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May 4, 2011 — 662 words

New Book: Rob the Robot!

By MCM

The party continues today at 1889 with the release of a brand new book! We're really excited to announce the first official Rob the Robot picture book, "Arrr Marks the Spot"!

If you have a preschooler in a bunch of countries around the world, you probably already know who Rob is: one of four friends who take off in their rocket ship to have exciting adventures around the galaxy! Take a look at this video to see how much fun it is....

"Arrr Marks the Spot" brings Rob, Ema, TK and Orbit to Buccaneer Planet, where they follow an old map to find a buried treasure! You can grab it from Amazon, or on Kindle or Smashwords! And for today only, use coupon code VH48F and get 50% off when you buy from Smashwords!

Free Books!

To celebrate the release, we're doing something nutty! We're giving away free books! All you need to do is write a comment on this post and tell us what Rob and the gang find in the treasure chest at the end of "Arrr Marks the Spot"! You don't need to know the real answer... go wild!

At the end of the day, we'll use a random number generator to pick three winners, and they'll each get a free print copy of "Arrr Marks the Spot"! Easy!

Party like it's 1889!

Okay, so you've got the kids taken care of. How about something for yourself, too? This week, I'm giving away a $10 Amazon voucher AND a paperback of your choosing from the 1889 Labs library. That's even more chances to win something!

All you need to do is leave a comment at the 1889 site sometime this week! Winners will be chosen by a random number generator, so the more comments you leave, the better your odds! Get a-typing!

Let's do it!

For a chance to win the Amazon voucher or paperback, complete as many missions below as possible!

1. Participate in the "Arrr Marks the Spot" giveaway above by telling us what Rob finds in the treasure chest! Entering that giveaway automatically enters you in both!

2. Tweet about the contest using the hashtag #1889party and get your friends involved!

3. Post your favourite pirate joke on our Facebook page!

4. Come back to 1889 Labs every day this week to get extra entries into this week's giveaway! The week's just getting started!

5. For TEN extra entries, post a photo on the 1889 Labs facebook wall of you, your cat, or whatever/whoever you want, reading an 1889 book (either print or ebook).

Couldn't be more simple! The contest closes Saturday May 7 at 11:59 EDT, with winners announced on Sunday.

And remember, ALL your comments this week also count towards the grand prize giveaway for a Kindle, VIP tickets and more! #yesreally

because it is!Confused? The entire month of May, we're throwing a massive party. There are DOZENS of ways to win, and over ten cool prizes up for grabs! More details here.

May 2, 2011 — 591 words

Avast Thar, Me Hearties! It’s A Pirate Party!

By A.M. Harte

Forget Somalia! Real pirates live in SPACE.

That’s right. Look up. No, not at the ceiling. Past that, into the wide, open sky overhead. It may look empty and peaceful, but there’s a war going on up there. Or there will be, 30 years in the future.

Introducing our first author on Party Like It’s 1889: MCM, also known as Michael ‘Can’t-Beat-Him’ Milligan!

Backstage, there’s been a lot of squabbling between the authors over who will get the most comments this month. MCM is the first up to the bat, and he's determined to stay in first place!

As a matter of fact, for this week only, MCM is offering a 50% discount on his futuristic science fiction thriller Typhoon! That's right -- you can enjoy all the ruthless space pirates, evil corporations, dangerous missions and kick-ass adventures for half the price! #sweet

To get the discount, head on over to Smashwords and use coupon code VR28K before Sunday May 8.

And that's not all!

This week MCM is giving away a $10 Amazon voucher AND a paperback of your choosing from the 1889 Labs library (open worldwide!). That’s right. TWO prizes, you lucky people.

Winners will be chosen using a random number generator which will pull from all the comments MCM receives this week. The more comments you leave, the more chances you have, so get your fingers ready!

Get Looting!

For a chance to win the Amazon voucher or paperback, complete as many missions below as possible!

1. Leave a comment on this very post right now telling us how you’d hide a space fighter the size of a small bus so that the police would never find it!

