Category Archives: Engen Books

42 Webs Review

Infinity, Matthew LeDrew & Ellen Curtis, 2010 edition, Engen BooksSometimes I read stuff and it makes me blush. The following is a review of Infinity lifted from 42webs.wordpress.com.

“Quick survey: who wishes that they had a superpower? That’s right – everybody does. We all want to have some supernatural ability. Whether it be the ability to fly, teleport, or even the all powerful brick-vision, we all wish we had some ability that put us above the average person.

But what would the world be like if we actually had them?

This is an issue that was examined in the latest book from Engen Publishing. The book, called Infinity, is penned by the Engen all-star team of Matthew LeDrew and Ellen Curtis. Infinity tells the tale of a small band of seemingly regular people who discover they are in fact nowhere near.

The book begins down a very traditional path, making sure to hit all of the required items on the ‘Urban Meta’ (42 Webs exclusive) genre checklist.

Enigmatic mentor: check

Mysterious School: Of course

Growing conspiracy: You betcha

The difference is in the writing skill of the two authors. Is lesser hands the story could have become bland and uninteresting but with the skill wordmanship (I swear that’s a word) we have a stellar story that doesn’t feel old or rehashed. The building mystery of Victor, Port Haven and the growing conspiracy is touched on in the book just enough to wet your beak and leave you wanting more much like how Lost or Morning Glory would tantalize us.

A crucial scene in the story, and one of my favourite, is a poker scene. Without giving much away our characters are participating in a crucial poker game with the life of an innocent in the balance. The trouble with many card games in books is that they tend to be very dry and drag on, the inevitable importance and tension of the game lost to the details. Infinity manages to keep the tension strong while not letting the game go by the wayside. It felt reminiscent of Ian Flemming’s writing in Casino Royale.

One of the benefits, and strengths of this story, is how the written work was separated. The two authors each had their own character that came together as the story progressed. The benefit was that the characters felt entirely different. Some times when a writer creates multiple characters they have a tendency to blend together, to be similar and to sound identical to each other (Joss Whedon). With the two authors sharing the writing responsibilities we see a stronger variation in the characters.

Another notable plus with Infinity is the smoothness of how the two writing styles fuse with each other. Often with joint projects one person writing style dominates the other but that isn’t found here. LeDrew and Curtis writing styles compliment each other’s perfectly, their individual characters becoming the strength that counteracts the others weaknesses.

All in all a powerful book that tackles more issues then just powers and conspiracies, it also tackles issues like spiritual infinity and the responsibility of those with power. This is a must for fans of X-Men and similar titles.”

The Taskmaster

Ellen Curtis
Ellen Curtis

People often ask me what it is like to write with another person, especially since that person is my partner. The truth of the matter is, it is at once the most stressful and most rewarding experience that I have had as an author. Matthew is one of my favorite people, and we are alike in many ways, so when we work well together, we work very well. When we clash, however, the fights can be extreme.

I refer to Matt as ‘The Taskmaster’ because he often is on my case about writing. We both lead busy lives, juggling the business, post secondary, our day jobs and day-to-day life. Sometimes, it is too much to come home after such a full day and sit down for three hours at my desk and write a few thousand words. Matt, on the other hand escapes to his computer after a long day. As such, we often do not produce the same amount of work in the run of a month, which admittedly must be quite frustrating for him when we’re operating under the system of writing particular sections of a novel, and I’m a fair few chapters behind where he is.

This stress aside, there is the added stress of agreeing on what exactly we will be writing ahead of time. All of our joint endeavors are meticulously planned chapter by chapter, so the planning portion of the novel can often be more labor intensive than actually writing it. Many times we will viciously fight over which character should play which part, what their motivations are for their actions, and ultimately if we should pursue a storyline based on conflicts with existing or planned material. In the end, it rests on how devoted each of us is to our ideas, and through these challenges we have learned how to better compromise as a couple. Our conflicts in writing remind us to not take criticisms personally, and to not make criticisms personal.

There are many upsides to writing with Matthew, if anything I have said leads one to believe otherwise. We feed off each others ideas, and through this interaction we are both challenged to deliver more and be more creative. Each work is more complex, more intriguing, because we each add our own layers to the story.

