Tag Archives: Multiverser

#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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#189: An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #189, on the subject of An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience.

This should be prefaced with the admission that I was quite trepidatious about attending the AnimeNEXT convention as a “guest” this year, for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the convention itself.  To provide a brief background, I was invited to attend AnimeNEXT in 2014, when it was still in Somerset, New Jersey, at the now defunct Garden State Exhibit Center (it is now in the Atlantic City Convention Center), and I accepted and went and had a good time, running Multiverser for quite a few people most of whom had no experience with it, and seeing a couple of people I knew from Ubercon (a convention which I attended as guest for all but the first).  I was invited to return, and planned to do so despite the fact that it falls on the weekend of my birthday.

One week before the 2015 convention we lost our electric, and were without it up to the Friday the convention was to start–leaving me with refrigerators and freezers filled with garbage that had to be cleaned and taken to the dump on Saturday.  I did not make it to the convention, regretably.  Then in 2016, the night I was supposed to be driving to the con I was instead driven to the emergency room, where I was admitted to emergency surgery and kept in house for a week.  I joked that for my birthday I was given a hernioraphy and bowel resection, gifts I would use for many years to come.  (The joke was on me, because in March I was back to have the hernia repair repaired, and I’m not entirely certain that the repair is holding.)

Thus with the 2017 convention looming I was superstitiously worried about what sort of disaster would befall us preventing my attendance yet again.  Mercifully none did, but I was still on edge as on the Thursday night on which I was supposed to check into the hotel the person who was to drive me got sick.  I was as much concerned that I would get there as that I would not, not having run any live Multiverser games since the previous con and not having run any online since Gaming Outpost crashed, and hoping that the materials still packed in the box of books and papers from the last time were going to include everything I needed this time, without ever having a moment of preparation time to check them.  Fortuitously everything on that count worked.  I arrived Friday, too late for breakfast but in time for lunch.

I was immediately in the game room, and soon entertaining players.  Regan and Kaseeb (I hope I got those spellings right) dove right into my Tropical Island setting–the one all convention players know because I start everyone there and then blow the volcano and kill them all (that is, their characters) so I can scatter them to other worlds in the multiverse.  Both players saved me that trouble.  When Michael di Vars was explaining what had happened to them, and that whenever they were killed they would awaken in another universe, Kaseeb called him “crazy”, which as a clear expression of disbelief demands proof, and the proof is that di Vars shoots him with a gun big enough to be instantly fatal.  Regan thereafter was not so skeptical, but chose to explore a cave into which a stream poured and from which steam arose, and when he fell on the slick wet polished volcanic glass streambed he decided to attempt to crawl deeper into the cave, resulting in an abrupt slide into the boiling pool at the bottom.

Both players returned on Saturday, and I’m not certain exactly where the break was in their games.  Kaseeb landed on the bridge of the Starship Destiny, where after being beligerent and getting locked in the brig, he became cooperative, started requesting equipment he recognized would be valuable in the long term (such as a water purification system), and made himself part of the crew.  He went on a raid of a Federation listening post under construction, but got killed by security when things went wrong.  I’m afraid he tended to roll particularly bad general effects rolls, so when he needed things to go well for him the dice said they went badly.  He awoke in a forest, but I’m not going to say more about that in case he does contact me to continue play, other than to record for my own sake that he is in the same world in which Derek Jacob Brown started in the fourth novel–so those who follow the novels will probably know what world that is in a few months, if all goes well.

Meanwhile, Regan landed in Ruritania’s royal game preserve, where he was discovered by Colonel Sapt and Fritz Tarlenheim–Prisoner of Zenda, where he was as near the exact duplicate of King Rudolf as one could ask.  He pulled the rug out from under me, though–when in the morning the king had been drugged or poisoned and could not be awakened, Regan tapped his medical and herbalism background to purge the drug and revive the victim.  The king thus made it to the coronation, very sickly but adequately, and Regan was smuggled into the royal suite in the Castle at Strelsau after dark, to attend to the continued treatment of the problem.

I also started a game for Glen on Saturday afternoon.  Oddly, all three of us working in the game room–Ahmetia, Kevin, and I–felt ill after lunch.  I excused myself for a while when Regan and Kaseeb had left, but when I returned Glenn had also departed.  He did stay on the island until it exploded, although he was trying to build a raft to escape it when it happened.  He drowned, but I was still trying to decide where he would awaken when I took my break.

I had no players on Sunday, but sat in on half a game of something called Fiasco that Kevin was running–an excellent story-driven game that I would probably recommend but that at just about the halfway point two of our players had to leave and the game could not be continued once players had left the table, so I don’t really know how it plays out to the end.

Outside the RPG room, I made one run to the dealer and artist showcase room–combined in one large area with little distinction between the two.  It was larger than I could even bring myself to run through, but apart from the rather pricey and common dice (all the standard polyhedrals, but no d30s and nothing unusual like the tiny dice or the d24 I got at the last Ubercon) I saw nothing that interested me much.  That’s not really the fault of the con–it’s that I’m not the best target audience for it.  Kevin is an expert on the paranormal, frequent lecturer on the subject, but his expertise is focused on Western phenomena.  At AnimeNEXT panels address either anime or Japan, and outside our game rooms nearly everything at the convention is about one or both of those subjects.  As Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild I have several years attempted to connect with someone about hosting a non-denominational Christian worship service on Sunday morning, but have never been able to figure out who that would be, and suspect it is partly because Christian worship services are not really thought to fit into their overall program.  There is also an extremely high level of cosplay here.  The few other cons I’ve attended were mostly people in plain clothes with occasional costumed characters.  Here the plainclothes attendees are more the exception, and many of the cosplayers look like cartoon characters peeled from the celuloid.  I am very impressed by their skills in this regard, and they clearly impress each other–it is typical to find a crowd of photographers surrounding a well-costumed individual.  I even saw someone I thought would make an excellent image for my Lauren Hastings character, but she was down the escalator before I could react, and I was rushing late to dinner, and I never saw her again.

