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Progress-ish + New Site…Possibly?

11 Mar

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


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.


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:


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


The Adventures of Philip Marlowe!

4 Aug

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

27 May

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.


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.


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

5 May

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.


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

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.

Interwar Pilot Finds & the Psychology of Leather

16 Apr

I have to warn you, folks: Today I have no insights into the writing process, only interwar period finds and musings on the possible mentalities of some of the earliest airplane pilots in history.

So I was doing some random browsing on the internet the other day…

…as is my idle habit at times, and came across these photographs of a French leather flight helmet from the interwar period (1918-1939).  I think they’re simply beautiful:

French Airaile flight helmet from the Interwar period (1918-1939). Source:


French Airaile flight helmet from the Interwar period (1918-1939). Source:

Idk, there’s just something about leather, folks.

…Whaaa?  What is this?  Why are we talking about leather?

People, I love leather.  Let me tell you: I’ve got three pairs of leather boots, a sweet leather jacket, leather belts, several leather purses and handbags…and yes, even leather gloves to top off the collection.

Brazilian leather boots--bought during a ridiculous clearance, of course! (They look black here, but they're actually a dark green.)

Do I wear them all at once?  Of course not.  That would be silly.


(I don’t wear them often, though.  The boots, I mean.  I get the “are you a model?” question when I do, and sometimes with my jacket, as well.  And since I don’t model, it’s kind of annoying because people don’t believe me!  lol)

The Psychology of Leather

What is it about leather that makes certain folks go batty for it?

They say it’s a symbol of masculinity and power.  So what, does that make women who wear it power-hungry?


Maybe it’s just that being wrapped up tight in leather can make you feel all warm and comfortable and safe–invincible, even.

Maybe it’s a little of all these things, and something more.

For some, like me, you could say it’s almost a kind of fetish–not in the weird, kinky way that I’m sure Western society has ingrained into many minds.  (Okay, this is getting weird…)  Just a particularly strong liking for it.  Perhaps even in the mystical way that it is imbued with superpowers.  (Why else would a leather suit be associate with superhero status?)  And wouldn’t you know, it’s just one other thing that’s leaked over to my heroine and will pop up in my writing every now and then.

I can’t help it.  Leather–real, organic animal hide–is a beautiful material.  Plus, it just feels good.

It’s a quality thing.  Maybe it’s even a little bit primal.  It’s stylish, classic…and even when worn down by time, it remains timeless.

Maybe you understand; maybe you don’t.  (Though, I’m not-so-secretly hoping you do!)

I betchya Amelia Earhart understood it very well, as she was sometimes clad in it:

Amelia Earhart in Newfoundland (1928). From Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

I could only imagine how good it must feel for a pilot to pull a nice snug, leather flying cap onto his/her head. *sighs* It makes me wonder how Amelia felt in her flying gear.

The Psychology of Individual Articles

Here’s what I think: Hats, leather or otherwise, can make you feel safe; so can a leather jacket.  The jacket can also give you a sense of assuredness, that things will turn out all right.  Gloves (I’m guessing Amelia wore some while flying) are kind of an official statement; they say, “I’m ready to take on this mission put before me.”

And the boots…well, those just finish it all off, don’t they?  A good tug on those laces and you’re set to go.  If anything is a sign of power, a message that “I can do anything,” it’s a good pair of knee-high leather boots.  (Thigh-high?  Well, there’s a difference between “check me out” and “pick me up.”  The difference is but inches.)

Of course, there’s a practical side to all that gear: It protected pilots who flew in open cockpits from brisk winds.  Even so, leather on its own is simply amazing.

Enough about leather!  What about flying?

Well, what about it?  Closest I’ve been to planes are airliners, and I obviously didn’t get to play pilot.  And I won’t be hopping into the cockpit of a biplane any time soon.  In the meantime, I will be checking out this nifty little flight simulator (probably after I graduate and have some more time to get lost in it).  See how that goes.

This game has been around for a while now, but that won’t keep me from trying it.  Here’s the blurb about it off Microsoft’s website:

The year is 1937. The United States has shattered under the combined weight of the Great Depression, regional Prohibition and mounting isolationism. The transcontinental railroad and the budding highway system have become useless as they now cross hostile borders. Commerce and trade leave the ground as air travel now becomes a vital lifeline connecting allied countries — and a national obsession — while daring air pirates and valiant air militias battle for control of the skies. Giant zeppelins crisscross the skies, carrying both passengers and cargo. It is a time of gunship diplomacy and airship piracy. It is the age of the fighter pilot and a time of daredevil adventure and sinister intrigue. It is the world of Crimson Skies…

I mean, why wouldn’t you want to play something like that?

The game’s plane models are more advanced than I was looking for, but oh well.  Still looks like fun.  Too bad this isn’t on the Xbox 360, as that’s how I like to roll…

Oh, snap–they’ve got it on the regular ol’ Xbox!  It’s a date.

