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Messages - boydm

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Long holiday weekend sounds great for starting another of your books, but I think my housework will suffer.

My housework always suffers on a nice holiday weekend.  :)

BTW, I got a nice mention in Joe Konrath's blog yesterday:

The assignment for this coming Friday, May 29, is to read Chapters 36-47. In this section, we start to get to some revelations about what is really going on with Garrett's plan, as well as a few more twists and turns, and we meet a character important to Locke. After you've read this section, you might want to check out the links below.

What are your thoughts about Garrett's plan? I've had a few editors say they thought the villain's plot was too unbelievable. As my response to that, I have to say they've never heard of this group:

Here's more about the MOP, developed by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, which is obviously a real entity:

And for those who want to know about prions and their deadly effect:

Here's a nice overhead map of Orcas Island: If you look closely on the main map, you can see Massacre Bay (great name, especially for a thriller story) at the north end of West Sound. I thought about putting Garrett's lair on Skull Island (a real island in Massacre Bay), but I thought that was getting a little too close to Dr. Evil territory.

Oh, but he does gallant gentleman so well, too (Sense and Sensibility).

Love The Ark, would be happy to see a film.  Is that in the works?

Unfortunately, a movie is not in the offing right now. I'd have to be published by a traditional publishing house first. Plus, given all the huge action sequences and set pieces, it would probably cost $200 million to make. If they cast people like Brad Pitt and Alan Rickman, the price will go even higher. :) But it's fun to think about!

Loving The Palmyra Impact!  I was late for work this morning because I got so engrossed in it.

And I just read that these are all e-books only?? Not published yet???  Can't believe that!

Thanks, Danielle! This would be a good weekend to read The Palmyra Impact since it takes place on Memorial Day (which was another title I was considering for the book). It would be doubly fun if you were in Honolulu!

I suppose I'll have to go for Keira Knightly to play Dilara.  Brad Pitt for Garrett.  I'll have to think about the others.

Boyd, I'm sorry I took so long to get around to The Ark.  I thought it was more of a thriller/horror kind of thing.  I see it as action/adventure, more in the Wilbur Smith genre.  I do read Wilbur Smith.  I have to say that I'm really enjoying the book.  Wonderful premise.

No worries! I'm glad you're enjoying it. I love rip-roaring action adventures featuring intrepid heroes like Indiana Jones and Dirk Pitt, so that's what I was going for with The Ark and Tyler Locke.

I have some ideas about the casting, but I'll hold off because I want to hear what others think first.

OK, this is a question I get asked a lot: Who would you cast in the movie version of The Ark? I've gotten many different suggestions, so I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Let's limit it to the main characters: Tyler Locke, Dilara Kenner (nee Arvadi), Grant Westfield, and Sebastian Garrett.

I haven't read it, but One Second After by William Forstchen has been getting great reviews on Amazon. It's the story about what happens after an electromagnetic pulse destroys all the electronics in the US.

For some reason, Link Maker can't find it, so here's the link:
--image link added.  Betsy

Quite frankly, I am amazed that the publisher did not think the book worthy of publishing. It was one of my favorite reads since, um, pretty much ever. I would have enjoyed it just as much had it been as pricey as any other book I've purchased. I think the publisher is an idiot. I read a lot of this type of genre and thoroughly enjoyed The Ark, as I've said before. It's far better than many books I've read that HAVE been traditionally published. If you ask me, you need to look at different publishers though I'm sure you shopped it around. I am being very honest here. I'm not trying to stroke your ego. I am truly shocked that they turned this book down. It was well written and completely enthralled me.

This just goes to show where the flaws are in businesses like publishing and music. All the wonderful talent that does not make it to us just because of a set idea of what will sell. ::sigh::


Thanks, EllenR. I'm happy you enjoyed it so much.

Those are quotes from seven different publishers, and from other publishers I just received a generic "no thanks". But thankfully, new platforms like the Kindle are allowing writers like me to connect with readers like you. Perhaps some success on the Kindle will change their minds. If not, I have another book coming, and maybe that will be the one.

Honestly, it drove me nuts that you called him Locke thru the whole book. :) I really wanted him to "just" be Tyler.

Perhaps if there is ever a print version, I'll make that change. And I'll definitely keep it in mind if there is another Tyler Locke adventure. Did you find it distracting that Dan Brown refers to Robert Langdon as Langdon in his books?

