This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #275, on the subject of Versers Reorient.
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 first mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 1 through 12.
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.
Quick links to discussions in this page:
Chapter 1, Hastings 137
Chapter 2, Kondor 137
Chapter 3, Beam 1
Chapter 4, Brown 161
Chapter 5, Slade 136
Chapter 6, Hastings 138
Chapter 7, Beam 2
Chapter 8, Kondor 138
Chapter 9, Hastings 139
Chapter 10, Slade 137
Chapter 11, Beam 3
Chapter 12, Hastings 140
Of course, Lauren versed out at the end of the third novel, so it seemed important to remind the reader of where the thread was by recounting a fragment of that battle.
I also decided to step her back to entering the world in the dream state; I wanted there to be a struggle with the orderlies in which she didn’t really know what was happening, so they would drug her. That’s what’s happening in the first chapter.
Her gear is all close at hand, and will be gathered and put in storage. When she awakens, she’ll be wearing a straightjacket or similarly restrained and being observed by some sort of therapist, who will ask her if she knows who she is, where she is, and what the date is. From there we begin the cat-and-mouse game between a sane verser and a closed-minded psychiatrist.
Although Kondor finished the previous book, I needed his perspective on the puzzle of why the porter said they were expected. That also gave me an opportunity to give the story to this point, although there were a few comments in the previous book that I wished I could easily bring forward and couldn’t.
I had already decided how the city knew to expect these visitors, but it was a supernatural connection which Kondor would neither expect nor believe. Having found a perfectly natural possible explanation, he concludes that it must be true because it is reasonable, consistent with his naturalist viewpoint.
I had finished writing what was chapter 24, Hastings 145, and as I was looking for something to do in chapter 25, Kondor 142, I suddenly had a couple of ideas converge. They had all been sort of back-burner ideas. One was to involve my second son Kyler in the writing process–I had long wanted to have a collaboration with someone, preferably him, in which we introduced a new character and used it to spring into two diverging series, but he had never been available. The other idea was to base a character loosely on our friend John Walker, named James Beam. I liked the name because not only did it connect to a whiskey (exactly as Johnny Walker does), but it also was the sort of name James Bond might use as an alias, and it sounded like James Dean, the iconic actor. I approached Kyler with the idea.
Kyler liked it, saying that he wanted the new character to become an antagonist rather than an ally of the others. I suggested that we use chapters in this book to create the character, and at the end of the book we bring him into the world with the others and set him up on the opposite side of the conflict. I also observed that none of our present verser characters had been killed originally by scriff-containing computer hardware (and John was something of a computer technician), and none had been killed by Kreelak, the preying mantis-like aliens of Nagaworld, so this would be a good background for him. I also suggested that in the initial phases he believes he has been abducted by aliens and taken to another planet.
Other characteristics I expected: thinks the Kreelak must have used a stun gun; smokes but has only two packs of cigarettes; weakness for alcohol but none with him; building trades and glassmaking skills; versed out in 2017 or 2018, when we were writing this.
I did not know what worlds might be used, but needed him to pick up quite a few potent skills. I thought a space world would be good but only had The Wanderer and Farmland Beta unused. I also thought he could learn magic and/or psionics from Omigger in some future world, but had no good ideas for what that world might be like. At some point I thought he should meet another verser, and so learn about his situation–but not one of those I was covering.
I was trying to be patient while awaiting Kyler’s first chapter; it was only a couple days, but I was eager to see something. Then we discussed at length the direction it would take. He was thinking of taking a world he had used, a biological laboratory, and putting it on a space station, and infesting it with alien carnivores. He had a powerful support character in that world, and I suggested that it would be a good choice to empower him, and that we should also give him another team member who had low-level psionics, equip them with high tech weapons, and have them work together until he is killed taking them with him. The statement, “No matter what happens, stay together, stay with me,” would be integral to their relationship. I suggested for inspiration on the psionicist the Tesch of Doctor Who’s The Face of Evil. He instead went with a stock Dungeons & Dragons™ monster, a Mind Flayer, with the aspect that whoever was running the station had surgically removed several of the facial tentacles sported by such creatures. He also made him rather stupid.
From there, Kyler wanted to send him to The Dancing Princess, not so much because of the demons or the princesses. Although we initially agreed that he would defeat the demons, rescue the princesses, and marry the second girl whom I was calling Nerene but he wanted to rename Nerenae, that changed as the story unfolded. He also wanted to include in that world something he had done in one of his games, having a blacksmith/enchanter create a magic ring and botch, so that it controls dragons but also makes the wearer insane. He would pick up a wizard, maybe this enchanter, although I was thinking more in terms of someone low-level reminiscent of Smedrick in The Last Unicorn, and enchanting a ring is a very powerful bit of magic. So that was still open as we started. Our proposed solution was that the blacksmith/enchanter had never enchanted an item before, and James tells him he needs this ring to control dragons (they’re a danger in that scenario), so he attempts to do so and botches, which means he doesn’t have to have a 15@ bias because he never successfully performed the skill despite having created a magic ring.
In editing, we agreed that Beam would need more bullets. Both of us envisioned a “.45” as a revolver, and three of a presumed six shots had already been used to that point. We added finding the box of bullets.
