All posts by M.J.

#280: Versers Reveal

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #280, on the subject of Versers Reveal.

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 third mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 25 through 36.  Previous web log posts covering this book include:

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

Chapter 25, Brown 164

The moment I launched the hawk, I knew this scene had become inevitable.  Therefore I had a couple of chapters of time to let the scene coalesce in the back of my mind.

This was chapter 19 before we added James Beam.

The grammatical error “a friend of Joe’s” was added in the edit to replace “a friend of Joe”, because I thought it was more like what Slade would actually say, and Kyler agreed.

Chapter 26, Kondor 141

This discussion of Clarke’s Third Law fell into place because I needed an aftermath from the meeting with the Caliph before I returned to Lauren.  Zeke is proving quite useful as a staging tool, as I can get Kondor’s thoughts into the open and challenge them to force him to explain them considerably more naturally.

I started this chapter and was interrupted by a twelve-day hospital stay, second in two months, so somewhere in the middle I had to pick up where I left it and finish it.

This was chapter 20 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 27, Beam 7

Originally Kyler wrote a chapter in which he introduced the idea that Beam was afraid of snakes.  He scrapped the idea and deleted the chapter, because he realized the character already had some challenging weaknesses with the addictions and substance use.

Bron was an important character in Kyler’s version of the scenario, the blacksmith who dabbled in magic who would create the ring.  The ring struck me as a very challenging piece for the story, but he had done it in play and thought he knew how to make it work.

Kyler had made the distance one hundred paces, not being aware that a pace was a double stride measuring about five feet and making the length around a hundred sixty-five yards.  We discussed the size of the interior at length, and agreed that one hundred steps long and half as wide could be two hundred by one hundred feet, a large two thousand square foot interior; internet research suggested that that much table space comfortably seats one hundred sixty patrons in a decent restaurant, which this is not, and so a couple hundred could crowd into it.

Chapter 28, Hastings 144

I was working my way up the skills I had listed for Lauren, mindful of several points.  One was that she wouldn’t clearly know what was easier and what was harder, what was more likely to be biased in or biased out, and so her track couldn’t perfectly match her paper.  Another was that she couldn’t always succeed at everything that was possible, despite the fact that for many of these skills she had put in decades of practice (not reflected in the numbers on the sheet from which I was working).  This chapter let me include a failure and explore other skills in an order in which they might occur to her without prejudicing what she might be able to do.

It keeps occurring to me that I’m working from character sheets updated to the end of the second novel, and need to push those forward through the end of the fourth, but I’m currently moving forward well with the storylines and don’t want to disrupt that.

This was chapter 21 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 29, Slade 140

Obviously credit goes to the first Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace, which used something very like this (the princess is surrounded by other girls one of whom is dressed as the princess while she poses as one of her own bodyguards).  My fourth son Evan brought to me the fact that this could make for some really complicated storylines connected to a kidnapping–do they grab the fake princess, and what does the palace do in response to this?  If they grab the real princess, did they know which one she was, or was it an accident?  Do they know who they really have?  I decided I wanted to do one of those scenarios in this book, but I honestly had not yet decided which one.

It is also the case that with this chapter I had adequately created the setup for that, but it was much too soon to launch it so I was going to have to develop a diversion, something for these characters to do that would be interesting and worthwhile, before we moved into that mystery.

This was chapter 22 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 30, Brown 165

This became mostly a way to slow the story a bit and focus on the idea that Derek was using the time to practice.  It started mostly because I’d established a pattern, and Derek was next in line, and as I considered what to write about him it occurred to me that between fighting vampires and being a spy he had not really had the opportunity just to be Morach since he had lived in Morach’s world, and that his aerobatics were not only useful but fun, so I started with him playing, and being noticed playing, and then stretched it into practice in his other bodies which needed to be explored a bit, and then extended it to the psionics.

This was chapter 23 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 31, Beam 8

Kyler warned me that this chapter was graphic before I saw it, and it is, but not I think over the line.  We already know that Turbirb’durpa cracks open skulls and eats the brains, so it’s not a shock when he does it.

Chapter 32, Hastings 145

I had by this point decided that Lauren was going to be assaulted by the large orderly, and would injure him defending herself; but because she will have already been tentatively diagnosed as delusional she would wind up in restraints.  He would return for another attempt, and she would have to use her limited psionics to stop him, primarily her force shield, probably also the telekinetic pulse.  I’ll have to consider what else she might be able to do.

This was chapter 24, and as far as I had written; I was looking at a heading for Kondor 142, chapter 25, and had several things cooking in my head, and finally managed to do something I had been wanting to do for more than a decade:  I got my number two son, Kyler, to agree to collaborate with me.  As part of that, I proposed creating a character under the name James Beam and modeling him significantly after player John Walker.  Kyler liked the idea of creating a verser character who would wind up an antagonist, and so we put together the notion of beginning the character in this book with his own solo worlds and then bringing him into the Twin Rivers in the next book, along with Lauren, for a significant confrontation of some sort.  We agreed that he would draft a first chapter introducing the character, and we’d go over it and integrate it into this book so that the character would be established by the beginning of the next one.