I have a couple times mentioned food, and I reluctantly have to say it was disappointing.  I say I am a guest of the convention, but I’m technically listed as staff in the tabletop games section.  I don’t attend staff meetings because they’re generally held (seems like every week) more than two hours away from where I live, and although in theory one can attend via online video conferencing I have no microphone or camera on my computer.  I consider myself more a special guest, like the professional wrestlers they had performing some exhibition on Saturday afternoon.  As “staff” I get free room and meals.

It is difficult to assess the Sheraton.  Upon my arrival, there was a freak incident in which the bellhop, who was apparently required to bring my luggage to my room, spilled my coffee on the rug and promised to get housekeeping to clean it.  I never saw housekeeping, and the stain remained through our entire stay, but it was mocha so it probably stains pretty well.  A moment later I noticed that the drain cock on the bathroom sink did not open.  He promised he would have maintenance fix that as well, and it was fixed by the time I returned to the room that evening.  However, at six in the morning when one of my roommates, Paul, tried to take a shower, the tub drain was clogged.  He called the desk, and we had someone there by six thirty waking the rest of us but getting the drain cleared.  Obviously there are going to be such problems, and the response was swift, but it is passing strange that we had two bad drains in the same room.  It causes me to wonder about the plumbing and other maintenance of other rooms in the hotel, but it might be simply that we had a bad general effects roll.

I hate to say that the meals were a disappointment.  Three years ago the food was wonderful, breakfast and dinner buffets worth good money.  This year, breakfast was continental, and while the donuts, bagels, loaf cakes, and other basic bread products were good quality, and the coffee excellent, I had been eagerly anticipating eggs and meat and hot cereal.  Friday’s dinner included one entree, chicken parmesan, which was passable.  I was ill Saturday and lay down over dinner time, but others at the convention described the meal of pizza and pasta salads rather derisively.  Lunch all three days was hoagies and wraps, and I was fairly happy with the roast beef on Friday and the tuna on Sunday, but on Saturday I forced myself to eat half an Italian hoagie and half a roast chicken sandwich with the roasted peppers pulled off (I do not do well with spicy foods), and probably made myself ill trying to eat it.  (Kevin and Ahmetia ultimately decided that their infirmity arose from lack of sleep, having stayed up too late Friday night and arisen too early Saturday morning.)  Of course, it was food, and it was free.  The cookies were good, the homemade potato chips got mixed reviews.  Coffee, tea, and orange juice were available with breakfast, but lunches and dinners were served with Nestle’s Pure Life bottled water in tiny bottles (eight ounces each).  The coffee was swept away very quickly at the end of breakfast, but Kat and I were able to prevail upon the polite and helpful catering staff to provide us with cups to go from the kitchen mid-morning Saturday.

I approach the food issue with mixed feelings.  I am reminded of a Mad Magazine mock of a movie entitled Marooned (which perhaps presciently told the story of three astronauts stranded in space before the Apollo 13 fiasco), in which at one point Ground Control replies to the stranded astronauts, “Hey, we had to cut the budget somewhere–we couldn’t have wall-to-wall carpet and a back-up life support system.”  There are a lot of expenses involved in running a convention, and the people at the top want to see it turn enough of a profit that they have money ready to do it again the next year.  I think it unfortunate that some of my fondest memories of 2014 were about the food, which was the basis of my worst memories of 2017.  On the other hand, I had money in my pocket and there were places to eat in the neighborhood, so the fact that I did not eat well proves ultimately to be my own fault.

Ahmetia is already expecting me to return next year, so although I have not been formally invited I’m guessing at this point that’s a formality.  Hopefully this year will go well enough that I will be in better shape in every way in twelve months, so I’ll start planning for that.  I understand that there were about two thousand people (give or take a couple hundred) through the gates, and that there were some there that I know who never came by to see me, but there were some who remembered me from three years ago who know me from nowhere else, and that was an encouragement.  So perhaps I will see you there in 2018.

I also promised Regan and Kaseeb, and maybe Glen, that if they contacted me I would find a way to continue their games online.  I am contemplating adding a forum to this site for that purpose, but have not yet heard from any of them–although I expect that if I decide to do this, I will be innundated with players from previous games wanting to continue online, who are probably already thinking that I should do this.  I am considering it.  No decision has been reached at this point.

#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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#184: Remembering Adam Keller

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #184, on the subject of Remembering Adam Keller.

Some of you know who Adam Keller is (that is a link to his Facebook profile).  Indeed, some of you know him better than I, although I have known him for over a decade, having met him at Ubercon (I do not recall which number, but I’m betting on III), gamed with him online and at conventions, and exchanged visits to each other’s homes.  Still, he was much closer to my second son Kyler and our perennial houseguest John, both of whom lived in his home for a while, probably more than once.  I knew him, but never very well.  But then, I know very few people very well.

img0184Keller

However, I was notified of this, and ultimately found it on that Facebook profile (dated April 24th, 2017, posted by someone from Adam’s own personal account):

I regret to inform all of Adam’s friends and family that he passed away last night at 11:20 pm at home.

We are looking for any family members of Adam. If you are family or have contact information for family please call….

As we make arrangements for Adam I will post them here.

Thank you very much.

Digging through threads on that page I learned that he died of pneumonia.  Co-workers say he was sick and in some pain for most of a week, but refused to go to a doctor.  Some attributed this to his fear of the high co-pay on his (Lockheed) company employee health coverage policy, and so some blamed the Affordable Care Act.  That is more than I know.  I do know that many excellent company health care plans have been eviscerated to avoid the tax penalties of that law, and there are claims that it is discouraging people from obtaining needed medical care.  If that is the case here it makes the event the more tragic, but it’s also not the point.

Adam was a gamer, and an outstanding one.  He was a champion Hackmaster player (I understand he held a national title thrice) and ran the game at conventions, in some capacity on behalf of Kenzer & Company.  It was while he was running a Hackmaster game at Ubercon that he heard me running a Multiverser game at the next table for Kyler, and became interested enough to inquire about it and test play it.  He became an avid fan, player, and supporter, coming sometimes to company meetings, trying to advise us on our hopeless financial situation, and promoting the game to his gaming friends.  He was one of the best power players I ever ran, and he has left behind a couple of characters who genuinely earned their superhero status and abilities through game play, whom I will seriously consider how to use as non-player characters in the future.  I will not forget him.

Because I am the chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild, I am often asked whether I believe a particular departed individual is in heaven.  I try not to speculate, but I realize that it matters to people, particularly in regard to those I have at least briefly known.  The only person besides Jesus that I am completely certain will be in heaven is me, because I have that promise from God; for everyone else, there are some that it would shock me were they not there, and probably some that it would surprise me if they were, but I am not the one who makes those decisions.  Regarding Adam, I can only say that I have insufficient information.  He never talked about spiritual matters, but he was generally quiet and with me he rarely spoke about anything other than gaming.

(Just because people will ask, and some (notably Timothy and Anne Zahn) have asked, I am reasonably certain of Gary Gygax, and very sure of Dave Arneson.)

Multiverser gamer John Cross has several times said that he believes that when I created Multiverser, God revealed to me what heaven was going to be like:  that we would leap from world to world becoming involved in adventures of all kinds forever.  I deny it on every level.  God revealed nothing to me; the concept of leaping between universes was not new with us, and most of how it worked came from Ed Jones, not me; it is not the heaven which I am eagerly anticipating.  However, somehow I think if it were so, Adam would like that.

Rest in peace, friend, and whatever adventure you find beyond the grave, may God have mercy on you.

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#183: Verser Transitions

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #183, on the subject of Verser Transitions.

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).

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

Green Jungle Vegetation Tropical Forest
Green Jungle Vegetation Tropical Forest

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 56, Hastings 111

I slept on a lot of the issues for this material.  There was something in me that wanted to delay the next step; but already Lauren was on a slow pace, and I did not know how to slow it further.  I didn’t have anything else for her to do in this time.  The next thing was going to have to be trying to fix the rod, and I was just going to have to make it feel like it had been a long time in the process.  I also knew that the first time she tried, she was going to fail–but not botch; it just wouldn’t fix the rod.  Then I would come back and have her succeed.  These are the things I was thinking as I went to bed.  I had other things on my mind; there was a passage in Chesterton’s Secret of Flambeau which I wished to send to the Christian Gamers Guild mailing list to reconsider the matter of playing evil characters.  I needed to remember to post on the web site that people could now order Verse Three, Chapter One, which had gone to press (although the price tag worried us, at least).  But I knew when I came back to writing Lauren’s part, these things would have to happen.  As I awoke, I retrieved the Father Brown stories from the drawer where I kept them, and headed to my office to boot up the computer.  My mind returned to Lauren, and I considered a line to the effect of she had to understand that her momentary lack of success was not failure (something which I, too, had to understand), prelude to the next section in which she would succeed.  But then it occurred to me that there was another way to do this entirely.  I wasn’t certain of the bias–it would probably be very high–but rather than have her psionically repair the rod, she was in a world in which she could magically repair it.  This opened the idea of praying for it and having God fix it, the thing she could not do done by Him.  I liked the idea, and immediately jotted it down lest I forgot.

It had also passed through my head that she might fix it less than perfectly, such that it was no longer so potent a weapon as it had been but was still very powerful.  This had some appeal in terms of using it against Tubrok; but when I decided on a magical repair, that idea was abandoned.

The magnetism analogy was something I’d devised years before when working on the Multiverser rules; I knew that magnetism worked by a sort of alignment of molecules, and thought that something similar could work for psionics, making it possible for any sort of material to be psionic.


Chapter 57, Slade 67

This chapter actually covered a lot more ground than I had expected.  I’d thought of the idea of Shella watching them as I was writing the previous section.  I’d had an idea of Phasius being able to see that Slade and Shella were in love and mistaking them for married; but there wasn’t really enough time before Filp was going to die for all of that to happen unless he saw it immediately, even in the dark.  The embarrassment and shock then became the catalyst for Slade to recognize that this was what he wanted.

His question, asked first the normal way and then restated to seem more hypothetical, also seemed like him, brave and bold in anything requiring action but hesitant about his own feelings.  Her answer seemed to me the perfect response, providing exactly the same level of hypothetical as he, but making the answer perfectly clear.

By rushing this, I could now have the wedding in Cornel’s place, let Filp give away the bride and be the best man (an idea that is shadowy in my thought at this point, but fits with some old tales about what a best man was originally), let them ride to the barn, and have Filp fall in battle after that.  It was fitting together.


Chapter 58, Brown 72

I was trying to develop Derek’s abilities independently from Lauren’s; that is, not to follow the same points of growth.  But the pyrogenesis seemed obvious–it was just a matter of working out how to do it.

It also seemed that the attachment between Derek and his mother was quite strong; I’m not certain yet where that will go.


Chapter 59, Hastings 112

I had decided at this point that I wanted to bring Lauren back up; thus it would be Hastings-Slade-Hastings-Brown-Slade-Hastings-Slade-Brown.

All of this started to come together as I wrote it; but it took three tries to finish it, as I was trying to keep it all credible.


Chapter 60, Slade 68

The wedding of Slade and Shella had been long anticipated, and I needed it to look good.  I did consult my son’s girlfriend Kellie on the wedding dress; she suggested green, and boots, and a few other ideas that got altered and included.  The feeling of battle seemed appropriate to me; but whether they were to fight with or against each other was sort of floating in the air a bit throughout.

I actually wrote fragments of the next Slade section immediately, inserting placeholders for Lauren and Derek


Chapter 61, Hastings 113

It was time to move Lauren to another world.  I had decided how, by gating her through the border supernatural.  There would be an encounter with St. Peter, probably.  But this suggested that she was bound for the endgame scenario, about to land back in the vampire world in the distant future to finally face Tubrok–and I had no idea what she would do there while awaiting the others.  Derek had to go through some intervening world, partly so that he could adventure and partly so that he could start the transformation back from sprite to human (although I had by now decided that he would stop at some midpoint, from which he could shape change to sprite or to human).  I didn’t know what Lauren would do, but she was going to go.

