Tag Archives: Writing

#209: Versers Victorious

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

With permission of Valdron Inc I have now completed publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 122, Slade 89

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 123, Hastings 134

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

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


Chapter 124, Brown 93

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


Chapter 125, Slade 90

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 126, Hastings 135

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

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

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

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


Chapter 127, Brown 94

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

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

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


Chapter 128, Slade 91

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

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


Chapter 129, Hastings 136

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

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

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


Chapter 130, Brown 95

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

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

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


Chapter 131, Slade 92

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

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


Chapter 132, Brown 96

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


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

#205: Verser Reunion

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

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 111, Hastings 130

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

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

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


Chapter 112, Brown 89

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

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

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


Chapter 113, Slade 86

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


Chapter 114, Brown 90

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


Chapter 115, Hastings 131

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

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


Chapter 116, Slade 87

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

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

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

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


Chapter 117, Brown 91

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

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


Chapter 118, Hastings 132

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


Chapter 119, Slade 88

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

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


Chapter 120, Hastings 133

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

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

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


Chapter 121, Brown 92

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


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

#204: When the Brakes Fail

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #204, on the subject of When the Brakes Fail.

It happens all the time in movies and television shows:  someone is driving, and someone has sabotaged the car so that the brakes don’t work, and frequently, too, the accelerator gets stuck so that the car is now out of control and headed for a major accident.  I have seen it enough times that what bothers me is the number of ways of slowing or stopping a car that they don’t try.  I have not been in the kind of situation portrayed in these fictions, but I have had brake trouble and have given thought to how to address the kinds of problems so portrayed.  Maybe if those people had considered the possible solutions to the problems before they happened, they would have avoided the life-threatening accident–and perhaps if we talk about the options, you will know what to do if it happens to you.

First, let’s get a few assumptions here.  First, it is unlikely that you will completely lose your brakes without warning, and similarly unlikely that your accelerator will jam; it is thus unlikely, barring sabotage, that both will ever happen at the same time.  Second, you are very unlikely to be the sort of person whom someone would attempt to kill by sabotaging your car.  That’s not to say that no reader of mine is such a person, but it’s a very unlikely sort of way to try to kill someone, and a very small percentage of the population are actually targets of killers, and even fewer of careful conniving killers with clever assassination plans and the mechanical knowledge to so rig a vehicle.  So you should probably assume that if either of these problems ever occurs to you, it is random mechanical failure, not an assassination attempt (don’t be paranoid, and don’t panic).  If both happen together, that’s a different matter, but let’s start with the assumption that only one happens.

Brakes once failed when they got wet.  Modern brakes generally don’t.  However, the regular driving brake on most vehicles is hydraulic (except for large trucks, which use pneumatic brakes because they work better with the trailers).  That means that there is a fluid, a hydraulic oil, in the lines, and pressing the brake pedal compresses the fluid which closes the brake pad creating the friction which slows the car.  Modern anti-lock brakes have a sensing system to prevent wheel lock skidding, but otherwise work much the same.  If air gets in the line, as from a leak, this can malfunction.  For both of these conditions, wet brakes and air in the lines, the first line of defense is to “pump the brakes”, that is, to press and release repeatedly over perhaps ten to fifteen seconds.  This will help dry wet brakes; it will help compress the fluid in hydraulic lines forcing the air out of the system otherwise.

If within ten seconds this is not showing any sign of improvement, the obvious second line of defense which is almost never used in the movies is what is properly called the parking brake but often identified as the emergency brake and in some vehicles the hand brake.  In cars with a center console it is frequently there as a lever that can be pulled up; in other cars, it is often a pedal by the driver’s door.  In both cases the control is ratcheted so that when pulled or pushed it locks into place until the release is pressed or pulled or otherwise activated.  The proper intended use of this brake is to lock the car in place when parked, particularly on slopes.  However, it serves as a secondary brake in an emergency situation.  It uses the same brake pads as the hydraulic brakes (although frequently only the rear brakes), but is connected to them by a cable, not a hydraulic system, and so is effectively a secondary but more direct method of applying the brakes.

There are other ways to slow a vehicle if the brakes are not working, but first we should consider the problem of the accelerator jamming.  The problem here is generally that the engine is being given gasoline and so increasing in revolutions per minute (RPM on the tachometer if you have one), and correspondingly increasing the vehicle speed.  The obvious first answer to this, in addition to applying the brakes, is gently to drop the transmission into neutral.  (With a standard transmission this can be accomplished simply by depressing the clutch, but standard transmissions are no longer standard on most cars.)  The engine will roar as it no longer has the burden of pushing the vehicle, but you will cease accelerating and unless you are pointed down a steep slope you will begin to decelerate.

The transmission can also be used to slow the car if the brakes are not responding, by downshifting.  If you do this at too high a velocity, you are likely to destroy your transmission and/or damage your engine, but if it’s a choice between thousands of dollars of damage to the vehicle and a fatal crash, that’s probably not a difficult choice to make.  This is less likely to be helpful if your accelerator is stuck, but it is an option that might reduce your rate of acceleration.  The objective is to let the engine be a drag on the velocity, although it works considerably better with manual transmissions than with automatic ones.

If you have put the vehicle in neutral but the brakes are not working and you are headed down a slope, if possible consider getting off the road.  Roads are generally designed to be smooth and provide the right kind of friction for rolling vehicles.  Shoulders are usually rougher and will slow the vehicle more, and if the ground beyond the shoulder looks flat and level it will probably slow the vehicle more.  There is the danger of hitting a hole that will damage an axle, but this will at least stop the vehicle and cost considerably less than a transmission or an engine.

You might also consider aiming for objects that will slow your car but neither stop it completely nor flip it.  Hitting a tree at high velocity is a bad choice, but a bush will collapse under the impact and slow or possibly stop the car less abruptly.  Sideswiping a tree, if you can control the vehicle well enough to do so, will also slow the car.  New Jersey Dividers–those perhaps three foot tall concrete walls with the half-parabola curved sides that often line highways–are designed to slow a vehicle and press it back into the lane from which it is coming.  In recent years, large usually orange plastic barrels have been placed in hazard locations along highways, such as construction areas; these are generally filled with water, and as such are designed to collapse when hit, providing a less than solid impact surface.

One other method of slowing an out-of-control car should be mentioned:  shut off the ignition.  If the car is in gear, the engine will immediately become a drag on the car, and in most modern cars the fuel pump will stop providing gasoline to the cylinders.  If you have power steering, it will immediately become much more difficult–but not impossible–to control the direction of the vehicle, somewhat worse than standard manual steering.  It will not affect the parking/emergency brake, and will have only minimal effect on the operating brake.

I have also considered the option of pushing the vehicle into reverse or park.  This requires overriding safeties on the transmission (it will require you to press or maneuver something to shift out of neutral in that direction), and will probably destroy it and damage the engine, but again if you are worried about dying versus destroying your car, that’s an easy choice.

So now if the thing that probably never will happen to you does, you’ve got some ideas about how to handle it.  I would like to say that I have tested them, but I am more pleased to say that apart from pumping the brakes I have never needed to, although I have tested the idea of pushing the car into neutral while driving, so that also works.  Oh, and once when I was teaching someone how to drive I had to use the parking brake to stop the vehicle before he drove in front of a rapidly oncoming car at an intersection, so that works, too.

#202: Verser Confrontations

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

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 100, Hastings 126

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

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


Chapter 101, Slade 82

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


Chapter 102, Brown 86

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

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

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

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


Chapter 103, Hastings 127

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

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

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

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


Chapter 104, Slade 83

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


Chapter 105, Brown 87

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


Chapter 106, Hastings 128

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


Chapter 107, Slade 84

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

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


Chapter 108, Brown 88

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


Chapter 109, Hastings 129

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

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

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

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


Chapter 110, Slade 85

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

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

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


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

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#201: The Grandfather Paradox Solution

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #201, on the subject of The Grandfather Paradox Solution.

Award-winning science fiction author Larry Niven.

I sent birthday greetings to a time travel fan on Facebook–one who deserves special mention, as he has provided copies of several time travel movies analyzed on our Temporal Anomalies site–and in response received a discussion of a time travel issue.  I would have said that this is addressed already on the site, but I recognize that the site has become unwieldy in some ways and it’s difficult to find, let alone absorb, it all.  I have edited his comments for space, and added links to references on the site for those who are uncertain of the terminology.

I’ve been thinking about Niven’s Law (ie the popular “if you change it in the past it stays changed even if you undo the time travel” version).

Here’s the thing–without it, it seems to me that things work by magic.  Let’s use the old example of going back and killing my grandfather as a child.

Fixed time this is just impossible….

Parallel universes, no problem….

Replacement theory is where it gets interesting (of course).  Let’s first postulate that I’m not going back to kill Granddad.  Let’s say instead that I’d discovered in talking to other people that there was some sort of childhood toy in my granddad’s house…that was extremely rare, and if I went back and got it I could sell it for a fortune in the future….Unfortunately while I’m back in the past I interrupt a burglar, he shoots at me and misses but kills my granddad who was hiding behind the couch watching this armed burglar tussle with me….

So…I haven’t erased my motivation for going back.  However, obviously if I never exist, I can’t go back, which means that I won’t interrupt the burglar, which means he won’t shoot….

But what exactly happens?  What does the burglar see?  Does he just see me vanish into thin air?  That’s what I mean–there’s no real known phenomena that would cause that.  And in fact he wouldn’t see it anyway, because the whole idea is that I could never have been there in the 1st place.

I think in reality, if time travel is possible at all…either Niven’s Law must exist or else something like Hawking’s Conjecture must be true (the one where he says that you will be physically unable to successfully perform any actions that would create a paradox…).  I find the Conjecture even less likely (it pretty much falls under your “God won’t let it happen” thing).

Mind you that doesn’t get off the hook with “uncaused causes“.  There’s no perfect answers.  It just always seemed weird to me that things could magically change just because I remove the reason for the change.

This happens to be exactly the problem that is resolved by the standard concept of the infinity loop, two histories each of which causes the other.  My reader has missed this, falling into the notion presented by other time travel stories, perhaps most notoriously the ending of The Philadelphia Experiment II, in which the death of the childless father causes the son, a moment later, to dissolve into non-existence.  The reality postulated by the theory is much less complicated.

The postulated problem suggests that when I travel to the past I accidentally cause the death of my own grandfather.  The questioner then wonders whether I flicker out of existence, but recognizes that the problem is more complicated, that in fact if I never existed I never made the trip to the past and the burglar never shot at me.  That, though, means he never killed my grandfather, and I am able to make the trip to the past.  This much the question recognizes; it then gets caught in trying to make both versions of time real simultaneously, as if the death of my grandfather means that I must immediately vanish.  This fails to grasp the significance of causal chains, which we will here review.

In all of our science, we have causal chains:  A causes B, B causes C.  If B does not happen, C does not happen, because C only happens if caused by B; similarly, B only happens if caused by A, so if we prevent A, we prevent B, and in so doing we also prevent C.  This is simple for us in most situations, because of two “rules” that have always applied to everything we have observed.  One is that causes and effects have always happened in temporal sequence, that is, A happens before B and B before C even if only infinitessimally (the hammer strikes the firing pin which compresses and ignites the gunpowder which drives the bullet out of the shell, all in a fraction of a second but that fraction divided into sequential fractions).  The other is that once a cause has brought about an effect we are unable to remove the cause.

Time travel erases both of those rules, and therein lies our confusions.

In the present circumstance, the original history has Burglar invading Grandfather’s house, observed perhaps by grandfather but otherwise unmolested.  Decades pass and Traveler learns of the valuable toy in Grandfather’s attic.  Having access to a time machine, he travels to a time when he believes he can obtain the toy without changing anything significant in history.

  • There is an issue here which is not addressed in the problem:  we do not know how Traveler became aware of the presence of the toy in the attic, but if he removes it too soon he might well break the chain of information such that he does not know about the toy.  For example, if his information about the toy comes from the estate sale records, the toy will not be listed there once he has removed it.  However, our theorist having been careful on all other points, we will assume that Traveler got the information through a source that predates his effort to steal the toy.

He arrives in the past, and interrupts Burglar, who in attempting to kill him accidentally kills Grandfather.  There are scores of steps in this causal chain, but simplifying it we have A: Traveler travels to the past; B: Traveler interferes with Burglar; and C: Burglar kills Grandfather.

However, there was a causal chain in the original history in which Grandfather sired Father who sired Traveler, who eventually left for the past.  Our logic problem recognizes that because Grandfather is now prematurely dead, Father will never be born, and Traveler in turn will never be born.  It is precisely because the original causal chain has been disrupted that Traveler is never born–there is nothing magical about that, and no one imagines that it is.  We understand completely that if you remove the cause of an effect, the effect never happens; if you kill someone’s grandfather before he has children, the grandchild is never born.

Yet exactly the same rule applies at the other end.  If Traveler is never born, he never makes the trip to the past, which means A: Traveler travels to the past never happens.  Since A is the cause of B: Traveler interferes with Burglar, B never happens, and since B never happens, C: Burglar kills grandfather, also never happens.  If it applies to the A-B-C sequence that is Grandfather sires Father, Father sires Traveler, then it also applies equally to the A-B-C sequence Traveler travels to the past, Traveler interferes with Burglar, Burglar kills Grandfather.  The removal of the cause A undoes the effects B and C.

We balk at this because what we perceive as inaction in the future is becoming a cause of a change in the past, and we feel as if whether or not the past can be changed it can only be changed by someone traveling to the past.  However, if we look at it a different way, it might become clearer.  If I know that Gary traveled to the past, leaving tomorrow, and that what he changed altered history in a disastrous way, in theory I might attempt to travel to the past and prevent him from making that mistake, but could I not just as easily act to prevent him from making the disastrous trip?  (I admit that this would cause an infinity loop, but the point is only that preventing the trip to the past will prevent the changes to the past just as surely as traveling to the past to do so would.)  At the same time, we are mistaken to think of “not traveling to the past” as inaction.  It is much more properly different action, and different action becomes a different cause that has a different effect.  Further, since the effect B which is the cause of the effect C is itself the effect of A, if A is undone–if Traveler does not go to the past–then B is also undone–Traveler does not interfere with Burglar–and C is in turn undone–Grandfather is not killed.

But we return to what it is that Burglar experiences when his stray bullet kills Grandfather, theoretically undoing the existence of Traveler.

I admit that it is plausible that this event will cause time to unravel entirely, and the universe will cease to exist.  I think, though, that this is a bit extreme, and further it seems to require that the universe “knows” that history has changed in an irreconcilable way.  I don’t think the universe can know anything of the sort–for the universe, despite the fact that someone arrived from the future and became a new cause, this is the first time through these events, and as far as the universe “knows” (if it can be said to “know” anything in any sense), this is the history that exists.  It does not “know” that the man who just died is the grandfather, and thus the necessary cause of the life, of the Traveler who incidentally caused his death.  It has to “discover” that by playing through the events which follow.

There is thus an interweaving of two histories, in a sense.  Traveler comes from a universe in which Grandfather had a child.  The history of the universe is being rewritten, event by event, cause by cause, moment by moment, but it has not been rewritten yet.  Since under replacement theory there is ultimately only one history of the universe, each moment that is created erases and replaces the moment that was the same time in the other history.  That means the cause of Traveler’s presence in the past, cause A, has not yet been erased, and so Traveler still exists in the past even while his history is being erased and rewritten.

Ultimately the moment comes when cause A needs to happen in order for effect B, in the past, to be supported.  If we had an N-jump, that would happen.  To use our example modified, there was no Burglar, Traveler successfully collected the toy and stored it in a place where he could recover it in the future, and returned to the future without significantly altering the past.  Thus as the moment of his departure approaches he is the same person planning the same trip, and at the right moment he does so, cause A creating effect B, his arrival in the past.  This creates a stable history, and we have a sort of diverging hiccough:  because traveler leaves for the past on schedule, time continues into the future based on the history Traveler created and now confirmed.

However, with Burglar in the mix, we know that Grandfather died and Traveler was never born.  That means cause A never happens, and effect B never happens–we already know what happens if no time traveler arrives from the future, because that was the original history.  Burglar passes through the house unmolested, Grandfather survives to sire Father who sires Traveler.  That results in Traveler making the trip, creating the other history.

In no history does anyone simply disappear.  In no history does something inexplicably change without cause.  The difference between the original history and the altered history is that in the altered history someone arrives from the future and introduces causes that create a different set of events leading to its own undoing, while in the original history no one arrives from the future and so events follow the undisturbed path of events to the moment when someone decides to change them.

I should note that in all of this we experience the changes at the speed of time.  There is a sense in which at the instant Grandfather dies, Traveler ceases ever to have existed–but that only happens because of the intervening causes and effects which fail to bring him to life.  We experience those events at the speed of time; using time travel we presumably could skip ahead to the outcomes in the future.  That, though, means that in some sense all of those events happen instantaneously–and as I have suggested in The Spreadsheet Illustration, it can be understood as all happening simultaneously–it is Einstein who said that time exists so that everything would not happen at once, but if the nature of time is such that time travel is possible, the reality is that everything does happen “at once”, and time exists so that we can experience the causal chains in the order in which events cause each other.  So in that sense the moment Burglar kills Grandfather, Traveler ceases to exist, but his non-existence can only be discovered by following the causal chain to the moment when he fails to arrive in the past.

I hope this clarifies the problem and the solution.  I should mention that we previously addressed the matter in relation to a supposed “multiverse” solution in web log post #81:  The Grandfather Paradox Problem just over a year ago.

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#198: Verser Trials

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

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 89, Slade 78

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

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

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

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


Chapter 90, Brown 82

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

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

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


Chapter 91, Hastings 123

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

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

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


Chapter 92, Slade 79

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

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


Chapter 93, Brown 83

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


Chapter 94, Hastings 124

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

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

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

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


Chapter 95, Slade 80

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

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


Chapter 96, Brown 84

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

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


Chapter 97, Hastings 125

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

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


Chapter 98, Slade 81

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

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


Chapter 99, Brown 85

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

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


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

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#193: Yelling: An Introspection

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #193, on the subject of Yelling:  An Introspection.

You are yelling at me.

I do not know why you are yelling at me.  That is, I hear what you are saying, and know the subject of the diatribe–yet even that will be forgotten ere long.  You are in yelling mode, I in stress avoidance mode, and in stress avoidance mode I do not process what you say.  I do not even really think about why you are yelling.  Perhaps you have a headache, or a craving, or some other internal discomfort making you overly sensitive to small annoyances.  Perhaps someone or something else has brought you to the edge of your endurance, and you have to yell at someone, and whatever this is about has given you the needed excuse to make me that target.  That, too, becomes irrelevant, along with whatever it is that you are verbalizing, as my stress avoidance mode attempts to insulate me.

