This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #460, on the subject of Versers Reorganize.
With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first eight Multiverser novels,
- Verse Three, Chapter One: The First Multiverser Novel,
- Old Verses New,
- For Better or Verse,
- Spy Verses,
- Garden of Versers,
- Versers Versus Versers,
- Re Verse All, and
- In Verse Proportion,
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 am posting the ninth, Con Verse Lea, 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.
This is the first post for this novel, covering chapters 1 through 17.
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.
History of the series, including the reason it started, the origins of character names and details, and many of the ideas, are in earlier posts, and won’t be repeated here.
Quick links to discussions in this page:
Chapter 1, Hastings 233
Chapter 2, Beam 118
Chapter 3, Takano 60
Chapter 4, Beam 119
Chapter 5, Hastings 234
Chapter 6, Beam 120
Chapter 7, Takano 61
Chapter 8, Beam 121
Chapter 9, Hastings 235
Chapter 10, Beam 122
Chapter 11, Takano 62
Chapter 12, Beam 123
Chapter 13, Hastings 236
Chapter 14, Beam 124
Chapter 15, Takano 63
Chapter 16, Beam 125
Chapter 17, Hastings 237
I decided to start with Lauren primarily because I already knew quite a few things she was going to do, and I had left her and Tommy on a cliffhanger with Tommy having the last chapter back in Re Verse All. Besides, I had not yet written as much as a dozen chapters of the eighth novel and had not decided whether there would be three or four characters in this book, or who the other one or two would be. There was a strong argument for including Beam, because he was not in book 8, but although I had vague ideas for where he would go, I didn’t have anything solid. I sort of wanted to see where book 8 took me before I got too far on book 9.
Lauren has I suppose four problems. The first is that she is inheriting the organizational structure from Beam, but doesn’t know anything about it. The second is there is very little food here, the third that she has to open the door, and the fourth that once they are outside they are going to need all the basics for life–food, shelter, water. For the first problem, she has to meet the three leaders and explain the situation to them and figure out what they want to do. For the second, although the computer won’t let Tommy order food delivery to the garage, I figure if Lauren casts the feast spell it should override the limitation–the god of this world doesn’t want to create food by magic, but will respond to a spell within the bias (although I’ll have to check whether creating food and drink is within the bias). For the third, she has a spell that opens doors, and I’m sure that’s within the bias. Finally, she spent the equivalent of a year with the parakeet people, learning to make their wigwam-like nests, hunting, fishing, and foraging, and living by the lake. She just has to find a suitable place and teach these skills to a hundred people–and of course she’s a teacher, so that’s covered.
I was not certain whether I had ever named all three of the indigenous leaders, so I had to search book 7 for anything on that. It appears that I had named Varlax, the leader of the first group. The second leader was never named, and the third was Tennan Tanis, who stayed behind with part of the group. He was replaced by a nameless fourth, and floating somewhere in the mix there is a tennan from the group that joined them a couple levels before the end who has no official status but leadership experience. There were also two unnamed ners.
My names were mostly variants of real names or character names I remembered from other games.
I was uncertain about where to send Beam, but I knew that at some point I wanted him to pick up a young female ninja as a second wife–one of the complications of Beam’s life. I wondered how I could do it, but then remembered that in The Third Book of Worlds I had a twin scenario called Dark Honor Empire (it was Jim Denaxas’ idea), in which I had an ancient and a modern version of a world entirely modeled on the myths of feudal Japan. Gradually my mind constructed a chain of events that would bring about what I wanted.
This was again one of those awkward moments in which I had to introduce characters and concepts to new readers without boring established ones. I don’t think my description of Turbirb’durpa is adequate, but there was too much to cover to do better.
I had envisioned Lauren casting her food creation spell and having it answered by the arrival of robots bearing breakfast; I also guessed that that was what she would have expected. However, I looked up the biases on this world, and while magic was moderately high, food creation was very high and wouldn’t be possible. That gave me two problems. The big one was that somehow Lauren had to feed all these people. The lesser one was that she wouldn’t know the spell wouldn’t work, as she hadn’t really tried much magic. The answer to the second problem was that she was going to have to perform the ritual, and in a context in which it was clear she expected to be able to feed the entire group.
The answer to the first problem would await the next chapter.