This was chapter 24, and the last chapter written before we added the James Beam character.

We debated whether to leave the mangled Hamlet quote as is or correct it, but the connection to heaven and hell was significant in the dialogue, and she did admit she didn’t know the quote well, so we left it as it was.

Chapter 33, Kondor 142

While I was trying to figure out what to write in this chapter, Kyler produced five chapters of the James Beam story–the entire first world.

I knew I was heading into an adventure that would take the characters out of the city, but wasn’t certain how I would get there–but that it would have to be Slade who led that transition, because the Sheik viewed him as the leader of the group, whatever they thought of themselves.  Ultimately, I decided that Kondor had to think about their situation and recognize that they were threatening to abuse the extended hospitality.

Chapter 34, Slade 141

I had decided that there would be a short adventure involving a battle against bandit raiders before my main story here, and this was the launch point.

I made something of a hierarchy mistake, casually using the word “sheik” with reference to the Caliph, and almost immediately knew that was wrong.  I had some Dungeons & Dragons™ reference materials on hierarchies, and looked up how “caliph” fit.  It was at this point that I came up with the other titles, notably Amir and Amira and Calipha, for the other characters, but we retained “Princess” for convenience on the theory that it was a reasonable translation for the English-speaking guests.

Chapter 35, Beam 9

By the time this chapter was written and in place, all the other characters had been drafted through the end of the book.  I was pressing Kyler to produce written versions of the stories he had spun verbally.

The introduction of Miralla threw me, because I was anticipating something else that this was going to complicate.  Kyler explained that Miralla was not going to be part of Beam’s troop in the present book, but would be scriff-infected as an independent verser, borrowing a trope from another player character who has women stalking him through the verse to exact vengeance for infecting them.

The player on whom Beam is based at some point decided to introduce himself by the name of a character in a movie, who masterfully demonstrates that people only know what you reveal about yourself.  The character used the name “Kaiser”.  In this chapter, the shire reeve entered and said he was looking for someone called “Chiser”, and it took me several minutes to make the connection.  We discussed whether to backwrite the story to include the name, but in the end just dropped it.

Chapter 36, Hastings 146

I had been so busy with the Beam chapters that I lost track of where I was in the other stories.  I had a mental note that this was the chapter in which Lauren would be attacked, but when I went to write it I thought there wasn’t enough foundation for the subsequent claim that she was delusional.  I had completely forgotten that she had brought up the multiple worlds theory in her previous chapter, and so felt that I had to bring that to the fore.  Then when I’d finished writing the chapter, I went to put the summary in the book outline I keep to help me find things, and saw the entry for the other chapter and realized I’d just duplicated my effort.  However, I was very pleased with what I’d written, and it only took a few tweaks to make it seem as if it were more on the same subject.  From that position, I decided that it would strengthen the case for the doctor concluding she was delusional, and give me the narrative basis I needed for what was to come.

This has been the third 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.

#279: My Journey to Becoming a Writer

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #279, on the subject of My Journey to Becoming a Writer.

This is a response to a question asked by Georgia Bester on the Christian Music Network Musician’s Corner at Facebook, which reads:

Hello [emoticon omitted]
For those of you in writing ministry. I would love to hear about your journey. How did you know for sure that this is where the Lord wanted you?

That link probably does not work if you do not belong to that group, as it is a closed group, but that is her entire post.

Uncertain exactly what she meant, I asked for clarification, specifically whether she was talking about songwriting or bookwriting, and she answered:

Christian Author+-songwriter

–which I take to mean both books and music.  I write both, and there have been separate but connected paths that brought me to them.

By the time I was twelve I had settled in my mind that I would be a professional musician, in the popular vein.  I already played piano, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, ukulele, and I think fife and recorder, and my singing was noteworthy–my kindergarten teacher had identified me as her “little songbird”.  I could hold a part in a choir, and had a significant range for a boy.  I had even tried writing music, but none of it was any good, and it was frustrating.

I was introduced to another boy my age (John “Jay” Fedigan) who played the guitar, sang, and wrote songs.  Working with him I learned how he wrote songs, and started doing so myself.  Because in order to play keyboards with him I was going to need to know what he was playing on the guitar (and he was clueless when it came to notes and chords) I learned to play the guitar.  Before I’d finished high school I’d added bass guitar, tuba, flute, and several other instruments to the list, but I got good on playing the guitar, singing, and writing my own songs.  This was the late sixties/early seventies, so these songs were all love songs, usually sad, or protest songs.

