Tag Archives: Writing

#265: Versers in Motion

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

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

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

This is the sixth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 106 through 126.  These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

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

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

Chapter 106, Slade 124

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


Chapter 107, Brown 143

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


Chapter 108, Kondor 125

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


Chapter 109, Slade 125

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

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


Chapter 110, Brown 144

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

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


Chapter 111, Kondor 126

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

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


Chapter 112, Slade 126

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

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

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


Chapter 113, Brown 145

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

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


Chapter 114, Kondor 127

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

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


Chapter 115, Slade 127

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


Chapter 116, Brown 146

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

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


Chapter 117, Kondor 128

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

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

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

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


Chapter 118, Slade 128

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

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

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

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

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


Chapter 119, Brown 147

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


Chapter 120, Kondor 129

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


Chapter 121, Brown 148

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

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

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


Chapter 122, Slade 129

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

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


Chapter 123, Brown 149

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

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


Chapter 124, Kondor 130

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

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

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


Chapter 125, Brown 150

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

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

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


Chapter 126, Slade 130

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

The discussion of appropriate courtesy was something I stumbled into.


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

#263: The Ten Book Cover Challenge

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #263, on the subject of The Ten Book Cover Challenge.

As mentioned, Jeni Heneghan tagged me in a ten-bookcover challenge on Facebook.

**1**

I’m starting my list–and I know I’m not really supposeed to say anything about the books, but that seems a bit pointless to me–with one of the books I most enjoyed in recent years, Ian Harac’s Medic.

I had previously read his The Rainbow Connection, and enjoyed that thoroughly, but I think he topped that with this one.

I am also tagging Ian Harac to take up the challenge.  The deal is for ten days post the cover of a book you “love” (take that however you wish) and name someone to do the same.

My Goodreads review is here.

Interestingly, at the time I appear to have liked Rainbow Connection better, but in retrospect Medic is the one that comes to mind.

**2**

It’s a busy day, but let me not forget my obligation to Jeni Heneghan, who challenged me to post ten book covers of books liked or something in ten days, and nominate ten people to the same task.  This time I’m going for something non-fiction, The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt.

Haidt explores six facets, what I think if memory serves he calls pillars, which are the bases of our notions of “good”, and how most people in the world use all six but modern liberals use only three, and how this results in very different views of what is right.  It’s perhaps the best exploration of these ideas I have encountered.

Again, my GoodReads review is here.

And I almost forgot:  I nominate Eric Ashley.  I’ve enjoyed many of the books he sent me.

**3**

Time to post a book cover (thank you Jeni Heneghan for the invitation).  I said I would try to avoid the obvious Lewis and Tolkien titles, but this is a close friend of theirs, Charles Williams, of whose handful of wonderful books I think my favorite is still the first one I read, Descent Into Hell.

I first read this in college as a course assignment in modern fantasy/sci-fi literature, and was immediately much impressed.  It was probably two or three decades later that I found it again, along with a couple other of his titles (War in Heaven, Greater Trumps), and was not disappointed in the least.

Williams is wonderful at blurring the line between the material and the spiritual, the natural and the supernatural.  His characters interact with each other, whether alive, dead, or imaginary.  This book also gave me some very challenging concepts–such as that bearing each other’s burdens was a real active thing.

And because this book reminds me of someone else who read it in that course who also found it interesting, I’m going to tag Richard Van Norstrand to take up the challenge.  You’re not required to do so much as I do, just over the course of ten days post the covers of ten books you “love” in whatever sense, and invite someone else to do the same.  This is my third.

For what it’s worth, I’m also building a web log post from these, so once the ten have run you can expect a complete summary, largely because I hate these multiple-first-post threads when I want to know what the other posts were.

**4**

Back in the early 1970s when I was at Luther College the library had one of those books sales, clearing out old copies.  I wound up standing beside the Dean, Dr. Harm, as he examined a book clearly older than I was, and commented that it was once the classic book in apologetics.  For twenty-five cents, I figured I could afford it.

I’m about 98% certain that the cover and title page gave the name as Evidences of the Christian Religion by William Paley.  I don’t find that title on Goodreads, which apparently finds no editions more than ten years old and calls it by various names of which Evidences of Christianity is the nearest to the original.

I don’t have a review of it posted anywhere.  In fact, it was a ponderous read for a college sophomore, and when I was about three-quarters finished the aforementioned Richard Van Norstrand borrowed it and took it home, only to have his father borrow it from him, and I never saw it again.  Still, I got through the bulk of it.

This was the book in which Paley presents the teleological argument for the existence of God in its most famous form, the watch argument, that if you find a watch you deduce that there must be a watchmaker, and since the universe runs like a watch, there must be a universe maker.

I was impressed by the meticulous way in which Paley presented his argument–no leaps, no skipped steps, no assumptions that the reader will see how to get from A to D without having been told what B and C are.  Part of that no doubt is that writing in the nineteenth century (and I’ve read several other nineteenth and early twentieth century books) he did not have to compete with more concise forms of entertainment–readers expected books to be long, because otherwise they didn’t get their money’s worth.  Yet it was instructive, in that many writers, and perhaps including me, tend to make such leaps and assume the reader understands the intervening reasoning.

I keep swithering concerning who to tag next, but I think I’ll go with Nikolaj Bourguignon.  Odds are he’ll post a lot of books I can’t read (the word for someone who speaks several languages is multilingual, while one who speaks two languages is called bilingual, and one who speaks only one language is called American, and that’s pretty much me–I took French in high school, but can’t even read the French translations of my own articles at the French edition of Places to Go, People to Be).  Still, I know he’s a reader with broad interests, and that will make it interesting.

**5**

Almost forgot the book cover on this overladen day, but I’d already selected the book, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

I read the book in high school as part of an English course in science fiction literature, and having more recently re-read it cited it as recently as a couple years ago.

My Goodreads review is here.

In short, this book is everything a great science fiction classic should be.  It tells a compelling story in a futuristic world while making a significant point about contemporary issues.  The primary issue here is censorship, government control of information, and while government control of information doesn’t seem like a significant concern our articles in recent years on freedom of speech might suggest otherwise.

I’m going to invite Rick Maus to play next, because he was in that class and as I mentioned somewhere else in my writing was a member of that Great Meditators Society decades ago (he probably doesn’t even remember it), and it might be interesting to see what books he’s been reading.  The invite is to post ten book covers in ten days (it does not require saying anything about them other than implicitly that these are books you in some sense “love”–that part is just my inability to keep silent) and nominate ten people along the way to do the same.

I’m also adding a tag to the current location of the Freedom of Expression series in which Bradbury is mentioned.

**6**

Again with acknowledgement that Jeni Heneghan invited me to participate in this, let’s do the next book cover.  I know I promised not to clutter the list with C. S. Lewis–undoubtedly my favorite author, and I could name easily a dozen from A Horse and His Boy to Perelandra to Mere Christianity to The Great Divorce, but I’m going to go with God in the Dock.

My Goodreads review is here.

The book is a collection of essays and letters previously published in many sources covering a wide variety of subjects, and arguing them intelligently.  You might not always agree with Lewis, but if you haven’t read his arguments you can’t really effectively defend your own positions.

I’ve been meaning to tag Edward Jones to invite him to play.  The game is, post ten covers over ten days of books you “love” in whatever sense you want to take that; it is not required that you say anything about them (I just do, because, well, you know me, I have to talk about stuff).  You are also supposed to invite someone else to do the same each day.  No obligation, of course, but I’m interested in what books you would pick.

(We actually have a copy of a book here that we bought for you some years back and haven’t had the chance to gift.  Maybe if it sits here a bit longer I’ll read it again.)

**7**

For today’s book cover I’m stretching the meaning of the word “love” a bit.  By stretching a bit, I mean I hate this book, and I hated it when I read it–but I think it’s an important read, partly for many of its ideas, and partly because people think it says things it doesn’t.  The book is 1984 by George Orwell.

I read his Animal Farm in high school, and found it interesting and entertaining, so when I saw this book I decided it might be more of the same.

Boy, was I mistaken.  It is a bleak story with a horrible ending.

Yet it is compelling, and the world it paints is filled with concepts that are important for us to grasp–notions like doublespeak, when the words you say don’t mean what the words mean.

However, people often think that Orwell predicted the world in which we presently live.  His vision is completely wrong on the critical points.  In the world he presents, the ruling powers control all information, rewriting the records whenever they want history to be different from what it was, and it is impossible to find anything other than the party line.  In our world, the problem is reversed–we have an information explosion, and you can find everything, every position, every opinion, expressed on the Internet, with no one in control, to the point that it is often difficult to know what information is true.  No one controls it.  So Orwell was wrong.

He still tells a compelling story, and no one should cite this book who has not read it, because it doesn’t say what many people claim it says.

I’m going to tag Donald Chroniger next:  you are invited to post ten book covers of books you “love” (however you interpret that) over the next ten days, and invite one person each day to do the same.  You are not required to say anything about the book beyond identifying it.

Have fun.

**8**

This is number eight in the book cover challenge Jeni Heneghan invited me to tackle.  I’ve gone with a book by a recently deceased friend, C. J. Henderson, my favorite of his books and the first in the Teddy London series, The Things That Are Not There.

C. J. wrote a lot of Cthulu Mythos stuff, with the blessing of the Lovecraft family, and although the monster here is called Ctala it’s the same kind of being.  Rather than coming from outer space, C. J.’s unimaginable creatures come from parallel dimensions, more credible in the modern age.

The other significant difference, as he shared in our chats at Ubercon, was that whenever his characters faced these incomprehensible evil beings, he found he could not stop them from fighting back.  London in this book is hired by a girl who thinks she is being followed by something–and then the something falls through the window, and he and the office maintenance man struggle to kill it and take it to a doctor to attempt in vain to identify it.  From that point forward they discover that they are on the front line to prevent the opening of a bridge from another dimension whose chief denizen wants to devour all of humanity.  It is a tense and exciting book throughout, and I’ve read it twice and will probably read it again one day.  I’ve read the rest of the series, and although most of them are good, this is far and away the best.

I’m going to tag Harry Lambrianou, because he’s commented on a couple of these book postings so I know he’s following the series and will know what to do.

Oddly, I have no idea what book I’m going to post tomorrow, or who I’m going to tag, so it will be a surprise for all of us.

**9**

I decided on today’s book.  The copy I happen to have is actually two books in one cover, but although I’ve read the first ten or so of the series and enjoyed them all, the first book is the one I’m tagging:  Robert Lynn Asprin’s Another Fine Myth.

It comes alone or in this two-book set, or in a five-book volume (I think).  It’s a playful bit of fantasy that tells a good story while at the same time being very tongue-in-cheek about fantasy tropes.  My Goodreads review of it is here.

Looking for someone to tag, I stumble upon Dave Mattingly, who was himself a publisher for a while and even put one of my books in print, so we’ll give him the chance to pick ten covers of books he in some sense “loves”, and name ten people to do the same.

**10**

I long debated what the final book on this list of ten should be, and settled on Paul Tillich, A History of Christian Thought:  From Its Judaic and Hellenistic Origins to Existentialism.

It’s certainly not “light reading” by any stretch of the imagination, but it is an excellent source either as a text or a reference for the development of western theology and philosophy from the second century through the Enlightenment.  It gets a bit weak after that, but still covers many of the important names.  My Goodreads review is here.

I’ve got a couple of honorable mentions to post.

First, let me apologize to my (first) cousin (once removed) T. M. Becker (Writer of Young Adult Fantasy).  Her novel Full Moon Rising was truly excellent, as my web log post #223:  In re:  Full Moon Rising asserts.  Honestly, the choice tipped on the fact that I had already posted six fiction titles and only three non-fiction, and I thought that if I couldn’t balance them at least I should get closer.

Also on the “almost made it” list is F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents:  Are They Reliable, a classic which more people should read which also has the virtue of being relatively short.  I chose otherwise mostly because this one is a rather limited subject–an extremely important one which he handles extremely well, but still not as valuable as a reference.

I need to tag one more person, so I’m going to choose Tsiphuneah Becker, to see what sort of books she likes.  In case you’ve not been following, you are invited, without obligation, to post covers of ten books, one a day, over the next ten days.  They should be books you in some sense “love”, and you are not obligated to say anything about them.  You also are asked to post, again one per day, names of ten people to undertake the same challenge.

*****

So that’s the conclusion of the ten-bookcover challenge.  I hope you found an interesting book in that batch.

#257: Verser Relationships

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #257, on the subject of Verser Relationships.

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

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

This is the fifth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 85 through 105.  These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

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

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 85, Slade 117

The consideration of invisibility versus insignificancy is on one level filler, something to make it seem as if it took some time to reach their room.  It also reflects Slade’s character a bit along the way, as he ponders this.