No worries on the short comments!

I'm not sure if you thought comparing me to Dan Brown was a good thing or bad thing or just distracting. In any case, I certainly don't mind the comparison, although I think Tyler is more of an adventurer than Robert Langdon is. But if The Ark had 81 million readers like The Davinci Code did, I wouldn't mind that either!  ;)

Since I hope eventually to become a published novelist, your feedback is very important to helping me get there. So I'd like to give you a list of actual reasons that publishers rejected The Ark, and feel free to agree or disagree with their rationales.

1. Nothing really sets it apart from other novels in this genre.
2. Not enough dazzling scientific and technical details.
3. Too derivative and predictable.
4. Protagonist not sympathetic enough.
5. Not fresh enough.
6. Too much action.
7. Villain's motive too unbelievable.

What do you think? Are they onto something? If you agree with one of the reasons, why? And would it be enough to keep you from purchasing the book, recommending it to someone else, or buying the next in the series? Would your feelings change if you had purchased the book at regular hardback or paperback prices?

The assignment this week is Chapters 24-35. Since we're reaching about the halfway point at the end of this section, I guess the overarching question is, how do you feel about the progression of events at this point? Are there any questions about the technology or character motivations that you have?

Remember, please no spoilers about anything after Chapter 35.

I give the novel 3 stars based on the following system:
1 star – very little to recommend;
2 stars – doesn’t quite measure up to the genre standard – has some good parts, but also has serious flaws;
3 stars – a solid work of genre fiction that will appeal to most fans of the genre;
4 stars – a superlative work of genre fiction;
5 stars – the work transcends the genre, usually aspiring to become a classic.

Hi Vonda,

Thanks for reading The Ark and for your extensive and insightful remarks! I'm glad you enjoyed it. That's an interesting rating system. I've never seen it before. It seems like your three-star review would translate to a typical four-star review on Amazon. I'm generally wary of books on Amazon that have an average rating below four stars. But your system certainly makes sense.

The story could have been made even better if the character of Dilara were fleshed out a little more - I wanted to know who she was before the events in this story and I would like to see how these events change her. I did like that she chose to change her name back to Arvadi at the end – this was a nice personal touch - her Turkish heritage makes her unique as a heroine - it was nice to see her embrace this a little more.

Character development is my biggest weakness as a writer, and I'm well-aware of that. My books tend to be plot driven, and sometimes I forget that my readers don't know as much about the characters as I do. Also, when weighing pace vs. description (character, setting, or otherwise), I usually err on the side of pace if I feel that I can't integrate more description in without having the story bog down.

One issue with Dilara is that she becomes carry-on baggage in the middle of the story. She has her role in kicking off the story, then Locke takes over and Dilara seems to be dragged along for a while. It isn’t until the Genesis Dawn that Dilara regains a place of her own.

Yes, the middle section definitely is more focused on Locke. He's driving the story at that point, which made sense to me. But as you noticed, Dilara is no shrinking violet. She gets into the action and saves Locke's bacon several times, even in the middle (like on the monorail).

In addition to Dilara, I also would have enjoyed learning a little more about what makes Garrett tick. We get narrative from his viewpoint, so it would certainly have been possible to delve deeper into his motivations. Here you have a rich, powerful, evil genius, plotting to destroy mankind in order to start what he believes will be a new, improved civilization. How awesome is that? But - What happened to HIM to bring him to that point? I know what has happened in the world to make him feel this way, but I want a more intimate connection. There is great potential for a story to evolve here. Garrett came off as just the bad guy – but he could have easily evolved into the villain I love to hate. Along the same lines, I would have liked to understand his followers better as well. We do get a back story on one, but although it provided an explanation, I did not really feel it on an emotional level. As a result, I wasn't too concerned about the 300 followers holed up on Oasis.

