All posts by matthewledrew

History of Black Womb 4: Transformations in Pain

Transformations in Pain
Transformations in Pain, 2008, Engen Books

Should I call it that? Or should it just be “History of Transformations in Pain?” Or just “History of Black Womb 4?” Really, I want to know. I want to get this right.

This one’s going to be shorter. It’s by no means a three-parter like the account of Black Womb was, because in many ways Transformations in Pain was a much simpler book.

Part of it came from the JMS run on Amazing Spider-Man. And by some, I mean next to nothing. I liked his title to issue #471: Transformations, Both Literal and Otherwise. At the time I was also big into listening to DVD commentaries and I recall on one for a movie sequel (I honestly can’t recall which one, might have been Back to the Future) the writer/director said he loved getting everyone back together for a sequel.

So, armed with a cool title and the concept of using all the main players from the first book again, I went about writing Transformations in Pain (the title is explained in the prolog and I won’t reproduce here).

It was initially only supposed to be a short story. I’ve often said the third book, Smoke and Mirrors, was the original sequel to Black Womb. This story was simply supposed to bridge the gap between them. But it ended up being novel length, so it became the second book.

I liked this book so much it inspired me to fill in all the “gaps” in the series. I used to put months long gaps between each book, but after this I went about filling them in.

Amazing Spider-Man #471

As for the “subject matter” of the book, it was simply something I hadn’t really written much on to date. Which is strange looking at my current body of work.

Curious side note: the first chapter of this book was originally the last chapter of Black Womb. How messed up is that?

So yeah. For better or worse, this book in largely all right from my head, being inspired only by a passing comment on sequels from another writer.

Hope everyone’s keeping warm.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

My Writing Process: Multiple Threads

Okay, here’s another one from the good people over at Hal Con. During my the November Con, in one of my writing panels, a young woman asked me what to do when you have too many ideas. We were discussing writer’s block at the time and what to do when you can’t come up with ideas for stories and characters. She had a different problem: she had too many different ideas for what to do.

I responded at the time with something like: “that’s a wonderful problem to have.” Which is true and got a few laughs, but I feel maybe I could have done a better job answering it. So that’s what I’m trying here today.

The problem as I understand it is that you have two (or more) different things you want to do with the character that contradict each other, each with their own unique plots stemming from it.

I understand the frustration. Imagine if you have Jane and Tom in a relationship and you have two story ideas: in one Jane dies and the story is about Tom’s emotional journey. In the other Jane lives and the story is about their relationship struggles while visiting relatives in Cape Cod.

Clearly you can’t do both. At least not unless you’re doing a very strange Scifi story. But assuming you aren’t, let’s go from there.

I call this problem “Multiple Threads,” after a comic-book concept of alternate realities. Basically the concept goes that with every choice you make you create an alternate reality: one in which you made the choice, and another in which you didn’t. The same is with you, dear writer. It’s Shrodinger’s cat. Until you make the choice, Jane is both alive and dead… And you’re stuck.

For my money there are two main causes to this.

The first is indecisiveness. It’s a tentative nature on the part of the author that prevents for the making of big choices. My advice is to make them. Because the alternative is a story where nothing happens, otherwise known as an anti-story. And they lose appeal fast. Just make the choice and never look back. If you’re worried about making readers mad, just remember: if you don’t finish, you won’t have readers.

The other cause is less severe. It’s a lack of characters. If you’re worried about, again, say killing off a character because you won’t be able to tell certain types of stories, perhaps you haven’t fleshed out your supporting cast enough. Just because Jane is dead doesn’t mean Tom can’t eventually find love.

If you’re out there, I hope that helps.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

Artist Profile: Ariel Marsh

Okay, so while I was at Hal Con 2011 I met this great artist name Ariel Marsh. She works with my friend Jay Paulin over at Ink’d Well Comics on titles like Infastany and What the Wild Things Read, and has this great kid-friendly, cartoony style that is just amazing in its simplicity and ability to convey story in a great manner. That’s what her art is great for: telling a story. It’s not the hyper-detailed what am I supposed to be looking at -style that dominates a lot of big comics publishers. It serves the story well, and that makes her a great comic book artist.

So as I said, I met her at Hal Con. I don’t get to see Jay and Heidi much, so afterwards the four of us went out for a frate (friend date). Had some great laughs, lots of fun.

Apparently Jay lent Ariel his copy of Black Womb, because a few days later I got this message:

Good Afternoon!

