#98: What Is a Minister?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #98, on the subject of What Is a Minister?

We have been talking about being “called” to “music ministry”.  Our first installment, #95:  Music Ministry Disconnect, made the point that although all Christians are called to minister and do all things to the glory of God, and all Christian musicians are to use their gifts for God’s glory, most Christians are not what we call “ministers” and most musicians are “entertainers”.  In #97:  Ministry Calling we examined how to know whether you are “called” to be a “minister”.  A large part of that proved to be that you simply and quite unintentionally acted like a particular kind of minister, and thus to know whether you are a “minister” you need to know something about what motivates those who are, and what they do quite naturally.

Immediately we hit a problem:  It does not appear that the New Testament uses the words “minister” or “ministry” in quite the, shall we say, technical way we do.  Everyone in the church has a “ministry”.  It is perfectly proper to speak of as ministers those whose ministry involves making the coffee for the break, or driving the shut-ins to services.  Where the words are used, they mean “servants” or “servers” or “services” or “serving”, what it is that we do to help others.  In that sense everyone is a minister, and everyone has some kind of calling.  Indeed, our musical “entertainers” can reasonably be said to have “ministries” of entertaining and encouraging and enlightening us with their music.  Yet there are some who are distinguished in what we might think leadership positions, people we call “ministers” because they in some sense stand apart from those we sometimes call “laymen”.  Sometimes we distinguish it by what we call “ordination” or “being ordained”, but we also give “licenses” to preach and other forms of recognition to various ministries, and in some churches and denominations it is much less formal but still structured, that some people are seen to be the pastors or leaders of the church who do the ministering and others the congregants who benefit from it.  The New Testament does not give us a word for this beyond saying that these people are “gifts given to men”.

This is not entirely foreign to the New Testament, though.  We previously noted that in Ephesians 4:11 Paul identifies five types of people who are given as gifts to the church, by the designations apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher.  These are apparently distinct, serving specific but related functions and purposes within the body of Christ.  No one is called to be “a minister”; rather, an individual is called to be one of these–an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, or teacher.  There is precedent in the New Testament to support the notion that an individual can be more than one of these, but these are the five categories we mean when we speak of “ministers” being “called”.

img0098Pulpit

Again to be clear, these are not the only people who have what we might call “positions” of “service” or “responsibility” within the church.  The New Testament also mentions “episkopos” which we usually render “overseers” or sometimes “bishops” (which is from the Latin for overseers); “presbuteros” which means “elders” but is sometimes transliterated to “presbyters”; “diakonos” which technically means “waiters” as in the people who serve food at meals but is often generalized to “servants” or transliterated to “deacons”.  However, we are told that it is good to aspire to these offices and given requirements for them, which makes no sense if we’re talking about who you were born to be.  There are people with gifts of healings, gifts of administration, and many other kinds of gifts, but there is at least the suggestion that you can pray for gifts you believe would be useful (specifically interpretation if you speak in tongues), and that gifts come at some point during your life, so again this is not who you were born to be.  These five, though, are identified here not as jobs people assume or gifts they have received, but as five kinds of people who have been given, and with the purpose stated as (quoting from the Webster Bible) “For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  These seem to be the people who do what we might call the “spiritual” work, whose job it is to build the church into what we, individually and collectively, are intended to be.

Interestingly, the list appears to be built as a stack of contrasts.  It uses a Greek grammatical form known as a “men…de” construction, typically read “on the one hand…on the other hand”, although in this case there are several hands, on the one hand the apostles, on the other hand the prophets, on the other hand the evangelists, on the other hand the pastors and teachers, and so the list seems to be in some kind of order.  Because of our reverence for apostles and prophets, we often make it a hierarchical order of authority:  the infallible apostles are in charge, followed by the divinely-inspired prophets, and then the others–but we don’t really like putting evangelists above pastors, and many of us assert that there are no longer any apostles or prophets in the church today.  Those conclusions are probably all mistaken.  I believe that when we understand what these ministries are we will also understand that they are listed in the sequential order in which they are needed in a local church.

Some argue that there are not five items on this list but only four, the fourth being properly understood something like “pastor-teachers”.  My own experience and observation suggests that there are some excellent pastors who are not very good teachers, and some good teachers (among whom I might number myself) who are not pastors.  That, though, is too empirical for the basis of an exegetical conclusion.  Rather, I observe that although there are several persons in the New Testament who are specifically identified (by name) as teachers–most prominent among them Paul–only one is specifically identified as a pastor, Peter, who is never identified as a teacher, and obviously none of the teachers are identified as pastors.  That is either a remarkable coincidence or an indication that the two words identify distinct ministries within the church, and the latter explanation fits the empirical observation.  Thus it would seem that if you are called to ministry in that sense, you are probably called to one of these five ministries, and it is important to understand which one you are.

Again, this applies even if you are called to music ministry.  An evangelistic music ministry is going to look very different from a pastoral one, because in the one case the music is being integrated into a primarily evangelistic outreach ministry while in the other it is connected to pastoral care and shepherding.

It would be overmuch for this one post to tackle all five of the named ministries, so we will stop here and begin at the top of the list next time.

#97: Ministry Calling

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #97, on the subject of Ministry Calling.

We began this series with post #95:  Music Ministry Disconnect.  My reasons for writing and my credentials are in that article.  We finished with the observations that

  1. All Christians are to do all things to the glory of God and minister as they are able;
  2. All Christian musicians should glorify God in their music;
  3. Only some are called to be what we call “ministers”; most are “entertainers”.

Our continuation in this article is really about that aspect of being “called” into “ministry”, what that means, and how to recognize it.

There is a sense in which the two aspects–being a musician and being a minister–might be linked, but there is another sense in which the question of being called is entirely separate from the question of being a musician.  That means I am, perhaps rather hazardously, embarking on asking the question of how to know whether you are called to be “a minister” of some sort.  I do not want anyone to suppose that I am questioning or challenging the calling of some minister–I make it a rule not to do that, and to remember that God deals with us as individuals, giving us individual tasks through individualized guidance.  If you are a minister, I presume you know that you are called, and this should not in any way be taken as suggesting otherwise.  This is intended to help people who don’t know whether they are called or not.

I should also repeat that musicians who are not “called” to ministry are not thereby excluded from using their musical gifts within the church.  When Paul told the Corinthians that some attending their gatherings would have “a psalm” (I Corinthians 14:26)–a Greek word for a type of song–he appears to have meant that ordinary members of the congregation would be encouraged to share songs with the group.  The fact (if it is a fact) that you have no calling to ministry does not prevent you from singing in the choir or playing in the worship band or sharing a song sometimes.  It means something entirely different.

