Drakaina Muse @ Hal Con 2

Drakaina Muse & Me - Hal-Con 2011
Drakaina Muse & Me: photo not by me for once, one of her friends was kind enough to take it.

Drakaina Muse graced the Hal-Con convention again this year, and I was fortunate enough to have her as my neighbor.

For those unfamiliar with conventions, having a good neighbor is key. You have to be able to get along with them, they have to be nice, and they have to not try and steal your clientele. Drak was, as she was last year, awesome.

Drakaina is a model / muse (she prefers the latter, I think, and it’s well deserved judging by the amount of artists she inspires). Images inspired by her have appeared in various comics the world over, as well as a plethora of online contributions too numerous to mention.

In addition to being striking, she’s also one of the nicest people I’ve ever met at a con. She’s also richly intelligent, which is why I was very happy to learn that  her team is working on a comic-book adaptation of her character.

Always kind and always wonderful, Drakaina Muse helped make this convention a great one again this year and hopefully we’ll be neighbors again soon.


Hal Con 2, Day 2

Nelson the Robot - HalCon 2011
Nelson the Robot

After a slightly slow first day, the second day of Hal Con 2011 really blew me away. We again almost sold out of every title this year, and both the Writer’s Toolkit workshop yesterday with Ellen Curtis and my “Writer’s Block” panel today went over really well with full attendance for both.

There was simply tons to do and see, and Halifax really came through with making us feel welcomed. There really is a sense of community here that just isn’t found everywhere — and there’s something for everyone. I mean, last night the Stargazer Soiree was actually very classy. I mean, probably the classiest thing I’ve ever been to (but that doesn’t necessarily say much).

A big part of all that is the organizers and the volunteers. Jen Lambe, Amanda Schreiber… these people are the real stars of this convention, not the actors or authors. and I think everyone kind of knows that.

Inner Child, 2011 edition, Matthew LeDrew, Engen BooksWe had our book launch for Inner Child and our re-launch for the newly international Compendium. There honestly weren’t as many people in attendance at that, but that’s nobody’s fault but our own for going up again Hal Con’s costume contest… I mean, nobody goes up against the costume contest and wins. 😉

There’s so much to say I’ll never say it all. Nicolas Brendan was awesome, as was Kelly Armstrong. Travis Milo (our wonderful volunteer driver) was a hoot and a half while taking us from one end of Halifax to the other. Everything was great. If I had a million years I wouldn’t be able to tell you how great it was.

Anyway, we came damn close to beating our sales mark of last year… missed it by a little, but that’s fine. It’s not about the money. It’s about being a part of something this wonderful. The Con organizers have managed to capture lightning in a bottle a second time, and that’s a rare feat.

I’m exceptionally interested to see what they have in store for Hal-Con 2013.

Hal-Con 2011 Dealer's Room
The Dealer’s Room in the early AM… a very rare moment of peace.
Heidi Paulin - What the Wild Things Read
Heidi makes a sign for the WTWTR launch.

Kill Shakespeare @ Hal Con 2

Conor McCreery
Conor McCreery entertains a fan

Kill Shakespeare was back in full force this year with Conor McCreery returning for Hal Con 2011, as well as his co-author Anthony Del Col and artist Andy Belanger. With style, silliness and blood-stained vests they made the show.

Actually they’re all really great people, and it was great seeing Conor again. We picked up the complete two volumes of Kill Shakespeare, receiving the second volume a full three days before it’s technically available. Makes me feel all special. I’ll be sure to post something once I’ve got them read, but having read a few single issues up until now I can say with some certainty that I’ll like the exploits of our heroes as they “Bash the Bard.”

Conor also dropped the bomb that they’re working on a screenplay treatment. Not sure if I’m supposed to know that… but then again, he’s met me before. He knows that I have a huge mouth, so I’m sure it’s not supposed to be a secret.

Anyway, this series is awesome and intelligent and one of the few comics on the racks that won’t rot your brain. Definitely worth a pickup.

