Category Archives: Books by the Author

#285: An Expression of Gratitude

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #285, on the subject of An Expression of Gratitude.

I need to thank a lot of people.

The complications include that I do not know who you all are, and I’m not sure of the propriety either of naming those whose names I have or contacting you personally.

Thus I am thanking you all, however many of you there are, through this web log post.

This arises from the fact that I recently had a myocardial infarction–a heart attack–which put me in the hospital.  I posted that in this Facebook post, and somewhere about twenty responses down I posted again with news of the Friday and Monday procedures, and my Tuesday discharge and such.

Many of you sent what I guess would be called “good wishes”, that is, comments, messages, whatever, hoping that I would get better.  Thank you.  I have done so to a significant degree, although I am still a bit weak and officially convalescing (and my wife has already scolded me for overworking once she knew how much I did yesterday, the day after my discharge, but someone had to get the boys to work and someone had to pick up my prescriptions, and more often than not I find that someone is me, particularly when she is working a string of night shifts, driving herself for the first time since her broken hip, and needing to sleep during the day).  So I am not fully recovered, but I am back at work.

Many of you prayed, and for this I am particularly grateful.  You have, of course, obligated me to let you know about the answers to your prayers so that many of you can give thanks to God for the grace extended through the prayers of many of you (cf. II Corinthians 1:11).  I have largely done that in the Facebook post.  I am not out of the woods entirely–I have a bag of new medications (and of all things the pharmacy couldn’t fill the “aspirin” prescription (chewable baby aspirin–how could they not have that?), so someone has to go back for it today), and I have two appointments for a cardiac stress test and a followup to decide what the test results mean.  Those are in the second week of March.

At least two of you made a point of spreading the word of my debilitation, and of encouraging people who at least know who I am to support me financially during this time.  That has resulted in a few gifts of significant amounts through my PayPal.me account–the first real activity there since it opened, and enough to pay for this bag of prescriptions and a bit more.  I have not seen any new Patreon patrons yet, but Patreon’s notification system is sometimes wonky so I’m going to include mention of that–because I am grateful to those of you who have made an effort to keep me going, and thankful to God that you are there, to those who contributed and to those who encouraged others to do so.

I’ll extend these thanks to those who have been meaning to send a bit of help my direction and simply haven’t yet done so; I know what that’s like, as there are often times when I have something I need to do soon that goes for days or weeks or even months before I manage it.  So thank you for the prayers and support you are going to send in the future.  You really do make a difference.

As the picture says, thank you.

#284: Versers React

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #284, on the subject of Versers React.

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

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

This is the fourth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 37 through 48.  Previous web log posts covering this book include:

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

Chapter 37, Brown 166

This came together in my mind in several pieces.  I had created the notion that there were bandit raiders on the eastern border, and decided that the nation beyond the eastern wilderness supported them, hoping to wear down the Caliph’s defenses in preparation for conquest.  That would be the major event in the next book, and the new James Beam character would land on the other side of that war.  Kyler and I had also talked about having the efriit working with that country, and connecting Beam to the efriit before he arrived in this world.

In contemplating what would happen in this Brown chapter, I had begun with the idea that Derek would attend the briefing, but then I wanted something with a bit more tension, and I decided that the Caliph wasn’t going to tell Slade everything.  That meant I had to have something the Caliph wouldn’t tell, and I had to have some way for Slade’s people to learn it and know it had been known.  I recalled that Derek had clairaudience and could listen to a distant conversation, but then I remembered, too, that he had used the sensory presence ability to explore the human city in For Better or Verse, and that would give me more impact.

At some point I had also decided that the Caliph and his people would not expect any of Slade’s people to speak Arabic or Farsi, but that Derek had studied both as a spy in Spy Verses and had never used them.  I had decided he would overhear a conversation in one of those languages, and not reveal that he understood it, so I incorporated that here.  It also enabled me to limit what he understood.

The creature that is named that he does not understand is a dragon, but the point is that it is not as big as a dragon.  I have a number of elemental fire spirits listed somewhere, but it won’t be necessary to give them names at this point.

The burns are dreadful, and make for a compelling scene, and also perhaps explain why the Caliph wouldn’t mention them.


Chapter 38, Kondor 143

I had originally envisioned the briefing as being seen through Kondor’s eyes, but now I had a new wrinkle with Derek’s contribution, and brought Slade’s perspective into it.  They would be preparing for their mission in their next chapter.


Chapter 39, Beam 10

It had been two months since Kyler had written anything, and I was getting antsy.  I discussed it with him, and he said it wasn’t coalescing into chapters and he didn’t know when it would, so I should go ahead and write it.  I immediately produced this chapter.

Along the way we had discussed the plot ahead, and put together quite a bit of what he thought should happen, all of which I had puzzled into an outline.  Of this chapter, I had written “I see two threads here, one following the murder of the reeve, in which the king sends troops and the situation escalates as Beam and Dawn take out the troops, leading to an ongoing stalemate; the other in which Beam starts learning to be a blacksmith.”  I chose to follow the blacksmithing thread first, and was considering whether to stretch the response of the king another chapter.


Chapter 40, Hastings 147

I dreaded writing this chapter for a while, because I was moving into unfamiliar territory–not that I didn’t know how Lauren would react, but that I wasn’t certain how her female fans would feel about this.


Chapter 41, Slade 142

When I diverted from the last Kondor chapter to write the Hastings chapter, I made a note for myself that read “Next Slade chapter focus on his anticipation and excitement.”  As I came to the chapter, I realized I also had to move the story forward and get them on the edge of action.  That meant breezing through a lot of preparation, and not spending too much time on introspection.