The confrontation with Mlambo was not foreseen; I was creating this as I went.


Chapter 86, Brown 136

At this point I decided that I couldn’t use the name of the real Ambassador Harris, so I changed it to Morris.  I don’t know how old his daughter actually is, but I think the distance is pretty safe.  I know nothing about the real ambassador that is not available on the Internet to a cursory search.

On the name “Dorin”, I did a lookup of the most common given names in Romania, and it was second.  Andrei was first, but Andrei seemed such a universally common eastern European name, and Dorin had the benefits of being extremely rare in the United States while being credible as a given name to American ears.  It sounded like a foreign European name.

As I was writing it, I realized what the next twist should be.


Chapter 87, Kondor 118

A “widget” is, apparently, any undefined material object produced or inventoried in a manufacturing economy.  The word is used in such fields as law and economics in the sense of “it doesn’t matter what this is, only that there is something being made, stored, marketed, or sold.”  It thus appears quite a bit on exam questions.

I was exploring something for Joe to do, some reason for him to be here other than as a holding world.  The idea that he might discover pilfering in supplies crossed my mind.

I often tell people that “never” is too big a word, at least in the contexts in which it is often used.  Someone will question whether someone else “never” arrived, and I will observe that what they mean is “not yet” (particularly if it’s about someone coming home).  Joe’s context is different, but it’s still too big a word–he could catch someone stealing, it just would not be easy.

The theft of the vorgo is told in Old Verses New.

Joe faces the problem that even when we don’t believe it we tend to think of situations in terms of why we are there, as if there is some reason behind such events.  He keeps reminding himself that it’s not true, but also falls into the pattern of believing it is.

The discussion of the social activities was backwritten when I reached the place where I realized I’d been ignoring it.

On the read-through edit I thought of the value of electrical generators, and envisioning them portable led to vehicles, and then to water purifiers, which led to pumps, all inserted at that point.


Chapter 88, Slade 118

For a while this was the last chapter I had written.  I had started Joe in his new world, and just about here moved all the Brown chapters forward and began working on Derek’s next assignment.  I was not certain what I was going to do with the Slades, even as to whether they would stay in this world or leave it, but I was comfortable with where the story had gone.  If it were not that I needed to bring Bob to the next world with Joe and Derek, I might have ended his story here for a while.


Chapter 89, Brown 137

I did an Internet search for most popular candies in England.  I had forgotten that Cadbury was an English candy company, but there were several (delicious sounding) Cadbury candies available, plus some others that sounded enticing.  I also found Jelly Babies, and a place online to order them, so I might be trying to put together a collection of promising English candies sometime in the future.  I saved the page.


Chapter 90, Kondor 119

Reading over the last few Kondor chapters since his arrival at Fort Porthos, I came up with a direction, what was going to happen.  Someone is going to sabotage one of the main supply warehouses on the base, planting a bomb which Joe will discover and remove, but will not be able to defuse.  However, for a few chapters I’m going to have to stall that, let him settle into the base a bit.

When I started doing the backwriting to get Kondor involved socially, I recognized that I had ended the previous Kondor chapter with the statement that Vargas needed to see him, and had failed to follow up on that.  I had not had any particular ideas for that when I had written it, and now from a considerably later perspective I found myself trying to make sense of it.

There was more backwriting here, as I introduced Lieutenant Smith in the company of several other officers.  I had decided as I progressed that Smith needed to be one of the people in munitions supply, so I put him there at this point.


Chapter 91, Slade 119

I pondered long what to do with the Slades at this point, and I still don’t know–but I had a couple of good thoughts.  The first was to have Colonel Mlambo invite them to stay for dinner and avail themselves of the room for the night.  My son Kyler suggested that most players in the position in which Bob found himself wanted some downtime, a place to rest and relax, and I was mindful of the fact that General Vargas expected him to return for the next trial.  I suddenly got the notion that with his small chest of valuables he might be able to buy a small manor somewhere, rename it Slade Manor, and return to the trial with validation of his claimed identity.  So that’s the direction I struck next.


Chapter 92, Brown 138

I needed Derek to pick a particular path, in order to bring my next twist into the story.  In order to get him there, I needed to explain why he did that, instead of any of several other obvious possibilities.  That could be accomplished by the direction in this chapter, of listing the possibilities and considering the problems.


Chapter 93, Kondor 120

I had set this up to be a Joseph Kondor chapter, and then pondered what to write for several days.  The problem was that I knew where I was going with both Slade and Derek, and what some of the intermediate steps were, but with Kondor I knew only what the next big event would be that took him out of this world, not what would happen before that to bring him to it.  So I decided to delay Joe and go back to Bob, who probably really had the most to get through before I removed him.  It would create the feeling that very little was happening with Joe, which wasn’t exactly true but was the right feeling.  Then when I started backwriting I decided I needed Kondor chapters, and inserted one here.  The off-duty relationship stuff was what was really needed, and this was all about that.

This also got me thinking about a companion for Kondor–not a love, but a sidekick sort of companion.  I liked the rough sketch of a personality I created here for Zeke, and was thinking in that direction, trying to figure out when I could integrate someone like that into Kondor’s life and how to do it.  I became more intrigued by the idea, and returned to fill in some description.


Chapter 94, Slade 120

As mentioned, I had set up a Joseph Kondor chapter, and then pondered what to write for several days and wrote this instead.  Thus this was originally chapter 93, and then got bumped.  Not much happens in it.


Chapter 95, Brown 139

When I added a Kondor chapter as 93, this got bumped from 94 to 95.

I toyed with several British-sounding names before settling on Richard Lloyd Williams.  He was a minor character, but he needed a name.

Research is so convenient today.  I was going to have the meeting in a bakery, and place it near a street corner near the embassy, but when I called up the map of the area it brought up markers to several eateries, including an Orygyns Specialty Coffee, about a minute’s walk from the embassy, which looked like as good a place as any.


Chapter 96, Kondor 121

I had skipped Kondor because I knew what was going to happen but not what was happening.  I had decided he would reach the next world first, but that it couldn’t happen quite yet.  Then I restored Kondor in chapter 93, and this got bumped from 95 to 96, and from Kondor 120 to Kondor 121.  I had not yet written chapter 93 when I made this 96, but had some ideas percolating for the social interaction part.

I began formulating the possibility that Zeke would go with him–even came up with a reasonable explanation of how that happens–so I decided to go back and give him more of a description.  I also expanded their relationship here.


Chapter 97, Slade 121

When I added a Kondor chapter as 93, this got bumped from 96 to 97.

I debated for several days whether to attempt to create the dinner conversation or merely reflect on it after the fact.  I decided that I really couldn’t duck it–at this point it was in a sense critical to the story, even if nothing would come of it.  So I had to figure out what they would say to each other, and the starting point seemed to be that Slade had made that suggestion about the conspiracy to keep the war going to provide a unifying common enemy.

In Mlambo’s statement about what “we” all are taught, the first version that went through my mind was “as all blacks are taught”, but before I got to typing it I realized that he would not say that.  He doesn’t think of himself as “black” but as “normal”, part of ordinary humanity.

I realized as I was writing this that in order to say what I wanted to say I was going to have to push Slade out of his vocabulary a bit.  To get there, I decided that if Shella provided a couple words for him when he needed them, the readers would overlook the rest of the stretching.


Chapter 98, Brown 140

When I added a Kondor chapter as 93, this got bumped from 97 to 98.

The three Romanian expressions Derek uses are the only three I remember from my own three weeks in Romania (not true–I remember that something like “freeshka” means dessert).  They mean idiomatically, in sequence, “what does this cost”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome”.  I never saw them in print, but since Romanian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet I would have to transliterate them anyway, so I’ve provided a phonetic representation of how I would say them, figuring that’s how he would say them.


Chapter 99, Kondor 122

In my reconstruction process when I decided to get Kondor more socially integrated, I also moved this chapter up from 99 to 98, and of course it was renumbered Kondor 122 and then bumped back to 99.

This came together in pieces.  First, I thought that it would help stall things if they found a missing person with a name similar to Kondor, that they might think was misfiled.  I was thinking Joseph Sanders.  Then I decided that he must be a captain and a doctor, which doesn’t seem a stretch as M.A.S.H. gives the impression that all doctors in the army hold the rank of captain or better.  I decided he would be lost in transit, that he left his original location and never arrived at his destination, without any clear indication of what happened.  In the next steps I decided that his destination was the other Colonel Roberts (I had to look back to find B Company), that his first name was actually listed as John, not Joseph, and that he had come from a combat area.  Then I decided that Company B was an operation whose primary job was retasking personnel who for whatever reason were leaving their present assignment but staying in the military.  That meant that if Kondor was Sanders, he was probably being sent there so they could find somewhere else to send him, and Roberts could make the argument that he could use the man here now for a while until they found that other job.  That got me where I was.

The last decision was that it wouldn’t be a formal meeting but an informal passing on the grounds.


Chapter 100, Slade 122

This had been chapter 98 before I started reordering things to accommodate more social interaction for Kondor.

I had come up with this plan to create Slade Manor already, and now I put it in the book.  I was expanding on the detail as I went.

When I went to reference the trial, I realized I didn’t remember the name of the officer who raised the matter.  I typed the title “Lieutenant” and then put in the “what’s-his-name” to show that Bob didn’t remember either, and then went digging.  I noticed that the name did not appear at all during the trial, but the rank of Captain did, and that it wasn’t until Slade was discussing his departure plans with Vargas that the name “Captain Lee” appeared.  I had Shella provide it, and Slade repeat it with an emphasis on the rank.


Chapter 101, Brown 141

This had been chapter 100 before I inserted the extra chapter as 93 to facilitate Kondor’s story.

I’d moved Derek into a difficult situation, and now I had to get him through it.  Thus I had him consider his options.  I did a check of what psionic skills I would permit in this world under the rules of the game, but then decided that the only one he had tried was the mind reading (which is his best) and that he probably wouldn’t rely on the others without testing them.  I had specifically given him the darts because I knew this was coming, but had to figure out how to make it work–and what Derek would do next.


Chapter 102, Kondor 123

This had always been chapter 102, and after I added the extra chapter 93 I moved this up to keep it in that spot, as part of getting the extra space for Kondor’s social interaction.  It had been Kondor 122, increased to 123.

I was not exactly filling space, but trying to explore how I was going to get to my big exit moment in this story.  I had determined that someone, some anti-United faction somewhere, was going to plant a bomb, probably in the ordinance storehouse, and that Kondor was going to find it and, not being trained in defusing bombs, remove it from the building, only to be killed when it detonated.  I thus needed to start setting up a credible base for such an attack.

I also realized at this point that I was making a mistake in the Kondor story, because he wasn’t interacting with the other soldiers.  I realized it because as I was writing about the lack of racial tensions I thought it would make Kondor uncomfortable to have a white girl in the cafeteria show an interest in him, and the other soldiers encourage him to get to know her–and I recognized that there was no indication that he knew any of the other soldiers.  He had no friends here; other than the commander and his two top officers, all the people were faceless.  That was going to require some backwriting to fix.  I added material to chapters 81, 84, 87, 90, and then inserted a new chapter 93, bouncing a lot of chapters one place and resequencing some to bring Kondor back into step with the others.

Again I added the social sequence later, and I was creating it as I wrote.  Mary’s drink went from soda to coffee to hot tea to hot chocolate in seconds (tea was actually typed and deleted) as I tried to give her the right personality on the job.

It was also at this point that I went back and added the security detail at the munitions supply warehouse, so I could introduce Lt. Smith earlier and have him where I wanted him.


Chapter 103, Slade 123

This had been chapter 101, but I moved it when I reorganized to make more time for Kondor’s social interactions.

The problem I faced with the Slades at this point was that I had to get through a lot of probably less interesting stuff without either boring the reader or giving the feeling of having skipped it.  In Thumbwars one of the funniest lines is when after not having actually rescued Princess Leia they are leaving the Death Star with her and she says, “I escaped somehow.”  It’s funny because it’s so wrong, plot-wise, and that’s what I’m trying to avoid here.

I had decided that Slade was going to claim to be a refugee, a Lord Slade from a manor further north that had been overrun by the blacks, who had grabbed a small bit of his treasure and was hoping to find a new home.

I did the combat scene so it wouldn’t seem like they simply leapt to their new location.

I actually was stuck in the middle of this chapter for several months.  I tried to enlist two people to come aboard as co-authors and give me ideas, and ultimately simply decided that Shella would answer the question about what food they had, they would eat, and they would continue.  While I was writing that I realized that they really wouldn’t have much food, and the only obvious way to get more would be to head for the white lines, so I pointed them that direction.  This was also when I decided to go back and add more to the Kondor story, although actually I had finished this and started writing the chapter which now stands as the previous chapter before I did that.

