thrive in almost any genre or situation (in my humble opinion). He can work in sci-fi stories, action stories, crime dramas, fantasy / horror stories, and even straight up dramas and romances. The only type of story I can’t imagine him in are westerns, and that’s only because Ellen has used her power as partner to veto time travel stories within the Engen Universe. We’ll see what the future holds. 😉 This not only means that he can be believable in no matter what scenario the reader finds him in, but also it helps you. I don’t understand how one writer can write the same story (or a close facsimile) over and over again. Whenever I get bored with the type of stories in the Black Womb series I can simply change what the series is. Life is free and flexible. So should your main character. If they are, your series can be too. The Everyman You’d think this would stand at odds to the last point, but it doesn’t. People like a character who is an Everyman. People like a character with humanity. They have to be relatable to the reader(s) and have relatable problems. As dramatic as it can be to have your character save the entire universe from exploding, it’s not something that John and Jane Q taxpayer can really relate to. Not saying that that means you shouldn’t write your universal-explosion story. It does mean that it probably shouldn’t be in your first chapter though. That’s why Xander starts out fairly normal, and why most of the books start out with some shred of normalcy.

Relatability is key to creating a great main character. I think the opposite of this would be a Mary Sue (a term I only learned recently). Because even lucky people in life (Brad Pitt, Ricky Gervais) still have days when they think nothing is going their way. We all do. They even may feel like nothing goes their way, because sometimes that’s the way a person is. I imagine these people get told off by their friends if they exist. I know I do. Anyway, off point. If your character is too perfect and too often amazing than its hard for people to relate to him, and they need to be able to relate to him to be properly engaged in your story.


Okay, for those that don’t know, when you feel “bad” for a character, that’s pathos. This isn’t necessary, as there have been many anti-heroic or just plain mean characters that don’t generate pathos in me and I still loved the book. That said, there are also plenty of anti-heroic and mean characters that have generated pathos in me. Want an example everyone’s heard of? Gregory House. He’s an ass, but we feel bad for him.

Pathos is a great thing, an is one of the only “real” emotions you can get from a reader consistently (I find). It doesn’t mean the character has to be upset or weepy all the time, it just means that people are going to feel for them and their situation.

In Black Womb, a great deal of the pathos comes from Xander’s relationship to Sara. He’s Young and he’s got the ultimate case of unrequited love. Everyone has been there at some point in their lives, and may even be there at the time of reading the book. This also goes back to Relatability. See how it all links up?


I can’t take credit for this. Actually, I can’t take credit for any of this, as these concepts all go back to Robinson Curusoe and the first novels. But this one, as many have noticed, was learned through a childhood fed mostly on the work of Stan Lee.

He seemed to like giving his protagonists failings. Major ones. Among them: guilt complexes, uncontrollable rage, romantic difficulties and physical impairment. Or all of the above. Life was not easy for his characters. And that is great for pathos and reliability. These things really are one giant thing, which is why they’re all in one post.

I’m ruining myself by saying this; but Xander has yet to have a “pure” victory. Did you notice? He’s either sacrificed his personal life for his professional one, his professional for his personal, or he’s just plain demolished both. While I don’t plan on this happening forever (he is young after all, he’s learning), it is easy to get behind the underdog. I think Stan Lee knew that, and it’s one (of many) lessons I’ve learned from growing up on his writing.

So, those are my theories on what makes a good main character. Hope you found it helpful. I also hope anyone out there who hasn’t given Xander Drew a chance yet will so… He deserves it, in my opinion. 😉

But then, I’m biased. 😉

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew