All posts by M.J.

#447: The Song “When I Was Lonely”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #447, on the subject of The Song “When I Was Lonely”.

This is another very early song, undoubtedly from my high school days, performed by The Last Psalm.  It didn’t make the list because it’s a very simple song, musically and lyrically.

That doesn’t mean that the song has no merit at all.  The simple message is still solid.  In the fourth verse, I changed the accompanyment to underscore the notion of dying.  In the fifth verse, I replaced the last two lines with instrumental because “I haven’t been lying” would not be understood as intended.

This was another vocals-over-midi-instruments recording made as part of the nostalgic collection of Last Psalm songs recorded for Jes Oldham entitled When I Was Young.  I remember that sometimes I sang it, but eventually I gave the solo to Peggy Lisbona, as it was in her range and I was trying to avoid being the star of the band.  It strikes me that Peggy was a friend of Jes, whom I met the night I invited Jes to sing with us and Peggy leaped at the opportunity to be involved.  I was hesitant to include someone I had never met before, but she proved to be a remarkable asset.

When I Was Lonely.

So here are the lyrics.

When I was lonely and all alone
I just asked Jesus to be my own,
And I haven’t been lonely since He came in
And made my heart his home.

When I was cryin’ and feelin’ sad
I just asked Jesus to make me glad,
And I haven’t been cryin’ since He came in
And made my heart his home.

When I was searchin’ for who I am,
I just asked Jesus to take command
And I haven’t been searchin’ since He came in
And made my heart his home.

When I was dyin’ inside my soul
I just asked Jesus to make me whole,
And I haven’t been dyin’ since He came in
And made my heart his home.

When I was lyin’ flat on the floor
I heard my Jesus outside my door.

When I was lonely and all alone
I just asked Jesus to be my own,
And I haven’t been lonely since He came in
And made my heart his throne.

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” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  The Song “My Life to You” | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again” | #438:  The Song “Even You” | #441:  The Song “Fork in the Road” | #442:  The Song “Call to Worship” | #445:  The Song “How Many Times”

Next Song:  Rainy Days

#446: The Religious Freedom Abortion Argument

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #446, on the subject of The Religious Freedom Abortion Argument.

It happens that I have twice heard this argument raised, some forty years apart, by Jewish women.  I do not know whether it is exclusive to them, but that will to some degree influence my treatment here.  The argument appears to be that Jewish law gives women the right to abort unwanted children, and therefore any national law forbidding that is an impingement on freedom of religious practice.

I had trouble believing that Jewish women had an affirmative obligation to abort a child under any circumstance, but I am no Talmudic scholar–so I consulted those who were.  Rabbi David M. Feldman’s article Abortion:  The Jewish View (here in PDF) has been adopted as a majority opinion of The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly, sixteen to none with one abstention; it thus represents the interpretation of the Talmud from the perspective of Conservative Judaism, although it is not binding.

It may be worthwhile to acquaint the non-Jewish reader with a few concepts in connection with modern Judaism.

  • The Talmud is a large collection of writings interpreting earlier writings by thousands of rabbis interpreting the Torah, and is to a significant degree the fundamental basis for Jewish theology and practice.  The image accompanying this post gives an impression of its encyclopedic breadth.  It was completed around 500 A.D.
  • There are effectively four “denominations” of Judaism in the modern world, and they approach subjects differently.
    • Hasidic Judaism is the most conservative, adopting the most traditional views and many traditional practices.  These are the men you see in the wide-brimmed hats with the side curls and frequently robes.  They might be somewhat analogous to the Amish, separating themselves from the world and focusing on their own faith communities.
    • Orthodox Judaism is not quite as conservative as that, but sticks to traditional doctrine very closely.  The men of this denomination are often seen in yarmulkes and prayer shawls when out in public, and they follow many rules modern society would consider archaic–such as the concern that a man not come in contact even accidentally with a woman who is not a member of his family.  They might be most analogized to the Eastern Orthodox churches.
    • Conservative Judaism probably comprises the bulk of those in the modern world who are recognizably but not extremely Jewish.  Some will wear yarmulkes in public, but not all will, reserving their religious clothing for religious services.  They frequently have mezuzah, those small emblems of the Ten Commandments, on the doorframes of their homes.  Yet they are fairly fully integrated into the modern world.  From an outside perspective, they perhaps provide the best balance between religious piety and secular integration.  In one sense they are most similar to Lutheran and Episcopalian denominations.
    • The fourth group of Judaism is called Reformed, and it is perhaps the most diverse.  There was a joke in Mad Magazine many decades back to the effect that Orthodox and Conservative Jews had a different name for Reformed Jews, calling them “Christians”.  Those I have known have generally been kosher and observed most of the usual rituals, but you would have to know them to be aware that they were Jewish.  Individual beliefs of this group are the most varied, making them perhaps most comparable to Baptists.

This hopefully establishes why I consider Conservative Talmudic scholarship the best representation of modern Judaism.

There are a few critical points in the article.

  • The Talmud does not believe that the Torah establishes the unborn child as a living person.  It is regarded part of the mother until the moment either its head or a substantially large portion of its body has emerged.
  • Nevertheless, a mother may not decide to abort a child; it is a decision made by an attending medic, who must make the determination that it is a choice between the life of the child and the life of the mother.  The principle is that although the child’s potential life has value to be protected and once the child is born we do not trade one actual life for another, until that moment the mother’s actual life is more valuable than the child’s potential life.  It is thus incumbent on the doctor to abort the child if the mother cannot survive the birth.
  • Extrapolated from this, it is argued that if the birth of the child will have serious medical–not social or economic–impact on the mother, a doctor may decide to abort it.  It is specifically asserted that aborting a child because of a belief that genetic defects will result in a poor quality of life for the child is not permitted, because we cannot know that having no life would be better than having that into which the child will be born.  It is only the mother’s physical well-being that can be the justification for this.

At no point in Talmudic Law is a woman given the right, let alone the obligation, to abort an unborn child.

However, as mentioned, Reformed Judaism is a lot looser in its interpretations.  It is certainly within the realm of plausiblity that a Reformed Rabbi might believe and teach that a woman has the divinely-given right to abort a child she does not wish to carry to term.  That certainly does not have roots in traditional Judaism from ancient times, but if someone believes it, that makes it their religion, and they do under the Constitution have the right to believe whatever they choose.  Does that give us a religious argument?

