“Blachart” – A Writing Journey

I’ve been writing stories basically since I could hold a wax crayon, and as any writer might tell you, any book they’ve created holds a special place of its own in their heart! It’s no less true for me in the case of “Blachart” in that respect because of how that book is a milestone for me! Why? Well, because it was my first completed and published novel, and also because it’s the first of my books to be released as an audiobook!

You may wonder how I wrote “Blachart”, how it got to be what it is now, what the journey was like – and how long it took! To do that, I’ll have to take you back to the beginning!

It all started in 1986 – 34 years ago! I was 12 years old and in my first year of high school – a budding writer who occasionally caught the spotlight in English class for essay and composition writing! That was when I started working on the foundations of what would become “Blachart”.

Back then, however, the story was called “The Red Star” and it featured the some of the same characters (under different names) and the story plot was somewhat different – and if you’ve read “Blachart” and were handed a copy of “The Red Star” circa 1986, you would find it… well, unrecognizable!

In 1987 I’d rewritten the same story into another notebook under the title “Galaxy 1”, sowing the seeds of what was to later become the first title in the Galaxii Series. By 1988, the basic plot had evolved into the more familiar story of a starship Captain (then Mykl Nikolls, not the more familiar Mykl d’Angelo) being rescued from his broken down ship – and the introduction of the formidable Corsairs… and a character then called Black Heart. By 1989 I already had a good idea of the broader story the series would take – beginning with a back-story called “Galaxy” which would set the scene for the later books. “Galaxy” became “Galaxii” in 1990, and “Blachart would follow on to “Galaxii” in the series… except that the newer prequel presented me with considerable difficulties at the time.

“Galaxii” – the story that would set the foundation for the rest of the series, and be the book from which the series took its name – was a problem child. It went through numerous redrafts and complete rewrites before eventually being published – only in 2020! When published, it was under the title “Best Served Cold” – and as a standalone novel, not part of the actual series!

“Blachart” meanwhile, in 1990 was far closer to completion in draft form, and continued to receive the bulk of my writing attention. By the time I finished high school in 1991, I had a rough idea where I wanted the story to lead. But life was hectic, and tended to get in the way – in January 1992 I was conscripted into the SA Army and had a hell of a lot on my plate with gender dysphoria. My life generally took me into places I did not wish to go. My writing at the time was rather spotty, confined mostly to completing short stories and working up to mastering longer writing pieces. During this time, I delivered short stories like “The Devils In The Sky” (1993) and “A Really Bad Day In The Life Of Lance Corporal Thomas O’Blivion” (1995).

Eventually, in February 1998 I finished the last handwritten draft of “Blachart”! …And then it lay fallow for some time longer, while a lot of other things unfolded in my personal life, in terms of gender identity, self-discovery, and career. In 1999 I embarked on my transition – and entered a world both terrifying and amazing all at once!

Then when things had settled down somewhat, in 2003, I finally typed and edited that draft on a PC, and launched into the modern way of writing novels! I found it far easier and faster to type and edit on a PC than doing rewrites of my books by hand as I’d always done previously! This change set me off on revising all my other pieces as I copy-typed them into Word on PC’s at work! Later I finally obtained a useable PC at home, and that accounts for my rapid progress and increase in production of reading material – which I’ve been told is somewhat prolific!

Anyway, back in 2005, after years of struggling to find a publisher to take on any of my writing, I chanced upon that wonder (and bane) of our time – the internet – and tripped over the concept of self-publishing! In the same year, I self-published the eBook in its original most basic form on Lulu.com. Over the next few years, I ran several updates in content improvements and covers. In the meantime, I’d also published several of its sequels (“Demonspawn”, “Black Sunrise”, “The Time Saving Agency” and “Space Sux!” which were then all part of the Galaxii series).

In July 2014 I was picked up by a ‘traditional publisher’, a small press. “Blachart” was the first of my books they re-released with a new cover created by one of their staff. The content went through a two-stage editing process, and by the time it was released in late 2014, “Blachart” was around 49,600 words long!

In 2015, “Demonspawn” (book 2 in the series) was re-released by the publisher. With another 5 or 6 books still waiting to be re-released, the publisher dragged their feet to the point where it appeared they were going to release just one book a year! In the meantime I’d had to take the self-published versions all down from all the places they’d been available on the internet, and I wasn’t making any money off them at all!

Fortunately that state of affairs didn’t last very long – due to an identity crisis at the publisher which came to a head in mid 2016 when they booted out all writers of what they called “not pure horror” – I found myself without a publisher again! Instead of feeling distraught, I was overjoyed, and leapt back into indie publishing again – with gusto!

