Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Eric B. Ruark. He is the author of the Murder Beyond the Milky Way and many short stories.
Mystery, Science Fiction
Eric B. Ruark
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I love a good mystery... books... TV... movies... real-life... which is why when I sit down at my keyboard, I have the tendency to write mystery stories. I was born and raised in Waterbury, Connecticut, but even at an early age, my parents encouraged me to travel, and although I'm a New England Preppie, I've been to schools in France and Switzerland and was the guest of Jose Greco, the famed Flamenco artist in Spain... all before I was 18 years old.
In college, I majored in English and Drama. I rowed on the varsity crew. After college, I took up acting. In Japan, you would have seen me as Babe Ruth in their popular show THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF JAPANESE BASEBALL. (That should give you a good idea of what I look like. I was Off-Off Broadway in BACKSTAGE BITCHES which had a limited run at the Cabaret Duplex in New York City. I was also in one of the road shows of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
Over the years I've had a love/hate relationship with writing. I've published a romance, RIVER OF RAIN for MacFadden under a pen name, and a mystery, THE CAMPUS KILLINGS under my own name. Both books are now out of print in the United States, although I hear that KILLINGS has recently been translated into Italian, but I no longer own the rights to that book.
When I turned 40, I took up bicycling and cycled across the country and down to Key West, Florida where I won the Hemingway Storytelling Contest several years in a row in the early 90s.
Currently, my wife and I live on a sailboat at a marina just off the Chesapeake Bay.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
What do you have on the drawing board next? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Currently I’m working on the sequel to MURDER BEYOND THE MILKY WAY. The working title is DO ANDRIODS WEEP MAGNETIC TEARS. I’m about half way done and hope to have the whole book finished by December 2015.
Excerpt Chapter 1
Giorg MacGreggor stepped from his chauffeured anti-gravity shuttle on to the private landing pad reserved for only the highest ranking Directorate personnel. He looked to his right, took a deep breath and gazed out at a world that seemed composed of clear, blue sky. He felt in his element. He was so far above the ground that the edge of the landing pad was his horizon hiding all signs of the human habitation that encrusted the world beneath him.
To his right and to his left, the surface of the landing pad shimmered in the thin air of this altitude. It was made from the finest imported Transnational marble, mined on a moon beyond Sigma Cassiopeia and shipped to only the most discerning of buyers. MacGreggor’s shuttle did not sit directly on the highly polished stone but hovered a hair’s breath above it so as not to scratch the semi-precious surface. A red carpet extended from the exit line of the anti-gravity shuttle to the great doors in the building through which all the Primes entered.
Giorg MacGreggor could not remember the last time he had approached this building from the street level thousands of feet below him. He tried not to think about those days. They were part of his plebian past, part of his first life, part of his struggle to climb above his classmates to reach the lofty heights in the Directorate building where the very air he breathed was purified expressly to please him.
He stood on the carpet and faced the ornate doors where his staff awaited him. The doors had been salvaged from an ancient cathedral and had been placed in a museum before the A.I. wars. A century later, the Directorate purchased them for their top executives to walk through. The cathedral no longer existed. Neither did the artisans who spent their lives carving the doors. Giorg MacGreggor gave no thought to them. They were dead; therefore they did not matter. What mattered was how resplendent his staff looked standing in front of sumptuous, elaborate carvings.
His people wore the exclusive uniforms denoting employment by the 2nd Prime. Their gold buttons gleamed in the morning sun. Their blue blazers and white slacks were impeccably pressed. Their coats were wrinkle free and the creases on their pants were dagger sharp. Their belts, sashes and white gloves were immaculate. Giorg MacGreggor, 2nd Prime of one of the five great corporations that controlled virtually all of explored space, did not brook a speck of dirt on his employees’ hands.
MacGreggor smiled affably to his staff as he entered the building. They bowed respectfully to him as he passed and then assumed the required formation as they followed him through the doors. A small man, only 5’3”, MacGreggor insisted that they follow him in ascending order according to height. As they passed through the foyer of the great building, MacGreggor surreptitiously noted his appearance in one of the many floor to ceiling mirrors that gave the entrance an unearthly vastness. He like the fact that he looked closer to forty than 200 years old. His wealth and position had allowed him to purchase two Youth Treatments and it would be another two or three decades before he would need to purchase a third DNA enhancement. He liked the middle-aged look with a touch of gray at his temples to establish a subtle image of wisdom, expertise, and power.
To the Directorate, perception WAS power and Giorg MacGreggor knew that he must maintain the image of a short man who had clawed his way to the top. People were afraid of him and Giorg MacGreggor found that comforting.
MacGreggor led his entourage across the lobby with its great art and ancient statues. It was a display of wealth, culture, and history that was meant to awe even leading members of the four other Earth Prime corporations. MacGreggor lead the way into the executive elevator that took them to the pinnacle of the building. As the elevator rose, he felt his ears pop as he entered the atmospherically controlled domain of the Directorate Primes, a realm so far above the lesser mortals of the planet that it was impossible to breathe unless the Primes provided the air.
