The Rough Draft

If you can't go through them. Go around them.

Cassandra and my son Colin out front of Downey Farm

This weekend I went with Colin’s CERI group to Downey Farm in Caledon (or thereabouts).  Well the group turned out to be myself, Colin, Cassandra the group Supervisor and Daniel, one of the other clients.  It was a chill day.  My car thermometer pegged it at 9 Degrees C and with the wind blowing it was a bit finger numbing.  As Daniel was a bit late and Colin was getting antsy I took him through the main gate into the fun area.

The main gate.

The Pumpkins still in the field. No doubt, these will all be gone by the 31st.

Colin headed for the Corn Maze right off.  Not really a maze per se but a shape of a tractor laid out in the field.  So if you just looped through, you’d end up back at the start.  It was pretty muddy, though the corn did break the wind pretty well.

Left or Right?

Children of the Corn anybody?

I’m not sure if Colin was feeling the maze.

Daniel and the Llama

Who was a pretty girl.

There we’re sheep too. This is the closest I’ve been to Sheep in 37 years.

A couple of Kids

My Kid

We called it just after this shot.  It was pretty cold and Colin definitely had his get home face on.  I gave Daniel a lift home as he isn’t too far from us and all in all it was a fun few hours.  It’s probably more fun with the Sun out.

Rules are meant to be followed / rules are meant to be broken / you can bend something pretty far before it breaks.

If there’s one thing that bugs me in any story, it’s when a writer sets rules in place for how his world functions and then at the crucial turning point, breaks the rules in order to fit the situations reaction to create an outcome to fit the plot.  Or if you go all Greek about it, Deus Ex Machina.

World building is a slow and tedious process but if you stick with it, it will reveal great results.  The devil really is in the details and believe me, your readers / viewers will be watching and these days, thanks to the interwebs, they can broadcast their displeasure instantly and widely.  In fact some individuals with little or no social life live for your smallest mistake.  Others just have their own personal ax to grind and you walked into their swing.

Because I’m a real nuts and bolts kind of guy, details are very important to me.  I’ll go so far as to actually map my action setting so I can game out the positions of the players involved in my scenes.  I don’t write all of that description down but it certainly informs my own writing as to the blocking on the page.  I used to do it for my film scripts but stopped because locations are decided in preproduction and production and why make extra work for yourself on the page  when the description, “A run down Victorian style house,” will do.

Taking the time to build your world plays well into the whole, “Write what you know,” thing.  You  can spot a writer who knows nothing about weapons in a heartbeat.  You can also spot one who’s never been in a fight or taken a hard shot to the head as well.  Now getting the shit knocked out of you isn’t the best way to do that sort of research but talking to people and gaining insight through the experience of others is never a bad thing.  As a writer you should talk to random people as much as you can, everybody has a story to tell.  You just need to keep your bullshit / personal bias filters set to the requisite levels to read between the lines.  We all like to be the hero, it’s a rare few who will tell the truth warts and all.

My point here though is, when you build your world stick to the rules you’ve created, no matter how much of a pain they create for you later on.  It’ll force you to be creative when you need to solve the problem of the corner you’ve painted yourself into.  Don’t rely on happy coincidence (even though it might have saved your ass on many occasions in the real world) your readers wont buy it and they’ll grumble.  Worse than that, they won’t come back to buy more of your stuff.

And while we’re on the subject of coming back to buy more stuff…

There’s a new book available for preorder of a series I really like.  However, the publisher is Penguin and they are asking for $13.95.  As much as I like the series, I just can’t see myself shelling out that kind of cash for an E-Book.  I’m old enough to remember when $5.00 was expensive for a paperback.  It’s not that I’m cheap.  If it was a non fiction historical reference book, I probably would shell out the almost fourteen dollars but as a fiction book, ten bucks is pretty much my limit.  I know that the Amazon Hachette thing has two well entrenched sides to the whole issue but I’m going to have to side with Amazon.  Lower pricing will lead to a larger number of buyers of any book.  I wouldn’t even blink if the price was five or ten dollars (well I might grumble a bit about the ten bucks but I’d get over it) but fourteen bucks is pushing me away from my impulse buy response.  If I were that author I would be asking myself the hard question, “Am I really getting what I need out of this relationship?”  Because the other side of the coin is, that author is getting 30% of  the take as opposed to 70% if he did a bit more of the work themselves.

I haven’t read a physical book in three years, since I got my first Kindle.  I have however, read over two hundred books in that three years and yes I know I’m in the smaller percentile in regards to my consumption of written material but I’m not alone and that number of books even in E-format requires a substantial monetary commitment on my part.

It’s no secret the big bookstores are dying, it’s no secret the big publishers are struggling and it’s also no secret that e-books gain a bigger percentage of the market share every year.  I think it’s time for every author to ask themselves the question, “Why am I relying on others when I could just be doing this myself?”

I know that the current craze in Adventure biking is seen as a bit of a fad at best and a shrewd marketing ploy at worst.  I see it as a bit of a misnomer.  You can have an adventure on any kind of motorcycle.  I’m not looking to have an, “Adventure,” when I get on my bike, I’m looking to explore and for me, that means getting off of the beaten track and going places where a new face really is a novelty.

There’s a few very accomplished riders I follow.  One of whom is Walter Colebach who regularly crosses Siberia and Mongolia.  He believes in wearing an open face helmet so people you approach can see your face and your smile.  Because a friendly smile is your best tool on any trip.

It’s no secret there’s a lot of fear out there right now.  The media doesn’t help as that sort of thing sells well, even if it isn’t fully accurate.  I’ve never been in a situation where I felt threatened  or in danger from people I’ve met along the way.  It might just be the nature of being on a bike.  You’re not inside of a cage of steel and glass, you’re pretty much all out there in the elements which seems to make you more approachable.

The questions are almost always the same.  “Where are you from?  Where are you going?  What kind of bike is that?”  And that’s just regular people.  Other riders see you, walk right on over.and start up a conversation.  It’s funny, I’ve met people who know people I know in the absolute middle of nowhere, just because we were on bikes.

I know it’s easier to be scared.  Fear is an adequate response to keeping you safe, I suppose but you do miss out on getting to know people.  I’ve had some great chats in some of the coolest places in North America.   I’ve had complete strangers offer assistance because they could see I was in trouble and I’ve even helped a few others out along the way because, well, hell, we’re all in this together and it never hurts to top up your positive karma.

And while, “What gun do you travel with.”  Seems to be a popular thread on a few of the other motorcycle forums, you’ll never see one like it on the ADV maybe it’s because we’re looking for something as opposed to having assumed we’ve already found it or there’s simply no room in our gear for a gun.

ISO 640, f6.3, 1/2000

This past weekend was the season closer for the local Motocross scene.  Gopher Dunes is about a two hour drive from my house in Mississauga.  The last race we caught here got rained out pretty hard and considering the coming forecast I was worried.  I brought Colin with me knowing full well that he’s really only good for about two and a half hours at any venue but then that’s Autism for you.  Still, I managed to fire off somewhere in the region of 2800 exposures and fill my 64Gb card completely and a chunk of my 16Gb as well.  I will say I really noticed the drop in speed on my 16Gb card.

Gopher Dunes is a good track in that it’s on a fairly flat piece of ground with the track features built up.  The entire place is surrounded by a ten foot high berm which gives you a pretty good view of the entire track.  I do like a bit of dirt being thrown around in my shots so I tended to hang around near one of the hairpins on the far right of the track.  Because the fence line is very close, you can shoot effectively set on just 150mm with my 7D (which is about 240mm equivalent).  So anybody with even just a basic 250mm zoom can get great results.

My Sigma 150mm – 500mm zoom is a good lens for the money.  I like to run deeper DOF so I tend to work in between f6.3 and f11.  Because I’m shooting fast moving objects, I set the 7D to Aperture and let the camera choose the shutter.  Going full manual in these conditions just adds to my post workload and I’m fairly lazy.  At ISO 640 I find the shutter speeds aren’t so great that they freeze all of the action and as an added bonus, the lens focus has an easier time of keeping up.  The ISO / Shutter speed relationship can be a real bear until you get a handle on it and it’s taken a lot of experimentation for me to find this solution for myself.

Some brief video to show you some of the intensity these kids have on the track.

I do love shooting motor sports, the drama comes built in.  It just a matter of finding your spot, picking your angles and making sure you’re safe in that position.  I’m not saying other sports lack drama, I’m just saying I know what I like to shoot.  It’s a bit sad to think this is the last I’ll be shooting of this series till next year unless somebody wants to buy my flight and accommodations to the Dakar in Buenos Aires.

If you’re anywhere but first, this is what you’re going to be riding through.

Every ride needs a good wash after. I like the almost sand scoop tires, this kid is running.

These kids are Eight. Nice air.

The racing Quads are fun to watch if not a little loud.

So what happened here is the crash victim, hooked the rear tire of the rider in front, which shot him off of his line and flipped his Quad over. At least it was on the hairpin and not on the faster more open section of the track.

Things getting out of control, add more power.

The mad scramble of the Junior start. Three riders went down in this corner a split second later.

Yep, he’s going down.

 

100,000 Km is roughly two and a half times round the world.  What it really means is I’ll never get more than $2500.00 for the bike on resale.  Not that I’m going to sell her anytime soon.  My full plan is to try and hit $250,000 Km at this rate that’ll take me another ten years or so and by then she’ll be a classic.

I felt for the occasion, I should be on dirt.

There’s a lot of places in that 100,000 Km.  Three days rolling round Yellowstone, great big chunks of Wyoming, Little Big Horn,  Glacier National Park and the Crows Nest Pass in one of the worst storms I’ve ever experienced.  I’ve crossed Canada twice on her and I have literally been from the Pacific to the Atlantic.  So I guess the next plans should involve going from the top to the bottom, not all at once of course you need to spread these sort of things out.

I remember hearing a speech once called, “Ladder to your dreams,” by a man called Bill Glass.  The gist of it was you build your ladder one rung at a time until you reach your goal.  As inspirational speeches go it was well put together and it pushed you in the direction you wanted to go.  Of course, I was a lot younger then and had yet to undergo the grind and toil that is a life.

We all have our demons, we all have our scars and some of us have scores to settle and scores to be settled against us (though we’re probably not aware of which ones).  I think William Goldman summed it up best in, The Princess Bride.  “Life is pain, anybody tells you different, they’re trying to sell you something.”

The trick is knowing something’s going to hurt, accepting the pain and doing it anyway.  This is not an easy thing as we’re a very pain averse creature be it physical or emotional.  But then I’ve always been somebody who’s willing to give something a go.

Writing for me, believe it or not has never been an easy thing.  I don’t like writing, there are other things I’d rather be doing.  Over the course of my writing life, the monetary return on investment of time has not been commensurate.  Due to the nature of film, a good chunk of what I have written for money does not belong to me and no matter how good the script or how much I like those characters, I’ll never be able to use them or to share them because at it’s core, that is what writing is about for me.  The sharing of stories.

Screenwriting though has a tendency to burn you out.  So imagine my surprise last Friday night when I was watching something on Netflix and it sparked something in my head.  Enough of a something I had to write something down (well type anyway, my cursive is like trying to read doctor’s script).  And then it wasn’t going to go away and it’s taken up residence in my skull big time.  So much so, that I’m splitting time between doing the revision on my other book and writing the new one on alternate days.

Which brings us to goals.

I still think the best part of this whole process is there’s no need to self censor my work based on budget or market.  In order to make my time at the keyboard productive, I had to set a daily target for the new book of a thousand words.  I can write more but I can’t write less and even if it’s shit I have to keep going, push through the pain and press on.  Which means the rough draft should be done in about three months.  I also think it’s going to be the first book in a series.  A thousand words a day might not seem like much to some of you but for this burned out shell, it’s something.  As my writing muscle gets stronger, I’ll try to increase the output but remember, writing is not my whole life any more, I’ve got more than one ladder I’m looking to climb.

 

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Sorry it’s been a bit of time between posts but life is what happens when you’re making other plans.  I’ve been talking to my buddy Dave Sloma and a few other friends about the self publishing thing for last few weeks.  They have been good discussions and are really helping me to figure things out.  I’ve also been working my way through my first book updating the manuscript and getting it ready to go to the beta readers for the first round of notes.

It’s been very engrossing.  There’s also been a bunch of drama revolving round the day job but I’m not going to bore you with that stuff here except to say, my plate’s been a bit full as of late and there’s still a bit of lingering malaise from the trip.

But yeah, I’ve been moving back into the writing space of my head.

It’s a bit of a trip reading and revising something I wrote over twenty years ago.  The really shocking part is not much has changed in the shape of the world since then at least not in the sphere I’m writing about.  It’s also interesting to see the evolution in my own style over all that time but not so much that I can’t see myself in the words.

The real kicker though is I was inspired for the first time in years to actually write something original in prose.  The knowledge that I could just do it for myself to see where it would go was a pretty heady one when every thing you’ve written for the last twenty years was geared towards landing a contract  or possibly a green light.  It feels a bit weird to just say, “Fuck it, let’s see how deep this rabbit hole goes.

 

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