Chapter 42, Brown 167

It took me several days and a consultation with Kyler to finish this chapter.  I early worked out that Derek had to see something, and that the best shot was that he would see charred patches from the fire beast; from there I needed him to talk with Kondor, and that reminded me that he had never contacted Kondor telepathically but had read his mind, so I could use that.  I was having trouble making it gel, though, until Kyler suggested that the burned patches were attacks on villages.  There wouldn’t be villages in the wilderness, I thought, but there would be herdsmen with goats, moving their camps around.  From there it was figuring out what kind of pattern Derek might see that would be informative to Joe, and that came together as I thought about it.


Chapter 43, Beam 11

The outline entry for this chapter originally read “At some point Beam has to become aware of Bron’s meager magical abilities.  We’ll need to give him a few useful skills.”  Since I had not launched the conflict with the king in Beam 10 I did so here.

I had some trouble thinking of what sort of spell Beam would see Bron using, and had given consideration to one that enabled him to put a sharper edge on an axe.  Kyler suggested that Bron would be blessing his hammer before use.  At first I thought this not a good choice, because he would have been doing it all along and Beam would have seen it quite early, but then I decided that just because Beam saw it didn’t mean he would have asked about it immediately.


Chapter 44, Hastings 148

I thought about this for a day or so.  I had intended it to focus on the question of putting Lauren in restraints, to set up the next scene, but it had to begin with the doctor asking about the attack.  It also seemed necessary to suggest Lauren was a bit rattled by the attack, despite her success at repelling it.  She should begin to see her vulnerability here.


Chapter 45, Kondor 144

The decision to break camp and follow Derek was abrupt, and cut the chapter short–so short, in fact, that I decided I needed more to happen, and brought in the second message from Derek.


Chapter 46, Slade 143

I pondered this chapter for a couple days.  Fairly early I decided that it should tell of the travel retrospectively, and that they should be camping about a mile from the wadi but still not know where the camp was.  Most of the strategic issues were developed as I ran the conversation, figuring out the issues as I went, and abruptly I hit upon a solution that Derek could suggest, but I didn’t want him to have it all together as quickly as I did or it would look too simple, so he’s thinking about it.

I also rather abruptly decided that Zeke should propose the watch arrangements, and constructed them on the fly.  However, I made a mistake in having him say everyone got six hours of sleep because he only got four, so I went back to fix it.


Chapter 47, Beam 12

The original outline for this chapter read “We have to move into the princess story, and it’s going to take a chapter to transition to the beginning of it.  Since Beam isn’t going to volunteer, the king is going to have to send a delegation seeking his help, probably offering pardon for all crimes.”  Unfortunately, I had not yet resolved the matter of the rebellion against the king, and I wasn’t sure how to handle it all.  I’m still not completely certain, but I think there won’t be a fight this time, because I need to get to the rescue of the princesses.


Chapter 48, Hastings 149

I came at this awkwardly, because the previous chapter meeting with the doctor was very good and I didn’t know what else I could do.  I invented the Philman Act to suggest that there were things Lauren didn’t know about this world.  I’ve a rough notion that it is a law giving rape victims some benefits or rights, but at present don’t need more information than that.


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

#280: Versers Reveal

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 25, Brown 164

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

This was chapter 19 before we added James Beam.

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


Chapter 26, Kondor 141

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

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

This was chapter 20 before we added James Beam.


Chapter 27, Beam 7

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

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

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


Chapter 28, Hastings 144

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

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

This was chapter 21 before we added James Beam.


Chapter 29, Slade 140

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

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

This was chapter 22 before we added James Beam.


Chapter 30, Brown 165

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

This was chapter 23 before we added James Beam.


Chapter 31, Beam 8

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


Chapter 32, Hastings 145

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

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

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

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


Chapter 33, Kondor 142

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

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


Chapter 34, Slade 141

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

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


Chapter 35, Beam 9

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

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

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


Chapter 36, Hastings 146

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


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

#279: My Journey to Becoming a Writer

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

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

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

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

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

Christian Author+-songwriter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#278: The 2018 Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#277: Versers Resettle

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 13, Brown 162

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

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

This was chapter 10 before James Beam was added.


Chapter 14, Kondor 139

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

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

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


Chapter 15, Beam 4

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

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

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


Chapter 16, Hastings 141

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

This was chapter 12 before we added James Beam.


Chapter 17, Slade 138

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

This was chapter 13 before we added James Beam


Chapter 18, Brown 163

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

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

This was chapter 14 before we added James Beam.


Chapter 19, Beam 5

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

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

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


Chapter 20, Hastings 142

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

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

This was chapter 15 before we added James Beam.

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


Chapter 21, Kondor 140

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

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

This was chapter 16 before we added James Beam.


Chapter 22, Slade 139

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

This was chapter 17 before we added James Beam.


Chapter 23, Beam 6

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


Chapter 24, Hastings 143

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

This was chapter 18 before we added James Beam.


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

#275: Versers Reorient

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #275, on the subject of Versers Reorient.

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

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

This is the first mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 1 through 12.

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

Chapter 1, Hastings 137

Of course, Lauren versed out at the end of the third novel, so it seemed important to remind the reader of where the thread was by recounting a fragment of that battle.

I also decided to step her back to entering the world in the dream state; I wanted there to be a struggle with the orderlies in which she didn’t really know what was happening, so they would drug her.  That’s what’s happening in the first chapter.

