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February 26, 2011 — 183 words

Clockhopper Postponed

By MCM

I have to make this short because I feel like a truck ran over me.

The first day of livewriting, I thought I was jetlagged when I fell asleep at the keyboard in the middle of chapter 3. I resolved to sleep more that night, but by midday Friday (just before chapter 4 was due to start) I realized I was not entirely functional again. I went to sleep really really early (for me) in the hopes of recovering before my Saturday marathon, but have now woken up with a chill and a throat that hurts like Gare Marx's personality and a definite feeling that today is not going to be fun.

As such, and because of my extremely hectic March, I'm going to have to postpone Clockhopper until April. I'm really, really, really sorry about the situation. This is the one true flaw in the livewriting plan. I can handle exhaustion, but not the flu. Curses, frail human body!

In the meantime, I want you to ponder what bears, recycling and confusing time paradoxes may have in common. There will be an answer soon...

February 24, 2011 — 197 words

Clockhopper starts soon!

By MCM

In just two hours, I'll be starting my new livewritten adventure, Clockhopper. It's a steampunk adventure about a warranty adjuster in 1875, and the Very Bad Mission he finds himself saddled with.

This time around, we have a variation on the livewriting theme. You can still suggest questions and answers to integrate into the story, but instead of picking a handful every chapter, I'll pick one answer every hour, regardless of where I am in the story. It should be more fun to see, especially if the suggestion happens at an inopportune moment.

The other big trick is the Tell Me chapters. Every so often, I'm going to pause the narrative and explain whatever subject you most want to hear about. Just send a tweet with #5d1dtellme and I'll pick one at random when the time comes.

Just so you know, I'm still not done the outline. This sucker is going to be a lot more like Fission Chips, which I wrote two years ago without a plan, and it still turned out ok. Let's just hope I can do it again...

February 15, 2011 — 422 words

Divergence Points

By MCM

One week from today, I will be sitting on a plane for most of the day. The day after, I'll be in meetings pretty much constantly. And the day after THAT, for three long hours in the afternoon, I'll be livewriting Clockhopper's first chapters.

Here's the thing: I haven't started outlining it yet.

I'm going to be writing about 40 chapters, I figure, and while I do know most of the major plot points, I'm really not at all prepared to do this. I've been lazy in my outlining for other livewriting events before, but this one is definitely on a whole new level. Aside from sickness and work and everything else, I find I'm just extremely nervous about this one. Like it could explode on me at any moment.

I think the reason is that I'm playing with very real history this time. There are some very important historical figures in this tale, and some big events that connect everything together, and the problem is I'm writing what I guess is a kind of parallel history. Historical fiction, sure, but it's meant to exist in the same reality as the one we live in. I've got this moment in my "universe" called the "Divergence Point", which is where the real world just can't keep up with what I have imagined. That point arrives in a few years (to do with Dustrunners), but an important thing for me is making sure there are no real Divergence Points in the PAST. The past happened. We may not know everything that happened, but it happened all the same. And that's where Clockhopper gets tricky...

Let's say we have a character who made a big trip north to cash in on the Fraser Valley gold rush. But his plans were interrupted by a survey to build a railway, and because of this, his life took a very different turn. During Clockhopper, his life goes from bad to worse... but it all has to fit nicely into history, so no one can say "Hey, that's impossible," or, "If that had happened, the world would be a very different place today." Plotting that out is what I've been doing for the past year or so, but actually writing it down for real... that's just scary.

Writing steampunk is lots of fun and I'm really looking forward to it, but right now, I'm just a little bit terrified of what I've gotten myself into. I'll let you know how my outlining is going before I get on the plane.

February 14, 2011 — 112 words

Zombie Love

By MCM

Today is Valentine's Day, which of course means lots of people are going to be gushy and romantic and lovey-dovey all around the world. The key word in that last sentence is "gushy". Like blood. And what does that make you think of? Zombies, of course!

To help celebrate the day, we've made a special e-card service for your loved one(s). Just head over to http://1889.ca/zombie_valentine and fill out the form to begin spreading brain-lovin' love.