But I didn’t want it to seem like she had fixed the rod, and now went; so I started talking about ways in which she could combine her skills.  This I knew could be amplified later when they came up in combat, and I’d decide exactly how they worked then.


Chapter 62, Brown 73

I want to credit Kyler with the sprite fire starting idea.  It wasn’t that he suggested it, exactly, but rather that he commented that he was interested in the Brown segments because he loved all things to do with sprites and pixies, so that encouraged me to make them interesting.  I decided that sprites might start fires from their own body heat, given the right materials and a bit of focus.  It stemmed naturally from that glow they had.  I hesitated, wondering whether it would be credible.  After all, at no point had I associated the light with heat (I was quite specifically dissociating it).  I did not want it to wind up being magical.  But I remembered that Multiverser recognized a technological skill of creating fire from body heat, in which it was suggested that the right materials would ignite if heated in the hand.  It also struck me that sprite metabolism, and thus body temperature, would almost certainly be higher than human, so materials that would not ignite at 98.6 Fahrenheit might well do so at whatever temperature a spritish body was maintained.

The fire starting actually came up because I wanted to introduce the ideas of weakening and softening objects.  I am thinking that Tubrok (or his assistants) will use some sort of physical object as a weapon, and Derek will cause it to break (and probably act surprised when he does).  I’ve also thought about whether Tubrok might bury one of his attackers in ice for Derek to rescue with his pyrogenesis, but that’s a lot less clear at this point.

I spent a lot of time thinking about what Derek would make from the clay.  The intention was only that he make something that he would be able to harden.  I thought of a toy soldier.  Since Derek would most likely make a human soldier, that had potential; but I couldn’t imagine he could make a believable replica of a human.  My eldest, Ryan, suggested a flute or pan pipes; these had the same problem as the trumpet I included (I chose trumpet because Derek had played it before).  Then the idea of a toy gun came to mind.  Guns and swords are things kids make; but guns only in worlds that have them.  If my human oppressors had guns, that would give a new level to the deliverer story.


Chapter 63, Slade 69

I hadn’t actually forgotten the book; what had happened was that I’d packed so much into the stay in Charton that I couldn’t include the book in that.  Thus I dropped it into this part on the road.

I’d considered having Slade give the book and horses to the unnamed peasant when he got up; but then, the last day of this venture was going to be a wild ride, with at least a couple of fights.  I was thinking that they would begin by burning down the barn in the morning, but I hadn’t thought it through yet.  Whatever I did, I couldn’t have him wandering around looking to give the book to someone then, so I disposed of it now.

I was going to call the loft the penthouse; but I knew Filp wouldn’t know that word.  The tower was the nearest equivalent, so I used that.


Chapter 64, Hastings 114

I spent a day or so thinking about what it was Lauren had attempted that had botched.  When I finally described it to Kyler, he said, “It’s a shame she didn’t succeed,” and I’d have to agree–but she wouldn’t have been very good at it for some time yet, anyway.

I had previously done the border heaven bit for Chris Jones (who is Roman Catholic), but it had a lot more detail here.

The creature was inspired in part by my recent readings in Daniel and Ezekiel, and in part by an image of a Hollyphant in one of TSR’s old Dungeons & Dragons™ books.  But I also wanted to bring through a notion I’ve had for a long time, expressed in one of my early Game Ideas Unlimited articles (but predating it by many years).  Hume had suggested that imaginary creatures always sounded like they were invented from scraps of other creatures because we were incapable of imagining something outside our experience.  I disagreed; I maintain that it is the inability of language to convey the unfamiliar, since for us to have a word describing something all who know the word must already share the image it describes or it is essentially meaningless.  Thus my creature looked like an elephant, and yet distinctly unlike an elephant.  It perhaps owed something to the Sesame Street character Snufflupagus as well.  In all, if one is attempting to describe something truly alien, one must do so in words that represent the familiar, and then modify them away from their own meaning; and that is what I attempted to do here.

The color idea was part of making the realm feel supernatural; it was, to me, a new idea, although it had precursors in my reading.  Voyage to Arcturus had suggested the idea of six primary colors due to two suns; I had recognized then (about 1974) that this was implausible, as color was a function of the eye and the brain.  But here, it made sense that color would be more than that, something whose reality went beyond eye and brain, something which existed even if it were not perceived.  I couldn’t pick a color to describe the beast that would convey something special, so I created the notion that the color existed beyond Lauren’s perception but within her ability to notice.

The spatial relationships were an attempt to express an idea I’d had related to Dungeons & Dragons™ in the mid eighties.  They had described supernatural realms which were seemingly unbounded, and yet at the same time bordered on each other as if they had edges.  As a solution to this, I created the notion of six dimensions, and the idea that the human brain would automatically resolve these to three by combining them in similar pairs.  Thus a human would not be able to distinguish going up from going out, as it were.  In this brief moment of the novel, I tried to imagine how that would appear.  It also occurred to me that with more dimensions, you could be closer to more people without being crowded.  That is, in our world, you might have someone two feet to the left, to the right, in front, in back, and theoretically above and below–six people within two feet.  By doubling the dimensions you would double the number of positions that would be within two feet of you without having them be any closer to each other.  Thus in one sense, the people would seem crowded, yet in another they would not.

I didn’t have a good reason for Peter not to be waiting for her; I decided he didn’t have one, either.  That is, I did not want Peter to be there when she arrived, because it would eliminate my creature, my view of the world, my reference to all being saints–but it made sense that he would be expecting her.

My effort to describe Peter owes much to C. S. Lewis.  He had expressed glorified humans as somehow ageless yet of every age; and he had written of the Apostle Paul.  Lewis had an uncle who once spoke of discussing theology with Paul like two elderly gentlemen at the same club; this struck Lewis as a failure to apprehend the immense glory of someone like Paul.  I wanted to combine that eternal weight of glory with the easy-going down-home sort of peasant that was still Peter.

Lewis is cited in reference to The Great Divorce; but it struck me that Peter would not cite chapter and verse (as it were), and would speak of the man in familiar terms–“Jack”, as he preferred to be called by friends.

