The Weekly Man: One Got Through (so far)

CoffeeNovel

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.)

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

Landing Image

(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.

The Weekly Man – What Is the Coffee Break Novel?

CoffeeNovel

Everyone needs a coffee break. It’s that period of time during the workday when you say to yourself, “If I don’t have a coffee right now, this minute, I’m going to kill somebody.” Not that you particularly want to harm anyone (unless, of course, telemarketers have your work number) but, you know, it might be Monday. It might even be Monday morning. On the other hand, it might not be a weekday. It might be Saturday or Sunday and you’re sitting on the beach under a beautiful blue sky thinking, “Damn, I’m missing my coffee break. Why don’t beaches have coffee?” I do this all the time and I’m sure you do as well.

So, now that we’re thoroughly covered the topic of coffee breaks and their contribution to a healthy (and alive) workforce and their absence from beaches, let’s talk about coffee break activities. Some people read newspapers because they hate trees and want to see every tree in the world turned into a newspaper with stories about the shocking conspiracy to deforest the planet by sending the rain forests off to the printers. Some people like to talk to their co-workers about what they watched on TV the night before. This used to be Game of Thrones episodes. Now, it’s arguments about what happened on old Game of Thrones episodes, especially the finale. Some people like to just sit and stare. I’m seeing this more often and it kind of scares me. But we won’t get into that. Some people like to transport themselves out of the workplace and into another world (not the ones staring…they’ll be doing that all day) through the medium of story.

And that brings us to the coffee break novel. I scoured the internet for over a minute and the only mention I could find was a Kijiji ad posted by me. So…I guess that leaves it up to me to make up…I mean, define the coffee break novel.

Let’s start by listing some characteristics. First, it’s intended to be read during the reader’s coffee break. This can be problematic given that some people might be missing two coffee breaks each week because their employers refuse to let them work seven days a week, forcing them to take weekend coffee breaks at home so that they don’t miss any of the story. This could actually lead to dysfunctional activities like sneaking into work on weekend mornings but I’m sure that most people will opt to create a reproduction of their workplace in their basement or spare room so as not to miss a single episode. Others might do some speed reading Monday morning.

And speaking of episodes…that’s another characteristic of the coffee break novel: It’s parceled out in episodes…each with just enough reading to get you through your morning java fix. The Weekly Man is just right for this. It’s naturally broken into episodes following the lives of seven characters, each with their own day of the week to tell their story. There is one spot where this runs awry and may require a three to four day break before plummeting head first into the dazzling conclusion but that’s a few months away and, by the time it comes, I think all two of my readers will need a short break.

The coffee break novel should be mostly light-hearted as in humorous. I’m not saying there shouldn’t be serious, heart-breaking, soul-blistering, tear-prodding, existential moments, of which there are a few in the novel, but these are introduced for the sole purpose of pacing the story like a roller-coaster. There will be no flat lining in any of my stories. I mean, even Mary Poppins had her down moments. But for the most part, it’s going to be humor and lightness of being because it’s your coffee break and you don’t need to be crying and borrowing tissues from your co-workers on your coffee break. (WARNING: The first episode of The Weekly Man is not humorous. But it has a sort of happy ending.)

There has to be a strong element of weirdness so that the novel is able to compete against the news of the day, which keeps getting weirder by the day. And besides, I’m weird and it’s my invention, so I’m calling for weirdness.

All coffee break novels should have more than one character. This makes it much easier to create things like conversations, conflict, plot, human interaction and all those other elements that might cause a story to become interesting. Plus, there has to be both male and female characters because that’s more like real life and we’re all big fans of real life, aren’t we?

Words. The coffee break novel draws on a list of easily recognizable and commonly used words with careful attention paid to correct spelling and usage. I’m seeing less and less of this in most of the world’s published content, either online or in print and I think this is something we all need to enthusiastically gossip about in all the right places…because we all know that meeting a challenge with gossip is more effective than meeting it with thoughts and prayers. Hopefully, The Weekly Man will lead us out of this barbaric mire of editorial carelessness.

Well, actually, that probably won’t happen, but as long as there are coffee breaks, there will always be a need for something to do during the coffee break…and now the world has one more thing designed specifically for that.

It’s called the coffee break novel and The Weekly Man is the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel.

Coffee Shops and Espresso

Coffeeshops

Many years ago I was contacted by a crazy man in New Mexico who said that he’d finally tracked down the 12 weirdest writers on planet Earth and wanted them to submit stories for an anthology he had in mind. Apparently, I was one of those 12. He wanted three or four stories from each of us. At the time, I was several months into a nasty case of writer’s block. All my words had flown south for the winter and stayed there for the summer. But, I thought, maybe this was a way to get those words flying home.

Around the same time, my daughter had started working in a coffee shop. Each evening, I dropped by to drive her home, which usually meant waiting around while she cleaned up and cashed out, so I brought along a notebook and pen and started writing weird short stories for the first Twisted Tails anthology. There was something about the atmosphere (and maybe the coffee) that triggered the writer in me and the words started flowing in the notebook.

