Author bio by Brian D Howard: In my day job, I process paperwork at a cubicle in Corporate America. By night I make up stories I hope people like enough to buy. I’m driven by “what if” questions, and often those lead to story or book ideas.
I’ve lived in a motorhome traveling the country, and oh, there are some stories I could tell. I was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and I’m happily living in Denver, CO now, with no intention of moving anywhere else.
Book title: RiftWorlds Online: Book 1 - Space Opera Insertion
Genre: LitRPG/Space Opera
Synopsis: Gamer Rick Danberg has been in prison for real-world currency manipulation in a previous game. A Secret Service agent takes him to an undisclosed location where the US president explains the problem: Millions of people are trapped a game. They can’t log out, and if they die in game they die in real life. The president’s daughter is trapped inside.
With all the cards stacked against him, he’ll have to create a new him/avatar and learn the game. Obstacles and enemies will stand in his way while he tracks her down. And then they’ll have to escape. Somehow.
Publish date: October, 2018
Space Opera Insertion
In 2028 RiftWorlds Online is the most popular virtual reality MMORPG game ever. A week after its release, millions are playing in a game that spans seven unique universes. But now people can't log out. And when they die in the game, they die in real life.
In prison for manipulating real-world currency through VR-MMORPGs, gamer Rick Danberg just wants to serve out his sentence in peace. But the President's daughter is trapped in the game. Secret Service agents drag Rick before the President who offers him a deal: a full pardon for finding her and keeping her alive until people on the outside get RiftWorlds back under control.
That will be much harder than he is prepared for.
Author Interview with Brian D Howard:
Kasper: Hi Brian, welcome to our Fantasy & Sci-Fi levitating lounge. Are you ready to take off and meet some readers?
Brian: Hi Kasper, great to be here. Yes, this will be fun. Let's go.
What made you choose this genre?
I was in a writing/critiquing group with James A Hunter, and we beta read the first book to his Viridian Gate Online litRPG series. That was my introduction to the genre. He got me thinking about it, but I didn’t want to be just another throwing my hat in, I wanted a solid premise. When it came to me I jumped on it.
Awesome. It sounds like a great concept, and so relate-able with today's gamers.
What’s the story behind your book title?
Many LitRPG titles are [Something] Online. Since the setting of mine is an MMORPG where characters can jump through rifts/portals to other game settings RiftWorlds fit well.
What’s the basic plot of your series?
RiftWorlds Online is a multi-genre online roleplaying game. Rather than using VR equipment, the hat worn by players reads their minds and everything happens through a brain-machine interface. Something goes wrong and nobody can log out, and death in the game is death in real life. Our main character is sent in to rescue the president’s daughter and protect her until the game is fixed.
Each book takes place in one of the game’s seven Worlds (Space Opera, Fantasy, Western, Steampunk, Post Apocalypse, Cyberpunk, and Superhero). Each world has a central plot arc that gets resolved in that book. Along the way they’ll uncover more of the overall series plot and the horrific implications it will have if they can't stop it.
I totally love this concept and can't wait to play, oops, I mean read it myself. I may never come back either ;)
Speaking of which, have you looked into creating the game from your series?
I haven't yet. I'd be happy to do so.
I have been developing a tool people could use to create their character's stats and description. Ideally, it would let them send me the results and some of them would get included in the books. I started setting up on Google Sheets, but there are some parts that won't work right (button's don't stay anchored into place and sometimes move.) Porting it into Excel involves a lot of rebuilding. If someone could build some kind of software app to do it that would be awesome.
That would be so exciting! You heard it here first, readers. Contact Brian if you know any game design companies or techie folks who'd be interested.
Which scene from your book do you like best and why?
There’s a character death in RiftWorlds Online 2 that made me cry to write. It felt like a perfect tribute to that character, and I think that makes the scene especially poignant.
Which is your favourite character and why?