Chris Tomlin, composer and worship leader
Chris Tomlin, composer and worship leader

When we think about New Testament examples of someone being called to ministry, Paul’s Damascus Road encounter often comes to mind.  Jesus appeared to Paul and told him he was fighting against the truth, and thereafter Paul repented and became an apostle to the gentiles.  We conclude that this is when and how and where Paul was called to be an apostle.

And we are wrong.

Paul himself tells us in Galatians 1:15 that God called him to this ministry before he was born.  He was called to be an apostle before he was breathing, and certainly before he was a believer.  The entire time he was persecuting the Christians, he was already called to be one of our most prominent apostles.  He received extensive seminary training–they would have called it rabbinical training, from Rabban Gamaliel I, the only person cited in both the New Testament and the Talmud–long after he was called, and before he was a believer.  A calling is with you from before birth.  It’s only a matter of when you realize it and understand it–and that might take some time.

This, though, fits with what Paul says in Ephesians 4:11ff.  We misread that quite often.  We think it says that Jesus gave some the gift of being a pastor or an evangelist or one of the other ministries, but it does not say that.  It says that Jesus gave the church gifts in the form of people who are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  I once heard Evangelist Tom Skinner say that if he were not an evangelist he would be an excellent used car salesman, because he had the “gift of gab”.  That’s a glib way of putting it, but it makes the point:  if you are called to be a minister, you already are that minister, you were born that minister, and you cannot help being that minister.

One of my friends went through a very bad time in his life.  He had been in Bible college preparing for the pastorate, and working full time to support his family, and it all became too much so he ran away with a younger girl and got a job as a custodian in a bar.  While he was there, people brought their problems to him, and he gave them solid biblical advice–because he was a pastor, even when his life crashed, and he couldn’t help being a pastor.  If you’re called, you are probably already doing the things that fit your calling–you just haven’t recognized it.

This also tells us that you don’t become a minister by developing specific skills or getting special training.  We are told that Paul was, in addition to being an apostle, also a teacher.  He was presumably also a teacher before he was born, before he had that extensive training in scripture.  God didn’t call him because he had been to college; he sent him to college because he had called him.  My degrees in Biblical Studies aid my teaching significantly, but they are neither the reason I am a teacher nor the qualification for my calling.  Observation suggests that a calling to ministry is seen in personality and motivation:  what you find yourself doing, and why you do it.  If you are frequently acting like a pastor or teacher or other kind of minister, there is a very good likelihood that you are such a person, such a minister, born that way and possibly unaware of it.  I was constantly learning and teaching before it ever occurred to me that I might be called to teach; it was just something I naturally did because of who and what I am.  You probably can’t completely avoid being whatever it is God called you to be–as Paul said, “woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”

The other half of it, though, is that other people are going to recognize this in you.  People with needs that fit your calling will come to you, whether it’s for understanding or guidance or something else.  Other people in ministry will recognize your place, and some will try to help you move into it.  There are two issues here, though, and they both concern what we should call confirmation.  The short form is that God is not going to send someone else–not even a prophet–to tell you something He hasn’t already been telling you directly.

The one side of that is that you should not permit yourself to be pushed into a ministry that does not fit you by someone who thinks you have a calling you honestly do not believe you have.  This goes back to my experience with The Last Psalm and my observations of many other Christian bands of the time:  a lot of us trying to do evangelism were not evangelists.  I remember when one of our members left the band, he said to me that it was his impression that we had a tremendous amount of impact on the members of the band, but nothing of note on the audiences.  That was undoubtedly because he was a pastor and I was a teacher, and we were the ministry front of a band that was desperately trying to fit the mold of an evangelist without having a clue how to do that beyond copying what others did.  People will attempt to fit you into their expectations, their molds; but even if you are called God does not use molds but individually crafted vessels.  If you really are not called, if God is not trying to tell you that you are a minister, He is not going to tell someone else what He has not told you.

The other side is that we can be notoriously poor listeners.  I was completely obtuse.  The fact was that I was on the radio six nights per week opening the Bible between songs and sharing what I had learned of what the scripture taught with some unknown number of listeners, many of whom made a point of joining me at that time for that sharing, but it had not occurred to me that I was a teacher; I only knew that I was not a pastor and was looking for my place in “music ministry” which I still assumed meant evangelistic outreach.  It was not until someone I knew as a man of God introduced me to a complete stranger who was said to be a prophet, and in his prayer he noted that I was a teacher, that I realized it–and at that moment I saw that he was right.  (That happened to me again decades later, that another prophet in another place recognized the same fact about me.)  You might not get word from a prophet–you might be more aware than I was of what God is saying to you–but you will find that others recognize and acknowledge your ministry.  If others seem to think you have a calling of which you are not aware, take some time prayerfully to consider whether they might be right, whether God has been nagging you about this and you have been ignoring Him.  It is easy to miss, either because we are too modest to imagine that God might have made us for something special (which is silly, because He made everyone for something special, it’s just that your special purpose has a name and function within the body of Christ), or because we are unwilling to follow the path God has for us if it does not lead where we wanted to go (which is again foolish, since that’s the only place we will ever be content).

So what has this to do with being in “music ministry”?  In a sense there is no such thing.  There is music, and it can be a tool used in ministry.  Being a musician is about skill sets and ways of processing information, talent and practice.  Being a minister is about who you are more fundamentally, about something that consumes your life, becomes the very definition of who you are and what you do, how you relate to others and to yourself.  When I say that I am a musician, I mean only that I have musical abilities that I use in various ways; certainly if something happened that prevented me from using music, I would miss it, but I would still be who I am.  When I say that I am a teacher, I mean something much more basic, that this is who I am, what I do, that if you chat with me in the kitchen while I’m washing dishes it’s very likely that I will start teaching you about something, whether it’s the basics of relativity or the concepts of Lord of the Rings or the fundamentals of law and grace.  It’s who I am.  It becomes “music ministry” when I figure out how to integrate my musical abilities into that calling, how to use music as part of the teaching.  It is the same for all the ministries:  ministers are people with specific tasks for the building of the body of Christ; some learn to use music as part of the pursuit of those objectives.  The same can be said of visual artists, dramatic artists, and indeed of computer programmers and game designers and basket weavers and taxi drivers, that those with a calling integrate their skills and talents into that calling.

A music ministry, then, is simply a ministry that has integrated music into the process.

A calling, meanwhile, is a fundamental aspect of who you were born to be which unfolds and is discovered by you and others during your life, as you grow into the place for which God made you.

We’ll talk more about ministries in future articles.

#96: Federal Non-enforcement

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #96, on the subject of Federal Non-enforcement.

Someone mentioned recently that he and a mutual friend were planning to start a business.  The friend was going to liquidate his inheritance and together they were going to move to Colorado and become farmers.