Peter’s refusal to answer theological questions beyond the immediate experience is not merely a dodge to avoid taking sides on such things.  I believe that God wants us to do as he suggests, to work out these matters to the best of our abilities.  I’m playing in a world as I write this in which the saints on earth can at any moment ask the saints in heaven to settle a disagreement.  God doesn’t give us that option; it must be because He doesn’t want us to have it, and thus I conclude that Peter isn’t going to answer Lauren’s curiosities.

As to asking about others, again I get that from Lewis:  God doesn’t tell us what happens to people who never hear the gospel; Lewis said we cannot know with certainty what becomes of those who honestly and from good heart and motive disbelieve it.  Nor can we know who (if anyone) does this.  He deals with us as individuals, and expects us to see to our own responsibilities.  That means to tell others what we know, but not to condemn them.

“That exceeded smiling by so much as smiling is happier than….”  I had much trouble coming to a word for this.  I thought of many facial expressions.  Frowning was too trite; grimacing not opposite; crying contained the possibility of joy.  In the end, “death” was the word I chose.

At the moment that Peter handed her three things, I only knew what one of them was.  But I must take a step back.  When Chris did this, he received two things–a silver crucifix and a scroll with words of healing written on it.  I first knew that Lauren had to receive something from Peter, so the visit would make more sense.  Then I realized (perhaps with a laugh) that the first would be a perfect item, as it would give Lauren the skill she needed for a major moment in the story ahead.  The problem was that giving her that would so obviously be what it was, as the reader would then understand what it was for long before Lauren did, and would wonder that she didn’t use it sooner.  Neither the simple type nor the elegant decorative types would do, as they would immediately be seen, even by Lauren, as “X”, and so described in the text.  Fortunately I remembered a type I’d only seen one or twice in my life, a screw-driven sort, and felt I could describe that in a fashion that would obscure what it actually was from the reader.  But there was also the lesson I had applied to the coin in the first book:  one significant object cannot be given alone, or it calls attention to itself.  I decided that three was the right number.  I did not yet know what the other two were, but (as with the bag) figured I could invent something soon enough.

The free-standing door I’ve seen and used many times before.  Part of my problem at this moment was that I didn’t really know where she was going.  That is, I had the broadest outline of the idea:  she was going back to the vampire world, in or around 2300 (which seemed far enough in the future to be futuristic, but not so far that my predictions would be complete fantasy), where she would face Tubrok in their final confrontation.  What I didn’t know was what 2300 actually looked like; and that was going to take a lot of thought.  So I blacked out the gate.  Usually I don’t show things through a gate–they shimmer, or show only what is behind, or something like that.  But this time I wanted a better reason; and the idea of looking from light to darkness not only answered the question, it also made a statement.


Chapter 65, Slade 70

I had decided that they would be attacked in the barn, and that the barn would be burned down to drive them out.  I realized that they had to move fast (barns don’t take long to spread fire through them).  They didn’t have time to pack; but I couldn’t let them leave things behind.  Thus Shella packed by magic while dressing, and Slade was the last ready.

Slade has improved significantly; he’s faster with his blaster even than he was fighting the snake–one targeted shot every four seconds.  I counted all of the first volley as hits, with four fatal shots.  This was a bit on the lucky side, but not an incredible outcome for his skill.

I couldn’t decide what Shella would be able to do that wouldn’t be (at least in Multiverser terms) more powerful than the bias would allow.  Changing the shape of the ground was the best I could find, so I tried to think of ways to use it effectively.

I didn’t have to decide whether the arrows were blocked by the spell; it was sufficient that no one on Slade’s side was injured by them.

In my mind, Filp cut to the right and was going to sweep in from the end of the line; but this wasn’t something Slade would know, so I didn’t describe it.

I’d always thought Slade should get Filp’s grapple system when Filp died; I have no idea when or how it will be used.

I’m not certain when I decided that Shella had told Torence she was leaving to marry Slade; but I laughed at that myself, so I had to include it.

I recognized the inconsistency in consecrating the fire, which was allied with their enemies, to take the body; but then I decided this was the logical way, and perhaps death itself overcomes such problems.


Chapter 66, Brown 74

Having brought Lauren to the final world, I needed Derek to grow up faster.  I also needed his story to pick up pace.  Thus I focused on building up Derek’s body skills, and used the clairvoyance to introduce the fact that humans were the conquerors.

The size of the man was difficult, and I’m not certain the description is credible.  I figure that a tall sprite is typically twelve inches, one foot tall; Derek will be fifteen inches, because I need him to be very tall for a sprite, but Lelach is probably only ten inches.  If I make my man five feet tall, that’s five times as big as a typical sprite, and if we then take that as the baseline for a normal human, we have by comparison a twenty-five foot tall giant.  That’s bigger than any giant in the original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ Monster Manual.  The man would seem huge.

The other side of the problem, though, is whether Derek would have a sprite’s perspective on the size when viewing it clairvoyantly.  He is not in the frame, as it were, and he is seeing it as if he were flying so he’s not looking up at it from the ground.  It was not so long ago that he was himself a human (albeit shorter, still an adolescent), and so the size of the man relative to the trees would perhaps not be so shocking.  I was aware of this, but felt that I needed to convey the impression that the human was monstrously big, and so I ignored the perception problem.  I can suppose that there were sprites within Derek’s view, but I did not say so, and I did not want to have him see the man shoot a sprite.

I had the experience of shooting flintlock and cap-and-ball guns, both rifles and pistols, in the late 1970s.  My uncle had a pair of each, and we were invited to his cabin in the mountains where target and skeet shooting was the primary form of entertainment (there were also shotguns, a very nice crossbow on which I modeled Joe Kondor’s, and a few other weapons that do not come back to my mind presently).  The experience is known to me personally.


This has been the sixth 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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#180: Versers Focus

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #180, on the subject of Versers Focus.

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).

This picks up from there, with chapters 45 through 55.

img0180Tropics

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 45, Slade 61

Yes, I am aware that the djinn are a factor in middle eastern/Arabian mythology, and not Norse religion.  Yet if I begin with the premise that djinn exist in a spirit realm that connects to all physical realms, it is perfectly reasonable for such spirits to interact in different ways in different worlds.

Back in the 1980s I was running an Original Advanced Dungeons & Dragons™ game, and in creating various encounters I created a table that would include a “hitherto unknown spell” in a spell book.  That required that I create such spells, and I had quite a few.  One of them was called “Record” (the verb, accent on the second syllable), and allowed the spellcaster to make a three-dimensional visual record of a scene or event as it happened, preserved in a piece of chalk, and then replay it somewhere else.  This was definitely inspired by that, although it is different in a lot of critical details.


Chapter 46, Brown 69

The size of the butterfly was a bit problematic.  I had not really worked out how big sprites were; I was probably thinking about twelve inches tall, although I had to stretch that for Derek, making him fifteen inches tall when full grown.  Still, he is probably only about five inches tall at this point, and a large butterfly probably would seem like a hawk.

I don’t recall Derek yet using the abilities to summon and control creatures for anything significant, other than as a stepping stone toward learning more skills.


Chapter 47, Slade 62

I suppose that one thing I seem to do is give myself problems and then try to find ways to solve them.  In that way, writing the story is like playing the game.  As referee, I create problems; as player, I solve them.  When I wrote that Phasius was weakened, I did not know how I was going to solve that problem.  I had had some notion that he would know a way out of the castle–but I abandoned that almost immediately in favor of the idea that he knew a way out of the city.  This had merit; but it didn’t solve my problem.

I added motion on the battlements for two reasons.  One was because things were going too smoothly; that is, it didn’t feel like a story for Slade and Filp, now having released Phasius, to cake-walk out of the building with him.  The other was that giving myself a new problem meant I had more time to consider the solution to the old one.


Chapter 48, Hastings 106

I hit a snag here.  I realized that I had not kept up my lists of what Lauren was able to do, psionically, magically, or even physically.  During the second book, she picked up a lot of skills, and built up a lot of the ones she knew.  I had let a lot of it go by, because it was being done a bit behind the scenes–Merlin was teaching her many things, but little that was specific.  She was expanding her psionic abilities, but always in a general sense.  She taught Bethany, but I never really said what.  I realized that I was going to have to go back through the entire second novel and find all the things Lauren had learned, so they could go on the character information sheet I was using.  And I was going to have to do it before I could go much further with Lauren’s story.

What I wound up doing, as I went back to start combing through the second novel draft, was making a general statement of what she was able to do and then changing the subject.  The main thing I wanted her to do in this world was fix the disintegrator staff; I wanted it to be part of the combat against Tubrok at the end, if only to show how very powerful he was as an opponent.  I also wanted her to practice, to spend time improving her abilities.  This gave me the background for that.


Chapter 49, Slade 63

The problem was simple to resolve; and it gave me a solution to the other problem.  The use of darkness had been in my mind to help them get away from the town watch when they were trying to scale the walls; but it came up quite effectively here.  The idea of a secret garden with a door to the city didn’t seem entirely out of character (particularly given that it’s a walled city) and resolved a lot of things.


Chapter 50, Brown 70

The idea of eyes in the back of Mom’s head was the catalyst for this chapter.  I realized I could get to that by having him interested in an unseen animal, and that just saying it would give a new idea for a psionic skill which would be plausible to learn from what he already knew.  I also formed the idea of having Derek learn an entirely different set of psionic skills from those Lauren knew.  This would be difficult, because Lauren mostly knew the skills I’d devised when I was playing.  I would have to think about the skills within the framework of increasing bias but with very different applications.  The heightened awareness and specialized clairvoyance functions made good sense immediately.  I’m still working on the next step, which will be some form of telekinetic, but I don’t know what.


Chapter 51, Slade 64

I took a break before Filp asks his question; I wasn’t sure even yet what I was doing.  But I got the ideas first that Phasius knew one of the guards, and second that he wasn’t really certain where he was or how to find him, and third that he had to take several breaks to catch his breath.  With this I started writing.  I named the guard Saiman because I didn’t want to call him Simon, which was the first name that came to mind.  It was a rather abrupt decision to make him an officer, and then again to have him on duty in the late night.

I decided that the lone guard was Saiman, but wanted to hang it there.  Besides, I knew that Slade was going to play some role, either of a servant or a nobleman seeking Saimon, but hadn’t worked out exactly what he would do or say yet.

I have lived several places in New Jersey over the course of my life–in five different counties.  I’ve also been quite a few places in Delaware and eastern Pennsylvania, and have visited other states in the northeast corridor over the years.  I joke when someone names a particularly town, “I’ve been lost there.”  Here I was turning it around on Bob, that he couldn’t possibly know where he was because he had never even been lost in this city before, so there was no chance he would recognize anything.


Chapter 52, Hastings 110

I wanted to pick up the pace on Lauren and Derek, to move toward some action, even though I didn’t know what they were going to do before the end.

I broke this in the middle, too.

Repairing the rod had long been in my mind; I wanted it to happen here.  But I didn’t want it to happen too soon–it seemed incredible for her to do it immediately.  I actually considered tossing it into the sea, or the volcano, having her give it up completely; but by the time I thought of it I had set it up as a major obstacle for her, and she could not do that.

There is a denigrating comment to the effect of “he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like everyone else,” which of course means that the referenced individual is merely human.  I was watching video from Skylab in which one of the astronauts picked up a pair of pants, grinned broadly, and proceeded to lift both legs off the ground and insert them in the pants.  It was awkward, as he was kicking and spinning backwards, but he succeeded–and as he did so, I thought not only had he not adequately thought through the process, it was not something that required zero gravity to accomplish.  I proceeded to teach myself how to put my pants on both legs at once (no, you can ask me the secret if you see me at a convention or something) and did so several times a week for many years, just because I could and I could say that I did.  Lauren doesn’t do it the way I do–she cheats, using her psionic levitation to hold herself aloft while lifting her feet and pushing them into the pant legs–but she gets the idea from me.


