The Rough Draft

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

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I turn fifty on Monday.

And yes, it’s been a long strange trip so far.

To celebrate my half century I’m dropping the price on Devil’s Gambit to 99 Cents (sorry Canada that’s in USD so it’s still going to be one thousand three hundred and seventy dollars for you guys). The sale kicks off on August 2nd and ends on the 9th.

I’m hard at work on my next two books.

As far as advice goes, I don’t have much:

Be good to your knees, they’re under a lot of pressure.

Trust your gut, hands down it’s smarter than your brain a good many times.

Don’t be afraid to take the path less trodden.

Try not to be a dick unless it’s going to be funny, always go for the comedy if you can.

Amazon is offering a new giveaway service. It would be nice if they could do the same for my Kindle versions of my books but for now it’s limited to print copies, which means I’m giving away two print copies of my thriller Devil’s Gambit.

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Just click on the cover image and the minions at Amazon will do the rest. All purchase and shipping costs are covered by me, I’m not even asking for your email or that you follow me on twitter. Though for the record, my Twitter handle is @SteveAbbott0319

If you can’t wait and don’t mind spending less than a cup of coffee on a Kindle version of my book, it’s available here.

Good luck to any and all who enter.

I was out with some friends last night, a pretty rare occurrence for me and I was talking to one of them who I have not seen in a while just catching up and we got to talking about what he was doing with his writing and of course the fact he was suffering form burnout came up.

Anybody who has tried to maintain any kind of artistic endeavour while holding down a full time job has hit this wall from time to time. Anyone who has had multiple projects in film on the go at any one time, knows what this is like too.

I used to faithfully take my computer with me on my many company installations and without fail, I’d barely write anything. It’s pretty hard to be creative when you’ve been solving engineering problems for twelve hours a day. Your brain is simply cooked, not to mention the stress from keeping an install on track to meet the start up deadline also robs you of energy.

For me, the moment, my moment of personal flame out was having three script projects I’d put years of my life into fall apart in the space of ten days. I didn’t write for two years after that and for all intents and purposes my screenwriting career was over. At least in my head. I’d poured every bit of fuel I had on the fire and there was simply nothing left to burn.

It’s a pretty empty feeling.

I’ve been telling stories for a very long time and to really cut back on that was tough but I think it was sort of the same thing when you suffer a heart attack. It’s serious but given some time to rest that muscle can heal and grow strong again. So maybe you’re not up to sprinting but you can train for the longer distance.

So far the world of independent publishing has been a challenge. Every day my reach into the market gets a little deeper and I’m learning from my mistakes and working hard to not make them again but to make new mistakes as I trudge on.

It’s important to recognize yourself as finite and not some invincible machine. If you push yourself to hard for too long, stuff will break. Some of it will be external, some of it will be internal, none of it should be ignored. Those costs can add up really fast and not in a good way.

The daily trick now for me is balance because pretty much every day is a spec writing day for me now but that’s cool too, because I’m writing in areas I want to explore and believe it or not, that is leading to whole new opportunities that are as unexpected as anything I’ve ever encountered.

Thanks for reading this. As always my thriller Devil’s Gambit is available in paperback and for Kindle on Amazon.

As many of you know, my next favorite hobby to riding my motorcycle is photography. I truly do love it. Sometimes it’s about capturing that frozen moment and other times it’s a story in a single frame. What that story is, is up to the observer, we all feed our own internal barometer to whatever we look at.

For the most part I like to shoot interesting landscapes and of course motorsports. Which may seem like a bit of a dichotomy but each has their appeal for me because they require very different skill sets, lenses and camera settings to produce a successful image.