Her gear is all close at hand, and will be gathered and put in storage.  When she awakens, she’ll be wearing a straightjacket or similarly restrained and being observed by some sort of therapist, who will ask her if she knows who she is, where she is, and what the date is.  From there we begin the cat-and-mouse game between a sane verser and a closed-minded psychiatrist.


Chapter 2, Kondor 137

Although Kondor finished the previous book, I needed his perspective on the puzzle of why the porter said they were expected.  That also gave me an opportunity to give the story to this point, although there were a few comments in the previous book that I wished I could easily bring forward and couldn’t.

I had already decided how the city knew to expect these visitors, but it was a supernatural connection which Kondor would neither expect nor believe.  Having found a perfectly natural possible explanation, he concludes that it must be true because it is reasonable, consistent with his naturalist viewpoint.


Chapter 3, Beam 1

I had finished writing what was chapter 24, Hastings 145, and as I was looking for something to do in chapter 25, Kondor 142, I suddenly had a couple of ideas converge.  They had all been sort of back-burner ideas.  One was to involve my second son Kyler in the writing process–I had long wanted to have a collaboration with someone, preferably him, in which we introduced a new character and used it to spring into two diverging series, but he had never been available.  The other idea was to base a character loosely on our friend John Walker, named James Beam.  I liked the name because not only did it connect to a whiskey (exactly as Johnny Walker does), but it also was the sort of name James Bond might use as an alias, and it sounded like James Dean, the iconic actor.  I approached Kyler with the idea.

Kyler liked it, saying that he wanted the new character to become an antagonist rather than an ally of the others.  I suggested that we use chapters in this book to create the character, and at the end of the book we bring him into the world with the others and set him up on the opposite side of the conflict.  I also observed that none of our present verser characters had been killed originally by scriff-containing computer hardware (and John was something of a computer technician), and none had been killed by Kreelak, the preying mantis-like aliens of Nagaworld, so this would be a good background for him.  I also suggested that in the initial phases he believes he has been abducted by aliens and taken to another planet.

Other characteristics I expected:  thinks the Kreelak must have used a stun gun; smokes but has only two packs of cigarettes; weakness for alcohol but none with him; building trades and glassmaking skills; versed out in 2017 or 2018, when we were writing this.

I did not know what worlds might be used, but needed him to pick up quite a few potent skills.  I thought a space world would be good but only had The Wanderer and Farmland Beta unused.  I also thought he could learn magic and/or psionics from Omigger in some future world, but had no good ideas for what that world might be like.  At some point I thought he should meet another verser, and so learn about his situation–but not one of those I was covering.

I was trying to be patient while awaiting Kyler’s first chapter; it was only a couple days, but I was eager to see something.  Then we discussed at length the direction it would take.  He was thinking of taking a world he had used, a biological laboratory, and putting it on a space station, and infesting it with alien carnivores.  He had a powerful support character in that world, and I suggested that it would be a good choice to empower him, and that we should also give him another team member who had low-level psionics, equip them with high tech weapons, and have them work together until he is killed taking them with him.  The statement, “No matter what happens, stay together, stay with me,” would be integral to their relationship.  I suggested for inspiration on the psionicist the Tesch of Doctor Who’s The Face of Evil.  He instead went with a stock Dungeons & Dragons™ monster, a Mind Flayer, with the aspect that whoever was running the station had surgically removed several of the facial tentacles sported by such creatures.  He also made him rather stupid.

From there, Kyler wanted to send him to The Dancing Princess, not so much because of the demons or the princesses.  Although we initially agreed that he would defeat the demons, rescue the princesses, and marry the second girl whom I was calling Nerene but he wanted to rename Nerenae, that changed as the story unfolded.  He also wanted to include in that world something he had done in one of his games, having a blacksmith/enchanter create a magic ring and botch, so that it controls dragons but also makes the wearer insane.  He would pick up a wizard, maybe this enchanter, although I was thinking more in terms of someone low-level reminiscent of Smedrick in The Last Unicorn, and enchanting a ring is a very powerful bit of magic.  So that was still open as we started.  Our proposed solution was that the blacksmith/enchanter had never enchanted an item before, and James tells him he needs this ring to control dragons (they’re a danger in that scenario), so he attempts to do so and botches, which means he doesn’t have to have a 15@ bias because he never successfully performed the skill despite having created a magic ring.

In editing, we agreed that Beam would need more bullets.  Both of us envisioned a “.45” as a revolver, and three of a presumed six shots had already been used to that point.  We added finding the box of bullets.


Chapter 4, Brown 161

I kept opening this chapter trying to decide how to frame it.  Then I spent two weeks in the hospital including surgery, and as I was recuperating I finally tackled it.

The bath is modeled on Roman public baths, but given a semi-private aspect of being connected to a set of eight similar residences.

This was originally chapter 3, but when I reached chapter 24 I decided to incorporate the new character, James Beam, and bumped everything.


Chapter 5, Slade 136

I gave thought to the order in which the group would awaken, and what would trigger each awakening.

It also occurred to me after I made the comment about dressing well for the meeting that only Shella would dress differently than usual.

I’m feeling my way forward with this.  I need to establish the setting and the characters, and then bring in the problem, but it’s slow going at the moment.

In editing, the notes were added to suggest that Bob and Joe were talking quietly with each other.

The decision to have the Slades tap their jewelry was made when I reached the beginning of what was chapter 8, and backwritten here.

This was originally chapter 4, bumped when we added the James Beam character thread.


Chapter 6, Hastings 138

The restraints were an obvious precaution, given her somewhat belligerent arrival.  The story of her arrival from the perspective of an outside observer will come soon, but I need to introduce characters who can tell it.