If you’re planning to become a farmer and moving to Colorado to do it, your intended crop is pretty obviously marijuana; he did not have to say so.  I pointed out that there were some hazards with such a plan because although marijuana has been legalized in Colorado, it is still illegal at the federal level.  That has impact on a number of aspects of running a business, most notably the banking, since all banks are federally regulated and they are quite reasonably concerned about violating regulations intended to thwart drug trafficking.  It isn’t just that you can’t get loans; it is difficult to get business checking accounts.

His concern was what would happen if a Republican won in the fall, and that is certainly a concern; there is, however, another significant concern which might well matter regardless of who becomes the next President of the United States.

img0096Marijuana

The concern about the Presidential election is certainly obvious.  Federal drug laws related to marijuana production, sale, purchase, and use are not being enforced in Colorado because the Chief Executive has decided not to enforce them.  There is some merit to this decision, since we have a definite conflict of laws situation and part of the concept of the federal/state divide is that states become experimental petri dishes for solutions to problems.  In that sense, letting Colorado experiment with legalized marijuana as a solution to part of the drug trade and associated crime is a very American approach.  The next President might decide otherwise, though, and then enforcement will resume.  However, the question is raised as to whether the President can turn a blind eye to violations of federal law in any of the states.

That question has already been raised in a different context.  The same administration that has decided not to enforce federal drug law in Colorado has also decided not to enforce certain aspects of federal immigration law, and quite a few states particularly in the southwest have sued in federal court–and thus far, the states seem to be winning.  If the President can’t pick and choose what laws to enforce in relation to immigration, he probably can’t do so in relation to drug law.

Of course, the situation is not exactly the same here.  States like Arizona want the federal government to enforce immigration law, and to allow them to do so in the absence of federal enforcement, and the administration is fighting to prevent the enforcement of those laws.  Colorado, by contrast, wants the federal government to refrain from enforcing certain aspects of federal drug law within its own borders, and the federal government is cooperating with that.  Colorado certainly is not going to file suit to have the law enforced.

However, already several of the state’s neighbors have done so.  They claim that failure by federal agencies to enforce federal drug law in Colorado has resulted in illegal drugs crossing state lines more readily, and given them more trouble with their own drug enforcement efforts.  That has not progressed far, but the concept is the same:  can the President of the United States unilaterally decide not to enforce specific federal laws in specific ways or specific places?  Can the executive say no, we will not enforce federal drug policy in Colorado, and we will not enforce federal immigration policy in the southwest?  The courts are already saying no to the latter; the connection is obvious enough that they will probably say no to the former.

If they do, it won’t matter who becomes the next President of the United States:  the federal courts will decide that Colorado can’t prevent enforcement of federal drug law within its borders, and the federal executive cannot choose to ignore those violations.

It might turn around, but at this point the two policies are almost certainly going to be linked, and in a way that decides the degree to which the President of the United States can decide what laws actually get enforced and which ones can be ignored.  It is a dangerous policy to give the executive that much power, and the framers of the Constitution seem to have tried to avoid doing so, but you can never be certain which way the courts will go or on what basis they will make their decisions.

For myself, I would not bet on the Colorado experiment escaping federal intervention for more than a few years, unless Congress decides to change federal law.

#95: Music Ministry Disconnect

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #95, on the subject of Music Ministry Disconnect.

I was recently invited to join a Facebook group created for Christian musicians to “network”.  I’m not sure whether it’s working–most of the posts I’ve seen thus far are the same kinds of self-promotions I’ve seen in other Christian musician discussion groups–but it prompted me to consider what a Christian musician network would do.  The top of my list was that it involve Christian musicians helping each other understand what they were doing and how to do it better.  I have some experience with that, which inspired me to start composing a miniseries here for the web log through which I might perhaps be able to share some of that with other musicians.

Before I get to the first step, though, it might help you for me to give a few credentials–who am I, that I would presume to advise Christian musicians in their craft?  Don’t worry; this article is about the first step, but I want to cover those preliminaries before I get there.

I have been a musician for so long that I tell people English is my second language–I originally spoke Music.  My kindergarten teacher noted it (she told my mother I was her “little songbird”).  By the time I started high school I played about a dozen instruments (piano, clarinet, saxophone, oboe, ukulele, guitar, fife, recorder, tonette, organ, bass guitar, that I remember) and the list has since grown–give me an instrument I’ve never seen, and in half an hour I’ll be able to play a tune I composed specifically for it.  I was also in choirs and choruses, often as soloist.  Twice I was in New Jersey All-State Chorus, and I also joked that I was in every musical ensemble my high school offered except the Girl’s Octet.  (I was student director of the Freshman Chorus when I was an upperclassman.)  I clepped out of three terms of music theory in college before deciding that I was going to major in Bible rather than music.  I also played in quite a few local rock bands and jam sessions, formally and informally.  With a group of friends I recorded an album of my original music (Genuine Junk Lives in Ramsey) in about 1968, but we never released it because we were concerned about copyright issues.  My credentials as a musician are fairly solid.

At the beginning of 1973, the last “secular” band I directed, a precision jazzrock group called BLT Down, made the decision to change to all Christian music and ministry, under the new name The Last Psalm.  Since then I have been involved almost entirely in Christian music, playing with or directing Jacob’s Well, Aurora, TerraNova, Cardiac Output, 7dB, Collision, and a number of other bands some of which did not have names, plus doing solo work.  Around that time I also took every opportunity to speak with artists after their appearances, to get their thoughts on what someone hoping for a career in Christian music ought to do.  These included Barry McGuire, Ted Sandquist, Phil Keaggy, Larry Norman–well, it was a long time ago.  In 1979, after college, I landed a job at WNNN-FM, then one of the most respected contemporary Christian music stations in the country, and had opportunities to speak with more artists, including Noel Paul Stookey, B. J. Thomas, Marty McCall, again Barry McGuire, Glad, Found Free, Scott Wesley Brown, Glen Kaiser, Chris Christian, Brown Bannister–we ran an artist interview show every week, and probably half of these were my interviews.  I knew quite a bit about what was happening in the Christian music world, and had plenty of opportunity to get ideas from people.

I also discovered along the way that I had a calling to ministry, specifically as a teacher.  If this series survives, we will discuss that.  For now, the fact that I am Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild and author of several books should be adequate to support the presumption that I am a teacher; it thus makes some sense that I would take this opportunity to teach what I know about Christian music.  I hope at least some of you will benefit, and will let me know how you benefited at some point.

Also, although this is particularly targeted at musicians, I expect many of the principles will apply to those in other fields, particularly artistic and performance fields, and perhaps those in other kinds of ministry, although I don’t expect to be tackling those directly.