No one in the entourage spoke. MacGreggor would not allow it. There was a time and a place for business and the elevator was not it. This was a time for everyone to contemplate his or her position in the scope and scale of what needed to be accomplished during the course of the day.
First and foremost, they were the Directorate elite and administered hundreds of worlds and controlled the lives of billions of people. Failure at any level was not tolerated, especially by the 2nd Prime since any wrong doing would adversely reflect upon him. MacGreggor was totally unforgiving. They knew that anyone foolish enough to mar his image was soon be reacquainted with the street entrance of the great building with all its attendant dirt, smog and human grime.
The elevator stopped and the doors opened on the 2nd Prime’s suite of luxurious offices. Giorg MacGreggor stepped off and walked with purpose towards his administrative center. As he moved forward, each member of his staff peeled off to his or her respective place of business to begin the work day. By the time Giorg MacGreggor reached the anteroom to his private suite, he was alone. He liked it that way. It reminded him that despite all the fawning sycophants that frequently worked their way to positions behind the men of power, when all was said and done, only HE would be accountable for the decisions made in his name. The perception of power was all well and good, but Giorg MacGreggor knew that the reason he occupied the seat of the 2nd Prime was that he was willing to do what was necessary to get the job done regardless of the price it cost other people.
Genevieve Ranft was waiting for him. She was the only person he allowed to precede him to work. Giorg MacGreggor had absolute faith in her. She had been his assistant for seventy odd years. He knew that she knew his likes and his dislikes and she knew how to smooth those troubled waters that frequently came with his position in the Directorate. He could always count on her to insure that the beginning of his work day would be calm. Storms may develop as they frequently did, but he counted on Genevieve Ranft to make sure that his days always commenced from a position from which he could attack and defeat anything that came his way.
“Good morning, Genevieve,” he said.
“Good morning, sir,” she answered with her most reassuring smile. She stood behind her desk with her shoulders back and rotated slightly to minimize her already genetically narrowed waist.
Giorg MacGreggor may not have had an eye for classical beauty, but he knew exactly what he liked. He knew precisely what kind of woman he needed to front for him. Developed by long experience in his climb to the top, he knew that she needed to be as intimidating as he, but in a totally different manner, and after the unanticipated death of her husband, Genevieve Ranft had been more than willing to have herself genetically remade in the image of the woman that Giorg MacGreggor wanted.
Unlike the genetically normal women on Earth Prime with their ubiquitous brown hair, brown eyes and olive skin, MacGreggor had ordered the DNA manipulators to give Genevieve ash blond hair, violet eyes and pale white skin. He insisted that they increase her height to six feet with accompanying long legs and superb athletic figure. He clothed her in custom-tailored dress handmade of the finest imported silk to hug her designer body in the most becoming way. She was 97-years old, but looked 23. Her manners were exquisite with just the right hint of haughtiness as befitted someone in her position. She was meant to distract and confuse anyone approaching the 2nd Prime for a meeting. Was she merely his secretary or his mistress as well? Only the most elite courtesans entertained men rich enough to afford the Youth Treatments necessary to genetically alter the color of a person’s eyes, hair and skin. If she were his mistress, how did someone who looked like the 2nd Prime manage to secure someone who looked like her? If he was able to do that, what else what he able to do?
Perception was a weapon, and Genevieve Ranft knew her place, her job and how to handle the man that allowed her to live like few others on the planet could.
Giorg MacGreggor stopped and without turning said, “Sometime within the next hour, I expect Lydia Thompson to arrive. She will, of course, be late in order to establish her sense of importance. She will then demand to be announced immediately. You will wait for two minutes before doing so. After all, she is only the 3rd Prime and must be made to realize that despite her reputation, 2nd Primes do not jump at her every demand.”
“Of course, Mr. MacGreggor,” Genevieve Ranft said in a tone that signaled total acceptance of his orders.
MacGreggor passed on into his personal office, closing the door behind him. Compared to the rest of the building, the 2nd Prime’s office was Spartan. He wanted no works of art, great or otherwise, to distract him from his mission. He sat at his custom-made console and called up six holographic computer screens and arranged them in a semi-circle around the front of his desk. On one, he read the messages forwarded to him by Genevieve knowing that she had already read, presorted and placed them in their order of importance. He answered those that needed his private attention and tagged the ones that could be handled by other members of his staff and then assigned them to the proper people. On the other screens, he monitored the spreadsheets, flowcharts and graphs detailing the real-time production efficiency of the thousands of companies on the hundreds of terraformed worlds under his control…
You have a good following on twitter. Since you started before the social media buzz, what impact has social media relationships had on your current success? How did you build your following in your niche?
I went on twitter specifically to find like-minded people, people who enjoy mysteries and scifi stories. I began building my following by retweeting #Mystery and #SciFi tweets and by using my FaceBook contacts to find Goth and Noiresque photos that I could write hard-boiled little blurbs to. Basically, I tried to give a specific audience what they wanted.
Do you do any book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I have done book signings and speaking appearances but I have none scheduled at the moment. When I do, you can be sure that I will let all my FaceBook and Twitter followers know the when and where.