The plan was that Beam would clear out the soldiers from the warehouse, and discover that there was nothing he would consider valuable. I realized that it was an ambitious plan, given that he was up against a few modern samurai and a batch of modern bushi, all with rifles, katanas, and wakisashis. However, he had Dawn, and of course Bron’s shotgun and his own pistol. They were a potent contingent.
The problem is that wealth in this world is measured entirely in rice, and he doesn’t know that.
The answer to the first problem was a bit easier. The magic to open the door was certainly within the world bias, so she did that and got the people outside. The world beyond was going to be filled with agriculture and wilderness and some manufacturing such as slaughterhouses. The notion that the garage itself would be surrounded by cultivated fields made good sense. I looked up crop schedules for New Jersey, and established that early spinach, broccoli, and peas were harvested in mid to late May, the earliest crops for the region, and so I put them there. Lauren wouldn’t know that, but she would know that corn appears by the beginning of July, and probably that strawberries are available by early June and pumpkins by early September. Those will give her some idea of seasons.
This chapter covered a lot more ground than I expected. I thought that I would have breaks when he was kidnapped and when his team appeared, but everything happened in short bursts so I kept it all together.
For the support site character sheet for Ashleigh, I was working from my copy of Dark Honor Empire, which was written for but never published in The Third Book of Worlds, so I copied attribute, skill, and some equipment information directly from there to my working document, and then modified it as the story suggested.
Dark Honor Empire is what in-house we called a “twin scenario”, of which we always had one in each book. The concept was that there were two settings which were in some sense substantially the same, but that we only had to explain the differences between them. In The First Book of Worlds the twin scenario was The Mary Piper, which was either an early gunpowder sailing ship or an interstellar cargo vessel, similarly crewed running trade routes with the same names and similar products (demonstrating that you could use the same concepts in different settings). The Second Book of Worlds had The Farmland, in which two nearly identical pre-gunpowder rural settings differed in that one had magic which was feared and the player character could be burned as a witch, while the other had no magic but would embrace advances in technology; the ending of the second scenario was that aliens attacked the planet, and it was up to the player character to defend it. Jim Denaxas had suggested the concept of a ninja world in two versions, one pre-gunpowder medieval and the other with modern technology, and with a bit of effort I produced this world.
I had given myself a complication, though. Because the “outlaws” were modeled on the ninja, the medieval version included the ninja-to, the katana, and the daikyu. I removed the daikyu from the modern version and replaced it with a rifle modeled on the British WW2 issue Enfield, suggested by John Cross, for the soldiers, and to keep things on par I gave the outlaws pairs of semi-automatic pistols using the same bullets. I kept the katana for the soldiers, but eliminated the ninja-to, which meant that my ninja didn’t carry blades (although they did carry shurikens and a couple other ninja-type weapons). I kept forgetting that, and in the original text of this chapter Dawn arrives holding her own knife and a sword taken from someone who impeded her. Realizing my mistake as I was doing setup for publication, I changed it to a knife, also a weapon that was not standard issue but reasonable as there was a skill in improvised weapons and a knife could be anything.
The song Then the Quail Came was sung by Noel Paul Stookey on his album Band and Bodyworks. I was tempted to include more of the lyrics, but had concerns about copyright issues.
My challenges here were that I needed to introduce and indeed name the new bride. I picked Ashleigh because a particular Irish comedienne came to mind as I was looking for a name, and I decided that in using the modern version of Dark Honor Empire I was abandoning most of the Japanese titles and words so I shouldn’t knock myself out looking for a decent Japanese name; I even deleted the reference to the notion that she was an “Asian” teen. I gave her the outlaw name Viper because her introduction to the story had her surreptitiously murder Sophia, and I decided that her skills were those of the stealth assassin.
It was somewhat later that I bounced the names off Kyler, who thought Viper was exactly right but was unsure about Ashleigh. I subsequently realized that with that name she would undoubtedly eventually be called Ashes.
I also had to have enough story to make a chapter without having Beam tell her about being a verser (for the reasons he considers at the beginning of the chapter) but without actually getting to the consummation of the marriage. That meant generating enough of a conversation interspersed with Beam’s thoughts that it would fill at least a page or two.
The fact that Lauren had never fought nor even sparred against a flex weapon suddenly struck me. As I was writing I wondered whether she had ever sparred against Derek’s chain, but since I had no notions in my mind how that would work I decided that I must not have written such a scene. I might do some research to see if I can find videos of combatants using flex weapons against each other, so I can have the girls develop some techniques in that.
I had decided that Tommy should mark the garage because it needed to be unique in a way that people could recognize.