Originally I had written that the clothes she wore beneath the armor were in place, but I happened to be reading a book about how to write which caused me to think that I should be more specific, give a clearer image of the scene, so I changed it to jeans and t-shirt, her typical garb.

This was originally chapter 5 before we inserted the James Beam character thread.


Chapter 7, Beam 2

I received this chapter from Kyler very soon after the first, along with the third.  The introduction of Turbirb’durpa went smoothly, although there were problems with the spelling of the name, and I wasn’t sure why he would be called “Bob”–I thought “Bert” more likely.  That came out later.

Kyler’s inspiration for the monsters on the ship were the aliens of Alien.  He wanted something fast and deadly that could travel the air ducts.  He added a few touches of his own, and particularly their ability to cloud their appearance.

There is a run-on sentence in the first paragraph.  When I alerted Kyler to it, he responded that it was intentional, to press the sense of urgency.

We had a fair amount of trouble with the opening of the door.  It originally read “the door beside him pried open”, and I thought that this was an attempted middle voice, which I don’t think that verb has.  I was envisioning a door that had already been forced open.  Kyler’s intention, though, was that Turbirb’durpa was using telekinetic force to twist the door into an open position so Beam could pass through.  I discussed the problem that later Beam struggles with opening other doors and neither of them thinks to have Bob bend them open–and that it was important to the story that there not be an obvious option to do that.  The best we had for that was that Bob’s not very bright and didn’t think of it, and in the stress of all this Beam didn’t recall that Bob did this.  To capture the feeling we changed it to “wrenched”.

The abrupt quieting of the hum bothered me, because it hadn’t been mentioned.  Kyler, though, likened it to the experience of someone turning off a television in a room you had entered, and suddenly being impacted by the silence from the loss of a sound you had not really consciously recognized.  It was rephrased slightly to convey that.


Chapter 8, Kondor 138

I was constructing this from what I knew of ancient Persian and Middle Eastern practice.  I was not sure about the beer, but decided that I knew they had wheat and wine so beer was at least probable.

This was originally chapter 6 before we inserted the James Beam character thread.


Chapter 9, Hastings 139

It happens that I had just been released from hospitalization earlier in the week when I was writing this, so I modeled a lot of this on what I knew of inpatient care.

I had established her birth year as 1965, but not her birthday.  I decided that since she was otherwise so like me, it should be near my own, and went with the 6th as a few days before mine, although a decade later.

Her birthday is established as Sunday, June 6th, 1965.  She is speaking with her caretaker the day after that.

I also tend to go with my own taste preferences with her, which means she would not drink cranberry juice but would have to choose between the others, and while orange juice would appeal as the most thirst-quenching she would hesitate over the possibility of heartburn from it.

This was originally chapter 7 before we inserted the James Beam character thread.


Chapter 10, Slade 137

It had been rattling in my head that the group, and that meant Slade as the recognized nobleman, should give a gift to the Caliph.  I realized that had to happen now, so I looked to see what was actually established as in his possession.  The sheet included “Decorative Chest…Beautiful Necklace with Emerald the size of a golf ball…Carved Gold Ring with Fancy Raised ‘S’…Jeweled Dagger…About 20# total recognizable pieces of jewelry.”  This prompted me to think that he should be wearing some of this, and I was going to put the emerald necklace on him, but then decided no, Shella should wear that, and he should have the ring and the jeweled dagger.  That meant backwriting the scene where they were preparing, in chapter 4.

I had finished this chapter, but then realized that there was an important story element that had to be introduced during this dinner–the daughter and her entourage–so I returned to it to find a way to include that.

This had been chapter 8 before we added the James Beam character thread.


Chapter 11, Beam 3

I found the cold character of the girl intriguing, and wondered where it’s headed.

It was on a quite late reading that I realized she was described as having three guns visible plus probably other concealed weapons.  They are not mentioned again, but before that becomes necessary she kits up with some unspecified collection of weapons including an automatic rifle with grenade launcher, so it became moot.

I had made the mistake in editing this of using her name, which is not revealed until the next Beam chapter; I caught it just before the chapter was published, and changed it to “she”.


Chapter 12, Hastings 140

My vision for this arc in Lauren’s story is that her self-identity as a verser and as a chosen messenger of God are being challenged.  It starts with the fact that her existence in this world cannot be confirmed.

This was chapter 9 before James Beam was added.


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

#273: Maintaining Fictional Character Records

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#269: Versers Arrive

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #269, on the subject of Versers Arrive.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have previously completed publishing my first three novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, and For Better or Verse, 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 fourth, Spy Verses,  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 and final mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 127 through 147.  These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #218:  Versers Resume (which provided this kind of insight into the first twenty-one chapters);
  2. #226:  Versers Adapt (covering chapters 22 through 42);
  3. #235:  Versers Infiltrate (covering chapters 43 through 63);
  4. #243:  Verser Redirects (covering chapters 64 through 84);
  5. #257:  Verser Relationships (covering chapters 85 through 105);
  6. #265:  Versers in Motion (covering chapters 106 through 126).

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

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Chapter 127, Brown 151

The challenge here was that I didn’t want Derek to solve it all, and I didn’t want it to be simple, but I didn’t want him to be completely useless in this, either.  At first I had the notion that he was going to find video footage of Sammie removing her journal from its hiding place, but then I thought that this was both too much to give him and something he would have noticed at the time, so I abandoned it.  I also realized that I had a problem with a video bug that went with her into her quarters, as it would mean he certainly had footage of her in her sleepwear, probably also in various states of undress, which was problematic.  On the other hand, he probably only gave security the footage relevant to the espionage case, so it is possible no one realizes he has it.