Classical Islamic Law, as expressed in Shari’ah, requires that apostates be put to death.  This is done not so much as a punishment for abandoning Islam but as a protection of the community from the errors of the apostate.  Although the practice is rare in the modern world, there are still countries in which apostacy is punishable by death.  Similarly, many Muslims believe that killing an infidel–someone who does not believe in Islam–is a free ticket to paradise.  This is a religious view in a centuries-old religion.  However, killing people for unbelief in a particular religion is against the law in these United States, and in the majority of countries around the world.  If you murder your sister, the claim that she abandoned Islam for another faith is not a valid defense.

Yet it is a claim of religious liberty:  my religion says that I should kill someone who does this, so by killing them I am exercising the requirements of my relgion.

It should be clear that the fact that a religion requires certain conduct does not always stand as an excuse for the performance of that conduct–you cannot kill people for abandoning Islam despite the fact that your religion says you must.

The question of whether an unborn child is or is not a person is clearly a religious one; at the same time, it is one that the law has the right to decide.  We have decided that negroes are human beings and have the rights of human beings–something relatively new in the European-American world.  If the law decides that someone is a person, a religious belief to the contrary does not justify, legally, treating him as not a person.  In the same way, if the law were to say that abortion is not legal, a relgious belief that it should be does not justify it.

Further, the claim cannot be made that women have a religious obligation to get abortions.  It can be claimed only (and as we have seen on dubious grounds) that they have the freedom under their beliefs to do so, and that doctors are obligated to perform them at least in life-threatening situations (which in the modern world would ordinarily be addressed by a Caesarean section).  There are many things that are permitted but not required by many religions that are forbidden in our country or other countries, and the accommodation in such cases is that we limit our conduct to that which is permissible, opposing the law only when it is in conflict with that which is required, and, as in all cases of civil disobedience, accepting that we will receive the appropriate punishment for breaking the law.

Thus the claim of religious freedom as a basis for abortion appears to me to fail twice, first because there is no religion that requires practitioners to get abortions, and second because the law is permitted to decide whether or not a particular group is a protected class and thus can protect the unborn if it so chooses.

That makes it an issue to be determined by the democratic process.

#445: The Song “How Many Times”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #445, on the subject of The Song “How Many Times”.

I can explain why this song was not on the original “short list” for the Extreme Tour demo:  I wrote it in high school, and I feel like it shows the marks of an immature believer.  Yet I might judge it too harshly for that.

After all, my youngest son Adam (who co-wrote Even You, featured a few months back) likes it a lot, was learning to play the piano part for it.  I could discount that, because I think he likes angsty songs–but he says that “people” like it.  It also has a long history that commends it.

It is probably the song that put my music on the map.  The Last Psalm had been playing very small venues when we were invited to perform at the Luther College Coffeehouse Night, an invitational gathering of the heads of coffeehouses throughout the northeastern New Jersey area early in 1974.  I had Peggy (Lisbona, also contralto vocals) sit at the piano, while I joined Ruthann (Mekita, soprano), Ann (Hughs, alto), and Jeff (Zurheide, baritone, also lead guitar) in a stairwell adjacent to the dais.  The four of us sang the first verse and chorus of the hymn Softly and Tenderly in four parts a capella, and as we finished Peggy started playing the introduction to this song on the piano.  I scampered up the stairs, picked up my guitar, stepped up to the mic, and on the downbeat of the first verse I hit the CM7 chord and began singing.

At that moment, several people who thought all my talk about how to run a musical ensemble was hot air suddenly updated their thinking.  Andy (Andrew Hagan Nilssen) followed me and began playing bass mid-verse, followed by John (Mastick) on the drums, and Jeff came to the stage to play lead frills behind the vocals as the second verse began.  Ruthann and Ann joined us in time to sing the four part vocal ending, and the audience welcomed us to the stage.

We played a carefully-planned twenty-minute slot, and yielded the stage to others, but were invited back on stage at the end of the program to play another maybe half hour.  After that, several local coffeehouses invited us to play their venues.  This song had a lot to do with that, I think.

After The Last Psalm dissolved, I made a monophonic multi-track recording in which I improvised lead guitar frills; I liked them enough that I expanded them to two parts, and recorded that on a regretably lost tape I made in a studio at Gordon College.  I preserved the parts, though, for this vocals-over-midi-instruments recording, made as part of the nostalgic collection of recordings of Last Psalm songs for Jes Oldham entitled When I Was Young.  There is a midi “hiccough” in the second line, but it’s barely noticeable.  Although the lyrics don’t really strike me as great, I do like the inside rhymes.

I don’t perform it because I always feel like it needs the four-part ending vocals; I have a live recording I did at the Silver Lake Community Church one week which to my mind underscores that.  Yet it was an important song in my history, and worth preserving in its own right.

How Many Times.

So here are the lyrics.

How many times can I look down,
Only to find I’m still on the ground?
How many days?  I can’t even count.
How many ways have I tried to get out?

How much more is all I can take?
Before I know I will break?
And if I break, what else will there be?
Is it too late to care about me?

Is there someone, somebody, somewhere,
Or someone’s son who really cares?
Is there a man–there has to be–who would lay down his life,
Do what he can for you and me to save us from strife?

Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you.
Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you.
Yes, there is someone:  Jesus loves you,
Jesus loves you, Jesus loves you.

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” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  The Song “My Life to You” | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again” | #438:  The Song “Even You” | #441:  The Song “Fork in the Road” | #442:  The Song “Call to Worship” |

Next song:  When I Was Lonely

#444: Ability versus Popularity

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #444, on the subject of Ability versus Popularity.

The world seems overrun with supposed talent contests in which ordinary people are invited to vote for the winners–the best musicians seems the most common, but other forms of entertainment are not exempt, including the best books.  I generally do not participate in these (that is, I don’t vote in them; not ever having been nominated, I cannot speak to that side of it), and I expect that people who think that I am at least nominally a friend are upset when I don’t rally to support them.  However, I think such support would usually be dishonest, reducing what is supposed to be a measure of ability to a measure of popularity.  Permit me to explain.

I have thought of this many times before, but this morning an announcer on a radio station which is a bit bigger than “local”, being a network of I think four stations covering sections of four states, encouraged listeners to go to a web site and vote for a particular contestant in a televised contest because he happened to live somewhere in the listening area.  Quite apart from the fact that the specific place he lived was at least a hundred miles from where I was when I heard this, that to me seems a very bad–and truly dishonest–basis on which to vote for someone in a talent show.  It wasn’t even suggested that the specific contestant was a listener of the station, which also is a bad basis on which to cast such a vote.  Nor did the announcer suggest that voting should be limited to people who actually saw the show.

I similarly get personal invitations to vote for people I have at least met, or with whom I have interacted over the Internet, who are participating in local contests, usually musical.  I also am encouraged at times to vote for the best books of the year.

The fundamental problem here is that I am ill-informed on the subject.  Often I have not actually heard the musician or band who wants my support–certainly my fault, that I fail to get to concerts and other venues or to watch many internet music videos, but a clear fact.  I also don’t read most of the best-selling books–I rarely read any of them, truth be told, reading books that are less familiar and usually older most of the time.  For me to vote for a band or book based on the fact that I know the artist or author without having any direct exposure to the work is itself dishonest.

So then, does that mean it is less dishonest to vote for the book I read, or the band I heard?  I think not.  If we are voting for the best book of the year, and I read one of them, on what basis am I asserting that this book is better than all the other books published this past year?  If I’ve only heard one of the bands in the competition, what value is my opinion that it is better than all the bands I haven’t heard?

When I was in radio I several times selected what I believed were the most significant Christian albums released over the year.  Arguably popularity could be a factor in significance, but I was more interested in ministry and artistic factors.  Someone once asked me what right I had to presume to review record albums, and I said, as the first point, that my job meant I heard every record released in the genre every year, and my second point that I had studied and performed music and made my own recordings, so I was intimately familiar with the process and the product.  If I chose an album as among the best, I had a reasonable and defensible basis for saying so.

Of course, people have all kinds of reasons for recommending a vote for a particular selection.  This candidate is from our home town, a member of our organization, an advocate of a particular position on an important issue, a member of a minority group, a Christian.  Every single one of those notions is a very poor basis on which to vote for the best in any group.  It devolves to a question of whom we like, and that’s not what we’re supposed to be choosing.

Thus such “talent” contests devolve into popularity contests.  I don’t like popularity contests, and maybe I’ll talk about that on my Patreon web log, but there is fundamentally a problem with determining the best based on who is the most popular–and it is a problem that infects everything in America from television shows to government.

And since it is thus dishonest to vote for who is the best on any basis other than a more than passing familiarity with all the candidates and an honest assessment of their relative merits, almost everyone who votes in such contests is dishonest.  I will not be dishonest that way, and will not ask you to be dishonest on my behalf.

#443: Versers Acclimate

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #443, on the subject of Versers Acclimate.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first seven novels,

  1. Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel,
  2. Old Verses New,
  3. For Better or Verse,
  4. Spy Verses,
  5. Garden of Versers,
  6. Versers Versus Versers, and
  7. Re Verse All,

in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I am posting the eighth, In Verse Proportion,  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.

It was suggested in connection with Re Verse All that shorter more frequent behind-the-writings posts would work better; they proved to be considerably more work in several ways.  Thus this time I am preferring longer, less frequent posts.  Previous posts for this novel include:

  1. #432:  Whole New Worlds, covering chapters 1 through 21;
  2. #437:  Characters Relate, chapters 22 through 42;
  3. #440:  Changing Worlds, chapters 43 through 63.

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

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

Chapter 64, Brown 216

I had thought about Vashti having moved the bicycle, but decided that it wasn’t really anything worth including.

I was hung up on this chapter for maybe a couple weeks, during which time I wrote several Faith in Play articles and formatted a few of the old resurrected Game Ideas Unlimited articles to recycle as RPG-ology, and did a couple of web log posts on different subjects.  My problem was that I knew broadly what I wanted to do, having Derek reconfigure the robot to prepare food for them, but didn’t know whether that meant taking it back to their rooms to work on the computer there or taking it directly to the kitchen to set it up there.  I also knew that my secondary purpose, translating, was not going to be something for which a routine existed, because the indigs all spoke one language.

I used a base ten to base eight converter online at http://www.unitconversion.org/numbers/base-10-to-base-8-conversion.html to get the right digits for the robot identification number.


Chapter 65, Slade 189

I anticipated this, although not when I had the first fight.  Probably when I finished writing that first fight I knew I would have to have a second, and would have to find a way to make the second opponent just as good but in a different way, and when Slade had defeated both of them individually I knew that I could use a comment from him to set up a fight against both together, and that that would lead to the birds asking to be trained.  I could think of no reason why Slade would not agree to that, so it became the plan.


Chapter 66, Kondor 194

I kept writing myself into tough spots.  This was another.  I was not at all certain how to go forward with the Kondor story here.

I cut this short so I could return to some kind of discussion of Leah’s visit to the wise men, even though I wasn’t sure how that would go, either.


Chapter 67, Slade 190

I was actually not quite certain how to move forward with Derek in a way that would be interesting, and as I glanced at Slade’s previous chapter I was immediately having ideas, so I changed the sequence.


Chapter 68, Brown 217

This was mundane, but I wanted the robot to be seen to work but not wonderfully so.  I kind of stumbled into the time problem, because it struck me that Derek should order breakfast for when they awoke, but it would be difficult to say when that would be, and even more so given that it was a day on which he did not have to be at work, so he could sleep in and time would not matter.

I was still feeling my way through what kinds of things Derek could order that would translate to something in the ship’s language.


Chapter 69, Kondor 195

I pondered for a couple days, while working on the other chapters, how this would play.  My original thought was that it would be a conversation between the couple, and then I wondered whether one or more of the wise men would come to engage him in dialogue.  I still had not decided as I put the chapter heading in place.

Ultimately I decided that Leah would continue to hold her beliefs and Kondor would be unaffected.

When I got them back to the room after dinner I genuinely did not know what to do with them, but I remembered that she had asked to continue learning combat technique and that Lauren had taught fighting in a room somewhere in the palace, so I went with that with some ideas about what was going to happen next.


Chapter 70, Slade 191

I threw this together quickly, but had a sudden inspiration for the rubber ball thing, which I figured I could reveal in the next chapter.


Chapter 71, Brown 218

I had been thinking for a day or two about what Derek was going to get from his breakfast order, and the idea of baked eggs kept coming back to me.  Looking them up, I determined that in our world that usually refers to what is also called shirred eggs, like fried eggs but cooked in a shallow pan in an oven, sometimes with toppings.  I still liked the image of a couple of whole eggs in the shell sitting on the plate.  The rest was sort of cobbled together as I went, trying to fit the order literally while making something a bit alien.

I don’t like the fact that Derek and Kondor are both headed for combat practice at the same time, but I’m expecting Kondor’s to be a bit different, so I’m not too worried about it.


Chapter 72, Kondor 196

I anticipated this combat practice going in a honeymoon direction, much as their bath had done, as their brief rift is mended.  But figuring out how they were going to spar together took me longer than I expected, so I delayed the fight itself to the next chapter–which was perhaps good, because I needed to write Kondor chapters, and his story was going to have to stretch the time they were together up to the time I was going to begin the trouble that versed them out.


Chapter 73, Slade 192

At first I was going to begin with the professor, and delay the class testing, but I decided that the testing was not likely to be very interesting so I put it first.  Then I was going to do the fight, but I decided that it was a good cliffhanger to put the fight in the next chapter.  Besides, I’ve had a few swordfights already, and I’ve got several fights coming up all at once, so I’m going to have to give a lot of thought to keeping it interesting.


Chapter 74, Brown 219

Before I got to this chapter I had my second dose Moderna COVID vaccine, and I lost the weekend to the adverse reaction (mostly fevers and exhaustion).  I’d had COVID last year, and it was not nearly as intense as the vaccine reaction, although it’s been suggested that the reaction was bad because I’d had the disease.  It was thus several days before I started it, and a couple more before I finished.

I had three hold-ups.  One was where to put the room.  I knew, and I checked, that I had put the galley two decks below the officers’ quarters; I did not remember if I had a reason for that at the time.  That left me with the question of what I had intended for the deck between, and whether that was a good place for officers’ recreation facilities.  It occurred to me that I could put the gym on the same level as either the living quarters or the galley, but I didn’t want that area to feel like it was sprawling.  I ultimately decided on the deck between, mostly because nothing else really made sense there.  I had considered deck crew quarters, but there was little sense in the enlisteds being between the officers and their galley, and I would have to put the enlisted galley somewhere.

The second hold-up was specifically what to do about combat practice for Derek and Vashti.  They had done this together before, but always with the other princesses, sometimes also with Lauren.  I’d never had them one-on-one, and wasn’t sure how to handle that.  Still, with only rather nebulous ideas and a check of their character sheets for weaponless combat abilities, I decided to tackle it.

The third was trying to get a sense of the gym itself.  There was this imbalance between trying to keep it alien while making it useful for humanoids.  Obviously everything would be smaller–but the ceiling would still be high, because even if their games were different they would have similarities, throwing objects and such.


Chapter 75, Kondor 197

I realized well before I got here that I was going to have three practice combat sessions in a row.  However, I knew this one was going to be different, so I wasn’t too worried about it.


Chapter 76, Slade 193

In the extended time I had since setting up this match, I had given consideration to how to make it more interesting, and in what way the professor would be more talented than the students without being a genuine threat to Slade.  My first thought was what I had heard called Florentine, the use of a cape in the off hand.  (Florentine covers much more than that, but that was sufficient for Slade’s level of understanding.)  I realized when the thought first struck that he could not be proficient in double-blade fighting because then the students wouldn’t be seeking that training from Slade.  I gave some thought to having him use a flex weapon such as a chain in the off hand, noting that Slade had practiced against Lauren, but decided that someone who could use a sword and a chain could certainly use a sword and a dagger.  So I went with my first instinct.


Chapter 77, Brown 220

I was starting to flounder again with Derek.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t doing important and interesting stuff; it was that there wasn’t much way to make it interesting in the story.


Chapter 78, Kondor 198

This was composed of fragments that had come to mind–the idea that they actually were teenagers and newlyweds, the thought that her brother Mohammed would have to return home but Kondor could do as he chose, and the realization that Mohammed was not yet married and I was gradually whittling down my pool of princesses.  My choice of Ketty was based largely on really internalized impressions of the girls and a very few notes–I decided that Sarai had the pretty face because Derek had called her Lashes, and something about Ketty and the scarf made me think she was a bit bubbly and personable.

I have decided that they will be going to Leah’s family home with Mohammed; I think, too, that Zeke will go with them, mostly so he can see where it is and what it looks like for psionic and magical purposes.


Chapter 79, Slade 194

I started this chapter the same day I wrote the previous Kondor chapter, but was wearing out so I left it as I was beginning the third paragraph.

I decided I had been away from the engineering and construction threads long enough that I could return and view the progress.  I also decided to bring up the notion that there was probably going to be a war, because as was observed previously, if Slade arrives, trouble follows.


Chapter 80, Kondor 199

I had marked this chapter for Derek, as a kind of automatic selection, but the next day came back and decided that I could move forward with Joe and let Derek sit a bit.  That would hopefully give the impression of time passing on the spaceship while he worked on the various projects that would not be so interesting in the telling as they are in his experience.

I was, however, faced with the question, that Joe and Leah were going to discuss their plans, and probably include Zeke in the discussion, but should that be in the text or merely mentioned as backstory?  If it were just Joe and Leah I would almost certainly make it something referenced, that this was what they decided, but the fact that their decision impacts Zeke changes that.

The reasons Zeke gives are in fact the reasons I had him go with them.


Chapter 81, Slade 195

I had less idea what to do with Slade at this point, but not as little as I had for Derek, and mostly I needed a chapter to delay Kondor’s trip.  I decided that the development of the telephone was a good next step for the team that had created the telegraph, although I felt very much as if I was probably boring my readers with the technical explanation.  Well, maybe.


Chapter 82, Kondor 200

I had to ask my fans for help coming up with the word “palanquin” when I realized that Leah would travel in one.  Thanks to Bryan Ray for providing the answer.  Also thanks to Chor Kun Chin, who gave me “litter” and “sedan”.

I wanted to capture some of the details of the trip, but this is mostly color.


Chapter 83, Brown 221

Again the impetus for putting this chapter here was mostly to break up the Kondor story and keep it moving.  However, there was much for Derek to do, and learning to fly the smaller ships was one of the essentials.


Chapter 84, Kondor 201

I didn’t expect the journey to last three chapters, but it was giving me some story and some character interaction.


This has been the fourth behind-the-writings look at In Verse Proportion.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts for it and another novel.

#442: The Song “Call to Worship”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #442, on the subject of The Song “Call to Worship”.

It’s easy to explain why this song was not on the original “short list” for the Extreme Tour demo:  it’s short.

I hesitate to say that I wrote it in high school.  I think that BLT Down, the band that was precursor to The Last Psalm, used it on one occasion in 1972 to open a church service; I know that The Last Psalm sometimes used it as a concert opener.

I made this vocals-over-midi-instruments recording as part of the nostalgic collection of recordings of Last Psalm songs for Jes Oldham.  It has never been one of my favorites, but it is more a function song, a bit of modern liturgy.

I’ve had an odd relationship with liturgy over the decades.  Growing up in Baptist and Presbyterian churches, there was very little of it, and it was constantly in flux.  I remember creating worship services at summer camp, and specifically attempting to use the bits of liturgy as teaching tools.  The more liturgical churches generally had the same words repeated week after week, and this seemed to me to be vain repetition.  It wasn’t until I was in college that I read C. S. Lewis’ piece on updating the Anglican liturgy (in God in the Dock) that anyone explained to me the value of saying the same words week after week, which, according to him, meant you didn’t have to think about the words but could focus on the Person to Whom they were addressed.

I still don’t do well with liturgy, but I get it.  It’s like singing familiar worship songs, or praying in tongues, the worshipper freed from thinking about what he is saying so he can focus on God.  Liturgy just doesn’t work that way for me.

Because this song predates my reading of that essay, it has an aspect of trying to teach something to the congregation.  I know now that that’s not really what liturgy is for in liturgical churches, even if Baptists and Presbyterians use it that way.

Call to Worship.

So here are the lyrics.

God is our Father, this church is His home.
Let us now praise Him with our thoughts and our song.
Come into His presence and sing to His name,
Let Him run your life–you won’t be the same.

God is our Father, He’ll live in your heart.
Once He’s inside you, He never will part.
So when you leave here, wherever you go,
Take Jesus with you, let His glory show.

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” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  The Song “My Life to You” | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again” | #438:  The Song “Even You” | #441:  The Song “Fork in the Road” |

Next Song:  How Many Times

#441: The Song “Fork in the Road”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #441, on the subject of The Song “Fork in the Road”.

John David Mastick, drummer from long ago in The Last Psalm (and, incidentally, Jacob’s Well), has been nagging me for this song since he first became aware that I was posting songs.  I hope he’s not too disappointed in this version of it.

The song goes back to my high school days, and is rather blatantly inspired by the Robert Frost poem The Road Not Taken; I occasionally recited the poem in introducing the song, but honestly even I can see that the words to the poem are better.  It was an effort to create a Christian rock song in a time when these were few and far between.  It always had vocals except on those rare occasions when I sang it solo, in which case the bottom voice part is the melody.

It was first performed by The Last Psalm, probably as early as early 1973.  The first four verses, presented below as one block, were sung, followed by a lead guitar solo, and then the vocals returned with the second half.  It’s difficult to recall the details of back then, but I think after the last line we shifted into a simple riff with an E9 sliding in from a half step below a half beat before the downbeat and another guitar solo, very much a fast jazz sound.  We would eventually do a live fade, and come back with the original progression into a thrasher ending.  Then that fall John joined the band, and we expanded the arrangement by inserting a drum solo after the first guitar solo.  It was very much the typical late 60s-early 70s drum solo, in which the band moved to the wings and the drummer played as long as he wished; I don’t recall exactly how I would know it was coming to the end, but my return to the stage signaled the others to do the same, and John would give us a pickup back into the second half.

This song landed last on the list of thirty-four songs I put forward for consideration, and I ranked it thirty-fourth for the quality of the song; I had come to think the words very derivative and the music very simple.  I ranked the midi and vocals recording found here thirty-third, and with Tristan not listing it that put it at the bottom.  Yet for some reason in 1975 when The Last Psalm broke up, I felt like this was a song I had to keep for my anticipated looming solo career, and I needed some way to fill that instrumental space.  It had, after all, been the band’s real crowd-pleaser.  I got together with Dave Oldham, who had been the band’s sound engineer that last year (and would later play bass guitar in TerraNova), and wrote an accoustic guitar instrumental section.  It was at the time one of the trickiest and most impressive bits of acoustic guitar work I had done, and I very much liked it.  Thus I included it as the instrumental break here.  We also wrote a shorter multi-chord ending, also used here.

When I put it on the repertoire for Collision, I wanted to restore the extended rock-style instrumental work, but not lose the well-constructed guitar instrumental, so I reconfigured the latter to be played by the band (much as in this recording, but with bass and keyboards playing some of the riffs), then went into a more structured improvisational solo section:  the drums played eight measures of solo, maintaining beat and tempo, then the band returned with an eight-measure lead guitar solo, a keyboard solo of the same length, and then a bass solo of the same length, and then returning to repeat with another drum solo, guitar, keys, bass, and do it again, and finish with another drum solo, playing the harmonics bit again twice, and going back to the second half of the song.  We kept the multi-chord ending.  We had only two vocals, so omitted the top voice.

So it has been through a lot of versions, and this recording is neither the first nor the last, nor the best nor the worst, but gives the sense of the song and most of what I perceived as the good parts other than that I would not presume to create a drum solo given the excellent drummers who have done so before me.

Fork in the Road.

So here are the lyrics.

I came to a fork in the road of life,
And I wondered which road to take.
I knew what one way would try to build,
The other one would try to break.
The one on the left ran fifty feet,
And disappeared around a bend,
While the right one seemed to go quite straight,
But was too long to see the end.
Looking down the left hand road
I wondered what’s around the turn.
It’s true that I might be set free,
But it’s also true that I might burn.
Then I saw the right road was one
Anyone could take in stride.
‘Though it didn’t look like much fun,
Others would walk by my side.

I stood there for a longer time
Than I’ve ever stood anywhere before.
Add all the choices I had made,
And this one meant a thousand times more.
I walked to the turn in the left-hand road,
Knowing I could turn around.
You ought to know another bend
Was all that I had found.
Went back to the fork, and I started out
Along the other road.
In no time I could see the end,
And all it’s glory showed.
I stand at the fork in the road of life,
And I tell people ev’ry day:
Ask Lord Jesus in your life–
The right road is the better way.

I can only hope you benefit from the song in some way.  I will continue with additional songs in the future.  From this point forward, songs posted will be those that did not, for various reasons, make the original shortlist, in no meaningful sequence.

*****

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” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  The Song “My Life to You” | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again” | #438:  The Song “Even You”

Next song:  Call to Worship

#440: Changing Worlds

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #440, on the subject of Changing Worlds.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first seven novels,

  1. Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel,
  2. Old Verses New,
  3. For Better or Verse,
  4. Spy Verses,
  5. Garden of Versers,
  6. Versers Versus Versers, and
  7. Re Verse All,

in serialized form on the web (those links will take you to the table of contents for each book).  Along with each book there was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as I am posting the eighth, In Verse Proportion, 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.

It was suggested in connection with Re Verse All that shorter more frequent behind-the-writings posts would work better; they proved to be considerably more work in several ways.  Thus this time I am preferring longer, less frequent posts.  This is the third mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 43 through 63.  The first was web log post #432:  Whole New Worlds, covering chapters 1 through 21, and the second was #437:  Characters Relate, chapters 22 through 42.

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

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

Chapter 43, Slade 182

I had managed to steal some time to write the Brown and Kondor chapters back to back, and knew roughly what happened next for both of them, but ran headlong into another Slade chapter.  He’s got the engineers finishing up the telegraph and starting on water heaters and hot water heat, and I really have no idea what he does next–that is, there are other things he can invent, but he can’t invent everything at once.

As usual, I had my character think about things.  This time, though, by the time I was writing what he could create I’d already settled on the phonograph.  It was different enough from the telegraph and the hot water systems that it would involve an entirely different group of engineering students, I expected.


Chapter 44, Brown 209

I had concerns about whether I would be able to make this chapter long enough.  I knew that Derek was going to be darted by an animal husbandry robot, who would recognize that Derek was not one of the indigs and therefore, by its programming, an animal.  It would therefore effect the capture of the stray animal and attempt to determine where it ought to be to return it.  Derek of course was darted by the porcuperson dart, and he carries darts of that sort with him, so he knows the feeling.

The tension was between having Derek actually spend time looking for the devices and moving the story forward.  The linguistic conversations with Vashti were partly to pad the story, but they brought some interest at least to me.


Chapter 45, Kondor 187

Again I was afraid this was going to be a very short chapter.  The significant moment in my mind was that Kondor was going to carry Leah across the threshold into the bedroom, but I knew the scene had to end before there was anything, well, X-rated (or is that A-19 now?).  There wasn’t really enough time between crossing the threshold and being in bed to make a chapter.  Ultimately I decided I had to cover the trip from the dining room to the bedroom–which wasn’t easy, because my floorplan was rather sketchy.

Leah had expressed the intention to drink enough to relax herself, deal with her nerves.  Of course, she’s drinking wine–distilled beverages have not yet been invented here.  You have to drink quite a bit of wine to get very drunk, and while she might have done so I decided I didn’t want her three sheets to the wind, only mildly intoxicated.  That gave me something to talk about.

I knew that Kondor would close the door for privacy.  It struck me that this was a good way to tell the reader they were not invited to see what happens next.


Chapter 46, Slade 183

This was an awkward start because what I knew was that Slade wasn’t going to go to engineering, and the engineering professor was going to catch up with him at lunch.  But then, I knew that Shella slept in, and in my mind Slade has been more of an early riser, at least as compared with her, so I figured out how to burn the morning and headed for lunch.

On the between meals cafeteria, I was sort of remembering college–but the snack table (which I was originally thinking of as donuts and coffee, but realized I couldn’t make it that human) was added to provide something to do.  The image of students filtering in in anticipation of food was from my memories.

I reached the point at which I ultimately ended this chapter, thinking that I should have the engineering professor arrive and begin the conversation I’d planned for that, but then three things dissuaded me.  First, as the Slades got their food it was a good point to fast forward to the end of the meal.  Second, I’d written enough text for a moderate chapter.  Third, I wasn’t sure what would happen after that conversation, and at least if I stopped here I would know what I was writing the next time Slade came to the top of the pile.


Chapter 47, Brown 210

Going into this chapter, I knew that Derek awoke in a cage of some sort.  I figured a few things.  One was that the locks would be connected to the central computer, so he could override them, but he still would have to escape the robot.  Concerning the robot, it has decided that Derek is an animal, and that means it’s trying to classify him and figure out where in the artificial ecosystems of the ship he belongs.  It also means that because of its programming, it doesn’t “expect” intelligent speech from him and will automatically ignore any sound he makes as being that of an animal.  Birds might mimic human speech, but we don’t really believe they know what they are saying and so only take what they say seriously in the sense that they must be repeating something they heard.  Complicating it, I want Derek to come out of this adventure with a robot, and it makes sense for that to be this robot.  He’s either going to have to reprogram it or get it to access the computer to be reprogrammed.  That actually might not be so difficult–the robot will have no data on Derek, and the computer data will identify “it” as the ship’s first officer.  So maybe that will work.

One thing I haven’t decided is whether the robot will strip him of his equipment, and to what degree.  On the one hand, not knowing what he is supposed to look like it might not recognize, say, a backpack as not part of the body.  On the other hand, it would certainly think that an animal shouldn’t have a laser rifle.

And where did I leave that bicycle?  O.K., at this point I went back and reread several of the Derek Brown chapters in Versers Versus Versers, and determined that he had picked up the bicycle with his equipment when he arrived, and had brought it with him to the bridge.  I went back and added mention of the device in Brown 196, 199, and 217.

I must credit James Ward’s Metamorphosis Alpha for the idea that robots would not feed sounds made by intelligent animals through their language processing programs, because whatever the noise sounded like the first point was that animals don’t talk.  That world changed such that they do talk, or some of them, but the robots weren’t reprogrammed to recognize this.

