Tag Archives: Multiverser

#219: A 2017 Retrospective

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #219, on the subject of A 2017 Retrospective.

A year ago, plus a couple days, on the last day of 2016 we posted web log post #150:  2016 Retrospective.  We are a couple days into the new year but have not yet posted anything new this year, so we’ll take a look at what was posted in 2017.

Beginning “off-site”, there was a lot at the Christian Gamers Guild, as the Faith and Gaming series ran the rest of its articles.  I also launched two new monthly series there in the last month of the year, with introductory articles Faith in Play #1:  Reintroduction, continuing the theme of the Faith and Gaming series, and RPG-ology #1:  Near Redundancy, reviving some of the lost work and adding more to the Game Ideas Unlimited series of decades back.  In addition to the Faith and Gaming materials, the webmaster republished two articles from early editions of The Way, the Truth, and the Dice, the first Magic:  Essential to Faith, Essential to Fantasy from the magic symposium, and the second Real and Imaginary Violence, about the objection that role playing games might be too violent.  I also contributed a new article at the beginning of the year, A Christian Game, providing rules for a game-like activity using scripture.  Near the end of the year–the end of November, actually–I posted a review of all the articles from eighteen months there, as Overview of the Articles on the New Christian Gamers Guild Website.

That’s apart from the Chaplain’s Bible Study posts, where we finished the three Johannine epistles and Jude and have gotten about a third of the way through Revelation.  There have also been Musings posts on the weekends.

Over at Goodreads I’ve reviewed quite a few books.

Turning to the mark Joseph “young” web log, we began the year with #151:  A Musician’s Resume, giving my experience and credentials as a Christian musician.  That subject was addressed from a different direction in #163:  So You Want to Be a Christian Musician, from the advice I received from successful Christian musicians, with my own feeling about it.  Music was also the subject of #181:  Anatomy of a Songwriting Collaboration, the steps involved in creating the song Even You, with link to the recording.

We turned our New Year’s attention to the keeping of resolutions with a bit of practical advice in #152:  Breaking a Habit, my father’s techniques for quitting smoking more broadly applied.

A few of the practical ones related to driving, including #154:  The Danger of Cruise Control, presenting the hazard involved in the device and how to manage it, #155:  Driving on Ice and Snow, advice on how to do it, and #204:  When the Brakes Fail, suggesting ways to address the highly unlikely but cinematically popular problem of the brakes failing and the accelerator sticking.

In an odd esoteric turn, we discussed #153:  What Are Ghosts?, considering the possible explanations for the observed phenomena.  Unrelated, #184:  Remembering Adam Keller, gave recollections on the death of a friend.  Also not falling conveniently into a usual category, #193:  Yelling:  An Introspection, reflected on the internal impact of being the target of yelling.

Our Law and Politics articles considered several Supreme Court cases, beginning with a preliminary look at #156:  A New Slant on Offensive Trademarks, the trademark case brought by Asian rock band The Slants and how it potentially impacts trademark law.  The resolution of this case was also covered in #194:  Slanting in Favor of Free Speech, reporting the favorable outcome of The Slant’s trademark dispute, plus the Packingham case regarding laws preventing sex offenders from accessing social networking sites.

Other court cases included #158:  Show Me Religious Freedom, examining the Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley case in which a church school wanted to receive the benefits of a tire recycling playground resurfacing program; this was resolved and covered in #196:  A Church and State Playground, followup on the Trinity Lutheran playground paving case.  #190:  Praise for a Ginsberg Equal Protection Opinion, admires the decision in the immigration and citizenship case Morales-Santana.

We also addressed political issues with #171:  The President (of the Seventh Day Baptist Convention), noting that political terms of office are not eternal; #172:  Why Not Democracy?, a consideration of the disadvantages of a more democratic system; #175:  Climate Change Skepticism, about a middle ground between climate change extremism and climate change denial; #176:  Not Paying for Health Care, about socialized medicine costs and complications; #179:  Right to Choose, responding to the criticism that a male white Congressman should not have the right to take away the right of a female black teenager to choose Planned Parenthood as a free provider of her contraceptive services, and that aspect of taking away someone’s right to choose as applied to the unborn.

We presumed to make a suggestion #159:  To Compassion International, recommending a means for the charitable organization to continue delivering aid to impoverished children in India in the face of new legal obstacles.  We also had some words for PETA in #162:  Furry Thinking, as PETA criticized Games Workshop for putting plastic fur on its miniatures and we discuss the fundamental concepts behind human treatment of animals.

We also talked about discrimination, including discriminatory awards programs #166:  A Ghetto of Our Own, awards targeted to the best of a particular racial group, based on similar awards for Christian musicians; #207:  The Gender Identity Trap, observing that the notion that someone is a different gender on the inside than his or her sex on the outside is confusing cultural expectations with reality, and #212:  Gender Subjectivity, continuing that discussion with consideration of how someone can know that they feel like somthing they have never been.  #217:  The Sexual Harassment Scandal, addressed the recent explosion of sexual harassment allegations.

We covered the election in New Jersey with #210:  New Jersey 2017 Gubernatorial Election, giving an overview of the candidates in the race, #211:  New Jersey 2017 Ballot Questions, suggesting voting against both the library funding question and the environmental lock box question, and #214:  New Jersey 2017 Election Results, giving the general outcome in the major races for governor, state legislature, and public questions.

Related to elections, #213:  Political Fragmentation, looks at the Pew survey results on political typology.

We recalled a lesson in legislative decision-making with #182:  Emotionalism and Science, the story of Tris in flame-retardant infant clothing, and the warning against solutions that have not been considered for their other effects.  We further discussed #200:  Confederates, connecting what the Confederacy really stood for with modern issues; and #203:  Electoral College End Run, opposing the notion of bypassing the Constitutional means of selecting a President by having States pass laws assigning their Electoral Votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

2017 also saw the publication of the entirety of the third Multiverser novel, For Better or Verse, along with a dozen web log posts looking behind the writing process, which are all indexed in that table of contents page.  There were also updated character papers for major and some supporting characters in the Multiverser Novel Support Pages section, and before the year ended we began releasing the fourth novel, serialized, Spy Verses, with the first of its behind-the-writings posts, #218:  Versers Resume, with individual sections for the first twenty-one chapters.

Our Bible and Theology posts included #160:  For All In Authority, discussing praying for our leaders, and protesting against them; #165:  Saints Alive, regarding statues of saints and prayers offered to them; #168:  Praying for You, my conditional offer to pray for others, in ministry or otherwise; #173:  Hospitalization Benefits, about those who prayed for my recovery; #177:  I Am Not Second, on putting ourselves last; #178:  Alive for a Reason, that we all have purpose as long as we are alive; #187:  Sacrificing Sola Fide, response to Walter Bjorck’s suggestion that it be eliminated for Christian unity; #192:  Updating the Bible’s Gender Language, in response to reactions to the Southern Baptist Convention’s promise to do so; #208:  Halloween, responding to a Facebook question regarding the Christian response to the holiday celebrations; #215:  What Forty-One Years of Marriage Really Means, reacting to Facebook applause for our anniversary with discussion of trust and forgiveness, contracts versus covenants; and #216:  Why Are You Here?, discussing the purpose of human existence.

We gave what was really advice for writers in #161:  Pseudovulgarity, about the words we don’t say and the words we say instead.

On the subject of games, I wrote about #167:  Cybergame Timing, a suggestion for improving some of those games we play on our cell phones and Facebook pages, and a loosely related post, #188:  Downward Upgrades, the problem of ever-burgeoning programs for smart phones.  I guested at a convention, and wrote of it in #189:  An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience, reflecting on being a guest at the convention.  I consider probabilities to be a gaming issue, and so include here #195:  Probabilities in Dishwashing, calculating a problem based on cup colors.

I have promised to do more time travel; home situations have impeded my ability to watch movies not favored by my wife, but this is anticipated to change soon.  I did offer #185:  Notes on Time Travel in The Flash, considering time remnants and time wraiths in the superhero series; #199:  Time Travel Movies that Work, a brief list of time travel movies whose temporal problems are minimal; #201:  The Grandfather Paradox Solution, answering a Facebook question about what happens if a traveler accidentally causes the undoing of his own existence; and #206:  Temporal Thoughts on Colkatay Columbus, deciding that the movie in which Christopher Columbus reaches India in the twenty-first century is not a time travel film.

I launched a new set of forums, and announced them in #197:  Launching the mark Joseph “young” Forums, officially opening the forum section of the web site.  Unfortunately I announced them four days before landing in the hospital for the first of three summer hospitalizations–of the sixty-two days comprising July and August this year, I spent thirty-one of them in one or another of three hospitals, putting a serious dent in my writing time.  I have not yet managed to refocus on those forums, for which I blame my own post-surgical life complications and those of my wife, who also spent a significant stretch of time hospitalized and in post-hospitalization rehabilitation, and in extended recovery.  Again I express my gratitude for the prayers and other support of those who brought us through these difficulties, which are hopefully nearing an end.

Which is to say, I expect to offer you more in the coming year.  The fourth novel is already being posted, and a fifth Multiverser novel is being written in collaboration with a promising young author.  There are a few time travel movies available on Netflix, which I hope to be able to analyze soon.  There are a stack of intriguing Supreme Court cases for which I am trying to await the resolutions.  Your continued support as readers–and as Patreon and PayPal.me contributors–will bring these to realization.

Thank you.

#218: Versers Resume

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #218, on the subject of Versers Resume.

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, hopefully 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 21.

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, Kondor 97

I was bringing Joe in from the end of the second book, when he was floating in space, and anticipating a moment when he would realize that he and Slade had both just left Derek a few minutes before.  I also wanted to color Kondor as the sort of person who would deduce things about the indigs from the way their world was designed.


Chapter 2, Brown 97

I had never wanted my versers to spend too much time with Merlin, as this would make them too much the same.  I had an advantage, in that I’d established Merlin’s usual technique as beginning with a long stretch of exploration of what the student already knew, so if I could get them out soon enough none of them (Derek, Slade, or Shella) would be pushed toward being Lauren’s clones.  Now, though, I had another reason to end it quickly, as I wanted Slade to join Kondor in Slade’s first chapter, so I was going to have to use Derek as the bridge to get Slade out.

It seemed I was also going to have to get Derek out; taking Slade and Shella at this battle and leaving Derek with Merlin and Bethany was going to decimate my dome attack team, and there wouldn’t be much more they could do against the vampires.  I needed to make it seem as if with the loss of Slade and Shella they won the war, that there was nothing much left to do, but then I would also have to verse out Derek.  This gave me another problem:  Bethany.  I’d established that Merlin was a verser, but I’d also established rather satisfactorily that Bethany was not.  I could make her one, but didn’t want to do that, particularly as my wife always found her annoying.  On the other hand, one of my sons (Adam, I think) liked the character, and I felt I needed to give her closure.  Thus I needed to establish a good ending for her.

The end of the world seemed a good way to satisfy that.  I kept it simple; I wanted people to know what was happening, but didn’t want to dwell on it.

I still needed to get Derek out of there, so he lost that battle.