Kill Shakespeare, Conor McCreeryMy only regret this year is that Conor didn’t come by the Inner Child launch and play tag like he did at last year’s Infinity launch. You hear me, McCreery? I know you’re just chicken. Next year, I’m proposing an Engen Books / Kill Shakespeare rap battle. Winner takes all, loser goes home. Are you man enough? lol. 😉

Ink’d Well Comics @ Hal-Con2

Returning for Hal-Con 2011 this year were friends and cohorts Ink’d Well Comics. I say cohorts because both Ellen and I got a little piece of the comic action this year, with each of us contributing prose stories for their new charity book What the Wild Things Read. Jay says he actually plans on making this a yearly production, which is just awesome. All the proceeds go to “Free the Children,” which (Heidi has informed me) is not a charity that removes children from their homes, but one that frees third-world country children from oppression and cruelty. Definitely a worthy cause. Everyone should go pick it up and feel good about themselves.

Actually there’s a small bone of contention I have with WTWTR, but it has nothing to do with the book itself. It’s because I always wanted to write and draw my own comic story, and I had it all worked out, and just couldn’t get the art done in time. Boo on me. I met Ink’d Well artists Ariel Marsh and Nick Orme while I was there this time, and now have tremendous amounts of respect for what they do and how quickly they do it. Well, I always had respect. Now I have more.

I’ve picked up Jay’s newest book Infantasy, and will be letting everyone know what I think once I get a chance to breathe again after the flight.

Jay Paulin, Ariel Marsh, and Heidi Paulin
Okay Jay, we’re going to need you to smile. That’s good Ariel… a little less, Heidi.
Jay Paulin, Ariel Marsh, and Heidi Paulin
Still good Ariel… of come on Jay, you’re not even trying!
Jay Paulin, Ariel Marsh, and Heidi Paulin
Oh my God that’s hideous! Put it back Jay! Put it back!
Jay Paulin, Ariel Marsh, and Heidi Paulin
That’s better. Whew. Okay, good shoot everyone.

Darren Hann @ Hal Con2

More Sci-Fi from the RockOne of the many authors featured at Hal Con 2011 was Engen Books’s own Darren Hann, author of the short story Holy Troll for More Sci-Fi from the Rock as well as his own self-published novel Time Diamond, printed through his multi-media production company Hann-Made Productions.

Darren was also selling copies of Bunker-6, a pilot for an un-produced television series that was actually written by Ellen and I.

He was actually really great at this con, providing lots of energy and enthusiasm. I think he went over really well. Can’t wait to see him at next year’s event.

Darren Hann - Hal-Con 2011
Darren Hann, writing one of his many itinerary notes.
Darren Hann - Hal-Con 2011
“Watch it Scoobes! He’s spotted us!”

History of Black Womb 3

Black Womb, 2007, Matthew LeDrew
Black Womb, 2007, Matthew LeDrew

When we last left our hero (sarcasm) he was just beginning to pen the first Black Womb novel.

I’d like to keep in mind that I was never intending, at this point, to write a series… Or even a novel, for that matter. No, I was just writing, and I can’t stress enough how important it is to just do that… For enjoyment.

That said, these posts aren’t a writing process series… That’s what the “My Writing Process” posts are for. This is the how and why of Black Womb, and I’m going to try and articulate where the inspiration for each element of the story came from.

Let’s get this out of the way: everything comes from somewhere. There is no magical Muse that puts random thoughts in your head, it all comes from somewhere. In On Writing, Stephen King talked about how his first book, Carrie, was inspired by two thoughts (telepathic phenomenon and the memory of a poor girl from high school) coming together. That’s fine. Two ideas merging to create something new is what life and procreation is all about, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Just make sure it’s not blatantly plagiarism. Taking one small element from another source is one thing, taking everything from that source is quite another.