And while we're on the subject, also check out Hungry For You, because you know you want to.

February 8, 2011 — 339 words

Clockhopper Coming Soon!

By MCM

You know how in all those steampunk stories, there are these fantastical creations roaming the countryside, doing fantastical things and generally making the world... well... fantastical? One thing's always bugged me about them: they never seem to break down except when it's convenient to the story. My kids' bikes can't go more than three days without the chains falling off... what are the chances that a complex piece of steam-powered machinery can do any better? I call shenanigans.

Starting Feb 24, 2011, I'll be livewriting a new book called Clockhopper, which is about a warranty adjuster working for the Kensington-Worth Company — a precursor to the Sears catalogue — in 1875. When that automatic field harvester goes wrong, he's the one who disables it before it turns your town into toothpicks. He's the tech support of the nineteenth century, with all the dangers that go with it.

The livewriting will be slightly different this time: it's more like a #5D1D: Thursday the 24th and Friday the 25th will be three hours from 1-4PM (eastern time), then Saturday and Sunday will be 9am-midnight, ending with a 3-hour finale on Monday the 28th from 4-7pm.

An addition to the livewriting process I'm going to test is what I'm calling Diversion Points. Every three chapters or so, there will be a break in the main narrative where I will explain something about the Clockhopper world in greater detail. The trick is this: I'll let YOU choose what you want explained. A character's backstory? The invention of a certain technology? Anything goes. Although... you may not always like the information you get :)

Now, to get us started, let's have some pre-launch fun. In the comments below, find me the strangest and most wonderful trivia you can find about 1874 (the year before the story). Anywhere in the world, relating to anything. Link to a reference if you can. I'm going to have some fun.

I'll have more Clockhopper info in the next few days and weeks, but in the meantime, get ready for some steam-powered insanity!

February 7, 2011 — 996 words

Eating People: An Interview with A.M. Harte

By MCM

In case you hadn't heard, there's a new book in town called "Hungry For You" by the ever-stupendous A.M. Harte. This is the part where I'd say "we caught up with Anna to ask her about writing and life and love," except in truth, I didn't catch up with her. I wrote her an email and demanded answers, and she said, "go away," and I said, "no! please!" an' she said, "oh fine, just this once," and fifteen minutes later, this is what I got:

MCM: Your book, "Hungry For You" is about zombies and love. W-w-w-why?

A.M. Harte: Why not?

To be honest, I never consciously chose to write the anthology. I hate zombies. They terrify me, plus they’re gross.

But then Mari Juniper organized a Zombie Luv Flash Fiction Contest last summer and I challenged myself to take part. It got me thinking about love in desperate circumstances, and that’s when I started to realize that being in love can easily be a desperate circumstance if things are not going well. As soon as I had that thought, the zombies kept cropping up everywhere and I had no choice but to keep writing.

MCM: Many authors say the act of writing certain pieces can be more involving than others. Which story do you think affected you the most to write?

AMH: I’ve always been a sucker for a sad story. When I’m writing something sad, so much more  of me leaks through into the story. Alive, for example, is very close to the bone—the story is about the small moments that make us feel alive, and how it’s so easy to run away from those moments rather than to embrace them. Seven Birds, which tracks a relationship from initial meet to break up, was another difficult piece to write. But perhaps the most involving was Dead Man’s Rose, a story about domestic abuse which was based almost entirely off of a nightmare I had.

MCM: Many of the stories have what I'd have to call a melancholic-romantic feel. They're haunting and touching at the same time, which I guess is connected to the fact that zombies are involved. Did you find it hard to walk that line between horror and love?

AMH: Not really. In some ways I think horror and love are two sides of the same coin. Both involve strong emotion beyond your control, and the return to very basic instincts. Besides, if you think about it, love can be very horrible. Love can hurt and destroy; it’s just as scary as horror. When you love someone, you’re as vulnerable as if you were being attacked by a horde of zombies. They’re not so different, after all.