Okay, so before I go…there’s actually one other little reason why I think leather is amazing:

Introducing U.S. Air Mail pilot William C. “Wild Bill” Hopson--striking a cocky pose before a flight from Omaha to Chicago in 1921. Source: Amazons link to Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: An Autobiography.

Bottom line: There is nothing like a man in a suit.

Note to self: one day I’ve got to base a character off that man…

(Okay, you know how they say not to judge a book by its cover?   Well, I confess: I am 100% guilty of doing this.  The first time I encountered “Wild Bill” was in Mavericks of the Sky: The First Daring Pilots of the U.S. Air Mail, and I probably picked up the book because he was smack-dab on the cover–entirely pwning the cover, to be sure.  But really, I promise: It was a wonderful book!  Lots of insights into the dangers that pioneer pilots faced when scouting out the first airmail routes.  Those folks were crazy-brave.)

So, I guess the real question is: Does anyone else have an insatiable craving for leather, or am I just weird?

Or maybe it isn’t leather for you.  Maybe it’s fluffy pink things.  Or white tennis shoes you can’t stand to get dirty.  Or…maybe you’re just normal.  That’s cool, too.

I guess. 😛

Music: Creating a Legend

13 Apr

When I first started doing so reasearch for my novel some years back, I looked into specific eras that I wanted to be inspired by.  At first I thought I was going for something more 1920s because of how young planes were at this stage, but then later realized that I also wanted more of the lifestyles and technologies adopted in the 30s (roughly speaking).  Still, I was really interested in how planes performed and were used during WWI as opposed to WWII.

That’s when I happened to stumble across  They’ve got all sorts of information on the war, ranging from first-hand accounts in the forms of hand-written letters to music and video footage.

Inspired by Music

I hadn’t expected to find music there, so I was especially interested in listening to the kind that was played and listened to around that timeframe.  Here’s one of my favorite songs that I’ve sampled from their collection (using YouTube since I can’t upload MP3s without paying extra monies!):

That one is dated 1911, though the one on says it was written in 1911 and recorded in 1912.  In any case, it predates the war, so it doesn’t make reference to it.  I suppose like it because it’s fun and light-hearted and hasn’t been influenced by war.  You get a glimpse of life in America before the coming storm.

Realizing that maybe this was a little earlier style of music than I was looking for, I found, which features music from around the WWII era.  Lots of good selections there.

There’s a big gap between the two (from the early 1910s to the mid-1940s), and the range of musical influences I was looking for lies somewhere in the middle.  Still, it was a fun research of sorts.  I think listening to the music from different times gives you a certain kind of insight into what people were all about back then.  What people care about is typically what they’ll sing about.

Why This Has Anything to Do with Writing

After listening to all of this vintage music, I thought, “Hmm…what if I came up with a song that was popular in my novel’s storyworld?”

All right, why not?

Well, I have this (dead) character, a traitorous double agent, who’s become a part of the contemporary culture of the people in my story–a legend, even.  She’s a Mata Hari figure, of sorts, who’s inspired others to create several movies, songs and novels about her.  And, as you can imagine, the tales that people tell about her have likely undergone some…change over time and distanced themselves from the actual truth, which is what makes them kind of legend.  It’s just another look at how a tragedy can become a romanticized figure, despite what she did (committed treason) and what happened to her as a result (execution).

So I thought this would be perfect material for a song and a fun way to spin a tale within a tale–one that maintains relevance throughout the story.

The Lyrics

“Dirty Little Spy” is the name I came up with for the song.  It would be sung by a female blues singer (I only meet half this requirement, lol) in the key of A minor and at a fairly slow tempo.  I guess the form would be something like AABABBC, for those who are into music.

I have put parts of the song into the story, but I don’t use all of the lyrics, as that would get clunky and awkward.  Anyhow, it tells the story of this double agent I mentioned, whose last name is Feruupa (she was a Borellian citizen).  Here’s what I came up with:

(Instrumental introduction)

Verse 1

There once was a girl named Feruupa,
She worked the cabaret shows at night.
Then she met a man who was strange and new
And he liked her ways—so sly and cool.
He said,
“You could be a spy.” 

Verse 2

So she thought the deal over and over,
And it just seemed so perfect and right.
She could travel the world and see the sights,
Maybe work by day and spy by night.
She said,
“I wanna be a spy.”


Baby, darling, it’s but a game.
Business, pleasure—it’s all the same.
So I fool you once, a pardon is due;
I fool you twice, the fool is you.
You never woulda guessed I was a spy.

 Verse 3

So she took a job over in Darmoil.
When she came back she just weren’t the same.
Something changed her mind and she did the unkind,
Put one over her lover, kicked her country in the ‘hind.
“You never shoulda known I was a spy.”

Chorus (x2)


For treason she made a date with the electric chair.
“How unfair,” she wailed, but it didn’t care
‘Cause she was just a no-good,
Filthy, rotten,
Little spy.

[The ending would get really, really slow…and then suddenly pick back up again.]

Naturally, I had to make this song something that my heroine would be influenced by.  She’s got some silly notions floating around in her head about how glorious spying would be–notions which are soon challenged after she gets an offer to become one herself!