A starship captain from a series I’m probably five years or more away from writing. I’ve spent years gathering notes for it, though. Some 200 years in the future he’s a marine commander forced to lead a expedition of exploration and diplomacy. He doesn’t want the job but can’t back away from it. I think he really explores the idea of the reluctant hero and will be a fun exploration of duty and honor. How do we approach the things we do out of obligation, and what does that say about who we are?
My second book, Rectifier – The Electric Man, is about a homeless man abducted as expendable and experimented on. Halfway through writing it I spent almost two weeks at the periphery of homelessness. I never had to sleep outside, but I had all my possessions with me (in two large bags I tied to my bicycle) and barely ate. Most of the supporting characters in the book are inspired by people I met those two weeks. Except for being abducted for secret experiments, everything that happens to the homeless character in that book happened to real, living people in Denver. Last year I made the decision that as long as it sells I’ll donate half that book’s profits to charities supporting the homeless or helping people avoid homelessness.
Oh wow, that is some intense research. I love that you want to give back to the people who inspired you.
Do you have another job outside of writing?
I have an office desk job until I don’t need it anymore.
What music do you listen to when writing?
Mostly genre-related soundtracks. Sometimes I’ll find ambient noise tracks. As an example, writing a tavern scene with the murmur of conversations, the clanking of mugs, something minstrel-like in the background, really helps get me in the headspace to make that scene come alive.
Writing in a pub does have a certain appeal.
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing editing book two for RiftWorlds Online. The next one takes place in the game’s Old West world. I’ve been reading and watching a lot of them and putting together a playlist for it. That one will be an interesting challenge, but I’m looking forward to it.
Sounds fun. Saddle up, partner.
What do you do when you have writers’ block?
I can’t remember ever having that problem. I think some of that is from the outlining I do. It’s structured enough I know what each scene needs to accomplish and the major events in it. Getting the character through the scene usually isn’t an issue. Time and energy, those are the issues.
How did you go about developing your cover artwork?
I have a cover artist/designer. I come up with the general idea, and she does the magic of making it happen.
For Rectifier I had the character description. It’s a book that happens on side streets and back alleys, contrasting the new construction around a crashed space ship. Some of the ship wreckage is visible in the background. I like the way she has the foreground dark and the background captures the right gritty feel. This is not a feel-good four-color comic. It’s gritty and dark and it might make you confront some uncomfortable ideas.
The RiftWorlds covers have the same basic process. We talked about the character and what he looked like, and themes for the covers. I wanted it to feel like the kind of cover you might see for a game expansion. Given the breadth of the series I needed series banding elements which could fit Space and Fantasy as well as Westerns and Superheroes.
Writing, hands down. The main goal is getting to where I don’t need to give time to a “day job” to support it.
Are there any writing styles or genres you dislike?
I usually can’t stand present-tense writing. I think there was one I liked, but I can’t recall which. It doesn’t sound like storytelling to me.
I know the feeling, but some really good authors are using it these days.
Favourite thing to cook: Bananas Foster Crepes
Most played song: I create a play list for each genre and one or two for each character. Sometimes it’s the character’s soundtrack, others it’s the music they’d listen to.
With writing, are you a plotter or (seat-of-your) pantser? Definitely plotter. It helps me make sure I have a solid path from start to the end. It helps me keep track of which elements needed to be foreshadowed when. It helps me make sure every scene has a purpose and they’re in the right order. Plotting has done a lot to decrease the amount of editing I need to do.
Do you prefer to read SciFi or fantasy: I grew up on classic fantasy, and I loved those. Now and then I can get into a really good one. But Sci-Fi is what I always come back to. Sci-fi can speak to what we’re like as a society. It can warn us about possible futures, or it can show us what we can be.
Best superpower: A lot of people go for telepathy or mind control. I have too many ethical issues with that. I enjoyed exploring what telekinesis can do in my first book, Simon Rising. But if I could have one I’d go with teleportation.
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Brian. It has been a lot of fun learning how passionate you are about your craft. Readers, please check out Brian's links below.
Briand D Howard's Links (click to follow)