Chapter 3, Slade 93

The point was to bring Bob to Kondor’s world before anything else happened, without making it seem I was stalling Kondor.  Thus I covered Slade’s disappearance from the final battle of the vampire future world through Derek’s eyes, and then shifted to a very brief recounting from Bob’s perspective and brought him abruptly to somewhere in the compound.

This chapter largely brings everyone up to speed on the characters, and aligns the stories so we know the sequence of events from the previous books.


Chapter 4, Kondor 98

The verse is something modern people accept fairly easily, but Shella is from a medieval fantasy world, and is going to be a bit overwhelmed by it all even now.  She is to some degree struggling to absorb it all; she bites her lip as she considers how to respond to Joe Kondor.

Shella’s blush is there because of course she’s kept track of the days–guilty as charged.  I have not, and I’m not sure whether I could reconstruct them with any accuracy, but hopefully it won’t matter.

Adrus is the name of the first month on the calendar I created for my D&D game world; Zarn was just a word I pulled out of the air to provide what might have been a month on some other calendar.

Joe takes a very humanist/agnostic view of love:  it serves a biological function of creating families for the production and rearing of children, for the continuance of the race.  It is thus irrelevant in the lives of versers, because they will never die and do not need to replace themselves.

I grew up with computers, sort of, but I think my attitude to computers in cars is still somewhat like Bob’s.  I understand how points and plugs and distributors work, but computer-controlled fuel injection I’ve never understood.

At this moment I decided that the cameras would be mounted on the guns, so the operators could use them to aim.  That would have consequences later.


Chapter 5, Brown 98

Derek is now experiencing the “stage two” arrival in which reality and dreams combine in awkward ways until you manage to awaken.  I have to do it for every character at least once, some more than once, and this was his turn.

The consideration of what can be learned about the world from the existence of leaves was something I was devising kind of in reverse of what I knew.  That is, I knew that leaves had the patterns and colors they did in order to capture and process light efficiently, and thus if there were leaves in such patterns and similar colors it would be reasonable to infer that that was their function.

I don’t know the difference between a forest and a jungle; I’m thinking that I should ask someone who knows, but I don’t really need to know to tell this part of the story.  I eventually did ask someone with a degree in ecology, but she was not certain either.


Chapter 6, Slade 94

Bob’s definition of “people” as having discovered swords is probably pushing back toward the humorous side of the character.

That Shella misses the connection to Derek is perhaps awkward, as she was there when Bob met him, but they probably think about him in different ways, and she also has the connection that in her world of origin people said that Slade had elfin blood, so that connects him to the fairy people in her mind.


Chapter 7, Brown 99

I had gotten to what was chapter 77, Slade 118, alternating rather consistently Kondor-Brown-Slade, but I was struggling with a couple of issues.  One was that Derek’s story had a lot of detail best managed in small chapters, and that meant that his story was moving very slowly in the book.  Another was that I had Bob and Joe in the same world, so I was telling their story two chapters in a row every time, even though it was a slow story, more an intellectual conflict, and I didn’t always know what was happening.  When I reached that point, I realized that I could resolve a lot of this if I backed up and moved all the chapters around and renumbered them so that Derek’s story was told twice, in a Kondor-Brown-Slade-Brown sequence.  It was a lot of shuffling of text (thank the Lord for word processors), but Derek’s chapters through somewhere around Brown 119 got moved forward, including this one.


Chapter 8, Kondor 99

Mlambo was the surname of a college peer of mine, Lyson Qorani Mlambo.  I enjoyed saying his name because of the unusual (for English) consonantal combinations–the “Q” represented a click created by pulling the tongue from the roof of the mouth.  I used the surname for the commander; I then used the first name as the surname of one of the other officers.  Lyson was a student from somewhere in Africa.

It was about here that I formed the idea of a race war, that this bunker belonged to the “black” side.


Chapter 9, Brown 100

I had done the energy release for Derek because even though it was supposed to be a body morphing transformation, the mass difference would need some kind of explanation; but I realized as I was working through it that the mass/energy conversion was as big as Derek saw, and thus that even without the magic some of that mass had been shunted into some other dimension or something.  Thus I had created the trick that he had to restore a significant amount of energy through caloric intake in order to reach and retain his larger size, and at the same time attempted to defuse objections that he couldn’t possibly gain that much energy from eating a single meal no matter what it contained.

I created the Reptile House team mostly of people I knew, several of them players in the game.  It was inspired because Ed Jones sometimes called himself Chameleon, and particularly when he was wearing his army reserve camouflage outfit; I had taken to calling myself Sea Turtle, a reference to something of a joke for which one took a test to see whether one could “think clean” when asked a set of questions which were suggestive of lewd answers but also had clean answers, and I was officially a Sea Turtle.  Thus I formed the team with Ed as the field commander Chameleon and me as the unit commander Sea Turtle; the others will be introduced as they appear.


Chapter 10, Slade 95

The idea of calling the whites “ghosts” had a lot of appeal here.  I needed a racial slur that was not a racial slur in our world, and everyone imagines ghosts to be pale and thus white, so it fits.

There is also some of the discriminatory attitude that American blacks faced mostly in the south:  Mlambo is concerned that he can’t provide separate facilities for the ghosts, because of course whites would not be permitted to use the same facilities as blacks.


Chapter 11, Brown 101

This world was designed for The Third Book of Worlds.  The opening can drop the player character anywhere in the world and then have the pickup team there within forty-eight hours.  This is ultimately explained in the story.  The world is called Why Spy, and is designed to facilitate playing plots from spy movies and similar sources, making the player character the secret agent.  “C” is my version of Bond’s “M” or Smart’s “Chief”.  It actually stands for “Claude”, and he’s a character from another world as well.  He is based on the generic British gentleman in the secret service, no particular individual.

“Iguana” is a college friend of mine, “Big Brother” Archie Bradley.  It’s more for the physical description, although the character of being a nice guy despite a formidable appearance is part of it.

“Python” is based on Joe Kondor, who in turn is not really based on anyone.  The idea is that this is Joe’s divergent self.  I put him here intentionally, to make a connection that this was a parallel earth, and to create a surprise situation.

“Gecko” is Richard Lutz, whom I never met.  I make him a tech head here, and he’s the guy who has the portable scriff detection equipment, plus the main communications gear.  I was more than once told that he had a Video Cassette Recorder (VCR) with no buttons, and accessed the functions by knowing which exposed wires to cross.

“Kimodo Dragon” was the transport officer; I made my son Ryan the model for this, and gave him the conceit that he could drive or fly any vehicle.

“Cobra” was a divergent of Chris Jones, largely because he had studied some martial arts and I wanted to intensify that and make him strong and fast.  In play we sometimes get the Reptile House team working with the player character in adventure situations, but I wasn’t sure whether I was going to do that here.  Chris, of course, was the primary model for Bob Slade, although Chris has dark hair, not blonde, and never was an auto mechanic or an Odinite, even in the game.  He is also the player behind the character Whisp, detailed in an appendix in Multiverser:  Referee’s Rules.

Originally I had written “shooting knock-out darts at guys with guns didn’t sound like a clever plan,” but I realized during the major edit that that was exactly the plan which led to the development of the arrow drug.  I decided that it made a difference that it was “several guys” and that they had “automatic weapons” instead of “guns”, and also decided that “needles” was a better description of the arrows here.


Chapter 12, Kondor 100

A lot of Joe’s prejudices emerge here.  The first one is that religion is a mark of a lesser intellect, and thus Bob must not be that bright if he thinks he’s one of Odin’s chosen warriors.

Joe also thinks that the fact that Bob did not notice that everyone in the other room was black indicated that he was prejudiced–that not noticing someone’s color was indicative of discrimination based on race.  Bob, of course, thinks that it’s perfectly natural, and there’s no particular reason he should have noticed something like that; black soldiers are common, and it’s because a lot of blacks see it as a good economic choice.

Lyson’s prejudice is also shown when he reacts to Bob speaking to him.

On the edit, I seriously considered altering “If Slade didn’t understand why noticing the color of someone’s skin was important,” to read “If Slade didn’t understand why not noticing the color of someone’s skin was racist,” but I decided that was too strong and probably not really the way Kondor would have thought it.


Chapter 13, Brown 102

The problem of Derek attempting to fly through the turbulence created by the helicopter blades was a sudden realization, a recognition of the realities of the situation.

I knew all along that he was in the Amazon rainforest; this was the first time I said so.

The rapid consumption, digestion, and metabolizing of the high-energy food and drink was my best idea for the transformation.  I might have gotten some of this from episodes of The Flash, the 1990s version, in which Barry Allen consumes large quantities of food to maintain his energy level after running, but I don’t know that I ever recognized the connection.


Chapter 14, Slade 96

Shella very much reveals her girl side, prettying the barracks room for their brief stay with knick-knacks and a comforter.  She also predictably complains when Bob starts polishing his dagger on their good comforter.

I didn’t yet know what they were supposed to do, or going to do, while they were here.  I’ve got them exploring the possibilities.


Chapter 15, Brown 103

“The clock” is of course Big Ben.  It’s probably the most recognizable landmark in London, at least in an international sense.  Most Americans would not recognize most of the truly significant buildings and other landmarks in the city, but the clock is known.

Derek’s age is of course problematic from any perspective.  Like versers, he doesn’t age, so he kept his twelve-year-old appearance into his twenties; then he had the rare experience of returning to pre-born and growing up again, this time reaching about seventeen before dying.  So he is probably around fifty by years lived, but it would be difficult to say how old his body appears to be.

This is really the standard setup for the game world:  British Intelligence knows that versers are dangerous, and that they have a lot of advantages in the spy game, and so recruits them; C does not want them working for anyone else, and will do whatever it takes to prevent that.  I had one player get very upset about not being given a choice in the matter, but usually they like it and go with the flow.


Chapter 16, Slade 97

Shella challenges Bob’s self-perception in this chapter.  Most of us have ideas about ourselves, that we are this and not that, and sometimes those ideas are contrary to the evidence.

Joe is trying to figure out what’s happening, and at this point I didn’t know how he was going to do that; but I figured he would try to include recovering his gear in the process, and that meant going outside.


Chapter 17, Brown 104

The name Kyler Bryant borrows from one of my sons; I thought it likely I would use this passport at some point, so I detailed it.

The driving training is there so that if I have a use for it in the future I’ve got the foundation for it here.  I don’t know when I’ll use it.

The recognition that Derek is lonely is a fairly obvious one, particularly given that in the last world he was fighting alongside his odd collection of friends, and in the world before that he was part of a close family for a long time.  I have not considered yet how to address it, because things are about to happen for him.

I didn’t waste names on the other passports because I guessed I would not need them, and knew I could give them names later if necessary.

About halfway through the read-through edit (after chapter 75), probably because I had just written chapter 143 (Brown 159) in which Derek arrives in the final world, it occurred to me that Derek’s gear had been neglected for most of two decades, and the bicycle in particular would need some maintenance.  I came back to this chapter and added parts about cleaning and repairing his equipment, and letting Gear examine his things.  I had originally written the part about them developing an analog of his drug, but at this point I added the provision of several small containers of the stuff.


Chapter 18, Kondor 101

I started to play with the idea that Kondor’s cover story might make him someone people feared; I don’t think I ever decided about that, but it’s not something he could ever ask or anyone would ever say.

I also needed to find a way for him to learn what was going on in this world, and it made sense that there would be reading materials somewhere which would include the official propaganda.


