#277: Versers Resettle

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #277, on the subject of Versers Resettle.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first four novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, and Spy Verses,  in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I have posted the fifth, Garden of Versers,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about my expectations for the futures of the characters and stories–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued, as being written partially concurrently with the story it sometimes discusses where I thought it was headed.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

There is also a section of the site, Multiverser Novel Support Pages, in which I have begun to place materials related to the novels beginning with character papers for the major characters, giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

This is the second mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 13 through 24.  Previous web log posts covering this book include:

History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in those earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.

Chapter 13, Brown 162

The flyover recon was actually inspired by the fact that I did not expect the windows to close in fair weather, so it was an obvious entry and exit for Morach.

It occurred to me that Bob had told Joe about Derek’s ability to change form, but Joe had not yet actually seen it.  He would not want to appear too interested, but he would be interested, and Zeke gives him the opportunity to tag along and watch.

This was chapter 10 before James Beam was added.

Chapter 14, Kondor 139

“Magic missile” is of course one of the most popular or best known Dungeons & Dragons™ magic-user spells, but it was also the obvious description of the force ball fired by the kinetic blaster.  I immediately realized it was unlike a D&D™ magic missile, and more like a blunt instrument, so I wrote “invisible hammer” and then decided to tease my audience by changing it to “spiritual hammer”, one of the popular low-level cleric spells.

I was trying to work out the pace for the stories here.  In Spy Verses I often had two characters in one world and one in another, and so I alternated stories, Joe-Derek-Bob-Derek-Joe-Derek.  Now I had three and one, and I was uncertain how to split them—whether to have Lauren every other chapter, or give everyone an equal number of chapters.  At this point my thoughts were that I would do two chapters of the Arabian story and one of Lauren, shifting which of my Arabian story characters to follow.  That arrangement became the framework when I started integrating the new James Beam story.

This was chapter 11 before James Beam was added.  Beam made the character shifts a bit more complicated, but I attempted generally to include a Lauren and a Beam for every two chapters of the other three.

Chapter 15, Beam 4

The Pyronics 2000 was my invention for the Mary Piper space ship scenario.  A lot of players like the devastating one-shot weapon, and Kyler included it in this world.  Beam takes it with him, but has to figure out how to recharge it.  Kyler’s version does things that the original version specifically did not do.

The cigarettes were important, because Beam has a couple of addictive habits, and cigarettes are a big one, so having them matters.

It is not established exactly what Dawn is.  I take her to be some kind of genetically created organism, but Kyler has never given me his view, and she’s his invention.

Chapter 16, Hastings 141

I’m not really old enough to remember hospitals in the 1960s, but this is less a hospital and more an asylum, so I was creating what I thought plausible.  (I was actually in a hospital for an extended stay–acute nephritis–sometime between 1958 and 1960, but my memories of it are all actually of recurring dreams I had of my stay there.)

This was chapter 12 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 17, Slade 138

To have Slade do recon also would be overly redundant, but there was a problem for him to consider in why they were expected.  It was something only he could address, because it involved his relationships with elemental spirits.  I thus opened the question here.

This was chapter 13 before we added James Beam

Chapter 18, Brown 163

I was fleshing out the city, many of these details devised as I did so.

The idea of the hawk attacking came to me as something to work in at some point, but as I considered it I decided that now was the best time, and it would liven up the book and create a new question:  the guards are looking for some magical creature that invaded the castle, and Derek is that creature.

This was chapter 14 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 19, Beam 5

Turbirb’durpa demonstrates several psionic abilities which will become important to his character as the story progresses, even though they won’t always work and he won’t understand why not.

The original description of this entry into the depths of the compound was unclear, and I had to ask Kyler to explain it.  The rewrite attempts to convey the impression that it is damage from an impact of some sort.

I was also confused as to whether Beam’s ears blew because he was using a sonic weapon without hearing protection (which would have long-term ramifications) or because the pressure dropped abruptly.  It was the latter, which a rewrite clarified.

Chapter 20, Hastings 142

The date of birth problem had been lurking in the background all along, but I wasn’t entirely certain how Lauren was going to handle it until now.

It took several days to complete this chapter, only partly because I was still recuperating from my surgery.

This was chapter 15 before we added James Beam.

On the edit I realized that in the previous chapter (Hastings 141) Conway had said he would be back that afternoon, but everything about this made it the next day.  We added the discussion explaining that; Kyler said it demonstrated Lauren’s sanity, that she was aware of this.

Chapter 21, Kondor 140

I thought I had two problems coming into this chapter.  One was that I needed to bring Joe back into the frame but had nothing really for him to be doing, the other was that I needed to show that the palace had gone on chaotic alert without disrupting the discussions in Slade’s room.  I realized that the first problem was the solution to the second, and made it work.

The gong was added in editing.  We discussed whether drums or trumpets or something would be better, but decided that my first impulse, a gong, was consistent with the setting.

This was chapter 16 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 22, Slade 139

This was the obvious conversation.  Having Zeke offer the simple solution to how to get an audience with the Caliph was I suppose an inspiration–I’d started writing the answer, thinking Slade was going to say it, but then changed my mind and made it Zeke before I’d gotten as far as who said it.

This was chapter 17 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 23, Beam 6

I waited quite a while for this chapter, and wrote the other characters through Hastings 150/chapter 50 before getting this, bundled with Beam 7 and 8.  For all that time I had only the first two sentences, but I knew from discussions what Kyler was intending at this point.

Chapter 24, Hastings 143

I had made this a Hastings chapter, but did not want to go back into one of the psychiatric sessions yet so I changed it to a Brown chapter.  But then I wanted to hold the suspense of the meeting with the Caliph, so I thought about what I could do with Lauren and realized that by now she should be “testing the biases”, seeing what skills worked.