Jay and Heidi lent me their copy of Black Womb #1. I started to read the
book on the train ride home. I’m really enjoying the book!

As soon as I had finished reading the prologue, I had to draw something
from it. It was so intense! It’s a pretty messy sketch but I do want to
properly ink and colour it soon. Working on this has been a lot of fun.
The subject is so different from what I usually draw (bright colours and
cats everywhere haha!).

Hope you dig!

It was great to meet you and Ellen at Hal-Con. What a blast Sunday night was!



Isn’t that awesome? I think it’s awesome. I was on her website ( )and it says she does commissions. I think this proves she’s got more in her than just cute stuff, though there was nothing wrong with the cute stuff. This just proves she’s a versatile artist.

I can’t wait to see what other images the book might inspire.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew



My Writing Process: Alternate Worlds

So a few months ago when I was at Hal Con 2011, a very nice person in one of my writing panels asked me: “Once you’ve created an alternate world, how do you work those details into your story?”

I apologized and told her I really couldn’t answer. I prefer to write things that take place in a version of our reality where some strange things can happen… “urban horror” it’s been called. Regardless of the title, all my stuff takes place in present day Earth.

I felt bad that I really wasn’t qualified to answer the question, but I wasn’t about to make something up either, so I went to the horse’s mouth to get the answer.

Kenneth Tam is an accomplished Canadian author of over twenty science-fiction alternate history novels. His best-known works include The Equations Novels and the Defense Command series. He is the son of fellow Canadian author Jacqui Tam. He is a graduate student at Wilfrid Laurier University, in Waterloo, Ontario. Kenneth has been an author guest at the Polaris Science Fiction Convention for seven consecutive years,and a guest at the Sci-Fi on the Rock convention for its first three years and a major guest (and my partner in writing panels) at the first Hal Con.

He seemed like the guy to ask. 😉

So I did. He says:

Seems to me the most important aspect of layering the details of a different world into a story is just trial and error. Too many details too fast and you’ll drown the fish, so to speak. Too little and people won’t be able to follow.

So isolate the most important facts that are essential to your story and make sure they’re layered in early, along with some less-important facts to disguise the important ones (in case you’re afraid of telegraphing your plot).

As to how, avoid stilted expository dialogue. Don’t be afraid to tell your readers what they need to know as the narrator. Again, just a matter of trial and error to figure out how much is tolerable, and how much is too much.

That seems like a smart answer. I agree completely.

If that aspiring writer was listening, I hope that helped.

Look Beneath the Surface,
Matthew LeDrew

Jesus Needs Help @ Hal Con 2011

Jesus Needs Help
I just don’t know what to say about this.

I left this one out of my initial coverage of Hal Con 2011, but as the holiday season is upon us, I feel that maybe it was time to give it mention. Jesus Needs Help is a indie-press comic that was sold next to the Ink’d Well Comics booth at Hal Con 2 (2011).

The reason I left it out is because I know literally nothing about it. Nothing, save the title and this one promotional gimmick. I don’t know the premise. I don’t know the story. I don’t know who published, wrote, or drew it.

I know nothing about this comic.

But just the image and poster demand discussion, don’t they? I mean… Look at it. Jesus Needs Help, and there he is, looking nervously at scary shadows. I can’t even imagine what this is about. Are they devils? The Romans? Scientologists? I don’t know.

And the promo poster. “If this book actually converts you to Christianity, you get a full refund! (baptismal certificate required)” That’s just compelling. I love ads like this, mostly because it makes me want to do them. Ask Ellen, I’m actually insane enough to buy this book, get rebaptised, then return to next year’s con with the certificate and demand my money back. Just to see the look on their faces.

And with fans of Ink’d Well saying “I found salvation through Ink’d Well Comics” right next door, it was just a strange funnybook religious presence.

Is it wrong that this book offends me? I shouldn’t say offended. I’ve done much harsher. And I haven’t read it. I guess I’m just aware that some people I know would be offended and in empathizing / channeling them. And that makes me feel bad. I feel like those people who wrote hate mail to Kevin Smith over Dogma without ever having seen it.

So if anyone wonders why I didn’t buy this, it simply leaves me unsure of what to feel and that makes me uncomfortable.

Maybe I’m not as progressive as I think.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

My Writing Process: Description

Description is Key
Description is Key

It’s a new year and whole new crop of virtual writing panels, and I’m going to get back on track doing topics that, I feel, really matter. A big one for me regarding how I do what I do involved description.

