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 Infinityco-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.
Smoke and Mirrors, the third novel in Matthew LeDrew’s Black Womb series is finally getting its international release, and with it comes one of the last of the updated covers, pictured left.
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.
Okay, this is weird. We do weird things here at Engen Books: sometimes if our fans do cool things, we’ll post it up here. Highlights have included “Block Womb,” and “Balloon Womb.” And every so often someone will post a review of our books on GoodReads, and we love GoodReads. GoodReads gives us just instant access to what we’re doing right and what people think about our books: as well as the books of our rivals, which is also nice ;).
But this week, a reader named Kelly who picked up the Black Womb series at Sci-Fi on the Rock 9 reviewed each of the books in kind, which we’ve (possibly strangely) decided to repost here as “The Black Womb Series: the Kelly edit.”
“Very interesting. All joking aside, it was a really enjoyable book to get into and I honestly couldn’t put the book down until I finished it. Matthew has a way of drawing you in and keeping you engaged to the point where you don’t realize how long you’ve been reading until the book is finished.”
“Had to deal with a lot of strong emotions while reading this book. Matthew really knows how to create not only villains that you hate with a passion but also main characters that you feel so much for their plight that you can’t help but envision them as real people. Was thinking about this book and all the things that occurred in it for quite some time after I finished reading it.
Enjoyed it from beginning to end, well besides the burning hatred I felt for the bad guys.”
“The trial of Genblade. This book was a roller coaster of a story with plenty of twists and turns that keep you wondering how things are going to change and surprise you next. With fresh murders to keep you guessing who’s the cause of it all and the high emotions of the trial, it’s the kind of book that keeps you on the edge and makes you wonder if you actually know what’s going on, or if you’re falling prey to the tricks of a psychopath.”
“Things take quite the interesting turn here. Despite terrible things happening, for once a lot of it seems to be in the background and hint at things to come later rather then throwing the main characters for a loop time and time again. You get a better feeling for the people who have been struggling all this time and a new appreciation for the strength that some of them possess. It has a feel as though it’s the calm before the storm. ”
“Like how Matthew says in the From the Author section, this book goes to such an incredibly dark place. This is the storm that was hinted at coming in the last book and it doesn’t disappoint. It is not a long book, but the timeline that is given keeps you turning pages and devouring the story to try and figure out how things end up the way they do before you get to the ending that is briefly viewed at the beginning of the book. Parts of it make you want to weep for the loss of innocence, but then there is at least one major part that keeps you crying out for blood as the climax reaches an amazing high. I feel it leaves you with a need to find out how things go from here and I have to admit I was left with tons of questions that require reading on in the series to find the answers for.”
“In a way this book encompasses a lot of things I was expecting, but then introduces more elements that I had no idea were on their way. Xander goes on to enjoy what he has and then ruins it for himself, that was expected, but then what I wasn’t expecting was for other things to work out so smoothly. I don’t want to go into detail as it is the kind of thing that is more fun to read for oneself rather then hear it from someone else.
Really interested in seeing what happens with the new element that was added and honestly curious as to how it fits into the overall story. Also, the very end of the book hinted that I may be right in a few assumptions I had, but still didn’t give enough to confirm anything. Can’t help but continue with the series now that I’m well and truly hooked. Over halfway through and still unable to put the books down.”
“Finally some answers to questions that have been bugging me for a couple books now. Though for how pleased I am to have been proven right in some of the assumptions I had, how this book plays out made me incredibly sad. It was painful to see what happens to some people who honestly do not deserve it, but then in a way this ending was coming for a while now and it cuts into Xander far more then someone just reading his story.
I feel for the characters here so much that I actually found myself tearing up as I finished the last page. This book has a lot of powerful emotions tied into it, so be careful how much of your heart you put into all the present characters as you read on in the Black Womb series.”