Chapter 19, Slade 98

By having Joe stay late in the library and Bob fall asleep, I saved myself a useless chapter in which Joe stops to tell Bob to go to sleep.

I didn’t know what I was going to do with my characters once they left the bunker, so I figured an early morning attack would trap them here for a bit and I could work through the situation here.


Chapter 20, Brown 105

When I was in college for a while I had a night job, and so I often ate in my room.  I was stocked with a toaster and a percolator coffee pot in which I heated water, and I had instant oatmeal, instant soup, and toaster pastries which I tended to eat because I was at work during dinner and asleep through breakfast.  I also caught supper at any of several fast food places in the area (Gino’s was both very convenient and much preferred at the time), but I lost a lot of weight.  In any case, the idea of instant oatmeal and toaster pastries as something Derek could easily make for brunch was from my experience.

The high rise scenario is from the Why Spy game world.  It was an experimental approach in which the scenes were organized as they would appear in a movie, and the referee created the encounters and picked the floors as the players moved through the building.  It was intended to prevent the possibility that someone would go directly to the bomb, making it play more like the action movies Die Hard or Under Siege.  It undoubtedly owes something to True Lies, as well.


Chapter 21, Slade 99

I had to work out myself what it was that Bob could notice, and how to turn that to a useful bit of strategic analysis.  I had to figure out what it was the white army was trying to do, and how that was supposed to work.

I realized that I had created the weakness by tying the cameras to the guns:  if the whites could get the guns focused in specific directions, they could create a blind spot.  That, I figured, was the best guess for what they were doing, so I went with it.


This has been the first 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.

#209: Versers Victorious

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #209, on the subject of Versers Victorious.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have now completed publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  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 along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains 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, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
  4. #174:  Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44);
  5. #180:  Versers Focus (chapters 45 through 55);
  6. #183:  Verser Transitions (chapters 56 through 66);
  7. #186:  Worlds Change (chapters 67 through 77);
  8. #191:  Versers Travel (chapters 78 through 88);
  9. #198:  Verser Trials (89 through 99);
  10. #202:  Verser Confrontations (chapters 100 through 110);
  11. #205:  Verser Reunion (chapters 111 through 121).

This picks up from there, completing the book with chapters 122 through 132.

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 122, Slade 89

It was too soon to explain what happened, but I had to let the reader know that the characters were aware of the problems.  I’d devised the answers already, but couldn’t take the time here to give them.

I had become aware of the redundancy between both locking out the computer controls and destroying the mechanism.  I didn’t really have a good reason to lock out the computers if the mechanism was going to be destroyed, but I did have a reason to destroy the mechanism if the computer lockouts were in place, so I tried to make it all seem credible.

The barn would be Cowtown; I just needed a few places they could use in the travel for color.  The idea of having them split up had come to me more as an added precaution.

I was actually stuck for a place for them to go at this point; but it was obvious that once Tubrok knew who was behind the raids, he’d know where to look for them, and they were going to have to move.  It would be most obvious perhaps to Merlin, who had something of an outsider’s perspective, but knew Tubrok.

The legend of the Mystic came back to me abruptly.  I wanted to start having ordinary people attack domes, and this was a good opportunity to kick-start that.


Chapter 123, Hastings 134

My explanation for how Omigger had come to be Merlin was intact before this point, but this was the time to deliver it.  The tobacco thing was a passing point.

I decided on Philadelphia next.  After all, this was where Lauren had started, but she’d not yet freed it.  She had attacked the dome control station to steal the papers, but had not yet opened the dome.  I also had a wild idea of having them travel from the dome control station in a tour of the world only to return to Ana and Dimitri to stay there for a few days–after all, that would not be where Tubrok would look.


Chapter 124, Brown 93

The details of this came together rather quickly; the presentation took longer.  But I liked the idea of going back to Philadelphia the way she’d left it, by Speedline.  Yet I was getting close to the climactic battle with Tubrok, and I didn’t want to overdo the combat just before it.  This all seemed to work.


Chapter 125, Slade 90

At this point it was becoming necessary for me to sketch out what was going to happen in the remainder of the book.  There were a lot of things I had to do, and not much time in which to do them.

The fact that Derek could turn into Ferris Hoffman and so catch himself when falling had to be worked into a combat situation; and that meant it had to be established that Bethany had done the magic clothes.

The next assault really had to be Washington; nothing else made sense.  That also meant they were going to face Tubrok finally.  I had to come up with a way for him to make a speech in the midst of this–a magical defense that was going to cause a lull in the fighting at some point–and I had to get the dialogue down so it really made sense and mattered.

Lauren was going to die in this battle; but she couldn’t die at the beginning of it, and she couldn’t die at the end of it.  I was going to have to have another Hastings chapter, and then move away from her and back again.  It made sense at this point for Slade to wrap up the fight prelims (including the suit for Derek) and the decision to go to Washington.  My thinking was that Ana would mention it, and give some foreboding about it.  After that, Lauren will give us the movement to Washington and the confrontation itself.  Derek and Slade will then report the fight details; in that, Derek has to be thrown or knocked from some high point (or perhaps the floor beneath him has to be destroyed so he falls through?) so he can change to Ferris and catch himself.  Then the fight will continue through Lauren’s eyes, and at her climactic moment she will grab hold of Tubrok and pronounce the fire spell that killed Horta.  This will be the end of her story, but not the end of the fight, as she will verse out (and maybe take a couple of Tubrok’s lackeys with her) but Tubrok will survive.

I was thinking that Derek would see Tubrok pick himself up and revitalize himself, but now perhaps it would be better for this to be Slade.  The combat continues, with Horta and Merlin throwing enough magic around that the place starts to crumble (Tubrok will have used a darkness spell and something else to keep the sunlight out).  It would then shift to Derek.  Perhaps if Derek fell into a hole, caught himself by changing to Ferris, and then got out by changing to Morach, he would emerge from the hole a sprite, deprived of his larger weapons.  In this case, he would use the psionics he learned, and then maybe we’ll surprise everything by having the sleep drug work on Tubrok, so he goes down and can be finished by something else.  That would be a good ending, I think.  Thereafter, Merlin asks who his new student is.

That leaves me in need of a denouement.  There were good afterthoughts in the first two books, and I’ll have to think of one for this one.  Also, the first two books both ended with one of the characters in the next world.  That’s problematic for this one, as Lauren will not be in the fourth book and Derek and Slade won’t verse out of this one.  Perhaps I need to bring in one chapter of Kondor–I don’t yet know where he is, but he will be back in book four, so it’s time to start giving thought to that.

I came up with Slade’s speech about being prepared for the next thing; I figure that’s my big point in the denouement.  I did this while I was thinking over how this Slade chapter was going to go, and typed a quick draft at the end for reference.

The prophecy was a last-minute addition.  Since I already knew that it would be Derek, Lauren’s student, who finished Tubrok, I thought it would add tremendous tension for the prediction to have suggested she would defeat him and then have her die.

I knew at this point that I was entering a single combat that would last several chapters.  Lauren would get us there.  Derek would fall into a pit, and emerge as a sprite.  Tubrok would use darkness to blot out the sun.  It was going to be a long battle, with lots of combatants and lots of actions, and I was going to have to think of much more to make it work as it went.  The end of the book was about to begin.


Chapter 126, Hastings 135

I had actually forgotten that there would be people in the control room when they arrived; I let this carry over to Lauren.  It took me a couple sittings to get all the way through this chapter, as I kept having to stop and think about how it should unfold.

I’d been toying with the booby-trap idea for some time.  The more I considered it, the more sense it made.

I was also uncertain how to proceed with the end; I started trying to outline the last chapters and the major events they would include.  Lauren had to verse out; Derek had to see it, I think, but he also had to fall into the pit.  After he fell into the pit, he had to turn into a sprite, and come out again; and he had to make the fatal shot.  I intended to have Tubrok block the sun with several magics, and make a bit of a speech about having them all together to destroy them.  It seems that I’ve got to start with Derek for the arrival and joining battle.  Then Slade will take the brunt of the combat, showing that they were tearing through enemies but badly outnumbered.  Lauren steps forward in her chapter; she and Merlin will be focused on Tubrok, and she’ll end her appearance in the book with that fire spell that took out Horta.  Then Derek is horrified that Lauren is gone but Tubrok, although unsteady, remains; and before he can act, the ground opens beneath him and he falls.  We have him plunging, transforming, and catching himself, and leave him on the ground below–or maybe still headed toward it.  That takes us back to Slade, who is fighting a losing battle (but then, that’s what Ragnorak is about, isn’t it?), despite Shella, Bethany, and Merlin.  Probably he plunges into battle against Tubrok, who isn’t so good against physical attacks despite being a tough kill.  Yet he’s tiring, wearing down.  Derek becomes Morach, flies out of the pit, recovers his bow and arrows from his pack, and fires the pinprick into Tubrok’s cheek.  The vampire reels and falls, and then vanishes to dust.  We go to Slade for the aftermath and Slade’s speech.

I keep wondering what to do for the final chapter.  Lauren will not be in the fourth book (although otherwise details are still sketchy, but I’m thinking of a spy story for Derek).  Derek and Slade won’t have versed out.  I’m wondering about bringing Joe Kondor in for the last chapter, although I don’t know where he is.  I don’t like that, but it might work.


Chapter 127, Brown 94

Derek is caught in that moment in which what he had intended to do, what he always did on these trips, isn’t going to work, and he has to change gears, as it were, to figure out what he should do instead.  I’ve had that problem in other situations, where I knew what I was going to do and now that for some reason that was not a viable choice I couldn’t for a moment get away from that to wrap my head around doing something else instead.

Derek is almost last through the door because despite all his skill he has very little experience fighting–he has helped them fight these battles, but he is usually “the computer guy who also knows how to use a gun”, not one of the fighters.

I’ll credit Shakespeare’s MacBeth for the inspiration for the prophecy that Tubrok would not be killed by anyone born in that world; I was always fond of that twist.  In MacBeth the charm is no man of woman born would kill him, but MacDuff announces that he was from his mother’s womb untimely ripped (born by caesarean section).  Tolkien probably stole it first–his chief nazgul had been promised that no man could kill him, but he was killed by a halfling and a woman.  My twist, of course, is that Lauren, Bob, and Derek were all born in the parallel earth, and Shella and Merlin/Omigger were born in the medieval fantasy world Slade had visited, so Bethany is the only one present who can’t kill Tubrok if the prophecy is true.


Chapter 128, Slade 91

It is a perhaps dubious supposition of Multiverser that allows pagan Bob Slade to be infused with power from God’s Holy Spirit, but it is not completely unfounded.  The assumption is that in the spirit realm there is the one Creator God, and that religions that worship that one God, whether Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or any of their offshoots, are all “close enough for mortals” to the truth; and that there are many other spirits who fall into three categories, those who are aligned with and servants of God (“alliance”), those which are openly opposed to God (“anarch”), and those who have not (yet) chosen a side (“neutral”).  Many of the “good” heads of pagan pantheons are presumed to be “alliance”, servants of God who were given charge of some group of people somewhere in the world to prepare them for the truth, and thus Odin is seen as God’s servant preparing his people ultimately to become servants of God.  Thus by serving Odin Slade is indirectly serving God, in something of the same way that a private who obeys the commands of his sergeant is indirectly obeying the Commander in Chief of the military.

I suppose that Bob delivers the moral of the story in his thoughts to himself, that “if every good man fights to his last breath evil loses, even if it takes the field.”


Chapter 129, Hastings 136

I had been scouring scripture for good verses for Lauren to use, so she would have something new in her repertoire at this point.  I’ve never been particularly good at chapter-and-verse addresses, but I might have recorded them somewhere.

I knew Lauren was going to verse out here, and she was going to finish her own life by being caught in the same fire she calls against Tubrok.  However, she knows she can’t cast that spell and survive it, so at this point I’m making her aware that she’s not going to survive this combat anyway, so she’ll use the spell.

“East side, center gate” was a phrase given to me by Steve Freed, when we were both leaving Gordon College.  It is a supposed meeting place in the New Jerusalem, a way of saying I will see you there.


Chapter 130, Brown 95

I was facing several issues at this point.  One was, if the death of Tubrok closed the chasm into which Derek was falling, he would be buried in it; of course, it might not do that, and in the end it seemed better that it not.  Another was that if Tubrok had just died, the enemy would be routed and the battle ended, but that wasn’t the way this was to go:  Derek had to deal the fatal shot.  So I shifted to Derek’s perspective as he is still falling (probably a moment ago) in this pit, and dealt with bringing him back to finish the battle.

I don’t know when I decided that Ferris Hoffman would be the answer here, but it was to me significant that the form that he had disdained became the one that saved him.  Had he stayed Derek, he would have crashed and died; had he become Morach he would probably have dropped the rifle and seen it damaged.  Only as Ferris could he slow his fall and keep the rifle.

It seemed important to make the statement that Lauren had won, that this was her victory, even though Derek fired the fatal shot.  I had realized at some point that although the first book was Slade’s story, and the third book perhaps another story about Slade, and the middle book Derek’s story, the three books together formed Lauren’s story arc, the story in which she faces and ultimately defeats the vampires, and the death of Tubrok here, in the same battle in which she died, means that she won.


Chapter 131, Slade 92

Maybe, though, the moral is in Slade’s conversation with Derek, regarding each moment in life preparing us both for the end and for the next moment.

I glossed over a minor issue:  Lauren is the only member of the group that had a way to pay for things.  Bethany was going to work on something, but we never saw her do so; so they don’t really have any money for a place to stay.  On the other hand, they’ve got three wizards, so they’ll probably come up with something.


Chapter 132, Brown 96

I found a way to wrap up the book, mostly talking about the fact that there were many other worlds, and reminding the reader that we did not know where Lauren went or where Joe was.  Joe would return in the beginning of the next book; Lauren would wait for another book after that.  Derek and Bob were still here, and I would need a chapter to send them on their way to new places, but of course I was setting up that expectation as well.


This has been the twelfth and final behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  There is hope that the fourth Multiverser novel, Spy Verses, will soon appear on the web site, if there is interest and continued support from readers.

#205: Verser Reunion

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #205, on the subject of Verser Reunion.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  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 along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains 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, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
  4. #174:  Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44);
  5. #180:  Versers Focus (chapters 45 through 55);
  6. #183:  Verser Transitions (chapters 56 through 66);
  7. #186:  Worlds Change (chapters 67 through 77);
  8. #191:  Versers Travel (chapters 78 through 88);
  9. #198:  Verser Trials (89 through 99);
  10. #202:  Verser Confrontations (chapters 100 through 110).

This picks up from there, with chapters 111 through 121.

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 111, Hastings 130

I’d been trying to figure out how to bring Derek’s new middle form into view.  I’d been working with the idea of Derek versing in, looking at his new body, finding his equipment, figuring out how big he was, maybe figuring out how to change his size, and then finding Lauren–and it was all too complicated.

This chapter was originally going to be a Brown chapter; I’d even placed the heading on it.  I had figured that I would have Bethany do something very complex involving potions and long rituals to enable Derek to change forms; but suddenly I thought it would work best to have Derek first seen through Lauren’s eyes.  From that, the thought of the wolves asking her to identify a creature for them appealed.  That would happen were he in wolf territory.  He was some distance from his things when he versed out, so trying to reach them would be as good a way as any to bring him through the wolf lands.  The rest was easy.

I really liked the idea of Lauren recognizing Derek as the answer to her prayer.  I’d thought of it when I thought of the prayer.


Chapter 112, Brown 89

I got hung up on the name for a couple hours.  I stumbled on Hoffman pretty much the way Lauren does, although I worked with a Mark Hoffman at the radio station.  Ferris took a lot longer.  I knew a Jeff Ferri in scouts, but didn’t think I could sell that.  Ferris is of course the name of the guy who built the amusement park wheel, as well as the character in a movie, Ferris Bueller.

I had intended for this section to cover the magic of the transformation, but felt it was bogging down.  My concerns at this point are that everyone is a bit slow, and I can’t verse Slade out of his world until I’ve got Lauren caught in combat in hers, and that’s going to be a while, as I have to do the transformation for Derek, cover the stuff about opening the dome, and plan another raid.

The vague reference to Pinocchio was an inspiration at that moment, seeming to be appropriate to the magical setting.


Chapter 113, Slade 86

I took a couple of days to try to piece together what is in essence filler, an effort to move the story forward to the next action scene.  I’m still planning on having him go down fighting, although it occurred to me that I can’t really use the efriit battle because in that case the djinn could have come to this world.  I’m back to a fight with Acquivar, now thinking that he will take advantage of his status and abuse his honor to get back to the palace, where he will fight Slade.  Slade will be clearly superior, but Acquivar’s people will join the fight, and someone will stab him in the back.


Chapter 114, Brown 90

I decided to do the ritual from Derek’s perspective.  It seemed to work best that way.  The three forms are each double/half of each other, which is within the ordinary limits established by the game rules.  In fact, I’d pushed Derek to be a tall sprite at fifteen inches so that I could get a five foot human with only two doublings.


Chapter 115, Hastings 131

I needed to hurry Slade’s story; I wanted him to enter in a fight.  This seemed the best opportunity for a fight.  But that meant I had to push forward through Derek’s information that they had to be at the site to open the dome (a decision that was really necessary to make the war against the vampires last more than a few days) to get to them actually doing it.

I also needed a credible force that would be too much for the three of them, but not so much that the addition of Slade to the mix wouldn’t balance the odds.  I’d established Slade as the better fighter, I thought, so he could more easily take out ghouls with his sword than Lauren could with her martial arts training.  This would work, I thought.


Chapter 116, Slade 87

I needed a setting in which Acquivar might reach the bedroom levels (where Slade’s possessions were) without the alarm having been raised, so that Slade could face him.  Having Slade be the last to bed accomplished that.

I also needed to make some sense of Acquivar’s presence.  I knew pretty much how it was done, but the reader had to get that–and I didn’t see Acquivar stopping to explain.  Thus Slade tells it.  This led to the idea that Acquivar wasn’t going to say much of anything.

At first I’d seen this as a serious fight, but then it occurred to me that it would enhance the battle image of Slade to have him take it very casually for the first few rounds and then, when he got hurt, to finish the game rapidly.  I also needed to have him be hit several times in close succession, so that the amount of damage he might take would be reasonably able to kill him.

I’d also decided to move him to the next “stage” of versing, where you enter limp but can immediately catch yourself.  This would have him in the battle faster than the dream state; and Slade has always been the leader in the versing stages, so that works.


Chapter 117, Brown 91

I hesitated as to whether to tell this part from Derek or Lauren’s perspective.  I went with Derek partly because it was sort of his turn, and partly because he would not know who Slade was.  This gave me the ability to describe Slade anew.

It had been rattling in my head that there were a dozen ways to get that dome closed that got around the security lockouts on the computer.  You could replace the computer with another.  You could cut the computer off and apply power directly to the motors.  Slade would be the perfect person to know how to sabotage the gear mechanism itself, such that it would require major repairs.


Chapter 118, Hastings 132

The part about destroying the gear was carefully considered; the rest was improvised.  I was in part trying to keep the narration flowing reasonably and answer as many problems as I could.  The PR problem struck me somewhat out of the blue.


Chapter 119, Slade 88

My mind has been racing ahead.  Tubrok creates a rapid response team to travel to any part of the world in response to an attack.  Derek says something about the security being a “tough nut to crack”.  Lauren figures out the acorn in time to release Merlin and drive off the attackers.  I had two problems.  One was I didn’t know where this should happen.  The other was that I didn’t want the rest of the book to be one fight after another.  Having Slade and Shella enjoy their hotel room seemed a good buffer for that, particularly as this is Shella’s first visit to someplace not medieval.

At the same time, I couldn’t make it seem too much like a modern hotel, since this is supposed to be the future, even if in some town of which most people have never heard.  Yet I didn’t want to belabor the story with gadgets.  The answer was that Slade didn’t understand much of it himself, so I could be specific enough about things that would be recognizable, and vague about things that wouldn’t be.


Chapter 120, Hastings 133

I pondered this section for a couple of days.  In that time, I changed it from a Brown chapter to a Hastings chapter.  I didn’t want to have to do Derek’s perspective on the security on the computer, and there wasn’t enough to do in front of that to make a preceding chapter.  On the other hand, I wanted to be in Lauren’s mind when she made the connection and released Merlin.

It was also during this time that I realized I could connect Merlin to Omigger.  I was already beginning to sketch this recognition by Shella, which would still be two chapters away.  That meant that Derek would describe what Merlin did, the assault which destroyed or drove away vampires, the introductions, and then Shella using the name, and then I’d shift to Slade.

The magic object is, of course, an unusual design for a nutcracker.  If you saw it next to a bowl of nuts, you’d know what it was in a flash.  Finding it in a drawer of utensils or a box of tools, it would not be at all obvious.


Chapter 121, Brown 92

I wanted to emphasize that the situation was desperate; to do this, I backed up a bit and retold the losing battle through Derek’s eyes.  This also gave me the opportunity to show Merlin completely from the outside, with no connections to who he might be.  I also decided, on the fly, that he shouldn’t kill them all; that was too much power.  The others would finish off the last of them.


This has been the eleventh behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

#202: Verser Confrontations

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #202, on the subject of Verser Confrontations.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  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 along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains 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, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
  4. #174:  Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44);
  5. #180:  Versers Focus  (chapters 45 through 55);
  6. #183:  Verser Transitions (chapters 56 through 66);
  7. #186:  Worlds Change (chapters 67 through 77);
  8. #191:  Versers Travel (chapters 78 through 88);
  9. #198:  Verser Trials (89 through 99).

This picks up from there, with chapters 100 through 110.

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 100, Hastings 126

As I was dealing with the wolves, I wondered why they should trust Lauren or care about humanity.  I realized I’d already given myself a reason:  Bethany had saved the forest for them, working with the people of Wandborough.  It also occurred to me that Lauren has always called on the wolves for aid, but they have never called on her.  It seemed reasonable to suggest that pack mother Sielle would have some problem for which Lauren was the answer.  I don’t know what it is, yet, but it gives me something for Lauren to do besides repeated commando raids on vampire government officials.