The Sound

I’ve never tried writing anything with a jazzy blues feel to it before, so it’s something I’d have to experiment with more.  However, I did find this really neat video on YouTube of a couple of guys just experimenting with unusual sound combinations.  They call it “oud blues“.  It sounds exotic yet familiar–exactly the kind of quality I was looking for.  I thought it would be really cool if the song was played in a similar style but slower–something I haven’t exactly figured out how to accomplish yet, heh.  Anyway, here’s the video:

Now, I do play some piano, but since I don’t play the oud or the bass it would be difficult to bring the entire song to life unless I use composition software.  And I’m generally not a singer (too shy!) though I can sing things in-tune and in-key, so long as it’s within my range.  So maybe one day I’ll be able to sit down and finish fleshing out the song into an entire composition.

Does music play a role in any of your stories?

If so, in what way?  Also, how large or small of a role does it play?

Sometimes, I’ve noticed, authors will make passing references or allusions to songs and celebrities, or if there’s television or radio a reference to what’s playing on there–particularly when it’s set in the real world.  Though, I have seen it done some in secondary worlds.  In Jeff VanderMeer’s Finch he sometimes includes rebel radio messages spoken by the Lady in Blue, the leader of an ongoing resistance movement.  I thought this was a nice touch.

Just the mere mention of things like music and even news that’s being talked about in newspapers, radio and other mediums, even word of mouth, can add an extra level of depth and richness to a story.  However, I think it only becomes meaningful to the reader if it has relevance to the story itself.

What do you think?

Inspiration from Vintage Times: Influence, Insecurity & Expectation

8 Apr

Late Wednesday evening I mentioned that my protagonist wears a corset.

This may seem like a very frivolous thing, but it’s actually connected to a rather intimate part of her character.  It’s not really about the corset at all; it’s about how it makes her feel.

Speaking of the intimate…

1930 Munsingwear Hosiery Ad.

Found it here.  That one is hard to see, so here’s another I thought was amusing (if not a tad bit gross, haha):

A 1936 ad for Lux detergent “for underthings.” (Click for full size!)

Found that one here.  It’s interesting to look back on the kind of attitudes that were prevalent about women in the past but also how they viewed themselves.  Though, I wonder have they changed all that much?

I don’t consider myself to be a feminist (unless you automatically consider being female being “feminist”), but I think it’s fun to consider these things.  I, for one, am not really the kind of chick that aspires to “popularity, romance, and a devoted husband,” heh.  Not that I’m saying I’ve never consider it, or that these things are bad.  It’s just right now, at this point in my life, these are not things that belong in my life.

However, I’ve observed that sometimes these things become points of insecurity for some young women.  Maybe this is just a cultural thing, but I think in high school the peer pressure to “get a boyfriend/girlfriend” is really high for young people, and that can carry on well past their high school years, sticking with them as adults.

I think this kind of influence is interesting; it’s something I explore in various ways in my WIP.  The power of peer pressure, typically associated with young folks, merely translates as the power of pure influence the older you get, as I see it.  It can be not only a micro (character) concern but a macro (global) one.  Influence, among other things, allows world powers to maintain the position that they do.  It also allows them to shape the world as they see fit.  This, alone, can make for some interestingly epic plot points.

Points to Consider with Characters: Insecurities & Expectations

The most interesting thing about that last ad, for me, is how it points out various sources of insecurity for women: hygiene, popularity, success in one’s career, beauty, and an expectation to get married.  As silly and superficial as the selling point of that ad may seem, these are still legitimate concerns for many ladies today, and I suspect some may even pertain to men.  (And maybe that’s why the ad held/still holds any power?)

So what can a writer take away from this?

I think it helps make characters more realistic when you consider their insecurities but also what society expects of them because most, if not all, people have at least one insecurity even if they don’t openly talk about it, and everyone is expected to do one thing or another.  Sometimes, the two can be tied so closely together that the expectations become capable of engendering insecurities.  If certain people are unable to meet certain expectations, they can start to feel insecure about themselves.

Some examples of expectations I place on my characters and insecurities I’ve given to them are a need to:

  • live up to the expectations of one’s parents (and feel lesser or unworthy when they do not)
  • please the job
  • please an enemy (only to avoid death or harm, or to sabotage them later, of course!)
  • just please other people in general

I don’t know, but maybe all insecurities can be traced back to a need to please or impress someone other than ourselves.  Of course, it’s healthy to have some concern about meeting the expectations of others, but to let that run one’s life…well, that’s debilitating.  You then allow yourself to become a pawn or tool rather than someone who’s capable of making their own decisions in life.

The influence of others can be good, to a certain degree.  I think the same goes for our characters.

Do you give your characters insecurities and consider expectations placed on them–either by others or themselves?  Or do you think this is a frivolous thing to do?

Pulp Fiction

17 Mar

>I think I just discovered my latest obsession:

G-8 and His Battle Aces!  I should have been inhaling this stuff ages ago!  God, where have you been all my life…