I mentally played with how this was going to work, going through a lot of options, but realized that Derek had spoken to the computer before, and that would save me a chapter, probably.  But I didn’t want escape to be too easy, so I set up the next chapter.


Chapter 48, Kondor 188

Maintaining the PG adult fantasy fiction feeling, I jumped to morning.  I had to give some coverage to their wedding night, and I was recalling my own experience decades ago to some degree.


Chapter 49, Slade 184

I had originally intended for this to happen in the previous chapter, but as I noted I hit a good spot for a pause and I needed to keep Slade’s story from snowballing.  Most of this I had already covered, but it works as something for Slade to discuss with the head of engineering.


Chapter 50, Brown 211

I was getting Derek to suggest a plan for me.

The idea that robots have a cutoff comes from Star Frontiers, where our characters faced combat robots and had to remove a cover panel and hit a shutoff switch on the front of the robot.  It was an easily exploited vulnerability.  The idea that the switch was in the rear comes from Commander Data of Star Trek:  The Next Generation, who once revealed this to Commander Riker, only to have Riker in turn reveal it when Data was on trial to determine whether he had his own right of free will.


Chapter 51, Kondor 189

Brainstorming to fellow writer E. B. Slayer, it struck me that I would need to slow down Slade a bit, but that Kondor was also headed into a slow time.  I decided that after I finished this Kondor chapter I would go back to Derek and then Slade, reversing those two in the sequence.

I honestly didn’t expect this chapter.  It formed itself in my mind in fragments, although all the fragments had been placed in sequence before I started typing.


Chapter 52, Brown 212

I brought this forward because Derek’s story was pressing for a resolution and Slade’s just wasn’t.

I had pieced this together several ways in my mind, but the idea that Vashti would arrive and distract the robot was best.  I had considered having her be drugged while Derek was shutting down the system, but decided that I needed her to converse with Derek and bring out his thoughts.


Chapter 53, Slade 185

I was here faced with the problem of what to do with Slade when he wasn’t doing anything, and still have something worth reading.

The fountain was color.  The street wasn’t really new, but I wanted to recall the imagery and talk about the commercial aspect.

I had the birds notice Slade practicing in part because it occurred to me that I could get him involved in training indigs in fighting technique.  He had been here in the past practicing with his sword; they would undoubtedly have developed weapons like it.


Chapter 54, Kondor 190

Pretty much all I had going into this chapter was that Zeke would tease Joe, and a vague question about whether the couple would get any kind of special treatment.  But I had teased the idea of Zeke marrying one of the other princesses before this, and decided to put the idea in the text, whether or not anything might come of it.


Chapter 55, Brown 213

I had left reprogramming the robot to this chapter, so I had to do something with it.
In the gap, it occurred to me that Derek would not know in what sense he had shut off the robot, and it made a difference.


Chapter 56, Slade 186

As I mentioned, I had the idea of having parakeet swordsmen engage Slade in practice.  That always presents me with the challenge of how to make the combat interesting.  That is particularly so this time because I expect to make this a regular feature of his day, and while I won’t describe it in detail every time, I’m going to have to describe a few of them.


Chapter 57, Kondor 191

I will need a way to remove Kondor from this world eventually, and I have been thinking that another war should do the trick.  I’m prefiguring that now, making the reader aware of the potential enemies.  My geography follows the real world only very roughly, but adequately that I can use the real world countries for a sketch.

This is, of course, the same balcony on which Derek and Vashti and the others watched (or didn’t watch) the sunset in the earlier book.


Chapter 58, Brown 214

I debated what the possibilities were, and let Derek do the same thing.  I decided that it would be a good cliffhanger to have Vashti activate the robot and put off what happens to the next chapter.


Chapter 59, Slade 187

I was doing these sparring combats mostly because I needed to keep Slade’s story interesting.  The comment about combining the two fighters into one was intentionally setting up the next fight.


Chapter 60, Kondor 192

I saw this coming.  I didn’t really like it, but it gives me a chance to explain how Kondor, who has actually seen an elemental spirit of fire, can disbelieve in elemental spirits.


Chapter 61, Brown 215

I had to make several snap decisions for this chapter, the first being what the robot would do.  I discussed it briefly with Kyler, who thought that it having been shut down unexpectedly, it would believe it had malfunctioned and would head for maintenance.  I decided against this, because for whatever I was going to do with it, I needed Derek to acquire it.  Thus I went with a reboot-and-upgrade option.

My next complication was whether this was constructed as a zoological bot or as a general service bot with zoological attachments.  The former would be of much less use to me, so I went with the latter.

The unit number was just random digits; I saw that the last number was going to be 9, and remembered that this world used base 8, so there would be a conversion and the 9 would tell us that this was base 10.  I realized after I wrote it that the center two digits were consecutive; one of my sons has a penchant for four-digit numbers (PINs, phone numbers) in which the center two digits are consecutive and the first and fourth are also consecutive, and I almost changed the 9 to an 8 to achieve that while retaining my base 10 conversion, but I wasn’t sure even he would get it (or indeed ever read it or notice it if he did).


Chapter 62, Slade 188

I needed to combine the fighting styles of the two best birds without making it seem either too much like they knew how to fight together or that they were not smart enough to figure out any of that.  I also didn’t want Slade to be untouched entirely, but he should still win, and the touch should be something the reader would believe.


Chapter 63, Kondor 193

I’m sort of being dragged into this.  Kondor told Leah that there was no Mithra, and now she’s challenging his assumptions, trying to figure out if he might be wrong.


This has been the third behind-the-writings look at In Verse Proportion.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to continue with more behind-the-writings posts for it and another novel.

#439: Corpoises: Toward a Story

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #439, on the subject of Corpoises:  Toward a Story.

It was partly a joke, partly serious, in the way that some Dungeons & Dragons monsters are real monsters in the game world but in some way a joke.  I posted it on my Facebook page, and got a couple of likes:

Corpises [COR’-piss-ez] (n, pl):

Undead marine mammals.

However, in addition to a couple likes, I got a request from a publisher that I “Please write this novel,” so I decided to explore the possibilities.

