From the Writing Desk: Planning and Plotting

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Top Ten Character-Driven Novels!!

10. The Whirlpool, by Jane Urquhart
09. Wolverine Classic volume 1 by Chris Claremont
08. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
07. Hearts in Atlantis (short story) by Stephen King
06. Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov
05. The Long Road, by Matthew LeDrew
04. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
03. Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
02. Dark Avengers – Ares, by Kieron Gillen

What’s #1? Sorry! You’ll have to watch the video to see! ;)

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

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Sci-Fi on the Rock 7: Looking Back

Sci-Fi on the Rock 7So Sci-Fi on the Rock 7 has come and gone, and it’s always a weird time. This convention, more than any other, marks the passage of time for me. It’s been seven years since Engen Books started. Since that first spark when I was talking to Kenneth Tam and went “I can do this,” and started this weird, oddball publishing company that has shaped so much of my life since.

Every convention is different and every experience is different. This convention, I’m happy to report, was our biggest in terms of sales: both in number of books moved and amount of money made, according to our accountant — I can’t be trusted with the money.

And really, that’s incredible. That should not be possible. We’ve been coming to the same convention 6 times in a row — logically, everyone who was going to buy a copy of the book should already have it. But there’s a reason I’m an author and not a marketer, and this year really proved me wrong.

Every convention has it’s stories. The weird little behind-the-scenes tidbits that nobody sees that just makes it real. At Sci-Fi on the Rock to it was singing “Old Man River” with Boba Fett. At Polaris 24 it was making an ass of myself in front of Claudia Black. At Hal Con 2012 it was having a chat with John Rhys Davis about politics — and then getting tickled by him during a picture. This convention was different though. This time it was special, and had nothing to do with rubbing shoulders with the A-listers and then coming home to write about it, hoping that blog hits from someone searching that celeb will result in book sales for you. Nope, this time the coolness came from a very, very different place.

The Real Engen CrewThis year we sold more books than ever before, and got more positive feedback than ever before. I didn’t print any ads. I did very little to hype it on Facebook. I don’t think the newest books are even available on the Engen website as of yet (coming soon, website’s getting revamped). There was no social-media marketing. There was no air-time on VOCM. There was no web-presence to speak of. Engen Books had it’s best day ever for one reason and one reason alone — positive word of mouth.

No less than a dozen times did someone come up to us and say “My friend read your first book, and he can’t stop talking about it. I’d like to pick up the whole series.” Those people pictured on the left? That is the Unofficial Engen Street Crew: the people really spreading the word about Engen Books. I left Sci-Fi on the Rock 7 with a renewed sense of purpose and a new conviction to continue doing what we’ve been doing — and to get better. Because this crew deserves for it to get better.

Did I sing a song with Dominic Keating? No. Do a jog with Gary Jones? Nada. Embarrass myself in front of Dean Haglund? Not this time. What I did get was validation — this is working for us. We’re doing what we love and other people love it too. There is no better feeling than that. Than having fans who are just as into your thing as you are, and it’s reminded me who we are.

We are Engen Books.

We write amazing fiction. We take the mundane and make it spectacular. We create worlds and craft ideas and change thought. And we are good at what we do.

And we never look back.

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Filed under Becoming, Black Womb, Chains, Compendium, Ellen Curtis, Engen Books, Gang War, Ghosts of the Past, Ignorance is Bliss, Infinity, Inner Child, Kevin Woolridge, Larry Gent, Light | Dark, Matthew LeDrew, Newfoundland, Publishing, Roulette, Sarah Thompson, Sci-Fi from the Rock, Sci-Fi on the Rock, Smoke and Mirrors, Social Media Marketing, St. Johns, Steve Lake, The Man with the Hole in his Head, Transformations in Pain

Iron Man 3 Review: Return of the Awesome

Iron Man 3So five years ago I went to see the first Iron Man movie with my buddy Jordon Pollard — great guy, never had a book dedicated to him. I didn’t expect much, because honestly I didn’t think much of the character at the time. I’d never read Iron Man. I didn’t particularly like Iron Man. Then the movie came out and it just blew me away — stylistically, thematically, everything was perfect. And that Nick Fury cameo at the end? Got goosebumps. Everyone did. It was an awesome day.