I kept opening this chapter trying to decide how to frame it. Then I spent two weeks in the hospital including surgery, and as I was recuperating I finally tackled it.
The bath is modeled on Roman public baths, but given a semi-private aspect of being connected to a set of eight similar residences.
This was originally chapter 3, but when I reached chapter 24 I decided to incorporate the new character, James Beam, and bumped everything.
I gave thought to the order in which the group would awaken, and what would trigger each awakening.
It also occurred to me after I made the comment about dressing well for the meeting that only Shella would dress differently than usual.
I’m feeling my way forward with this. I need to establish the setting and the characters, and then bring in the problem, but it’s slow going at the moment.
In editing, the notes were added to suggest that Bob and Joe were talking quietly with each other.
The decision to have the Slades tap their jewelry was made when I reached the beginning of what was chapter 8, and backwritten here.
This was originally chapter 4, bumped when we added the James Beam character thread.
The restraints were an obvious precaution, given her somewhat belligerent arrival. The story of her arrival from the perspective of an outside observer will come soon, but I need to introduce characters who can tell it.
Originally I had written that the clothes she wore beneath the armor were in place, but I happened to be reading a book about how to write which caused me to think that I should be more specific, give a clearer image of the scene, so I changed it to jeans and t-shirt, her typical garb.
This was originally chapter 5 before we inserted the James Beam character thread.
I received this chapter from Kyler very soon after the first, along with the third. The introduction of Turbirb’durpa went smoothly, although there were problems with the spelling of the name, and I wasn’t sure why he would be called “Bob”–I thought “Bert” more likely. That came out later.
Kyler’s inspiration for the monsters on the ship were the aliens of Alien. He wanted something fast and deadly that could travel the air ducts. He added a few touches of his own, and particularly their ability to cloud their appearance.
There is a run-on sentence in the first paragraph. When I alerted Kyler to it, he responded that it was intentional, to press the sense of urgency.
We had a fair amount of trouble with the opening of the door. It originally read “the door beside him pried open”, and I thought that this was an attempted middle voice, which I don’t think that verb has. I was envisioning a door that had already been forced open. Kyler’s intention, though, was that Turbirb’durpa was using telekinetic force to twist the door into an open position so Beam could pass through. I discussed the problem that later Beam struggles with opening other doors and neither of them thinks to have Bob bend them open–and that it was important to the story that there not be an obvious option to do that. The best we had for that was that Bob’s not very bright and didn’t think of it, and in the stress of all this Beam didn’t recall that Bob did this. To capture the feeling we changed it to “wrenched”.
The abrupt quieting of the hum bothered me, because it hadn’t been mentioned. Kyler, though, likened it to the experience of someone turning off a television in a room you had entered, and suddenly being impacted by the silence from the loss of a sound you had not really consciously recognized. It was rephrased slightly to convey that.
I was constructing this from what I knew of ancient Persian and Middle Eastern practice. I was not sure about the beer, but decided that I knew they had wheat and wine so beer was at least probable.
This was originally chapter 6 before we inserted the James Beam character thread.
It happens that I had just been released from hospitalization earlier in the week when I was writing this, so I modeled a lot of this on what I knew of inpatient care.
I had established her birth year as 1965, but not her birthday. I decided that since she was otherwise so like me, it should be near my own, and went with the 6th as a few days before mine, although a decade later.
Her birthday is established as Sunday, June 6th, 1965. She is speaking with her caretaker the day after that.
I also tend to go with my own taste preferences with her, which means she would not drink cranberry juice but would have to choose between the others, and while orange juice would appeal as the most thirst-quenching she would hesitate over the possibility of heartburn from it.
This was originally chapter 7 before we inserted the James Beam character thread.
It had been rattling in my head that the group, and that meant Slade as the recognized nobleman, should give a gift to the Caliph. I realized that had to happen now, so I looked to see what was actually established as in his possession. The sheet included “Decorative Chest…Beautiful Necklace with Emerald the size of a golf ball…Carved Gold Ring with Fancy Raised ‘S’…Jeweled Dagger…About 20# total recognizable pieces of jewelry.” This prompted me to think that he should be wearing some of this, and I was going to put the emerald necklace on him, but then decided no, Shella should wear that, and he should have the ring and the jeweled dagger. That meant backwriting the scene where they were preparing, in chapter 4.
I had finished this chapter, but then realized that there was an important story element that had to be introduced during this dinner–the daughter and her entourage–so I returned to it to find a way to include that.
This had been chapter 8 before we added the James Beam character thread.
I found the cold character of the girl intriguing, and wondered where it’s headed.
It was on a quite late reading that I realized she was described as having three guns visible plus probably other concealed weapons. They are not mentioned again, but before that becomes necessary she kits up with some unspecified collection of weapons including an automatic rifle with grenade launcher, so it became moot.
I had made the mistake in editing this of using her name, which is not revealed until the next Beam chapter; I caught it just before the chapter was published, and changed it to “she”.
My vision for this arc in Lauren’s story is that her self-identity as a verser and as a chosen messenger of God are being challenged. It starts with the fact that her existence in this world cannot be confirmed.
This was chapter 9 before James Beam was added.
This has been the first 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.