Never Bored with the Boards

Bridge Yellow

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.)

How Do You Read the Coffee Break Novel?

read novel

You would think I would have the decency and the brains to limit the world’s first daily serialized coffee break novel to five days a week…those weekdays traditionally recognized as work days in the 1950s image of the perfect world where everybody clocked in at 9 in the morning and stumbled out at 5 PM. But I have neither.

And I don’t really feel bad about it. Not everyone works in an office. Not everyone has coffee breaks. Not everyone drinks coffee. And since this is a world’s first, not everyone knows how to read it. There will be chaos and war sprouting out of arguments over how to read a coffee break novel if you don’t have a coffee break. Families will purge members who drink tea on their coffee breaks. I’ve already received disguised death threats from football fans expressing their outrage that The Weekly Man will be published not just weekdays…but Saturday and Sunday as well…even though I had no say in that. You can thank the novel’s characters for that piece of insanity.

I’ve thought deeply about this and I’ve come up with some options.

You can read The Weekly Man five days a week on your morning or afternoon coffee break…and you can come in to work for a few minutes on Saturday and Sunday to read it. I foresee objections to this option and offer the following alternatives:

  • Stay home on the weekends and read three days’ worth of episodes on Monday.
  • Have your weekend coffee breaks at home in a room simulated to look like your work space.
  • Don’t bother reading those episodes, which will very likely increase the novel’s mystery aspect.

Personally, none of these options appeal to me, but then, I’m bald and have an unruly beard that I try to conceal from the public.

Now, let’s suppose you don’t have coffee breaks, don’t drink coffee, don’t work because you’re a 105 year old hippie like me, don’t have time on your 3 minute coffee break or…don’t whatever. I have a page, a hidden page that doesn’t appear on my website’s navigation bar because it’s a secret page. It has all the episodes, every single one of them listed for the whole two and a half months of its serialization.

One problem though.

Each episode will be posted on its scheduled date…not all at once. But you can still put aside some time and read say, a week’s worth or a few days’ worth. And you don’t even have to drink coffee while you’re reading. You can drink beer. Or tea. Click here for the secret page…but don’t tell anyone else. This is just for you.

Come to think of it, reading a weeks’ worth of episodes each Saturday would be more like the original serialized novels from writers like Dickens a thousand years before they had coffee breaks.

Using this secret link will allow you to read the whole novel after all the episodes have been published. But keep in mind…that would require a lot of clicking because each episode requires you to click to open it. You’ll get Click Thumb and Fingers and your hand will fall off.

Here’s another option that just occurred to me: Read the episodes at night while you drink coffee on a break from your evening activities. How cool would that be? You’re watching a movie with friends and suddenly stand up and announce, “I think I’ll have a coffee break now and read The Weekly Man.” You’ll be envied as the loneliest person on the block. I know this from experience.

I guess it boils down to this: Read it however you want. I’ve put together a few options to give you some choice and that choice is yours.

You can read The Weekly Man on its own blog here. https://www.theweeklyman.com. If you’re reading on a cell phone or tablet, read it at the secret place mentioned above. And check out the welcome page at https://biffmitchell.com/the-weekly-man for more options and lots of freebies for readers and writers.

Sometimes you have to cry before you laugh

Cry before laugh

…or just do something that’s not anywhere near laughing…like being confounded, grossed out or puzzled. The Weekly Man is a mystery of sorts. In terms of genres, it would fall loosely into speculative/magical realism/humor/social commentary/not always so humorous. Something along those lines.

The first episode is not humorous. My apologies. It’s kind of serious, kind of gross, kind of foul-mouthed and kind of hopeful. You won’t like the main character…for now. However, if you don’t like serious/gross/foul-mouthed/hopeful, you can just skip it. It’s being published on a Sunday anyway, and my friends tell me they’d rather stay home and watch football than go into work so that they can have a coffee break and read the first episode of The Weekly Man.