Amy Grant, c.2008
Amy Grant, c.2008

When I began doing Christian music, the question should have arisen as to whether being a Christian and a musician automatically put me in Christian music ministry.  Because I lived in the northeastern United States in the early 1970s, that was not a question:  if you were a musician and a Christian, of course you were a minister, and were called to use your music for evangelism.  We did that not because we were particularly good at it nor particularly successful nor in a sense particularly led that direction, but because that was what Christian musicians did.  If you were a Christian and a musician, and you did not use your music for evangelistic outreach, believers in that part of the country at that time would seriously question your commitment to your faith.  We, that is, people in the Evangelical/Charismatic community, were aware that there were singers in Nashville doing Country Music who would throw in an occasional Christian song (usually Amazing Grace, but they would also produce Christmas albums with a mix of sacred and secular songs), but we assumed that they were not really Christian.  Somewhere I encountered the testimony of a man who had sung Black Gospel (that’s a musical style, not a racial denigration) for years before he had discovered that the gospel message was true and became a believer; singing an occasional Christian song as an audience pleaser did not make someone a Christian musician.

Yes, we were rather judgmental; we probably would have called it discernment, but it was really about applying our concepts and standards to other people.  We failed to grasp that it was possible to be a Christian, a musician, and an entertainer without being an evangelist.

Our mistake was in one sense defensible.  After all, every believer is called to “preach the gospel”, to “do the work of an evangelist”, to “have an answer ready”.  We therefore assumed that anyone who gathered an audience to hear some music was obliged to use that music entirely to deliver that message.  Yet even those who are called to ministry, such as pastors, don’t constantly talk about the gospel–sometimes they talk about what to have for dinner, and some of them even talk about favorite sports teams or music or movies.  Certainly a musician who is a Christian is going to mention it, and share his faith with others; that does not mean he is of necessity called to be a minister at all, let alone an evangelist.  I have known quite a few musicians who were called into ministry; I’ve known quite a few ministers who were never musicians and Christian musicians who have never been called into ministry.  It took me a long time to grasp that, but Amy Grant and B. J. Thomas are just two prominent examples of Christian musicians who have always been entertainers and probably never called to ministry.  B. J. Thomas severed ties with many believers because they couldn’t understand that.

Thus the first question a musician who is a Christian needs to ask himself is whether he is called to ministry at all, or whether he is just an entertainer who happens to be skilled in music.  Jubal, father of all who play the pipe, was a son of Cain, not of Seth.  God’s people do not have exclusive ownership of music.

In reaching this conclusion, it might help to have some understanding of the kinds of ministry that we can identify.  That’s part of what this series is going to cover in future installments, so you’ll have to read those for that kind of help.  It should also be noted that just because you do not have a calling to ministry does not mean you can’t play in a ministry band of some sort with people who do.  I sometimes am invited to play with local worship bands; I am not a worship leader, but that does not mean I cannot contribute support to the ministry of someone who is.  In the same way, if your church needs someone to play guitar for a service, you are not excluded from doing so simply because you are not called to ministry.  I don’t think Donna Summer ever claimed to have a ministry calling, but that did not prevent her from sharing her testimony during her televised concert special.  You don’t have to be an evangelist to share the gospel.  The point here is that you don’t have to share the gospel to be a Christian entertainer.  Obviously sometimes you are going to have to let people know that you are a Christian, and what that means; you do not have to build your concerts around it.  God wants us to enjoy life, and that includes having entertainment that is God-honoring; not everything that is God-honoring necessarily has to mention the name of Jesus.

The flipside of this is that if you are called into music ministry you must understand that not everyone is.  That’s distinct from recognizing that everyone’s ministry is unique, and that other Christian ministers are going to have different objectives and different methods for reaching them.  You have to understand that just because this guy is a good guitarist and a good singer does not mean he is called to be an evangelist or worship leader or other minister.  He might merely have a musical gift.  He might be able to support those other ministries, to play in your worship team or your evangelism band, but there’s no reason why he can’t use his gift to share some secular music he enjoys and thinks uplifting in some way.  If he plays in bars or coffeehouses or county fairs, he’s not being unchristian simply because he chose a secular venue and did not use it to sing a lot of Christian songs.

I would expect that a Christian entertainer would give thought to the messages his music conveys.  You don’t always have to be preaching the gospel openly, but you should be careful about preaching that which is against it.  Certainly a minister should prayerfully consider what he intends to sing and say, but the fact that you are not a minister does not excuse you from prayerfully considering your own performances.  Indeed, you might discover that you are called and simply failed to recognize it.  On the other hand, you might be an entertainer who happens to be Christian–and the world needs those, too, because we are to be lights in all the worlds.  The Christians I know in the hobby game industry make a difference in the lives of the people around them without all being pastors or preaching sermons.  The same is true in the music world:  we need musicians who are Christians interacting with people who are not, and music ministries generally have a lot more trouble reaching unbelieving audiences than good entertainers who happen to be believers.

There are two points to take from this.

The first is to remember that all believers are called to do all things to the glory of God; that includes the entertainment we enjoy and the entertaining we provide.  Just because you are an entertainer but not a minister does not mean you are not responsible for what you say and sing.  We are all called to minister, in the fundamental sense of serving others, but it seems only a small number of us are called to be ministers in the somewhat technical way we have come to use the word.  That is the second point:  Christian musical entertainer is the default; it’s what most Christians who are musicians should expect to be.  The calling to ministry is something else.

I can’t give much more advice to Christians who are entertainers beyond what I give to Christians generally, because I am not and never have been in that category.  I have always been in Christian ministry–but it took a long time for me to figure out how I should do that.  Next time we’ll start talking about kinds of ministry and how to know if you are called to one.

#94: Novel Meetings

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #94, on the subject of Novel Meetings.

With permission of Valdron Inc I am publishing my second novel, Old Verses New, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first one, you can find the table of contents for it at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; the last of those for the first novel is #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One, which indexes all the others and catches a lot of material from an earlier collection of behind-the-writings reflections that had been misplaced for a decade.  Now as the second is being posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, and perhaps in a more serious way than those for the previous novel, because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book or how this book connects to events yet to come in the third (For Better or Verse)–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them, or even put off reading these insights until the book has finished.  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.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #74:  Another Novel (which provided this kind of insight into the first nine chapters along with some background material on the book as a whole),
  2. #78:  Novel Fears (which continued with coverage of chapters 10 through 18),
  3. #82:  Novel Developments (which continued with coverage of chapters 19 through 27),
  4. #86:  Novel Conflicts (which continued with coverage of chapters 28 through 36),
  5. #89:  Novel Confrontations (which continued with coverage of chapters 37 through 45),
  6. #91:  Novel Mysteries (which continued with coverage of chapters 46 through 54).