MCM: What is it with you and socks?

AMH: I thought interviewers were supposed to concentrate on their interviewees, rather than project onto them? You’re the one with the sock obsession, not me!

Anyway. Socks. Yeah, they’re good. Keep my feet warm. Feel nice. I don’t like the ones with separate toes, though, or the ones with anti-slip soles. Yuck.

MCM: The title of the book is also the title of one of the stories, and it really works well to convey the double themes... did you just think it up out of nowhere, or was it a long and torturous process?

AMH: Stories come to me in scenes. I don’t sit there and plot an entire universe out; I’m happily munching on a chocolate bar when out of nowhere, an awesome sentence or two pops into my head. Then I write a story around that sentence to explain what it means. Perhaps it’s an odd process, but it works for me.

When I decided to write a zombie anthology, one of the first lines that popped into my head was “He’s only hungry for you”. I started writing that story, and it seemed pretty evident to me that the story had to be called “Hungry For You”. Since I didn’t have any other stories for the anthology written at that point, I began calling the collection by the same name, and it stuck.

In short: the title came unexpectedly out of my brain. Maybe that’s why zombies like brains?

MCM: What else are you working on right now?

AMH: My main project is the Above Ground series, a futuristic post-apocalyptic fantasy where humans live underground and supernaturals live on the surface. The first of the series is available online in a very rough draft version, and I’m currently working on editing it to publishable standard! I’m also working on the second of the series, Between Worlds, and posting new chapters as and when I can.

Besides that, I’m working on beating the world record for chocolate consumption, planning loads of parties for work-work, and also fine-tuning the details of my plan to take over the world. What can I say? I like to be busy.

MCM: Any last words? The executioner will see you now.

AMH: Yes: chocolate, honey and cheese, long Saturday mornings in bed and the smell of books. That is all.

A big thanks to Anna for doing this interview, despite the fact that she totally dodged the sock question. If you haven't already, go buy the book. It may just save your life.

February 2, 2011 — 300 words

New Book: Hungry For You

By A.M. Harte

If you wanted proof that I am an evil mastermind, all you have to do is read this blog post.

Why?

Because I have managed to hack my way into this site and post these very words you are reading! Even better, I’ve snuck my debut Kindle release onto the 1889 Labs shelves. Victory!

So, yes. I am proud to present to you 1889 Labs' first ever release by yours truly: Hungry For You!

Hungry For You is a short story collection which takes a hard look at love and relationships in the event of a zombie apocalypse. There are talking zombies, swimming zombies, and even swan zombies. There are quite a lot of references to London, because that's where I live, and I have even snuck in a reference to MCM's obsession with socks.

If you think about it, I'm really doing MCM a favour. His shelves were beginning to look a bit dusty, and it was high time a new, younger, shinier model came along to save the day. Plus, this place really needs a bit more of a woman's touch. I mean, seriously. There are dustbunnies the size of small elephants in the editor's room.

Want to support my takeover of the site? You can nab a copy of Hungry For You right now from Amazon Kindle or find out a little more by seeing the dedicated 1889 page.

And if you don't check it out, I will paint this shiny new site design with the most horrendous shade of pink I can find. That's a promise.

Not-so-mysterious hacker, over and out.

January 28, 2011 — 322 words

Livewriting in Belgium!

By MCM

Here's something you don't hear every day: I'm going to Belgium to livewrite a book!

(If you do hear that every day, don't tell me. I want to feel special.)

Here's the deal: at the end of March, I am getting on a plane and flying to Ghent, which is in Belgium, where they have this place called Vooruit, where they are having a crazy-cool festival called The Game is Up! 2011 [oops, not 2001. unless they give me a time machine as well as a plane ticket], wherein they have asked me to livewrite. And livewrite I shall.

The book is called The Archivists, and the tagline is "Prehistory is a myth." I don't want to say much more than that, except that it takes place across three different time periods, is utterly mind-bending in its scope and complexity, and will feature at least a few tanks. Oh yes, tanks. Just imagine what I'm going to do with tanks.