Oh well.

But honestly, the first episode won’t make any sense until almost halfway through the novel anyway; however, it sets a tone that’s important coming into the story because, sometimes, it’s necessary to erect humor on a solid foundation of muck.

Dark muck.

There’s something deeply wrong with humans (that would be you and me), but I won’t get into that now. I will later…well into the story when, hopefully, you’ll see something intrinsically wrong with the way the lives of the characters unfold. It’s something we do all the time and it’s probably going to kill us eventually and that’s why the story starts on a down note.

There will be humor, but you won’t be slapping your knees or choking on coffee. It’ll be quiet and bothersome. And it’ll go well with your morning coffee.

Check out the new landing page with options for reading the novel and some interesting free stuff.

 

 

Media Release: Coming This Sunday: The World’s First Free Daily Serialized Coffee Break Novel

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(Fredericton, Sept 4, 2019, For Immediate Release)

The serialized novel is about to enter a new chapter with the release of The Weekly Man, the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel, on September 8 this year.

“Dickens started this in the 1800s with The Pickwick Papers,” said author Biff Mitchell. “I’m paring the concept with the modern coffee break.”

The Weekly Man will be published episode by episode every day starting September 8 and continue until mid-November of this year.

“Each episode is short enough to fit into a coffee break,” said Mr. Mitchell. “The novel is mostly humorous and I’m hoping it will give people a morning smile, or even a laugh.”

The novel follows the lives of seven people who have sensed since childhood that something mysterious lurks under their daily lives. Their lives are changed forever when they make a stunning discovery.

“I can’t give too much information about the novel at the moment,” said Mr. Mitchell. “It has a few surprises and I don’t want to give them away. There’s a legitimate reason why the novel needs to run on the weekends as well as weekdays, but that’s a surprise as well.”

According to Mr. Mitchell, The Weekly Man explores a number of contemporary issues, especially our insane ability to ignore what’s happening in the real world and build our own realities no matter how wrong we know they are.

“We do this with climate change,” said Mr. Mitchell, “every time we buy a bottle of water in a plastic container. We do it when we eat fast foods, knowing they’re killing us, but we shrug it off and supersize.”

Mr. Mitchell has had several novels published through Double Dragon Publishing, but says, “Of all the things I’ve written this was the most difficult and the most compelling.”

The Weekly Man will be released September 8 at www.theweeklyman.com. You don’t have to sign up for anything. No requests will be made for email addresses. Just go to the site and read. A smartphone version will be available at https://biffmitchell.com/the-weekly-man. For more about Biff Mitchell, visit www.biffmitchell.com.

 

The World’s First Free Daily Serialized Coffee Break Novel has a Landing Page

Weekly Landing Page

I remember back in my days as a marketing manager and the first time I wasted thousands of dollars on a Google ad campaign by sending people to the company’s home page instead of the specific thing featured in the ad. For instance, advertise a special sale price on a brand of shoes and show the potential customer a home page with the sale they want buried in ads for clothing, furniture and a hundred other things.

Nothing drives a customer away faster than being pissed off at you for wasting their time and the only way to avoid this is to have a landing page…a page devoted to the advertisement that drew the web surfer. He or she is interested in the sale on shoes, not the availability of designer scarves and lawn chairs. The landing page takes them directly to it.

Wish I’d known that before I wasted all that money. But I know it now and, even though The Weekly Man is free, it occurred to me that a landing page just might be useful, especially for anyone picking it up after the story has begun.

The Weekly Man now  has a landing page with links to the cell phone version (not active, considering it’s not September 8 yet), a link where readers can start with the first episode an on to the current one (instead of having to scroll to the end of a blog to read the episode from bottom to top, something that becomes painfully arduous after the first month), links to handy documents like the character guide and a few freebies, including photo albums from one of the characters.