Basically most of my core writing habits, good and bad, come from advice I got at a young age. With description, I can trace the origin back to my grade seven home room teacher. He was talking about then-mega popular novelist RL Stine and his Fear Street series of novels. He said that people liked it because it was very visual… That it appealed to all readers because it was so richly described that people could see it. I believe his exact words were: “People can see the head hitting the floor.”

So when it came time for me to put pen to paper, I described everything… And I still do. Later on during my late teens, a great mentor of mine named Elona Malterre mentioned something similar, but said that we should remember to describe with all five of our senses whenever possible.

I think this is how I got labelled a horror/thriller author. When you describe leaves you’re just a writer… When you describe an evisceration, you’re a horror writer. I describe everything. At least, everything I see. However the pictures in my head get to me, they aren’t perfect. But I’m trying to communicate them to you as clearly as I can, so I’m going to use all the tools at my disposal.

That’s kind of what the “A Thousand Words” panels are about. For instance, look at the picture accompanying this post. What do yo think it is? You presumably don’t really know, but how would you describe it? Orange? Octagonal? Would you spend much time on the raised pattern in the centre? If you had to describe this picture to someone who couldn’t see it, what words would you use? Because if you can do that, that’s what writing is. That is the essence of it: taking a picture in your brain and explaining it well enough that the same picture is in someone else’s. Then, just like early animation, you follow it up with another picture and another to make it move.

The picture is actually the Peteo-Can hall at Memorial University, taken during the Lorna Goodison reading I attended. They are the sound proofing pads above the auditorium. Neat though, huh? I’ve never seen ones so thought out and intricately designed.

For describing this it’s easy to JUST use sight, and that’s fine… But you could do more. Do they have a smell? Does the auditorium have a smell? If I could touch them, what would they feel like? Or taste like?

If you’re drafting your manuscript, think these things through. Describe the world around you characters. Make it real, bring me in to that world. If you’re done drafting, re-read the story and ask yourself: have I given enough information that people can see what’s in my head?

Let me know how you do with it. Whether you describe everything or save it for the special bits, I’m sure your story will be great.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

My Writing Process 11: TRUTH

Let’s talk for a minute about truth.

Truth is the single most important thing any fiction writer can learn. It’s the answer to every question and the defense to any criticism. It is why we do what we do.

Let me get new-agey for a moment. If you write, you’re not just creating that from nothing. Any writer knows this. There’s a muse or a divine spark in your head that feeds you those transmissions from the great beyond, and even though it’s fiction, it happened to somebody somewhere.

That’s laying it on a bit thick, but you get my point.

Anyone who has ever known a liar in their life knows that the truth just sounds different. There’s a ring and a hum to it that resonates within us all… Even if that truth lies within a secret plot by Martian’s to invade Ohio. Just Ohio, nothing else.

The key lies in the logic of your story and the reflexivity of your characters. The first is bendable, the second isn’t. But both have to remain consistent to successfully suspend your readers’s disbelief and engage them in your story.

FireflySuspension of disbelief is a very real thing, and if it isn’t obeyed than nobody is going to pick up what you’re putting down. I’ve seen gaffs that can’t be followed in premises as simple as a romantic comedy. I’ve also completely believed epics on other planets, such as Firefly.

Whether your world is completely made up or just a fictionalized version of our world, you have to establish the rules of your world and never break them.

People cannot return from the dead in the Engen Universe. We will never break this rule. To do so would undermine everything Ellen and I have created. On the other hand, people have noticed that everyone in Coral Beach tends to heal a little faster than normal people… This may be a plot point, but it also serves as narrative convenience. Just because Mike gets hurt in book 2 doesn’t mean I want to deal with him in crutches for 10 books.

Once the rules of your story are in place, it’s up to your characters to respond to the events therein appropriately. If Jimmy Five sees an alien spacecraft fry a pedestrian, don’t have him say “Gosh!” (And I’ve seen almost that exact thing happen, with that reaction). If your characters don’t react realistically, your readers will become “aware” of the story.

But if you obey your own rules (whatever they may be) and have the characters react in realistic, character-specific ways than the reader will follow you anywhere. AND you’ll find after a while that you are “seeing” the movie through the cosmic projector in your mind. And you’ll just be telling it like it is.

It’ll be the truth.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew