All posts by M.J.

#347: Versers Scrambled

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #347, on the subject of Versers Scrambled.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first five novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, Spy Verses, and Garden of Versers, 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 sixth, Versers Versus 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 eighth and last mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 78 through 86.  Previous entries in this series include:

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

Chapter 78, Kondor 168

At this point I had two problems.  One was pacing; the other was bringing each of my characters to a satisfactory end for the book.  I still did not have worlds chosen for Slade or Beam, and was going to have to do one of them next, but I had at least two more Kondor chapters to bring him to the finish point, one more Hastings chapter, and probably one more Brown chapter.  I also had to decide who would be last.

This had been chapter 67 before the addition of the Takano chapters.


Chapter 79, Slade 167

Sometimes in play one gets an idea for a world, and sends a player character there to see what might happen.  This was like that, only less so initially–I had the notion that Slade would return to a future version of the parakeet valley world, but I was not at all certain how far future.  My three notions were medieval, modern, and science fiction, but I was not seeing much of a story for any of these.  I put it to Kyler, and he said definitely modern, but perhaps not quite modern–mid twentieth century or even late nineteenth century.  The notion of our auto mechanic appearing in the age of steam appealed to me, so that’s where we went.

I had already decided that the version of the language he spoke would have become something known only to scholars, but would still be recognized as language.

This was chapter 68 until the Takano chapters shifted it.


Chapter 80, Kondor 169

I had originally thought to do most of this in retrospect, but remembered an editor friend suggesting that action was better, so I tackled trying to tell more of it as it happened.

Before the addition of the Takano chapters this was chapter 69.

I once saw a Doctor Who special in which one of the companions commented that her job was to say “What is it, Doctor?” so the Doctor could explain, and that there were only so many ways to say that.  I think of that as the Amir asks Kondor that question.


Chapter 81, Beam 55

I pondered where to send Beam, and the best thing I could think of was a published world called The Industrial Complex.  The player on whom he is based was there when I was running him, and did some surprising things, so it might be a good direction for me.

Prior to including the Takano chapters this was chapter 70.

On the last edit I discovered that this was double-numbered Beam 54; there were no further Beam chapters in the book, so it just involved fixing this one.


Chapter 82, Hastings 185

At this point I decided I had to add the other character, so I began writing the Tomiko Takano stories.

I had originally written that Lauren did not sense any other versers, but was changing events such that Tomiko would be the girl on the curb, and that meant Lauren would detect someone but would not have time to learn more.

This was chapter 71 before the Takano chapters were added.


Chapter 83, Kondor 170

I had thought that I would be going directly from the report to the Amir to the defense of the shoreline, but then I recognized that there had to be some discussion about where the attack would come.

This had been chapter 72 until the Takano chapters were added.


Chapter 84, Takano 12

I knew this would be the end of the book for Tomiko; I still had to write the last chapter for Kondor.  I had to integrate what Tomiko saw with what I had already written for Lauren, as the stories were now overlapping.  The other problem was exactly how much of this new world I should write, knowing that I was going to have to pick it up in another book.

Then, of course, I was going to have to interweave the dozen Takano chapters into the six dozen chapters of the main story.

The decision to place it here between two Kondor chapters was connected to the decision to switch the order of the final two chapters of the book, discussed in connection with them.


Chapter 85, Kondor 171

Even though I had only written four chapters of the Tomiko story, I expected this would be the last chapter of the book, as all the characters came to cliffhanger endings.

This was originally chapter 74, and the final chapter of the book.  The reasons for changing that are discussed in connection with the final chapter; moving it also meant placing the last Takano chapter before it, so I wouldn’t have two Kondor chapters in a row.


Chapter 86, Brown 195

There was a question about whether when Derek got to the bridge a voice would say “Captain on the bridge” and some mechanical crewmen would snap to attention, or whether it would go as it did, with an artificially intelligent humanoid holding the position of captain.  When I got here, I decided that making Derek First Officer had a lot more potential for interesting story, including addressing why the captain has not maintained the education of the humanoid indigs aboard.

I swithered about whether this would be the last chapter, or whether Kondor would end the book.  I had considered Lauren as well, but decided against her at some point.

Originally I ended the book with Kondor 171, with this as the penultimate chapter.  However, when Kyler was reading the chapters he said that the Brown chapter was the best ending for the book, the best cliffhanger.  However, if I moved it that would give me two Kondor chapters in a row–which was remedied by putting the last Takano chapter between them, also having the benefit that it prevented me from going directly from Lauren throwing the child to Tomiko catching her.


This has been the eighth and last behind the writings look at Versers Versus Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with another novel and more behind the writings posts for it.

#346: The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #346, on the subject of The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them”.

Reaching song number fourteen in our publication efforts, I should mention that this was actually tied for thirteenth, but I had to choose.  Last month’s Joined Together had been number 17 for the song itself and number 9 for the quality of the recording, and this one was number 8 on quality of recording but 18 on the ranking of the song, so I went with the ranking of the song.  Tristan did not list either song on his choices.  (The ranking system is explained in connection with the first song, linked below.)

I don’t recall when I wrote this, but I know it was early.  The five vocals on the recording were the parts as sung by The Last Psalm with Peggy Lisbona on the melody, backgrounds (SATB) by Ruth Mekita, Ann Hughes, yours truly, and Jeff Zurheide; we lost Ruth, Ann, and Jeff in June of 1974 and never had five vocals again, so the song dropped from the repertoire.  (It would be remiss of me if having named all those people I did not mention that we had John Mastick on drums and Andy Nilssen on bass, with Dave Oldham and Ralph Bruno doing sound and lighting.  Jeff and I played guitars; Peggy and I covered piano, but not on this song.)

Astute Bible students will recognize that the lyrics closely (but not exactly) follow Romans 10, where Paul is saying that the church needs to send people to preach the gospel so that the world can hear it and turn to Christ.  The first two verses echo the importance of delivering the message, while the bridge and final verse actually do so.  Remember, The Last Psalm ministered during that time when every Christian musician was expected to do evangelism, and so the song is evangelistic in part, although it is primarily an exhortation to evangelize.

I have one minor memory about this song.  When I was teaching it, Peggy said she could not possibly leap up to sing “tell me” in the middle of the chorus (it’s a jump from a low G to an octave higher), so I sang those two words, while she sang the rest of the melody.  I thought it silly at the time–she sang the higher G twice on the bridge–but my singers were volunteers and I wasn’t going to push them to do what they didn’t think they could do.

The song is here.

If We Don’t Tell Them.

So here are the words:

Oh but how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?
Tell me how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?

There are many many people, they’re in every place and time,
People of all continents and people of all kinds,
People of all races looking for some peace of mind.
Just call on the Lord and be saved.

Oh but how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?
Tell me how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?

Many people ev’rywhere are dying to be free.
Many people say that that’s the way they’re meant to be.
Many people look, but not so many seem to see:
Just call on the Lord and be saved.

Oh but how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?
Tell me how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?

Jesus came and gave His life,
He died for you and me.
He said that if He set you free,
Indeed you would be free!

Someday you will recognize He came and died for you.
Someday you may realize the things He said were true.
Then I hope that you will know exactly what to do:
Just call on the Lord and be saved.

Oh but how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?
Tell me how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?
Oh but how can they call on what they don’t believe,
And how can they believe in what they do not know,
And how can they know of what they have not heard,
And how can they hear if we don’t tell them?

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul” | #341:  The Song “Joined Together”

#345: Be Ye Glad

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #345, on the subject of Be Ye Glad.

I want to put this band down as one of the great ensembles of the eighties, despite the fact that they kept morphing into something else.

Their self-titled debut album in 1978 was promising.  Ed Nalle was the original lead vocalist and as far as I know remained so giving his characteristic vocal quality to the band.  They picked up lead guitarist Wayne Farley from Found Free, and give that band credit for helping them launch.  I don’t have specific memories of that disc, but that I expected to see more from them–and I did.

When Beyond a Star came out in 1980, it was obvious that these were musicians of the highest caliber.  I remember in an interview they told me that the opening a capella cut The Reason had forty-some vocal tracks; this portended much about their future, as it displayed their brilliant vocal arranging.  But from there it moved into Take a Stand, and the fact that the entire band was music college graduates came through as they gave us a sound very like the band Chicago Transit Authority, a sound which continued through the album as it moved to the title song Beyond a Star.

The album was solidly aimed at the exhortation of Christians, a defining quality of much of the music of the decade.  The title song, for example, is a call to stop looking at celebrity Christians and look to Jesus.  This is followed by the mellower and perhaps slightly eerie Away, and the A-side closes with a frenetic Wayne Farley composition, Sing a New Song, not found in its original form on the web.

The B-side opens with what is probably the rockiest song on the disk, again strongly reminiscent of Chicago, Iron Sharpens Iron.  It then mellows to the introspective Lying, and picks up a bit into the moderate but again rocky Lonely Love.  In that interview, Ed told me that the people in this song were people they knew, one of them the mother of a member in the band, with events and situations that really happened.  There is then another frenetic Wayne Farley composition, It Is Good.  (Wayne left the band following this album, and was not at the interview.)  The disk wraps with a wonderful quiet vocal-driven Pierce My Ear the original version of which does not appear to be on the web, although this later a capella version does.

The next album, Captured In Time, shifted to a more commercial sound, that is, sounding more like all the other contemporary Christian bands of the time.  It is difficult to fault them for it; a lot of bands did this, because it sold records.  Unfortunately as a result the only song I remember from it (which was not the song their distributors the Benson group was pushing) is the wonderful quiet closer Be Ye Glad (there is also a later a capella version of this).

Perhaps annoyingly, shortly after this album reached us we also received, from the same distributors, Noel Paul Stookey’s Band and Bodyworks, which also had a recording of this on it.  He’s further down the list, though, so we’ll hold off on those comments.

Eventually Glad released an entirely a capella album, and it went gold.  More than half their work thereafter was a capella, and quite good, as this version of The Second Chapter of Acts classic Easter Song demonstrates.  They were also famous for something originally released to radio stations and appearing in several different versions over time, but the version I knew included on their fourth release, No Less Than All, under the title That Hymn Thing or Variations on a Hymn.  It presents something of a music history by taking an old hymn melody with its original secular words, singing the early Christian version, and then rewriting it in several styles running through time up to how they would do the song in their own 1980s rock style.  Musically it’s a lot of fun.

According to their discography they continued releasing albums up through the year 2000, but became known for their a capella recordings rather than their contemporary/rock sound.

*****

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.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.
  25. #288:  Prophets Daniel Amos.
  26. #290:  James the Other Ward.
  27. #292:  Rising Resurrection Band.
  28. #294:  Servant’s Waters.
  29. #296:  Found Free Lost.
  30. #299:  Praise for Dallas Holm.
  31. #302:  Might Be Truth and the Cleverly-named Re’Generation.
  32. #304:  Accidental Amy Grant.
  33. #312:  Produced by Christian and Bannister.
  34. #315:  Don Francisco Alive.
  35. #324:  CCM Ladies of the Eighties.
  36. #329:  CCM Guys at the Beginning.
  37. #332:  The Wish of Scott Wesley Brown.
  38. #335:  Bob Bennett’s First Matters.
  39. #342:  Fireworks Times Five.

#344: Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement?

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #344, on the subject of Is It O.K. Not to Make a Statement?.

Recent events have raised this question in my mind.

I don’t want to discuss the political issue; I want to discuss the discussion.  There are many people on one side and very few on the other, and the people in the majority–or at least the loudest group–appears to be of the opinion that no one is permitted to be quiet.  Everyone is required to agree with them or face consequences.

That’s how we get polarization, and the major issue with polarization is that everyone stops listening to the other side and compromise and progress become impossible.

And there are innocent victims along the way.

The Origins Game Fair, one of the longest-running major game conventions in the United States (old enough that the original Dungeons & Dragons game was debuted at it, and that was a minor incident in its ongoing history), faced with the problems of the COVID-19 virus, cancelled its event, the annual June game convention in Columbus, Ohio.  Efforts were progressing toward holding a massive online convention.

That has now been cancelled due to the Black Lives Matter protests.

The official reason seems to be something like (and I’m paraphrasing hearsay) it would be inappropriate to do something as frivolous as celebrate games during this time in which people are being horribly oppressed based on race.

The unofficial reason seems to be something like (and now I’m paraphrasing gossip) that people supporting the Black Lives Matter movement were pressuring this non-political corporation to make a statement in support of the movement, and when the non-political company chose to remain non-political the supporters of the movement began a boycott.

Well, the official reason is, if that’s actually it and you’ll forgive the expression, bull droppings.  Following its logic, and recognizing that someone-or-other has been oppressed for centuries, it would never be appropriate to celebrate anything good.  Cancel Thanksgiving; it is inappropriate to celebrate the abundance of the harvest as long as there is still oppression in the world.  But oppression of blacks and black poverty is much improved since half a century ago–and yes, I was there.

Besides, it has long bothered me that black poverty is made such an issue when there are so many impoverished whites living alongside them.  I looked up some statistics online (got 2018 numbers), and there are one and three fourths white people below the poverty line for every black–15.7 million whites, 8.9 million blacks.  That turns out to be a larger percentage of the black population, and you will get that statistic thrown at you quite a bit, because as Mark Twain once said, “There are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damn lies, and Statistics.”  Yes we need to do more to help impoverished blacks; fundamentally, though, we need to do more to help impoverished people.  We need to understand that lives matter, and color doesn’t.

But in my mind the issue is not the issue.  Sure, I support protesters speaking out for better treatment for blacks.  I further think that those who for some reason want to protest against this (I can’t think of one right now) should organize intelligent counter-protests and not, as is allegedly happening, attempt to sabotage the peaceful protests of their opposition.  What I find objectionable is this outside-the-protest pressure on people who would prefer to remain neutral, insisting that they take sides in the debate and declare themselves, and so offend one side or the other, or be deemed an enemy of the movement and a target for reprisal.

This, though, seems to be the new strategy of public debate.  Not so long ago when it was still possible to question global warming there were honest scientists threatened with losing funding and positions if they didn’t toe the line and join the global warming brigade.  That was not the only time it has been done.  To recall the words of Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes:

Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition….[but] the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas–that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out.

So hold your opinion.  Hold it strongly and express it loudly and clearly.

But accept that there are people who don’t hold your opinion, or don’t hold it as strongly, or don’t wish to be identified with one side of an issue, and have some human decency and respect and let them hold their opinion or keep it to themselves, as they prefer.  Demanding that they take sides publicly on a publicly controversial issue is more than just rude, it’s a violation of our Constitutionally protected rights.

#343: Worlds Explode

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #343, on the subject of Worlds Explode.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first five novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, Spy Verses, and Garden of Versers, 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 sixth, Versers Versus 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 seventh mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 67 through 77.  Previous entries in this series include:

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

Chapter 67, Kondor 165

The ghillie suit idea seemed important to the flavor of the upcoming confrontation, and it at least had to be floated.  I also figured I could put some of their plans on the table before the event so that I didn’t have to say, oh, yes, Lauren had advised them to do this, or they had agreed to do that.

This had been chapter 57 prior to the expansion with the Takano chapters.


Chapter 68, Slade 165

I reached what was supposed to be the climax of this book much too soon, despite having dragged my feet quite a bit getting here.  Still, I was here, and I was going to have to figure out what to do from here.

This had been chapter 58 until the Takano chapters shifted it.


Chapter 69, Beam 54

I had suddenly had the notion that it might be possible for one of the versers to recognize Beam from earth.  I discussed it with Kyler, and he said it should be Slade, and I agreed.  I also decided on the lines Beam delivers about not being friends and sticking to his plan.

This was chapter 59 before the Takano expansion.


Chapter 70, Hastings 183

I kept trying to figure out the best perspectives for this battle, particularly as I wanted to give the impression everyone was involved but I didn’t really have enough for everyone to do.  I decided to go with Lauren, and focus on her two-front battle, fighting both the alien and the elemental, while giving fragments of the rest of the story through her eyes.

This had been chapter 60, moved by the inclusion of the Takano chapters.


Chapter 71, Brown 193

I was trying to decide to whose battle view should I move, and as I looked at the outline I realized that it was an ideal time for Derek to take over the story for a bit.

I also had some ideas about what Derek should do here.  Unfortunately, they’re slow, dull, long-scale preparation ideas that should lead into the beginning of the next book, but hopefully I can make them interesting.

This had been chapter 61 originally, shifted when the Takano chapters were added.


Chapter 72, Slade 166

I had left the battle in the middle, and was returning to it, trying to cover Slade’s fight with Dawn.  Everything was going to end very quickly here, and I was going to be faced with finding new worlds for several characters, but for the moment I just needed to get through this.

The inclusion of the Takano chapters shifted this from its original number of 62.


Chapter 73, Takano 11

The notion of lucid dreaming struck me while I was musing about how to make this transitional chapter work, so I began with that in view.  I knew by this point that Tomiko was going to land in the same world as Lauren, and be there first.

The person who used to fly when he realized he was dreaming was me.  I haven’t done it in years, but there was a time when I did it fairly regularly, recognizing that I was dreaming and derailing the dream so I could lift myself into the air and fly over the countryside looking at the landscape below.

I was starting to worry about where to put this chapter, because I didn’t want it too far from the next one but I needed to get Tomiko into her next world before Lauren arrived, and Lauren was coming.  I decided once more to chop the main battle with a diversion, at a moment when both Lauren and Bob were caught in the act of dying.


Chapter 74, Kondor 166

I had worked out the ending of the battle already.  The problem was the timing.  I needed Lauren and Slade to die at exactly the right moment so that Dawn would not be able to prevent Zeke from getting a clean shot, but they would be off the battlefield.

This had originally been chapter 63, shifted by the addition of the Takano chapters.


Chapter 75, Brown 194

It actually took several days to write this short chapter–not that I had started writing it, but that I couldn’t figure out what perspective to take, how to tell the story here.  I also was delayed by a day when I was under the weather, and a day when there was too much on my plate, but eventually I managed it.

Before the inclusion of the Takano chapters this was chapter 64.


Chapter 76, Kondor 167

At this point I knew how the book ended for Kondor, but that there would be at least a few chapters to get there.  I also knew what was happening with Derek, but had a question about the end.  I had not yet decided on worlds for Beam or Slade.  For the moment, I had to move Kondor gradually to his endpoint.

This was chapter 65 prior to the inclusion of the Takano chapters.


Chapter 77, Hastings 184

I was writing this chapter because I knew what would happen in this world, and it was going to be short.  I had even tentatively decided that she would be out of this world before the end of the book, despite the fact that there were a very few chapters remaining for everyone else.

Before the Takano chapters were incorporated this was chapter 66.


This has been the seventh behind the writings look at Versers Versus Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind the writings posts for it.

#342: Fireworks Times Five

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #342, on the subject of Fireworks Times Five.

When I first heard Fireworks first album, I was very disappointed.

That, though, was very unfair.  I had already heard their second and third albums, two of the best Christian rock albums of the era, and that the lighter more pop sound of their earlier work was a disappointment is hardly a criticism of it.  It really was a good album.

The only name I ever knew was Marty McCall, who was lead vocalist and keys through most of the band’s career as many others changed around him (although he once mentioned someone named, I think, “Gwen”, as having sung on the live album).  He also released a solo album in the middle of the run of Fireworks albums, which tended to confuse people because the band was so much him but the solo album was a much lighter sound.  I spoke with Marty more than once, so I have a number of anecdotes; I also have a huge number of favorite songs.  Marty had a powerful Irish tenor voice that dominated the music and made the rock sound work.  He told me that before they were a band they were studio musicians providing support for other artists, and then they realized they could do this themselves, wrote some songs, and went forward.

The back cover of that first self-titled album explained that the name Fireworks was talking about the works that pass through the fire.  I don’t remember any titles, but it opens with upbeat New Day, followed the memorable slower Don’t Look Back (this video has a full minute of dead air at the end), the funkier Carrying On (also with dead air at the end), the upbeat rockier Presence of the Lord (and again), the gentler rock ballad Forever With You (seems to be a thing), the bouncy Maybe It’s Love and offbeat Family, the racing Open Your Eyes, the calmer Talks With My Father, another bouncy Takin’ A Rest, and finally New Man (another long space at the end).  Overall it was very good stuff for 1977, and very promising.

Yet I don’t think it prefigured the next release, listed by Christian Contemporary Music Magazine as one of the best of 1979, Shatter the Darkness.  From the powerful opening chords of Change My Heart it was evident that this was now a rock band.  The gentle opening of Beautiful Woman still moved into a rock sound.  After the Rain had the familiar bouncy racing sound of some of the first album’s songs, followed by the quieter rock ballad Calling My Name.  The A side ended with the rocking Rock Band, a musical defense of Christian rock music.

Flipping the album over (yeah, we did that with vinyl), it opened with the quietly pleading Like Children, followed by I Know Power, an upbeat friendly piece.  The dramatic Love You Tonight leads into the rocking title song Shatter the Darkness, and then the album closes with the eerie The World.

It was an incredibly good album that still stands up today; yet the band then topped it the next year with Live Fireworks.  Opening with the driving fast-paced Rescued (“You might as well have been pushed off Niagra Falls in a paper sack”), it kept the tempo as it ran right into Listen and then the playful Target Practice (“taking up the bow and arrow, aiming for the straight and narrow”) before slowing a bit for Someone’s Got a Hold on Me.

The B side opens with another playful one, humorous lyrics that make a point in Toll Free (“He won’t forget your number, and He’s there all the time, You can go to the Lord when you ain’t got a dime.”), followed by the slower but powerful Good Thing, and the moderate and again playful Rusty Burdens.  It slows down again to a gentle call in It All Comes Down to You, and then goes out strong with Ready for the Rest of You.

As good as that live album is, Marty says it embarrasses him.  He couldn’t hear himself in the monitor, and instead of making a fuss to get someone to turn up the monitor he forced his voice, and when he listens he hears the forced sound.  I don’t; I think he’s in great voice on the record.  But I understand how he feels–there are a lot of recordings I’ve made over the decades that embarrass me for reasons that listeners who aren’t me can’t hear.

The following year Marty released a solo album entitled Up, but MCA/Songbird marketed it as by Marty McCall & Fireworks, presumably because members of the band were his studio musicians for it.  One song on it got heavily requested, entitled Adam, so when I had the chance to interview him I asked about it, and he said he did not like the song, but for reasons that really had nothing to do with the song.  He had set aside a week and rented a space for the specific purpose of writing songs, and in the week this was the only song he wrote.  So as good as the song is, it always reminds him of that failed week.

There was one more album from the band, Sightseeing At Night, pushing the envelope a bit further.  I am less familiar with that one, but I remember No Strings and Incognito.

It was a couple years later that I heard the band had dissolved, but I caught up with Marty at a solo concert in our area and chatted with him informally.  He said that he planned to stay home and write music for other people to sing.  Thus I was surprised a decade later to see his face on the album cover of Undivided by First Call.  It was good work, but heavily jazz influenced with an Andrews-Sisters vocal style.  Then another decade passed and he put his degree in medieval and renaissance music to good use by creating the album Images of Faith, using period instruments to create songs with an ancient flavor with modern and contemporary touches–we have gone through several copies of it by now.  But that’s long after the early days, and we could argue about whether it’s actually contemporary.

*****

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.
  21. #276:  Best Guitarist Phil Keaggy.
  22. #281:  Keith Green Launching.
  23. #283:  Keith Green Crashing.
  24. #286:  Blind Seer Ken Medema.
  25. #288:  Prophets Daniel Amos.
  26. #290:  James the Other Ward.
  27. #292:  Rising Resurrection Band.
  28. #294:  Servant’s Waters.
  29. #296:  Found Free Lost.
  30. #299:  Praise for Dallas Holm.
  31. #302:  Might Be Truth and the Cleverly-named Re’Generation.
  32. #304:  Accidental Amy Grant.
  33. #312:  Produced by Christian and Bannister.
  34. #315:  Don Francisco Alive.
  35. #324:  CCM Ladies of the Eighties.
  36. #329:  CCM Guys at the Beginning.
  37. #332:  The Wish of Scott Wesley Brown.
  38. #335:  Bob Bennett’s First Matters.

#341: The Song “Joined Together”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #341, on the subject of The Song “Joined Together”.

This is the thirteenth song in our publication efforts, and you might think that given our methodology (explained in the first song post, linked below) all the best ones are gone.  Indeed, I ranked this song number 17 for the quality of the song, and Tristan did not include it on his list at all; it was helped by the fact that as midi-instrument recordings go it was pretty good, coming in number 9 for performance and recording quality.  So maybe the really good ones are done.

On the other hand, I have a set of CDs in the car which have all these songs in this order, and when my wife is driving she will insert this CD and advance it to start with this song.  There are others she likes better, and she doesn’t dislike any of the first twelve, but she finds the string of songs starting with this one to be particularly good.  (I invited her to contribute to the selection process, but she never did until after it was completed.)  Maybe it’s because I had a couple friends perform this at our wedding; maybe it’s because it’s the first Christian marriage song I wrote–but she often complains that I didn’t write it for her (we were engaged at the time) but for our good friends David and Jess Oldham (nee Sue Parliman), who were getting married before we were.  They did not ask me to sing it at their wedding.  I offered to sing it at my sister’s wedding, who wanted me to sing something, but there was a line in it she didn’t like, insisting that death parts us.  I don’t know that we know that, exactly, but she makes a point.

I wrote it at Gordon College, between the fall of 1975 (or possibly late that summer before I left for school) and that Christmas; Dave and Jess got married right around Christmas, and I had a recording ready for them to hear before that.  It was written on the piano, the piano part probably the most complicated I had written to that point (mostly for the use of the left hand).  I later figured out how to play the same chords in similar positions on the guitar, and made a recording of it to play for Dave and Jess prior to their wedding.  I had recently installed a third pickup on my Harmony Rocket guitar so that I could reach the volume control and do cry effects (I had first heard and seen this done by the lead guitarist in Rock Garden (I think his name was Eddie Newkirk, but I never knew him) using a pedal, and later seen Phil Keaggy do it with the volume control on the guitar), and so I improvised the lead guitar part on a one-shot through recording.  (I was using two stereo reel-to-reel decks at the time.)  Decades later when I was doing the midi instruments I realized that I didn’t have a cry guitar, but that the effect approached the sound of a violin, so I used a midi violin instead.

The song is here.

Joined Together.

So here are the words:

Nothing else in Father’s plan
So affects your life:
Will you take him for your man?
Will she be your wife?
There is now a covenant
As love makes one of two.
Love will teach you what you meant
When you said, “I do.”

Love is patient, love is kind.
Never leave your love behind.
Love each other more each day
‘Til you’re old and grey.

Who knows what is yet to be?
We may spend eternity
Joined together, you and I,
Still as one when we die.

Bridegroom, stand beside your bride;
Keep her always by your side.
She has been God’s gift to you;
You are her gift, too.

Submissive to each other,
And bound with cords of love.
We know our loving Father
Ordained this up above.
Let no one ever separate
What God has joined as one,
But work out day by day this great
Thing God’s already done.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #337:  The Song “Selfish Love” | #340:  The Song “A Man Like Paul”

#340: The Song “A Man Like Paul”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #340, on the subject of The Song “A Man Like Paul”.

I can pinpoint fairly precisely when this song was written.  I was at Gordon College, and Pope Paul VI had just died.  The process of electing a new Pope had begun; it would result in the appointment of Pope John Paul (who died a month later, the process repeating with the appointment of Pope John Paul II).  Recognizing the significance of the appointment of so public a leader in Christendom, I was contemplating that, and my mind made some connections.

The Apostle Paul by Abraham Bloemaert

Peter, of course, is said to have been the first Bishop of Rome, and so the first Pope.  (That’s contested–James appears to have been head of the church when it was led from Jerusalem, and the Eastern Church has never accepted that any individual was the head of the church, holding to a first-among-equals view.)  I began my song with a verse about that first Pope, thinking that the church needed someone like him in particular ways, willing to stand for the message.

I also remembered that the Pope prior to Paul VI was John XXIII, known for his efforts to extend an olive branch to Christians outside the Roman Catholic Church, and I connected that to the writings of John the Apostle, who wrote so much about love in his short epistles.  My second verse unfolded carefully in a way that could be identified with either of these Johns.  So, too, my third verse, as radio news commented that Paul VI had focused on spreading the message and expanding the church, and the connection to the missionary work of Paul the Apostle was at that point obvious.  I thus pieced together a song about five men, under three names.

That the song was about selecting a Pope was never obvious on its face, but the first person for whom I played it, one of my fellow students, knew that was what I had in mind.  His response was that we had to find a way to deliver a copy of the song to the Vatican.  I could not imagine any way to do that, and did not expect that the Vatican would pay any attention to anything I sent.  A month later when the selection of John Paul was announced he came to me and said it appeared that the church got the message, but of course it had nothing to do with me.

Without the backstory, the song is a challenge to all of us to be imitators of the great men of the faith.

Written on the piano, it was probably the most complex chord progression I had created to that point, each verse beginning with the same half line and then diverging into its own unique music, diminished chords coming into the third verse, and the opening line becoming the closer.  Playing it on the guitar was a challenge.  I think I surprised myself when I was able to bring the third verse back to the opening chords for the last couplet.

This is another recording done in an office with midi files for instruments, and it is a .wav file so it is rather large.  It was number ten on my list for the quality of the song itself, number nineteen for the quality of the recording and performance due in significant part to the fact that it uses the midis and lacks the flavor of a live piano.  It made Tristan’s list, tied for fifteenth, and so falls twelfth here.  The recording can be found here.

A Man Like Paul.

So here are the words:

A man like Peter, a man like John, a man like Paul.

A great confession gave this man the keys,
The man who opened up the door.
The Jews and gentiles both came to believe–
I ask, could God have used him more?
And when it counted, he took up his cross,
And like his Lord before him, there he died.
We need more men like that, who count this world as loss,
And take the pain God calls them to with pride.

A man like Peter–such a man was John,
A man who gave himself completely to the King.
A church divided, and soon it would be gone.
Love for each other was the most important thing.
A man of faith, a man of prayer,
Waiting just to hear what God would ask.
We need more men like that, for only those who dare
To live for God are equal to the task.

A man like Peter, a man like John,
Someone must be found to spread the word,
In all the land, to every man,
Making sure that ev’ryone has heard.
God needs a man of faith and prayer,
Someone who will answer to His call
And for his Master would go anywhere–
Only such a man could reach them all.
Such a man was Paul.

A man like Peter, a man like John, a man like Paul–
Only such a man could reach them all.
A man like Peter, a man like John, a man like Paul.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced” | #340:  The Song “Selfish Love”

#338: Verser Missteps

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #338, on the subject of Verser Missteps.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first five novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, For Better or Verse, Spy Verses, and Garden of Versers, 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 sixth, Versers Versus 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 fifth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 45 through 55.  Previous entries in this series include:

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

Chapter 45, Slade 161

Once again I wasn’t sure what was going to happen here–I had even thought it should be a Hastings chapter–but as I thought about it, I decided it might be fun to suggest that Slade was worried about worrying, and I went with it.

Of course, we had already decided that Sch’hery wasn’t interested in an alliance against the Caliph, and the reader had undoubtedly understood that as well, but Slade can’t know that, so it’s a real possibility in his mind.

Prior to the incorporation of the Takano chapters this was chapter 38.


Chapter 46, Brown 187

I walked away from the previous chapter and somehow was locked into the idea of Shella contacting Lauren, and so when I came back I was all ready to start a Hastings chapter–only to realize that I had marked this as for Derek, and that I needed to keep Derek’s story moving if it was to get anywhere.  I had the additional long-term problem that Derek had been in every book since I launched him in the second so he would be top of the list to drop for the next book–but he was also the only character for whom I could clearly see a viable story coming out of this one.  I was more struggling with the short term.

This was chapter 39 before the Takano chapters were added.


Chapter 47, Hastings 177

I had previously thought through the opening of this chapter a couple times, because I had forgotten I would be writing a Derek chapter first, but it still took some thought to get through the whole thing.  I’ve also set up a problem for Joe, which I figured I would tackle in the next chapter.

This had been chapter 40 before the Takano chapters were inserted.


Chapter 48, Kondor 162

I had set up Joe for the language barrier problem, but had not decided how to resolve it until I had him discuss it with Lauren.

I’m delaying the Beam story because I want the emissary to return to him before he makes the next move.  It’s also giving me the opportunity to move the Brown story forward, and I keep thinking of complications for that.

This was chapter 41 before the Takano chapters were inserted.


Chapter 49, Takano 8

When I finished Takano chapter 7, I had vague notions of dropping Tomiko in modern Tokyo.  The notions, though, were too vague–I knew too little about modern Tokyo, and had no notion of the resources or the dangers.  I changed it to pre-bombing Nagasaki, mostly for character reasons.

There was a clear challenge here, because the reader, having followed the other characters, knows exactly what is happening to Tomiko, but she herself does not, and I needed to convey to the reader that this would be frightening to her.

When I was doing the first edit and inserting the Takano chapters again I felt that a character’s chapters were too close together–this time Derek’s–so again I pushed the Takano chapter sooner than I would have otherwise.

Originally the buildings she saw were made of “stone or cement or something like that”, because I had looked at some photos of pre-war Nagasaki and it looked rather modern.  Further research, though, said most of the buildings were wood, so I changed it.


Chapter 50, Brown 188

I had been going to do what I’m calling the door trick next, but realized that Derek could get in trouble if he got separated from his computer, and that he had an easy fix for that, so I did this chapter instead.

This was originally chapter 42 before the Takano chapters were included.


Chapter 51, Slade 162

I wasn’t sure what to do with this chapter other than to hold the next Beam chapter off a bit longer, but I realized that there were fragments to the situation that had not yet been mentioned, and that there was something else Lauren and Joe ought to do while the emissary was there.

This was chapter 43 before we added the Takano chapters.


Chapter 52, Hastings 180

This was a late decision, and it was tricky to negotiate, but I had decided to have Lauren turn the tables on the emissary and learn something about Beam.  What was more complicated was figuring out what the emissary might actually know.

Before the Takano chapters were inserted this was chapter 44.

I had double-numbered this Hastings 179, which I discovered on the final edit, and had to renumber all the Hastings chapters from here forward.


Chapter 53, Brown 189

I had been musing on this door trick for a while.  It was partly inspired by the elevator trick he did in Spy Verses, but it was so different, really, that I decided not to mention that.  I haven’t reached a firm conclusion regarding what the indigs are going to do, but for the moment they’re stymied.

This was chapter 45 before the Takano chapters were included.


Chapter 54, Kondor 163

I had noticed that it was the right time for a Kondor chapter, and that he could be the last person to see the emissary.  It developed in my mind that he would try to read the mind of the man over breakfast, but wouldn’t learn much.  Then it struck me that I have far too few botches in the stories, and it would be a good time for one, and that I could then involve Lauren in trying to heal the mental damage, which I confirmed from checking her character sheet was something she had never done.

This had been chapter 46 before the Takano chapters were included.


Chapter 55, Takano 9

I had to get to a place where someone would speak to her in English, but not too quickly, and so this chapter is mostly there to give the impression of waiting and to delay the arrival of the English-speaking interrogator.

It is also in this position because I needed to delay both Bob and Derek, and it had been half a dozen chapters since Tommy’s last, so it was a good spot.


This has been the fifth behind the writings look at Versers Versus Versers.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind the writings posts for it.

#337: The Song “Selfish Love”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #337, on the subject of The Song “Selfish Love”.

This song, like Time Bomb, was inspired by the people I worked with when I got into the secular work world after being cloistered in Christian colleges and radio ministry.  The attitudes they had toward going out with each other caused me to recognize that for them physical love was a way of getting something, not giving something.  The concept gave me this song.

This was my number thirteen song, and I put the recording and performance quality at twenty-five.  That low ranking was partly because this is another that I recorded using midi instruments and I’m not entirely happy with that aspect particularly with the percussion, and also because although the four voices here are pretty good they’re not great, and when we did this with TerraNova we had a soprano that I recognized was outside my range, so I feel like the song is missing something in spots.  On the other hand, I think this recording is better than the one on Collision Of Worlds.  That one is rushed a bit, Kyle forgot what he was going to play on the instrumental and played something very disappointing, there were only two voices, there were problems with the rhythm in spots, and overall I was rather disappointed with it but didn’t see an easy repair within the time constraints.  Tristan, meanwhile, put this as tied for number one on his list, one of his undisputed favorites, which kicked it up quite a few steps to place as number eleven overall.

This version has the bass guitar duet on the instrumental (and behind the last chorus) which I particularly like.  The Andrews-Sisters-like vocals on the second verse came into existence because in TerraNova I wanted to have each verse sung by a different vocalist but my wife, our contralto, refused to sing a solo verse so I had to innovate by creating the trio there.  I like it, so I’ve kept it.  I think my wife didn’t like this song, at least then.  She and Barbara used to call it Shellfish Love and do the little clam things with their hands that I remember as the Clam Cheer from scouts.  It was another attempt to do the rock guitar thing (of which Passing Through the Portal was the success, Walkin’ In the Woods and Convinced appearing as other good songs that failed in that), but it came out more pop than rock, I think–but I still like it.

The recording is here

Selfish Love.

So here are the words:

Lookin’ for a love, for a love that’s true.
Lovin’ isn’t lovin’ if there’s more than two.
Askin’ what a lover’s gonna do for you.
That isn’t love, that isn’t love,
That isn’t what lovers are s’posed to do.

You’ve got a selfish love,
That’s not what love is made of.
You’ve got a selfish love,
What will you do with your selfish

Love is still the answer to your achin’ heart.
When it comes to lovin’ you just play the part.
Lovin’ ’em and leavin’, you think you’re so smart.
That isn’t love, that isn’t love,
That’s the kind of lovin’ that tears apart.

You’ve got a selfish love,
That’s not what love is made of.
You’ve got a selfish love,
What will you do with your selfish, selfish love?

Love is never measured by the things your heart can feel.
Love is never anything unless it’s something real.
Love is not a miser seeing how much he can take.
Love is a commitment you will never ever break.

When you fall in love, you never fall too deep,
Makin’ all those promises you never keep.
What you sow today you’re gonna surely reap.
That isn’t love, that isn’t love,
That’s the kind of love that will make you weep.

You’ve got a selfish love,
That’s not what love is made of.
You’ve got a selfish love,
What will you do with your selfish

Selfish love,
That’s not what love is made of.
You’ve got a selfish love,
What will you do with your selfish love?

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.

*****

Previous web log song posts:

#301:  The Song “Holocaust” | #307:  The Song “Time Bomb” | #311:  The Song “Passing Through the Portal” | #314:  The Song “Walkin’ In the Woods” | #317:  The Song “That’s When I’ll Believe” | #320:  The Song “Free” | #322:  The Song “Voices” | #326:  The Song “Mountain, Mountain” | #328:  The Song “Still Small Voice” | #334:  The Song “Convinced”