For the remainder of 2016, I worked on putting all my completed books back up on indie platforms again, and then also on completing some unfinished projects. It took a while for me to find my indie feet again, and “Blachart” and its siblings went through several cover redesigns in the process, including a change from print size of pocket book to 6×9.

Both my parents were also writers – unpublished for the most part – and during 2018 I finished editing and publishing of most of my parent’s works. Then I took a look at the channels through which my books have been distributed – and decided that I should also place my titles at Smashwords to gain access to their distribution network also. I later also added EBooks2go to that distribution chain. Every bit of knowledge and trick of the trade I learned, I also applied retroactively to all my books – including “Blachart”.

During 2018 – while I was at it (the most dangerous words known to humanity) as the old saying goes, I spotted a couple of editing errors left over from my “traditional” publishing days, and set off to check the whole manuscript for more!

This sparked off another complete edit – and then I added a little bit here, and a little bit there… and before I realized it, a drastic complete rewrite was underway! (Insert pained groan here).

I evaluated each sentence. I added a stack of more material… back-stories and extras that would enrich and enhance the overall experience of what I had envisioned as the Galaxii Series! Two weeks later, at over 84000 words, the Fifth Edition of “Blachart” was born!

To complete the metamorphosis, I designed a fantastic new cover which would also form the basis of a template for the entire Galaxii Series, and which I also modified for my other series, Quantum and Panic!

It was somewhere around July 2019, that I became friends with Brandon Mullins of Moon Books Publishing – I’d just submitted a short story I wrote regarding the topical “Storm Area 51” event in Nevada for September, which MBP was going to release in good time for the event. A little later, it became evident that we were going to be collaborating more in future! In light of this, I was the Editor for a sci-fi short story anthology “Christina Engela’s Strangely Compelling SciFi” (Dec 2019) and still have a few upcoming jobs to do for MBP.

Brandon wanted to help me distribute my books further, and so around October 2019 I took down all the print versions of my books on Lulu and handed them to MBP for distribution through Amazon. I subsequently decided to leave Lulu and to do the same for the eBook versions as well, although I’ll still be handling eBooks on other platforms.

One of the many ways Brandon has been of immense help to me is in making my books available as audiobooks! Although a number of my short stories had been included in anthologies I’d contributed to when they were turned into audiobooks, this was the very first time a whole novel of mine had been released as an audiobook – and it was amazing to hear it!

In this respect, “Blachart” is the first – and the journey really got interesting at that point! It started with finding a narrator – and Brandon had to put up with my perfectionism and pickiness! Poor guy! *wink* At any rate, after reviewing a few audition clips in February 2020, Brandon sent me one that grabbed my attention – by the throat!

The audition in question came from one Nigel Peever – a BBC and London stage actor who also has a formidable reputation in narrating eBooks! To be blunt, I was definitely blown away – Nigel gave us not just one, but two options – with or without sound effects and dramatization!

Mr. Peever is an extraordinary narrator – not only reading the text with emotional expression, but he also included sound effects in the final mix – so the story sounds rather a lot like an old-style radio play, but all read by one person doing different voices and accents! I think it sounds absolutely amazing! Nigel was also kind enough to design the cover for the audiobook as you see it below – and so he’s also a graphic designer as well!

After much consultation and backing-and-forthing and wondering how we could afford this, Brandon came through for me and did me a real solid! Nigel would record “Blachart” with full dramatization and sound effects!

Due to Nigel having previous commitments to complete, recording of “Blachart” was due to start in April 2020, and the finished production was sent to ACX/Audible at the start of June.

On July 09, 2020 – due to delays resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, “Blachart” was finally released as an audiobook! When I first heard it, the result was fantastic! As a writer, I’d often imagined the sort of voice I’d like to have my stories heard in – that is, inside the reader’s heads… and what a voice! What talent – what characterization! What interpretation! That said, I can’t quite put into words just how marvelous it is to hear my work, words that I wrote, being not just read aloud in front of a microphone – but interpretedlived… with depth of emotion and wonderfully appropriate feeling and thought!

People do a lot of things for payment, it’s true – and between us, we all stand to profit from our involvement with “Blachart” – but as the creator of the story I feel a swell of gratitude and appreciation towards both Brandon and Nigel for making the audiobook what it is – and for giving my words a voice.

Nigel meanwhile, is busy recording book 2 in the series – “Demonspawn“, and I can’t wait to hear it!

The final release of “Blachart” is 10 hours 26 minutes long, and I’m sure you will enjoy it as much as I have!

Until next time, keep reading!

Cheers! 🙂

[This article is cross-posted on the Moon Books website]


If you would like to know more about Christina Engela and her writing, please feel free to browse her website.

If you’d like to send Christina Engela a question about her life as a writer or transactivist, please send an email to christinaengela@gmail.com or use the Contact form.

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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2020.

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