For the next few years I continued to hold Marvel films to that standard, with varying degrees of success. Incredible Hulk was okay, Thor was great, Captain America and Iron Man 2… not so much. Iron Man 2 was the worst of these offenders, as it failed to live up to the level of the original. So when Iron Man 3 was announced as launching Phase Two on the Marvel Cinematic Line… I was cautious.

But honestly, they couldn’t have made a better choice.

Everything in this movie works. It delivers on all promises. I deconstructs Tony Stark in a way I wouldn’t have thought possible again, and really reminds us why we fell in love with the Avengers franchise. It continues from Avengers in an amazing way, with Tony Stark suffering from PTSD after the results of that film, making Avengers not just a crossover, but an essential part of the Iron Man saga. That was appreciated. Beyond that, it’s a wonderful story with believable characters and interactions. Downey Jr. really gets to have some fun with his dialog in a way that wasn’t there in the second movie and it just makes the film.

I’m not going to ruin anything — but anyone who loved Iron Man but has been ho-hum since then on Marvel Movies, see this flick. It’s very much worth the price of admission.

Matthew LeDrew
Engen Books
Never Look Back

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Top Ten Books I Thought I’d Like MORE/LESS Than I Did

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Books I Thought I’d Like MORE/LESS Than I Did

Doing a 5/5.

Books I thought I’d like More:

The Relic

5. The Relic

Money Has No Smell

4. Money has no Smell

The Da Vinci Code

3. The Da Vinci Code

Buffy: Chosen

2. Buffy: Chosen

Heart of Darkness

1. Heart of Darkness

Books I thought I’d like Less:

The Divine Ryans by Wayne Johnston

5. The Divine Ryans

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

4. Life of Pi

Shot in the Heart

3. Shot in the Heart

Batman: No Man's Land

2. Batman: No Man’s Land

A Midsummer Night's Dream

1. A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

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If it ain’t broke –

Chains, Sci Fi from the Rock ReturnsSo some of you might be wondering what I’ve been up to the last few weeks — posts have been scarce and pre-written. Well, one reason is I’ve been working hard on posts over at the Geeks vs Nerds Online Magazine, which you should check out for new TMNT reviews as well as reviews on many other IDW titles. Another is that I’ve been working hard to make sure the next two Engen titles, Chains and Sci-Fi from the Rock Returns, make it out on time.

Well there were some problems with Chains in production, but I’m glad to say I’ve got both book in now in time for their release at next weekend’s convention and reading… but, well, there’s a problem.

Problems are going to happen sometimes as a small press publisher. Sometimes deadlines make the crunch hard and things get missed. My favorite small press comic publisher, Mirage, has a slogan “If it ain’t late, it ain’t Mirage,” making fun at their constantly-late publications. In than vein, perhaps Engen’s slogan should not be “Never Look Back” — perhaps it should be “If it ain’t broke, it ain’t Engen.”

So to see what I’m talking about, see the image accompanying this post… notice anything? Here’s a hint: the title on the spine should be the same as the title on the cover. Oops.

So I’m fixing this in time for the release, so anyone buying on Amazon will clearly have a good copy — but I can’t get new copies in in time for the convention next week. So fans of Black Womb eager for the end of the series will have an odd looking bookshelf, with two copies of Gang War — one 150 pages longer than the other. LOL.

The perils of small publishing. Puts Ken Tam’s spine-mishap into perspective.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

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Top Ten Tuesday next Top 10 Graphic Novels of all time

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday REWIND — pick a past topic you missed or one you want to revisit! That’s what I was told from The Broke and the Bookish. Well then, that’s vague… hmm. What do I do for this? Well, I’m going to do a callback to this post and give you my next Top 10 Graphic Novels of all time! Mainly because my opinions on the other lists are still my opinions, but you can breeze through a Graphic Novel fairly quickly, and that leads to changing / evolving tastes over time. So, here we go!