This picks up from there, and I expect to continue with additional posts after every ninth chapter in the series.

img0094Apocalyptic

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 55, Kondor 60

I had not been completely cognizant of the fact that Kondor was armed before he entered the bank.  He wasn’t really aware of it himself–he had been carrying his weapons for so long he didn’t think twice about it.  But as he walked inside, my mind’s eye saw him, armed and dressed in worn fatigues, and I realized it would be taken wrong.

Kondor’s expectation of racism causes him to overlook how others would see the weapons.  He takes offense at it because he automatically assumes it’s because he’s black.

Peter Winslow was something of a response to Kondor’s expectations.  He was a black man and vice president of the bank.  I didn’t imagine that it would be credible to involve the president of the bank, but this would make it clear that there wasn’t any significant racism going on here.

There was a conscious effort throughout here to make this like earth but not earth.  The names were common, and the money is in some unnamed form comparable in value to dollars; but rattling off Cliff Westmont as if it would be as familiar a name as Clint Eastwood or John Wayne was one of the opposite suggestions.


Chapter 56, Hastings 62

I had long wanted Lauren and Derek to meet at about this point, and subsequently to be separated.  This would give me the opportunity to give Derek Lauren’s thoughts about why he had been in so many horror settings.  Done this way, it would also disrupt that expectation the editor of the first novel had noted, that once two of them are together the reader expects the third to join them.  But now I realized that I needed Derek to know that Lauren was also a verser; and the best way to do that would be for her to be in that world when he arrived, so he would sense her in addition to her equipment.  Thus this section covered the entire battle with Horta and his allies, and brought her to the new world.

Comparing humans to grass that withers and dies is of course drawn from the Psalms.  Lauren is recognizing what she had already read, that human life is truly brief.

Grarg and Chicker (the bear and the raccoon) were characters I had played in a game world very like this; in fact, I’m applying a lot of the game world rules here, although I’m not using the game itself in any detail.  The game is Gamma World, probably its fourth edition.  I’ve modified some of the details of these characters to make them less fantastic.  Grarg, in the game, was able to make himself much larger, reaching architectural proportions.  Although I did not necessarily take that ability away from him, I intentionally avoided any situation in which it would be useful.


Chapter 57, Brown 19

Derek has been working on his philosophy of the verse.  We didn’t see the process with the other three characters.  Kondor already had his established  atheism and could blame the army experiment for his current situation.  Lauren’s faith would mean that she had to fit the new experience into what she already believed.  Slade was never a deep thinker, and just picked up an idea from a book and went with it.  But Derek was too young to have much of a philosophy of life, and so as he moved from universe to universe he tried to figure out what was happening to him.

I brought Lauren in first specifically so that Derek could sense her now; it would give coherence to his realization that she was also a verser when she arrived.

Again Derek expects a horror story; this time he doesn’t get it, although he gets many of the trappings.

Locking him in the room gave him reason to examine the consoles in detail, and to start trying to hack into them.  Derek’s part in the end scenario was always envisioned as hacking the computers and control systems, and it was time for him to establish that as an ability.  But he had no particular reason to stay here at this moment, but that he could not get out, and that became the motivation to learn the skills.

Derek is working against a couple hundred years of computer advances; I did what I could to make his success seem credible, by thinking in terms of reverse compatibility particularly in protocols and connectors.


Chapter 58, Kondor 61

The ID problem was a natural.  Everyone presents ID when they cash a check; Kondor wouldn’t really have anything useful in that regard, but would have a lot that wasn’t really meaningful here.  I suppose it springs from the amount of junk I carry in my pockets–in the game, I realized that most of it wasn’t much good for anything but starting fires.

The same is true of paper currency.  Even modern coins aren’t worth much in other universes, because they aren’t made of very valuable metal.  Paper money is a novelty whose only real use is burning, and I gather most of it does not burn that well.


Chapter 59, Hastings 63

The “telepathy” of that game world was short range broadcast thought sending; Lauren uses long range narrowcasting two-way.  Thus when Grarg sends everyone nearby receives, but when Lauren sends to Grarg only Grarg receives.

I don’t recall whether the original Chicker could send telepathically (I think it was a default ability of mutant animal player characters), but I thought it would be interesting if he understood speech and could write.  It was an intriguing limitation.

Starson Cumbrick was also a Gamma World character, but from a game almost two decades before, run by Bob Schretzman.  He was the leader of a party in another set of adventures, but neither party seemed exactly what I needed to create this Gamma World-like group, so I did some picking and choosing.  I changed the name Cumbrick to Coombrick because, well, I’m a sea turtle and someone had to tell me that the original name might be considered lewd.

The idea of the group sending a couple of people ahead to find out about the rumor is not terribly credible in that game world, but it made for a better story.  It also gave me more time to think about who was part of this group.


Chapter 60, Brown 20

Derek teaches himself to hack the computer so he can get outside; then when he reaches the threshold of outside, he recognizes that it is not where he really would want to be.

The mention of controlling fire suppression equipment was a natural extension of the concept of controlling the security, but it accidentally prefigured a later situation, where he discovers he can access pest protocols.


Chapter 61, Kondor 62

I wasn’t certain what might actually be in a hotel of this quality, but the hot tub was nice, and something with which I had some familiarity–a friend who was staying with us once pulled a hot tub out of someone’s trash, made some minor repairs, and installed it in our yard for a while.

Kondor’s reliance on technology makes him most subject to depletion of resources.  This world was an opportunity to reload him.  In fact, that was a key point.  I knew Kondor was running out of ammo, and that in the end scenario (which I knew in some detail before I ever started writing this one) he would need plenty.  So I needed a modern world setting where he could get it.  But a modern world setting needs something to make it different; and I didn’t have many that I’d used.  The idea of bringing him into the Vorgo world in its modern age had a lot of appeal, and if it seemed to work I could use it as a game world as well.

Enjoying the comforts of more developed worlds is, I think, a good subtext for Multiverser stories.

The steakhouse is modeled on several places, oddly the first of them the high-end fast food places that once were popular (Bonanza, York), a cafeteria style line with flame grilled steaks and a limited menu, plus more recent mid-level restaurants such as Texas Roadhouse, Lonestar, and the like.  I miss the old ones, and the new ones are a bit pricey for me.


Chapter 62, Hastings 64

Qualick had been a character my wife ran in the game in which Starson was the leader.  Dorelle Timbata I invented of whole cloth, as I needed someone with technical skill and I didn’t want the party to be too heavily male–already I had four.  Spire is based on a character my son Evan played in the game in which Grarg and Chicker were my characters, but the basis is extremely loose.  She radiates a sort of psionic field that causes discomfort in those around her, as a flaw.

Spire’s choppy mode of speech was invented on the spot; characterization through voice was on my mind at the time, I think, and trying to convert some of that to a couple of game characters seemed worthwhile.