You have written several short stories. Can you tell us if they had an impact on the sales of your novels? Are shorty’s one of your styles of writing or are they created to give readers a sample of your work?
For the most part my short stories pre-date my novel writing. I basically wrote the short stories to have fun... to explore “what if” scenarios, like can a person be in two places at the same time? (The answer is yes, but only once a year.) The editors at ALFRED HITCHCOCK MYSTERY MAGAZINE have been the most receptive to my work. Recently, I collected my short stories and published eight of them in a volume called THE CARD SHARP and other stories of murder, mystery and mayhem. I now use that as a 99-cent tease to attract readers and lead them to my longer works.
What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process?
At the moment, I do not belong to any support groups. For a long time, I belonged to the Mystery Writers of America (when I was living in CT and could easily hop in and out of NYC.) Hob-nobbing with other authors, many of whom were bestselling ones, allowed me to glean a lot of trade news that helped me redirect my literary efforts.
Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, getting the book to your readers and the relationship with your readers and fans?
The simple answer is “Yes.” Publishers and by default agents are looking for “the next big thing”. I had to recognize that the kind of things I enjoyed writing did not fit into that category. So as my goal is to be a best-selling “mid-list” author, I recognized that I would basically have to act as my own publisher and offer my works exclusively as e-books or print-on-demand. It meant changing my initial business model and doing the research to find another.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
Everyone enjoys a free-bee. A lot of readers have picked up my free
promotions. I began the promotions hoping to generate reviews which would then generate sales. But... the problem that I’ve run into (as have several other authors in my circle) is that just because someone took a free book, doesn’t mean that they will read it in a timely manner nor does it mean that they will review it. Statistically, the pundits say that I can expect one-tenth of 1% to respond without some kind of reminder. So in conjunction with the give-aways, I’ve found that you have to follow up with reminders to both read and review the book.
Do you maintain a reader list? What are the methods you use to find your readers and create the list and the relationship? Do you use social media, forums, newsletters and/or support groups to build your list?
Not having a specific website for my books, I do not have a ‘reader list’. When I have things to say, I post them on FaceBook, Twitter or write a blog about it which I post on my blog site: https://ericruark.wordpress.com/ For example in the month of May 2015 people from the United States, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany Singapore, Canada, Spain and Portugal accessed my blogs.
You have a great blog. You do a great job keeping readers informed, marketing your books and providing interesting information. What is your primary goal?
My primary goal is to interest people in what I have to say, whether it’s a book review about Lance Armstrong or an experience I had in Spain with the actor George Hamilton (See my blog: Bird Watching with George Hamilton.) If they like those thing, then, maybe, that will translate into them wanting to take a look at the novels or short stories that I also write.
What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?
I do not trade reviews. I simply ask people who have read my works to review them. I take a chance since you can’t be everything to all people. Some people will like what I do. Some will not. All I ask is that if the reader doesn’t like something, please say what it is. Someone’s dislike may just be the next reader’s cup of tea.
Author's Book List
Murder Beyond the Milky Way
Sent on a mission to convince one of the prime directors of one of Earth Prime's 5 corporate entities to return home, Harry Salem arrives on Magnum-4, the most isolated planet in the galaxy, is kicked in the ass and then involved in solving the murder of the planet's most influential person.
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THE LITTLE TREE..... that would
A children's book that adults will love. Dropped into a crack in a rock as a seed by Mr. Squirrel, the little tree must learn to live with his uniqueness.
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The Card Sharp and other stories
- Murder, Mystery & Mayhem
Eight short stories featuring the 5-Star historical CARD SHARP and ANTEBELLUM both previously published by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.
1. THE CARD SHARP -- In 1854 a gambler/con-man takes a Mississippi riverboat from St. Louis to New Orleans. He plans to relieve as many people as possible of their hard earned gold. However the arrival of the Planter and his slave changes the gambler's plans.
2. ANTE BELLUM -- In 1863, Captain William Wallace is asked by his mentor General James Longstreet, CSA, to investigate the death of a soldier. That simple request leads Capt. Wallace on a journey across the South to find a killer who has more to lose than just his life.
3. BAD BIRD -- A version of this story has appeared in several regional parenting magazines in both the United States and Canada. The story was originally conceived as part of a noir trilogy featuring “Harry”. In Bad Bird, Harry develops the quality that will eventually doom his life.
4. BETE NOIR -- A middle aged Harry finds himself going through his midlife crisis at the local strip bar run by an outlaw biker gang. He befriends Turk, the gang leader and makes the mistake to really listen to what the man says.
5. THE MAN WHO READ HEMINGWAY -- Harry’s life spirals to it ultimate conclusion.
6. SMILES -- Even serial killers can fall in love. Herb loved to kill. He also loved Susan. They could have a perfect life together, if he didn’t kill it.
7. HIDE 'N SEEK -- Larry is an American Studies professor and Lara, his wife, is a cancer survivor. Sometimes they detect. Not because they want to, but because it appears to be the logical thing to do at the time.
8. QED -- The original Sheriff Tracy Hyers story appeared in the May 2013 issue of Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
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