2. Tweet about the contest using the hashtag #1889party and get your friends involved!

3. Post your favourite pirate joke on our Facebook page!

4. Check out this week's recap for one handy list of all MCM's party posts!

5. For TEN extra entries, post a photo on the 1889 Labs facebook wall of you, your cat, or whatever/whoever you want, reading Typhoon (either print or ebook).

Couldn't be more simple! The contest closes Saturday May 7 at 11:59 EDT, with winners announced on Sunday. Winners announced!

But remember, ALL your comments on the list above also count towards the grand prize giveaway for a Kindle, VIP tickets and more! #yesreally

because it is!Confused? The entire month of May, we're throwing a massive party. There are DOZENS of ways to win, and over ten cool prizes up for grabs! More details here.

May 1, 2011 — 664 words

Party Like It’s 1889!

By A.M. Harte

If you're half as excited as we are, you're at risk of a heart attack.

Why? Because I'm declaring May a month of giveaway madness. Four books, four authors, four weeks of contests, and more prizes than you can shake a stick at!

That's right: the month of May we're gonna party like it's 1889!

No, no, put away your Eiffel Tower figurines, margherita pizzas and jukeboxes. I didn't mean 1889 the year, I meant 1889 Labs Ltd, independent publisher extraordinaire, ie, us!

Did someone say PRIZES? #hellyes

There are dozens of ways to win and over ten amazing prizes!

Every week we'll be giving away one paperback of your choosing, a $10 Amazon voucher, plus some must-have ebooks!

Not enough for you? Well, we're also running a grand giveaway across all four weeks! Up for grabs this month only:

3rd Place: A backstage pass! Get an advance ebook copy of the next title we'll publish in June 2011!

2nd Place: A VIP ticket, granting you access to advance copies of every ebook we'll publish this year, before anyone else gets ahold of them! You can't say no to 10+ free ebooks!

1st Place: A VIP ticket for 10+ free advance ebooks as outlined above aaaand.... a KINDLE!! #yesreally

Join the fun!

Want a chance to win that Kindle? You know you do!

Enter the grand giveaway NOW!

1. Leave a comment on every post we publish this month with the pink Party Like It's 1889 logo -- including THIS post! Each comment is worth one entry into the grand giveaway!

2. Get tweeting! Use the hashtag #1889party and get your friends involved! Each tweet counts as one entry!

3. Visit often! Nearly every day we’ll have a new post up with author interviews, behind-the-scenes information, games, giveaways and lots of extra little tricks to earn more chances of winning!

4. Want TEN instant extra entries? Go to our facebook page and post a photo of yourself reading an 1889 Labs book -- either in print or ebook!

Own more than one 1889 Labs book? Post a picture for each for even more chances to win that luscious Kindle, those VIP tickets, and backstage pass!

And if you're camera-shy? Put up a photo of your cat reading our book instead. Or your teddy bear. Or your cactus plant. If it's got our book, we're happy.

What's that, you say? You don't own any of our books? Sheesh! What rock have you been hiding under?

To recap: every party-related comment or tweet is worth 1 entry, and every photo you upload to Facebook is worth 10!

The deadline for all entries is May 31 at 11:59pm EDT so get cracking, and get snapping! You want that Kindle, don't you?!

because it is!Visit each link for all the ways to win!
Week 1: Typhoon by MCM
Week 2: Bears, Recycling and Confusing Time Paradoxes by Greg X Graves
Week 3: Intern With The Vampire by Kit Iwasaki
Week 4: Hungry For You by A.M. Harte

April 14, 2011 — 43 words

Dear RollBots Fans

By MCM

It's not new episodes (yet), but it will make up for it with EXPLOSIONS.

April 14, 2011 — 525 words

New Series! Vampire General!

By MCM

Today 1889 is launching a brand new series called Vampire General. The first book, Intern with the Vampire is now available on Kindle and Smashwords for $0.99!

So what's it about? I could quote you the blurb, but I'm far too lazy to copy it. So instead, a summary I made up on my own!

It's about a doctor named Aline Harman who has a very rough first night as an intern at Grace General hospital, also known as Vampire General. The place caters to a specific clientele: transhumans. Vampires, werewolves, mermaids... you name it, they've got it. And it's not just the patients who are different. Aline soon discovers the dangers (and pleasures) of working with a diverse group of doctors, some of whom are... well... perhaps a little dangerous. Perhaps a lot.