On the cards, I departed from what I knew of Gamma World.  That setting allowed that certain card types would have access to certain facility types.  That was too unrealistic to my mind, particularly when dealing with a secure building.  I determined that the cards would all be individual identification cards, with colors and such that connected to professions perhaps, but ultimately with their own magnetic coding which would or would not be recognized by the systems.  That also meant that they were unlikely to have a card for this door; but this in itself made it more likely that it had never been entered before, and since I already had Derek inside, I didn’t need to worry about getting them in.

Qualick in the game was not much for talk; again, I created the idea that he would provide a list of many reasons as a point of characterization to distinguish him.  I didn’t make much use of it.

I had a lot of reasons to bring Derek and Lauren together.


Chapter 63, Brown 21

The interaction here was pretty much invented on the spot to give the feeling of Derek and the others coming together.

The description of Lauren was intentionally humorous in the sense that this is how Derek sees her, which is not at all the effect she intends by the robe.

Derek had been focused on getting out of the complex and then changed his mind, but had not really thought since about what to do about finding food.  People coming suggested they might have food, and when they suggested there might be food here, that caused him to realize that as obvious as that was, he hadn’t looked.


I hope these “behind the writings” posts continue to be of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel.  If there is any positive feedback, they will continue.

#93: What Is a Friend?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #93, on the subject of What Is a Friend?

A few years back, someone who for the sake of avoiding argument I will identify as a friend of the family posted one of those captioned pictures to his Facebook page which I will admit stung me.  I was reminded of it recently when I saw the same sentiment on a T-shirt for sale on the Internet.  The gist of it is that your real friends are not the people who get you out of trouble but the people who get in trouble with you, not the people who bail you out of jail when you’ve been arrested but the people who sit in the cell alongside you and laugh about how much fun you had getting arrested together.

It stung because we are the people who have bailed him out, more than once literally and quite a few times metaphorically.  I don’t know, though, whether he would number me among his friends.  I don’t do wild parties; I don’t enjoy them.  Our ideas of “having a good time” don’t intersect at many points.  What, though, makes someone a friend?

img0093Dog

As I ponder the question, I realize that the Facebook post and the T-shirt place in stark contrast two attitudes about what it is to be a friend or to have a friend.  Either could be summarized in the statement, a friend is someone who helps make your life better–and then the discussion becomes a matter of what constitutes a “better” life.  That in turn reflects a fundamental attitude regarding what you think life is about.

In the one view, a friend is someone who is always there to support you, always there to help, someone on whom you can lean when you are struggling to stand–and the relationship is reciprocal, that you are always there to support and help him, ready to carry him when he can’t walk on his own.  This is the person who bails you out of jail, who gives you a bed and a meal when you find yourself homeless and hungry, who lends you a bit of money when there’s no guarantee you can repay it.  This is the friend who tells you when what you are doing is dangerous, foolish, or simply wrong.  In a sense, he is like family–that friend that the Bible mentions as being closer than a brother.  There is a degree to which you live for him, and he lives for you.  You share yourself with this person, and get to know this person.  Of course, you can’t have too many of these–or can you?

The alternative view considers friends to be anyone who makes your life more enjoyable, which usually means more fun.  The people who invite you to parties are your friends; the people with whom you play games and go on outings and watch sports or movies are all friends in this sense.  Of course, you rarely know anything about how they really think or feel–but why would you want to?  Life is short, and the point is to enjoy it and to help other people enjoy it.  These are your drinking buddies, your coffee klatsch gossip group, your golfing or quilting companions.  They matter in so far as they make you happy, and you matter to them to the same degree.  If they don’t make you happy, if they are no longer fun, they drop from the list; they are equally ready to drop you.  That is of no consequence; you can have scores of such friends, and replace them with new ones, because these people are your friends because they enjoy you and you enjoy them.

I probably have betrayed my preference in describing the two views.  Indeed, when Jesus said nobody has greater love than one who lays down his life for his friends, I think He was describing real friendship, the commitment to sacrifice for another–and I think that friendship often involves sacrificing, laying down our lives, usually in little bits, giving up a movie or a dinner out to visit the hospital, spending the spare change on gasoline to drive someone to work or rescue him from the side of the road, losing an hour in the evening to be a shoulder for a few tears.

Yet this assumes that life is about becoming a more loving person, in a sense maturing.  Not everyone believes that or wants that.  My aforementioned friend is not interested in making himself better; he is interested in having fun.  People only matter to him to the degree that he needs them.  That’s not to say he never helps his friends or recognizes what they have done for him; it is rather to say that the kind of commitment I view as essential to friendship he views as inimical to it–and ultimately, any authority I might cite in support of my view he would discount because it is not consistent with his view.

I think those friendships shallow.  Don’t get me wrong–I would be there for him if he needed me.  I just don’t think he counts me one of his real friends, and I’m not sure that I could count on him to be there for me.  We just don’t see friendship the same way.

#92: Electronic Tyranny

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #92, on the subject of Electronic Tyranny.

I encountered an article–I did less than read it, but more than scan it–which ironically was apparently written by an expert in social media working with LinkedIn, if I understand aright, explaining why she had shut down her Facebook account.  She also had decided to deactivate her smartphone for several hours each evening.  She explained that it had been taking over her life, and now she finds she has much more time for more important things, like her writing and in-person personal interactions, relationships.

I apologize for being bored.  I use Facebook as my primary mode of communications, but I do understand the problem–and I understand it because I faced it and addressed it long before Facebook was an issue.  In fact, there was a name for this problem when it was a much smaller problem.  It was called The Tyranny of the Telephone. We have the same problem, only bigger; and the same answers address it, only modified for the new shape.

img0092Telephone

By the early 1960s, telephones were ubiquitous; it was probably earlier than that, but that’s a time I can remember, and it’s important for another reason.  Almost every home–certainly almost every suburban home–had one, and people used them for all kinds of things they previously did in person, like making appointments with doctors and talking to friends and selling life insurance and magazine subscriptions and promoting political candidates.  There was a weak attempt at establishing a standard of courtesy, such as when you called someone the first thing you should say is who you are, but this did not really take hold.

What was unexpected about the phone was the way in which it took over our lives. You could be entertaining sixty people spread across three rooms at a family gathering, but if the phone rang whoever was calling would expect, and get, your undivided attention for however long they chose to stay on the line, almost never asking whether it was a bad time.  You could be deeply involved in a work project, but if the phone on your desk rang you suddenly were interrupted by whoever was at the other end, for whatever reasons they had for wanting your involvement in what they were doing.  It was unlike any social interaction previous to it. If someone knocked on your front door and you were busy, you asked them to wait. If someone called on the phone, you asked everyone else to wait.