The Jesus Movement hit our town in a big way.  I actually had become a Christian when I was thirteen, in 1968, but it hadn’t had a lot of impact on my life because I’d always been a reasonably decent churchgoing kid.  The Jesus Movement was something different, people for whom faith was the center of their lives in a real way.  I got dragged along the edge of this, and became more involved, and realized that the songs I was writing weren’t really worth singing, in a message sense, so I started to shift more toward writing Christian songs, and by 1972 (middle of junior year high school) that’s pretty much all I wrote and all I sang.  (I did write a piece for my high school band, and a setting of the Lord’s Prayer which my high school chorus performed, and of course performing with school groups I did the music chosen by the directors.)  The band that had been a precision rock band called BLT Down became an evangelistic Christian vocal rock band called The Last Psalm, and for a couple years made a splash in coffeehouses and colleges in northern New Jersey.

I went to college and decided to major in Biblical Studies (rather than music) because I thought having that degree would open more doors for music ministry than the other.  I did take a music theory class, but I also took a creative writing fiction class, mostly because it sounded interesting and I imagined that I might one day write the next major Christian fantasy novel, akin to Tolkien’s work.  I played in a couple of bands, including Jacob’s Well and Aurora, which sometimes included some of my songs in the repertoire.

Coming out of college I mostly spun my wheels for years trying to get some traction.  My wife’s theory was that I would get a good paying job with my college degree and pursue music on the side until it reached the point that it paid for itself.  That never happened.  Instead, the Lord worked some strange circumstances to land me on the air at a small but important Christian radio station (it had been the twelfth most important Contemporary Christian/Rock radio station in the country shortly before I arrived, despite being in the sticks and reaching part of northern Delaware as its primary audience–no offense to people in Delaware, but it’s not one of the top markets in the country).  I did some solo concerts with teaching included and continued to write songs for them.  I met a lot of people in the Christian music world, but by this point my recording equipment had died and I had no recordings to give them and no spare money with which to repair the recorders.

During this time I headed up a project to launch a radio station news letter, and wrote much of the content for it.  We had it printed by a local newspaper, who traded printing costs for advertising time, and so I became acquainted with the associate editor of The Elmer Times.  In our chatting we hit an idea by which I would write a few pieces of political satire for his paper, under the byline M. Joseph Young, so that it wouldn’t be obvious that this was written by the DJ on the local Christian radio station.  I think two were published, and I might have copies of them buried somewhere.

After five years I parted ways with the radio station; God had in essence told me it was time to go, and I was so burnt from the struggle I didn’t ask where I was going.  That turned out to be nowhere fast.  I was asked at this time to head a band called TerraNova, which I did for a couple years, but a guitarist who came to us very humbly then made himself indispensable then fell apart and quit pretty much put an end to that.  I was going through jobs fairly quickly, four jobs in two years none of them going anywhere, and my wife, who finished her nursing degree, said I should go back to school.  I could tell you about the very strange search for continuing education and how I wound up going to law school, but suffice it that I did, and graduated with a Juris Doctore and a mountain of debt, only to be denied admission to the New Jersey Bar because of the debt.

While I was trying to resolve this problem, I was asked to help a friend of a friend who was trying to write a role playing game.  I was good at role playing games and good at writing; he was quite creative and had a core of excellent ideas for the game, but he was a terrible writer, had no head for game mechanics, and was very disorganized.  We collaborated, and after five years of work and personal tension he dropped out and left me to publish Multiverser:  The Game.  I kept the nom de plume M. Joseph Young for that project, and for most of what came from that.

I attempted to launch another band, Cardiac Output, which played a bit locally before the pressures and problems of my family life created by the combination of the debt and the fact that getting a law degree wasn’t solving anything was too much and the band collapsed.

In order to promote the game I started writing web pages, first as my own sites.  I wrote on multiple topics–Bible materials, but also role playing game stuff, time travel pages, some stuff on law and politics.  My own originally several web sites grew (eventually I consolidated them into one huge site, M. J. Young Net) and I was invited to write material for other web sites, most of it role playing game stuff, but some on other subjects.  I was occasionally paid small amounts for these.

The company that published Multiverser got a crazy idea to create a comic book based on the concept, and it fell to me as the company’s chief writer to create the characters and stories.  I had written enough for three issues (six stories, two for each of three characters who would rotate) when the tiny company’s art department said it couldn’t be done without increasing the size of the department sixfold, so the stories got shelved for a few months–and then I suggested that they could be turned into the beginning of a novel.  The company agreed, and eventually published Verse Three, Chapter One.  A lot of what brought that about is discussed elsewhere.

Something had been nagging at me ever since TerraNova had dissolved:  a lot of Christians had come to Christ and were never told what to do next.  I felt that a need existed, and in very short order wrote What Does God Expect?  A Gospel-based Approach to Christian Conduct.  The company that published the novel did not want to get the image of being a “Christian” book publisher, so I talked to a lot of people about it, and wound up self-publishing it.  This was followed by two more short books.