Chapter 128, Kondor 131

I started this with a view to filling a bit of time while Bob and Shella were approaching.  The esoterica into which it wandered was all pretty much chance.


Chapter 129, Brown 152

The recollection that teenage girls sometimes practice writing the name they think is going to be their future married name came to me abruptly as the connection that would bring Derek into the action of finding the girl.

I did a search for common Romanian surnames, and picked Dalca because it was relatively simple and alliterative.  It was on a list of what I took to be the most common thirty-five names in Romania.  Constantinescu was also on that list, along with quite a few other “escu” names, which apparently is the Romanian “son of” ending.


Chapter 130, Slade 131

I had written this chapter and stopped, thinking I was going to add more to it.  When I returned and reread it, meaning to consider how to continue it, I decided that the end was good, and I should leave it that way.  I had not yet decided from whose perspective the meeting between Slade and Kondor would be presented, but I thought this was not the chapter for that, so it defaulted to the next chapter in this story, which would be Kondor’s.


Chapter 131, Brown 153

I pondered how Derek could find the information on Dorin without having it be too simple, probably for a day or so, then jotted a note just before going to bed.  It read, “Romanian police computers were not connected to the Internet–but Interpol was, and Derek could access that fairly easily using his own credentials.  He then put in a formal request for information on a Romanian citizen going by Dorin Dalca, estimated at twenty years of age, living somewhere in Bucharest.  Criminal record, last known address, known associates.”  I used that for the basis of this chapter.

I was telling my Patreon supporters that I was nearing the end of the first draft but would have to edit, and somewhere in the back of my mind I was collecting notes for things to check while editing.  Between writing that note and writing this chapter I went back to the beginning and started the edit–I often have to give myself albuterol treatments with a nebulizer, which requires one hand and not much attention, so I can read but can’t type very well; I thought that reading the book and making edits was something I could do while inhaling vaporized medicine, and so make good use of the time.

On the read-through edit I thought of an alternate way for Derek to get the information, but was undecided as to whether to replace the Interpol method or add this (which would mean Romanian police records getting two requests on the same person, and might raise suspicions), so I decided to make a note of it and consider it again later.  The thought was that if the police relied on paper records and faxes, Derek could hack the phone company computer and route one of the fax numbers of a small police office to himself, then put in a request as that police station.  It was complicated, though, by the fact that he would have to write the request in Romanian on a standard request form he didn’t have.


Chapter 132, Kondor 132

I knew I was going to have trouble with Kondor in this world, because he doesn’t believe in magic and he has to reconcile his beliefs with the realities around him.  Of course, Slade and Shella are quite at home with magic, and won’t think twice about using it in front of him, which they do.


Chapter 133, Brown 154

I put this together slowly, trying to work out what had to happen before I had Derek involved in rescuing Samantha.  A planning session seemed to be the first step, and when I started the planning session the problems of the rescue became apparent.  The solution also became apparent, so I turned my attention to that.


Chapter 134, Slade 132

The new tension in Kondor’s life is that his companion Zeke doesn’t exactly disbelieve in magic, and that starts here.

Shella is always better at magic than Slade, and in this particular case we know from For Better or Verse that he used this spell for very short range viewing while she waited well outside the city and watched their movements for several hours, so her ability is already demonstrably better with it.

The speed of casting is built into Multiverser:  as your “skill ability level” increases, there are specific points at which you become twice as fast and then three times as fast (as your original speed) at casting spells.  Shella is probably twice as fast as Slade, who is an amateur at this against her professional ability.


Chapter 135, Brown 155

I had written this short chapter in its entirety, in pieces, but wasn’t happy with it, wanting the story to move forward faster.  I sat on it like that for several days, and then persuaded myself that it would be better to end it here and pick up after writing a Kondor chapter.  Part of it was that I could skip forward to the part where he was trying to look through the windows, and part of it was the realization that shorter chapters would give a feeling of acceleration toward the end of the book.


Chapter 136, Kondor 133

I started the party walking, and it occurred to me that people who don’t know anything about magic would think of ways to use magic to make things easier–like traveling through the desert.  Joe isn’t going to think that way, because he believes it’s not magic, but Zeke is new to everything, and so he will be full of questions, and “isn’t there an easier way to travel” is certainly one of them.


Chapter 137, Brown 156

For at least a day all I knew about this chapter was that the blinds would be drawn if the girl was there.  I began to paint a picture in my mind, Samantha found Dorin, Dorin’s handler was unhappy, she was bound and gagged in a chair, and then the handler leaves but tells Dorin to wait twenty minutes for him to be elsewhere, then kill her some way that won’t be messy, then leave the apartment unlocked and go somewhere where he will be recognized, and someone will come deal with the body.  Then I realized that they would be speaking Romanian, and Derek wouldn’t understand them.  It also occurred to me that city windows are often barred, which became a complication.

I decided that the Reptile House people would want to tag the departing handler, so with that framework I set about having Morach solve the problems I had envisioned for him.


Chapter 138, Slade 133

I was moving the group across the desert, making it seem that they had some distance to cover, and preparing for Derek to join them.  I knew how that was going to work, but I had to get his story to fit with theirs, so I took them slowly.


Chapter 139, Brown 157

This is the setup for Derek’s final chapter in this world.  I had originally envisioned him going in as Derek, with the full reptile house team fully armed, but I realized that there were a lot of good reasons why that would not happen, and why it would not be perceived as necessary, so I decided he would have to be Morach.  After all, the bow is the only weapon he brought, and it is a weapon he can use without raising the problem that he killed a Romanian citizen.