Around that time, in the early 1960s, my father, who at that time was an engineer with Western Union, attended a major telecommunications industry conference.  The president of AT&T was the keynote speaker.  For those who don’t know, prior to the antitrust breakup in the 1980s which allowed the launch of other long distance telephone services and ultimately the creation of independent local telephone companies, American Telephone and Telegraph was the phone company.  They provided nearly all local and long distance telephone service throughout the United States, and their Bell Labs was one of the leaders in electronic development and experimentation (I believe they invented transistors and were among the first to work with fiber optic data transmission).  In his keynote address, he spoke of many of the technological advances in telephone technology he perceived as coming within the decade, many of which did come in that time while others fell away for lack of interest for a few decades.  He predicted call waiting and call forwarding and caller ID, picturephones, and telephones with remote service that you could carry with you into the wilderness.  As he finished, he said that he could foresee the day when if you wanted to speak with someone you could pick up a phone, dial one number, and if he didn’t answer you could be pretty sure that he was dead.

What the president of AT&T did not understand then was the possibility that most of us sometimes and some of us most of the time would rather not be readily available to anyone and everyone, that we would want to disconnect from the world for a while, be voluntarily incommunicado.

And the problem with technology like the telephone is that it connects us.  Of course, that is exactly what it is supposed to do, but we do not always want to be connected.  That, though, is not a problem with the technology; it is a problem with us.

I say I understand the author’s problem, but am bored by it because it is old news.  In the late 90s I installed maybe all the popular instant messaging programs–ICQ, AIM, Yahoo!Messenger, MSN Messenger–and made myself available to anyone looking for me.  I was, after all, designer of a recently published game, and I needed to be available to answer questions–and I had launched several then independent web sites on time travel, D&D, Bible, law, and more, and needed to be available to people with questions about those.  What I found in the main, though, was that if you were visibly “on” such networks, it was like attending a large house party–people would see that you were available and assume that you had nothing better to do than chat with them.  I didn’t want to be rude, but I was at work trying to get web pages posted, new worlds written and edited, a novel completed, and more.  I would try to get these people to come to the point, to ask their question, to get past the pleasantries–only to realize there was no point, no question, only pleasantries from people who were bored and wanted to talk.

My response then was as drastic as that of the current author:  I shut down all those programs.  I’m not sure whether I could find the passwords and user names if I wanted them now, and I’m not sure which, if any, still operate, but I removed them from my schedule and found indeed that I had a lot more time, and a lot less contact with some people.

I went through something similar with electronic mail.  Every day I would download a large quantity of e-mail messages, attempt to discard anything that I could tell was obviously Spam (something at which I have improved), and then read through the substantial remainder and write responses to most of them.  Some would take perhaps not hours but certainly dozens of minutes, explaining complicated issues in temporal anomalies or answering a Bible question that had real personal meaning to a correspondent, and I would send these missives as soon as they were complete.  Then when I had finished all the mail that had been downloaded, I would hit the download button again, and get more–usually at least some of it replies to letters I had just sent, often requiring additional substantive responses.  This would happen several times every day, and my e-mail engagement would take several hours of my work time.

This time I handled the problem more intelligently.  My first step was not to download the second time–that is, if I downloaded mail at two in the afternoon, anything that hadn’t arrived by then would wait for the next day.  I did this because I realized that some people were using e-mail as if it were an instant messaging program, and I had eliminated instant messaging programs because they took over so much time in my life.  These e-mail conversations were doing the same thing.  Cutting them to one message a day saved a lot of time.  It saved so much time that I gradually cut it back further, first to every other day, then to a regular schedule of five times in a fortnight.  Eventually I realized that anyone who needed to reach me urgently either had my cell phone number (very very few, it was intended for emergency texting) or could reach me through Facebook.  Anyone who sent me an e-mail was not in that big a hurry to get an answer, and today I check e-mail about once a month, plus or minus a couple weeks.  I’ll get to it eventually.  It’s not usually that important, and I don’t need to let it take over my time.

I poke my nose into Facebook several times a day.  I was recently gifted with a smartphone, and added the Facebook apps so I can check when I am not at my computer.  However, I control my Facebook–I don’t look at my feed or try to follow what my friends are doing, and they know that I am unlikely to notice anything posted that is not in some way directed at me (a private message, a post to my wall, or a post in which I am tagged) or made in one of the few groups which have priority in my preferences.  I don’t have to delete Facebook to control it; I have to control myself.

The electronic world has the potential to consume our lives, to take time from other more important activities.  That has been true since its beginning, with gramophones and nickelodeons, radio and telephones, television, video games, personal computers, bulletin board systems and online services, cellular phones, Internet and e-mail and smartphones, and whatever comes next will undoubtedly be the same only more.  We can be the Luddites trying to cut ourselves off from its progress, but it does not stop that progress and does not improve us nearly as much as learning to control ourselves so we can use such advances as Facebook wisely.

Deleting your Facebook account strikes me as a desperate attempt to get control of your life, along the lines of those in earlier times who removed their television sets and had their phone service disconnected.  The problem is that you are letting it control you; the solution is to learn to control it.

#91: Novel Mysteries

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #91, on the subject of Novel Mysteries.

With permission of Valdron Inc I am publishing my second novel, Old Verses New, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first one, you can find the table of contents for it at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; the last of those for the first novel is #71:  Footnotes on Verse Three, Chapter One, which indexes all the others and catches a lot of material from an earlier collection of behind-the-writings reflections that had been misplaced for a decade.  Now as the second is being posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers, and perhaps in a more serious way than the previous ones, because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book or how this book connects to events yet to come in the third (For Better or Verse)–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them, or even put off reading these insights until the book has finished.  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.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #74:  Another Novel (which provided this kind of insight into the first nine chapters along with some background material on the book as a whole),
  2. #78:  Novel Fears (which continued with coverage of chapters 10 through 18),
  3. #82:  Novel Developments (which continued with coverage of chapters 19 through 27),
  4. #86:  Novel Conflicts (which continued with coverage of chapters 28 through 36),
  5. #89:  Novel Confrontations (which continued with coverage of chapters 37 through 45).

This picks up from there, and I expect to continue with additional posts after every ninth chapter in the series.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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 46, Kondor 57

I conceived this idea of bringing Kondor back to a future version of the world he had saved, perhaps in part from Lauren’s adventures, perhaps in part from the idea in Sherwood Forest that I had ignored, of creating a future world based on past actions of the character.  I started with the idea that the Vorgo would be stolen, and he would again recover it, but the details would have to be devised on the fly.

Eventually I found a way to turn this into a playable world—I created a mystery in which there were six possible solutions, each with a unique clue set that excluded all suspects but one.  I’ve run it once, but of course to run it you have to have a player who at some point in his past recovered the vorgo.

I repeat the comment about why Joe is nervous around cemeteries because not every reader will have read the first book, and it might be important to understanding him in this world.

