The Rough Draft

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

reliance1

My latest book Reliance is prepped and ready and sitting with a new Editor. Deciding to go with somebody different from the Editor of my first two books wasn’t an easy decision to make. After all you try to build a team that will help you get to the goal line and I’m not saying in any way that my previous editor didn’t help that happen but it doesn’t hurt to look around and to see if other talented people will benefit your work. I think writing is a lot closer to music in this regard. You seek out a certain music producer because you want a certain sound. I’m very much aware of the sound I want for Reliance and after talking to my new editor I get the feeling he will help me coalesce what I’m after. I’m intrigued to see what his first set of notes will be. The above cover is the temporary one as I’m waiting for a few more props to arrive before I shoot the new cover. I’m also thinking of going with a yellow background as this particular blue is really too dark. I’ll admit, designing covers for my books is one of the more fun aspects of self publishing.

Devilsanti1

And here’s the adjusted cover for the second book in the, “Devil,” series, now called, “Devil’s Ante.” All I’m going to say for now is it takes place in Colombia and Sean Addison is finding retirement from the SAS difficult.

Expect to see, “Reliance,” on Amazon in print and on Kindle the first week of December. “Devil’s Ante,” will follow in the Spring.

You can purchase the first book in the Devil’s Series, Devils Gambit on Amazon in print and on Kindle

This post is about photography but brought to you on my bike.

The Eastman Mansion is of course the home George Eastman of Eastman Kodak built for himself after the sales of the Brownie Camera and the celluloid film stock he’d developed made him the tenth richest man in America.

He was an amature chemist who brought photgraphy from the realm of the huge land cameras and colloidal coatings to a package you could carry with you and film you developed off of a roll. I loved Kodak Kodachrome film and I always liked the warmth of their Gold film as well.

George Eastman was a bit of a prickly figure but my theory is he was OCD or Asperger’s  or both which would explain his need to micromanage and his love of numbers and data.

This is the original front entry. The current entry is through the rear of the property where the auditorium and gallery displays are.

An early projector.

Explaining the Technicolor process…

The largest collection of remaining Technicolor dyes in the world.

The view from the walkway to the garden on your way to the main house.

The Breakfast room where George Eastman ate breakfast at 7:30am sharp every morning. He had an organist on staff who played for him every morning. This is three combined images.

A more formal and intimate dining room.

A panorama of the music room.

I had an of the moment opportunity to go down to Watkins Glen National Park this Monday. Well the plans were sort of introduced Friday night and I’d figured out the details by Sunday. I’ve been gagging to get on the bike and go somewhere and if I get to use my camera to shoot interesting stuff, all the better.

The park is neat because it’s centered around the gorge with camping available on the upper levels. It’s not a huge park but it is interesting in that it captures that turn of the century love of nature but ruled by the firm hand of man. This does not detract from anything as the original builders really worked hard to blend the walkways in with the natural surroundings.

I won’t bore you with the trip down or how the bike was set up. It really wasn’t that kind of ride. I will say that I really enjoyed riding in this part of New York State and I look forward to coming down again and exploring the back roads further in the future.

This time I had my tripod with me and used it for pretty much every shot except the one above of the entrance to the park. I also decided to go for a deep depth of field so everything was shot at f22, the exposure times were long and the ISO was set at 200. The park was pretty packed and the long exposures allowed me to shoot around the people for the most part. That being said, I also liked the ghost like effect of them moving through the space.

The park was so worth the trip. If you get a chance, you should go.

As always you can get a print or Kindle copy of my thriller Devil’s Gambit on amazon.

I’ve had the pinhole lens as part of my Lensbaby kit for a while. I haven’t really worked with it too much because it requires a lot of work to get decent results and it becomes a real process to get the shots coming with any consistency because you’re working at such a high F number (f166) that you have a hard time pre visualizing your shot. You basically have to set up the camera on your tripod and take shots at different exposure times until you’re happy with the end result.

I’ve always been intrigued by the end results. With the Lensbaby Pinhole insert, you get massive depth of field but your focus is arbitrary and becomes more of a function of the DOF. The color saturation gets pretty interesting as well.

I will say this, the pinhole lens will reveal every speck of dust that’s usually focused out of the image with a more standard lens. Detail definitely drops out with distance but that gives things a very dreamy look.

I’m going to keep playing around with the Pinhole insert.

I decided to switch to my double glass insert to see how it would cope under the conditions. I had the f2.8 ring and I was shooting 1/30 as ISO 100. The water and the direction of light created some pretty cool effects.

And just to round out the morning, I switched to the Edge 80 Optic and it’s flat plane focus.

Hot as it was, it was nice to get out and work with some of my Lensbaby equipment.

The turn off to Side Road 15 by Terra Cotta. Blink and you will miss it.

This Sunday myself and a few other riders hit some gravel and no Winter maintenance roads up around the Creemore and Terra Cotta area. It turned out to be a fun and also humbling day. The other riders were Randy on his newer model DL-650, Connie on a very nice Husqvarna,  Derek on his 250 Yamaha and Mark on the blue version of my 04 DL-650.

Here’s the group minus the guy on the camera, taking a break after I went down.

The goal for the day was to keep everything low key, friendly and fun, which I think we achieved. The skill sets ranged from very experienced to novice. As for me, I’m good at some things and only so so for others. Mark was at the most disadvantaged as he’s just getting into the whole off road component of the Strom but he’s game and he definitely picked the better line than me as he motored by me on the section that put me down easily but more on that later. I will say this as I’m used to riding solo for the most part, it’s nice to ride in a group like this for those times you do get into trouble. It’s also nice when everybody is old enough that when stuff does go pear shaped, it ends in a laugh.

As I laid out the track, I led the ride, something which is a pretty new experience for me. It also showed me I’ll have to invest in a better offroad GPS unit if I’m going to overcome my track software to Garmin interpretation issues. Luckily I’d sent the same track to Randy and Derek and when my system started to lead us astray Randy would bring us back in line.

The recent rains had done a fair amount of damage to the gravel sections at the start of the gravel sections. To counter some of the erosion, crews had laid down some pretty large gravel into the low spots. None this stuff had been there a month earlier and hearing it whanging off of my skid pan, made me glad I had one on the bike. Though to be fair, I had my ears in and was listening to some music. The Pivot Pegs were as always one of the best additions to my bike as you just seem to glide over the rough and loose stuff and I was able to maintain a decent speed.

 Sections like this were pretty good, though I like to slow down before going round blind corners, just in case there’s a truck coming the other way. The whole Terra Cotta section is really nice to ride, loose bits aside. It’s a bit counterintuitive but it helps to go faster on the looser downhill sections. I stayed up on my pegs for most of the days ride because I find it the most comfortable but I will admit, I’m still hurting from it today (it was still worth it).

Mark then Derek coming out of the trees with Connie and Randy still in shadow.

The more technical sections soon opened up into long straight stretches of gravel where if you were so inclined (I was) you could open the taps a bit.

So far all the Stroms had acquitted themselves well and realistically, any issues that were to hit were going to be pilot error. When we got to this…

I was a bit concerned as it looked like it would get gnarly (it did) but Randy who told me later they’d ride this section from the other direction usually motored fight on up it.

And yeah, it turned out to be really sandy and loose with lots of larger rock chunks littering the surface but once you accept the challenge, there’s really no going back and I’ll be honest, the adrenaline was running pretty high for the whole first part of the track and then about a third of the way in I heard Mark’s bike behind me rev up sharply and like an idiot I looked back and then stalled. Randy rolled by me and up the trail and I got my bike restarted and then followed. About sixty feet up I realized there was nobody behind me, so I stopped, got off and walked back.

This is the section that took Mark down. I stalled out just about where the line of Sun intersects the shadows.

By the time I got there, Derek and Mark had gotten his bike upright again and Derek was giving him a push to get him off the crappy stuff and back on to better (50/50) terrain.

Of course, I’d go down just a bit further up the track…

Video credit goes to Randy Kunert

My view a second before I went down. I knew I’d picked the wrong line the second I was on it.

Thankfully Randy came down and gave me a hand.

This turned out to be the toughest section of the day with the rest barring a few issues with my GPS being pretty smooth sailing. We stopped for a bite at O’Shea’s. I was still pretty pumped from the previous few hours and ate light.

I’m back to wearing my Fly Helmet as I find I get sleepy in my Bell. I ended up mounting my Sony action cam to the back side of the helmet’s beak, which puts the sight line pretty high and also creates quite a wind catcher but once you’re below 80 kmh on the trails it worked out fine. I have replaced the original waterproof cover with the newer design which has eliminated the holes that were there before, which has in turn eliminated the wind cut on the microphones. All in all, I’m pretty happy with the setup now.

Now that I’m fully recharged, aches and pains aside I’m nearing the end of the rewrite for Reliance and will have it out to my Editor hopefully by the end of the week. then it’ll be back to finishing Devil’s Ante. Unfortunately I’ll be going back to the day job for the next little while. Which really means I’m in for some long days through the Fall work wise.

As always, you can download or purchase the paperback of my thriller Devil’s Gambit on Amazon

I get tired of people telling me all the things my bike (a 650 V-Strom) can’t do. How it’s too heavy, not a real off road bike, blah, blah, blah. Are there things my bike can’t do? Absolutely.

for instance, this. If I’m doing this with my bike, my ride has gone seriously wrong.

But I think much of these type of comments are more geared towards, where the commenting person’s comfort zone lies. Would I like a lighter bike, say a DRZ 400 for mucking about on some of the more gnarly trails and unmaintained roads? I sure would but I simply don’t have the room or the money to keep a two bike stable.

And as far as weight goes, the majority of popular adventure bikes are pushing the upper limits in the four hundred and five hundred plus range and that’s not going to go away anytime soon as long as the bigger brands insist that 1000cc to 1200cc is what you need. So are there tracks I wouldn’t take my Strom down? Yes there are but I wouldn’t take a BMW R1200GS down them either. If I break something on my Strom, it’s going to cost me a lot less to fix than the Beemer. Though it makes me wonder if the BMW guys get the same amount of flack about the weight and size of their machines or do they have a much better PR machine working for them?

But back to the confidence issue.

I’ve been riding since I was seventeen and today I turned fifty. A good chunk of my riding has been off road and I’ve come up through a good number of Enduro bikes. So going from street to dirt or gravel feels natural to me. I’m not the guy who can drag a peg round a corner (nor do I want to) or get my knee down to get through a corner. I prefer to go fast enough as opposed to trying to set a land speed record on public roads. On the other hand I can maintain a high rate of speed on an uneven surface be it gravel, dirt or sand and my slower dirt track skills are fine. Would I have even better results on a lighter more task dedicated type of motorcycle? I’ll bet I would but I don’t have the extreme bank to drop on a KTM 450 Dakar.

KTM 450 Dakar Rally – Pure tits.

Though, who needs a house, really?

I could get into all kinds of trouble with a bike like that but it’s a dream. What I do have is my Strom and she’s taken me pretty much wherever I’ve wanted to go and there’s still plenty left to explore. I’ll just have to do what I always do when the cries of, “You can’t do that on your bike,” start. I just twist the throttle and let the rushing sound of the wind in my ears drown them out while I focus on the track in front of me.

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

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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.

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