My Writing Process – The Best Laid Plans

Okay, this will be the first of my Virtual Writing Seminars. I may not do them in order, but I’ll tag and number them all and number them for easy access. For those who didn’t read the description in my last related post, this is My Writing Process. I get asked at conventions a lot to delve into how I do things, I assume because people are having trouble getting started or getting hung up in the middle and want to know how someone who has completed 9+ novels keeps himself on track.

There is, I think, a fundamental flaw in this line of thought. To paraphrase Stephen King (I reserve the right to do that a lot):

If you want to write, write.

When he said this he was speaking of those people at parties and other social events that you meet and they always say “I’d love to be a writer”. Then do it. It’s the only career in the world where there is no interview, no requirements, no education criteria, and no hours. It’s beautiful like that. Being a paid and published writer is another thing entirely. Being a successful writer is another thing again, but if your goal is simply to write then sit down with your pen and paper and just do it. And if you find that you sit there for days and can’t even get one sentence out… Well, maybe writing is for you what skiing is for me: an enviable thing I just cannot do.

But I doubt that’s the case. Most people are writers simply because most people are storytellers, so I guess the goal here is to get you to write steadily and write well.

No matter what I’m working on, I always start with a plan. When Ken Tam and I work together on our writing seminars, we usually liken this plan to a jackhammer: something big that should only be used at the beginning, and should be discarded if it later threatens the body of your work with it’s force.

Even then, there are different levels of planning. For the Black Womb series there is, on one level, an intricate level of planning. Because events in one book are deeply affected by another there had to be. For that series I bought a supply of steno books and planned each CHAPTER of the series. These plans can be as loose as a simple description or as tight as having actual dialog and shot-for-shot events in them. Six-to-ten chapters would typically make a novel, but Black Womb books are typically short, so twenty would likely be a better guideline. Still, nothing wrong with a short novel.

With Infinity the planning went different. As I was writing it with a co-author (Ellen Curtis), it wouldn’t have been fair to plot and plan everything. It also wouldn’t have been logistically possible, not knowing what was going on with her characters and pages. Instead I planned the characters themselves. This wasn’t a writing excersize so much as acting one. I got into the head of each of my characters and figured out their voice and back-story, then when it came time to put them in scenes together they acted naturally and it was like I was just transcribing the movie in my head.

With other projects, such as my upcoming shorts, I try not to plan too much at all. Instead they revolve around one idea, like: “Xander as Plato in the Symposium meets Rambo: First Blood”… Actually, that sounds fun. 😉

There’s another single novel I’m still in the plotting stages on where I’ve combined the first two elements and made it so that I know everything that will happen to each individual character, but where their stories cross is up to me when writing. That story may never be written, but we’ll see.

So as you can see, there’s no one way. Ellen uses post it’s with notes scattered across her writing room. Some people use thought mapping (something I personally despise, but you go crazy). Some people (again, Stephen King) claim they don’t plan at all… And with some novels I believe him. Whatever way you choose, make sure it’s fun for you and that it doesn’t discourage you from the writing process.

Let me know how you do, post YOUR planning methods if you have any, and happy writing.

Matthew LeDrew
Engen Books

Starting Off…

Ellen Curtis
Ellen Curtis

Engen Books is in a little bit of everything I do, or rather, storytelling is. I’m Ellen, and back in 2009 when I first handed a rough draft of my latest work to publisher and author Matthew LeDrew, I never thought my work would take off so fast.

Before I graduated from high school, I had three book launches under my belt. The last few years have seen the publication of my first short story, The Tourniquet Revival, in an assorted anthology that later spawned my solo collection Compendium. From there, Matthew and I co-wrote Infinity, and I moved into a larger role within Engen.

While doing this, I also acted as co-host for local web-series Sci-Fi on the Rock TV, a production aimed at providing information connected to the annual Newfoundland based science fiction convention Sci-Fi on the Rock. It was at Sci-Fi on the Rock that I first met Matthew at a panel about getting published.

Since that day, Matthew and I have teamed up on panels together and traveled across the country to different conventions. From a small start, Engen Books has grown to a multi-title, small-press machine, turning out work that I can say we are all truly proud of.

Essentially, through this blog I’ll be keeping people up to date on the latest goings on at Engen, and my latest day-to-day adventures. Until then, happy reading!