I wrote 4 short stories and started back on the novel. I didn’t have a laptop at the time, so everything was done in pencil. I don’t recommend this…it’s messy and then you have to put everything into a computer document, which isn’t all that bad with short stories but downright painful with a novel. I finally broke down and bought a laptop when I realized that coffee shops were now the only places where I could write. I needed a cup of java surrounded by a coffee shop to pry the words from my subconscious.

When I tell people where I write, they say things like, “Doesn’t the noise bother you?” “How do you stay focused?” “Boy, are you weird.” And these are the nice things they say.

There’s just something about a coffee shop that says, “You will now write. You will not rush to the kitchen and wash those dinner dishes. You will write. No…stop thinking about vacuuming the floor…you’re in a coffee shop. Just…write.” I don’t have all the distractions of home. I can’t spend an hour installing a new flush on the toilet when I can’t think of what to write next or conceive the words to describe Carla’s red dress in Chapter 2. Sure, I can walk over to the coffee shop’s condiments counter and self-debate the concept of adding honey to my coffee but, after a few tries, I realized that I don’t like anything sweet in my coffee. At home, I would be compelled to stare out the window waiting for the next crow to fly by to make it an even number while Carla’s red dress remained just red.

Noise doesn’t distract me; the need for a distraction distracts me.

Coffee shop noise is relaxing once you get used to it. It fades into the distance like background music and yields to the stampede of words spewing out of my mind. The only noise that bothers me is that loudmouth in every crowd whose voice is almost a yell…and these are the ones who can’t keep their mouth shut, the ones whose eyes are continually darting around the tables, hoping that everyone is dropping what they’re doing and listening to the steady stream of drivel spilling out of their mouths. I have a pair of noise cancellation headphones for situations like this and, if I can still hear them, I beat them to death with the headphones. In a coffee shop, this is called performance art.

One of the big things that helps coax the words out is the acceptance of fate: I’m here to write, gawdamit, and I’m going to write. Almost as soon as I sit down, swig some coffee and open my laptop I’m ready to write. Sometimes it starts slowly and sometimes it jumps the starter pistol. But I’m in a coffee shop and what do I do in a coffee shop? I write. And yes, sometimes it’s crap (well, maybe a lot of the time…we’re talking first draft), but at least I have something I can work with later…or…I have something that’s always going to be crap…but I’m the only one who’s seen it. I guess the key word is routine. Once you get into a coffee shop writing routine, it becomes increasingly easy to just plough into the paragraphs and push the novel ahead a page or two at a time.

But what about people I know? People who see me sitting at my table clacking the keys to beat all hell, pumping out the words in a steady stream of storytelling? Most will pass my table with a quiet hello or “Writing again, are you? That what your doin’?”

“Yep.” Smiling. Ready to use the headphones one way or the other.

But they keep walking and I get back to Carla’s red dress. Pomegranate. Nope. Fire engine. Nope.

It’s the ones who can’t help themselves, the ones who see me and are suddenly driven to make some sort of impression by standing over me and expecting answers to their dumb questions.

“So what’s this one about?”

“It’s a secret.”

“Who’s in it?”

“Can’t tell you.”

“Would you like to see the 156 pictures I took with my iPhone over the weekend?”

“No.”

But they won’t stop asking questions. They won’t go away. They have me cornered. I have to do something drastic. I say, “Nice talking to you. Gotta get back to it. See you later.” And I bury my entire being into the writing. This almost always does it and I’ve only had to tell two people to fuck off and let me write in all the years I’ve been writing in coffee shops.

And then, of course, there’s the coffee. There’s something about the fragrance and body of coffee (not to mention the caffeine) that commands, “Creativity…stand to attention!” that begins to happen even before the first sip.

I used to drink wine while I wrote poetry. This is why you’ll see very little of my poetry published anywhere. I know people who can’t write prose without wine. I’m not one of them. One sip of wine and I want to write bad, evil poetry. Wine is my prose kryptonite. Coffee is my spinach, especially espresso or German Chocolate Cake. With the exception of espresso, I insert a double whammy of 18% cream into my coffee, a practice that can be bad only if you drink over 10 cups of coffee in an evening, which is why I never drink more than 10 cups of coffee in an evening.

“But wait!” you say. ”Shouldn’t you avoid any coffee after 5 in the evening? I’m sure I read that on the internet.”

Yes…coffee after 5. It can keep you awake for 6 to 8 hours. I generally start writing around 7 and write until around 9. I used to go home and drink a bottle of wine before bed. I don’t recommend this. I did this for 10 years and almost murdered my liver. After my doctor told me to give up writing in coffee shops or “you’re a dead man” I decided to drop the wine and stay up all night.

I don’t know of a solution to this. After a day in the IT industry, I’m tired and unfocused.  I need that coffee before diving into my creative wellspring. Otherwise, I’m diving into bath water…used bathwater. Skunky old used bathwater. But I recently did some experimentation and here’s what I found: A double espresso seems to keep me up just half the night. Anything else will keep me awake all night.

Go figure. Maybe this article from Kicking Horse Coffee explains it.