Laced into this, when I was at the radio station I became aware that one of the most Christian games I had ever played was being attacked by Christians, and so I spoke in defense of the game on the air, and put together notes for what might be an article.  A few years later I wrote that article, and tried to find a magazine interested in publishing it, but I’ve never been good at self-promotion so it didn’t go anywhere.  When I started putting things on the web I finished that article as Confessions of a Dungeons & Dragons(tm) Addict, and it caught the attention of Reverend Jim Aubuchon, who was co-founding an online group then called the Christian Role Playing Game Association.  He invited me, I wasn’t interested, again circumstances intervened and I was just about forced to join.  I was then asked to head a committee, and from that told that put me on the board of directors.  The group changed its name to Christian Gamers Guild, and the Vice President and the President both resigned in short order, the Chaplain decided that that made him President, and we needed a Chaplain, so he asked me to fill the slot just until we could finish the group’s constitution and hold elections.  I’d never won an election for anything in my life, and as far as I could see the Chaplain didn’t really do anything, so I figured I could wear the title for a couple months and then someone would replace me.

After those couple months there was an election, and I was nominated and elected to continue in the position.  After wearing the title for a couple years I decided that I ought to do something, so I started writing a monthly column entitled Faith and Gaming.  (I had also simultaneously started writing a weekly column for one of the role playing game web sites, Gaming Outpost, entitled Game Ideas Unlimited.)  I wrote this series for four years, disrupted by a computer crash.  People occasionally asked me if I was going to write more, or if I was going to put the material in a more accessible format, so I self-published Faith and Gaming.  A few years later a publisher in the industry approached me with the suggestion that they could republish an expanded edition with a few other articles I’d written on the subject in other venues, and I agreed.

In the end, I write and I compose because it’s what I do.  Much of what I write and all of what I compose is Christian, but then, that’s because I am Christian, and even when I’m writing about law or politics or role playing games there is a degree to which my Christianity is part of that–C. S. Lewis once commented that the world did not need more Christian books, but more books by Christians.  I’m not persuaded that he was right, as Christians need Christian books, but I think he was onto something with the notion that if the best books on secular subjects are written by Christians, unbelieving readers are going to find traces of the faith reflected in those books, undermining their unbelief.

So Georgia, if you’re asking how I knew God had called me to write, I don’t know that I ever really gave it much thought.  Writing is not one of the ministries; it’s one of the tools of ministry, and if you’re called to ministry and you can write, you’ll probably find yourself using writing as one of the tools of that ministry.  I write because I cannot help writing, and I sing and compose because I cannot help doing so, just as I teach and explain because it is innately part of me to do so.  If you are called to something, you will find yourself doing it, or doing something like it, without thinking about it.

I know this has been long, but I’m going to close with a few links to other articles you might find helpful on the issue:

#278: The 2018 Recap

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #278, on the subject of The 2018 Recap.

A year ago I continued a tradition of recapitulating in the most sketchy of fashions everything I had published over the previous year, in mark Joseph “young” web log post #219:  A 2017 Retrospective.  I am back to continue that tradition, as briefly as reasonable.  Some of that brevity will be achieved by referencing index pages, other collections of links to articles and installments.

For example, on the second of January, the same day I published that retrospective here, I also posted another chapter in the series of Multiverser novels, at which point we were at the twenty-third chapter of the fourth book, Spy Verses (which contains one hundred forty-seven short chapters).  We had just published the first of seven behind-the-writings web log posts looking at the writing process, but all of that is indexed at that link.  Also on that same day the Christian Gamers Guild released the second installment of the new series Faith in Play, but all of those articles along with all the articles in the RPG-ology series are listed, briefly described, and linked (along with other excellent articles from other members of the guild) in the just-published Thirteen Months in Review on their site.  That saves recapping here two dozen more titles in the realms of Bible/theology and gaming, many of them excellent.  It should also be mentioned that six days a week I post to the Chaplain’s Bible study list, finishing Revelation probably early next week, and posting “Musings” on Fridays.

Spy Verses wrapped up in October, and was followed by the release of an expansion of Multiverser Novel Support Pages, updated character sheets through the end of that book, and by the end of that month we had begun publishing, several chapters per week, Garden of Versers, which is still going as I write this.

Now would probably be a good time to mention that all of that writing is free to read, supported by reader contributions–that means you–through Patreon or PayPal Me.  If you’ve been following and enjoying any of those series, your encouragement and support through those means goes a long way to keeping them going, along with much else that has been written–and although that may be the bulk of what was written, there is still much else.

Since on January 10th the first of the year’s web log posts on law and politics appeared, we’ll cover those next.

#220:  The Right to Repair presents the new New Jersey law requiring manufacturers of consumer electronics to provide schematics, parts, and tools to owners at reasonable prices, so that those with some knowledge in the field can troubleshoot and repair their own cell phones and other electronics, and none of us need be at the mercy of price-gouging company stores.

#221:  Silence on the Lesbian Front addressed the ramifications of a Supreme Court decision not to hear a case against a Mississippi law permitting merchants to decline wedding services to homosexual weddings.

#222:  The Range War Explodes:  Interstate Water Rights arose at the Supreme Court level when Florida claimed Georgia was using too much of the water that should flow downstream to it.

#225:  Give Me Your Poor talks about our immigrant history, the illusion that it was entirely altruistic, and the question of what we do going forward.

#229:  A Challenge to Winner-Take-All in the Electoral College looks at a federal lawsuit claiming that the standard electoral college election system violates the one-person-one-vote rule.