The insulation is of course imperfect.  I might not recall what you said, nor recognize what is prompting it, but I will be suffering the aftereffects of the assault, certainly for the next hour, maybe for the rest of the day, and in some sense it will remain with me for the rest of my life, an accumulated addition to the internal collection of negative feelings I have absorbed about myself, a subconscious recognition that you might at any moment unpredictably launch into a new tirade, attacking my self-esteem over some complaint of which I was unaware–stop tapping your fingers, don’t leave the bread out on the counter, rinse out the tub when you’ve finished your shower.  You will yell at me again; I am conditioned to anticipate it, and nervous in your presence because of it.  Hiroshima escalates from Nothing very quickly, and unavoidably, it seems.

You wonder why I am so withdrawn, so depressed, so distant; why I don’t share my feelings.  Part of that is in this:  I am afraid of you.  I am afraid that I will say something that upsets you, and you will react in a way that tells me I should not have said that.  Yet I know that it is not just whether I say the wrong thing; it is whether I do the wrong thing, or more threateningly fail to do the right thing.

I see others respond to yelling with yelling.  I remember doing that myself, once upon a time.  It has always proved unproductive, accelerating the inevitable escalation but in the process also intensifying it.  Yelling back does not make me feel better; it does not even really prevent me from feeling so bad, ultimately, and gives me one more reason for being depressed–and it makes you also subject to yelling, with effects that are likely similar to those I face.  There is no advantage, no benefit, in yelling back, but that it hurts you the way it hurts me.

I should ask you to stop yelling, but it won’t work.  You yell because you want to change your circumstance and see no way to do so but to change my actions; my actions are not entirely within your control, even if you yell, but you see no other way to influence them–I do not change easily, and it is doubtful that yelling will have any more effect than any other approach.  Someone has said that there is not a man alive who does not deserve to be nagged, and not a shred of evidence that it has ever done any good.  There is little evidence that yelling at me has any effect on me other than increasing my depression and shutting down my ability to accomplish anything.  Yet if it helps you feel better, I will tolerate the tirade to let you vent those frustrated feelings.  I will deal with my own depression as I always have.  I don’t exactly ever get over it, but I get past it and return to functioning.  So I live with the yelling.  Doesn’t everybody?

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#191: Versers Travel

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

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

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

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

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

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

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

Chapter 78, Brown 78

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


Chapter 79, Hastings 119

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

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


Chapter 80, Slade 75

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

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

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

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


Chapter 81, Brown 79

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

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


Chapter 82, Hastings 120

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

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


Chapter 83, Slade 76

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

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


Chapter 84, Brown 80

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 85, Hastings 121

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

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

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


Chapter 86, Slade 77

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

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


Chapter 87, Brown 81

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

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


Chapter 88, Hastings 122

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

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

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

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


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

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#186: Worlds Change

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

With permission of Valdron Inc I have begun publishing my third novel, For Better or Verse, in serialized form on the web (that link will take you to the table of contents).  If you missed the first two, you can find the table of contents for the first at Verse Three, Chapter One:  The First Multiverser Novel, and that for the second at Old Verses New.  There was also a series of web log posts looking at the writing process, the decisions and choices that delivered the final product; those posts are indexed along with the chapters in the tables of contents pages.  Now as the third is posted I am again offering a set of “behind the writings” insights.  This “behind the writings” look definitely contains spoilers because it sometimes talks about what I was planning to do later in the book–although it sometimes raises ideas that were never pursued.  You might want to read the referenced chapters before reading this look at them.  Links below (the section headings) will take you to the specific individual chapters being discussed, and there are (or will soon be) links on those pages to bring you back hopefully to the same point here.

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

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

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

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

img0186Autumn

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

Chapter 67, Hastings 115

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 68, Slade 71

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

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


Chapter 69, Brown 75

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

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

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


Chapter 70, Hastings 116

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

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 71, Slade 72

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

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

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

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


Chapter 72, Brown 76

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 73, Hastings 117

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

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

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


Chapter 74, Slade 73

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

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

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

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


Chapter 75, Brown 77

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

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

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


Chapter 76, Hastings 118

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

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

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


Chapter 77, Slade 74

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

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


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

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#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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