Compendium goes international

Compendium (Ellen Curtis)Engen Books continues it’s winning streak with it’s international titles by re-releasing it’s most international collection, Compendium.

First released in 2009 at the first West Coast Con, Ellen Curtis’ breakout title Compendium broke Engen sales records for both Chapters and in-person sales in it’s first week, records that remained in place until the release of Ellen’s debut novel, Infinity.

Compendium features three stories by Curtis: The Tourniquet Revival, At Midnight the Dawn and Falling into Fire, and features Engen’s most international cast, with characters from Europe, America, and beyond.

The usage of descriptions [in Compendium] really pulled me into the settings. I think atmospheric would be an appropriate adjective. All well written stories trigger the senses, but sometimes it takes a few pages or even chapters before the brain is able to create a world based around the information provided… In Compendium I found after a few paragraphs I had been whisked away to [other] worlds. – Jay Paulin

Reedited and redesigned, Compendium is ready for it’s upcoming re-release. It will be available on Amazon in early November, but entertains it’s official launch at Hal Con 2, November 13 and 14, 2011.

Character Development 2: Extraneous People

This one will be short, I think. I’m not sure if it should go under Common Mistakes or not, but I’m putting it here.

I’ll get right to the point: look at the characters you’ve created. All of them. Pay particular attention to the secondary and tertiary characters. If you have two characters that provide the same function, one of them has to go.

It’s that simple. Let’s say your main character has two best friends who stick by him no matter what. They have the same skills, roughly the same attitude, and neither betrays him. That should be one character.

The MatrixJust look at all the nameless yahoos who died in the first Matrix movie. That all should have been one character. I’m sure you can think of a lot of movies where multiple characters seem flat all at once (a lot of fantasy movies / books are guilty of this. If a hero leaves with a team of 12, only 6 get developed… So why weren’t the extra 6 exited out in the second draft?)

Another topic in this same vein is: if you have a secondary character that steals the show, get rid of them.

This is onl y true of single-lead stories. But if your lead character is constantly getting upstaged by a secondary one, that’s bad for your narrative. You need to make a choice: either get that character out, or make the story about them. I suggest taking them out and saving them for another project, but that’s just me. I like recycling. 😉

Anyway, so that’s some things to think about character. Hope it helps those who need help, and if that’s not you… Why are you reading blogs? Go write something. I can’t wait to read it.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

International Covers the Engen Way

Ignorance is Bliss, 2010 edition, Matthew LeDrew, Engen BooksEver since last October with the release of Ignorance is Bliss and Infinity, Engen Books has been an international small press publisher. That term seems oxymoronic. Oh well.

Since then we’ve released four titles: the two listed above as well as Becoming and More Sci-Fi from the Rock. Two more are coming out at this year’s Hal Con: one new one (Inner Child) and one re-release (Compendium).

The move to the international stage meant a lot of changes for us. It put pressure on us to refine our editing process now that the whole world was watching. It made us more willing to expand our stable of authors so that we could produce more material on a regular basis.

It also meant we had to change our covers.

Our new printers / distributors do not print covers at the size our books were at before (pocket paperback). The smallest size they will go to is 5×8. We experimented with just keeping the cover design the same and enlarging it, but I’d been feeling insecure about the covers to the Black Womb series for some time, and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to rectify the situation. So, we hired an amazing young artist named Zach Aboulazm to paint the Infinity cover, and I set about designing the new standard for the Black Womb series. This is a very long introduction to a very short concept, but basically I’d like to share the way I design my covers, because I think it’s cool. Maybe you will, too.

Julie Peterson, stage one
Julie Peterson, stage one

So this is the first stage. This is just a sketch. We’re going to be looking at the cover of Ignorance is Bliss, which features Julie Peterson. I suppose from a marketing standpoint I should be doing Inner Child, but I like Julie. She’s one of my favorite fictional people. I like this sketch of her, she looks great. Very rarely do I feel I’m able to capture with a pencil what I create with words, but this is an example where I was pleased. Anyway, this is the original scan.