As a boy I had noticed that the bread and rolls my mother purchased from the “real” Italian bakery had very thick hard crusts.  I later noticed that the common rolls in Romania were worse.  Decades later I realized that this protected the soft interior from vermin, and I would wager also kept it fresher.


Chapter 104, Brown 142

I had thought through a good part of this chapter and the next while expanding the Kondor story, but couldn’t quite make it all work right.  The e-mail was an abrupt solution to the first problem, and then I split the next part to another chapter.


Chapter 105, Kondor 124

I was going to make this two chapters, but it unfolded so swiftly and smoothly that I realized breaking it would give me a very short second chapter.  I was now committed to taking Kondor to the final world.


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

#249: A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #249, on the subject of A 2018 AnimeNEXT Adventure.

Last year in An AnimeNEXT 2017 Experience I reflected on being a guest of the convention–a minor guest, listed as staff, but brought there because as a role playing game designer I hopefully add something to the experience of convention goers.  I’m looking at it through a different lens this time, hoping to give something of my own experience.

I suppose the story really starts months ago.  Last summer, shortly after my guest appearance at AnimeNEXT, I was hospitalized for emergency surgery and lost quite a bit of time recuperating.  Complicating it greatly, two days after I was hospitalized my wife fell and broke a hip and a foot, and was also hospitalized for emergency surgery followed by extended rehabilitation.  In what would have been a comedy of errors had it not been so serious, three of our sons were working at cross purposes trying to resolve issues with the house so that we would be able to maneuver in it while convalescing, with wheelchair and walker and such, and when I came home in the middle of this it was in an uproar.  I don’t know that I contributed much to it, but after perhaps a week my wife came home, and I was there for a few days helping her get settled before I returned to the hospital for another couple weeks and she was struggling to get along without me with the help of two of those boys and a neighbor friend of theirs.  We took a long time to convalesce, and things are still not entirely normal–which meant, among other things, that I had serious doubts about whether I would be able to get to the convention myself, and whether she would be able to manage without me for a few days.  She still doesn’t drive, even though she’s back to work, so I have to drive her.

I’m not sure whether it was the last week of April or the first week of May, but one night when I drove my wife to work the most reliable car we have broke down, and that put a dent in our transportation.  I had one of my sons pick me up, and used a different car in the morning to retrieve my wife from work, and AAA towed the car to the nearest AAA approved service station, which happened to be a few blocks from home, which was quite convenient since work is fifty miles away.  I was beginning to worry that I wasn’t going to make it.

Why should I worry?  Well, if you read the aforementioned linked article, you know that I was present in 2014 and 2017, but that in 2015 and 2016 last-minute disasters prevented my attendance.  I thought we were potentially facing another, particularly since one of the cars on which we rely belongs to a son who spends the school year driving around the country in a company car and then uses his car, which is legally my car so that he doesn’t have to pay insurance and garage fees during most of the year just to have it, for the summer.  So I was anticipating losing a car, on an uncertain date, complicating transportation further.

Then a few weeks prior to the convention I ran out of printer ink.  I was in the middle of printing the first draft of the next novel for online publication, and I’m collaborating with someone on this one, so an exchange of printed pages has been part of the process.  Printer ink might not be that important, but it is important, and with the car in the shop (for the entire month) and an expected cost estimated with a variable of about two hundred dollars more or less, I had to be careful about spending money.  HP makes a reliable all-in-one printer which I’ve been using for near a couple decades now, but they have a policy of underpricing their printers and then overpricing their ink cartridges.  Complicating it further, apparently the cartridge mine uses has become less commonly used, so that it wasn’t on the shelf at my local Walmart when I finally decided I needed to buy one.  The convention was two weeks away, and I went online and found a place that sold their own replacement cartridges, and ordered some.  They arrived about a week before the convention–and two out of two black cartridges were defective, in different ways.

I will credit SwiftInk for great customer service.  Their online help gave me suggestions for trying to make them work (cleaning the contacts), and when these failed promised to ship replacements immediately, which they did.  Unfortunately, those replacements did not arrive until after the convention began, so I had no print capability.

If somehow you don’t know, I go to conventions to run Multiverser, the roleplaying game I co-authored with E. R. Jones.  I take a stack of books; they’re out of print, and I don’t have any copies of the rules other than my own, but I have several of the world books and a couple others.  I also have a small (probably twenty-two pocket) file case in which I have a lot of papers, including unpublished worlds that I use, worksheets for magic skills, and on-the-fly character creation papers.  As noted, last year when I returned from the convention there was a lot happening, and I wound up hospitalized not too long thereafter, and never gave another thought to those books and papers.  At least they got put away–the suitcase that I used was left in the living room until one of my sons decided to move it outside to get it out of the way, and when I found it this year it was ruined.  It went through my head a couple times in the hectic days before the convention that I ought to find the books and papers and make sure I had everything, but then part of me was uncertain I was going to go at all, and part of me recognized that if I didn’t have printouts of the needed papers there wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway, not having printer ink.

Complicating it further, as the date approached it became known that my wife, who works alternate weekends, would be working that weekend.  At first I thought that was the kibosh, but I realized after mulling on it for a few days that the convention started early Friday, with staff arriving starting Thursday night, and ran through Sunday morning; Sunday was the quiet day, generally.  If I could check in on Thursday night I could be active on Friday and up until lunchtime Saturday, get home in time to get organized and have my wife at work Saturday night.  I was not able to get confirmation for that from, well, anyone anywhere, but it became my plan, at any rate.

Transportation was settled a couple days in advance.  The car that was in the shop was going to be finished that Thursday, and my son whose car it is and I would retrieve it and bring it home.  He and his wife were interested in playing at the convention, so they were going to drive me in and back; as it turned out she was feeling ill the day I had to go, but he still did the driving for me (again, thank you).  He dropped me at Bally’s, where I was billeted, and I told him to stay in Atlantic City until he heard from me in case something went wrong.

Something did go wrong, but first I stood on line for probably half an hour.  I was very irked when a young and not unattractive girl took advantage of the attentions of a young man to cut in line right in front of me, but stifled my passive-aggressive tendencies and waited until it was my turn.  Then they asked for my ID.  I had not driven myself to Atlantic City, and I did not have a current copy of my license on my person.  With all the hospital visits and doctor offices wanting my ID, it got separated from my wallet and I wasn’t carrying it.  I had two older licenses, but the hotel would not accept these despite the fact that they were photo IDs, because they had expired.  They were not unsympathetic, and attempted to call the person running housing for the convention, Connie Ngo, but Connie didn’t answer her phone.  I was stuck.  I couldn’t keep my driver in the city all night, but I couldn’t send him away without knowing I had a room.  I texted him to return to get me, and started toward the exit; but I remembered that I had Connie on Messenger (because I had wanted to confirm that there would be no problem with checking in on Thursday night), so I messaged her.  She responded to the message and called the desk clerk, and I was approved and given a room key.

We were four to a room, technically, but only one of my roommates had arrived, and one had had to cancel at the last minute, and the remaining one I did not see until Friday night.  My roommate introduced himself by first name only, and I admit that it takes me several tries to learn names, and I only saw him awake one other time when I was barely so myself.  He offered a variety of snacks he brought from home.  I stuck one of the two key cards they had given me in a pocket and tossed the folder containing the other on the dresser, and never saw it again, but I slept with the card in my pajama pocket and kept track of it all day (I have this freaky thing about losing keys).  I laid claim to one of the beds and slept until morning.

At this point I’ll say a few words about the hotel.  I was in the Sheraton last year.  The room at Bally’s was considerably nicer.  I think the room itself was larger, and it had a couch large enough for a bed in addition to the two beds (and the first roommate had brought his own cot) so we didn’t have to share.  The bathroom is larger, with a large shower stall.  I had some concern that there were no safety railings inside the shower (I’m getting old, and am not always completely steady on my feet), but that’s often the case.  The Sheraton, as I recall, had a shower/tub, but I’m a bit tall for most bathtubs and so prefer showers.  It was overall a nice room.  I do not know, however, whether that’s because all the Bally’s rooms are nicer than the Sheraton rooms.  I was in the Garden Tower, and it may be that those are better than the standard rooms.

One thing that bothers me, though, is that if you wanted WiFi you had to pay for it separately.  McDonalds and Walmart can manage to give their customers free WiFi.  I’m not sure why one of the biggest casino hotels in one of the major resort centers in the Western Hemisphere can’t manage such a trivial amenity–but indeed I was reminded that the same rule held at the Sheraton last year.  I’d have used it to watch Netflix on my Kindle, I expect, but I had had the foresight to download a couple things to the Kindle for that purpose in advance, and I could handle Messenger, which I also have on the Kindle, on my phone.

I awoke alone, and had not yet checked in with the convention staff, but I took time for prayer and study and got a shower and a respiratory treatment before packing the essentials and walking the several blocks to the Convention Center.  That is one advantage of staying at the Sheraton:  it is physically attached to the Convention Center, being right across the street and having an enclosed pedestrian bridge between the second floors of each.  That doesn’t mean it’s close–it’s a long walk inside the Sheraton just to get from the rooms to the bridge (there are banquet halls between the two), and I remember lugging my gear using a wheeled cooler as a handtruck and case between the buildings.  I knew that there were free buses between Bally’s and the convention, but that you had to have your convention ID to use them, so the first time I had to walk.  Had I been earlier the night before I could have checked in there, but I was slow packing everything (the suitcase having been ruined, it took a while to settle on a high-quality reusable grocery bag for my clothes) and thought getting into the hotel was more important.  I made the walk to the center and found my way to operations, which was in the same room as last year, and was soon properly badged.  I then found Kat, my boss as head of Tabletop Gaming.  She was telling one of the photographers to get some pictures of how overcrowded the board game room already was on Friday morning, to show that our department could make good use of more space.  I told her I was going to take the Jtney (the bus) back to Bally’s and return with my thirty pound box of books, dice, and game materials, then grab some brunch somewhere.

Time to address the food.  That was an issue last year.  It was considerably better this year.  Instead of providing scheduled meals they gave us eight vouchers, each good for up to fifteen dollars at any of the several food outlets in the Convention Center itself except the Beer Garden.  Breakfast was still a challenge, as reportedly only one of those outlets opened early, and it sold out of breakfast sandwiches quite quickly both days I was there.  I was late enough on Friday that they already had their lunch menu going, and I bought a personal pizza, a cup of coffee, and a single-serve Minute Maid Tropical Blend juice, which was fourteen dollars and change–but hey, they must pay exorbitant rent to have space inside the convention center.  When I got back to the table, though, I already had players waiting, and so I sipped my coffee while running a game for a couple hours, and then when they scattered to other convention attractions I ate a cold pizza with a bottle of juice, and can’t really speak to the quality of the pizza.  The next morning I was earlier; they had gluten free bagels, which I decided not to eat (and was told my someone that this was a good decision), but instead got two cinnamon danishes, a small Jimmy Dean bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit, coffee and juice.

By Friday afternoon I had heard that there was a place to buy food inside the dealer room, so I decided to try that next.  They were a pirate-themed grill, and advertised steak sandwiches and burgers.  I asked for one of their ten dollar bacon sirloin cheeseburgers, and was told that they were out of bacon, so I went with the eight dollar version without bacon, added lettuce, onion, mayonnaise, and catsup, with a bottle of Minute Maid Orange juice and a cup of hot chocolate, self-served.  It was rumored that their fries were good, but at five dollars I could see I wouldn’t be able to buy a drink and stay within the voucher.  Anyway, the burger was large, tasty, and filling, and I went back the next day.  At that point I was preparing to leave the convention, my ride being almost there, and so I spent two vouchers to get two bacon cheeseburgers and one without bacon.  I gave one of the bacon burgers to the son who drove to get me (and he devoured it in the street before we drove away, but said it was really very good, but economical as he is he would not have paid ten dollars for it; I figure that’s a good price for deluxe burgers nowadays, and again they have an incredibly high rent on their space).  I brought the other two home and shared them with my wife, who is not a fan of bacon.  The grill bent over backwards to make it possible for me to transport these, which were usually served in open topped boxes, and should be commended for that.  I left my remaining coupons with Ahmetia, my co-host in the RPG room, figuring she could use them.  Because of the high prices, I often saw people using a fifteen dollar voucher plus a bit of pocket cash to pay for their meals, and while I avoided that I did so partly by not buying some things I might otherwise have eaten.  That’s not a complaint; I tend to overeat anyway, and didn’t really need the fries.

By now I have this entirely out of sequence, but that’s not really a problem.  I’ve left out the games, only hinting at them to this point.  Time to remedy that.

By the time I got to the table with my pizza late Friday morning, Navya and Cory were waiting, and I began the character creation process.  Ahmetia, who has several years of Multiverser play under her belt, is very good at selling people on playing at my table, and Kat reminded me that she played a session at Ubercon a decade ago and thinks it’s a really great game, so I get referrals.  As we were moving forward with their character papers, Johanna arrived and joined us.

You’ll remember I said that the printer mattered.  My On-the-Fly Character Creation system uses four printed sheets on which players record information.  The fourth sheet is the simplest, being there strictly for the world list and stage number.  The third is equipment and the second skills, and of course you can have multiple sheets of skills and equipment.  The first, though, is the most complicated, with name, aliases, attributes, averaged attributes, best relevant attributes, bias levels, weaknesses, and character description all mapped onto a single page–and when I opened my file, I had only the second and third pages printed.

It wasn’t a disaster.  After all, I know what goes on the first page, and I had a couple of yellow pads, so everyone wrote out the first page longhand.  There was a second problem, that I had only one pen, and my first two players had no writing implements; I discovered another, though, an old four-color pen, in the game materials box, and when the third player arrived she had her own.  Not long after that, Ahmetia delivered a handful of pencils and some scrap paper, which was a big help as the weekend continued.  We put together their character papers, started them on the Tropical Island, and got them all gathered together with Michael di Vars, who explained to them what was happening.

I had eight players over the weekend, seven of whom sat and listened to Michael explain that they had died and any time in the future that they die they’ll come back to life in another universe just like this time, and not one of them balked, called him crazy, or demanded proof of this insane explanation.  Ah, well, it’s fun when it happens, but I’m not going to spoil it.  I was working out where each of the original trio was going to go next when they died, but suddenly they all had to run before that occurred, the game ended, and I ate my cold pizza and ran to the loo.

I returned to find Corderro waiting.  We got him up and running on the Tropical Island, and he had a long conversation with di Vars and then asked if the senior verser would be willing to spar a bit in unarmed combat.  As it happens, di Vars is extremely good at many weapons across the technological spectrum, but never really took much interest in unarmed hand-to-hand.  Corderro was high level professional, third degree black belt in a martial arts style.  At hand-to-hand he was fifty percent faster than di Vars with a very slight edge on accuracy, with the result that he outfought the killing machine in two one-minute rounds.  He lasted long enough for the volcano to blow, took a nasty rock to the head, and was out of the world–but also decided to leave the game there.  That’s a bit of a shame, because I knew where I was going to send him.  (Hint:  he has a beard.)

I’ll interrupt this recounting of games to recount the night.  I was the first one back to the room, partly because after seven I figured there was no point in starting a new game, I got and ate the aforementioned cheeseburger, and called it a night.  I moved my box of books to the board game room, which gets locked overnight, and took my bag of personal effects to the Jitney to ride back to the hotel.  I wasn’t up long, taking time to find something innocuous on the television that would lull me to sleep (Transformers, which I’ve seen before), set early alarms, and went to bed.

An hour later I was awakened by banging on the door.  It took a moment to get organized and answer it, and I almost didn’t catch the departing offender, but it was the roommate I’d met accompanied by the roommate I hadn’t met, having gotten themselves locked out.  I let them in and went back to bed, only to have my cell phone ring while I was getting in.  My youngest son, who lives not far from Atlantic City at the moment, had apparently not realized that I was going to be at the convention this weekend, and having failed to get his mother on her phone decided to try mine.  We talked for several minutes, and apart from me suggesting that if he couldn’t reach his mother he should try his brother I don’t remember any of it.  I then settled down to sleep.

Someone silenced the television at some point, but I was asleep by then.  I noticed it in one of my brief periods of overnight awareness.  I think I awoke before my alarm; in any case, I was the first up, and I packed my things, left the room, went back because I realized I’d forgotten my bottle of Barq’s Root Beer and discovered that I’d also forgotten my box of tissues, and then went downstairs and checked out of the hotel.  It was not quite seven thirty, and the buses didn’t run until eight, so I got some prayer and study time on a park bench near the hotel parking garage entrance under the shelter of the building as it poured rain a few dozen feet away.  At eight I walked the short couple blocks to the bus stop, boarded a waiting Jitney, and was soon joined by a crowd of others headed to the convention.  I had promised Kat I would text her when I was up, which I did around seven-thirty but with the caveat that I wasn’t going to get there until the buses started, and she said she was already awake and working on getting the room unlocked.

I put my stuff in the RPG room, but the board game room was still locked; I asked someone working that room to bring my box to me when it became possible, and went to obtain the aforementioned breakfast.  Returning, I did a bit more study while nibbling on part of the breakfast, but then Steven arrived.  I still didn’t have my materials, but there were pencils and pieces of scrap paper on the table, so I set aside my breakfast and attended to starting his character sheet.  The books came, I got him started on the island, and Hannah and Tia arrived.  I had actually bumped into them twice in the halls, and Hannah must look like someone I know because I thought I recognized her, but apparently she’s not who I remembered.  Having met me and introduced themselves, they came to try the game, so I started setting up their papers.  Having finished their first page, I turned to their skills, still juggling Steven through his time on the island, and Austin arrived and joined the character creation process.  I was hitting my stride, though, and got that moving well.  Steven met di Vars, and got a feel for what was happening, but then said he had to leave just about the time I was launching Tia, then Hannah, then Austin.

Austin made a comment about having to leave soon, so I ignored the die roll and had him reach di Vars first.  He decided on cautious discretion, and remained behind the tree line watching.  Tia, second to arrive, decided that she needed help more than caution, and called out, receiving an invitation to join him.  By the time Hannah arrived, she could see Tia sitting by the campfire, and as they were friends before the verse they recognized each other.  Austin left the table, and di Vars explained things to Tia and Hannah, and then before we got much further they, too, said they had to leave.

I feel a bit foolish that I did not mention it to Navya, Cory, and Johanna, but perhaps they’ll find their way here somehow.  Corderro jogged my thinking, so I invited him, Steven, Austin, Hannah, and Tia to continue play on the M. J. Young Net Forum.  I know several of them wrote that down, but as I write this none of them have arrived.  That’s kind of a shame, because I know where I want to send several of them, but we’ll give them some time to find their way.

I’ve got one other aside.  Last year, within minutes of my arrival, I saw a girl in costume who would have made a good picture for my character papers for Lauren Hastings.  She looks a lot like most representations of Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, so I often find pictures that work.  This year I saw someone, not quite as good but passable, again as I was headed for check-in.  Again I never saw her again.  It prompted my brain, though, to consider that I should look for people who might be suitable images for those character papers.  After all, Slade looks a lot like Thor, I’ve got a couple of American soldiers, someone might come as a sprite which would be good for Derek, Shella is a witch, and I’ve recently added a few characters including a dark-haired Arabian princess.  I saw no one the entire time who fit any of these images.  It was a bit disappointing in that regard, but then I’m not all that well versed in anime and recognized very few of the characters I did see.  Someone was Deadpool.  That’s about it.

When I got home, the household was hoping that since I had left the convention already I could run a game for them.  I somewhat wearily with apologies explained that the reason I was home was because I had to get some sleep and do the work driving that night, and then tackled what had to be done to be ready for that.

I must also thank Kate and Tris for holding down the kitchen in my absence.

Here’s hoping that I can do another convention next year, if not sooner.  I don’t know that I would say I have fun, but it is a high point in my time to be reminded that people like the game, even if it didn’t sell terribly well.

I think that about covers it all.  Thanks for reading, and thanks again to the convention for inviting me again.  Here’s hoping that I was not more trouble than I’m worth, and perhaps there will be another invitation next year.  It’s an interesting way to spend my birthday weekend.

#243: Verser Redirects

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #243, on the subject of Verser Redirects.

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

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

This is the fourth mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 64 through 84.  These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #218:  Versers Resume (which provided this kind of insight into the first twenty-one chapters);
  2. #226:  Versers Adapt (covering chapters 22 through 42);
  3. #235:  Versers Infiltrate (covering chapters 43 through 63).

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 64, Brown 127

The scene so obviously lends itself to that stock moment Derek describes that I had to include the description–and then ignore it.  Bomb defusing is of course very nerve wracking no matter what happens, but the idea that it did not go the way it goes in the movies seemed to be worth including.

There is of course an irony in the comment that Derek’s life is not being written by some author.

The bathroom reference is because they’re almost never mentioned in games and you only see them in movies if something dramatic is going to happen there–a fight scene, a seduction, a confrontation.  It was a way of humanizing Derek, who has been running around chasing terrorists probably for a few hours, and now wants a bathroom.


Chapter 65, Kondor 112

I knew when I set up the “section five of the war code” segment that even though Bob would be expected to know what that meant, no one would be surprised to have Joe ask, and that was how I would get it communicated.

The race war does make it unlikely that there would be infiltrators; any spying would have to be done by people who obviously didn’t belong where they were.


Chapter 66, Brown 128

Derek’s report of his actions in the raid would have sounded like fantasy at first, as he talks about changing forms.  Of course, the fact that he is serious about it and others in the room take it seriously undoubtedly helps give it credibility.

By this time I had made the change (a few Brown chapters before) of resequencing the book to pull Derek’s story forward.  I now knew I wanted another spy adventure of some sort, something different, but spent a lot of time trying to figure out what.  In the meantime, I pulled his loneliness back to the forefront.


Chapter 67, Slade 111

The notion that a verser can claim to be anyone but cannot usually prove his identity in his present universe often appears in play, but I should note that I first saw it in a Peter Davison Doctor Who episode (Black Orchid) in which a murder had occurred and he was faced with the problem of explaining his identity to the local police.  I had to consider what Bob had that might suggest the truth of his claimed identity.  I remembered the ring, but for Bob it was simply the chest at this point.


Chapter 68, Kondor 113

My uncertainty about Derek’s next mission slowed his story, and for the first time in quite a while I let both Bob and Joe continue their stories before returning to him.

It is difficult to know exactly what Joe thinks of Bob’s story about releasing the djinni from the bottle.  He obviously thinks it a fanciful tale, but does not consider what that means in terms of the fact that Bob presents it as if it were true.  That is, did something happen that caused Bob to believe the story of the djinn lord being released from the bottle, or did Bob create the story and disseminate it pretending it to be true, for some other reason?  Of course, the existence of the antique bottle adds color to the story, and causes what the British would call “the punters” to accept the tale more readily.

The wind responds in support of its ally, as well as it is able in this lower-magic world.  Joe of course attributes this to happenstance.


Chapter 69, Brown 129

I was stalling a bit, but also trying to provide credibility for improved skills in some training time.  I was also stepping away from the Kondor/Slade story, in part because I was not certain where it was going and in part because I thought it had created some suspense to hold the reader for a moment.

I selected what I thought were probably the major languages in the world of modern espionage.  I specifically did not include some obvious ones as not really that significant in the kind of work he was doing.


Chapter 70, Slade 112

I was playing this by ear to a significant degree.  When the general asked Slade whether he objected to keeping the inquiry open, I thought immediately that if Slade objected it might close the inquiry, and I needed the story to continue; but then by the time I started writing this I realized that there was bound to be an appeals process, and a closed inquiry would probably mean taking it to another level.

Bob’s perspective on history makes the women’s suffrage movement “ancient history”.  He was never interested in the world before the present, so he doesn’t know much about it.


Chapter 71, Brown 130

I thought about what I could do next, and decided that I should send Derek on a foreign mission–let him use his passports and such.  I thought that an embassy or consulate would be the right choice, because it wouldn’t require him to be better at another language than he had any right to be.  I thought that investigating a security breach or leak was a reasonable choice, in part because I couldn’t remember any movies where that was the hook so I wouldn’t be tempted to follow someone else’s plot.

I chose Romania for a couple reasons.  One is it’s the only country I have ever visited for any length of time–three weeks back in 1972.  I picked up a few words most of which I have since completely forgotten (I can say “what does this cost” and “thank you”, I think, maybe “you’re welcome”).  There’s also the moment in The Thomas Crown Affair (the newer version) when the cop asks insurance investigator Banning if she speaks any Romanian, and she says, “Who would ever bother with Romanian?” and proceeds to talk to the criminal in Russian.  I actually wrote about that in a Game Ideas Unlimited piece about skills which I do not now remember beyond that reference.

Every fictional spy organization has a section that handles special equipment; I needed a name for mine, so I called it “Gear”.  That way I wasn’t stealing from anyone.

I got a kick out of the bit about the British secret service saying everyone else in the world drives on the wrong side of the road.


Chapter 72, Kondor 114

I kept thinking that Joe’s overriding story was going to be about his racial prejudice.  The problem is that every time I brought it forward at all, it began to resolve, and here it pretty much comes to its completion.  Thus I keep thinking that Joe needs a story, and I don’t have one for him–although his character development has been genuinely positive in so many ways.