I'll be honest: I don't know how to write about romancey-type things, so this next part will be awkward, but suffice to say, VG is full of tense moments between Aline and her... er... attractive co-workers. 'Tense' is the wrong word. Let's just say there are private moments in closets in the dark, and that closeness is an important factor. Ahem. Yes.

The book is written by Kit Iwasaki, another new 1889 author, and I really think you're going to like it. And I mean a lot. The next book in the series is coming up fast, so if you like your vampires and your romance and your medical drama, this is definitely for you.

NOW! One last bit of news that I'm tacking on here, because I want everyone to see it, and a post about vampires is bound to draw some eyeballs...

1889 has undergone some changes of late, and one of the changes is the addition of the wonderful A.M. Harte as Editor-in-Chief. What does this mean? Well, it means we have standards for a change. So apparently I don't get to publish my own stuff anymore (rimshot). The big thing that Anna brings to the table is oh-my-god persistence and reach. You may recall Greg's book... that was her. And Terra Whiteman's Antithesis? Also her. And there are many other projects coming up that are one hundred percent her doing.

So yes. If you don't welcome her warmly, I fear she may kill you.

Right! So here is your list of things to do today!

  1. Buy Vampire General #1!
  2. Buy Greg's book!
  3. Welcome Anna warmly!

Be thankful your list is only three items long. Mine is the size of Zimbabwe.

P.S. for you RollBots fans, the next post I make here will be for you.

April 11, 2011 — 451 words

The Future of Digital Publishing

By A.M. Harte

Ever since Greg's articles on ghosts and devils, MCM has been on my back demanding that I write up an overview of the state of digital publishing on Greg's behalf, since he clearly isn't capable.

To get myself into the Greg mindset, I put a box of cereal on my head.

My first thought was that I probably should have emptied the cereal box before wearing it. The damn little cardboard flakes of Special K rained down around me, exfoliating my cheeks and forming a little brown, crunchy puddle at my feet.

I turned on my webcam -- a lazy girl's mirror -- and took a look at the damage. Scrapes all down my face, thin lines of blood coming to the surface. A five star zombie facial. Off to a good start, then.

I would've proceeded to write my digital publishing article in blood, just to keep on the same theme, but sadly my laptop abhors liquids. So I called Greg for some advice, and the conversation went something like this:

"Greg! Hi! You know that article on digital pub--"

"Don't work for the Man! Down with the Establishment!"

"But I need to--"

"Whatever, toots!" And then all I heard was the snorting of his pet hog, and after that all I heard was silence.

I hung up.

There was nothing I could do: Greg's method wasn't working for me. I took off the cereal box and leaned back in my chair, musing on the inability of traditional publishers to adapt to the ebook market. As I stretched out my legs, something crunched underfoot, coating my sock in brown crumbliness.

"Oh my god," I said, not because I had Special K on my foot -- although admittedly, that was rather inconvenient -- but because it was then I realized that the cereal hadn't just fallen onto the floor in any old pattern. No: these toasted flakes of maize were predicting the future. It was like the cereal equivalent of fortune-telling tea leaves!

I stood on my chair, turned on my webcam, lifted up my laptop and began to photograph all of the scattered flakes of cereal. Eventually, I managed to reconstruct the pattern in Photoshop and submit it to the Cereal Divinator™.

The results trickled in slowly, one word at a time:

"The

future

of

digital

publishing

is

ERROR -- CANNOT COMPUTE."

The program crashed. I opened the error report, scrolled down to the bottom.

"Error 789," it said. "Footprint-shaped disruption. Please recast the cereal and try again."

But since I didn't need another zombie facial, I decided to put off the article until tomorrow. Sorry, MCM!

April 5, 2011 — 724 words

Digital Publishing and Traditional Media

By Greg X. Graves

Ever since my last article about ghosts that raised eyebrows across the country, MCM has sent me daily emails asking me for a real article about digital publishing. He won't lay off. I'm going to start calling him Scuff, because I'm a hard case and he's all over me.

So I think to myself, Scuff sure wants this article for his site. And I'm a nice guy, so I'll turn it in. But I'm going to make him wait, let him sweat a little, because I'm also a hard case. Gonna let that deadline sail past like a galley in a hurricane. But while I'm waiting for midnight to roll around, so many emails from Scuff are coming in that I start to get hungry from the exertion of reading them.

I go into the kitchen and make myself a six or seven Michelin star snack, starting with a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips and ending with the finishing flourish of a bowl. Ah, the clatter of haute cuisine!

Before I go back upstairs, I decide to garnish my magnificent dinner with an old carton of chip dip that I'd forgotten about. It was called "Devil's Foot." I opened that sucker up to get my dip on, but when I broke the seal a devil's foot came out and kicked me square in the jaw, followed closely by the rest of the devil.

"Your kitchen is disgusting," the devil said. "I mean, there are chips all over the floor and everything."

That's when I got mad. I'm fine with Scuffs sending me a dozen emails a minute asking me where that article is, I'm fine with a devil hangin' out in my kitchen, but it will be a cold day in hell when my culinary pride is bruised.

"Those are not chips, that is the delicious dinner that I prepared for myself that you just ruined!" I yelled at the devil.

"Seems like you prepared your dinner by ripping open a bag and dumping them into a bowl," he said.

This, of course, was a slap in my face.

"How dare you speak to me like that!" I yelled, not sure whether or not that turn of phrase needed a question mark.

"I'll speak to you any way I want. I'm a devil. Now make me some food, I'm hungry from my interdimensional travel," the devil said, sitting down in my kitchen chair and putting his feet up on my table.

"I'll do no such thing!" I said.

"If you don't, I'll do something terrible to you," the devil replied.

"Like what?"

"I'll turn you into a groady toad," the devil said, his eyes narrowing, "and set a flock of ravens upon you. I'll hang you by your ears over a chasm filled with spikes, lava and scorpions floating in tiny lava-proof rafts. Do you have matches?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Then I'll set you on fire, too," the devil said, flicking out his sandpaper like tongue as he made an evil face at me.

"Oh no, I better make you dinner," I replied. "Those all sound ghastly."

The devil smiled and leaned back in his chair. Thirty minutes later, I had a dish prepared for him.

"It appears that you've emptied a bag of chips into a bowl filled with very alcoholic liquor," he said.

"No, it's haute cuisine. When was the last time that you were on Earth?" I asked.

"True, I didn't think that fish eggs would take off, either," the devil replied, throwing the entire bowl into his mouth and chewing it.

A moment later, he burst into flames.

"How?!" the devil said as he melted.

I brandished a box of waterproof matches at him. "I taped one to each chip that I put into the bowl! I saw your tongue rasping around in that horrible face of yours and knew that it would work to strike the matches, and that liquor that I gave you is so concentrated that it would ignite if left out in the Sun on a hot day."

"Curses!" yelled the devil.

Of course, a flaming devil in your kitchen is virtually guaranteed to burn the house down, as I've recently discovered. Among the casualties of my moral victory was the article about digital publishing. Sorry, Scuff!

April 1, 2011 — 282 words

The Book With A Pictogram Cover

By MCM

It must be April Fools, because we've just gone and released a book with a pictogram cover!

Actually, no, that's not true.

Well, it is true that it's April Fools. And it's also true that the thing has a pictogram cover. But the two are totally unrelated. Mostly. Stop badgering me!

The new book is called Bears, Recycling and Confusing Time Paradoxes, and it is an anthology of fantastically bizarre stories by the fantastically bizarre Greg X. Graves. You may remember him from such sites as... er... his own. And this one, a few days ago. Where he made me cry. Twice, even. But I'm okay. I just need a moment.

Anyway, Greg's book is full of all the important information you need to get through life, including key information on recycling, vampire suitors, and Hideous Telepathic Space-faring Lizardmen in Mansuits (which in all honesty, I could have used last year and avoided a very awkward bus ride. But I digress).

The book, which I will henceforth call BRACTP, is available in print at various fine retailers for $8.99, and ALSO can be purchased for Kindle for $0.99 (limited time offer! No seriously! Act now or I'll send a dog to chew off your toes!)