If you're going to be anywhere near Belgium at the end of March, please stop by and say hello. We can do a party, and drink chocolate milk and eat cookies or whatever it is they do in Belgium besides having crazy-cool festivals.

Oh, and I really must thank the super-fantastical Jan Oda for pulling this all together. It was her idea from the start, her perseverance that made it happen, and it will most likely be her sending my body back to Canada in a coffin when it's all done. Because seriously: how many times can I do a #3D1D before I die? :P

December 29, 2010 — 1,220 words

2011 (Books, Sites and RollBots!)

By MCM

Well then. 2010 is just about done. What a crazy year. Anyone else feel we just got started?

Things obviously didn't go the way they were supposed to this year. I wrote 12 books in 2009, but only 6 in 2010. Granted, most of those were longer works, but it still feels a bit empty. I barely posted on the site, and I've almost fallen completely off of Twitter. Money has been lean, but work has been hectic, and the convergence of the two is best described as agony. I haven't had to appeal for donations, but I came really damn close once or twice. I live most of the year on one side of the country, flying back to see my family when possible, which has kicked me in the head psychologically. Definitely not good. I wanted to do so much more, but I just couldn't pull it all off.

That said, I did do some really cool stuff this year. Let's see how many you remember:

The Man With the Improbable Leg with Lord Likely! My favourite SteamDuck story, and just oodles of fun to produce. If you haven't read it, you can grab a copy on Kindle for $0.99.

The Scarlet Lemming is the second Gare Marx story, and was a drawn out livewriting experiment. I wrote the entire thing in a Starbucks in Ottawa in the dead of winter, which was actually more fun than it sounds. You can read the story in its rough form here on the site, but expect the fully-edited version sometime in 2011.

Blast Radius is the second story in the The New Real series, wherein we learn more about Jyi's past, and Darvey goes off the reservation. I really really like the way this story came together, and it gave me the confidence I needed to do trickier stories later in the year. You can read the rough version here, but in this case, the final copy won't be out until 2012, along with the rest of the TNR saga.

Tori's Row is the paranormal thriller written with the immeasurable Nancy Brauer. The first two acts of the book are out, and the third is being written AS WE SPEAK, so look for that in early 2011, along with the final, packaged product. You can read it on the site until that day...

Arkady and Kain was my WeSeWriMo entry, where I cranked out a chapter a day for 31 days in August. It was also the first time I tried live-livewriting, where you could see me typing in Google Docs. A&K is midway through its extensive rewrite, and is on track for an April, 2011 release (it's not readable until that time). BTW, if you want to sign up to be a preview reader on this book, just drop me a line. All you need to do is promise to write a review :)

Polarity is, of course, the second Dustrunners book. It's easily my favourite book of the year, and really, really fun to read, even for me, which is saying something. Polarity is being rewritten heavily so it's in good shape for its May 2011 release. If you want to sign up to be a preview reader, again, just drop me a line. You'll get the first peek at the extra layers I get to add when I'm not bloody rushed :)

Other Sides! It's not strictly a book I wrote, but I did contribute a story. The book is fantastic on Kindle, and in print, too! Get your fix of web fiction! Do it now!

So that was 2010. In terms of numbers, I did well enough. Livewriting numbers have been impressive (Polarity was easily the most popular one yet, with lots of actual new registrations on the site!), the overall readership of older works has been solid, and my Kindle sales haven't been too shabby either. I might add a donation button on the site again, but I'm still on the fence about that. If I'd put more attention into running 1889 this year, I'd be a lot happier now. But alas, the choices we make...

So what's up for 2011? Lots. 10 books planned, and 6 of them are mine! Some of it is still top secret, but what I can tell you a few things:

Totally Random is a big, major site I'm overseeing starting in January. It's creative, but it's not what I usually do, unless you count TorrentBoy. I can't say much more about it, except that it will be buckets of fun, and I'm really excited to be involved. I'll give you updates as I can.