Chapter 53, Slade 65

I had pondered just how Saiman would get Phasius out of the city.  Another secret door was too much to ask.  I fell on a bold plan, to have them ride out the gate in search of themselves.

I also started inventing fragments of Norse religion; I hope no one takes them too seriously.  I needed to give something to Slade in all this, and couldn’t just say that he learned a lot about it without putting something to it that made sense, that fit with what I knew of Norse beliefs.  At this point it’s just a couple of aphorisms; but they’re probably the best way to include a religion in a story without overly detailing it, particularly if they capture the core of the faith, which I think perhaps these do.

I feel I owe an apology to a Finnish colleague, Eero Tuovinen.  At some point he read Verse Three, Chapter One, and in commenting said he hoped that in the future I would bring some real bits of Norse religion into Slade’s stories.  I obviously have not done that.  In my defense, by the time he had written those comments to me this book (and at least most of the next) had been completed, and the fragments of Slade’s religion that appear within it were to some degree integral to the story; and I confess to having only a sketchy knowledge of actual Norse religion in our world; and after all it is already established that Slade is learning about Odin in other worlds, worlds in which Odin is known to work with the djinn of Arabian mythology.  It’s not going to be the same myth even though it attempts to hold to the same core truths.


Chapter 54, Brown 71

In my search to give Derek psionic skills that would make sense coming from his experience and wouldn’t sound like Lauren all over again, I struck upon the idea of telekinetically playing with the steam.  Lauren doesn’t do gaseous telekinesis, or liquid telekinesis for that matter, so I could give these to Derek and so create a unique package for him.  I might come back later and fill in the gaps with things she knows, but I am enjoying the challenge of building a unique yet logical skills set.

The pain resistance and pain reduction skills also struck me as things I didn’t see Lauren doing; and the teeth gave me a good excuse to do them.

I will probably have him do some sort of pyrogenesis inside the tree next; it will be a cold winter, and his ability to warm them will be important.  But it will probably be the air he warms–she only did that once, as I recall, and it wasn’t the first thing she tried.

I’m trying to recall whether I’ve ever actually seen a video game in which you had to control objects on opposite sides of the screen simultaneously, but my video game experience is much more limited than Derek’s.


Chapter 55, Slade 66

I created this as I went, apart from having already decided about riding out the gate.  I also decided at this point that Shella had been watching them by scrying, so she would find them quickly once they approached her.


This has been the fifth 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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#174: Versers Achieve

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #174, on the subject of Versers Achieve.

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).

This picks up from there, with chapters 34 through 44.

img0174Dungeon

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 34, Brown 66

The boy/girl distinction on wings was something I’d created in a game years ago, for something larger, elf-like.  I’m not certain that the reasons will ever get into this book, but they had to do with mating practices of flying humanoids.

I stumbled on the idea of doing everything not quite right enough; it seemed to fit a lot of things in life, and so I thought I’d include it here.


Chapter 35, Slade 56

I’d had the idea of Shella teaching Slade the illusion for a long time; but I kept not including it, because I hadn’t found a reason why Shella would not be in the castle (and certainly they didn’t have the reason yet), and I hadn’t quite defined the illusion.  Those things came together just in time, and I went with it.

I was at this moment toying with whether Slade and Filp would be able to get Phasius over the wall, or whether Shella was going to have to come back inside the city to help them.  But I still had to get him out of the castle.

Bob has not really thought about marrying anyone, but he is here recognizing that his relationship with Shella is not based on externals but somehow on who they are inside.  I think men have trouble grasping that generally, that someone would like me, not as a writer or a musician or a teacher or any of the myriad of other externals that in my mind identify me, but as me.  That is what Slade sees from Shella.

“The most important trick, that is, illusion” reflects my aspect of perspective.  I don’t have my main characters telling the story, but when my narrator tells it the narration falls into the way the characters see it.  I just mentioned that Slade thinks of these as “tricks” but Shella does not, and when we come to the most important one, the narrator calls it a “trick” and then corrects himself, just as Slade would were he talking to Shella about it.

This was the first time I hinted that Shella was attractive.  It shouldn’t really be a surprise.

I actually made a problem for myself with Shella.  In the first book I hinted that she was cute, but I never actually described her–no hair color or style, no eye color, nothing to suggest her appearance.  I did not at the time think it mattered, because I had no expectation of ever seeing her again after Bob versed out of her world.  Now, though, I was bringing her back into the story in a major way, and she had been around enough that readers would have an expectation of her appearance.  I always envisioned her as looking like my niece Heather Brown, whom I always thought was cute (and I can get away with that because everyone in the family says she looks like a younger version of my wife); but Heather has dark eyes and dark hair like most of my girls, and I don’t want to jar a reader who has decided that Shella must be the blue-eyed blonde, particularly since Slade is the blue-eyed blonde so that would have them match.


Chapter 36, Hastings 106

I decided at about this time that I was going to push the biases pretty high and let Lauren fix her disintegrator rod while here.  That would allow her to practice, once she was confident, and ultimately to experiment–which would give me what I needed to verse her out.  I almost always go when I experiment, trying to push the envelope; Lauren does that sometimes, as well.

I was still inventing this island, but was now creating a lot more detail.  I figured on a sort of reedy bamboo in the lake or ponds.  Oh, yes–I am quite aware of the difference between a lake and a pond, but I didn’t imbue Lauren with that part of my experience so she was not.

I’ve never seen volcanic rock (other than small pieces in collections or displays), but I’ve read about it and attempted to reproduce some of the variety here.


Chapter 37, Slade 57

I was trying to put the details of the escape together.  I had been thinking about this illusion of making it appear Phasius was in the cell for some time.  I planned for Slade and Filp to scale the wall, find the dungeon, cast the illusion, and bring Phasius out.  Then they would have to cross the wall to escape the city.  At some point, I wanted Slade to use his darkness spell that he used on the ship–mostly because I wanted to bring back into focus that he could do this, but also because I thought it would make for a good tense moment somewhere.  I was still undecided whether to have it in the castle or in the city.  The castle had a certain logic to it, as there were more likely to be patrols and they would be more likely to notice someone out of place; but it also posed the greater problem, as a patch of magical darkness might catch someone’s attention.  The city, on the other hand, commended itself in that even guards on a regular route might think that they were just looking down a particularly dark street or alley, and move on without thought.