Chapter 73, Brown 131

The Coke® and Pepsi® observation is one I made on my 1972 visit to Romania, where we also stopped at Prague and bought Coke® in the airport, but then found only Pepsi® during our three-week stay in Romania.  The rest I deduced at the time.

I decided that the best way for Derek to avoid talking about his cover background was to include in the cover that he was not interested in diplomatic service and didn’t want to be here.  That immediately suggested that he must have something else he wants to be doing instead, some different future for himself.  Rock star came to mind, and artist, but he had no skills in those areas; comic book creator suffered from a similar problem, and I did not think that author would be the kind of thing that fit the profile.  I was about to consult with family and fans on the subject when it occurred to me that the big deal today is video games, and Derek certainly can pass himself off as an aspiring computer game designer.

The idea that you get promoted to the place where you are no longer competent is one of the stated corollaries of the Peter Principle; I was not certain at the time that I wrote it, but I was certain that Derek wouldn’t know the origin of the idea.


Chapter 74, Slade 113

The notion that the secret weapons project was at a secret location provided a solution to the problem of Bob not telling the general where he was going; versers have to get good at explanations that explain why they don’t explain more.


Chapter 75, Kondor 115

I wasn’t sure what should happen in this story at this point, so I decided to get my characters to discuss it and see what they thought.

Joe’s prejudice against people who believe in God and magic is growing into a new problem, but I don’t see yet how to resolve it.

This was a strange point in the editorial process.  I had written Kondor stories through 118 and Slade stories also through 118, taken Joe into another world and brought Bob to a place where I was not at all certain what to do with him next, and had then shifted all the Brown stories forward and was filling in his events.  I knew that I had another significant Brown story to tell that was still forming in my mind (the Romanian leak) but didn’t know what was going to happen; I was still in the mode of rushing his story because it was the different world.  I was beginning to think that Bob was going to vanish from the book for a while, because after his upcoming confrontation with Mlambo (the last chapter I had already written) I had nothing.  I abruptly decided that it was time to skip a Brown chapter and bring a Kondor chapter forward, so that Derek would seem to be in stall mode for a bit.  It didn’t really help me with the writing time, because this chapter had already been written and simply had to be slotted into the space and properly numbered, and I would still have to write Derek’s next chapter next anyway, but I thought it would work better in the flow of the book.


Chapter 76, Brown 132

I was a bit stymied myself, and I remembered that one way I use to figure out what the character should do is to have the character try to figure out what he should do, so I put Derek into the mode of trying to identify what kind of person might be the leak.  I thought of four good possibilities, and left it at that, partly because at the time I was late for something else and had to type quickly.


Chapter 77, Slade 114

At this point I’m working through the options by having the characters discuss them.  I’m still not certain what I’m going to do.
It is worth mentioning that I had written this chapter probably several months before I had written the previous chapter in which Derek is doing much the same thing (considering the possibilities).  I’m not sure that I didn’t get the idea of doing it for Derek from the fact that I had noticed it upcoming here, but they were done quite some time apart, and this one first.

When Kondor said that if there were gods controlling their destinies, it would be time to verse out, I did not think it was going to happen any time soon.  It happens to be coincidental, but very telling that what Joe says the multiverse would be like if there were gods happens to happen, and he ignores the exact evidence that he suggested would support such a belief.


Chapter 78, Brown 133

I now had shifted the burden such that I needed to write a lot of Derek’s story in order to slot it between Bob and Joe.  As I struggled with how to proceed with Derek, I remembered thinking, and writing somewhere, that the way to write a mystery is to begin with the conclusion:  decide who did what, how and why, and then work to what clues would be left behind in that case, and then how the detective discovers them and assembles the crime from them.  Yet when I wrote the mystery of the vorgo section of Old Verses New I did not actually do it that way.  I think I started that way–I was going to have the former student be the criminal, who stole the vorgo because his wife had recently died and he hoped he could revive her–but my story managed to go rather directly to him and I thought then that it was too easy, so I changed my criminal as I was closing in on the solution.  (This also gave me the inspiration, eventually, for the game version in which there were six possible suspects and slightly different clue sets for each.)  So now as I faced what is a mystery for Derek, I was floundering in part because I didn’t know who should be the villain–indeed, I didn’t even at this point have a cast of characters for it.  So I was going to have to develop that to get to the solution.

I had begun with a British consulate, but when I started doing online research I discovered that there was a British embassy in Bucharest.  I sent them an e-mail asking for some idea of the staffing and housing there, and got a very nice reply saying that for security reasons they could not tell me any of that–but then, I had also browsed their web site and their Flickr site, so I got a fair amount of flavor from those.  After the fact, my wife said I should not have sent the note, because it was obvious they couldn’t answer my questions and likely that I got myself added to some sort of terrorist watch list for my efforts.

In the time immediately following the writing of the previous Brown chapter I was turning over the possibilities in my mind, and realized that there was a fifth possible motive for the leak.  Someone might do it strictly for the excitement.  I wondered if that was plausible, and also whether it was possible to catch such a person, and if so how.


Chapter 79, Slade 115

I decided that I would move Joe to another world now, and do it simply by having Shella notice that he was no longer there.  I’d cover how it happened retrospectively later, and not have to deal with it directly.

The thing about the wife knowing that the husband is awake before the husband does comes from my personal experience.

I was still undecided about what I would do with Bob and Shella.  On one hand, there wasn’t much I could do with them in this world; on the other hand, I didn’t have any good ideas for a next world for them and there probably were a few things they could do here, if I could think of them.


Chapter 80, Brown 134

It took me several days to get a chance to discuss the idea that the leak might be done by someone seeking excitement with someone else.  It wound up being Evan, my fourth son, who reminded me that in the digital world hackers frequently do it for the thrill, for the ability to prove to themselves and, anonymously, to others that they can.

I took that computer connection and sort of reversed it:  I had come to the idea that Derek got a thrill from hacking systems from that discussion, but I used that recognition on his part as a bridge to the idea that his spy might be doing it for the thrill.  Most of the discussion about how to run the computer part was there to set up that jump.


Chapter 81, Kondor 116

I decided to put Joe in a not-quite-modern military base somewhere, and set up some kind of investigation of something.  The general look is probably nineteen fifties or sixties, and his camouflage fits.

Colonel Roberts is white.  The Adjutant, Lieutenant Philip Vargas, is white; the Exec is black, Captain David Nye.

The trick with “how do you pronounce the name” doesn’t always work, but it often does.

I don’t know why I put together the name “David Nye”; I feel like I’ve heard it somewhere, but the only Nye I can place is the science guy, Bill.

He gives himself the rank of captain, because he needs a rank and preferably of a mid-level officer.  It needs to be high enough to be respected but not so high that it’s easy to trace.

The list of common names includes my own name and my wife’s maiden name along with some others I’ve encountered multiple times in my life.

When I started thinking about integrating Kondor into this world socially (at what was chapter 102) I thought of poker games, and then that he couldn’t play because he had no money in this world and no way to get it, and that reminded me that he was wearing a lot of jewelry.  So I added the end bit about stowing the jewelry somewhere.


Chapter 82, Slade 116

Having separated Slade from Kondor, it no longer made sense to go to Derek every other chapter, particularly as I was at this point writing Brown chapters to catch up and had a new story to tell for Joe.  So the press of Brown chapters slowed a bit.

The questions about how SEP invisibility works when people who are not present are watching remotely is always a tricky one, and gets raised at this point but not answered.

I decided they would get into the bunker without incident, but they of course could not know that until they did.


Chapter 83, Brown 135

About this point I pondered an idea of giving one of the staffers an androgynous name, such as Terry Farnsworth, and having the gender be different in the London listing than in the Bucharest one.  At first I was thinking that it was a replacement, the solution to the puzzle; but then, as hard as the puzzle had been, that would have made it too easy.  Then I thought it might be that it was the same person, probably Terry as a woman who at some point disguised herself as a man to advance her career.  Then I couldn’t decide whether she was listed as a woman in the original file but changed it to a man somewhere along the way and was pretending to be a man, or whether she had originally listed herself as a man years ago when it was harder for women to advance, but had since changed it in the local file when it was no longer necessary to pretend.  But there was another problem:  the facial recognition software would detect that Terry was Terry regardless of what gender was in the photo.  That would be exactly the kind of disguise the software would “see through”, and that meant that Derek would find it not by running facial recognition but by running more detailed data comparison–and if his image recognition program told him that all the images matched, he probably wouldn’t go deeper on the data.

I was still musing on this for several days, and then had the thought that someone might leak information for love.  I wondered whether Derek would think of that, but then I thought perhaps he would be smitten with someone at the embassy, and at that point I envisioned a daughter of the ambassador, perhaps about fifteen years old.  Then I thought that it might be plausible for her to be the leak, that the Romanians had a man perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three years old who looked young for his age, who had effectively wooed or seduced the ambassador’s daughter, and she brought information to him because she thought he loved her.  Derek might discover this because the boy would wind up an imagined rival, and he would have investigated.  That might work.

I decided to bring in the girl, but now I needed to give her a name, and that was problematic.  Whatever name I gave her either would connect too closely to the real British embassy in Romania or break the connection to reality.  I did some research, but could find no indication that the current ambassador, Paul Brummell, had any family–and in any case I did not want this to be quite so recent as his appearance in Romania in 2014.  I had a list of previous persons in that post, and considered Quinton Quayle, who served 2002 through 2006, which is a lot closer to the time I wanted, but also determined that he had two sons, no daughters–and since Quayle was the name of an American Vice President and Presidential candidate, I thought I should avoid that connection.  Martin Harris, the ambassador previous to Brummell (2010-2014), had a daughter named Tabitha; but despite the huge number of “Tabitha Harris” entries obtained from Google, it struck me as an unusual name which connected with the British Romanian embassy could get me in trouble.  So I decided to invent another Harris daughter, or perhaps replace one with the other, and since the only Tabitha I recall ever was the daughter on Bewitched, I named my girl Samantha Endora Harris, after the other female characters in that family.

Once I had the name Samantha, Sammie was a simple step.  Most Samanthas seem to go by Sam, but I remember the sister of one of my sons’ friends was called Sammie.

When I originally put the bug on Sammie it was “in” her purse, and audio was sufficient for my purposes; when I started on the second Romanian story I needed Derek to have collected GSPS positions and some images, so I decided that the bug here had those capabilities.  Video was obviously problematic, though, because for a camera to see out it would have to be visible.  I abruptly resolved this when I was moving it from “in” to “on” by deciding that as a fifteen year old girl she had a lot of bric-a-brac decorating her purse, so a small bug pinned to the outside could hide in the clutter.


Chapter 84, Kondor 117

I’m building the new world as I go; I had decided almost nothing about it at this point, but that it was a mid twentieth century sort of variant earth.

The name Porthos comes from The Three Musketeers; I decided that I could use someone equivalent historically to Lafayette, perhaps.

The flag is not yet clearly identified beyond that it has some number of white stars on a blue field and red and white stripes.  The country is probably “The United States of America” but calls itself “United”, not “America”, a small difference.

I added the part about stashing his jewelry when I did the backwrite to better integrate him in the world.


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

#235: Versers Infiltrate

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #235, on the subject of Versers Infiltrate.

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

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

This is the third mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 43 through 63.  These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #218:  Versers Resume (which provided this kind of insight into the first twenty-one chapters);
  2. #226:  Versers Adapt (covering chapters 22 through 42).

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 43, Kondor 106

I had decided at this point to turn the situation around, to put the trio among the whites and see where that took me.

Bob and Shella of course are protected by their SEP to enemies spell–they would not have thought of it thus, but everyone in this world is their enemy–and so they are not seen until they reveal themselves.  The fog was convenient as an explanation, particularly for Joe, whose perspective this is.

The take charge attitude Bob displays is a technique for getting people to yield:  he acts as if there is no question who is in charge here, and they are not certain they are in a position to object.  Even the way he asks “who are you?” carries with it the implication that he is important and they are not.

I wanted European sounding names up front to contrast against the African names I had used among the blacks.


Chapter 44, Brown 117

Splitting the team is another encounter in the scenario, which sets up the next two.  It’s always tricky trying to figure out how to split them, although it helps generally (in play) that it’s done with one player character and the rest of the team non-player characters, so if I can set up a credible reason for the split, the split works.  Here I am able to make the split the decision of the main character.

Derek has used this springing stab attack before, but it was a risky move and I couldn’t allow it to appear to be a certain kill.  This time he had to fail, and we had to have more tension in the fight because of it.

I realized at this point in the read-through edit that I had not mentioned the chain, and it had to be somewhere accessible, so I went back to Brown 110 and made a few tweaks to include his weapons.


Chapter 45, Slade 106

Slade’s uncertainty about what to request reflected my own about this scenario:  I did not know where it was going.  It was a good short-term cover story, but it opened more problems ahead.  I was going to have to figure out what to do about them.