Julie Peterson, stage two
Julie Peterson, stage two

Next we clean up. Yah clean up! Let’s do the ten second tidy! Lol. I use two main programs for image exiting: Nero Photo Viewer (in edit mode) and Adobe Fireworks. For this stage I open the original scan initially in Fireworks and get rid of any grit or pencil lines along the edges, then I save and open in Nero and use the brightness/contrast to darken the lines and improve the quality of the image. It also brings out shadows that were there in the original sketch, but for some reason are lost in the scan.

(Edit: I should point out that in reality, there would be more than two images at this point. I re-save as a new file for every change I make, so that if I mess up I can easily go back.)

Okay, here’s the weird part. At least, I think it’s weird. It might be a normal method for image design, I don’t know, but I was never taught it. As far as I’m concerned I made it up myself.

Julie Peterson, stage three
Julie Peterson, stage three

First you need to decide what colors are going to be in the final image (in this case flesh tone, red, white, blue and brown). You open the second image in Nero and, using the duo-tone tool, create a version of the image for each color where the only colors are black and it. That’s a confusing sentence. There’s an example to the left. I’m only uploading the flesh tone version because to upload them all would simply be overkill.

Julie Peterson, stage four
Julie Peterson, stage four

So now you open up Fireworks and you create a new file with each of these colored images as a different layer. Then starting with the top layer you peel away any unnecessary image. For example, on the red layer I deleted everything except her lips. When done, you should have a flat image with all the colors where they should be, like this.

What’s the point of doing this? Well now I can remove each layer at will, creating artsy versions of the cover easily. I especially like a version where it’s just her hair and mouth, it looks great.

Julie Peterson, stage five
Julie Peterson, stage five

But from a more practical standpoint, I can now edit each color without affecting the other. I can shade each until I’m happy with it without harming the other factors. So here’s where I shade it and try to make the image come alive.

Julie Peterson, stage six
Julie Peterson, stage six

After this, it’s all practical. I love the image as is, but we’ve made a stylistic choice to keep some black and white element in from the old covers. I feel it harkens back to the old days of horror, those good old Twilight Zone episodes. So, we open the newly-shaded image file in Nero and convert to gray-scale.

Julie Peterson, stage seven
Julie Peterson, stage seven

Now we just open it up in Fireworks again and, using the blur tool, get rid of those obvious lines around her head. I feel this also gives it a painted look.

Julie Peterson on the final, finished cover of
Julie Peterson on the final, finished cover of “Ignorance is Bliss,” 2010, Engen Books

From here it’s simple. Once we’d decided on the new cover format (different color each time with a vertical window instead of the old horizontal ones), we just created a standard template for that and add it into it. The result is, in my opinion, a fairly cool cover to our first international title.

Let me know what you think, or if this method has a name.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

My Writing Process 6: Multiple Leads

Okay, so there’s only so much I can write “in order” as I’ve been doing. So far these Writing Process blogs have followed the basic process I go writing a manuscript. But once you get to the point that the first draft is done, what else is there? Well, lots. But we’ll get into that some other time.

What I’d like to do is go over the different methods I use to write. I’m going to go through them one at a time to avoid major confusion. Unlike what I’ve been doing up to this point (which I consider the most effective way to do things) these are the frills of writing… The extra stuff you can do if you feel like it to improve the way you write.

The first of these writing methods I call “Multiple Leads.” I imagine I didn’t invent it, and other people may call it something else. Feel free to add the real name in the comments below, if you’re smarter than me. All I know is, it’s a method of storytelling that I’ve found suits me well.

What it is, or what my definition of it is, is to literally have multiple leads in a story. To basically have three stories going on at one time, at all times. So this is a trick not for the faint of heart, or perhaps not for beginners. But I suspect that’s not the case. I think anyone would be able to do this, if they’d only give it a shot.

So let’s do an example. I do crime fiction, but you could do it for any genre I think. But for my benefit, we’ll use crime fiction as our example. Let’s say we have three characters: a rookie cop who has just been promoted to homicide, a district attorney in the middle of a messy divorce, and a normal Joe who stumbles upon a grisly murder and is unsure of if they should come forward or not, and his girlfriend thinks he doesn’t. So already we’ve got lots going on. Any of these plots could make up a whole novel… But we’re going to use them all at once.

What we’re going to do here is switch back and forth between the three. So Rookie-Lawyer-Bystander. Then repeat. Just start a scene, write it about the Rookie. Write the scene to it’s natural conclusion, doesn’t matter how short or long it is. Then write the lawyer, same deal. Then the bystander. Then repeat. Then keep repeating.