The idea of a statue that recognizably resembles Joe is perhaps a bit of a leap, but it is not unlikely that such a statue might have been made in his honor shortly after his departure from the previous vorgo world.  This one was probably based on that one, to serve as a display stand for the vorgo itself.


Chapter 47, Brown 16

Derek takes Bill’s backpack at this point.  He incidentally acquires the tent and sleeping bag in the process.

Derek has decided that once more he is in a horror movie, and he wants to get out of it because even though he has recovered from death several times already, he does not want to die again.

The misdirection pointing to Ralph was part of the process.  I’d left this possible solution open for the reader, and for Derek, and wanted them to close on it at this moment.  It was not at all certain that Ralph was not the killer, and would not be for some time.


Chapter 48, Hastings 59

How to walk the “between” (given many names in the stories so as to avoid giving it any particular name) was described in the first book.  It needed to be explained in the second book so a new reader would have some clue about it–although I did not yet know the ways I would use its function in the chapters ahead–but it could not be overdone.

When Lauren comments about Sagrimore being housed and fed for free, I originally wrote a short rant about the innkeeper overcharging others to cover the cost.  After I wrote it, it seemed unlike her, inappropriate to the situation, and completely undirected; and it never came up again.  So I cut it.

In Dungeons & Dragons™ games, a lot of people complain that they don’t see any reason why their fighter can’t learn magic, or their wizard can’t be a better fighter, or similar cross-class ideas.  I’ve never had a problem with that, as it always seemed rather evident to me:  in the mindset of the age, you could not be two things.  Sagrimore objects to learning magic because it is not knightly.  He doesn’t think there something evil about it, or too difficult for him.  He just thinks that it is inappropriate for a knight to use magic.  Lauren is different; she’s a twentieth century girl, and as such she doesn’t see any reason why she shouldn’t learn a bit of everything.

It’s my impression that most people who worry about getting on a slippery slope to something they view as wrong are not in any danger of doing so; but that’s a bit of a Catch-22, since if you think you’re not in danger because you’re worried so you stop worrying, the evidence that you’re not in danger has just vanished.

At some point in writing this book, I decided to use italics for telepathic thought; it was not done here until I came back and changed it.

I realized I might be creating a difficulty at this point.  Eventually Camelot would fall, and Sagrimore would have to be there to defend it; but he now had the ability to contact Lauren and she the ability to travel to him.  I couldn’t bring Lauren into that battle, because it would interfere with the telling of a known and popular tale.  But I was going to have to let that go for the moment.  I didn’t know how I would handle it, but at this point it was entirely possible that Lauren would not survive so long.


Chapter 49, Kondor 58

The fainting security guard was in part a way to motivate Kondor out of the room.  The expression “his own graven image” comes of course from the Ten Commandments, putting forward the idea that statues are in a sense a way of worshipping people.

Pernicans was a shift of the word Pernicious.  Aurons was borrowed from Star Trek.  Verdi was the name of the composer, although it only means Green.

Again, bits of the story of the first novel had to be sketched so that a reader who had not read that would be able to handle this.


Chapter 50, Brown 17

I think it was around this point that I began to recognize that this book would be longer than the first.

I was guessing that the “other set of connections” would be the ones the reader had noticed as well.

The blood on Michael’s hand isn’t really a giveaway; he had to pass John’s body on the way up the steps, and could have touched it then.  Yet it does shake the scenario and shift the attention away from Ralph.


Chapter 51, Hastings 60

Lauren is ambivalent about the use of magic even now; she cooks because she hesitates to use magic, but then she does other things by magic because she wants to be good enough to be able to use them in a pinch.

Lauren’s suggestion about finding unique landmarks to target when traveling the between was something I’d only just considered, but it made good sense overall and fit well with a lot of other things.  It also gave me a way for the skill to “botch” by delivering the traveler to the wrong destination.


Chapter 52, Kondor 59

I’m not sure at what point I’d decided to create a theft of the vorgo mystery, but by this point I knew that I was headed that direction.  At first the idea was to bring the character back into the future of a world in which he had been a significant figure in the past, and see how he handled that.  Now I had a plot; I just had to figure out how to make it work.

The notion that Joseph Wade Kondor is named for his grandfather yet is not a “junior” is not that difficult.  “Joseph”, as mentioned, is my middle name; it was my grandfather’s first name.  It is entirely likely that Kondor’s grandfather was Joseph something Kondor, or Joseph Wade Smith, or Wade Joseph something, and that he got his name or names from him.


Chapter 53, Brown 18

I’m not sure why it made a difference whether Bob was hit with an oar or a paddle, but they are really very different objects, and Derek would not know that.  It does demonstrate that Michael was aware of the object on the dock, though.

When I was a schoolboy, I was one of those constantly targeted by those who thought they could prove themselves by attacking the weak kid.  I probably relate most to Ralph here, but also to Derek, to the unathletic bunch.  People would tell me they wanted to fight me after school, and I would tell them I did not want to fight.  Then they would ambush me, and I would kick and scratch and bite, and they would beat me anyway and then complain that I fought like a girl, as if they had the right to make the rules for a fight I did not want.  Anyway, I figure both Ralph and Michael are that kind of kid, and so neither of them has any notion that they should obey the rules in this fight—particularly as it is probably life and death for both of them.

I had to think of an “appropriate” weapon for killing the Dungeon Master, that would also be available somewhere at the camp.  A chain was a stretch on the latter point, but I thought I could make it work.  It also had the advantage of being so entirely out of place in the cabin that it would shock Derek’s sense of order and give him what he needed to know.

As it turns out, Derek saves Ralph, dying in the process, but gets to tell the world that Michael did it.  We of course don’t see what happens after that, but we have good reason to think that Michael will be punished for his crimes.


Chapter 54, Hastings 61

The idea that Lauren has these abilities because she needs them for her battles was fairly obvious; the related argument that those who do not have the same abilities can be thankful because they will not face similar battles is an interesting corollary to it.

The “brief shining moment” is of course drawn from the lyrics of the musical Camelot.

I think it was at about this point that I determined Tubrok would return in the third book, and that Merlin would be there.  It gave me an overarching theme to carry the three books into one grand story.

I had wondered and worried at this point about how to bring Derek and Lauren together.  I had decided in my preliminary notes that they would meet after Derek had been through several horror stories, and now seemed the time for that for Derek.  But Lauren had much to do.  She still had to find and train Bethany; she had to be killed by Horta and by Jackson.  It made sense at this point that I should find a way to remove her from Wandborough and send her to meet Derek; but for the moment all I could think to do was get her lost so she would not be in the battle at Camelot (a battle in which vampires would have no part) and let her help while it fell.


I hope these “behind the writings” posts continue to be of interest, and perhaps some value, to those of you who have been reading the novel.  If there is any positive feedback, they will continue.