An Iceberg off the coast of Battle Harbour Labrador 2014 – I’m using a 80mm Lensbaby flat plane focus Tilt Shift lens at f2.8. This is an all manual shot and required me to use a tripod even though I was shooting ISO 100 at 1/3200

Shot at 150mm (240mm equivalent) ISO 640 f6.3 1/2000 I find for motosports you need to shoot higher ISO and shutter speeds but there’s a balance to maintain between freezing the action but still leaving enough motion blur to impart the feeling of speed. But the true focus of this shot is that the rider has pulled his goggles off because they became too fouled to see through after his tearaways ran out.

I’m no master of either type of photography by any means but I figure I’m good enough to create good images consistently and great images occasionally.

Which brings me to portraiture. I’d like to expand my skill set. But portraiture is a different beast all together as far as your subjects go. I could try street photography but it’s not really my bag as I’m usually drawn more to the buildings than the people.

Buffalo, NY – 2014 If you want urban decay, they’ve got it baby.

A sort of experiment in street photography…

A more successful effort but still really more of a landscape… I know.

So my biggest issue is just finding a good subject I can practice on. I pretty much know how I want to proceed. I’d like to use natural light. I’d like to shoot in outdoor locations be they man made or in nature proper. I’ve even approached a few people I know about doing this but so far no dice. Which is strange but not unexpected. These days it’s all about branding and an image is your brand if it’s an image of you but the object here is for me to learn a new skill, not broadcast an unflattering image to world. I too have a brand and poor work (even though I’m shooting for pleasure, not money) doesn’t do me any favors either.

If any of you other shooters out there have some tips on how to proceed here, I’d love to hear them.

Okay, now for a general news round up.

I’m closing in on my one thousandth book sale.

It looks like the skin allergy thing has let up and I no longer feel like tearing my skin off every day.

I’m back to working on the Reliance rewrite. The first revision should be done in a couple of weeks with the second one soon to follow, then it’s off to the Beta readers.

And as always, my thriller Devil’s Gambit is available on Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle.

I’ve been laid up for the last few days with some sort of skin allergy. The best the doctor could do for me is tell me to load up on two different types of antihistamine and rub a topical steroid cream over the effected areas. Much like the common cold, this type of thing is hard to determine what might have set off the reaction.

Trouble is, I need to write and being whacked out on medication whose first warning is not to operate heavy machinery is not conducive to good writing. Well any writing really as that first day I was doing my best impression of somebody on Thorazine in One flew over the Cuckoo’s nest.

Yesterday I cut back on the meds just enough to stay awake (with the help of copious amounts of Caffeine) and got my word count out. How good the writing is is something I’ll look at during the revision. Though from past experience, some of my best writing has come out of being really messed up. You know, when you’re too stoned to get in your own way.

So for now, I’m trying not to scratch and still get my word count out.

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I know I bitch a fair bit about how boring the roads can be around Southern Ontario. The bulk of the tarmac is laid out in a grid because farmers hate plowing around things so a big chunk of the province is one big grid. However once you get up on the Escarpment things get a little bit more interesting, add to that the fact that a good number of the side roads are gravel based and some of those are not really maintained and it can lead to some decent gravel and dirt road fun.

I’d seen some interesting dirt roads off to the side of me on the last V-Strom Owner’s Club run up to Lion’s Head on the Bruce Peninsula. Once I got home, I called up my SPOT track and looked for references to them on Google Maps. Once I’d figured out what I thought was a viable route, I plugged it in as a series of waypoints into my GPS and figured I’d give it a go on the following Saturday.

right now just because of how my day to day life thing is working out getting any riding in has been a struggle, so to have pretty much a whole day in is a real luxury and an opportunity I don’t want to waste. I contacted my friend Mark and asked if he wanted to go and so Saturday morning, we met up at my place and headed out. Mark is on the same year of Strom as I am, an 04, except his is blue while mine is silver. He bought his with a few farkles attached, crash bars and skid plate and while he’s got the racks for saddle bags, he was running without. As you can see in the above picture, I’ve kitted my bike out for long distance off road. The tanks are empty right now as they add 45 lbs to the back of the bike and if you you don’t need to top up on a given ride, it’s just as well to lose the extra weight. I’m also running a skid plate and crash bars and I’ve got Pivot Pegs in place of the stock pegs because they make riding off road a lot easier on your feet.

Mark's V-Strom

Mark’s V-Strom

As Mark has less experience off road than me, I gave him a quick rundown on what we could expect on the roads I planned to hit and some basic stuff about where to put your knees on the tank. It’s a bit tough to impart on a bigger bike like the Strom. I cut my teeth on much lighter dirt and enduro bikes with much lower centers of gravity. The Strom is top heavy just by the design of her gas tank alone. However, my plan was really just to ride some decent gravel roads and not get too hairy with stuff and for the most part we succeeded.

So like any ride in Ontario, you have to ride for an hour on regular roads and highways to get to the good stuff. The target for the start was River Road thru Horning Mills with our first encounter with #15 Sideroad and then north on Prince of Wales Road, which was decently variant in its altitude and twistyness as well as being a well maintained gravel road. A good stretch to get a feel for the surface. There was enough hard surface on the road to get up on the pegs and go. And while the Strom doesn’t do so well on really loose and rough stuff, it’ll eat up gravel no problem. We rode all the way up to the Mulmur Nottawasaga Townline Road and then cut across to 4th and headed south again. Somewhere in there we hit a section that wasn’t maintained and for the first time since I’ve been in Ontario we were on a true dirt road which the bike handled well and the Shinko 705’s didn’t do so badly either, which in hindsight means I probably just should have stuck with my regular rubber for my Translab trip. It probably would have made some of my bridge crossings a little less scary.

We worked our way south on dirt and gravel to the back of Mono Cliffs Provincial park. There’d been a minor, “Oh shit!” moment about twenty minutes earlier when I found us on a small hill covered in fairly loose large rock gravel. I usually tackle this kind of stuff in first gear with my hands off the brake and just ride down them letting the wheels turn and the engine retard my forward speed. I realized this wasn’t working when I started going faster without adding throttle. Plus I could feel the front end washing out and when I applied some rear brake the back wheel would break loose as well. After I fought the bike to a stop, we crept down the hill until we could get better purchase at the bottom.

I had planned to cut down 4th Line E and then cut across #15 Sideroad and then either cut across to Airport Road or go back up 5th Line E. This is the one section of my track I’ll be reworking. You could do it on a lighter bike but on a Strom, it’s pretty unworkable as where #15 sideroad meets up with the base of 5 Line East is all unmaintained road and its a 30% grade on loose sand, gravel and loos rock with what looks like a pretty wicked hook to the left at it’s base. Mark to his credit said, “I’m game if you are.” I actually parked the bike, got off and walked down the track a bit. I didn’t like how it felt under my boots, I wasn’t going to risk the two of us going down it. So as much as I appreciated my friend’s confidence. It was a no go. So then the thought was we’d head up 5 Line E as it rose up out of the turn we were parked on and going up is always a bit easier than going down. However it was a ruse ase when you got to the top of the hump, the track dropped away at that same 30% slope and if anything looked even sketchier than the other track. We had a quick confab, turned the bikes around and headed back to better gravel.

Twenty years ago I’d have given either track a go. Maybe I’m growing up.

The rest of the ride went pretty well. We continued to explore the gravel roads around the Hockley Valley and had a nice if not confused lunch at the Hockley Valley General Store before meandering our way back to my place.

It was a nice ride and a good one to share with a friend.

The Caledon Badlands – Ontario

So this week I learned from one of the guys posting on IBAR (International Brotherhood of Adventure Riders) that the Caledon Badlands are now closed to public access and to drill the point home, they’ve erected a fence along the roadside that borders it. Don’t know why they’ve taken this step but I’m sure it’s for some bullshit reason. It’s always frustrating when you lose a shooting location. The Badlands isn’t very big, maybe two football fields in size but it had a great texture and color. I’m going to miss shooting there.

I also got hit by the IRS is going to arrest you phone scam. As a rule I don’t answer any long distance calls that come from numbers not in my phone book. So apparently the IRS is going to arrest me for unpaid taxes. That’ll be interesting seeing as I’m a Canadian but I’ll keep you updated…

As for the writing side of things, I’ve finished the rough draft of Reliance which is a parallel story time wise to Devil’s Gambit but a character prequel to Devil’s Ante for one of the main characters. It’s essentially a modern western. I’m now back on the rough draft for Devil’s Ante and once that’s done, I’ll go back and revise the rough draft for Reliance. Right now the plan is for a Fall release of Reliance and a December release for Devil’s Ante. So yeah, I’m not thirty day release guy but then I pretty much knew that going in. On the plus side, I do try to be entertaining story guy, so if the trade off is time, I think it’s worth it.

As always you can purchase Devil’s Gambit on Amazon in either paperback or Kindle.

Tomorrow is my day off and I’m going to use it to explore some gravel roads north east of the Hockley Valley. Should be fun.

Shot with a Sigma 150-500mm f5.6-6.5 – Toronto Zoo 2015 – All Rights Reserved Sabot Productions Inc.

It’s no secret it’s been an exciting time at Amazon for writers in their Kindle Unlimited program. Amazon rolled out their KU 2.0 program which now pays out on pages read not on borrows of your book where the reader goes past the 10% read point. It was done to combat the level of scamming that was going on with some of the shorter works (some not all, short fiction matters) and to boost enrolment of authors like myself who publish longer works of fiction. I will admit, it would be nice to still see how many borrows I get as well as how many pages are read just for the sake of data. I always assume that somebody is going to read my books all the way through. It’s rare for me to not read a book through myself though I will admit, there have been a few that I’ve bailed on these past few months a couple of which were non fiction. When I can’t finish a fiction book, it’s usually because the author has decided to give up on the research side of things and just write whatever he feels like. If you’re writing space opera or fantasy, knock yourself out but if you’re basing your stuff in the real world. I’m out.

As far as KU 2.0 is concerned, I’m going to stick with it for now. I sort of dig the leaps my pages read numbers are making. I’m pretty consistent in sales and author ranking and decades of reading thermal chart recorders in plants let’s me know when I’m in a pretty good hysteresis relationship to the numbers and even at $.0058 per page read, I’m getting a decent return on my borrowed books. I guess I prefer to wait and see for a few months before I declare, “The sky is falling.” Taking the long view is usually the best course and I think with the reboot of KU it’s slightly driving my sales up a bit. Not sure that the data holds out for that yet but we’ll see at the end of the month if the numbers are up from June.

I’m done with the rough draft for Reliance. I’m going to continue to work on Devil’s Ante until that rough draft is finished before moving on the rewrite of Reliance to work it over. It’s always a good idea to give yourself a bit of distance before getting back into bed with a story. Once I’ve got a draft I’m happy with, I’ll send it off to my beta readers and once that’s done and I’ve made corrections based on their notes, it’s off to my editor. It’s a long process but if you try to circumvent it, you don’t produce your best work. After living with Reliance again, I realize there’s probably some stuff in the script that needs changing. the issue there though is getting a studio to pay for the rewrite. We’ll see what my producer says after he reads the book adaptation.

This morning I woke up at the same time as my wife was getting ready for work and I had the genesis of a new book I had a sort of idea for on Saturday morning. When I had the idea, I liked the concept but there wasn’t much of a premise to go on. To try and kick some stuff loose last night, I spent most of my evening reading defense and security policy white papers to get my head around what western governments think. It was both fruitful and fruitless.

Needless to say, when I woke up this morning with my skull full of story, none of the stuff I’d looked at the night before was in it. What I did have (and what I wrote down as copious notes) was a decently human story that revolves around family values, combat stress and the questionable need to live up to expectations that aren’t always our own. With a good dollop of paranoia and how we put people in boxes thrown in for good measure. The outline’s not all there yet but I like where it started and I’m pretty sure where it’s going and that’s always a good feeling.

As always my Thriller. “Devil’s Gambit,” is available on Amazon.

On the way to Port Hope Simpson – Translab 2014

It’s been a sparse year for riding this year. Between looking after my son and my wife and daughter’s work schedules, I haven’t had much time to get out for a day’s riding let alone one of my usual three week binges of distance. I tried to plan a short trip earlier in the year but that fell apart quite spectacularly in no short order. Which sucked but isn’t really something to get that excited about. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that trips happen in their own time, for their own reasons.

I think if I get any rides in this year at all, they’re going to be short three day affairs and they’re going to be closer to the Fall, which means colder riding. Which doesn’t worry me other than grip issues on asphalt as the road temperature drops. I’ve got good gear and heated grips. The cold isn’t too hard to take.

It’s funny how the road gets in your head some days and you just don’t want to stop and then there are those days where it just beats the shit out of you and you wonder why you’re out there at all? All of which is tempered afterwards with the sense of accomplishment you have for just getting through that thing that sucked so hard.

Or maybe it’s those days of riding that are so long after a while you don’t know where you end and the bike begins (which is always a good cue to find a place to stop and rest).

So maybe no big rides this year but it doesn’t mean I can’t make some mods to the bike and break them in for the trip for next year….

It really is an affliction.

Safe riding.

Paris, Ontario that is.

I was gagging for a ride and Saturday had nice weather, sunny and not too hot. There was a big Vintage Bike gathering and swap meet in Paris, Ontario about an hour and a bit west of me. I like old bikes and you never know what you’ll come across. Vintage meets always make me wish I had a bigger garage, so it’s probably a good thing I don’t.

At the very least it was a good excuse to ride the Strom even if the majority of it was on highway. I’m constantly surprised by the different buildings you come across in Ontario. And as the signage for the Paris Fairgrounds pretty much sucks I did a couple of loops through town before just following gut (which found the fairgrounds pretty quick actually) but in my circling I got to see an impressive mansion that had been turned into a retirement home and a few other pretty large and in good condition turn of the century homes. As there is a large weir in the center of the river that runs through the town (disappointingly not called the Seine) it used to be a mill town. Wiki tells me it was Gypsum that was processed here… Hence the name from plaster of Paris.

Once I had made it to the fairgrounds and paid my $8 to get in I realized this was more swap meet than bike meet. And there were people selling from one side of the fairgrounds to the other. Right off the bat my resolve was tested.

A vintage and very nice Katana… Looks like the 750 to me. No engine but the race frame beside it was fully loaded. I walked away quickly before my heart defeated my brain. Though I know I’m probably not the guy for a four cylinder carbureted engine after being spoiled for so long with my FI V Twin. But I do so love the old Katanas…

Another coveted bike a Dakar BMW

This particular collector is all about the Nimbus a rather successful Danish bike. It has an inline four motor and is shaft driven. He owns two 1946 models on with a sidecar and this early model. I like the integrated gas tank frame. After WW2 the frame became made from flat bar because round tube was scarce, the gas tanks also became a separate unit.

A closer look at the motor and shaft drive.

I love the Speedo and how it’s driven from the shaft output.

And it’s a suicide shifter!

Also came across this 1972 KH400 (Mine was a later 1976 model) I checked the pipes and as expected they were damp with unburned fuel. Still a cool if not mad bike and nice to see it in metallic purple.

I didn’t stay long, it was kind of muggy and I wanted to get riding again but it’s always nice to stroll down memory lane and see some cool old bikes. I hope buddy sold the two Katanas… I don’t need that kind of temptation in my life…

As always, Devil’s Gambit my technothriller is available in print and Kindle version on Amazon and it’s still less than a cup of coffee..

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