The Art of the Short Story

Okay, so I just finished the third of three short stories for an upcoming, unnamed Engen anthology, and it really got me thinking about the nature of the short story.

Sometimes when I’m writing a short it’s less about story and more about atmosphere, which isn’t the way I normally approach things. I’m usually of the mind that character, above all else, comes first; then plot, and then wherever the chips may fall. But as I write more and more short fiction I’m learning that these rules are often very different between the two.

Anyway, this was a short I’ve been itching to write for some time called Revving Engen. It’s kind of a prologue to the entire Engen Universe of stories, and takes place during what I’ve started to call ‘Black September’… In that both Infinity and Black Womb seem to have started around the same time in September.

Anyway, hopefully it’ll be good. Can’t wait to get some feedback on it. I believe it’s due out in April. We’re getting a host of great authors for this collection. Currently on the list include myself, Ellen Curtis, Jay Paulin and Sarah Thompson. There will be more, we’re just waiting on first drafts to announce.

Later days!

Engen invades Social Media

Engen Books now has pages on four of the major social media marketing sites to help spread the word about its great titles.

Pages have been added on Facebook (left), Twitter, MySpace and YouTube; each of which can provide a specific function for fans of the Engen Universe and are available from the Social Media toolbar located on the main page.

Author interviews and trailers have been available on the Engen Books YouTube for over a year now, and the Facebook page has been a part of our marketing plan from very early on.

The Twitter and MySpace accounts were added recently to round out the Social Media action plan.

“We’re excited about the plans for the social media marketing campaign.” said Matthew LeDrew, head of Engen Books and author of Black Womb and Infinity. “We want to make this an interactive experience for our fans. We’ll be logging on at least once a day to answer questions and reply to posts. In addition, we want to start an online version of the writing panels that go so well at conventions, giving short monthly assignments and feedback on work of young authors.”

Engen Books was started in October 2007 by Matthew LeDrew.

Polaris 24: Engen at Large

Infinity (Ellen Curtis, Matthew LeDrew)
Infinity (Ellen Curtis, Matthew LeDrew)

Engen authors Matthew LeDrew and Ellen Curtis were present at the 24th annual Polaris convention from July 16th-18th 2010.

The convention was a huge success, bringing together such acclaimed actors as Alaina Huffman (Stargate Universe), Mark Sheppard (Firefly), Lindsay Wagner (Bionic Woman) and Kai Own (Torchwood).

“I had a really great time,” commented Infinity co-author Ellen Curtis. “The convention was huge and had a lot to offer. I can’t wait to go back.”

There were also over twenty authors on site, including Nikki Stafford (Finding Lost), Julie E. Czerneda (Rift in the Sky) and, of course, Kenneth Tam (Defense Command).

“It’s always a delight to see Ken,” said LeDrew. “He’s got some new books in both the Defense Command and New World series’ that are calling from my bookcase even now. I also had a lot of fun doing a signing with Violette Malan, who has an amazing fantasy series I can’t wait to sink my teeth into.”

The Engen team did more than just sell books with this convention though, taking the opportunity to network and meet other creative-minded people.

One such group was the cast and crew of Mind’s Eye, a Synn Studios production starting this November and airing in weekly six-minute episodes online.

“They had one of the most amazing presentations I’ve ever seen,” said LeDrew. “I can’t wait to see what these guys have coming up in the future. It’s going to be huge.”

Vendor Profile: BuddyToad Comics

BuddyToad Comics
BuddyToad Comics

As Engen Books grows and expands, our staff has had some unique opportunities. Through business deals, conventions and book signings; we’ve met some of the greatest authors, businessmen and people that this province has to offer. Sometimes it’s just a one-off meeting. Other times, it’s a long standing relationship. This is the case with BuddyToad Comics.

BuddyToad is a comic and sports shop dealing heavily in anime and manga, but carry a great cross section of all mainstream and independent comic titles. They also carry sports clothing and jerseys from baby to adult sizes, and have a mail order subscription service.

Over the past few years, through it’s duel locations in both Gander and St. John’s, BuddyToad has become one of this province’s foremost dealers in comics, manga and sports supplies. Now they’ve taken on another service: an Engen Books supplier as well.

BuddyToad now carries titles such as Compendium, Black Womb and Roulette, both in-store, on the road and online at http://www.buddytoadcomics.ca.