When I was playing the games that became the basis for the Philadelphia stories, the wolves did come to me for help a few times; that was a much longer story, though, than I could include in the books.  (Much of this is preserved in the older Stories from the Verse site as Journals of the Architect.)


Chapter 101, Slade 82

Most of this I realized as it was unfolding–the slack and taut ropes, for instance.  I decided on the use of the sheepshank in the midst of writing, as well.  I was thinking before I started the passage that Slade didn’t know how to find the door, and the Norns idea was getting tired, but I could have them guide him by pointing him to Shella.  I remembered that Shella had been watching, and thought perhaps I could come up with some plausible reason why she knew the way when he didn’t.  However, it wasn’t until just before I wrote it that I realized that the tower was there.  Slade’s embarrassment was thus a reflection of my own on that count.


Chapter 102, Brown 86

I discovered a numbering glitch when I was writing this; I’d numbered two consecutive Brown sections 76.  I corrected it; I hope I got it all.

I awoke with the idea of the dream, and let it simmer while I took care of some other things.  I had a lot to do today, but did not want to lose this idea.  One fragment of it, the idea that marrying might be a cause of grief, I probably got from my morning reading of Jeremiah.

I also began envisioning a bit of a battle between Derek and the king’s guards in the human city.  His aerobatics practice and his training with Lauren would finally combine into something unique to him.  I’ll have to figure out how to preserve it, but I think this could go somewhere.

I also wanted him to feel the pain of losing his family now, before he lost them.  I decided he should say goodbye to his father, but not wake his mother, but simply kiss her.


Chapter 103, Hastings 127

Adam commented a day or so ago that everyone was getting married in this book.  He didn’t know that Derek wasn’t going to reach the altar (something of which I was myself only about ninety percent certain then, and still only ninety-eight percent certain now).  Yet I did observe for him that Lauren wasn’t headed that direction.  He said he knew why this was:  it was because she was already married.  Yes, that was correct, I observed, thinking back to her tension on that in the end of the second novel.  Yet at that moment I saw something I could do with Lauren’s story that would make it far better.  I would bring Phil Hastings back as a vampire.  She never did find out what had happened to him in this world, and he had married someone else.  It was not an impossible stretch.  I could do something with it, give Lauren more depth than merely killing a bunch of vampires, and stretch the story a bit to give the others time to catch up with her.  In the midst of this, it was an echo of Bethany’s confrontation with her mother centuries before.  This time it would be Bethany who told Lauren that she could not believe it was human, and that she had to recognize it for what it was and kill it.  I thus started looking for a way to carry it in that direction.  As I write this, it seems to me that I should connect Phil Hastings with the Philadelphia area leadership somehow; I’m not yet certain how, but it would explain why Lauren arrived in Philadelphia instead of Wandborough.

The name thing was not an entirely new idea; after all, Gavin had changed his name, and that had been mentioned.  I needed a way to prevent Lauren from realizing that she was about to confront the man who was this world’s equivalent of her husband, and the name was the way to do it.  The Liberty Bell/Independence Hall idea had merit, in that having it closed and slated for demolition would provide some echo of the idea that the vampire domination was a bad thing.  I thought also that The Arena might recall Rome to some readers, although I didn’t want to push it.  I created the route on the fly (I’m not completely certain where Independence Hall is relative to the waterfront, but figured it wasn’t that close, and the sports arena is near the airport, which is the south side of the city, so things are pretty well arranged).

I also decided she needed to fight her way through.  These were no longer going to be simple run-in-and-kill-the-vampire raids.  It had to look more difficult.  I also needed to help people understand why she just doesn’t blow everyone away with the disintegrator rod.

I recalled the “old times” line that had really been something of a throwaway in the first book which had echoed in the second when they were in Camelot.  Now to have Bethany say it again more soberly I thought would have some impact.


Chapter 104, Slade 83

I remembered that there was a bar on the inside of the door, and I had to provide a way to get past it.  I also remembered the D&D Viking Handbook had said something about Viking thieves not knowing anything about mechanical locks, but understanding how to jimmy barred doors, so I figured there was a way to do it.  It seemed a simple enough approach to use the metal strip, so that’s where I went.


Chapter 105, Brown 87

Most of this I felt my way through–the difference between mentally visiting a place and being there, between traveling the streets and flying above them, and the telekinetic lock picking were all things I created during the day I wrote this, although I wrote part in the morning and part in the afternoon, and so had time between to think through the end of the chapter.


Chapter 106, Hastings 128

Part of the idea was for Lauren to face the same tension Bethany had faced, to have to kill a vampire that looked like someone she loved.  I also had it in mind that this might free her from her concerns about being married to Phil, although I don’t yet know how that will work.  It only now occurs to me that this fits well with the marriage thread of the book, as well as leading to the climax of the vampire thread and the Merlin connection.


Chapter 107, Slade 84

I’d given some thought to a quick fight scene for Slade, in which a guard came through the door and he stabbed the man through the throat and tossed him off the wall; but it seemed too violent for this moment in the story, in which a quiet takeover seemed the order of the hour.  I glossed over how many men were on the wall and how they were silenced, for much the same reason.

I considered whether Odette’s dagger should find a target, and decided against it.  I had not yet decided how to verse them out of this world, but I was eager to see a scene in which Acquivar disclaimed any interest in saving Odette.


Chapter 108, Brown 88

I’d played out this scene in my mind a few times; still, there were elements that I devised as I wrote.  The guard on the door and the food cart were both created at that moment.  I had envisioned the confusion in the room, several people being brought down by arrows, and the use of telepathy to reach the ruler (whose title I never did decide).  The idea that people did not know sprites could talk seemed reasonable, particularly since elves didn’t even know they existed.  To expand that to suggest that humans didn’t know elves or gnomes existed also seemed reasonable.  The simple rule to establish peace seemed an acceptable solution to the problem, and let me move forward.  I’d imagined some agreement being reached, and then someone very like a gardener or maintenance man bursting in and “dealing with the problem” over the objections of the ruler.  It seemed to work well enough.


Chapter 109, Hastings 129

As I prepared to write this, a number of ideas connected.  One was that Lauren and Bethany would pray for someone to come; Derek was already on his way, but they couldn’t know that, and it would be a valuable story point.

Another was the idea that Lauren, as powerful as she is, finds her real strength in building teams, of bringing people together who compliment each other.  It is perhaps a theme in Lauren’s story that she almost always works with others, that she forms teams that work well.  In Philadelphia, she brought the human hunters together with the werewolves against the vampires; in the parakeet valley she worked with Joe and Bob to rescue Speckles; in Camelot a good part of her reported adventures involved questing with Sir Sagrimore, and in the end she brought the villagers together with the werewolves against the vampires.  In the futuristic post-apocalyptic world she turned an adventuring party into a university faculty that continued after she had gone.  In Wandborough she worked with Bethany against the vampires, and then in Terranova Habitat she teamed with Derek and Joe.  She was alone on the tropical island, but her task there was to practice and learn, and now that she is back in the vampire future world she is building a new team.

I had long been thinking that Derek was going to develop the ability to change between his three forms–the sprite, the human, and the mid-sized something.  As I thought about the turns ahead, I realized I could make this work much more convincingly by having Bethany use her magic to give Derek this ability.  It would also bring him to Lauren more quickly.

A lot of this chapter was written to provide the space I needed to bring in the prayer.


Chapter 110, Slade 85

The idea of Odette confessing from the battlements had been in my mind for quite a while.  What I hadn’t worked out in advance was the movement of armies to get to this position.  I glossed some of that, but I think it was credible.

At this point I had again lost my chance to kill Slade and send him to the next world; but with Derek on the way, I wasn’t ready for him anyway.  I was envisioning Slade and Shella appearing in the midst of some battle, recognizing Lauren in trouble, and coming to her aid, and that wasn’t going to happen until I managed to handle the arrival of Derek.

The idea that formed in my head at this point was that Slade was going to fight some fire elemental, an efriit of some sort.  It should be a major battle, taking at least a chapter, maybe two.  I haven’t figured out how to set it up yet, though.


This has been the tenth behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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#198: Verser Trials

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #198, on the subject of Verser Trials.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  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 along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains 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, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
  4. #174:  Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44);
  5. #180:  Versers Focus (chapters 45 through 55);
  6. #183:  Verser Transitions (chapters 56 through 66);
  7. #186:  Worlds Change (chapters 67 through 77);
  8. #191:  Versers Travel (chapters 78 through 88).

This picks up from there, with chapters 89 through 99.

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 89, Slade 78

I had been thinking about the trial quite a bit since the arrest, when I realized that Slade had given away the book.  I remembered that Filp had said the peasant wasn’t with the soldiers.  I almost went back and changed the text, so that Slade would have kept the book.  I realized, though, that the book could be carried to court by the enemy, quite inadvertently, and brought in that way.

The note that appealing to the King’s impartiality was a way to influence him caught my fancy, so I had to include it.

I decided it was time for Shella to call him Bob.  It seemed the right name at that moment.

Saying that the story of recent days would not have made a good book was, of course, a bit of a self-conscious joke.  Perhaps all stories make good books, if you know how to tell them; or perhaps in creating this one, it was necessary to include bits that would be good to tell.


Chapter 90, Brown 82

The manufacture and testing of the potion seemed a necessary step; it also gave me an opportunity to get a bit of action into Derek’s story at that moment.

The idea that he had to explain it to his father struck a chord with my young test audience.

The use of the pronoun “it” for the antecedent “the man” was intentional, distancing the sprite version of Derek from humanity.


Chapter 91, Hastings 123

At this point in the story, I’m trying to construct the foundation of something that will let Lauren have a lot of action bringing down vampires, but hold off the climactic confrontations against Tubrok until after Derek and Slade arrive.  I figure Derek will work out the computer hacking part, and get the domes opened.  I also expect that I’ll leave Merlin with Derek and Bethany (I haven’t figured out yet whether Slade survives the battle) to continue battling vampires after Lauren is gone and Tubrok is dead.

I particularly liked the idea that the domes served no real function, but were built for a lot of reasons none of which were good.

In high school I toured Romania with a high school choral group.  It was part of a cultural exchange program, so we had a guide provided by the government.  That was at a time when the Jesus Movement was in full force in our communities, and some of my classmates engaged the guide in discussion about why he would not become a Christian.  His answer, simply, was that in Romania you were either a Christian or a member of the Communist Party, and the advantages of the latter were so plainly evident that that is what he had chosen.  I think that memory may have influenced this notion about the Superiority Party:  if you want to be anything important in society, you have to become a vampire, so people are eager to join.


Chapter 92, Slade 79

I decided immediately after the trial scene that Slade would be at dinner and the king would not be, but that the prince, who is a bit less cool than his father, would raise the matter of the book.  I also thought Slade would not take that well, but Shella could shine in her function of cool intermediary here.

I also had sketched out the preparations for war to some degree.  Sir Matthias is named for the apostle of that name.


Chapter 93, Brown 83

The reaction of the elders was carefully considered.  I did not think they would be enthused; on the other hand, it would make the story longer and much more difficult were they opposed.  Thus it became Derek’s task to convince them.


Chapter 94, Hastings 124

I realized that I was going to have a lot of vampire combats ahead, and I had to keep these interesting while at the same time not overburdening the text with them.  The idea of entering the scene as a fight was ending, and of referencing several fights not described, also let me give the impression that Lauren had now been here for a while and was working toward her ultimate goal.