Clockhopper is my steampunk adventure, which I'll be livewriting near the end of February. It's about a warranty adjuster in the wild west, and the dangerous assignment he finds himself saddled with. If I get my ducks in order, I think it will raise the bar on the interactivity of livewriting. Watch for it!

The Archivists is coming a month later, at the end of March. I can't even tell you what it's about, but it will be a fun romp through space and time, with an added twist that should blow your mind. Oh, and there's another thing... I will only say this: I will be more jetlagged than usual.

TorrentBoy Returns! Yes, I'm going to make a concerted effort to get TorrentBoy going again. And by "concerted" I mean I will dedicate at least a week to it. Hey, that's a big investment for me right now!

Rob the Robot just landed its second season, and I'm writing a few episodes. If you haven't seen it, it's a cute preschool series with three robots and an alien, getting into trouble around the galaxy. I'm going to try and tweet about scriptwriting travails more in 2011, so if you see me cursing Orbit, you'll know what I'm referring to.

RollBots. I meant to have a definitive update by today, but there has been a development that is confusing things. I will say this: by the end of JANUARY, you will know the fate of RollBots. It'll be one of three options, and two of them are pretty fantastic. I know it's taking a long time, but the wait will be worth it. And to tide you over, how about this tidbit: when the city loses contact with the last Zuushin, it does something really surprising, which is a big factor in how Spin fends off the invasion.

That's all we've got for today. I'll do my best to update things more in the coming weeks, but at the moment, I have about 15 hours of work left to do today, and only nine hours of productive time left to do it. Yay for schedules!

See you on the other side, people! Thanks for taking the crazy ride with me!

December 4, 2010 — 562 words

Dear WikiLeaks

By MCM

Dear WikiLeaks,

Listen, I really like what you do. I think you provide a service that keeps people honest (and/or smarter), and despite the shotgun approach you're taking right now with a lot of things, I think it's still important that you continue to exist.

I saw on your Twitter feed that PayPal cut you off "after US government pressure", and I want to say two things: first, you have my sympathies, and I hope you find a way around this challenge. And second: oh my god stop saying such stupid things.

You are not stupid people. You do some amazing things, and I think you're all quite smart. But every time you throw around "US government" in your announcements, you make yourselves look like paranoid loons with a grudge against America. You know what happens when people read things by paranoid loons? They tune them out. They start to think: this is a blood feud, and I want nothing to do with it. It's not David vs Goliath, it's Goliath vs a whiny little brat who shoots spitballs at people and then cries loudly when he gets thumped. You are not that person. You are better than that. Act like it.

Your supporters can be paranoid loons who think America is out to get you for what you've done. Hell, even YOU can think that. But you don't say it. You let your supporters say it. Because you are in the business is exposing truth, and quite frankly, you have no proof the US government got PayPal to shut you down. If you did, you'd have published it. All you're doing is ranting and raving, and casting every bit of information you've ever released under a new light. And not a good one. If you lose Amazon or PayPal, say it has happened, factually, and report what you're doing next. Don't tell us how you feel about it. If you find a memo from Obama to PayPal saying "cut off WikiLeaks!" then by all means, show the world. But short of that, you're trying to move the battle into an arena far bigger than you, and you're going to lose.

This is the problem, you see. You're treating yourselves as revolutionaries, fighting against an evil empire. That's not you. You are the tool by which the revolutionaries fight. You provide a service to empower the people, and let them enact change. You need to be impartial, emotionless, and above all, your only agenda can be to expose the truth. 99% of people don't like to hook up with radicals. It always ends in tears. The more you act like radicals, the more you're isolating yourselves, and the less good you're going to be able to do in the future. I think a lot of people want to support you, but you're making it hard for them right now.

Julian Assange said recently that he was the lightning rod for the organization. That's fine. There's got to be one, and I guess he's it. But the trick here is to inspire sympathy for the lightning rod, not to embrace the state of affairs. There are lots of people trying to take the glow off your righteous halo. Don't make it easier for them, please. It'd be a pity if you torched such a great idea over such a stupid thing.