Chapter 46, Brown 118

Making the communications links very short range was a story decision at this moment:  I did not want Derek to know what was happening to the others until he got there.  It made sense, though, as short range communications would use less power, be less likely to be overheard, and be sufficient for most applications in a commando group.

One of the points made through the books and in the game is when you have more options you have more decisions.  Derek here considers whether to become Morach and use the drugged arrows, although he rejects it as not better tactically.


Chapter 47, Kondor 107

The notion that both sides had dehumanized the other takes form here in a simple conversation.  It probably is not changing the world, but it is illuminating it.

Joe’s speech is reminiscent of Shylock’s in The Merchant of Venice.  In high school I had to write and perform an updated version of that particular Shakespearean play for an English class, and when the Jew says, “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” arguing for his own humanity, we have something of the same echoing here.

I was the eldest of four siblings, and at some point decided that whenever two people were sharing one object–a sandwich, perhaps–the fairest way to divide it was to have one person divide it into halves as evenly as he could, and the other pick which half he wanted.  That’s not quite the same thing here, but as the threesome defer to each other, they each are seeking to accommodate the others as fairly as possible.


Chapter 48, Brown 119

I should apologize to our friend whose middle name is Kaseem, a very American Christian son of a Palestinian Islamic family, who goes by “K. C.” (his given name appears on some of his mail, and his first name is also rather Arabic, but few people know it).  It seemed likely that in this situation an Arab terrorist in Britain would have adopted the same name.

I think that my notion of how forty or fifty terrorists with significant military equipment could get into a public high rise office building is probably adequate; I suspect it’s been done, at least in other works of fiction, although I don’t know for certain and hope I haven’t given ideas to any terrorists out there.


Chapter 49, Slade 107

The exposition of the problem and solution was probably unnecessary, as I hope the readership already understands it.  It’s there for clarity, and to show that at least the characters understand it.  It also set me up for Joe’s next move.

The referenced movie was entitled The Russians Are Coming!  The Russians Are Coming!, and was generally a rather humorous film, although the climactic scene did have a Russian submariner climb the outside of a church bell tower to rescue an American boy who had slipped and was hanging precariously from some unsafe board.


Chapter 50, Brown 120

We had a problem with the rise in popularity of rap music and the corresponding rise in small portable audio players:  friends of my sons would come to the house and blare what I considered obscene language.  I informed them that if guest in my house talked like that I would ask him to stop or leave, and I couldn’t treat his music player any differently.

The lone individual was probably inspired to some degree by Hans Gruber in Die Hard, the villain pretending to be a separated office worker.  Derek intuitively recognizes that a real terrified office worker probably would not have mentioned how many of them there were, and thus he must be trying to feed information to someone.

Derek’s memory is of the slasher summer camp scenario in his first book, Old Verses New.  He gives all the relevant details.

The fifteen minute thing gave me a deadline without promising to detonate the bomb.


Chapter 51, Kondor 108

The discussions in the previous chapters revealed to me what had to happen here:  I needed Joe to demonstrate that he was a genuinely compassionate human being, without either appearing that he was trying to do so or stepping out of his otherwise coldly rational and atheistic character.  This was where I managed to find that solution.

The peeping sound of tree frogs, which for years I thought were crickets, is a normal sound in the woods during the warmer times of the year.  That it is absent demonstrates that the ecology has been disrupted by the war.

The orange light is because Joe is still using the settings of the cybereye he used when they stepped into the fog.  Thus his “red” sensors are seeing infrared and his “green” sensors are centered on green, and thus the combination of heat with visible light is interpreted by his brain as a combination of red and green, which the brain sees as orange or yellow.

I figured the medicine practiced here would be that of the Crimean and American Civil Wars–a lot of amputations, no anesthesia or antibiotic.  It would be simple for any modern doctor to improve on the situation, particularly one with a medical bag containing a few modern instruments and medications intended for emergency field use.

The diagnosis is there because I thought it important that Joe establish his credibility through being able to tell what was wrong.  If they’re going to believe he can fix it, they must first believe that he knows what he is saying.

Again the Shylock speech influences Joe’s answer about whether he is a demon.


Chapter 52, Brown 121

Derek raises an obvious solution:  check a building directory, there is bound to be one.  I am glad no one ever attempted to do this in play, because I don’t have one–the floors are created in response to the arrivals of the player character, to meet the needs of the encounters that are appearing next.  Since I didn’t actually have to present a complete directory in order to say that Derek saw it, that wasn’t a problem here.  In play, I’d just ask the player where he intended to go to find such a thing, and see what he wanted to do, making it as difficult as possible to get there, and interrupting him with the remaining encounters along the way.


Chapter 53, Kondor 109

When I wrote this chapter I was contemplating the possibility that the whites had some religious truth and the blacks were all atheists.  I saw no way to pursue that, though, and ultimately abandoned it.  I was beginning to recognize that I’d set myself a problem that my characters could not possibly solve, although actually the point was probably not that my characters were supposed to solve the problem but that they themselves were to learn from it.


Chapter 54, Brown 122

The “terrorist uses terrorist pretending to be hostage as a shield” scenario is also in the book.  I had not yet begun shifting Derek’s chapters forward and had recognized that I had bitten off a huge story that wasn’t going to be able to be finished in a reasonable time running against the Kondor and Slade story, so I brushed over this encounter by telling it in retrospect.  It enabled me to include all the encounters in the original scenario without bogging down into telling yet another directly.

The story here is a combination of two encounters which I always hoped someone would connect this way–one, the launching of a larger team to find them, the other hitting the booby-trapped door.  When I wrote them I hoped someone would think of a way to walk the strike team into the booby-trap, and that’s what I did here.

As Jim’s doubts are resolved, we are reminded that there was no reason for him fully to trust Derek before this, and no indication that he actually did–Derek was the leader because that was the assignment, not because Jim recognized his ability.  Of course, Jim has been reflecting Derek’s own self-doubt in this situation, but that has caused Derek to play the part of the person who knows what he is doing.


Chapter 55, Slade 108

Having Bob have to ask directions (twice) instead of following “his ears and his nose” underscores that he is very different from Joe.  Joe works from solid evidence and rational thinking; Bob works from hunches and luck.  Bob’s hunches and luck always get him through the trouble, but not through the simple tasks.  Finding the mess tent isn’t a very risky situation–not much riding on it–so it was fun to have him struggle with it however briefly.

I think the best expression of the idea that men usually accepted excuses that began with the words “My wife” came from Ogden Nash, in a non-poetic poem about how criminals frequently arrested for vagrancy when “casing a joint” in preparation for a crime could explain their presence any place at any time with the words, “I’m waiting for my wife.”  Bob has not had any experience to support that, but he recognizes that it’s true of people he has known.

I don’t remember where I got the name “Vargas”, but it seemed European, probably Spanish or Hispanic, to me, and it got me away from a monolithically British name set.

I now had a story I could run for a while, as Joe taught medicine to the white doctors and Bob pretended he was eager to leave but would wait a bit longer.  It wouldn’t last forever, but it would hold for a while.


Chapter 56, Brown 123

I had said “photography studio” previously, but had forgotten that when I got to this chapter (I was writing very slowly, trying to find my story as I went).  The idea that a nuclear bomb would be traceable by detecting radiation sent my mind in the direction of a place that had radiation shielding, and while I suppose a photography studio might have that in a darkroom, the readers would certainly know that a radiology practice would have to have such rooms somewhere.  In reviewing I placed the radiology office next to a photography studio to resolve that.


Chapter 57, Kondor 110

The remembered words of the preacher were similar to some I had heard on some teaching tape decades before; I do not know who it was, although it was probably one of Bob Mumford’s free monthly teaching tape series (from a variety of speakers).  The quote is far from exact, but it is basically the same concept.  It was also probably race-reversed, but I think that gives it more impact here.


Chapter 58, Brown 124

The penultimate encounter says that the character finds the leader, and the bomb is not far.  The guards on the door are in essence window dressing–I decided at this point that there would be guards on the door.  It is sort of an extra encounter, but it is an obvious one, particularly given that the leader knows there is a strike force out there.

The lost kid gambit is an obvious one for a five-foot-tall male adolescent, and would probably set terrorists off balance.  It is undoubtedly part of why children are used for bombers in the Middle East–Westerners, at least, hesitate to shoot them.


Chapter 59, Slade 109

I notice a couple things about Bob that came simply from writing his story, not from any particular consideration of the matter.  One is that despite being bored in camp with nothing to do because Joe is teaching medicine to the white doctors, it never occurs to him that it might be either interesting or valuable to sit in on that instruction.  The other is that although he is bored, he gets out and around and Shella does not, but he doesn’t really think much about her being bored alone in the tent.

When I realized that there were no people of mixed race, and that Bob might eventually notice that, I needed a word for it.  “Arab” was reasonably good, because as a people they tend to be the median skin color, and their geographical position in the world suggests it might well be because of racial blending.

Some of this may have set my mind running toward the gather world.  I don’t know whether I had yet realized I would be pushing that into the next book, but I began to think in terms of a magical Arabian setting for it.

It was probably a stretch suggesting that Bob knew “Montague” was the name of one of the families in Romeo and Juliet, but that’s why I didn’t let him know the other name (Capulet), as knowing the one more shows his ignorance than his knowledge.

Joe’s smattering of French is not sufficient to make it seem that he speaks French, only that he’s become educated enough to use snippets of foreign languages common among educated speakers of English.

The idea that a person can matter without doing anything is certainly not new, but it’s one that’s usually overlooked.  One of our United States Presidents (Truman, perhaps?) was once asked about the fact that his father had been a lifelong failure, and he responded to the effect of asking how anyone could be considered a failure whose son became President of the United States.  That has to reflect on the father somehow.


Chapter 60, Brown 125

The decision to stab someone with a dart of course goes contrary to expectations, but is perfectly logical in the situation and demonstrates that Derek is able to use objects in unexpected ways.

The simple plastique bomb was not really planned, but it had come to me that Pete had acquired the explosive earlier and really should use it at some point.

I was doing final preparations for publication and realized that Jim referred to what you see on “TV”.  In all my British television viewing, I don’t think I’ve ever heard any character use that American identifier.  I changed it to “the tele”, which I checked with Dictionary.com to be certain I had the right spelling.

I also realized at this point that Jim and Pete would use “lift” instead of “elevator”, and attempted to make those changes retroactively.


Chapter 61, Kondor 111

Joe is struggling with the fact that in what he must believe is coincidence he and Bob have exactly the kinds of skills needed to do the job of persuading each side that the other side is human in the sense they understand.  It seems like divine intervention, but of course for him that can’t be accepted.

His thought of not telling Derek because it would “confuse the boy further” is in essence an idea that the evidence really supports the view that there is a God, so it has to be suppressed.  It is an accusation raised against people of faith frequently, but it is subtly present here on the other side.


Chapter 62, Brown 126

I had to remember that although Derek is good at what he does, Jim is good at what he does, and that’s not what Derek usually does.  Thus Jim does the assault here.

I’ve heard the “cautions” on British police dramas; they don’t repeat them as often as they do on American shows, I think (where we call them “warnings”), but I’ve heard them enough to recognize that they are different on a few points.  That’s to be expected, since most of ours are based on United States Supreme Court rulings interpreting the Bill of Rights, and I expect theirs have followed based on their own laws and court rulings.


Chapter 63, Slade 110

Any time a story falls into a routine, it risks becoming boring.  I needed to break the routine again, and of course there was in the background this problem that Robert Elvis Lord Slade of Slade Manor is a title from a different universe, with no correspondence here, and someone might eventually realize that.  It gave me a new tension.

I recognized that it would be easy to give a non-descript name to the section of law in question here, and it would be very realistic.  In America we speak of violations of Title IX, or Miranda Rights, or First Amendment issues, and we know what they are because the shorthand refers to familiar laws.  Thus “section five of the war code” would be that kind of “everyone knows what this is” identifier that you would only know if you were from there.

That Shella would want to straighten up the tent before Joe arrived was exactly the sort of wife thing husbands don’t generally understand.


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

#228: Applying the Rules of Grammar

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #228, on the subject of Applying the Rules of Grammar.

This web log entry has little to do with my recent decision to collaborate on the next Multiverser novel (tentatively entitled Garden of Versers) and more to do with my dissatisfaction with a book I am currently reading that aims to teach aspiring writers to write better.

Some years back I was chatting with C. J. Henderson (pictured) at Ubercon, and he said that he didn’t really understand what a split infinitive was.  I explained, using what is perhaps the most famous example, and that example had a story attached.  It seems that when Patrick Stewart took the Star Trek role of Jean-Luc Picard he was bothered by the opening speech in which he was required to say, “to boldly go”.  That is a split infinitive–the infinitive being “to go”, and thus it ought to be “boldly to go” or “to go boldly”.  C. J. decided right then that he was never going to give any concern to splitting infinitives because, he said, he thought that one of the great speeches in modern writing.

