Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Author Bio

An author bio (short for biography) is something every writer will need, regardless of whether he or she has been published or not. I suggest using two types: one used with query letters and another used in public areas, such as what would appear with a published story.

For query letters, your bio, in most cases, should only list your previous publications (if you have any) unless an editor specifically requests more information in their submission details. If you haven’t had any stories accepted for publication yet, I would avoid pointing that out; the editor will assume that, so there’s no reason to throw an enormous flag up to identify yourself as a complete amateur; you still want the query to appear professional. If you actually sold a story, be sure to use that keyword “sold” in your details. I highly doubt that all editors have heard of all paying magazines, so rather than leaving them to guess, note it as a sale. If you’ve attended a credible writers’ workshop, you might mention that as well. Keep this area brief, though, and try to emphasize your biggest accomplishments up front. Here are some examples: “I sold a short story that was published in Matt’s Cool Magazine.” “I sold three short stories that were published in Matt’s Cool Magazine, Matt Weekly and The MW Insider.” “I attended Matt’s Workshop last year. I sold one of the stories I wrote at the workshop to Matt Weekly, and it’s scheduled for publication later this year.”

When you need a bio to accompany a published piece, or if you’re creating a short bio for a website or blog, write about yourself in the third person. Yes, it feels quite strange to do this at first, but keep in mind that it should look like someone else is writing about you. (It’s not a writer’s autobio, after all.) One other note: whereas I think it’s important to emphasize the word “sold” for query letters, it looks pretty tacky as part of the public bio. For the public, mention your publications (or at least the ones you want people to be aware of) along with some personal information. You might include information about where you live, if you’re married, how many children you have, the kinds of pets you own, etc. I always like a bio that is a bit quirky, too, like the author is testing whether or not you’re actually reading it. Here’s an example for an author named Bob Author: “Bob Author lives in Seattle, Washington, driving everything from forklifts to steamships. His stories have appeared in Matt Weekly and The MW Insider. To find out more about Bob, check out his website:”

Do you have a bio yet? If not, what are you waiting for?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Elora's New Room

With the new baby coming later this year, my wife and I decided to move Elora into a new room. The theme: butterflies.

We managed to complete most of the work this past Saturday with a lot of help from Bess’ parents. Now my daughter has an actual bed to sleep on rather than a crib, although it’s still a very small bed. Since nothing seems to dim Elora’s mood except for teething, she was naturally excited about the change. If she could elaborate clearly about it, I think she would say, “Nursery, shmursery; this new room rocks!”

Still, it was a bittersweet dad moment for me. I’m glad to see my daughter growing up, but it’s hard to realize she’s no longer a baby. It’s probably only a matter of time before the butterflies are replaced by the next age-appropriate theme, and one day that room will be empty. Bess and I were married for years before we had kids, and even though I’ve only been a dad for around eighteen months, it’s like it’s all I’ve known. I hope the butterflies stay around for a long time.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue #20

It’s hard to believe that Beneath Ceaseless Skies has been around for twenty issues already. It’s impressive to see a new magazine that can maintain great, consistent content for so long. I wish them the best for the next twenty issues.

“The Land of Empty Shells” by Caroline M. Yoachim – Terra and Dziko form children from their own clay bodies, following the traditions of their people. Their daughter, Urvara, is chosen for service in the temple, which greatly upsets their son, Joren, who felt that he should be the one selected from their family. The events that follow break Urvara’s faith in the priestess and disturb the natural course of life for her family.

It took me some time to adjust to the people in this story due to their cultural and physical differences, but I’m glad I stayed the course. The combination of lore and a detailed account made the story intriguing and engaging.

“The Bone House” by James Lecky – Mikulas and his father live in isolation as fugitives from a long-lasting war. His father was a great mage, but the cost of exercising his talents left him poisoned, which eventually killed Mikulas’ mother, and it deformed Mikulas into a being of flesh and stone. Each day, Mikulas pulls some of the dead from the river, stripping these casualties of war of their valuables and carving their bones into various items. He rescues a young woman floating among the dead because she reminds him of his mother, but he soon discovers that the two aren’t that similar at all.