Chapter 140, Kondor 134

I had several times considered what it would be like to be inside the bubble during a sandstorm, and I knew the book would end with the travelers approaching the city, and fairly soon.  I decided the best observer for telling this experience was Kondor, and that I should do it here to make what was otherwise a dull travel chapter interesting.


Chapter 141, Brown 158

This was the way I had intended for Derek to go:  taking a bullet to protect Samantha.  I had originally envisioned him leaping into it sideways in full size, but the story had forced me to bring him here as Morach, and the only way he would be able to take multiple bullets in that situation would be to be flying at the shooter–otherwise he would simply sail past the line of fire, and Samantha would be hit.


Chapter 142, Kondor 135

I had envisioned this scene, in which Bob sees Derek’s equipment appear but Kondor misses it, and I knew it was going to have to be told from Kondor’s perspective, so we have an extra Kondor chapter.


Chapter 143, Brown 159

I had been wondering how to bring Derek into this world, and then recalled that he was at stage 2 when he entered Why Spy–the dream state.  There was no reason to take him out of it, so I played with that a bit.  I recognized that he had left the world as Morach, but had insisted on having Derek’s clothes brought on the raid, so he would be able to change.  The clothes themselves wouldn’t be too much for Morach to carry, but there are at least two and probably several cans of energy drink, and they are rather heavy.  So it was obvious that he would have to travel as Derek.


Chapter 144, Slade 134

I was not certain what was going to happen in this chapter; it was possible that the book would end, but there was too much, I thought, to fit in one chapter.  I decided that this would give the feel of the wait, and saw in my mind Zeke pulling out a deck of cards to suggest playing poker–something which earlier it was established Kondor did not do on the base.  That led to the dialogue, and the quashing of the idea of playing poker with someone who could read your mind, and from there into video games, and then into a somewhat awkward silence.  At that point, I thought that the next chapter could be Derek, his arrival, and beginning toward the city, and then Kondor could tell of seeing the city and coming to the gate, a scene my mind had rehearsed quite a few times but which had not been put to paper at all (so if I die within the next few hours it will be something no one ever knows).

As I was re-reading this, it struck me that when Lauren meets Zeke there will be at least the question of his religion.  That caused me to think about it, and I started jotting a conversation in the notes on the next novel to include then.


Chapter 135, Brown 160

I had set it in my mind that it would take Derek the full night to walk to his gear, but then it struck me that this might seem odd to the reader, who wouldn’t understand why it was so far.  I thus decided that the reason is that a drive that didn’t seem that long covered a lot of distance, and even with the removal of the city obstacles it would be a long walk back and on loose sand which would slow his progress.


Chapter 146, Slade 135

This chapter was rather organic–I knew where it started, and I let it grow.  It simply has to integrate Derek into the group and establish where they are going next, and when.


Chapter 147, Kondor 136

I wanted the scene at the gate to be told from Kondor’s perspective, because it would seem the most odd to him that they were expected.
The story is suspended here, because it has always been the plan that the Arabian story would be central to the next book.


This has been the seventh and final behind the writings look at Spy Verses.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will endeavor to publish the next novel and behind the writings posts for it.

#265: Versers in Motion

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #265, on the subject of Versers in Motion.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have now completed publishing my first three novels, Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, Old Verses New, and For Better or Verse, 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 fourth, Spy Verses,  I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look may contain spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  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 sixth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 106 through 126.  These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #218:  Versers Resume (which provided this kind of insight into the first twenty-one chapters);
  2. #226:  Versers Adapt (covering chapters 22 through 42);
  3. #235:  Versers Infiltrate (covering chapters 43 through 63);
  4. #243:  Verser Redirects (covering chapters 64 through 84);
  5. #257:  Verser Relationships (covering chapters 85 through 105).

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

Chapter 106, Slade 124

I needed to do something with Slade, so I brought him to a white camp.  The idea of having him suggest he thought he had returned to Vargas’ camp developed as I wrote, but I still don’t know where this section will take me.


Chapter 107, Brown 143

I had not intended a confrontation between Derek and Williams, but it seemed that my timeframe was going to require it, so I thought I should make it dramatic.  I expect Williams to order Derek arrested, but Derek will act preemptively.


Chapter 108, Kondor 125

Kondor now has Zeke with him, which I had not previously envisioned.  I’m setting up the terms of their relationship and the character of the new associate as I go.


Chapter 109, Slade 125

I was still to some degree struggling with the Slade story, and now I had committed myself to a quick end with Kondor so I had to start thinking seriously about how to get them into that last world without a repeat of the random death bit.  I didn’t yet have it.

I stumbled into the new moral issue mostly from looking for some interesting dialogue, but once I saw it I spent a couple days trying to get it right.


Chapter 110, Brown 144

I had worked out most of this while writing the intervening chapters, trying to figure out what would most likely happen.  I knew when I finished the previous Brown chapter that his “pre-emptive” action would have to be telling the security officers to arrest Williams before Williams said to arrest him, and that was the timing issue.

Somewhere in my mind I realized that this would disrupt the room, as everyone was distracted by the unfolding drama at the security window, but I decided that this was something Derek would ignore and thus could be omitted from the narrative at this point.


Chapter 111, Kondor 126

I didn’t need Zeke to accept the situation fully, but simply to accept that for the moment he did not have a better explanation, and that the present task was to survive.