Well, I still think that a bit hyperbolic, but I do see his point.  It is a strongly inspiring speech, and made stronger by the force of the split infinitive.  However, to some degree that force arises precisely because it breaks the rule–which brings me to one of the points I want to make.

When I was studying music theory, one of the first points Mr. Bednar made concerned the purpose of the course.  The first lesson to learn, he explained, was the rules, but then the second lesson was the reason for the rules.  Every rule in music theory exists because it prevents a typically undesired effect.  Once you understand the reason for the rules, you can decide intelligently when and how to break them to achieve that effect.  For example, in writing block harmony, the rule is to avoid parallel octaves, parallel fifths, and unsupported parallel fourths.  The reason for the rule is that the resonance between the notes in such parallels causes them to stand out against the other parts.  Thus you avoid such parallels when you want the harmony to blend evenly, but you choose to use these parallels when you want those parts to come to the fore:  you break the rule when, but only when, you are trying to achieve the result, and do so in ways that will effect the result only when it is wanted.

It is certainly possible in the course of writing to unintentionally or otherwise in attempting to fully and completely engage the reader split an infinitive or two–even to nest them as demonstrated in the first part of this sentence (to…to…engage…split).  However, although a brief interruption in the infinitive such as “to boldly go” can add force to the statement, a longer one such as just used here tends rather to be confusing.  That statement would have been easier to read as “It is certainly possible in the course of writing in attempting fully and completely to engage the reader unintentionally or otherwise to split an infinitive or two.”  (It is admittedly still a cumbersome sentence which could be significantly improved with more resequencing and a bit of trimming, but the point is still there.)  It is better to avoid them.

When I encounter a split infinitive in my reading, my mind usually attempts to repair it; it does the same when I encounter sentences ending with prepositions and a few other common mistakes.  (I refer the reader to my collected list of The Self-Breaking Rules of Grammar for a wonderfully illustrative set of mnemonics for some of these.)  However, I make a clear distinction in my writing, and particularly in my fiction.

Writings such as these web log posts, called “expository writing”, are supposed to be formal, and as such the rules of grammar should generally be followed.  An “intentional error” occasionally which creates impact is permitted, but it should be evident that saying it “wrong” is more effective than saying it “right”.  However, people don’t generally talk that way.  I often hear myself breaking the rules, particularly splitting infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions.  (It annoys me, and my mind sometimes goes back and attempts to edit what I said.)  Thus the rules are looser when writing fiction, and particularly when writing dialogue.  Fictional narrative is often in the voice of the character, or similarly approaching the voice of the character; dialogue is always in the character voice.  Thus my characters will split infinitives and end sentences with prepositions because they are supposed to come across as people, and that’s how people talk.  My narration almost never does so, unless I am trying to capture the impression of character thought and feeling (or I miss something in the editing process).

The rules exist partly for clarity.  Breaking them often creates narrative that is less easy to follow.  Some of the rules are what might be called grammatical formalities, artifact from previous centuries and source languages–someone has said that the reason we object to ending sentences with prepositions is that it is absolutely forbidden in Latin, although much of our usage is derived from German, where it is considerably more common.  The problem with doing this is it divorces the preposition from its object, and sometimes the object is omitted entirely, which makes the language less clear.  Yet native speakers provide the needed objects easily enough most of the time, and so native speakers omit them.

So the point is that you should understand the rules, figure out why they exist, what they prevent, and then learn to follow them most of the time, breaking them when doing so will achieve the kind of impact you want.  And remember:  the more frequently you break them, the less impact breaking them has.

#227: Toward Better Subtitles

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #227, on the subject of Toward Better Subtitles.

Decades ago I saw a joke birthday card.  On the face it raved about how it was the first perfect birthday card, designed and printed entirely by a computer so nothing could possibly go wrong.  Inside, it said in Courier Block lettering, MERRY CHRISTMAS.

It came to mind recently because I have come to watch television with the subtitles activated so that if somehow I miss what someone says I can read it and keep up, and sometimes they can be rather silly.  In a recent time travel movie I analyzed, Paradox, one of the characters at one point asks what it is they are seeing, and another reasonably clearly says, “Quark gluon,” but the person writing the subtitles apparently had insufficient education in advanced particle physics to recognize those as words, and so subtitled it “[Speaks Indistinct]”.  My wife recently reported watching a British mystery series and seeing the name “Wetherington Perish Church” as the local parish church.

Image captured by Gwydion M. Williams

The reason I thought of the birthday card is upon reading some of these I began to wonder whether someone was experimenting with speech-to-text software, feeding the soundtrack into a computer and getting it to figure out what everyone is saying.  I somehow doubt it–speech-to-text software has its limitations, but some of the mistakes I’ve seen could only be made by a human.  The kind of mistakes I see strongly suggest that someone is sitting at a keyboard listening to the soundtrack and typing what they hear, and that no one is proofreading the finished product.  Yet it strikes me that the people who do these subtitles are missing an obvious aid in their efforts.

I once watched an excellent Spanish-language time travel move, Los Cronocrimines a.k.a. TimeCrimes, which was both subtitled and dubbed in English, and it was intriguing to me to notice that the subtitles did not always match the dubbing.  My conclusion was that the subtitles were probably the more accurate rendering of the original Spanish.  My reasoning was that the dubbed text had to be adjusted so that the words we heard in the audience credibly matched the movement of the lips of the speakers, but the subtitles would be a direct English translation of the original Spanish dialogue.  Therein lies my solution:  use the script.

It wouldn’t work for a lot of programs–news, reality shows, talk shows–but the majority of the television I watch is scripted.  The people on the screen aren’t making up their lines; they’ve memorized them (or sometimes are reading them from a teleprompter).  The script is available, and given the ubiquity of computers it’s almost certainly available in an electronic file format.  So the obvious fix is for those who write the subtitles to start with the script, copy/paste the text into the subtitle program, and then simply adjust it whenever the actor got the line wrong–or not.  I often see subtitles in which the actor actually said about twice as many words as the subtitle, but didn’t really change the sense.

This solution seems so obvious to me that I find myself swithering between two conclusions.  It may be that the people responsible for the subtitling just aren’t bright enough to realize that they have an available resource for any text of which they are not certain, or to recognize that what they typed can’t possibly be right.  On the other hand, maybe the attitude is based on that corollary to the familiar law, Anything not worth doing is not worth doing well.  After all, how many of us out here really rely on subtitles?  Why spend a bit more time, a bit more money, a bit more effort on getting them right?  I’m constantly reading and reviewing books which are poorly edited; should I expect better of television and movies?  Does the subtitle audience really matter?

Maybe we don’t–but we aren’t all hard of hearing.  Some of us use subtitles because we watch late at night and don’t want the television to be so loud that it disturbs the sleep of others in the house.  Some use subtitles because we’re watching at work, such as night security, and we don’t want the noise of the television.  Some use subtitles to get past character accents that are sometimes challenging to understand (oh, that’s what she said!).  They’re a convenience–but an annoying one when they make stupid mistakes.

I don’t have much influence in the film industry.  I write a few articles about time travel in movies, and I’m aware that a few independent film producers have read them, but in the main I’ll probably be ignored.  However, it would be nice to have the subtitles match the dialogue, or at least accurately represent it, especially if the people typing them can’t understand what the actors are saying–that, after all, is when many of us most need to have the written form.  So here’s hoping that those who provide the subtitles can do a bit better for those of us who use them.

#226: Versers Adapt

This is mark Joseph “young” blog entry #226, on the subject of Versers Adapt.

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

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

This is the second mark Joseph “young” web log post covering this book, covering chapters 22 through 42.  These were the previous mark Joseph “young” web log posts covering this book:

  1. #218:  Versers Resume (which provided this kind of insight into the first twenty-one chapters).

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 22, Brown 106

I’ve never had anyone attempt a roof entrance on this scenario.  I have had them rappel down to a random floor window and go in that way, but the roof door is usually thought (correctly) to be guarded.  Derek takes that entrance, because it is the worst guarded.

The fear and confusion of the guard is because he does not understand the gargoyle-like creature flying at him.


Chapter 23, Kondor 102

Bob wouldn’t know the word, but he raises the eugenics issue:  is it morally wrong to purify the gene pool by preventing defective members of the race from reproducing, and if not, what defines who gets to have children?

The notion that the blacks would have material establishing their own genetic superiority developed slowly here.  I needed a way to make Joe think that the discrimination against whites in this world was based on something rational, so that he could buy into it however briefly.  He needed that jolt, that realization that he was thinking exactly like white slavers and later white racists thought, that there was a real difference between the races which amounted to a biological superiority of one over another.

In the previous novels I had been developing Joe’s “reverse” racism, and had been thinking that this had to be a major arc in his story.  This world was going to be a significant step in that–but it suddenly ended quite abruptly.  Bob’s argument about the parakeets and sparrows shook Joe’s illusion of science.

I kept wondering what Joe and Bob were going to do about the systemic racism of this world, but ultimately at this moment I have accomplished the part of this world that really mattered:  Joe recognizes that he can be just as racist as anyone, and racism can appear to be quite reasonable to those who think they have reasons for it.

“They breed like rabbits” was something that was said about blacks in the early twentieth century.  The fact is, rapid breeding rates are normal for humans.  For one thing, child mortality rates were always high prior to the dawn of modern medicine, and even (perhaps especially) wealthy and powerful families needed to have several children (and hopefully several sons) to continue the family line; in the modern world, there is a lot less pressure from that, because more children survive to adulthood.  For another, in agrarian and herding cultures children are an asset, a cheap labor force that increases production; in urban societies children are a liability, costing money in the short term and the long term, and not generally considered a good financial investment (although that’s a very individual matter).  Since blacks lived in poverty, there was a strong tendency for them to have larger families–although this was also true of poor whites, and of specific religious groups (Roman Catholics, conservative Lutherans, conservative Baptists most notably).  However, middle and upper middle class whites tended to see burgeoning impoverished black families as proof that blacks could not control their breeding, when that was only part of the problem:  more children meant more labor, more income, particularly for rural black families.  That’s why the line comes to Joe, and why he doesn’t like it.


Chapter 24, Brown 107

Derek, now in the form of Ferris, suddenly faces an ethical crisis.  He is carrying his darts and the drugged arrows he created based on the darts; they are anesthetic, rendering their target unconscious.  He developed the arrow drug precisely so that sprites, including himself, would not have to kill people.  However, this terrorist will kill him if he gets the chance, and Derek might be giving him the chance by not killing him first.

I realized the problems with the stairs at this point as well.  At two and a half feet tall, Ferris is toddler-sized, with the sort of short legs that struggle with stairs.  He doesn’t fly, he only glides, and trying to glide down the typical skyscraper stairway with its switchbacks at the landings would be very difficult.  In a sense it would be easier to leap down an elevator shaft.


Chapter 25, Slade 100

The human/animal argument returns, as Slade considers whether the way we treat chimpanzees comes under a different category than the way we treat creatures who seem to us “almost human”.

My trick to keep them in the bunker now worked against me, as they were stuck in the bunker until I found a way to get them out; but I started looking for ways to use that in my favor.


Chapter 26, Brown 108

My parents took me to the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building; the latter had elevators much of the distance, but both involved a lot of stairs.  I’m not sure I appreciated the view, but I remembered the climb.

The lone gunman is the first encounter; it is not necessary that the main character actually confront him, and in this case I chose for this to be more a tension builder than a confrontation.

Apart from the fall into the pit at the end of the third novel, this is the first time Derek has ever used Ferris as more than a way of getting between Derek and Morach.  Thus he never had shoes.  I never go barefoot but in the shower, at the poolside, and in bed; I don’t like the soles of my feet on anything hot, cold, sharp, or rough.  Thus I feel the steps when Ferris lands on them.

The office worker is also a planned encounter.  There are later encounters when terrorists have hostages and when they pretend to be hostages, so it’s important that the player not think all encounters are necessarily terrorists.  This plays with those expectations.

On the read-through edit I realized that Derek could use his scriff sense to point to wherever Calloway had his equipment, and that he would think of that, so I added it.


Chapter 27, Kondor 103

One of the difficult issues in this story is why the war is still happening.  The blacks have such military superiority that they could easily overwhelm the whites; the whites only have numerical superiority, as far as I can see.  I needed the war to continue, to be continuing for generations, without any real hope of either side winning, while maintaining the technological superiority of the blacks.