“Even though I’ve been spacing my reading out so as to read one novel a week, after the last book in this series I couldn’t help but keep going right away. Matthew signed this book for me and wrote “And here Black Womb gets even weirder” and when I first read that I did not realize how true a statement it was. The universe of Black Womb has given hints that there is a lot more to it then just the events happening to the main characters and this book dives into that. It begs the question of how do you deal with danger when it is not the usual story of people having chosen to kill and commit crimes without caring how they hurt people, but rather something outside of humanity?
Then there’s Xander. Someone who wants to be a hero but keeps losing that which he cares about the most the more he tries to do the right thing. Watching Xander struggle with loss in the form of addressing someone who is no longer around is an interesting take on his character and in a few cases made me smile through the sadness I felt after the last book.”
“This book was a trip. Trying to figure out exactly what is happening and who is behind it all before anything could be revealed by the end of the book was difficult and I found myself surprised by the truth regardless. Although this book did make me start to consider that perhaps Mike could easily make a main character in his own way. Mind you he seems like he would fit better into a detective novel rather then a horror one.
In any case I’m not going to say too much about this one as I feel I would risk ruining it for anyone who wants to work on figuring things out for themselves as they read it.”
“At last everything draws to a close. This novel contains more then any other book in this series and ends in a way that may seem disappointing to some, but I couldn’t help but love how appropriate it is. Flowing from one event to the next, it keeps you tense as you try to find the hints of what is about to happen before it can surprise you. I found myself on the edge of my seat and unable to put the book down as I devoured the story.
In a way I don’t feel as though anything I could say about Chains would do it justice. So I will leave it at this: If you’ve enjoyed the story thus far then this book will bring you a lot of enjoyment as you draw closer to the end of Black Womb.”
One of the most enigmatic and divisive characters in the current Engen- Universe roster is Leigh Draco, otherwise known as Blackheart. One very important reason for this is her status as one of the only characters to legitimately be a mainstay of both of the longest-running Engen- Universe series: Black Womb and Infinity.
Publication schedule-wise, Blackheart first appeared in 2009’s Roulette: but this doesn’t mark her first chronological appearance. As seen in the 2012 short story Revving Engen by Matthew LeDrew, the titles Black Womb and Infinity occur at roughly the same time, meaning that while the murders that would mark Coral Beach were taking place, the young thief known as Leigh Blackheart was meeting Theo Flaherty on the streets of Los Angeles.
The winner of the 2014 Engen Books Postcard Review contest has been randomly selected, and it’s St. John’s native Peter Smith!
For those unaware, during Sci-Fi on the Rock 8 we had a very special promotion, in which everyone who bought one of our novels got a postcard featuring the cover art from . an Engen Book. Recipients were informed that if they mailed the postcard back to it and we received it by June 30th, 2014, they would be entered in a draw to win a $25 gift-card from Tim Hortons. The only caveat: the back of the postcard had to have a review of an Engen title (any Engen title, not just the one they had purchased).
The review would then be featured on our website for the applicable title.
The review could be positive, negative, or a mixture of the two: it just had to fit on the back of the postcard in its entirety.
“There was a professor at my University that used to get his students to write their essays on the backs of postcards as an excessive in getting their points across in few words,” explained Matthew LeDrew. “The idea came from that, I always thought it was a cool idea.”
Smith chose to review not just one title, but the Black Womb series as a whole. His postcard reads:
When I first read Black Womb I never expected to be so engrossed in its chilling tale of horror, and Xander’s troubled life as the Black Womb. I love how real the story is, in not having its hero leap over any conflict without any trouble. It was a great series and it is on my list on my top 10 book series’s, fighting for first place with Harry Potter.
Thanks Peter, we appreciate your readership and your time! This review will be added to the reviews section for Chains, the final book in the Black Womb series, as it deals with the series as a whole. Thank you again, and happy reading!