10. X-Cutioner's Song (X-Men)

10. X-Cutioner’s Song (X-Men): One that probably would have made it on my list last time, except I hadn’t read it yet. Had a bunch of individual issues I’d collected over the years, but then Ellen gave my the whole collection for my birthday and I finally got to read it all. It’s X-Men soap-opera at its best: multiple storylines, a plot to kill Professor X, time travel, and a battle royale on the moon! On the moon. Man I loved X-Men growing up. ;)

9. Transmetropolitan: Back on the Streets (DC/Vertigo)

9. Transmetropolitan: Back on the Streets (DC/Vertigo): I’d never really gotten the appeal of Vertigo before reading this. I didn’t get the whole “mature readers” thing, because so many books claiming to be for “mature” readers were in fact the most immature: tits and swearing, basically. Not so, here. This could have been a novel, easily. It’s a dark and satirical look at our culture through the allegory of a future culture, seen through the eyes of a journalist who’s a little like if Allan Moore and Hunter S. Thompson had a love-child. And if that doesn’t make you want to pick it up, I don’t know what will.

8. Preacher, vol. 1 (DC/Vertigo)

8. Preacher, vol. 1 (DC/Vertigo): Another book that you think you’ll understand when you hear about it, then you read it and realize it’s better in execution than you ever thought it could be. Garth Ennis writes an amazing story over the course of 66 issues dealing with a Quest to find God by a Preacher that has been possessed by a being called Genesis: a child of the unholy union between and angel and a demon. It’s a story that’s been done before but never done so well. Check out just the first issue, you’ll be hooked. I can almost guarantee it.

7. Ultimate Fantastic Four (Ultimate Marvel)

7. Ultimate Fantastic Four (Ultimate Marvel): This one didn’t make it on the list last time because, honestly, it’s better for what it worked with than it stands on its own. I never much liked the Fantastic Four. They get along a bit too much. But this book, changing them to teenagers and showing their origins in a new and inventive way, really brought them to a head for me. I’ve becoming disillusioned with the Ultimate Universe after the Ultimatum event, but the first storyarcs from each series (Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four) are each still a good read. Worth checking out if you just want to understand the characters / phenomenon and then get out again.

6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics, vol.2 (IDW)

6. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Classics, vol.2 (IDW): A weird choice some might say, but these three issues tell one unique story from Mark Martin featuring the Ninja Turtles dealing with a time-travelling, reality-changing mutant girl who ends up threatening all reality and creating a giant rat parody of the Punisher. Sound confusing? That’s because it is. It’s also Ninja Turtles at its best, from the days when being a self-aware parody was an okay thing for the title.

5. Spider-Man: The Other (Marvel)

5. Spider-Man: The Other (Marvel): This story gets harped on, and I don’t know why. It deals with Spider-Man at deaths door from natural causes, and him dealing with that death and coming to terms with it before eventually passing on… and the twist involving the death is something I will dare not spoil. It’s simply amazing. Again, people harp on it, but I think it was great and definitely worth checking out.

4. Ultimate Spider-Man volume 6: Venom (Ultimate Marvel)

4. Ultimate Spider-Man volume 6: Venom (Ultimate Marvel): This Ultimate retelling of Venom’s origin takes the best of every part incarnation and mixes it into one. It really is, for me, the definitive look at the character, and should be regarded more closely.

3. Trial of Gambit (Marvel)

3. Trial of Gambit (Marvel): Another book that got to me young and kept me, this book revealed the (then) shocking truth about Gambit’s past with Mr. Sinister, hinted at since his first appearance. This is probably the last big X-Men event, for me. Everything else was downhill after this. If you read from the 1990 X-Men #1 to here, you’re good in my book. Anything before or after is just weird.

2. Marvel Zombies (Marvel)

2. Marvel Zombies (Marvel): Probably the most innovative idea to come out of the House of Ideas, Marvel Zombies takes a simple What If? – style story and choses to base a whole world around it, to great comedic and dramatic effect. it’s gone on a bit long now (most comics, once popular, overstay their welcome), but this first volume is pure gold.

1. The Walking Dead (Image)

1. The Walking Dead (Image): The first volume of this series largely follows the first season of the show, with some alterations made of course… but it’s an amazing book that deserves to be read by anyone. It’s no wonder TWD became a hit on AMC with this as its source material.

Never Look Back
Matthew LeDrew

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