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.

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 first free daily serialized coffee break novel.

(Come back here September 8 for the first episode of The Weekly Man.)

Coffee Shops and the Single Writer

Every Word

(Welcome to The Weekly Man, the world’s first free daily serialized coffee break novel. Click about to learn more and be sure to come back September 8 to start reading one of the strangest stories…or so I’ve been told…you’re likely to encounter. Nothing is as it seems.)

I’m a coffee shop writer. I’ve written five novels in coffee shops because they’re the only place I can write fiction. There’s something about the atmosphere and the availability of coffee that burrows deep into the headlands of my creativity and starts a stampede of words and ideas. I write for about an hour to an hour and a half each evening and get one to two pages (yep, I’m no Stephen King). Anywhere else and I might get a paragraph or two and on very rare occasions, a whole page. Surprisingly, it doesn’t matter what coffee shop or where it is…if it’s a coffee shop, the trail to the headlands is a six lane highway racing into story telling.

And yes, I’ve written about writing in coffee shops before; in fact, my last post (in my personal blog) covered some of the hurdles to overcome. But this post is about single writers who write in coffee shops and why they’re likely to remain single forever.

To begin with…being a writer is a powerful sentence to singleness in the courtroom of relationships. I mean it. Most of the writers I know are single…and not necessarily happy about it. Some have fond memories of those days when they had someone special in their lives, someone who understood them and stuck in there in spite of long hours alone while their writer mate disappeared into the jowls of a coffee shop (we’re talking just about coffee shop writers here) to do mysterious things with words. They put up with the roller coaster of moods and lifestyle that brand writers as persona non cool. They looked the other way when the writer, foaming at the mouth and crazy-eyed, tried to explain the world-shaking ramifications of not being able to find the right word to describe Sam’s blue shirt.

“Just say it’s blue,” she says.

“But how will they know the blue?” he responds.

“By the use of the word blue,” she says.

“But how will they feel the blue,” he says.

“You only feel blue when you’re sad,” she says.

“You don’t understand me,” he cries.

“You’re making a mountain out of…” she tries to say.

“You’re just like the rest of them,” he yells.

And suddenly, he’s single. And not necessarily happy about it.

The same things happen to female coffee shop writers, proving there’s no gender inequality when it comes to losing at love, especially if you can sneak a bit of the loss into a story.

There’s something about creating worlds with words that takes you out of everybody else’s world and plops you into a place that only exists in your own mind, like when was talking to a group of co-workers while I was working on my first novel. I started talking about a man called Baxter. The others looked at me in a strange way, like my head had just fallen off. One of them said, “Who’s Baxter?”

It suddenly dawned on me that Baxter was one of the characters in my novel. That’s how real he’d become and how unreal the world of my co-workers had become. Sadly, this didn’t discourage me from writing; in fact, it probably spurred me on. Something along the lines of OK, I’ve lost it with these people, so what do I have left? Oh right…Baxter and friends.

Writing is a deep uncharted pit with a shallow slope that slants ever more precariously as you slide into it. It leads into a place where a blue shirt is deep sea or sky blue, not just blue. A place where nothing is whole until the last draft, or until an editor has a better idea for blue. It’s a place where you can get lost, where you can drift away from everything that’s known into a great unknown that you get to arrange and rearrange until you’re satisfied that it’s the right color of blue.

Sound crazy?

It is. And it’s not like those writers who write at home where the better half (at least, saner half) can pop in say, “Hi, how’s it going?”

“What’s another way of saying blue?”

“Just write blue. I think people will get it.”

“You don’t understand me.”

“Don’t stay up too late.” Door closes. Writer is alone to stew in blue. Until bed time.

But for some, the coffee shop calls out to us and off we go, single and bursting with words under the brilliant azure sky.

The World’s First Free Daily Serialized Coffee Break Novel and the Onslaught of Time

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OK, so novels have been serialized in the past, most notably Dickens’ The Pickwick Papers, but not specifically for coffee breaks. The Weekly Man will be published every day for two and a half months starting September 8 with just enough reading to last for a coffee break.

I did something similar to his in 2014 with my photography. Each day for the month of October (and wouldn’t you know, it would be a month with 31 days) I posted a picture I took that day along with a story about the picture or something inspired by the picture. I thought this would be a breeze, given that I’m a photographer and a writer…just marry the two and toss out some magic.

Yeah, sure.

There’s something about needing a picture at a certain time for a certain purpose that makes that picture almost impossible to find. And there’s something about finding that picture, taking it and processing it, and then trying to write intelligently about it that seems to lodge the words somewhere deep inside your head where you can’t see them.

It wasn’t so bad for the first couple of weeks. I ventured out after work, during lunch hours and on weekends. But I had very specific rules that were meant to make this exercise something that would help me learn about both photography and writing in terms of starting with a specific objective and meeting a deadline. One of those rules was that I couldn’t take a dozen pictures on Saturday and do the writing on Sunday and have them ready to post anytime I wanted. I had to take the picture the same day it was to be posted and do the writing the same day.

I think the main lesson was never to do anything like this again…obviously a lesson I didn’t learn because here I am, doing it again, this time with my writing…and for more than double the time.

The photo gig almost drove me nuts during the last week and a few times before. There were times when I entered the last word in the blog seconds before midnight. That was one of the rules: it had to be posted before midnight each day, every day. I was astounded when I began to realize how all the little things in life can suddenly crop up to sabotage a project that has iron-clad rules.

Out of the blue, friends and family had problems that only I could solve (or listen to). I needed my car to travel to sites for the pictures. My car suddenly developed car problems. Nothing expensive, but problem enough that it ate up valuable time.

Time. I think that was the only real lesson I learned. Time seems to move slowly when you don’t need it; faster, when you need it. And it never stops. It moves forward, relentlessly, testing your ability to keep up to it.

But there were some purely magical moments, like when I walked down a road beside a river in the fall with the leaves in full color and the sun shining down. I focused down the road to capture the color and noticed that someone was on the road, walking toward me. It was a woman in black slacks and white top. I thought, great…add some human interest. I took the shot.

encounter

As she walked nearer, I realized that I knew her, Rhonda, an enthusiastic kayaker and canoeist that I hadn’t seen in ages. There were a few surprises like that.

It also gave me a chance to do some cool portraits of artists friends, like Marilyn Masserole…in her studio, sitting on the floor in front of her, being the hippie artist that she’s been since the 60s.

marilyn

I started to realize how easy it is to find beauty all around me…if I was looking for it…even in trees without leaves.

stand-of-trees

And I took my first horse picture ever…

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So yes, it had its ups and down, enough of both that there were moments of joy and wonder and also moments of quiet thoughts of never venturing into a project like this again.

I promise this to those who read The Weekly Man: I will have each episode published every day for 76 days and ready for your daily coffee break…even if it drives me crazy.