#230:  No Womb No Say? challenges the notion that men should not have a say in abortion law.

#231:  Benefits of Free-Range Parenting discusses the recent idea that parents who do not closely monitor their kids are not being negligent.

#241:  Deportation of Dangerous Felons considers the Supreme Court case which decided that the law permitting deportation of immigrants for “aggravated felonies” is too vague.

#247:  The Homosexual Wedding Cake Case examines in some detail the decision that protected a baker from legal action against him for refusing service to a homosexual couple, based primarily on the prejudicial language of the lower court decision.

#251:  Voter Unregistration Law examined a somewhat complicated case upholding a law that permits removal of non-responsive voters from the registration lists.

#253:  Political Messages at Polling Places presented the decision that non-specific political clothing and such cannot be banned from polling places.

#255:  On Sveen:  Divorcees, Check Your Beneficiaries examined a convoluted probate case in which a law passed subsequent to a divorce dictated how life insurance policy assets should be distributed.

#259:  Saying No to Public Employee Union Agency Fees is the case the unions feared, in which they were stripped of their ability to charge non-members fees for representation.

#261:  A Small Victory for Pro-Life Advocates hinged on free speech and a California law compelling crisis pregnancy centers to post notices that the state provides free and low-cost abortions.

#270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot was the first of two parts on the election in our state, #271:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results providing the second part.

#274:  Close Races and Third Parties arose in part from the fact that one of our congressional districts was undecided for several days, and in part from the fact that Maine has enacted a new experimental system which benefits third parties by having voters rank all candidates in order of preference.

One post that not only bridges the space between religion and politics but explains why the two cannot really be separated should be mentioned, #224:  Religious Politics.

My practice of late has been to put my book reviews on Goodreads, and you’ll find quite a few there, but for several reasons I included #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising, by T. M. Becker as a web log post.  I also copied information from a series of Facebook posts about books I recommended into #263:  The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

There were a few entries in time travel, mostly posted to the Temporal Anomalies section of the site, including Temporal Anomalies in Synchronicity, which is pretty good once you understand what it really is; Temporal Anomalies in Paradox, which is a remarkably convoluted action-packed time travel story; Temporal Anomalies in O Homen Do Futuro a.k.a. The Man From the Future, a wonderfully clever Brazilian film in which the time traveler has to fix what he tried to fix, interacting with himself in the past; and Temporal Anomalies in Abby Sen, an Indian film that is ultimately pretty dull but not without some interesting ideas.

In the miscellaneous realm, we had #227:  Toward Better Subtitles suggesting how to improve the closed captioning on television shows; #228:  Applying the Rules of Grammar encourages writers to understand the rules and the reasons for them before breaking them; and #273:  Maintaining Fictional Character Records gives some details of my way of keeping character information consistent from book to book.

This year we also began a subseries on the roots of Christian Contemporary and Rock Music, starting with #232:  Larry Norman, Visitor in March, and continuing with

  1. #234:  Flip Sides of Ralph Carmichael
  2. #236:  Reign of The Imperials
  3. #238:  Love Song by Love Song
  4. #240:  Should Have Been a Friend of Paul Clark
  5. #242:  Disciple Andraé Crouch
  6. #244:  Missed the Archers
  7. #246:  The Secular Radio Hits
  8. #248:  The Hawkins Family
  9. #250:  Original Worship Leader Ted Sandquist
  10. #252:  Petra Means Rock
  11. #254:  Miscellaneous Early Christian Bands
  12. #256:  Harry Thomas’ Creations Come Alive
  13. #258:  British Invaders Malcolm and Alwyn
  14. #260:  Lamb and Jews for Jesus
  15. #262:  First Lady Honeytree of Christian Music
  16. #264:  How About Danny Taylor?
  17. #266:  Minstrel Barry McGuire
  18. #268:  Voice of the Second Chapter of Acts
  19. #272:  To the Bride Live
  20. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.

Looking at our Bible and Theology posts, the first of the year landed in the end of March, as #233:  Does Hell Exist? attempts to explore how the modern conception of hell compares with the Biblical one; #245:  Unspoken Prayer Requests finds theological problems with asking people to pray without telling them what to pray; and #267:  A Mass Revival Meeting explains what is really necessary to bring about a revival.

There were also a couple of entries related to gaming, including the republication of a lost article as #237:  Morality and Consequences:  Overlooked Roleplay Essentials–the first article I ever wrote to be published on someone else’s web site.  There was also a response to some comments made by #239:  A Departing Member of the Christian Gamers Guild, and a sort of review of a convention appearance, #249:  A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

A couple previously published pieces appeared in translation in the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be, which you can find indexed under my name there.

So that is a look at what was published online under my name this past year–a couple hundred articles, when you count all the chapters of the books (and more if you count all the Bible study posts).  In the future, well, I have a lot more to write about Christian music, I’m only getting started with Garden of Versers and have another novel, Versers Versus Versers, set up and ready to run, several Faith in Play and RPG-ology articles are in the queue (one publishes today), and there’s a study of the Gospel According to John ready to post and the Gospel According to Mark being prepared to follow it, plus some preliminary notes on Supreme Court cases, an analysis of a time travel movie that’s taking too long to finish, and more.

Again, your support through Patreon or helps make all of it possible.  Thank you for your support and encouragement.

#277: Versers Resettle

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 13, Brown 162

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

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

This was chapter 10 before James Beam was added.

Chapter 14, Kondor 139

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

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

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

Chapter 15, Beam 4

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

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

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

Chapter 16, Hastings 141

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

This was chapter 12 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 17, Slade 138

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

This was chapter 13 before we added James Beam

Chapter 18, Brown 163

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

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

This was chapter 14 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 19, Beam 5

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

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

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

Chapter 20, Hastings 142

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

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

This was chapter 15 before we added James Beam.

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

Chapter 21, Kondor 140

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

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

This was chapter 16 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 22, Slade 139

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

This was chapter 17 before we added James Beam.

Chapter 23, Beam 6

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

Chapter 24, Hastings 143

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

This was chapter 18 before we added James Beam.

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

#276: Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The series to this point has included:

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

#275: Versers Reorient

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.

Chapter 1, Hastings 137

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.

Chapter 2, Kondor 137

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.

Chapter 3, Beam 1

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.

Chapter 4, Brown 161

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.

Chapter 5, Slade 136

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.

Chapter 6, Hastings 138

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.

Chapter 7, Beam 2

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.

Chapter 8, Kondor 138

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.

Chapter 9, Hastings 139

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.

Chapter 10, Slade 137

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.

Chapter 11, Beam 3

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”.

Chapter 12, Hastings 140

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.

#274: Close Races and Third Parties

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #274, on the subject of Close Races and Third Parties.

The results are in for New Jersey’s third congressional district, and Democrat Andrew Kim (pictured) has ousted Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur in a very tight race.  When the dust settled, Kim had 49.9% of the votes cast, to MacArthur’s 48.8%.  That makes eleven of New Jersey’s twelve congressional seats Democratic.  We reported on the race in web log post #270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot, and on the results otherwise in web log post #271:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results.

Neither candidate had a majority; Kim was elected on what is called a plurality, the largest portion of the vote when no candidate has more than fifty percent.  It happens when there are third party candidates who draw votes away from the major parties.

In this case, it was Constitution Party candidate Lawrence Berlinski, Jr. who took 1.3% of the vote.  Obviously people who vote for the Constitution party are not happy with either of the major parties.  However, the Constitution party is generally conservative, more opposed to the Democrats than to the Republicans, and if everyone who voted for Berelinski had instead voted for Republican MacArthur, MacArthur would have retained his seat–which might have been a preferred outcome for those three thousand eight hundred forty-six voters.  In essence, they voted against the viable candidate they would have preferred, and so gave the election to the candidate they would have opposed.

Interestingly, in Maine a system has been created to prevent this sort of outcome, and it appears to have cost incumbent Republican Congressman Bruce Poliquin his seat to Democrat Jared Golden.  Maine’s experiment was to have voters not vote for one candidate but rank all the candidates from most preferred to least preferred.  Under the old system, the system in place everywhere else in the country, it appears that Poliquin would have won with a plurality of 46.3% of the votes, against Golden with 45.6%.  The remaining roughly 8% of the vote was split between two independent candidates (no party affiliations indicated for either).  However, since no candidate had a clear majority, the new Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) method was activated.  By this method all first-choice votes for the candidate with fewest are reassigned to their second choice, and then if there is still no majority winner the next candidate is so eliminated, until one candidate has the majority (50% plus one)–a perfect tie being statistically improbable.  That was done in this race, and the outcome is that Golden defeated Poliquin by about three thousand votes, giving him 50.5% against 49.5% of the vote.

Prior to the election Poliquin had filed suit claiming the system was unconstitutional.  A federal judge declined to rule on the matter, probably because until the election had been held it could not be known whether the change in system would impact the outcome, so the suit is still pending.

It is a very interesting notion which if adopted broadly would be a shot in the arm for third parties.  As we see with the Kim/MacArthur race, third parties generally are a drain on the candidate who is closest in ideology to the third party, and thus voting for a third party candidate is effectively voting against the major party you would prefer.  Had ranked choice voting been used in the third district, and most of those voting for the Constitution Party had listed MacArthur as their second choice, he would have won.  It would mean that voters could vote for third party candidates as their first choice without effectively voting against the major party candidate they would prefer, and as more people recognized this third parties would get more votes, and it would be easier for the balance to tip to push one of the third parties ahead of one of the current major parties.

I don’t know that the major parties would want that, though, so I don’t expect the Maine experiment to spread too quickly.  Besides, we are still waiting for the courts to rule on the question of whether “one person one vote” means that voters can’t list a second choice.

#273: Maintaining Fictional Character Records

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #273, on the subject of Maintaining Fictional Character Records.

At this point I have written six novels and am watching the fifth go into publication in online serialized form.  As with the work of many other authors, the books themselves form a series, with characters continuing their stories from book to book.  One of the challenges of such a collection is maintaining character consistency, that is, making sure not only that the characters stay “in character”, but that they don’t change in the details, from hair color to high school to siblings to skills and equipment.  It’s easy as an author to forget something you decided three books before about a character, so it’s good to have a method for keeping track of it all.  You don’t want to find yourself saying that a character can’t do something he did before, or that he did something long ago you already said he didn’t do, or that he abruptly has or does not have some possession previously established otherwise.

This is my method.  I’m sure that it has some unique features, and I’m equally sure that other authors have different methods.  However, if you’re contemplating writing something that might have a sequel, you’ll want a method of your own, and mine might be helpful at least to get you on the right track.

I think if I were more organized I would probably keep the character records up to date as I wrote, adding details to the records each time I used them in the story.  I don’t do that, mostly because while I’m writing I’m not thinking in that direction, but in the direction the story is taking me.  This has meant that in the editing process I’ve had to go back and change something that was contradictory because I forgot between chapter one and chapter twenty-one that I had made a particular statement about a character.  That’s alright–that’s really a large part of what story editing is about, catching the inconsistencies and making them consistent.  Thus I don’t start work on the character records until I’ve done at least one read-through edit, and then I try to do them as part of the editing process.  Thus I begin with document one, the near finished draft of the book.

Before I start, I make sure I have another set of documents, one for each character whom I believe is going to reappear in a later book.  I have been wrong more than once–that is, having introduced a support character in one book, I unexpectedly brought him (or her) back in a later one, and had to go back to the previous book to build a starting character sheet.  Because my stories are based on Multiverser, I use one of the formats I have used for character papers in game play, which gives me an organizational structure; and because these are word processing documents, it’s easy to edit them.  The particular format I use begins with the character’s full name followed by nicknames and aliases, then a section of attributes rating how strong, smart, agile, and so forth, the character is, and a physical description.  I then list all the skills the character is known to have.  The game system gives me a solid organizational structure, because I can list technological skills, body skills, and magic and psionic abilities each in its own sector and use the game’s “bias” system to keep them orderly and find what I’m seeking.  Below that is equipment, which is probably my weak point because I list it in the order it is first mentioned in the text, and thus if I’m seeking something I sometimes have trouble finding it particularly if the character has a lot of possessions.  At the end are notes that don’t fit anywhere else, such as details of character history, known character traits and beliefs, and similar items.

Going from the book to the character sheets is a two-step process.

The first step is that I read the book and consciously attempt to notice every mention of any skill, possession, or personal detail for each of the characters I’m following.  This has to include both positive and negative details–that is, negative in the sense of that which is established as not available, such as that Bob Slade more than once noted he was never a Boy Scout and Joe Kondor doesn’t have a watch.  For each such item, I open that character’s record sheet and go to the bottom, typing the chapter number and what the item is.  Since I’m recording the chapter numbers (and my books have a lot of short chapters) it’s easy for me to relocate the reference later if I’m not sure what my note means.  I do all the characters on one pass, and so once I’ve finished the read-through I have multiple character records with a lot of chronologically-organized notes at the bottom.

The second step is to work from those notes, by opening the character reference paper in more than one window, and making entries in the appropriate sections of the upper portion of the sheet; I usually but not always include the chapter references for more information.  The notes can include things like whether a weapon is loaded, if an object broke or was repaired, and sometimes that a particular object was given away.  I don’t delete the note entries, but instead italicize the ones already included; having them makes it easier to track some information using a search function.  I do the characters one at a time, focusing on each until it is completed before moving to the next.

Because Multiverser is a game and the novels are in some sense an extension of it, I have a third step:  I create web page versions of the character sheets to provide to the fans so they can use the characters in games.  I don’t make these as complete as I would were I actually using them in a game, but I update them for each book.  That requires creating a new HTML file for each character for each book, and then matching the information in the new HTML file to that in the word processing document–but since I can save the previous file as a new file and then edit the new one, this is mostly about finding the new details.  I do not include the end notes in the web page versions, but regard the word processing files as the “official” records which I reference at need, the HTML files as the public publications of them.  Also, sometimes in the process of creating the new sheet I find errors in a previous one–most commonly omitted items.  I fix these in the new sheet, but not in the previous one.

Those character papers are available online, which is really so that my readers who want to use the characters in play can see the details about them but in this case gives you the opportunity to look at the format.  The headers including the pictures in the HTML versions are not part of the word processing files, as they are not needed in those.  (The pictures are present primarily because they make sharing on social media more effective.)

#272: To the Bride Live

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #272, on the subject of To the Bride Live.

There aren’t a lot of albums that I’m going to mention in their own articles; this might in fact be the only one.  That’s partly because this is a collaborative effort–our last two spotlighted artists, Barry McGuire and The Second Chapter of Acts, went on tour together with support from a band called A Band Called David (which supported artists on other tours as well).  It is also because this live album easily falls among the best recordings of its decade, with wonderful performances of great songs and an unrivaled concert ambiance.