This story was original and drew me in very quickly. All of the characters seemed very distinct, and I loved the ending. This is the second tale by Lecky I’ve come across this month (the other was published in Heroic Fantasy Quarterly), and both were impressive. I’m not sure where his stories might be found next, but I think he’s an author to look for.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Personal Rejection Letters

When I first began submitting stories more than ten years ago, I was quickly introduced to the type of form letter used by most magazines and agents who weren’t interested in my works. Form letters in general were nothing new to me, but I was foolish enough to believe that such things weren’t used in the publishing industry.

Within a year, I became bitter at the form letters. Why was this piece rejected? What didn’t the editors like? A series of such questions went through my mind, and the question I most wanted answered was: what, if anything, can I change in this story so that it is accepted by another publisher? Without any feedback, I felt lost and completely uncertain of my writing skills (or lack thereof).

When I finally began to receive personal rejection letters on occasion, I felt like my questions were answered. I would change what I could with the feedback provided in hopes of making the story better. Unfortunately, I didn’t understand that each editor has his or her own viewpoint. They aren’t all hanging out in the same club waiting for a new revision to satisfy a common desire in storytelling.

I’m now at a point that I prefer form rejection letters. I’ve realized that magazines need to stay focused on their core business, which is publishing stories. Commenting on rejected stories doesn’t make any money. As writers, we need magazines to stay in business and keep up with their deadlines, and I would rather receive a form rejection that came from an editor reading two paragraphs of my story if it meant that the magazine remains profitable and on schedule. Even if I look at it with a purely selfish motivation, what good would it do to have a story accepted at a magazine that has to close because it can’t meet its own business needs?

As writers, if we want feedback on our stories, we need to seek other writers, critique groups or seminars. It isn’t the responsibility of editors to make us better writers. They need to focus on the works they have accepted and on the other priorities necessary in meeting deadlines and growing subscriptions.

Form letters are a good thing. All we need to know is that a story was not accepted. Put a fresh manuscript in an envelope and send it to the next place. Trust me, the time I spent in years past grumbling and complaining was wasted. It’s fun to get a personal note at times, but don’t use it to guide your entire writing career.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Heroic Fantasy Quarterly

A new online fantasy magazine has made a strong appearance, deubuting earlier this month. Heroic Fantasy Quarterly publishes short works (poetry and stories) of heroic fantasy and strives "to hearken an older age of storytelling - an age when a story well told enthralled audiences." The premier issue was an impressive one, and I highly recommed checking them out. I will bestow the small honor of adding their link to this blog site.

"The Black Flowers of Sevan" by James Lecky - Tulun serves the Melik in Sevan as a mercenary, captaining soldiers in various skirmishes as he attempts to bring peace to the Ten Kingdoms. When Tulun hustles one of his soldiers, Abbas Bedvian, out of a considerable amount of gold, Abbas asks for a final wager as a double-or-nothing. The stakes are that Tulun must bring Abbas black poppy from around the neck of Lady Shimshal, who is the Melik's woman. It is a risky proposal, and as Tulun considers the beautiful and secretive lady, he finds himself more interested in her than in the wager itself.

This was an intriguing tale of passion. Though somewhat predictable, the characters and well-written prose carried the story along quite well. Everything came together nicely for the ending.

"Man of Moldania" by Richard Marsden - The last dragon slayer, Golorus von Zekwit, follows rumors into the east in hopes of finding employment. The aged man enters the small town of Moldania, boasting of his experience with slaying dragons and offering to solve their problem with a local dragon for a certain fee. Dimitru, the town's leader, has his doubts, but he's willing to let Golorus try so long as he can accompany him. When the two men find the dragon's lair, Golorus finds that his previous experience cannot compensate for the beast he encounters.

It isn't often that I come across original dragon slaying tales, but this is a good one. I liked the limitations an older dragon slayer and felt his surprise at the dragon he attempts to slay. Humorous at times with ample tension, Marsden shares a fun story.

"Beyond the Lizard Gate" by Alex Marshall - After watching his father slain at the hands of his older brother, Agenor, Prince Inarus has sought revenge for the past eleven years, draining all of the resources of his kingdom to the point of poverty. With the final battle won, his sister begs him not to pursue Agenor further, but the hatred Inarus feels for his brother overrides his reason. Unable to dissuade him, his sister joins the other forty soldiers who follow Inarus into a valley for a final confrontation with Agenor.

This was my favorite story of the issue. Great tension, flow and angst. Highly entertaining.