Right off the bat it asks the question that the reades is asking, “What the hell is this?” and then it gets into the answers. It also has free short stories that prove I can construct a sentence and line it up logically with other sentences to produce a story. (One of the characters in The Weekly Man writes with his eyes closed. I don’t do that. Anymore.) There are also some freebies for readers who would like to try their hand at writing.

With a little over a week until I post the first episode, things are starting to come together. I’m nervous as hell, knowing that this isn’t going to be easy…making sure that each episode is posted before midnight every day for two and a half months, but I did this for a month with my photography and I didn’t go crazy, die, fling myself off a bridge, jump in front of cars in the full moon light, start smoking, hide under my bed till the crying stopped or drink myself into a stupor. (Well, maybe I did drink myself into a stupor…but I won’t do that his time.)

You can see the landing page in all its grandeur right here.

Of Sequels and Serials: The Serialized Novel Is Back (Or Was It Ever Gone?)

Starting

When you think of a novel, you think of a thick book, bound tightly, surrounded by an attention-grabbing cover, a sparkling spine…and bursting with meaningful ink. You picture hundreds, no, thousands of book spines displayed in perfect rows along miles of shelves in libraries and bookstores. You see gold leaf titles embossed on red and green leather stretching into imaginary libraries of the gods. This is the world of books: volumes, editions, series, bestsellers, paperback, hardback, pocketbook, coffee table book…these are entities that you can pick up and thumb through, read at your leisure and use as paperweights when you’re finished with them.

But not all books started off as potential paperweights. Some of the best novels started off a chapter at a time in magazines and newspaper supplements. You had to wait a week or more to read the next chapter.

No one seems to be sure exactly when this started, but most fingers point to Dickens, who published The Pickwick Papers in 19 installments between 1836 and 1837. It wasn’t his best novel, and some critics point to its serialization as the reason for its rambling unfocused nature, but he did much better in 1860 with his serialization of Great Expectations.

So, what is a serial novel? Wikipedia defines it as “In literature, a serial is a printing format by which a single larger work, often a work of narrative fiction, is published in smaller, sequential installments. The installments are also known as numbers, parts or fascicles, and may be released either as separate publications or within sequential issues of a periodical publication, such as a magazine or newspaper.”

Whew!

My definition of a serialized novel: “I’m going to publish one episode of The Weekly Man every day for two and a half months or until I go crazy.”

So much for my definition.

But let’s look at other novels that tiptoed into the literary world a ‘fascicle’ at a time: Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Madame Bovary, A Tale of Two Cities, Crime and Punishment, Treasure Island, The War of the Worlds, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, The Phantom of the Opera, Ulysses, The Secret Garden, A Farewell to Arms, In Cold Blood and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

There’s something about being involved in an ongoing activity that attracts us: the weekly poker game, the weekly date night, the daily horoscope…how many TV series can you count on your fingers and toes? Here’s a hint: A lot more that you have fingers and toes! And more on the way. It’s not enough to give us a one to two hour movie anymore; it has to be a series of ten or more episodes culminating with a victory by the good guys and followed up by another series next season after it’s learned that the good guys weren’t really victorious because…look…the problem’s back for another season.

When you think of it…baseball, hockey, basketball…these are all serialized episodes in a team-writing story of victory and loss culminating in a grand finale called the championship game.

We’re very much a serial society. If something pleases or interests us, we want more of it. It’s not enough to go back and re-read a book or re-watch a movie or sports event; we want more. This explains all those bad sequels to movies that weren’t all that great to begin with. How many sequels did Dumb and Dumber really merit? It boils down to the “want more of this” urge that proliferates in a world where everybody milks the moment to squeeze out a little more.

But with the serialized novel, we’re talking about one story spread over equal intervals leading to one inexorable ending, not the kind of story “add-on” that comes with sequels.

Unless, of course, the serialized novel has a sequel.

Hmm.

Come to think of it…a sequel to The Weekly Man. It would be the world’s second free daily serialized coffee break novel.

(Read The Weekly Man)