Progress-ish + New Site…Possibly?

Howdy, folks!  Checkin’ in with a progress report, of sorts.

Progress!

Last two weeks were craaaazy busy for me.  I’ve been working on a couple of design projects and pretty much using every spare moment I wasn’t working at the furniture store to do it.  I was quite tired at the end of it all, needless to say. (Still working on one of them, but there’s been a lull.)

Speaking of a lull, this past weekend I was able to get some editing done! Three scene plus I wrote a new one. (Apparently I skimped where I shouldn’t have–ooooo…) It was fun.  We’ll see what I get done this week/weekend. (Get to see the long-distance boyfriend this Saturday! ^_^)

Anyway, I’m just realizing I have to take my down moments where I can get ’em at this point.  Element 7 will get done.  Just a matter of time.

New Site…Possibly?

I really do want to set up a new author/writing site and blog, preferably through Wix. (I use them for my business’ website and have fallen in love.)  Also, a Facebook page.  However, I feel I shouldn’t do this until after I’ve completed my edits.  I’m thinkin’ of this as a reward–and a milestone marker indicating me taking the next big step to getting published, I suppose.

BUT.

Wix let’s you design and preview a site before it goes live, so of course I couldn’t resist setting up a little something.  Just a quick mock-up:

I’d love to have some decent photos taken with me wearing dieselpunk attire… That would be fun.  And cool, I think.  (Look: I’m even getting some ideas for my own dieselpunk looks as we speak.  Maybe one day I’ll blog about the stuff I have collected and share some pic-stitches of ideas for looks I have.) I may want some neat adventury artwork in the background, as well.  Hmm…

Dieselpunk Fashion

Anyway, this was just me playin’ around, dreamin’.  Might go for a more vintage theme and/or color palette on the website.  I’m sure I’d add a “recent news” section on the bottom of the home page, and I don’t think I’d have any telephone numbers listed…but yeah.  It’s just a start.  Will probably switch it up by the time it really matters anyway.  In any case, I do know I can’t really see myself not writing fantasy, and though dieselpunk may pass years down the road, it’d be kinda fun to stick to that niche (for the foreseeable future, anyway).

Random fact: I’ve been told by the super cool author Bard Constantine, who also writes dieselpunk stories, that I have a “vintage look” in this photo I shot while staying at this updated mid-century modern hotel called the Valley Ho here in Arizona:

IMG_1643e

Though not intentional, I do love vintage objects–especially furniture and home decor–so I have to admit: this both flatters, and amuses, me.

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The Adventures of Philip Marlowe!

Since Anthony asked about this earlier, I figured I’d just make a quick post about it!  (Easier to find on the site than a comment on a post, heh.)

You may have heard of writer Raymond Chandler’s famous character before, Philip Marlowe–a hardboiled, wisecracking private eye.  Several movies have been made featuring this character, including The Big Sleep (1946) with Humphrey Bogart as Marlowe and a later adaptation The Long Goodbye (1973) featuring Elliott Gould, as well as some TV and radio adaptations.

Lots of radio adaptations.

I’ve only seen a couple of the movies like The Long Goodbye and listened to a handful of the radio episodes, particularly the ones voiced by Gerald Mohr.  (I admit, I have a weakness for his voice! lol)  Though, they were very entertaining and I’ve very much derived inspiration from them.

Anyway, if you’re into film noir and detective pulp adventures, then you should definitely check out some of the radio episodes from The Adventures of Philip Marlowe on the Internet Archive.  They’ve got a pretty big collection there and you can listen to them and even download some onto your MP3 player!

Great for a listen while you’re stuck commuting in traffic. 😉

Now, how about a movie trailer?

Vintage Military Videos: WWII, Secret Agents & the OSS

I don’t know why I’m just now discovering this, but I came across this website today called Real Military Videos and it’s got some really interesting content!  They have some vintage OSS instructional videos–very relevant to my fiction.

I know I can’t research every little detail in my (fantasy) novel and I don’t get a whole lot into the more involved aspects that comes with real espionage–tradecraft, namely; I’m taking a pretty fanciful approach, to be honest…but I really can’t believe I’d never thought to look up “OSS agent training” before.

*palm-face*

Well, I’m sure to pick up some good stuff now, at least, and am likely to find some information that could help me take some of my ideas to the next level, you know?  It’s not too late, as I’m still in the first editing stages and haven’t made any extensive changes to the manuscript just yet, aside from my first chapter.  So long as I don’t spend ages dabbling in this stuff, heh (big temptation there).

What is the OSS?

Well, before there was the CIA there was something called the Office of Strategic Services, or the OSS.  It came about during WWII and didn’t last very long, from 1942 to 1945, and is known as “America’s first intelligence agency.”  (The CIA was subsequently formed in 1947.)  You can read more about it here, if you’re interested.

Video

Here’s a link to the first of the instructional videos I was talking about before.  It’s pretty neat to be able to go back in time via cinematography!

Anyways, you never know who else might be interested in this stuff, so I thought I’d just share.

Chiaroscuro: What Edward Hopper, Film Noir & Interwar American Literature Have in Common

Nighthawks.  Edward Hopper, 1942.

Gee, I’m just on an art kick this week!  (Sorry, no post yesterday.  Busy day.)

I’ve been looking at some more art and remembered an American artist I learned about in school a few years ago: Edward Hopper.  And then a million thoughts started floating around in my head, which happens a lot when I’m browsing the internet.  Though, a couple of words and phrases kept popping up: black and white, stark, depression, momentary blindness, and chiaroscuro.

In order for me to make sense of the word soups my brain sometimes generates I either have to (a) talk myself through it, or (b) write myself through it.

Today, I feel like I’ve got to write my way through it.  Let’s see if I can’t make sense of this.

First, let’s define a term that may or may not be widely understood.

Chiaroscuro

Etymology: From Italian, from chiaro (clear, light) + oscuro (obscure, dark).  From Answers.com.

Chiaroscuro is an artistic technique in which the artist uses a stark contrast of bright lighting effects in combination with areas of deep shades.  It makes for an interestingly bold effect and lends itself well to both photography and cinematography (B&W especially) and other mediums, to be sure.  Depression-era photographer Dorothea Lange is famous for her “stark” photographs (though not necessarily chiaroscuro):

 Here’s a famous example of chiaroscuro in a B&W film:

I think Edward Hopper used it fairly often in his work, as well–like in Nighthawks above.  Here are some other examples:

 Okay, now on to why I’m writing about any of this. Stark Opposition: Understanding the World through a “Black & White Lens”…So to Speak The world is clearly not black and white, but I find it difficult to understand without at first filtering it through this approach.  I think of the story of Adam and Eve and have wondered what it might have been like to never known sin, or that which was not deemed “good.” Complete innocence and ignorance.  (In their case, ignorance was bliss…until they sought out knowledge, right?) To understand the value and meaning of good, you must first be exposed to that which is not, and I don’t think Adam or Eve understood this so clearly as the moment they ate from the Tree. It moments like this that are so stark in the human experience, so clear in one’s memory, that they forever define the way a person looks at the world. You are almost blinded by the contrast between what you once knew and what you know now.  They are particularly powerful experiences. In a flash of a bright light you are momentarily blinded; it is impossible to perceive shades of grey during that time. I think this is what chiaroscuro is all about: capturing moments of stark (first) impressions–truths in their most naked forms.  Only, as a viewer, when you experience it in a painting as opposed to real-time media you actually get a still snapshot of the moment and therefore have ample time to really process it and consider any “grey” aspects in the artwork, as with Hopper’s Nighthawks (why does it seem so empty there?)–though, you do still experience that “momentary blindness” at first sight because you can’t take everything in all at once (and this is true with any complex, multi-layered piece). I happened to write most of these thoughts up to this point in a moment of “stark impressions,” but as it settles in (and as I edit this) I find I want to explore those shades of grey as it pertains to fiction. Can Chiaroscuro Be Achieved in Literature? I think so. The Great Depression (or even just depressing themes) made an excellent backdrop for the practice of chiaroscuro in literature, thematically especially.  Two novels that inevitably come to mind, here, are The Great Gatsby and The Grapes of Wrath.  At one moment in The Great Gatsby Nick Carraway was looking forward to life in the big city; look how that turned out.  (Edit: I should acknowledge that this book wasn’t set during the Great Depression, but you still got this feeling of something rotten and corrupt happening in the city, a feeling of ruin and grit with references to ash, etc.  It was depressing, in a way.)  Similarly, in The Grapes of Wrath it started out as, “We’re going to California–yahoo!”  Though, that excitement soon dissipated once they arrived and took in the reality of the “opportunities” out west. Blind, or perhaps just innocent, optimism (chiaro), met with stark reality (oscuro)…followed by disillusionment (grey–or grigio, as it is in Italian, according to Wiktionary, haha). I think another way to apply “chiaroscuro” in literature is using foils.  What better way to show the difference between good and evil than to have characters which personify both in complementary ways?  You can also have a chiaroscuro of setting versus context, where the setting reflects an opposite atmosphere or mood to what is actually happening in the story (a happy couple out on the town, having a pleasant stroll when two violent thugs come out of nowhere–an experience they’ll always remember afterwards); or a chiaroscuro of character (an ongoing internal struggle between two desires met with a moment in which the character is forced out of their “grey” understanding and expected to take a decisive stand). Of course, it could be executed literally, narrating how certain objects or persons are in shade and how others are illuminated in bright or harsh light.  (A nefarious interrogation room, anyone?)  It could also be accomplished with the clashing of themes: life versus death, hope versus despair, sanity versus insanity, truth versus lies… In the end, it’s about dichotomies: exploring the relationship between opposites and their effects on everything they touch.  It’s just one way to look at conflicts in stories. In any case, I do think chiaroscuro works best when darker, more serious themes are being used, but it doesn’t necessarily have to end on a negative note.  You could have a story that focuses mostly on despair and ends on an up-note, for example.  Switch things around. Why I’m Drawn to These Things As I mentioned, sometimes I have trouble understanding certain things unless I can compare them to their exact opposites.  “This is a boy; this is a girl.” Ah…” Not that I’ve ever had trouble understanding the difference there, though if I were, say, a sexless alien I might have trouble grasping this simple concept until I saw it with my own eyes. I think as children we learn a lot this way.  “This is good; this is bad.”  Only difference is now that I’m older I don’t always say “okay” but sometimes, “Why?” *sighs* Yeah.  Life was much simpler as a kid.  There wasn’t a whole lot of room for greys.  Though, I’m pretty sure life would be boring if it were all black and white. So anyways… No writing prompt.  Not sure what I’d ask, to be honest.  Comments are still welcome, though, if you have any.