I don’t know whether Kondor has the equipment for a solar water collector.  He has a camp shovel, but he needs a plastic sheet and a pot.  I have been working on character sheets for my characters, so I’ll have to go through his equipment list.  The usual plastic sheet is a ground cloth, but he has a tent with a floor so he might not have one.  On the other hand, he might have a space blanket, which would also work.  He cooks, so he must have some kind of pots or pans, but they won’t be very large.  I’ll also have to consider what Zeke has in his gear, which at the moment is a roughly two hundred pound duffel of everything he takes when he moves to a new post.


Chapter 112, Slade 126

I needed to find a way to knock Slade out of the universe without giving the reader the feeling I was repeating myself.  It had not yet come to me, but then, I also had to move Derek forward to a place where he could be killed, and it wasn’t going to be on this mission.  The plan on the desert world is to bring them to a medieval Arabian city (somewhat sketched in my mind), to have Slade and Shella join Kondor and Zeke en route, and have Derek arrive just as they are approaching the walls.  So I had at least a little time for Slade while I finished with Derek and figured out how he verses, but I needed to be thinking in that direction.

I had a lot of problems with the Slade Manor idea, not the least of which was that he had a small chest of treasure and would have to expend quite a bit of it to buy the kind of mansion he wanted, even close to enemy territory, and my time to tell this story was getting shorter so I was going to have to pull him out.  So he would have parted with a lot of treasure and gotten very little in return for it, and I couldn’t justify doing that to him.

This dialogue was written over several days, as I couldn’t figure out where Slade was going.  I had thought of the part about how in the midst of a war they rarely were in any danger of being killed, but before I wrote it I played a game of solitaire and thought of the card relationship part, so I inserted that first and then turned to the surviving a war part.


Chapter 113, Brown 145

I put a lot of thought into whether Colonel Simpkins was part of the plot, but two things deterred me.  One was that it seemed unlikely that he would be included; the other was that it would mean Derek was going to die too soon, unless I could stretch this significantly.  I still am wondering whether someone should come tell him he is free to go, and then shoot him as “killed while trying to escape”, but again it will be too soon for him to arrive in the next world.

I started wondering while writing this whether to create a world for one of the characters based on the Clue® game, but then was faced with trademark issues, and wondering whether I could get around them with name changes.  I would replace one of them (either Green or White, depending on for which I could find a better replacement) with Grey, possibly replace Colonel Mustard with Captain Musgrave, maybe use Miss Lavender and Miss Rose, Professor Plumb, and the deceased host might be Mr. Soma or some other foreign name.


Chapter 114, Kondor 127

At this point I need Kondor to survive in the desert credibly; I need the reader to feel that he is doing things that are not merely striking in a random direction in the hope of finding civilization.

The use of a stick to determine which way is east by the shadow created by the path of the sun, and the solar water collector, probably both came out of a 1960s edition of the Boy Scout Fieldbook (not to be confused with the Handbook); I have never used either nor heard of anyone who did, but then, they are techniques for survival situations.  The shadow to determine latitude was my own thought, although I recognize that it is mostly about the curvature of the surface of the planet and significantly affected by the seasonal shift of the tilt.


Chapter 115, Slade 127

It was at this point that I figured out how to get Slade out of the present world, and to give myself a few chapters to accomplish it so Kondor could do a bit more of his desert survival and I could start maneuvering Derek to a departure point (which I had not yet solved).


Chapter 116, Brown 146

I had originally thought this would be two chapters, one which ended with Derek suspicious that the release might be a set-up and the other in which the Colonel came to him.  However, the first would have been too short, and once it ran the second part made no sense unless the first was a set-up.  It’s a few chapters too soon to take Derek out of this world, and I have not yet determined how I’m going to do it.

I also toyed with the idea of Derek being thanked by the Ambassador, but I realized that the situation is entirely too awkward in too many ways, and I didn’t see a way to make it work.


Chapter 117, Kondor 128

I lost part of this chapter.  I had started writing it during a storm, so I did a quick save at one point, and then I wrote more.  I had other things I should have been doing, and my time was slipping past, so I decided I would leave it and return–but when I closed the document I accidentally hit the “no” when it asked to save it, and didn’t have time to go back and try to remember what I had written.  I’m still not sure whether I had anything good that I lost.

One of the actresses who played a companion on Dr. Who once commented that there were only so many ways you could say, “What is it, Doctor?” but that this was the essence of your part:  companions exist so the Doctor can explain to someone what is happening so the audience knows.  We don’t have that problem with books, because at least for the primary characters internal perspective permits us to convey what the character is thinking and feeling, but as I started to integrate Zeke into Kondor’s life I started to feel like his role was becoming something like a Whovian companion.

I added the line about electrolytes and water soluble vitamins maybe an hour after I wrote that paragraph, when I returned to work on it more.  It seemed to me that it made him sound more like the doctor he is.

The cheese and crackers might owe something to Gumper’s Four-man Meal Packs®.  One of the lunches contains Velveeta® with some kind of cracker, although I’m only guessing that it’s saltines.  I remember that another contained Spam®, all of them contained a powdered spread that became something like jelly when mixed with water, and there was some kind of cracker which in at least one collection was Melba Toast®.  They had the virtue that in their sealed plastic bags they kept well over long trips even if the canoe swamped.


Chapter 118, Slade 128

I talked this through with Evan, because I knew exactly what was going to happen but not how to convey the story to the reader.

I had arranged for Slade to flash his chest of wealth at the mess tent, and figured more than one soldier would have seen it.  One, or maybe two, would believe that that was enough wealth to set them up for life, and then some–but they would not be so foolish as to suppose they could take Slade alone.  Thus they have the problem of deciding how many people they should trust to help them–more people increases the chance of success but decreases the size of the share.  Then they have to follow Slade and Shella out of the camp and ambush them.