By Source, Fair use

However, it is difficult to present much of this album, because very little of it can be found online.  One of the two cuts I had linked in the early notes was removed because the account holder had been cited for multiple copyright violations (although I found another copy of it).  None of my searches uncovered any cuts from this album by The Second Chapter of Acts.  However, they did most of their repertoire to that point, and Barry also sang quite a bit as well as talking to the audience.  His chat about Dolphins is available online (or was as of this writing, although I had to find a different link for it).  He also sang the wonderful song I Walked a Mile.

This was apparently the debut tour for Acts, as Barry, the known figure from his secular successes, introduced them as those three skinny people “not to be confused with the microphone stands”, and told the story we’ve already related about hearing them at Buck Herring’s house after dinner one night.  As they begin presenting their part of the concert, it is obvious that they, unlike some of the secular vocal bands of the era, were every bit as good live as in the studio.

The two-disk album is enjoyable and compelling throughout, a performance and concert experience rivaling any.  If I could have only one album from that decade, this would be it.

The Second Chapter of Acts appeared on other live albums with other artists, but although they always delivered unblemished performances, the presence of Barry McGuire here made it a great concert, a cut above anything else I ever heard.

I recently saw that Barry released a new album in October, 2018.  It might be accompanied by a concert tour.  If you have the opportunity to attend one of his concerts, it’s worth it.


The series to this point has included:

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

#271: New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #271, on the subject of New Jersey’s 2018 Election Results.

We’ll keep this short.  More information can be found in the previous post #270:  New Jersey’s 2018 Election Ballot.  At the polling place yesterday I was told informally that voter turnout was well above norms for off-year elections (years in which there is not a Presidential race at stake).  The traditional political wisdom is that high voter turnout favors Democrats, and that appears to be the case this year, as the Democratic party has virtually taken over New Jersey on the Federal level.

Democratic Senator Bob Menendez

Public Question #1, School Projects Bond (2018) passed marginally, allowing the state to borrow another half (B)billion dollars for schools as career and technical grants and school security projects, college career and technical education grants, and something labeled “school water infrastructure grants”.  The vote was fairly close, with about 52% of votes supporting it.

Our Democratic senior Senator Bob Menendez held his seat, with a fraction over 50% of the vote.  The Republican Bob Hugin trailed at about 46%, the rest of the vote split between four other candidates, the Libertarian and the Green getting about seven tenths of one percent of the vote each, the two independents getting half a percent each.

Looking at the House of Representatives, district by district:

  1. Democrat Donald Norcross easily kept his seat with about 60% of the vote.
  2. Democrat Jeff Van Drew took the seat vacated by retiring Republican Frank Lobiondo, with about 52% of the vote.
  3. The Third Congressional District was still undecided as of this writing, Republican incumbent Tom MacArthur holding 49.8% of the votes counted against Democrat Andrew Kim, with 48.9%, and 1.1% of precincts not yet reported.
  4. Long-time Republican Representative Chris Smith easily retained his seat with nearly 64% of the vote.
  5. Democrat Josh Gottheimer retained his seat with a close 51%.
  6. Democrat Frank Pallone easily held his seat with about 63% of the vote.
  7. With barely over 50% of the vote Democrat Tom Malinowski took the seat from incumbent Republican Leonard Lance, with about 48%.
  8. Democratic incumbent Albio Sires kept his seat easily with about 78% of the vote.
  9. Democrat Bill Pascrell also easily retained his seat with 70% of the vote.
  10. Democratic incumbent Donald Payne, Jr. also kept his seat with a very strong 87%.
  11. The seat vacated by Republican Rodney Frelinghuysen went to Democrat Mikie Sherrill, with about 57% of the vote.
  12. Democrat Bonnie Watson Coleman took 66% of the vote to retain her seat.

It appears that New Jersey has moved from being about as neutral a state as you can have to being solidly Democratic–our governor is a Democrat and both of our state legislative houses are controlled by Democrats, both of our Senators are Democrats, and as it stands at this moment ten out of our twelve seats in the House of Representatives are held by Democrats.  Republican Representative Chris Smith continues as the longest-seated of our officials, adding two more years to his thirty-eight year streak in the fourth district, and although officially it has not been settled Republican Tom MacArthur has a slim lead to retain his seat in the third district with one percent of the precincts still unreported.

I’ll try to add a comment here when that race is settled.

Nationally, as you probably know, the Republicans gained a few seats in the Senate, but the Democrats took the House.  This is probably a good outcome, generally, for the nation.  The Senate has advice and consent for all Presidential appointments, including judicial appointments, and Republican control there means that more conservative judges will be approved to balance the spate of liberal judges appointed during the Obama years, improving the balance in the judiciary.  Meanwhile, since all spending bills must originate in the House, Republican policy can’t run wild, as compromise will be necessary for the government to continue functioning in the future.

So no one got everything he wanted this year, but no one should.