Other feedback we received due to the contest includes:
OK so I just finished Chains. Wow, you’ve outdone yourself. I loved every second of it. The subtlety was palpable. No ovaries stealing or child killings or mass rape-murders… but still almost as gruesome, on a psychological and moral scale, which was beautiful to watch play out. You really captured the feeling of “broken” a broken protagonist, and town. The elm was a great metaphor (for Cathy I feel). The moral debate of a down syndrome girl being able to have a child, scaring a child so an innocent (?) man can walk free. And Coral Beach really didn’t seem to care. Even after Calla was found dead, the lack of focus on people’s reactions, and the subdued reactions of the protagonists, you really got the feeling of being…tired. “The poor girl killed herself, but at least she wasn’t butchered by one of 3 serial killers.” A down syndrome girl pregnant, school principal a pedo and murdered…no one cared. After SO much death and chaos. People don’t care. Can’t care. They’re broken. The curse of Coral Beach has one out in the morale battle. Bravo. Also seeing the boundary between Xander and the true Womb break down, or rather, slowly be absorbed, resignation, the idea that he himself is the monster, even if his friends cannot see it. And THAT ENDING. A whimper, as you said in the afterwards, was perfect. I loved it. The ONLY thing I can’t figure out is…why is Coral Beach so messed up?? I will have to go back through the books…but anyway my friend. Well done, I can’t wait to read The Long Road and for the next series to get underway.
Black Womb: five stars, super awesome and super gory! 🙂
On May 23rd, 24th, and 25th 2014, the Engen-crew of authors once again embarked on their yearly trip to St. John’s Newfoundland for the Eighth Annual Sci-Fi on the Rock convention. Every Sci-Fi on the Rock is a special event to the City of St. John’s: what started 8 years ago as a small cult following of fans lead by Darren Hann has become the ultimate in Geek Chic for the province, a three-day celebration of what it is to be a Newfoundland Nerd.
The convention consists of near-round the clock movies, trivia contests, gaming tournaments, lectures, fan-expos, and cos-playing. The event isn’t all fun-and-games though, and has become the go-to place in the province to make connections on collaborative works such as indie comics as with Ariel Marsh of Super-Galactic Space Explorers, meet and learn from professional authors such as Paradise native Scott Bartlett, or attend stunning and thought-provoking lectures by experts in their field, like Dr. Chistopher Lockett’s lecture on all things Tolkien.
As they have been for the last seven years, Engen Books was out in full force with four of its authors in attendance; including Matthew LeDrew ( the Black Womb series & The Long Road), Ellen Curtis (the Infinity series and Compendium), Jay Paulin (light|dark) and Steve Lake (the Full Moon series).
The weekend saw the released of Matthew LeDrew’s latest book, The Long Road, which bridges the Black Womb series (which ended with its tenth book, Chains, released at last years Sci-Fi on the Rock) and its sequel series The Xander Drew series, which is tentatively slated to begin publication in the fall. The Long Road is a book of short stories, in which each story is a different point along the road as Xander Drew makes a life-altering trek from small-town Maine to the big city of Los Angeles, California.
“It’s time for Xander to get out of Coral Beach and interact with the larger Engen Universe as a whole,” said series-creator Matthew LeDrew. “To grow up and stop being stuck in the same thought patterns that small towns can foster. He needs new challenges and new risks in order to remain fresh and interesting, and to grow as a character.”
What this means for the rest of the cast of the previous series is currently unclear, and is not fully explained at the start of the collection. LeDrew was heard explaining to one fan that the new series will be “sans a supporting cast.” When asked to elaborate, LeDrew claimed that in the new series Xander would be alone, and that that would make him “more dangerous” than he’s ever been before.
Also premiering to the excitement of Black Womb fans this weekend was the new international edition of Transformations in Pain, easily the most controversial and polarizing Engen book thus far. This novel follows the international release of Black Womb in October 2012. The next book set for re-release is Ghosts of the Past, with the remaining two Black Womb books to follow soon-after.
Also returning was the Most Dysfunctional Writing Panel Ever, consisting this time of Ellen Curtis, Jay Paulin, and Matthew LeDrew. The four answered questions for a packed room, ranging from topics a varied as dealing with writer’s block to how to prepare a manuscript for publication. Plans had been made to film the panel discussion as the season premiere of the second season of the popular YouTube program, but conflicts between it and Steve Lake’s popular Geek Survivor made filming impossible. New episodes are to begin filming soon.