I’m still working out the plan and the complications as I write, but I’ve got them inside the castle.


Chapter 38, Brown 67

I don’t think the fact that I had a minor toothache really had anything to do with my fixation on pain control in this chapter.  It was more that I needed to move Derek forward and in new directions, and sore wings seemed a logical direction to take which led to more ideas.

I’ve got the feeling that he keeps coming back to the psionics notion, but never does much with it.  Of course, he’s still young; but it’s probably time to expand his possibilities.


Chapter 39, Slade 58

Again, I was feeling my way through this.  I didn’t want them to move right into people, but I didn’t think it good for them to make the dungeon completely unopposed.  The idea of coming into a barracks of sleeping guards made a good compromise.  Then, why didn’t they just leave?  The notion that they couldn’t find the exit occurred to me, but seemed silly.  I replaced it with the notion that there were guards awake by the exit.  This led me to consider why, and how Slade would get past them, and that to the conclusion that they were the next shift.  This makes it pretty late; but then, they weren’t going to start climbing the wall too early.

I thought of my (mother’s) Uncle Pete, who snored so loudly that the house echoed and Aunt Ann made him sleep in another room.  This made for a more interesting barracks scene than everyone sleeping silently.  It also occurred to me to try to create the lull of two tired travelers resting in darkness, and having one of them fall asleep.  I debated which one for a moment, but decided that the older one would be the better choice.  Maybe I’ll reverse it another time.


Chapter 40, Hastings 107

I started moving the psionic skills forward.  I realize that with the ability to fly, it’s more difficult to keep her on the island; on the other hand, as of yet she doesn’t know how far it is to any other island, and apart from her vague hope that there are people somewhere she doesn’t have any reason to leave here.

I also gave her the fire she needs.  That came to be in part because it was a logical extension of the psionics, and in part because I knew she was concerned about it.

The conclusion that trees and birds aren’t thinking isn’t airtight, but it’s the best Lauren is going to be able to do.


Chapter 41, Slade 59

I needed a new clue to point Slade in the right direction.  The slope of the floor was the first that came to me.  It was good, but it wasn’t strong enough.  The other two ideas followed it in short order, once I’d made that decision.

I had completely forgotten Slade’s flashlight.  He had used it in the first story, and not since, as he’d about run down the batteries.  I almost wrote that he replaced the batteries in the space ship story, even though there was no reason to think he did.  Then I remembered that the Caliph had recharged the blasters; it made sense for him to recharge the flashlight, too.  Of course, the whole four-element theory suggests that there’s fire in that flashlight; but by the four-element theory, it is almost impossible to have light without fire, and that can’t be true or there would be no light in the realm of the djinn.

The treasury was an abrupt inspiration; the diary was even more abrupt.  I had long been musing on the simple task of rescuing Phasius against the more interesting task of proving he was right; this was a simple step toward that more interesting outcome.


Chapter 42, Brown 68

The idea of the hole in the tree being high was new; it gave me something which could seem like an easy challenge, like a child walking across the room.

The pet idea also was new.  Telepathy to Animals, and possibly Summoning, were telepathic skills that would build a base from which Derek could reasonably jump to the more difficult clairsentient skills; psionic defenses would be a good intervening step, but it was difficult to see how he would learn those in the absence of psionic adversaries.  But I had no idea what sort of pet a sprite might have.  I really did first think of the ladybug, which I decided was a bit small even for a sprite (and a bit silly to think of as a pet).  I walked away from the text and thought, even was going to ask the kids what sort of pet a sprite might have; but I decided to come back and explore it on the page, having Derek go through some of the same ideas which came to me, and moving beyond those to others.  I still didn’t know whether he was going to have a pet or not, but at least there were possibilities there.

The structure “‘Mostly,’ she emphasized, ‘girls’” was intended to create that feeling of emphasis.  I’d used the trick of putting the speech marker in the middle to create other feelings, most notably hesitation, but it worked for this, too.


Chapter 43, Slade 60

There were several options for the bars.  A genuine portcullis had merit, but it would have to rise into some space above, and that seemed trouble.  I wanted to avoid the usual jail-type gates.  Something that swung away from the prison that was lifted by chains like a portcullis or drawbridge seemed to have merit.  It probably wouldn’t be particularly effective at containing multiple prisoners, who could push it up in front of themselves, but it looked good.

I didn’t actually expect to get as far as I did in this section.  I had thought that they would get through the gate, then there would be some other obstacle, and they would see torture machines, and then hunt for Phasius.  But at this point it was short, so I put in the next obstacle, one which made good sense.

The windows were added mostly because I had this momentary inspiration for someone to pause and sniff the air and say something based on it.

I liked the gag about the prayer; as soon as I wrote it, I went out and told my sons.  They laughed.

I had no idea how Slade was going to identify Phasius; I had imagined him trying to identify the prisoners, looking in many cells for neither he nor I knew what.  But suddenly it occurred to me that there was a way to do it.  If Phasius gave the name of the Caliph first, that would almost certainly do it.


Chapter 44, Hastings 108

When I use the tropical island as a start world, I generally have Michael di Vars already present, cooking seagull over an open fire and offering to share it with the new arrivals.  I learned about catching seagull in survival training in Scouts; I also was informed that it is a very greasy bird, not particularly palatable.  That may be why Peking Duck takes a full day to prepare.

The bit about Elijah is one of those passages that people get wrong all the time.  People read that a chariot came with the whirlwind and Elijah was lifted into heaven, and assume that he rode in the chariot.  What the text actually says is that the whirlwind lifted Elijah off the ground, and a war chariot interposed itself between Elijah and Elisha so that the latter could not grab hold of the former.  I take this opportunity to have Lauren correct the view, mostly because it annoys me when people make statements that are clearly inconsistent with the source.


This has been the fourth 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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