That's a good point. You never really find out why Garrett is so obsessed with saving the world in his own twisted way. I'm of two minds about revealing the villain's backstory. On the one hand, it can make him more credible and understandable. On the other hand, he's mysterious, and sometimes people are just crazy. It's the old nature vs. nurture argument. Was there some family history that can explain his behavior, or is he simply insane? For example, in Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter's background was never really touched upon, yet he is one of the greatest villains of all time. Now, I'm in no way saying my book is anywhere as good as Thomas Harris', but it's interesting that he could create such an enduring villain without that information. In fact, when he tried to explain the roots of Hannibal's evil in subsequent novels, the rationale for his behavior was both prosaic (his parents were killed by Nazis) and puzzling (his sister was cannibalized, so he also became a cannibal?). In my mind, the explanation demystified him and made him somewhat pathetic. Still scary, though.

A bit more character-driven decision making would also have helped to flesh out the characters without detracting from the action. It seemed the characters always react in a logical manner. Sometimes it is more interesting when their personal baggage influences the decisions they make. We get just a glimpse of this kind of decision making with Locke regarding his father, but I would like to see character play a more pivotal role in the direction of the story.

As I said before, character is something I'm trying to improve on as I go, but it's not my strength. My agent has helped me a lot with this, and I feel I'm making progress.

None of these critiques detract from the book - they are just things that in my view would have made it even better. I am surprised this book was not picked up by a publisher, because this is clearly superior to some stuff I have read that has been published and I really enjoyed the story.

I'm sure some of the things you've discussed could have dissuaded publishers, but then again, I would think a good editor could help me strengthen my work.

BTW – I had a hard time disassociating the name Locke with the very different character of John Locke on Lost. Normally, such connections don’t bother me, but the connection between the name Locke and the Lost character was just too strong for me to get past. Not sure if that is just me or if it bothered anyone else.

I'm also a huge Lost fan, and this was something I struggled with (although Lost's John Locke was not a phenomenon when I first wrote The Ark, he is now and you're not the first to mention this issue). For my main characters, I prefer names that are short, meaningful, and have some oomph. I once read that Gene Roddenberry chose names with hard K sounds because they are impactful (think of Kirk--two K's!--Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Chekov, Picard, Riker, Sisko, Kathryn Janeway). I thought he was onto something, so I also try to work the K in. Of course, I also wanted to imply Tyler Locke's engineering prowess, so Tyler comes from "tile maker"--a craftsman--and Locke was the best representation of his mechanical side that I could find. I chose to refer to him as Locke instead of Tyler just because I liked the sound of it better. I will say it's hard to come up with names that are unique but don't sound ridiculous. In fact, John Locke is the name of a 17th-century English philosopher, and I don't think of Tom Sawyer when people on the show call Josh Holloway's character Sawyer. Of course, the Lost writers chose most of the names on the show because of their literary or historical references, not in spite of them.

If I write another Tyler Locke book, perhaps I'll call him Tyler instead of Locke. Any votes on that?

Thanks, Geoff. No wonder I couldn't find it.

Thanks for doing that, Geoff!

Now how can I add the Kindle Owner leaderboard? I can't find it anywhere.

Does the monorail not work often?

The monorail has a reputation for breaking down or catching fire, sometimes both. Nobody has been hurt, but in the past few years, it has caught fire twice, collided with the other monorail (which seems impossible, but it can happen at one of the stations), and gotten stuck between stations, where passengers had to be rescued by the fire department with ladders since there is no emergency escape system. However, to my knowledge there's never been any gunplay inside the monorail cars, except in certain authors' imaginations.  ;)

I have to say, I enjoyed the monorail 'chase' and the creepy quasi-religious exchange on the elevator.  I'm wondering, though, if it would have been better for the bad guy to not let go?  He would have been crushed and harder to ID...although it seems like IDing him didn't help authorities at all, anyway.

Both demises are definitely dramatic, but I decided that Olsen would have let go to prevent Locke from pulling him inside at the last second for later questioning. As you pointed out, he knew his ID wouldn't have helped them.

I may have been reading a little to fast but I didn't grasp why they so quickly connected the plane crash with the assassination attempts. . . of course, as a reader,  we know they're connected even if we don't know how.  I like how the 'why' of the bad guys is being made clearer bit by bit.

Sam Watson mentioned Hayden to Dilara as he lay dying. When Locke hears about the crash of Hayden's plane under very unusual circumstances the same weekend, he doesn't think it could be a coincidence. Was there some way I could have made the link clearer? Is that too much of a leap of logic for Locke to make?