This was chapter 18 before we added James Beam.

This has been the second behind the writings look at Garden of Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue publishing the novel and these behind the writings posts for it.

#276: Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #276, on the subject of Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

The rumor was always that Jimi Hendrix claimed Phil Keaggy was the best guitarist in the world.

The way I eventually heard the story, Hendrix was being interviewed and was asked what it was like to be the best guitarist in the world, and he replied, “I don’t know, ask Phil Keaggy.”

Keaggy always maintained that Hendrix never said he was the best in the world, and I suppose you could take that version of the story in a way which doesn’t say that.  On the other hand, Keaggy was and still is an amazing musician.

He began with a band called Glass Harp, and they were a more than moderately successful ensemble–they recorded a live album in Carnegie Hall sometime in the early 1970s, but it wasn’t released until the late 90s, after Keaggy was more than established.  For most aficionados his first Christian album was the breakthrough, and the title song What a Day put him on the map, showcasing his lead stylings.

It was again the title song of his next album, Love Broke Thru, which caught the ear; it was also recorded by its co-writer, still ahead on our survey, and although people still debate which version is better, the song propelled both of them into the spotlight.  It led to a tour and concert album with 2nd Chapter of Acts, under the title How the West Was Won, a good album which never achieved the greatness of To the Bride.

This was followed by a more fusion-styled album, The Master and the Musician, from which the only track I remember was the instrumental Agora (The Marketplace).

Not long after I arrived at the radio station, Ph’lip Side landed on our desk.  It was a much-played album, from the rocky opening A Royal Commandment to the gentle mostly acoustic closing I Belong to You, but the big cut for us, coming out when a major movement was bringing a Crisis Pregnancy Center to our local city, was Little Ones, still one of the most powerful songs in defense of the unborn.

I don’t recall ever having seen, let alone heard, the album Town to Town, but somewhere I still have a vinyl copy of Play Through Me, and whenever I think of Keaggy the first song that comes to my mind is probably the opener of that album, Happy, which is instrumental for probably four-fifths of its run.  Obviously, if I owned the album I heard it, probably many times, and would probably recognize any of the cuts from it, but the only other title that rings a bell is Nobody’s Playgirl Now.

Keaggy is still recording, so there’s a lot of his stuff I’ve never heard; but there was one more album he released in that last year before I left, and as 1983 came to an end I put it on a list of the ten most significant Christian albums of the year.  The album was double-titled, The Private Collection Volume I (there doesn’t appear to have been a Volume II) and Underground.  I recognize one track title from it, What a Love, but the quality of the music or the memorability of the songs was not what was significant with this.  It was the way it was produced.

TEAC, one of the leaders in recording equipment of the era, had released an all-in-one recording studio that used two cassettes–that’s right, cassettes, those tiny little tapes that were always getting chewed up inside the players but which abruptly produced a remarkable audio quality with the development of “metal tape”–to record four tracks on each and permit mixing from one tape to the other.  Keaggy sat at home and laid track upon track, drums, guitars, bass, multiple vocals, all using this gadget, and came up with an album that was at least passable by the standards of the day.

I say passable, but in a sense it wasn’t.  Sparrow Records, which at the time was contracted as Keaggy’s label, felt it was below their production standards, and if you listen to the album on good equipment and attend to the background tracks, you can hear the kind of distortion one gets from copying one tape to another repeatedly (I’ve done it, using a pair of TEAC 3340 reel-to-reel decks and a Tascam 3 mixer; alas my children destroyed those tapes).  Sparrow found itself in a bind, because the music was excellent but the production was below par, so they created a new label, Nissi Records, for the purpose.  I understand the label eventually carried more of Keaggy and several other artists, but I was no longer in touch with the industry so I don’t know the details.

To me, though, this was significant.  In the late 50s and very early 60s it was still possible to record a song in your garage on a small reel-to-reel recorder and have it break through to be a national hit.  By the early 80s hourly rates for studio time for the quality required to make a major label record ran six digits.  Keaggy’s record was the first glimmer of the possibility that it was still possible to make good recordings of good music at home at a not completely unreasonable cost.  It was well outside my budget as a barely-above-minimum-wage Christian radio DJ and PD, but it was not impossible to imagine being able to afford such a thing, even though I never could.

To wrap up, in college I knew someone who said that Keaggy was technically brilliant and undoubtedly impressed other musicians with his skill, but he found the music boring.  He did impress other musicians.  I attended a live solo concert of his in the early 70s, and he would perform these incredibly difficult pieces, and then give an embarrassed laugh and comment that he should have practiced that one.  However, I recently encountered evidence that Phil might just be the best guitarist in the world, in his live rendition of True Believers (video begins with an extended spoken intro).  He is obviously using some fancy equipment on his acoustic guitar, such as one or more ditto boxes, but even so the performance is technically brilliant, and the audience recognizes it.  He does things I’m not sure I could even tell you how to do, and I’ve been playing for almost as long as he has.


The series to this point has included:

  1. #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor;
  2. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael;
  3. #236:  Reign of the Imperials;
  4. #238:  Love Song by Love Song.
  5. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark.
  6. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch.
  7. #244: Missed The Archers.
  8. #246: The Secular Radio Hits.
  9. #248:  The Hawkins Family.
  10. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist.
  11. #252:  Petra Means Rock.
  12. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands.
  13. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive.
  14. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn.
  15. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus.
  16. #262: First Lady Honeytree of Jesus Music.
  17. #264:  How About Danny Taylor.
  18. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire.
  19. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts.
  20. #272:  To the Bride Live.