The teleport idea had occurred to me along the way.  I realized that there was an ability in the game books to trace teleport paths, and it was too much to think that no one in this world would have it, or that they would not work for Tubrok.  Thus creating a difficult trail seemed appropriate, and I gave some consideration to how that might be done.

I liked the decapitation blow that had been used on Tubrok in the second book, and thought it made sense for Lauren and Bethany to work on perfecting that.  It also seemed that I couldn’t allow it to be instantly fatal on all vampires, or they would cease to look dangerous.  Here it presents itself as more of a finishing blow, something they launch when they know they have an opening.  The teamwork aspect also appealed to me.

It is one of those things you find in eschatological studies, that people want to know who the beast is and so sometimes believers use the name for someone or something they think will be the antichrist.  There was a computer in Europe decades ago that was to run the financial systems of the banking world to which one of the people involved in its development gave this name, precisely because it was used in Revelation.  The fact that Tubrok is inhuman and feeds on humans made the name natural here, but it is part of the apocalyptic feeling already hinted in a previous chapter when Lauren said that possibly only the return of Christ would completely destroy the vampires.


Chapter 95, Slade 80

The time it takes to go to war in this milieu was worth bringing out for contrast.  The complications of having Shella ride with them took some thought to resolve.

I also lingered a bit over the troops on the road, and whether they would fight.  I decided it was not necessary and not profitable to anyone.  In my mind I’m moving toward a battle of significant proportion, but coupled with a sort of guerilla action Slade leads to take the castle.


Chapter 96, Brown 84

The marriage was in part a delaying tactic, so that something would be happening in Derek’s life besides the pending war; it was also put there because of Slade’s wedding, so that I could do something different with this.  Although I had been swithering about whether to have them marry and take Dearie into the verse with Derek, by this point I’d decided that really wasn’t going to be a good choice.  Maybe I would bring Derek back to find Dearie later, but for now I needed to keep him single.

I’d also decided on the conversation with the elf, which I bumped to the next chapter because I felt it needed to break at the moment the engagement was announced.


Chapter 97, Hastings 125

The wolves came to my mind at just about this time, and I thought it not unreasonable that Lauren would not have thought of them sooner, so I brought them into the story again.

For Garith, I wanted another growlish name, and that was the best I had at the time.  Sielle was actually named for a dog belonging to a crazy landlady we had our first year of marriage; but the dog was named Sienna, after the paint color.


Chapter 98, Slade 81

At this point, I was looking for an out for Slade, stalling Lauren until I got people to join her, and trying to bring my threesome together without running roughshod over someone’s story.  A commando raid seemed better than a major battle.

There was on the edge of my brain a movie in which the couple is in a bind, but she’s got a gun.  He says, “I love you,” and she says, “I know,” and as he turns to face the villain she shoots him (the villain).  It took me several years to realize that it came from Star Wars.


Chapter 99, Brown 85

I’d been thinking about this conversation for a while.  I’m decided that Derek never married Dearie, but it won’t be for his choice.

The line “You’re committed now, or you will be” is of course a joke to be said when you have decided to say or do something that will seem crazy.  I know I’ve said it before I wrote it here, but don’t know whether it’s original with me or whether I heard it somewhere else.


This has been the ninth behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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#197: Launching the mark Joseph “young” Forums

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #197, on the subject of Launching the mark Joseph “young” Forums.

Once upon a time, what now seems a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, there were forums at Gaming Outpost.

Well, there were forums almost everywhere, but the ones at Gaming Outpost were significant, big deal forums in the gaming world for a while, and then not so much but still important to me and to many of those who read my work and played Multiverser.  They were probably then the most reliable way to reach me, and there were plenty of discussions, not to mention quite a few games played, on those forums.

Then they crashed, and all of that was lost.

I can’t promise that this won’t happen to these new forums, but we’re going to make an effort, with the help of our Patreon and PayPal.me supporters, to keep them up and running, and to pay attention to what is posted here.

I arranged the forums in alphabetical order; I was going to arrange them in reverse alphabetical order, because I have always hated being the last in line for everything, but as I installed them the software put the next one on top, and although I could see how to resequence them, I realized that that would put Bible and Theology on the bottom, and while I’m not a stickler for silly formalities I could see that some people would object to that, more so than anyone would object to any other forum being at the bottom.  It is probably appropriate that it is on top.  The forum categories correspond roughly to the web log main topics, with a few tweaks and additions.

I long wished for a place to discuss time travel and time travel movies, and that’s there now.  I don’t expect most of the discussions will wind up here, but perhaps at least some will, and that will make it worthwhile.  I’ve also made a home for discussions of the Christian Gamers Guild Faith and Gaming series, and for the upcoming (this December) Faith in Play and RPG-ology series there.  There are music and ministry sections, space for logic problems discussions, law and politics pages, space for games, and a place to discuss my books, if anyone is interested in any of those topics.

I have also added a Multiverser game play forum.  I have in the past been overwhelmed by the number of players who wanted to play, even with my rule that I would only post one time per day to any game thread and expected players to observe the same courtesy (except for obvious correction posts).  Please do not presume that because you want to play Multiverser you can just start a thread and I’ll pick up your game.  I will give first priority to people who have played the game with me before, whether live or online, picking up where we were; I will also open the door on an individual basis to people who have wanted to play for a long time but for various reasons have not been able to do so (such as Andrew in South Africa).  Beyond that, well, talk to me and I’ll see what kind of time I have–after all, I have no idea how many of my previous players will return, or how much work it’s going to be to get back up to speed on their long-interrupted games.

My thanks to Kyler and Nikolaj, who have already helped me track down some of the bugs and fix them.  I’m told that if you are not registered, the link on the top left corner of the page will work, but the one on the top right corner will not–unfortunately, I can neither see either link while logged into the site, nor find how to fix a lot of those problems.  But I am working on it, and there is a forum specifically for contacting me about problems, and a link to my Facebook page if you can’t even get as far as that.

I look forward to seeing you.

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#195: Probabilities in Dishwashing

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #195, on the subject of Probabilities in Dishwashing.

I was going to call this, What Are the Odds?, but that’s too useful a title to use for this.  Actually, almost every time my bill rings up to an exact dollar amount, ending “.00”, I say that to the cashier, and usually they have no idea, so usually I tell them.  But I’m a game master–I’ve been running Multiverser™ for over twenty years, and Dungeons & Dragons™ for nearly as long before that.  I have to know these things.  After all, whenever a player says to me, “What do I have to roll?”, he really means “What are the odds that this will work?”  Then, usually very quickly by the seat of my pants, I have to estimate what chance there is that something will happen the way the player wants it.  So I find myself wondering about the odds frequently–and in an appendix in the back of the Multiverser rule book, there were a number of tools provided to help figure out the odds in a lot of situations.

And so when I saw an improbable circumstance, I immediately wondered what the odds were, and then I wondered how I would calculate them, and then I had the answer.  It has something in common with the way I cracked the probabilities of dice pools decades back (that’s in the book), but has more to do with card probabilities, as we examined in web log post #1:  Probabilities and Solitaire, than with dice.

So here’s the puzzle.

At some point I bought a set of four drinking cups in four distinct colors.  I think technically the colors were orange, green, cyan, and magenta, although we call the cyan one blue and the magenta one red, and for our purposes all that matters is that there are four colors, A, B, C, and D.  We liked them enough, and they were cheap enough, that on my next trip to that store I bought another identical set.  That means that there are two tumblers of each color.

I was washing dishes, and I realized that among those dishes were exactly four of these cups, one of each of the four colors.  I wondered immediately what the odds were, and rapidly determined how to calculate them.  I did not finish the calculation while I was washing dishes, for reasons that will become apparent, but thought I’d share the process here, to help other game masters estimate odds.  This is a problem in the probabilities of non-occurrence, that is, what are the odds of not drawing a pair.

The color of the first cup does not matter, because when you have none and you draw one, it is guaranteed not to match any previously drawn cup, because there aren’t any.  Thus there is a one hundred percent chance that the first cup will be one that you need and not one that you don’t want.  Whatever color it is, it is our color A.

In drawing the second cup, what you know is that there are now seven cups that you do not have, one of which will be a match.  That means there is one chance in seven of a match, six chances in seven of not matching.  This is where I stopped the math, because I hate sevenths.  I know that they create a six-digit repeating decimal that shifts its position–1/7th is 0.1̅4̅2̅8̅5̅7̅, and 2/7ths is 0.2̅8̅5̅7̅1̅4̅, and in each case the digits are in the same sequence, but I can never remember that sequence (I don’t use it frequently enough to matter, and I can look it up on the table in the back of the Multiverser book as I just did here, or plug it into a calculator to get it).  So the probability of the second cup matching the first–of drawing the other A–is 14.2̅8̅5̅7̅1̅4̅%, and the probability of not drawing a match is 85.7̅1̅4̅2̅8̅5̅%.

So with a roughly 86% chance we have two cups that do not match, colors A and B, and we are drawing the third from a pool of six cups, of which there are one A, one B, two Cs and two Ds.  That means there are two chances that our draw will match one of the two cups we already have, against four chances that we will get a new color.  There is thus a 33.3̅3̅% chance of a match, a 66.6̅6̅% chance that we will not get a match.

We thus have a roughly 67% chance of drawing color C, but that assumes that we have already drawn colors A and B.  We had a 100% chance of drawing color A, and an 86% chance of drawing color B.  That means our current probability of having three differently-colored cups is 67% of 86% of 100%, a simple multiplication problem which yields about 58%.  Odds slightly favor getting three different colors.

As we go for the fourth, though, our chances drop significantly.  There are now three colors to match, and five cups in the deck three of which match–three chances in five, or 60%, to match, which means two in five, or 40%, to get the fourth color.  That’s 40% of 67% of 86% of 100%, and that comes to, roughly, a 23% chance.  That’s closer to 3/13ths (according to my chart), but close enough to one chance in four, 25%.

A quicker way to do it in game, though, would be to assign each of the eight cups a number, and roll four eight-sided dice to see which four of the cups were drawn.  You don’t have to know the probabilities to do it that way, but if you had any matching rolls you would have to re-roll them (one of any pair), because it would not be possible to select the same cup twice.  In that sense, it would be easier to do it with eight cards, assigning each to a cup.

I should note that this math fails to address the more difficult questions–first, what are the odds that exactly four of the eight cups would be waiting to be washed, as opposed to three or five or some other number; second, how likely is it that someone has absconded with one of the cups of a particular color because he likes that color and is keeping it in his car or his room or elsewhere.  However, the first question is an assumption made in posing the problem, and the second question is presumably equally likely to apply to any one of the four color cups (even if I can’t imagine someone taking a liking to the orange one, someone in the house does like orange).  However, it should give you a bit of a better understanding on how to figure out the odds of something happening.

For what it’s worth, the probability of the cost of the purchase coming to an even dollar amount, assuming random values and numbers of items purchased, is one chance in one hundred.  That, of course, assumes that the sales tax scheme in the jurisdiction doesn’t skew the odds.

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#191: Versers Travel

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #191, on the subject of Versers Travel.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  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 along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains 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, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
  4. #174:  Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44);
  5. #180:  Versers Focus (chapters 45 through 55);
  6. #183:  Verser Transitions (chapters 56 through 66);
  7. #186:  Worlds Change (chapters 67 through 77).

This picks up from there, with chapters 78 through 88.

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 78, Brown 78

I’d decided on retrieving the equipment.  Recognizing that it had been so long, I had to think of the condition of the things he retrieved.  What mattered was the poison; but the other things had to be operational for future use as well.
Having the quills be in elf territory was an abrupt inspiration.  I hadn’t even decided what would become of that, whether they would be friendly or even helpful, or antagonistic.  I did know that Derek would have reason to be afraid of them, and that was a good place to start.


Chapter 79, Hastings 119

As I was writing this, I kept wondering why I had sent Lauren this direction.  Most of it was just trying to get her to Cowtown along the route I’d prescribed, but I wasn’t sure what else.

The teacher weekend in Atlantic City is a real annual event.  It had meant a four-day weekend when I was in grade school, and the same for my sons, and I heard mention of it again within the last couple years from someone who was preparing to be a teacher.


Chapter 80, Slade 75

I had decided some time before that the murdered princess was daughter of King Morgan; I wanted to stall the trial, and introducing a son enabled me to bring out the relationship and hint at the importance of the now-gone book.  I needed a change of subject, and I needed it fast, and thought that fencing would be just the sort of thing Slade would suggest; and remembering the idea that princes, particularly of the highest sort, seldom have the opportunity to face an opponent who doesn’t yield, I decided Ruard would look for this.

The name Ruard was an example of one of those stuck for a name techniques I’ve learned, this one from E. R. Jones:  mangle a word into something useful.  My Blockbuster® Rewards card was on my desk as I scanned for something from which I could make a name, and it reminded me of the Stuarts of England and the Stewards of Lord of the Rings.  I was trying to get something that sounded like Steward but started with R, and knew that I had to change the spelling drastically to escape being seen as Reward.  Thus Ruard came about.

My thoughts on the duel at this point were that Ruard would be an extremely capable swordsman, but that Slade would best him, narrowly.  Ruard thinks Slade a very young nobleman, and will be impressed with the skill of someone so young; Slade of course combines the vigor of a youthful body with the experience of years, a potent combination.

The “very wise comedian” who said that “everything in life is timing and delivery” is actually my brother Roy; I do not know if he got it from someone else, and although I have gotten many quips from him he would not actually claim to be a comedian (although some of his professors and perhaps some of his co-workers might).


Chapter 81, Brown 79

Oddly, I thought about this on and off for several days with little progress.  I talked about it with a couple of people, none of whom gave me anything useful.  Then I remembered that Derek couldn’t hover, and so couldn’t stay still; and before I put that to paper, I realized that the elves would not speak the language of men, at least to each other.  This gave me the starting point.  Much of the rest came together as I wrote.  I needed a reason he didn’t escape; the weight of the darts gave me that.  As I was trying to figure out how he could watch them all, I remembered his clairvoyant back protection.  The telepathy suddenly commended itself as the easy way to get past the language barrier.  As to what the elves knew of sprites, I was faced with the complication that most readers will assume elves to be at least incredibly long lived if not immortal.  For them to have forgotten that sprites ever existed would seem unlikely.  I tried to compensate for this by assuming a young group of elves, and suggesting that whatever stories they knew seemed to them as fairy tales.

I’d been toying with the idea that the elves would teach Derek how to make the sleep drug.  At this moment, I had little other idea.  There was a thought of him contacting a human college and trying to use their equipment, but any way I approached that it “snapped my disbelief suspenders”, so I abandoned it.  Getting the formula from the elves would move the story forward quite nicely.


Chapter 82, Hastings 120

I found my reason for sending Lauren this direction in showing her a woman who might have been her.  The rest was part of setting the stage of this world, and exploring who Lauren was here.

Cowtown is a real farmers market and rodeo just outside Woodstown, New Jersey; it has been extrapolated into the future, but has been where it is for a very long time already.


Chapter 83, Slade 76

The ideas for this chapter came from each other in sequence, really.  It started with the idea that Slade would be late for lunch if he spent the morning with Shella.  This suggested that the prince would also be late, detained by other things.  Then, if the prince was detained, Slade would be waiting for him in the courtyard.  Here he might have the chance to fight someone else, and Rapheus was certainly available.  I pondered whether Ruard was as good as suggested, and decided that he was, so after Slade quickly outfought the skilled Rapheus, I needed a much longer battle for Ruard.  In this, I realized that a man who expects to win and won’t allow himself to lose will probably raise the stakes to try to overpower his opponent–the rules start to become fuzzy when the stakes get high.  This led to my desire to have Slade fake the loss.

While I was writing it, I started considering how Slade was going to get out of this world.  I decided that the King would be back for dinner.  I toyed with and discarded the notion that Ruard would come for a rematch after the trial.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that if King Morgan knew, conclusively, that Acquivar killed his daughter, he would act on the matter. It occurred to me now that this meant war, and Slade would certainly lend his sword to such a battle.  I would have to figure out how to make it work, as we would have to have a clear victory and a death, and not repeat previous battle scenes; but I would get there eventually.


Chapter 84, Brown 80

I pondered for several days what to do about the elves.  I didn’t feel like I could leave them without more said, but I didn’t really have more to say and they weren’t the focus of the story.  I gave serious consideration to leaping Derek home and then flashing back to moments with the elves, but I knew readers would want to know more about the elves.

The break really came when I suddenly asked where the elves lived, that is, if Derek went home with them, what sort of home would that be?  Tolkien’s elves lived some in tunnels (at least, that’s where I think the dwarfs were imprisoned in The Hobbit), some in wonderful houses (Elrond’s Last Homely House), and some in flets (the tree platforms of Lothlorien).  I didn’t want to copy anything; but I wanted some reason why they lived in woods.  I also was faced with the fact that they had never moved into the woods of the sprites, a mere few days’ journey, which I had not explained.  The idea of a special species of tree that provided a hollow interior large enough for an elf home solved much of this.  The tree name, Seiorna, came primarily from Sequoia, as I thought people might better believe such a huge tree if it had a similar name to one they knew.  The elves didn’t carve the interiors, but encouraged the growth to go in particular ways, so that the internal bracing structures of the trees would serve as steps and floors.  It also occurred to me that elves would select such trees to be their homes when they were young, and after hundreds of years would be able to move in to them; this would also mean they did not move to other homes during their lifetimes.

The name Thalaoniri was a very abrupt invention.  I thought he should have a name, and kicked about for something, thinking of Talon and Thalon at about the same instant, and thinking that Talon would have to be modified into something less like a word.  I started to type Thalon, but while typing changed it to Thalaon, and kept going to add the iri on the end so that it would have the same multi-syllabic feel of the other name I’d created.

I decided to push forward through the dinner because I wanted to move Derek’s story closer to the end so he could move to the next world, establish the size change ability he was going to acquire, and connect with Lauren.  I knew that Slade still had a war to fight.  I also knew at this point that this book was going to have fewer worlds than any so far–each of them would be in two, with perhaps one of them seeing the first world for their next book, none of which had yet been chosen.  The discussions at dinner were mostly to satisfy the reader that I had some idea about the world of the elves without developing it too far.

It was during this week that I read Eric Ashley’s first Multiverser work.  He tears through worlds as if they didn’t matter.  I wanted to be sure that everything I included in the book seemed to matter to the people involved, even if most of it was peripheral to the story.


Chapter 85, Hastings 121

I’d had the idea about Bethany using a lawn ornament for a staff sometime last year, when I saw one in Wal-Mart that appealed to me.

The idea that Bethany would shop at Cowtown because of the ability to barter there made good sense.

I thought quite a bit about where Bethany’s home would be and what it would be like.  At one point I imagined a transparent plastic tarp in the woods, so that sun could get in but rain couldn’t.  I considered several places in the central and western U.S. to put her, and gave a passing thought to Africa.  In the end, I decided to return her to her roots.  I needed an explanation for why that was still not enclosed, and found it in the environmental movement.


Chapter 86, Slade 77

The legal procedure questions were partly for my benefit, so I could set up in my own mind what was going to happen the next day and make it seem reasonable that Slade knew how to act in a foreign court.  These led quite unexpectedly into the material about loyalty, which itself would set up my expected direction.  I’m thinking that the discovery of the book in which Acquivar reveals his treachery is going to lead to war, and that Slade will go with them.  I’ve already thought of the words, “As far as I’m concerned, I’ve finished what I came to do–and this is the best offer I’m likely to get for what to do next, so count me in.”  He’ll die in that battle, probably in confrontation with Acquivar, but almost certainly due to someone else’s treachery (not Acquivar’s skill).  Still, I’m not yet certain how to make the three character threads come together.  Part of me wants Derek to go first; in fact, part of me still wants to squeeze in another world for Derek, to establish the middle form and the shape changing, before he gets to the vampire world, and still have him get to Lauren first.  But I think she has to start fighting vampires in earnest before anyone else arrives.

I’d thought of having Shella ask him what all that was about, but dropped it partly for story flow and partly because I thought it would give away too much at which I was thus far only hinting.


Chapter 87, Brown 81

The encounter with the human was tossed in so that it wouldn’t feel like he walked home overnight.

It seemed obvious that Derek was going to have to talk about where he went, but that the reader already knew all this.  The difference between the eager interest of his little brother and the concerns of his parents seemed both quite likely and good story in which to review the events.


Chapter 88, Hastings 122

It was actually when I got here and was doing breakfast that I got the idea for the changing rooms.  I determined to back-write it into their arrival at the cave the night before.

The room is a copy of one at Gordon College.  The previous owner of the property had been building a baronial mansion on the grounds before he sold the property to the college, and I had a couple of classes in the dining room before it was converted to office space (a tragedy, I thought, as it was a beautiful room).

The paradox discussion is kept simple.  I do a lot of time travel writing, and thought that someone who had read any of that would be wondering about those things.  The solution here was simple, but one that would work in most games.

The discussion of how Bethany is about the creative touches actually tells much about Lauren I had not recognized.  Again, it is probably because she’s more like me.  I would like to do more with Bethany; alas, my wife hates her, as she’s so much the silly schoolgirl (Bethany, not my wife).


This has been the eighth behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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#186: Worlds Change

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #186, on the subject of Worlds Change.

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  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 along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains 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, hopefully giving them at different stages as they move through the books.

These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #157:  Versers Restart (which provided this kind of insight into the first eleven chapters);
  2. #164:  Versers Proceed (which covered chapters 12 through 22);
  3. #170:  Versers Explore (which covered chapters 23 through 33);
  4. #174:  Versers Achieve (chapters 34 through 44);
  5. #180:  Versers Focus (chapters 45 through 55);
  6. #183:  Verser Transitions (chapters 56 through 66).

This picks up from there, with chapters 56 through 66.

img0186Autumn

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 67, Hastings 115

I spent a lot of time thinking about this world; and I decided that it would be best if those plans of Tubrok’s allies had come to greater fruition–a loss of faith, and other things which put the vampires in a place where they could step out from the darkness.  The elimination of sunshine was on the top of the list; at first I was going to use smog for this, and even considered giving Lauren a magic gas mask or something; but then, enclosed cities were a staple of sci-fi, and would work as well.  Destruction of the ozone layer necessitating protection from the solar radiation would become my excuse for this, and the cities would be climate controlled, connected by underground bullet trains, and otherwise completely accessible to the vampires.