So on to the second week of the discussions. Thanks for your feedback so far. From this point on, it becomes hard to keep discussion questions spoiler-free. If anyone would like to post your thoughts about this section, please do. But if you haven't read this section yet, please don't peruse any further posts in this thread until you do. That way, we can discuss this part without giving away anything that happens after Chapter 23.

So now that we're done with the first week's assignment, what questions do you have for me about the book? Is there anything you want to know about the writing process or technology in this part of the book? Anything you'd like to know about the locations or characters? Any observations that we can get more specific on now that the week is up and we won't be spoiling anything?

I'd like to keep this rather free-form, so please bring up anything that comes to mind.

Remember, if you've already finished The Ark, please join us in the Spoilers Allowed thread.

Will get back to it today. . . .how far do we go for the next chunk?

Starting May 8, we'll be reading chapters 12-23 for the week ending May 15.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War is one of my favorite thrillers. I can't recommend it highly enough, and I'm not a zombie movie buff.

Let's Talk Kindle! / Re: Kindle DX
« on: May 06, 2009, 09:46:12 am »
When they make a color version, then it might be interesting to me for magazines. But for reading books, I'll stick with my more portable Kindle 2.

(My husband didn't like all the traitor ex-Rangers though LOL)

Good! They're supposed to be despicable. ;) However, I tried to balance that with the good guys having a similar background. The way I look at is, if no one in the Army was a bad guy, they wouldn't have military police. Traitors are the worst.

I had every intent of actually reading along each week with the Klub.  Ha!  The end of Chapter 11 was NOT a place I was able to quit reading!  So I kept reading until I finished.  Good book!  I will still keep up with the weekly discussions to see what others think and offer my thoughts as we go along.  Boyd, how did you come up with the name Hydronastic?  I presumed it was hydro-nastic (as opposed to hydron-astic) with the reference being to water; but, I don't think I found a reference to why Garrett chose that name.  I've done some looking for a breakdown of the word and keep coming up with Jack LaLane wearing "hydronastic" gloves for a swim to Alcatraz!

Thanks, crebel! The end of chapter 11 does have a big cliffhanger, but then I do try to build in some reason to keep reading at the end of each chapter.

Yes, Garrett chose the name "Hydronastic" because of his obsession with Noah's Ark and the Flood. He felt that water was a cleanser of the world's ills, so he wanted to incorporate "Hydro" into the name of his church (really a cult). Nastic movements are non-directional responses to stimuli like light, heat, and humidity. So Garrett came up with "Hydronastic" to represent a response to cleansing water, but it's also his in-joke about how his cult members respond to the artificial stimuli they get during their leveling sessions.

Hey Boyd, I read all 3 of your books and loved them. When are you publishing more stories?   Lynn

Thanks, Lynn and Merlin! I'm working on the first novel in a new thriller series right now, and I plan to finish it this summer. If I can find a publisher for it, it will take a while to get into print and on Kindle. After that one is done, I may go back and see what kind of trouble Tyler Locke is getting into.

Boyd, I have to admit that I like the published title better although Noah's Convenant makes perfect sense.

Great! Then we made the right decision.

I haven't started on your other books, though they are on my Kindle. Do you feature engineers often in your writing since that is what you know?

I wrote a blog post about why I wanted to feature an engineer in The Ark, but the genesis of featuring a heroic engineer came from a conversation I had with Douglas Preston and James Rollins at the first Thrillerfest conference. I was working on the idea for The Ark and mentioned that I had an engineering background (I have a PhD, so I suppose that also makes me a scientist). We noted that Doug's The Ice Limit featured an engineer, and Jim's Sigma Force books feature killer scientists, but we had never really seen a novel featuring a swashbuckling action hero who was an engineer. So I set about to correct that omission.

My other two books feature scientists as heroes. In The Adamas Blueprint, it's a chemist, and in The Palmyra Impact, it's a geophysicist. In each case, their profession is critical to the plot of the story. Unfortunately, these ideas didn't sell in the publishing biz, so the thriller I'm working on now has no scientists or engineers.

How did you write so clearly about the area where the discovery of the Ark takes place? Did you just do a lot of research or did you actually travel there?

I have done a lot of traveling in my life, but Turkey and Armenia are two places I've never had the pleasure to visit. Unfortunately, my writing budget doesn't cover research travel yet, so I relied on the Internet and travel guides for my info. I'm glad it translated to a believable sense of place.

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