Okay, so now that we’ve admitted that everything comes from somewhere, let’s talk about where everything came from. It sometimes seems as thought all my readers have their theories, but they’re typically just… Wrong. So here’s the truth to set it straight.

The Xander Years
The Xander Years

Names: This is a big bone of contention for some, who have noticed coincidental patterns in the names. Xander is a big one, because there are so few fictional characters named it that it’s easy to see the strings as it were. So, for the record, yes it was inspired by the Buffy character. However, in my defense, while I eventually became an avid fan of Joss Whedon I wasn’t at the time. I had named the character in my previous stories and liked it because someone had told me it meant “hero of the people” and I thought that fit well, so I wanted to use it again but also didn’t want to be repetitive, so I was trying to find some other permeation of it. Someone had given me a novel called “The Xander Years” assuming I was a Buffy fan. It was just a novelization of a few episodes, but when I started reading it I quickly discovered that Xander was short for Alexander and adopted it. That simple.

Harris is Mike’s last name and Xander’s last name from Buffy, but that’s innocent as well. There was a politician here in Newfoundland and the time named Mike Harris. I already had Mike’s first name and when trying to come up with the second name that one just popped in. It wasn’t until years later that someone pointed it out and I realized where I’d gotten it from that I recognized what I’d done, and laughed tremendously.

Similar story with Sara’s name. I was wondering what went good with Alex and kept going “Alex and… Alex and…” and the name Sara kept popping in, so I used it. Didn’t realize until after that my cousins were named Alex and Sarah (both girls) and that’s typically how we referred to them… That’s why it sounded so right together. Sarah has since said she doesn’t mind.

My fellow author Steve Lake believes no matter how many times I tell him otherwise that Sara is named for Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy fame as well. Sorry, not the case, although I imagine he won’t believe me even now.

The Womb: There are also a few Womb elements that are borrowed, though not from Venom like people always say. Part of it is the Black Man dreams as I explained in the last post in this series, but other elements come from somewhere very different.

This is a touchy subject with me, but I’m trying to be as honest as I can.

Around the time I was sitting down to write the first Black Womb novel, my grandfather had developed a nasty bout of pancreatic cancer. He has since died, though not of the cancer… He beat that. I miss him very much. Becoming was dedicated to him.

I really can’t believe my parents let me watch this.

Though I’ve never been good at externalizing my emotions in healthy ways, what I write is typically a good indication of what I was feeling at the time. At this point I was very worried that my Grandfather would die of cancer. I remembered an old episode of the X-Files (my father and I often watched it together) in which there was a black creature that was apparently made of cancer. It was cancer embodied and made sentient. This appealed to me greatly. I think some part of my teenage mind wanted to make cancer something tangible… A physical villain I could punch like the heroes in comics. So the Black Womb suit became a skin of black organ. The Black Womb, in original conception, was cancer. He’s not anymore, but that’s how it started.

When my Grandfather went in for an operation to try and remove as much as the tumor as possible, and when they did they discovered that the cancer had eaten part of his rib. If anyone notices, there’s a scene during Black Womb where that exact thing happens.

During a chemo treatment something amazing occurred. My Grandfather’s appendix ruptured and shot poison throughout his body, or at least that’s how it was explained to me. I’m not sure on the actual science, maybe Heidi Paulin from over at Ink’d Well Comics can make a post to educate me. In any event, we almost lost him right then and there… But when they flushed the appendix poison or whatever out, they discovered that the poison had killed the cancer. It was gone, at least for the time being.

If anyone wonders why the Womb’s power lies in his appendix and that it gives him miraculous healing abilities, you can trace it back to here. That one miracle gave us ten more years with my Grandfather, and helped inspire to course of my life.

This is how Black Womb was formed. The rest, the plot, is all me. Everything else is just story that came together around these elements of my life. I’ll try to delve into the other books as well, but I doubt any of them will have as much impact on me as the History of Black Womb.

Continued? Maybe. Let’s see.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew