About biffmitchell

I'm a writer, photographer and illustrator. For more, visit biffmitchell.com.

Said the Fox

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“Look at all the For Sale signs lining the streets, ” said the fox.

“No, Fox,” I said. “Those are election signs.”

“Exactly,” said the fox.

The Real Behind the Unreal

Story

It took almost 10 years to write The Weekly Man. It was an off and on thing with the usual writer’s angst and interruptions from this thing called life. The angst was that bottoming out feeling that has you asking questions like: What the hell am I doing? Who’s ever going to read this drivel? You know, the stuff that drives writers crazy. I also took off a few years to study photography and have a few beers. But I kept coming back to the novel.

Working out the logistics was a bitch; it took over a year. It started with the question: How do seven people live in the same body for 30 years and not know about the others in their body? That’s where Natalie/Mona came in with the children’s early training in being special and shrugging off all those discrepancies like: How did I get this cut? I don’t remember this cut. Because one of the others cut him or herself.

At first, I thought the shrugging off and blank acceptance were a bit too far out there to be acceptable, but then I looked around at things like climate change denial and how voters listen to broken promises from politicians (who’ve already broken promises) and still believe them…over and over. It occurred to me that the characters in The Weekly Man don’t live so much in our world as we live in their world.

I had to bring in Manzer Doyle to work out some of the legal stuff like government identification and birth certificates. Being a retired, but well connected, ex-civil servant, he was in a position to call in favors and contact the right people.

And yes, there were moments of confusion when I wondered, OK, which one woke up to the smell of perfume? I had to go back more than once and re-write sections where I had the wrong character doing or thinking the wrong thing. And yes, I had a list of the characters and a brief summary of the secondary characters. In fact, I created a PDF file that you can download so that you don’t get confused. You can download it at theweeklyman.com.

And it’s free.

Incidentally, the entire novel was written in a coffee shop.

 

The Weekly Man’s First Fake Interview

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Mr. World News: So, Biff, how did the first week of your free daily serialized coffee break novel go?

Biff: It went well, Mr. News. I only lost half my usual readers.

Mr. World News: Half? That’s horrible.

Biff: Tell me about it. Now I have just one reader.

Mr. World News: And what are your plans now?

Biff: I’m going to get that reader back. I may have to send money…or maybe I could just learn how to write. That can’t be too hard.

Mr. World News: No, uh, that should be…(looks at schedule)…you are Biff Mitchell, right?

Biff: Did you want the evil one or the nice one?

Mr. World News: (looking confused) I was hoping for the…uh…nice one, I guess.

Biff: Great. That would be me. Are you one of my readers? Are you the one who stopped reading?

Mr. World News: (looking uncomfortable, about ready to run) Um…back to the first week. What was that first week like, Biff?

Biff: (gets faraway look in eyes) Let me see. It was…hell. Pure hell. It rained every day. I posted a bad link and one of my readers (the one that stayed) sent me a death threat with a graphic description of what will happen to me if I screw up again. MS Word caused massive format changes of an evil manner in WordPress. My iMac died just when I needed it the most and needs a few hundred dollars worth of repairs, but I have a MacBook, so the posts went on. Other than pure bloody hell…things went well.

Mr. World News: (eyes glazed) It…it sounds like…an interesting first week.

Biff: And there are only 9 more weeks to go. I think I’ll jump off a bridge tonight.

Mr. World News: (looking around to ensure there are no bridges close by) Is it true that you have two versions of the novel?

Biff: Yep. It looks fine on my blog if you’re on a desktop or laptop. But it looks like shit on a phone. I know this for certain. I saw it on my iPhone and immediately sent myself a death threat. So I put together a cell phone friendly site.

Mr. World News: It certainly sounds like a lot of work, Biff. How do you manage it?

Biff: Awakeness

Mr. World News: Awakeness?

Biff: Yes, I wake up each day and do things.

Mr. World News: Um…uh…yes. That’s very interesting, Biff. Good wholesome advice. (hands Biff the microphone and runs over a hill and into the setting sun)

Biff: (looking at mike in hand) I wonder…was he that other reader?

(NOTE: You can start reading The Weekly Man at any time. All the episodes published so far are at the welcome screen.)

A Clean Well Lit Place

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I’m not an expert on world cuisine but I know what I like. I know what makes my taste buds dance so wildly that people back away from me when they see my eyes spinning in their sockets and both sides of my smile shaking hands over my eyebrows. It’s unsettling and, fortunately for my friends’ ability to sleep at night, it’s rare.

But, unfortunately, most food tastes like salt, sugar or some chemical compound meant to recreate the taste of something that the creators of the compound never seem to have tasted. Restaurants can be an exception…along with meals we make from scratch. The problem is: The foods that don’t taste like food are the foods we equate with the flavor for those foods.

I’ve heard people say they don’t like the food in Cuba because it’s bland. Hey, welcome to the actual taste of pork, butter, ketchup, fish…you name it…without salt and sugar added to addict your taste buds to anything but the flavor of food.

The really sad part is that we get an unhealthy dose of sugar and salt, and whatever is in those chemical compounds that could, conceivably, turn our future generations into walking, talking belly pods.

Having said all this, I guess it’s time to get to the point: I found a restaurant in Ottawa that serves Mexican food without the stuff that hides the real taste. My daughter and son-in-law took me there, and apparently, you have to get there early. Which we did. In less than an hour, all the other tables were filled.

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I’m not going to get into any attempt at describing the food from an culinary expert standpoint because I’m not a culinary expert, but if you’re in Ottawa, I would recommend trying the food at Ola Cocina.

(BTW, they didn’t pay me to write this. In fact, they don’t even know I’m writing this.)

The Weekly Man: One Got Through (so far)

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I’ve been planning and preparing for my serialization of The Weekly Man for months. It’s pretty much how I spent most of my summer. It wasn’t easy. I had to set up a blog at WordPress to post the episodes. I was horrified when I saw the first test posts on my phone. They looked great on my iMac and Macbook, but things were skewed all to hell on my phone.

So I had to create a phone-happy version on my biffmitchell.com site on GoDaddy. And it actually looks good. Unfortunately, I ran into massive formatting problems with the template and I had to create PDFs for each episode…72 of them, along with 72 thumbnails for readers to click on to bring up the PDFs.

Ran into formatting problems on WordPress as well and had to create screen cuts of all the email messages (and there are many many many emails in the novel) which I can insert into the posts each day for the next couple of months.

Now, I realize that I could have sailed around a lot of these problems if I used some HTML, but that would be time-consuming and my HTML is rusty as hell.

And then, of course, there’s getting the word out. I won’t get into the Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, LinkedIn and Facebook challenges. I could write a book on the ups and downs and the special rules and expectations, especially on some if the Reddit and Facebook sites.

It’s a lot.

But I have a checklist. I worked in Quality Assurance for several years and learned that complex processes crumble and collapse without checklists and stringent testing. So I have a checklist, and when I post something on either site, I read through, looking for misspellings, missing paragraphs, incorrect images…all the cool and maddening ways that things can go wrong and kill the hair follicles in your head.

But I just received a message from a friend informing me that when she clicks the thumbnail for Episode 2 on the GoDaddy site, she gets Episode 3. Fortunately, I don’t have any hair left to loose, but I have to wait an hour before I can correct the error and…whisker by whisker…my new beard is falling out.

It’s a race against the clock to keep my beard and hide the mistake.

There will be more. I’ve been in the IT industry too long to believe any differently.

 

(PS, if you find any errors, mistakes, gross misconceptions, incorrect theses, unintentional release of secret information, or signs of unforgivable sloppiness…please feel free to rub it in my face and I’ll do my best to address it.)

Never Bored with the Boards

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It was one hell of a busy summer. I finished a novel and gave up on another one (for now, anyway). I put together a game and marketing plan for the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel (seriously, Google it). The novel is currently running on my parallel blog, The Weekly Man.

I also, visited Fundy Park for the first time with my bestie, Stephanie, and will definitely be going back. I discovered a lake I’d been wanting to see for years along with my friend, Nanook of the Nashwaak.

I also put together my first solo exhibition featuring my macro photography and board drawings. I did 37 boards last winter and lost over 20 pounds. They were addicting to the point that I would start right in on them as soon as I got home from work and forget abut things like eating and making a lunch for the next day.

I did the actual drawing at home but took the boards into the studio to paint and varnish them.

This is what they looked like in the studio:

And this is what they look like hanging up:

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I’ve visited the studios of many of my artist friends and it always fascinates me to see their works in progress and then see them on display with all the messiness of creation left behind. I think this is what many skeptics fail to see when they look at a painting and say something stupid like, “A few dollars for paper and a few dollars for paint…and you sell it for ten times what it’s worth.”

Bastards.

I hate these people with a passion. I’d like them all to work for me for free for one year. You know, doing whatever they’re good at and not being paid for it. Or being paid a couple of dollars an hour. On the other hand, these are most likely to be people who don’t do so well on their jobs because they’re not smart and they talk too much. Maybe I don’t want them working for me and just messing everything up.

So, with that aside put aside, seeing the work in progress gives you a true sense of the intense focus and commitment that goes into creating art. I’ve seen artists on the verge of collapsing from hunger and fatigue because they had a deadline for an exhibition and they’ve gone for days without sleep and they’ve survived on coffee and air.

And this isn’t always a matter of the artists not preparing properly. Often, it’s because the gallery or other venue has changed the rules, the dates, the physical venue or whatever. Or, preparing for the exhibit leads the artist into new areas and the temptation to add some of the new stuff to the exhibit. Fortunately, most galleries don’t allow this, or there’d be a lot more crazy artists jumping out of windows and off bridges.

For me, working on the boards was one of the most fulfilling and mystical experiences of my life. I believe that where there was life, there will always be life. Life is energy and wherever that energy has existed, there will always be some remnant of it…like when you cut down a tree, the tree’s life energy doesn’t just disappear…patches of it inundate the wood like shadows of the tree’s memories, and you can feel that energy in the boards even after they’re cut into useable sizes from the tree.

Before I start drawing on the board, I spend some time getting a feel for its life energy, and that’s what directs the tip of my gel pen to bring out the board’s story.

And the stories are never boring.

 

(BTW, the image at the top of the screen is one of the photos in the exhibit.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weekly Man: 224,434,533.05 Bugs, But It’s Done

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I’m so glad for the death threats a few of months ago. Without them, I would have been in some pretty deep shit a couple of months ago. I wouldn’t have been ready for this. I would have made a complete idiot of myself (and I don’t need any more of that). I would have failed miserably and hopelessly. I would have had to spend the rest of my life under my bed with an empty bottle of wine, crying. 

But thanks to the promises of my unscheduled departure from this world if I didn’t do this at the end of the summer, I had time to do it right…and work out the 224,434,533.05 bugs that somehow crept into the very texture of the project. Things like font and formatting problems across platforms, sizing for devices, figuring out an efficient way to deliver the episodes…

It was a lot, but I won’t get into that now. The first episode is up and was ready for everybody’s Sunday coffee break and that’s what I’m going to do for the next two and a half months…make sure each episode is up and ready for everybody’s coffee break, seven days a week, because we all drink coffee on the weekends, gallons of it, and most of it on our Sunday coffee break. Some of us go into work to do this; some of us have lost our jobs for doing this; some of us skip football to do some coffee break reading; some of us lead normal lives and haven’t read this far…

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This is my promise, short of death by dismemberment and other means, I will have all 72 episodes ready each day except for one period where the order of life in the novel will require a week (Sept 30 – Oct 7) for everyone to take a breather and drink tea…just for the hell of drinking tea. And I won’t lie about this…I’m nervous. I spent a lot of time building things, working up a schedule that makes sense and a process for meeting the schedule, creating graphics and freebies that might actually have meaning for some people…and, of course, I had to write a novel. 

   

It took almost eight years to write it…and that includes a year and a half of research to work out the logistics required to make the story believable; plus, I took a few years off to study photography and get a haircut. I used the storyboard for the novel to teach the concept of storyboarding to my creative writing students…the ones who are all better writers than me and didn’t really need to take the workshop. All they needed was this advice. (https://biffmitchell.files.wordpress.com/2019/09/writeanovel.pdf) But that’s another blog. 

There’re seven main characters, and their names sound a bit similar. Well, maybe a lot similar. There’s a reason for this but I’m not going to tell you what it is because I don’t want to give away something that will make your skin crawl. It’ll all be revealed in time but, in the meantime, it might be a good idea to download the printable one page character guide.

BTW, if you want to read the novel on your cell phone, you can read each episode in PDF form from the Welcome Page.

Today is Sunday. At exactly nine o’clock, I sipped a Columbian coffee I made with my French press from freshly ground beans and read the world’s first free daily coffee break novel. And I can hardly wait for the second episode…when things loosen up a bit and the humor kicks in.

(BTW, I’ll be posting each episode sometime between 6 and midnight each day.)