I was still trying to figure out whether I could use some sort of survival of the fittest justification to mold the law such that it was not a crime for a vampire to kill a mortal, and thus prevent anyone from acting against the vampires in force.

I also decided that Lauren was going to get a glimpse of things before she was attacked, by a weak but hungry vampire that took her (in T-shirt, cutoffs, and sneakers) as an easy meal.  She would have to beat it without any of her weapons (all of which are in the cart), which means psionics, magic, and hand-to-hand combat.  This lets it be a tough fight against a weak opponent, and gets her to kit up before continuing.

I also decided that her presence would be quickly recognized, and she would be put to flight; having her running from the enemy would be a good start, and give me time to bring the others to her.

I started the three items with the card; it quotes Philippians 4:19, And my God will provide all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus, but in Greek so that it wouldn’t be immediately evident.  I figured it would somehow provide her with money or the equivalent wherever it was used, and I would figure out how as I went, although sticking it in a cash machine seemed the best place to start.  I made it gold because that fit its function for some worlds.

The second item I already discussed; John 8:32, The truth will set you free, is the verse.

Even as I wrote the words, “The third object”, I had not decided what it was.  But I’d been toying with an idea of a cross on a chain that would protect her directly against magic–otherwise she would be particularly vulnerable to detection, location, scrying, and remote attacks.  But she doesn’t wear it yet, because she has to be detectable long enough for her to figure out some of what’s happening here.


Chapter 68, Slade 71

Breakfast suddenly occurred to me; of course, it’s late afternoon for them, but they just awoke.  I remembered that this was right near the inn, so that seemed the logical place to go.  The rest sort of fell into place.

I had actually completely shut down the computer and was about to go to bed when I thought of the last paragraph.  I wanted the number of soldiers they saw pass them on the road to be sufficient that it would be clearly dangerous, and toyed with whether thirty cavalry was better than thirty infantry, or whether twenty cavalry was sufficient, and in the end jumped it up to forty cavalry so it would look like a more difficult challenge even to those who did not equate the fact that they were cavalry with making them more dangerous.


Chapter 69, Brown 75

I described the world of humans pretty much as I’d imagined it, as a sort of weak late medieval society.  Inter-human war was logical in that setting, although I’d not considered it before.  It also meant Derek was practicing his scrying.

The digression into history sort of surprised me, but made sense.  I was at this point thinking of combining the development of the famed pixie drugged arrows with my original notion of demonstrating that sprites were human, too.  Derek would have known that there were peaceful ways to oppose oppression; but history was never among his interests, and he wouldn’t have that kind of knowledge on which to draw now.

The discussion of history led naturally to the story of Tonathel.  I’d never considered that I might include this tale in the book, or even what the details of it were; but suddenly Derek needed an example of peaceful resistance, and this would be the first place he would look.  Thus I set it up.  Oddly, it had taken me a few days of consideration to find the beginning of this chapter, to figure out how I was going to get from the previous one to giving Derek what he needed to know through scrying and asking; and when I got to the story of Tonathel, after writing the rather fragmentary introduction, I again set it aside to consider in more depth what Morani would tell about this story.


Chapter 70, Hastings 116

I liked the name Ana for my seer; it probably came from Anna the prophetess in Luke, although using Anastasia for Ana actually came from E. R. Jones’ high school sweetheart, whom I never met.

I needed names for these people.  I took Padowski from my eldest’s girlfriend, and then needed given names to match.  Dimitri and Anastasia aren’t perfect, but they were close enough given that this was an American setting and the future.  I probably grabbed Anastasia from the book of that name (although more from the Disney movie version); Dimitri probably came from my Greek illustrator Dimitrios, although I’d heard it used as a Russian name at some point.

I made Ana a seer primarily so that her grandson would stop Lauren based on instructions.  I expect to do more with it, but as yet I don’t know what.

The unfolding of the story needed to avoid Tubrok’s name; and I was stuck for a title for him.  The communist idea of a party chairman who actually pulled the strings behind all the elected officials worked well in a global situation.

Masculinizing “Lauren” into “Lorne” was an interesting twist, given the typical expectation some have of angels being men.

My wife once bought me a card that read, “You’re the answer to my prayers” on the front.  The interior said, “You’re not what I prayed for, exactly, but apparently you’re the answer.”  I remember that frequently when I think of answers to prayers.


Chapter 71, Slade 72

I spent a lot of time considering how Slade would get past forty cavalry, and then didn’t write that part yet.  But I did create the idea of getting to the inn while the soldiers were sleeping, and then stealing their horses.

I also decided that at least part of the cavalry would be in position to hold the pass against them.  I had not yet decided how he would get past them.

The musings on time are something I get in my time travel e-mail about once a year–someone tells me that time isn’t real, but is something man invented.  I have to explain the difference between the thing itself and the way we measure it.

I don’t know how Shella knew that twenty minutes had elapsed; it just seemed like exactly the sort of thing she would know.


Chapter 72, Brown 76

I was pretty much winging it on the school stuff.  It had started with an idea for social interaction, but then it was becoming the equivalent of Hebrew School (which friends of mine had to attend).  It was also obvious that Derek didn’t have to work at just about anything in this life, except learning this language, so I wanted to make it seem like effort.

My thinking about the sprites who dropped out was that their parents would take them out if it was clear that they did not have the interest or discipline to continue (which is often tied to ability, I think); but that from Derek’s perspective he wouldn’t know this.

The flying tricks I wrote years ago, as part of the journals of a character in a role playing game who happened to be a winged elf.  He had been an aerialist in his youth, until an accident had killed his fiancé.  I decided that those ideas were at least worth bringing in as color, and might lead to something more.  I’ve wanted to find a way to bring Derek into human contact, and making him part of an exhibition team might get me there.

I also thought to bring in the girl.  It will probably be a young love interest, but not more; what will happen when Derek verses out I couldn’t say, although perhaps if they are good friends by then she’ll tag along as an associate.

I’m also more and more moving in my mind toward the development of some sort of pixie sleep drug for spritish arrows.  If Derek can develop a non-lethal weapon that sprites could use effectively against humans, that would turn the tide.  He would probably still try diplomacy first; but it’s not going to work–humans won’t agree to equality with sprites, unless sprites demonstrate military advantage.


Chapter 73, Hastings 117

I had pondered how Lauren was going to discover that the city was enclosed, and how she was going to get outside.  The more I considered Dimitri and Anastasia, the more certain I was that it would never occur to them to mention that the city was enclosed–how could it be any different?  Then the telepathic link to Bethany came to mind, and I decided to use that.

I had determined previously that the cross would block efforts to locate Lauren by magic or psionics.  At first I’d some idea of vampires finding her, so that she would realize the need.  But Ana provided a simpler way to set that up.  This didn’t mean she couldn’t be found–only that it would be difficult to do so by magic.

There was in this a confusion I had overlooked.  Lauren is so like me in so many ways that I forget when she is different.  She doesn’t carry a copy of the Greek New Testament or any grammar or vocabulary books; she relies on her English version.  It isn’t that she never studied Greek; it’s that she did so so long ago that she doesn’t remember enough to really crack this.  Bethany was not terribly well versed in Greek, either; but we’ll cover that.


Chapter 74, Slade 73

Thinking about Slade’s problem gave me part of the answer to Derek’s.  Slade could have used chloroform to knock out the guards; he had nothing like that.  Derek did have something like that–in another world, he got the porcuperson darts, with a strong sedative agent in them.  They’re around somewhere, and if he can find them he can analyze the chemistry and attempt to reproduce the drug as sprite sleep drug.

I didn’t have a solution to Slade’s problem when I started.  I didn’t want to use something so obvious as a sleep spell or hypnosis or something; I saw the problems inherent in killing the guards; yet I wasn’t certain how to proceed.  I gave some thought to trying to gag them abruptly, but this seemed unwieldy.  As I was writing this, I got the better idea.

I had decided that up to half the cavalry would be waiting at the pass; I was already working on strategies for that.  I figured Slade would attempt to disable as many horses as he could, and then rush the line and go for the border.  Once over the line, he would face combat with a handful of the cavalry, but before the fight could begin soldiers from the neighboring kingdom would arrest them all and escort them to the king.  The king had been told by his priests that he needed to send soldiers there immediately.

In this regard, I regretted having arranged for Slade to give the book to the peasant.  It occurred to me that everything would fall into place if the princess were the daughter of the king of the next country, and Slade could produce the book.  I almost went back and changed it (I had already read that part to my youngest two sons, who were keeping me on pace with this book).  Then I realized that the soldiers could very well have captured the peasant, in which case the captain of the cavalry would have the book, and not know its importance.  Thus if I found a way for Slade to recognize this, the book would arrive to the person best able to do something about it quite without Slade knowing who that was.


Chapter 75, Brown 77

I was not certain what to do at this point; I didn’t want to leap over to Derek at sixteen, but I didn’t want to bog down in details either.

I had started writing of Derek’s twelfth birthday (only that he noted it) when I remembered that I’d been thinking about a sibling for him.  It had been a long stretch since Derek was born; I hadn’t really intended that.  So I decided this was normal for sprites.  I hesitated for a long moment over whether it should be a brother or sister; I decided it should be a brother because suddenly Paul Atriedes’ sister came to mind, and although I did not at this moment intend for the sibling to have any real part in the deliverance I didn’t want to risk paralleling that book.

At this moment, my reading to Evan and Adam caught up with me; I had read chapter 74 before I wrote 75, and had to write 75 for the next night’s reading.  I shuffled the stuff about the twelfth birthday to my notes, and gave consideration to the telepathy bit.  I wasn’t certain how it would turn out, but was happy with what I got.


Chapter 76, Hastings 118

The talk about the words of prophets was spur of the moment.

I had several times swithered about whether to bring Lauren out in Salem County (New Jersey), as I at least was familiar with the territory and could guess it would still be part rural in three hundred years.  In the end, I decided it was the best choice.  I pushed the Speedline through because people are always talking about extending it, replaced a U.S. highway with a mass transit bus, and chose a spot that had reason to stay at least partly rural:  the rodeo.

I was also thinking about whether to take Dimitri along for the fight ahead, but had a lot of reasons not to do so at this point.


Chapter 77, Slade 74

Of course, I had the broad outline of this in my mind for several days before I wrote it.  Slade would shoot at the legs of the horses (I debated this a long time, as it is so unlike chivalry and yet such a good tactic), and then break through the line.  Acquivar’s people would pursue in smaller force.  Soldiers of the king, alerted indirectly by Majdi, would arrest all.  What I didn’t have was the detail, which I filled in as I wrote.

The notion that the blaster shots would be unaffected by wind was something that seemed obvious to me, but it’s not clear that Bob would actually know that.  On the other hand, he probably thinks (incorrectly) that wind would not affect bullets, so he is extrapolating from that.  The blaster discharges a ball of gravitic/kinetic energy, which wind would not shift.


This has been the seventh behind the writings look at For Better or Verse.  Assuming that there is interest, I will continue preparing and posting them every eleven chapters, that is, every three weeks.

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