I think the first point to address is a critical aspect of the setting.  If we have undead dolphins and such, to whom or what are they a threat?  Most humans have very little contact with marine mammals, and although we could have them close the beaches, I think people in Nebraska aren’t in any danger, and seriously, telling people they can’t swim in the ocean because there are monsters that might kill them will sufficiently deter enough people that there wouldn’t be a story.  So if it’s people, it has to be something like primitive fishermen, people who live in island villages and rely on small boat fishing for survival.  That definitely limits other aspects of the story.  Of course, the corpoises could be one of many undead creatures, but that reduces their significance, and I feel like this is supposed to be about them.

On the other hand, it’s already fantasy if it includes anything undead, so perhaps I should explore the development of a nation of merpeople, human-like creatures living under the ocean on the continental shelves.  That’s a lot of work in itself, but if we’re talking about writing a novel, that’s not more work than we should expect; it’s only a question of creating something interesting.

We could split the difference and create human undersea colonies that raise some kind of food on the sea floor, which means people would have to go outside the protective domes to do the farming.  That’s another kind of setting to develop, although it would involve fewer unique aspects, being very much a science fiction habitat like others I have done.

Perhaps finally, the porpoise community itself could be the intelligent race threatened by the undead.  It’s worth considering, but then, it might be too alien, Walt Disney meets Stephen King.

My second issue is what kind of undead are we considering, and that’s closely tied to whether there is a theme here.  Traditionally undead creatures are the magical results of necromancy, or sometimes, as with the Revenant, of gross injustice demanding correction.  In modern stories the undead aren’t actually dead but are somehow biologically altered, and that gives a couple options–toxic chemical spills giving us an environmental backdrop, radioactive waste giving us an anti-nuclear substory, or some kind of genetic accident warning against the dangers of genetic engineering.  Currently I’m working on a story for James Beam in which the undead are infected with a brain parasite, and I have not yet decided whether the organism evolved or was created by human action, and might not have to do so, but that’s an option here.  There are other ways to create undead creatures, but they’re generally more intentional, that someone is doing it with a purpose and has some control over the monsters.

My next concern is whether this is horror.  I mean, you would think that if it involves zombies or undead of some sort, it must be horror–but I don’t always feel comfortable with horror.  Oh, I’ve written it.  I frequently mention the beginning of the Derek Brown stories in Old Verses New, in which he visits several horror worlds, but it occurs to me that before that I had written a story based on The Quest for the Vorgo, for Joe Kondor in Verse Three, Chapter One, and I’ve written at least a couple horror scenarios for Multiverser game play apart from those.  Also, my thoughts on the genre in web log post #132:  Writing Horror were apparently valuable enough that they got translated for the Places to Go, People to Be French edition, Maîtriser l’Horreur, so I apparently do know something about it.  On the other hand, as I recently shared in web log post #426:  A Christian View of Horror, genuine horror is at best difficult for a Christian, because in horror hope fails in despair, and for believers hope wins.  That doesn’t mean I can’t write the story; it means I have to give serious thought to what it’s about.

And that is the next question:  what is it about?  Great horror stories are usually about something important.  Frankenstein is about man overreaching to try to create life.  Jurassic Park has a similar theme.  I’ve already mentioned themes about environmental issues and genetic engineering–but do I care enough about these to create a good story from them?  I can see a concept of undead arising from a rejection of God, but seriously, among porpoises?  This is a very difficult aspect of the concept.

Most of that is, of course, setting material.  The last part gives some shape to the plot, but there is no story there.  For that, I’m going to have to create some characters who fit the setting, create some relationships, perhaps a romance, perhaps a family.  I might have to think about who is going to die, and when and how that happens.  I don’t really have a book here at this point.

But I might.  I just have to start finding answers to those questions.

Any reader who has thoughts about such a book is encouraged to respond, in the comments below or on one of my social media pages.

#438: The Song “Even You”

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #438, on the subject of The Song “Even You”.

It is difficult to know what to write about this song, because I wrote about it before.  Back when it was written, I posted web log post #181:  Anatomy of a Songwriting Collaboration, in which I described how beginning with the memory of something Jack Haberer posted in our high school yearbook I engaged my youngest son Adam in constructing this song.  Here I offer this recording, done in my living room with an acoustic guitar in competition with an air cleaner, not long after a hospitalization so I would have a recorded copy.  There is an earlier recording on another web site somewhere, linked from the previous article, in which Adam is playing the piano.

Tristan did not mention the song on his list; I suspect he had never heard it, as it was fairly new and he was not at our house much.  I placed the song itself at twenty-ninth, and the recording, flawed as it is, at thirty-second, which tied it with the previous song, Trust Him Again, at thirty-second overall.  The progressions were mostly somewhat common, and although I liked the lyrics I admit that there are spots where I’m not at all sure what Adam meant.  But it is a good song, and I’ve performed it at least once or twice live despite the fact that I rarely get to perform live anymore.

Even You.

So here are the lyrics.

If deep in your heart you remember when,
Did you want to be born again again?
The good news is the news is true:
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

There in your mind when you feel abused,
Don’t you get tired of being used and used?
Darkness falls, then the light breaks through.
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

You want what you want.
You get the joy, he took the pain.
You get what you get:
Redemption sustains, sin is a stain.

Ask yourself why you want to sin,
Why you lose; you were made to win.  To win
Victory, and to make it through.
Jesus comes to make all things new,
Even you, even you, even you, even you.

Thank God for what He’s done
To set us free.
He gave His only Son
For you and me.

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” | #346:  The Song “If We Don’t Tell Them” | #349: The Song “I Can’t Resist You’re Love” | #353:  The Song “I Use to Think” | #356:  The Song “God Said It Is Good” | #362:  The Song “My Life to You” | #366:  The Song “Sometimes” | #372:  The Song “Heavenly Kingdom” | #378:  The Song “A Song of Joy” | #382:  The Song “Not Going to Notice” | #387:  The Song “Our God Is Good” | #393:  The Song “Why” | #399:  The Song “Look Around You” | #404:  The Song “Love’s the Only Command” | #408:  The Song “Given You My Name” | #412:  The Song “When I Think” | #414:  The Song “You Should Have Thanked Me” | #428:  The Song “To the Victor” | #433:  The Song “From Job” | #436:  The Song “Trust Him Again”

Next song:  Fork in the Road