The problem is that my perspective rules forbid me from giving the reader anything not known to the viewpoint character–in this case, Slade.  If it went to plan, five or six men would get around Slade and shoot him with flintlock rifles.  They would not expect trouble from Shella–she’s a woman, after all.  If they kill him by surprise, he is out of there–but the reader never knows what happened, and I’m trying to avoid the impression that it was a random death in war, so I have to let the reader know what is happening somehow.  That means a confrontation, so someone will explain something.

Obviously the ambushers are not going to initiate a confrontation; their plan depends on surprise.  That means Slade has to confront them.  However, six ordinary soldiers armed with flintlock rifles–Slade and Shella have defeated considerably more potent enemies, and indeed Slade has taken out worse than that himself, even before he faced the snake (trained armored prison guards with kinetic blasters).  Once he knows they are there, it is difficult to make his death credible, particularly if he has Shella assisting.

I kept wanting to have Slade throw the dagger, but knew that that would leave him a weapon short, so I saved it for a moment when in doing so he would be able to take the weapon from the person he killed.  I think the fight works, as Slade gets weakened a bit at a time and ultimately kills or injures all five of his attackers before falling.


Chapter 119, Brown 147

Getting Derek back to London would be quick and easy, and there would be a brief debriefing which I didn’t have to cover.  Then to get the timing right I was going to have to launch him on another mission quickly, which meant finding something different, and then kill him in the early stages.  What that is I don’t yet know.  The Why Spy game scenario recommends that referees take popular spy movies, begin with the set-up, and bring the character into it at a likely starting point.  The problem for me is coming up with a scenario that won’t be obviously plagiarized.  On the other hand, if I can find one that is dangerous enough up front I can finish it before it has moved far enough to be recognized.


Chapter 120, Kondor 129

I again marked the arrival of Bob Slade in the story of another verser, partly because I didn’t want Kondor to be surprised at his arrival but at the same time I didn’t want any confusion over why he wasn’t moving to meet whoever it was.


Chapter 121, Brown 148

I spent a few days trying to devise a new mission for Derek.  My parameters were problematic.  I wanted it to be something that made sense for him, but had a good chance of getting him killed.  The idea that Samantha would vanish looking for Dorin was not as obvious to me as it seems in the text.

I then balked at the American name.  When I give passports to player characters in this scenario, we always establish the names on them up front so that we have them, but when I did it in the book it was not at the time important.  I had tossed around a number of names in my head–John Smith, Jim Bond, Pete something–and then thought of making him John Quincy Adams, after the fourth President of the United States.  I dropped the unusual Quincy (although for a moment I considered making it Quentin to preserve the middle initial) in favor of the more common David, partly so I could make the joke about how it didn’t sound like an American name to C, who of course would think it sounded like a common British name.

I also wanted to send him in as not who he was but as someone else, and that would only work if I connected him to a different embassy.  The American embassy had advantages that he would have no trouble with the accent and I could involve the Reptile House, both because they would know him on sight (helping confirm his identity) and because they’re a good team that I rarely have used so maybe I could put them into action.


Chapter 122, Slade 129

I had long been thinking about the fact that if the soldiers killed Slade his treasure would go with him, and realized that he would find that quite funny.

I realized that the flintlock rifle would go with Slade; it was in my head several times.  This seems more like a piece of junk that encumbers him, but I’m not yet sure that Shella won’t find a use for it.


Chapter 123, Brown 149

This was an obviously great idea from the perspective that it made sense for it to happen and for Derek to be sent into it.  The down side was that that was pretty much all I had–Ambassador’s daughter left to look for her lost boyfriend who was really a spy, and did not return.  Further, I have to move it forward quickly enough to get Derek to a dangerous spot soon, but I’m not sure how.

I do have the advantage that with so many independent teams working on it at once, Derek could easily get a call that says she’s been found and then respond with the team to the location, cutting out a lot of the bothersome searching part.


Chapter 124, Kondor 130

At this point I have Slade and Kondor in the same world, and although they don’t know it the reader undoubtedly does.  That lets me return to the system by which I alternate Derek against both of them, moving his story forward more quickly than theirs.

The oscillating movement is something I worked out by thinking it through while writing it.

I also needed to make it seem as if it took Slade and Shella a while to reach Kondor, so this is sort of a waiting chapter to create that sense of waiting.


Chapter 125, Brown 150

I had forgotten when I wrote this that it was supposed to be lunch.  At first I thought no, it’s just a meeting, and the statement that he was having lunch with the Ambassador was the cover for the meeting.  Then I decided that the cover worked better if food was actually served, and Derek had just flown in from London (several hours, if memory serves) and would be hungry and thirsty.  Coming up with American food was easy.

Most of Derek’s ideas come from television shows I’ve watched, but I tried to sort them into the obvious ones and the less obvious ones.

It quite honestly had taken me so long to write this that I did not recall what kinds of “bugs” Derek had planted on Samantha, but I needed for there to be a way to get an image of Dorin so I decided I would make sure on the rewrite there was a camera and a GPS tracker in addition to an audio bug.


Chapter 126, Slade 130

I knew that Shella was going to use magic to provide food and shelter.  The connection to having learned the spells from Bethany was fairly obvious once I thought about it.

The discussion of appropriate courtesy was something I stumbled into.


This has been the sixth behind the writings look at Spy Verses.  If there is interest and continued support from readers we will continue to publish this novel and the behind the writings posts, and prepare the fifth novel to follow it.