As a final note, I want to thank Greg for being such a great guy, and for not posting those pictures like I know he could have. You, sir, are a saint. Relatively speaking.

March 31, 2011 — 1,275 words

The Archivists Post Mortem!

By MCM

So! From March 24-26, in the fantastic city of Ghent, Belgium, I livewrote another novel. It was called The Archivists, and it was so many kinds of fun, I literally can't feel my legs right now. I am damaged by the fun. Legendarily so.

The event didn't go off quite as expected, so let me take a moment to review some of the things that we did, and how we can do better in the future. And by "we" I mean "Anna". Because she's the root of all problems.

The Set-Up

Because we were livewriting LIVE, we had to have some way for the audience to participate. There were two giant screens hung over the table where I sat (scary!) with one projecting the answers sent in by the audience, and the other with the livewritten text as it was written. Then below, there were two laptops with custom-built interfaces to entice people to play along.

The big problem with the set-up wasn't in the physical arrangement of stuff (the Vooruit folks did a truly astounding job making it all work)... the problem was with Google Docs. The trick with Google Docs is that it shows you live writing, but you have to manually scroll to see the latest info. Not too efficient when you can't actually scroll. The audience would only see the top few lines at a time. Yeesh.

I didn't have much time to fix the problem, so I wrote a very crude AJAX-y system that took my input, posted it to the server, and then retrieved the data every 2.5 seconds to display on the screen. There are definitely some glitches to this system, but the biggest issue was bandwidth: I racked up 70GB of data transfer in three days. Not the best use of bandwidth either: it was all just text. The trick was, I believe, that for the first time, the livewriting actually made sense to a lot of people. Google Docs was confusing, I know, and this was simple. So we had more readers, and more bandwidth, and more pain for my server.

On the other hand, it's a brilliant jumping-off point. I've got things in the works for a more streamlined interface next time, which should deliver the realtime results without costing an arm and a leg.

Fast-As-You-Can Questions and Answers

Another big change this time around were the questions and answers. Usually, I have a few chapter questions, and then a wildcard or two. The problem with that system is that I feel bad when I finish a chapter and I haven't used all the answers. So I tried to disassociate the answers from the chapters entirely: I get fed an answer and have to integrate it ASAP, and when I'm done, there's another answer waiting. The unfortunate problem with this technique is that it puts a big distance between entering an answer and seeing it pay off, and also, it means I can get some truly bizarre answers at the wrong time.

Next time around, we're losing the wildcard questions, losing user-submitted questions, and sticking with one-to-three chapter questions with clear integration points. And the questions will be released as each answer is used, so the time between answering and seeing the results will be much shorter.

Hopefully it works. If not, we keep revising things until it does!

The Actual Writing

I was jetlagged in Belgium, there is no doubt. First thing in the morning, I was barely functional. It took me until noon to really start thinking properly, and not until much later did I start writing things that made sense. So you can see it in the chapters themselves: it would come and go in waves, where my brain slowly caught up with things.

Usually, my outlines save me from this kind of thing, but for whatever reason, with The Archivists, I didn't have that safety net properly in place. I can very easily envision totally rewriting half the book before it's fully released, because there's so much I dislike right now. The Aziz storyline in particular kicks off in the wrong place, and just drags far too much. I do want people to be confused about how it all fits together,  but there should be enough engaging distraction along the way that you don't worry too much. Right now, it's too slow in too many places.

Another key glitch is that I just didn't take enough time to deal with any of the storylines. That was partly a function of the 45-chapter limit, and the fact that livewriting is hard... but I think if we spent more time with Francis and Adele, Koen and De Smedt and especially Aziz... we'd have a stronger story. Luckily, I have about four months to revise it all, so there's LOTS of time to make things worse!

The People

Let me just say: the people at Vooruit are some of the most fantastic people I have ever met. I was telling a friend this the other day: coming from an arts school, it was like our classmates had grown up and been given the keys to a really incredible resource. Lunatics running the asylum, but they run it WELL. Kathleen made everything happen on time and oh-so smoothly (even when the mistakes were my fault!), and Tom threw positivity at me whenever I was starting to be unsure (also: best glasses of all time). Oh, and Peter saved my life with the right drinks at the right moments, which is incredibly invaluable.

And a livewriting adventure wouldn't be a proper adventure without the Dispatch team. This time, we had Jan and Anna there IN PERSON, which you would think would be distracting and possibly painful, but in fact, it was INCREDIBLY distracting and unexpectedly painful. Chocolates thrown at my face, strange conversations that were impossible to filter out... it was utter madness, and I loved every second of it. With Cathi and Greg and Eli joining in online (especially Eli's Mickey Mouse voice), it was probably the most entertaining three days I've ever experienced. Even the party afterwards, which I only partially remember.

If you are ever in Belgium, you must visit Ghent. And if you're ever in Ghent, you must go to Vooruit. They make life worth living, really.

Shut Up and Give Me Stats

Harsh! But okay: in the three days of livewriting, I spat out 55,000 words (depends on whether you trust my hacky wordcounter or the one in Pages). Forty-five chapters done, the average chapter is about 1,200 words. There were 87,000 questions and answers submitted from 12,000 users. Overall, something in the range of 300,000 people watched the writing unfold, and the PDF of the final product was downloaded over 10,000 times in the three days since it was released.

Can we do better? Definitely. Will we do better? Oh baby, you know we will.

What's Next Then?

What's next is editing. We have to get that sucker in good shape, and I reckon it'll be over 100,000 words when it's done. Look for that sometime in the later summer.

So you may be asking yourself: when do I get to find out about the cup and Aziz's letter and what happens to Adele? Well, I'm afraid there's a bit of a wait for that. The second book in the Archivists series isn't due for more than a year. But I promise you the revised book one will have so much in it, you won't mind so much.

But you'll still mind. Mwahaha.

March 29, 2011 — 474 words

A Walk Through Digital Publishing

By Greg X. Graves

MCM told me that I needed to turn in an article about the state of publishing vis-a-vis the global network of computers that have already turned the music and film industries on their heads.  He said to cover digital distribution models and some other stuff that I missed because I had some Billy Joel mp3s turned up too loud.

And I said to him, it wasn't the computers listening to pirated Billy Joel and watching a pirated version of From Justin to Kelly.  Then I turned off the movie and got to work.

I finished a paragraph, went back to edit out the curse words, and discovered that I had a pile of quotation marks and commas.

That happens when I'm not in the mood to write a fluff piece for The Man, so I said "screw you, MCM," and went for a walk to the local convenience store to buy a fresh pack of cigarettes to roll up into the sleeve of my white cotton t-shirt. The old one got pretty mangled from all the bicep curls that I do.

While I walked through the twilight, I had to pass a small piece of unsold commercial property that had turned into a lawless no-mans-land.  The motorists using the nearby road must be incorrigible litterbugs, because the trees and bushes in the grove were dressed up in torn plastic bags like they were ready for Halloween.

One of the plastic ghosts sneezed.

Among the bushes masquerading as ghosts was a real ghost!  And it had allergies!

"Hey, man, do you have allergies?" I asked the ghost.

"Yes, and I can't go to the convenience store for some non-drowsy allergy medication because I'm a friggin' ghost!  I scare everybody, and ghost money is no good!"

"Tell you what," I said, hatching one of my many successful schemes, "I'll go buy you the medicine, bring it back to you, and you pay me back in ghost money."

Ghost money must be pretty awesome, I thought.

"That would be grand!" the ghost replied.

I went to the convenience store and bought the allergy medicine and took it back to the ghost.

He fished around in his ghost-slacks and thrust several wadded up ghost-dollars at me.  They featured portraits of dead people, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but that's where the connection to ghosts ended. The bills were far too corporeal and substantial.

"Man, this is just regular money, screw that," I said, and gave it to a post-office box that looked hungry.

When I got back home, I sat down and wrote a terrific summary of the state of digital publishing.  Before I submitted it, though, I realized that it would be Too Real for The Man to appreciate, so I said "screw you, MCM" and gave him a sweet-ass ghost story instead.