I took a new tack with the characters.  Since Bob Slade was trapped as an unwelcome guest among the blacks, and he was likely to be the best hand-to-hand fighter (not to mention good with the blaster) that they’d ever seen, I could use his superiority to undermine their confidence, cause them to believe that the whites might be more human than supposed.


Chapter 28, Brown 109

One would expect that something that glows would become an obvious target, but one of the tricks defense experts learned in World War II was that a plane against a daylight sky was a dark blip, but if you put forward-facing spotlights on it it became part of the brightness of the sky.  Thus a logical reason for sprites to glow is it makes them less visible to anything looking up at the sky.  It now also occurred to me that shadows are one of the most difficult things to hide when stalking, and the light emanating from a sprite would reduce the shadow some.

In one of my favorite movies, The Last Starfighter, there is a moment when the navigator, Grigg, is explaining the problem to the starfighter, Alex.  Alex notes that it is a knotty problem, and Grigg says, “I’ll have it all figured out by the time we reach the frontier.”  At that moment an alarm sounds, and Alex asks, “What’s that?” to which the reply is, “The frontier.”  I think that kind of scene is what I was thinking here, as Morach is trying to figure out what he’s going to do when he gets to the terrorists, so he’s taking his time getting to the terrorists, but he still doesn’t think of anything.

Derek learned some aerobatics as a young sprite; before that he saw Lauren adapt her acrobatics to her combat techniques.  I always tried to avoid making the characters too much alike, but at this point it made sense for him to emulate her, adapting his aerobatics to combat.

One of the downsides of using published worlds in published novels is that I give away secrets, tricks that a future player might exploit.  One of the advantages of my characters is that they are unusual enough that a lot of their solutions to problems aren’t really useful to most players.  It would require a remarkable set of coincidences for a player to be able to copy Derek’s means of clearing the back door.


Chapter 29, Slade 101

Joe easily slips into the mode of making his hosts uncomfortable with their resident ghost.  He focuses on how to get them to recognize just how skilled a killer Bob is.

Bob is adapting to his new identity.  He was becoming a warrior of Odin in the first book; in the third (his second) he married the girl, and now he is also a husband.  He asks himself how those two roles mesh, and starts looking for answers that make both work better.

The reluctance of the soldier to touch deadphones that had been worn by a white man is one of the little bits that show their deep prejudice.

I liked taking the phrase “he was not safe” and inverting it:  it wasn’t that he was in danger, but that he was a danger to them.

I also used that to segue to the possibility of doing a magical SEP (the type of invisibility known as “somebody else’s problem”, the reason nobody can describe the custodian who was mopping the floor or the bum on the park bench).  Lauren does the trick psionically, but it’s a useful trick and something Bob and Shella might be able to do by magic.


Chapter 30, Brown 110

I don’t usually talk about Derek’s high-tech gear, but since I introduced a trinary computer connection in the second novel and fiber optics are known to be faster than electrical connections, I thought I’d toss in a bit of jargon about what the component did that would be right but confusing to someone who knew enough to know that they weren’t using trinary systems.

I’ve always thought that working in a field where there was some information that only some people were permitted to know would be frustrating both for those who knew and for those who did not, and I reflect that in this interaction.

The elevator trick was off the cuff, something I thought would have potential for the story.  I didn’t know whether I would use it again, but I wanted it to be there in case I did.

I thought Uballa sounded like an African name, and so although I didn’t say the bomb expert was black I at least created the impression he might be.  My mind puts the accent on the second syllable.  I picture Jim as played by a young Steven Segal.

When I reached Brown 117 on the first read-through edit, I realized that I had not previously mentioned where he put the chain, and it needed to be accessible.  I also realized that I didn’t remember mentioning any of his weapons in this scene, so I came back and added them, and also added mention that he packed his electronics gear.


Chapter 31, Slade 102

In the back of my mind I was at this point exploring the possibility that the whites had magic they could use against the blacks; I never pursued that, but it gave me some basis for a low but functional magic bias.

I noticed that Shella always called Slade “M’lord”; it was automatic, that when I wrote her dialogue, that’s what she called him.  It occurred to me that it was the kind of thing that Bob would find both pleasing and embarrassing, and wouldn’t exactly want to object but would want his wife to be comfortable calling him something else.  It struck me just about here.

It also occurred to me that Bob and Shella spent quite a bit of time in the vampire future world with Lauren and Derek, and Shella would have spent some of that time with Lauren and Bethany, and some of it with Merlin, all of which was, as it were, “off camera”.  Thus I could fill in blanks of things Shella learned while there (a very high magic world) for her to know now.

Having Bob experiment with what magic works has the advantage of informing readers not familiar with the earlier books concerning what magic he has used before; the same goes for the discussion about magic with Shella.

The experiment with the SEP invisibility gave me the opportunity to create a bit of adventure for Bob and Shella; I hadn’t thought through what was going to happen, but I figured it would lead to something interesting if they could wander the halls unnoticed.


Chapter 32, Brown 111

The bombs are part of the original scenario, and finding one from the safe side is the next encounter.  The stickers are also part of that.

Left or Right was the title of the Game Ideas Unlimited article in which I discussed this method of designing a scenario–in which the encounters are sequenced and the referee places them in appropriate places as the floor plan is created in response to character choices.  Derek’s reaction is of course correct in reality:  everything hinges on which direction he goes, but he has no data on which to base a decision.  The scenario, though, is based on movie logic:  the way he chooses is of no consequence, because wherever he goes he will walk into the next encounter there.

I vaguely remember that that trip to the Empire State Building was connected to some trip to see some specialist doctor who had an office in the building.  It had not previously occurred to me that doctors might have offices in high rise buildings–growing up in the suburbs, my doctors all had private offices in small buildings.  Most other high rise buildings I had been in had been hotels or buildings housing a single company, e.g., the Blue Cross/Blue Shield office building in Wilmington, Delaware.  This idea of individual separate offices within the larger building still strikes me as unusual, but of course it’s normal.

“Three and then go” is of course from the Lethal Weapon movies, where they always stop and ask whether it’s “on three, or three and then go”.


Chapter 33, Kondor 104

Again I note differences between my characters, as despite his scientific and technological training Joe does not really carry a toolkit.

At some point I dropped a new player into a variant modern world, and then brought in several other player characters.  It was the first player’s home town, Columbus, Ohio, but within the first few minutes of play I’d realized that what I wanted to do was create a 1950s B Movie world, in which all the monsters were real because of radioactive and chemical waste.  Some of the player characters became very involved in trying to organize a “clean up the world” process.  The first player, though, took a different tack:  this is not our world, why are we interfering?  Joe is now debating that same issue–but it is one he already addressed, and he remembers his thoughts on that subject now.

Joe works from his early impressions of Bob, a guy who believes in Norse gods and thinks he’s been chosen for Ragnorak, who thinks he can talk to the wind and have it hear him and cooperate; from this Joe thinks Bob is not very bright.  Thus when Bob demonstrates something intelligent, Joe admires it but downplays its importance.  It probably contributes to this that Bob does not think himself very bright either–“only an auto mechanic” is still part of his self-identity.


Chapter 34, Brown 112

Derek’s spritish upbringing comes into play here, as he realizes he is responsible now for killing three terrorists.  At the back door he might have killed one–but it was more accidental, as the man choked on the arrow that otherwise would have rendered him unconscious.  Here it is clear that three men have been shot dead, intentionally, by his team, and that makes him a killer here.

He also recalls the slasher summer camp scenario, and tries to explain to himself how he is different from the killer there.

I created the smiley face stickers as markers for the bomb when I wrote the game scenario, and used it here.

The reference to fighting demons is specifically to the Vampire Future world at the end of the third novel.


Chapter 35, Slade 103

Several factors go into learning a new skill.  One of them is how many skills you already have (technically how high they are bias-wise) in that area, and thus Shella has an advantage over Bob in learning this one.  Another is that having an example of how it’s done gives a bonus, and thus Bob watches Shella and learns a bit better how it’s done.  Thus they both successfully learn the skill.

The trick of having Shella drop the invisibility and address the group was inspired about this moment, as was the line about being called “ghosts”.


Chapter 36, Brown 113

When I designed the world, I suggested many things that could be on various floors of the building; one of them was a shopping mall, which could easily fill two stories.  I needed variety in my floors here in the game world, but couldn’t envision Derek going downstairs very far, so I decided to put the mall about twenty-five floors above the street.

I am still running the encounters by the book.  This one is an office worker fleeing from terrorists.

I almost gave Derek the smiley stickers at the first encounter, but at that point he had no possible reason to take them.  Now he knows their significance, so having them is to his advantage.


Chapter 37, Slade 104

This chapter covers a lot of Slade’s internal considerations, and it reflects a lot of the character of the character.  It includes the fun side near the beginning, and then he gets into some serious issues.  It is really about Slade himself more than anything else.

I, too, was wondering how Joe, Bob, and Shella could change the world.  They continue struggling with that question for a while.


Chapter 38, Brown 114

The world description on which this is based calls for an encounter in which the characters have to pass over or under some kind of bridge or balcony where they are exposed to view.  This was my way of including that here, and I often include it in a mall-within-the-building scenario.  I think most of us have been on the upper level of a mall that has some kind of overlook to the lower level, so it’s a familiar enough setting–and fountains are also fairly common in malls.


Chapter 39, Kondor 105

I knew it was time to move my versers out of Mlambo’s bunker, but did not know where they were going or what would happen next.  I considered that they might be returning here before they went anywhere else, so I set that up as a possibility.

Bob’s comment about not needing luck makes an important point–that “luck” is what you need when you can’t count on skill–but it’s also true that he has called for a bit of luck sometimes as well.


Chapter 40, Brown 115

The scenario in which terrorists use hostages as shields also comes from the book.  I decided that a hostage wounded by the rescuers would add tension, but it had to be Jim, not Derek, responsible for it.

It also underscores their problem:  they aren’t here to rescue hostages, so this is an incidental rescue.


Chapter 41, Slade 105

By letting Bob describe Joe adjusting his eye, I didn’t have to decide to what degree ultraviolet light would be useful in the fog.  I only suggested that it was possible.

I also got to play a bit with Joe’s naturalism:  Bob and Shella perform their SEP spell (“Somebody Else’s Problem” invisibility) and immediately they are unnoticed by the patrol, but Joe does not know why.

The “ghost” label was something of an abrupt inspiration when I brought the whites into the compound and needed a word that would be descriptive and potentially offensive for white people which was not used in our world.  I spent quite a while trying to find a way to “demonize” the blacks, and decided that “shade” was an excellent counterpart.  It is more than merely white ghosts and black shades.  “Ghost” suggests something insubstantial; “shade” is closer to something inhumanly evil or demonic.  It gave metaphoric substance to my races.


Chapter 42, Brown 116

One of the encounters in the scenario is that a small team is dispatched to hunt the intruder.  The problem I had here was determining how to make that known to the reader without breaking perspective.  Perspective is a type of a rule in literature which can best be described as who is telling whose story.  Throughout these novels I have maintained what is called an internal character perspective, each chapter told from the viewpoint of the principle character.  It shifts a bit over the course of the telling, sometimes approaching (but not reaching) first person, getting to the specific thoughts of the character, usually third person but still internal, focusing on what the character himself perceives and knows, and omitting anything he does not see or cannot know.  In effect, the reader travels with Derek, as Derek’s companion and confidante, knowing and seeing what Derek knows and sees.  I do that in part because it is more like the game, in that if you were playing Derek you would not know what Derek does not know.  It means, though, that I cannot tell you what Jim thinks or feels except as Derek perceives it, and I cannot tell you what is happening somewhere else in the building or beyond, unless I either break perspective or change perspective.  Breaking perspective is jarring for the reader, as if someone with the same voice suddenly interrupted the speaker.  Authors change perspective all the time, but it has to be done smoothly and the new perspective has to be maintained long enough to establish it before changing it again.  Dramatists and television writers are generally limited to external perspective–we know nothing of character thoughts and feelings but what they express for us to observe (although soliloquies and voice-overs were invented to provide a route to internal perspective).  Modern writers often use what is called “divine perspective”, allowing us to know what all characters see, think, and feel, and often what is hidden from them, but this has its own problems particularly with keeping it clear to the reader whose feelings and thoughts are presently described, and if you stay with one character long enough the reader is shocked by an abrupt change to another even if you thought you had established divine perspective.  All of this is to say that my solution here was to have Jim tell Derek that he heard on the enemy radio that they were dispatching a team, and thus I was able to inform the reader of a fact that could not otherwise have been mentioned without changing the perspective to one I never otherwise used in any of the novels (viewing events not within the knowledge of a central character).

The issue of whether the enemy could have identified which way Derek’s team was moving was never resolved, but it was more important to show that he was thinking about how to lead the team in ways most people wouldn’t.


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

#219: A 2017 Retrospective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.