We’re giving away 5 copies of the Roulette ashcan edition this month! Enter via Goodreads by clicking the link above!
We were going to keep it secret, but Ellen Curtis spilled the beans to a local YouTuber at a recent show, so it seems like we should maybe get out ahead of this one. 😉
At Sci-Fi on the Rock 11, to help celebrate our 10th anniversary, Engen Books will be releasing the first of 3 Black Womb hardcover Ultimate Collection editions.
These massive hardcovers will collect entire Black Womb storyarcs, with the first edition collecting Black Womb, Transformations in Pain, and Smoke and Mirrors, forming the pivotal events of Xander Drew’s origins and introducing Engen, Adam Genblade, and Julie Peterson.
The collections will be available only direct through Engen Books and the author and limited to 100 signed and numbered copies, each with certificates of authenticity.
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On October 31, 2006 the first (and now extremely rare) ashcan edition of Black Womb hit the Newfoundland independent publishing scene with just 500 copies. The publishing company, Engen Books, saw its full release in 2007 with the release of Transformations in Pain at the second annual Sci-Fi on the Rock convention.
In the 10 years since, Engen Books has become a force to be reckoned with in the indie publishing market. It has produced over thirty titles in that time and brought over two dozen Atlantic Canadian authors to print. The original Black Womb series completed its 10 book run, as intended, as spun off into the Xander Drew series. The Infinity series was launched, as well as the broader Engen Universe with light|dark, and the From the Rock series, which highlights local upcoming and established talent side by side.
And we’re just getting started.
Longtime readers of Engen Books might remember when, in the early days of ashcan-like editions published in Pocket Paperback editions by Calgary-based printer Blitzprint, the back covers of the first five books in the Black Womb series looked like this one, on the left.
The covers were simple: plain black background with white text, title above. Sometimes issues with the printer made them faded and illegible — such are the woes of starting out in publishing. But while we’ve improved immensely, there are some things that have been lost along the way as we’ve gotten more polished: avant-garde ideas that traditional publishers wouldn’t try that made us stand out on the bookshelf. And that was, ironically enough, the back cover.
We had the interesting idea of not wasting the back cover with a hook or synopsis or out-of-context trailer to try and force the reader to buy: we wanted to bring them in with our storytelling ability and our sharp, witty dialog. So we did something very few other novels have done: we made the back cover a part of the story.
Instead of touting reviews or plots or spoilers, Engen back covers were short stories in and of themselves: short monologues written from the first-person (sometimes second-person) perspective of the characters within the story, as though they were being interviewed after-the-fact. Engen back covers didn’t waste space: we were given a venue to tell stories with, and we wanted to use every page and surface available to us to tell a story.
Roulette, the fourth novel in the ten book Black Womb series by Matthew LeDrew gets its international release this fall with a new cover and a larger format, trending away from the “pocket paperback” size of the original eight releases from Engen Books.
The Pitch: As the teen suicide rate in Coral Beach starts to climb astronomically fast, Xander travels to Los Angeles to fight his most terrifying adversary yet… and learns that the only thing worse than looking for release… is finding it.
The novel, which occurs simultaneously with The Tourniquet Reprisal, is receiving a new edit from Infinity co-author Ellen Curtis, which is appropriate as the novel marks to first published appearance of Infinity mainstay Leigh Blackheart.
“We’ve been pushing to get the series complete and into the format we want it — in its entirety,” said LeDrew, who started the series (and the Engen Universe) in October 2007. “As we move more and more into a digital realm, it’s important to have all of the series available on that format so that readers and fans can find it all how and when they want it.”
I was asked once at a convention by a fan of the Black Womb series if I had accepted any money from the Coca-Cola company to feature their product in my novels. This was in response to that reader noticing — quite astutely — that one of that series’s protagonists, Cathy Kennessy, is exclusively seen drinking Coca-Cola. Cherry Coke, to be exact.
The short answer to the question of “Do I accept money from Coca-Cola to feature their product?” Is an easy-to-give no, but rather than leave it at that, I think the question deserves a little unpacking, because there was a time (years ago) when this really wouldn’t have been a question. But now media saturation of product placement has gotten to the point that any time we see a product in our art of in our fiction, we have to ask ourselves: is this Product Placement, Native Advertising, or K-Mart Realism?
Let’s start by looking at each of these, respectfully.
Product Placement is something we’ve all become familiar with, as it is in our face all the time. Sometimes, it’s more egregious than others. I remember seeing a movie (and I honestly can’t recall what it was, sorry) recently where a couple was getting into a car to escape someone, inciting a high-speed chase. I’m assuming this was an action movie, but it may have been a horror film. In any event, the characters get in and we cut away from them as the door closes to a shot a the car’s tail lights and them speeding away. Well that’s fine, that’s a pretty standard way of telling a story. But, at the last second, the camera tilted jarringly downward to get the silver-lettered brand name of the vehicle into center frame before the car sped off. As someone who studied cinematography (albeit briefly) this is a blatant product placement. The camera shifted in such a way that no professional cameraman would do it accidentally: he’s be fired. It was intentional product placement, and worse, it’s to the detriment of the shot and the story that shot should be telling.
I think for me that’s the line between acceptable product placement for me personally: does it take me out of the story? And that line is going to be different for different people. For example, the Transformers movies have reportedly been some of the most lucrative product placement deals in history, as the main characters of the films themselves are in fact GM vehicles. But that never takes me out of the movies, even the glamor shots of the cars when they first show up: it doesn’t say to me: look how cool GM is, it says: look how cool Bumblebee is. Some will have a different experience, of course. I find the product placement in the later seasons of Dexter to be some of the most damning, as they will frame the brand name on his stool while the action is almost happening off-panel.
But this has been quite a long digression. The point of product placement is that (or should be) that products will be needed to move the story along and make it so the character’s world seems like our world. This is K-Mart realism, which we’ll get to in a second. What changes this to product placement is that, instead of making up your own product (like Friends did with its “Big Brown Bags”) or just going with whatever feels right, the creators basically open up the bidding: whichever car company places the highest bid, that is the company that gets their car driven by the characters.
Originally published in 2009, Smoke and Mirrors tells the story of the trial of Adam Genblade, which brings closure to the men and women of Coral Beach… until people start showing up dead in the same manor they did when he was at large. Now his victims are forced to keep him alive in order to get their answers… or accept that it may not have been him to begin with.
The re-release of Engen titles produced under Calgary-based printer Blitzprint after the move to Lightning Source began in 2011, with the re-release of Ellen Curtis’s first collection of short fiction, Compendium. As of that time only Transformations in Pain, Smoke and Mirrors, Roulette, and Ghosts of the Past lacked mass-market paperback editions. Since then Transformation in Pain and Ghosts of the Past have been added, the latter at this year’s Sci-Fi on the Rock 9, leaving only the middle two remaining.
“The Kindle-editions really made getting the international editions a priority,” said Black Womb author Matthew LeDrew. “We’re about to expand into being able to reach a whole new audience, and we didn’t want there to be a big hole in the middle of the series narrative that was unavailable to them. That would have been marketing suicide.”
LeDrew went on to state that the international editions of Smoke and Mirrors and Roulette should have been released much sooner, but that the updates on them kept being pushed back in favor of producing new material.
The new cover to Roulette will be revealed soon, and international editions of both titles (and all active Engen titles) will be available internationally and on Kindle before the end of 2015.