I know that seems trite, but honestly it works very well on multiple levels. If you’re the type who gets bored easily then switching between storylines will help you remain engaged in the story. If you’re the type who gets writer’s block easily, then switching to a new storyarc will give you a chance to get the problematic one straight in your head.

And I know what you’re thinking: how can three separate stories told from three different points of view make a novel?

Well the answer is that these stories are going to converge. Eventually the bystander is going to go to the cops with his story, and only the rookie will believe him. Or maybe he doesn’t come forward, and the genius rookie finds him. Either way, once their stories meet… Keep the pattern, except now both characters are in those scenes. So now it’s:

Rookie/bystander-lawyer-bystander/rookie: repeat.

This will give the reader the illusion that the story is picking up pace.

So eventually these two might branch off into separate scenes again, but usually once two characters / plots mesh up like this they tend to want to stick together. And I mean that. The plots will almost demand that you keep the characters in scenes together. Eventually, as any Law & Order fan knows, they’ll have to get the lawyer involved. Now we’re into the climax and it’s all one big scene, and you just go crazy. Combining the three plots into a dovetail in this way is exciting to read, and gives the impression we planned it all along… Even though we may not have. Sometimes we did and sometimes we didn’t, but having say the Lawyer there all along rather than just dropping her in in the third act makes you seem the better writer.

I know it seems formulaic, but I find it works. Not only that, but remember it’s a first draft you’re penning. When you go through it for a second draft you’re going to feel that there should be another bystander scene added that won’t fit the pattern. And you’ll find one of the Rookie scenes useless and delete it. So by the time the novel gets into the reader’s hands, the pattern won’t be noticeable. Trust me.

And remember, this can work with anything. Romance, Scifi, doesn’t matter.

So that’s Multiple Leads. I hope that if you try it it works well for you, as it has on occasion for me.

Let me know how it goes!
Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

Compendium Goes International

This post first appeared on http://engenbooks.wordpress.com/ on October 3, 2011. 

Engen Books continues it’s winning streak with it’s international titles by re-releasing it’s most international collection,Compendium.

First released in 2009 at the first West Coast Con, Ellen Curtis’ breakout titleCompendium broke Engen sales records for both Chapters and in-person sales in it’s first week, records that remained in place until the release of Ellen’s debut novel, Infinity.

Compendium features three stories by Curtis: The Tourniquet Revival, At Midnight the Dawn and Falling into Fire, and features Engen’s most international cast, with characters from Europe, America, and beyond.

The usage of descriptions [in Compendium] really pulled me into the settings. I think atmospheric would be an appropriate adjective. All well written stories trigger the senses, but sometimes it takes a few pages or even chapters before the brain is able to create a world based around the information provided… In Compendium I found after a few paragraphs I had been whisked away to [other] worlds.” – Jay Paulin

Reedited and redesigned, Compendium is ready for it’s upcoming re-release. It will be available on Amazon in early November, but entertains it’s official launch at Hal Con 2, November 13 and 14, 2011.

2012 Anthology series information leaks

2012 Anthology series information leaks
(09/04/2011, official Engen Books Webpage)
Engen Books plans the next leg of it’s in-Universe publishing schedule to be released this April, with the publication of an as-yet unnamed anthology collection with stories taking place within the Engen Universe of stories containing the Black Womb series,Infintiy, and Compendium.

The anthology will feature many stories taking place throughout the Engen Universe, both with established characters and new ones.

Engen author Matthew LeDrew commented on his blog on September 2nd that he will be writing at least three stories for the collection, and that writing the shorts has opened up some new doors for him.

” 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,” said LeDrew. “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.”

In addition to LeDrew, fellow Engen author Ellen Curtis is said to be contributing a tale of her own, as well as Ink’d Well Comics creator Jay Paulin. Other authors are pending, with both newcomers and established authors being rumored to be attached to the project.

“Until the ink is dry, I’m not saying anything,” said LeDrew. “But I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The next Engen-Universe release is Inner Child, the eighth book in the Black Womb series, to be released this November at the second-annual Hal-Con.

 

SOURCE: http://www.engenbooks.com/09042011.htm