It occurred to me as I was writing that the people would never have seen martial arts combat, and that in our world that’s done for entertainment, so it was likely it would attract attention.
I have a lot to do for these people, but I can’t do it quickly and I can’t make it feel like it’s happening quickly.
I realized that the departure of Sophia would mean they had no food, as she had it all. They had eaten supper just before Beam was kidnapped, but were going to want breakfast. That gave me a problem to solve, and the solution gave me a new direction.
I had this in mind for a while–long enough that I was able to see a lot of the problems in sending people who had never before been outside to scout the area for anything useful. Lauren wants to find a lake with an open space adjacent, and I need her to find that, but it’s not something she can describe and not something she can seek herself.
I needed to feed Beam and Bron, and decided that the best way to do that was to have them meet Ashleigh’s mother. The idea that ninja keep their outfits and gear hidden in the wilderness so they won’t have them at home if their place is searched has been part of the way I run the game for some time.
I invented the breakfast. I started with the notion of fried rice with honey as being something like breakfast cereal, and then I remembered that fried rice always had egg in it. That caused me to think that with a bit more egg in it you could add bacon which would flavor the fat/oil in which the rice was fried and add more protein. My last thought was that there were always vegetables in fried rice, but I was unsure what vegetables would be appropriate. I hit on onions, but decided that scallions were something that grew wild commonly enough that peasant families would be able to use it readily for flavor at least.
The idea of blacksmithing was easy and obvious, but I don’t know where it’s going to go.
I was working on preparing chapters of In Verse Proportion for publication while this percolated in my head, and interrupted that to put my thoughts to paper here.
The ideas of Lauren scouting the area and pacing nervously sort of grew independently and then came together.
I had thought of the bit about Beam having become accustomed to climbing, but forgot it before I’d finished typing the first paragraph. I came back and added it after I’d finished the chapter.
I mentioned this scene to Kyler, and he suggested that the future holds an image of Beam dressed as a samurai (the commanders are the modern samurai) riding one of the vehicles.
I had been playing with what to call the vehicles, and motricycle kept coming to mind, a compound (obviously) of motor tricycle.
This was delayed partly because I couldn’t figure out how to move it forward credibly, but partly because I was busily setting up chapters of In Verse Proportion for publication online. All I could think at the beginning was that a bored Tomiko could practice her physical skills. Leaping from the boredom, I decided she would want to work on her graffiti designs, and from that the idea of images that would mark trails to different important places. The use of different colors of paint to blaze trails was something actually done at a small nature park somewhere in or near the Watchung mountains that I visited a few times as a schoolboy. (It may have been called Trailside Park.)
I almost pushed the reunion with Lauren to the next chapter, but decided it wouldn’t be long and would fit well here.
Partly because life was coming at me sideways, partly because I was focused on setting up In Verse Proportion for the web, but partly because I was still struggling to focus on how to move the story forward, I was long delayed getting to this chapter. In that time, I decided that what mattered was that Beam discover the existence of gunsmiths and the expanded role of blacksmiths. I am still uncertain what happens next, but that I don’t see Bron and Beam going into blacksmithing at this point.
I was writing chapter 51 when I needed a name for Ashleigh’s father, and because of story developments since I decided that he should be a gunsmith. That meant coming back here and changing Ashleigh’s statement that the gunsmith she knew was several villages away to saying that he’s not always easy to find. I left it at that.
There was a long delay before I wrote this chapter. Part of that was that I wrote an eleven-part web log miniseries about whether the biblical account of the Exodus from Egypt was credible, and at the same time I was preparing In Verse Proportion for serialized publication on the web. However, I was also very uncertain about several aspects of this book, including where it was going to go ultimately, and perhaps more pointedly how I was going to manage the next steps in the story. For Lauren and Tommy, I had to find a way to get them to a suitable campground with water and food and little threat of machine involvement. The limitations made this awkward.
My mind kept coming back to what the scouting groups would report, and I recognized three things. One was that what Lauren needed to find they weren’t going to understand, and indeed she probably would not think to seek it. One was that these people would recognize nothing–not a lake, not a tree, not hills or mountains–and so their reports would be nearly useless. Finally, I decided Lauren was going to have to rely on her direction finding magic, which should work. Of course, I don’t know how it will manifest in this strange world, but she used it once already, I think.
This has been the first behind-the-writings look at Con Verse Lea. If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts and another novel.