Trying Out An Author Bio


So far, in my writing career, I haven’t added an author bio anywhere.  They used to be found mostly on one of the inside flaps of the dust jacket for your hardback books, which would make them a pretty low priority when you aren’t publishing any hardback books (especially none with dust jackets), but they do have other uses.  For example, they’re often included in the guest section of Convention websites and programs.  With two books (In Forgery Divided and The Merrimack Event) just waiting on edits and cover art (my cover artist, just a couple weeks ago, announced his engagement.  I don’t know whether\how this might effect my cover art, but I haven’t heard from him since), I’d been considering applying to a be a guest at some local conventions… which means it’s probably high time I come up with an author bio for myself.  The problem is I couldn’t think of anything interesting to put in it.

But then I saw this article, and thought “You know, I bet I could come up with something like this… but everything in it would be (sort of) true!” So… here’s my attempt (and the explanation below).


David A. Tatum was born in Ithaca, NY, the son of a fashion designer and a book-collecting librarian who later became a spy.  By the time he was four years old, he’d mastered how to spell the word “cat,” which made inevitable his decision to become an author.

Moving to Washington DC in order to keep his parents company, he started training in kenpo by the age of seven.  Sadly, after failing to achieve his blackbelt after twenty years of training, he gave up hopes of a career in martial arts and resumed his love of writing.

By the time he was in high school, he joined a national organization — later becoming a chapter president — with the goal of using it to identify a route into the center of the Earth.  Unfortunately, the Suffolk, Virginia caves he explored to find this route failed to provide this route.

When his father died he inherited a large library there was no space for in his home and a life-threatening dental condition.  He spent the next year and a half dealing with both.

When he found that a degree in history offered him no local job opportunities better than your average fast food joint, he decided on a career that typically earns even less money:  Professional writing.

Now he’s trying to juggle writing and publishing far too many series of books at once in a variety of genre, predominantly fantasy and science fiction.

Find his books at


I was, in fact, born in Ithaca, NY.  My father really was a book-collecting librarian and my mother really was really a fashion designer.  After he retired from a career as an Academic librarian at such institutions as Cornell University, George Mason University, Goddard Space Flight Center, and a few other locations, he went to work for the Central Intelligence Agency as… a librarian.  Imagine that.  Okay, probably an exaggeration to call him a spy, but that’s sort of the point of this, isn’t it?

We moved to DC when I was five… maybe six years old (I don’t remember exactly).  In the summer after I turned seven, I went to a four week kenpo summer school class.  I also signed up for tae kwon do in my high school years, and studied karate (as a college elective) and hiep tinh mon later on.  While I like to say I “studied martial arts off and on for twenty years,” I probably had about three years of serious study, and another several years of self-study, but it was spread across four schools and twenty years of time.

And no, I never got a black belt, and never seriously dreamed of a career in martial arts.  And if you saw me, today, you’d think the idea of me doing martial arts was laughable.

The “national organization” I joined was an Explorer Post.  I think they’re now called something else, which may include some changes in effect, but what they were then were young adult co-ed versions of the Boy Scouts (which, at least in my group’s case, were very un-Boy Scout; the movie nights, at the very least, were proof of that).  I served one term as President of my unit (Explorer Post 250).  During my time with the Explorer Post, I participated in several camping trips, half a dozen of which were also spelunking trips through some privately owned caves near Suffolk, Virginia.  Any effort to actually find a route to the center of the Earth went unvoiced.

When my father died, I did inherit a large library — some 15,000 books strong.  There was no way to keep the entire collection intact, so I spent several months paring it down into something more manageable.  A few boxes full, most of which were valuable small-press books from the post-impressionistic and early beatnik (from pre-Ginsburg to pre-Warhol) American literati scene, went to join previously donated books in the George Marvin Tatum Collection at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville (in the special collections department).  A few hundred were auctioned off.  The bulk of what we got rid of — maybe five to nine thousand books (depending on whose estimate you believe) — were sold to a bookstore.

For those of you who may wind up having to get rid of a library full of books in the future, I’ll note that we earned far more from the tax benefits of the small donation than we earned from the few hundred books we sold in auction, and far more in the auctioned books than we did from the large bookstore purchase.  I’d also say, pricing them based on online retail prices at the time, we earned a larger percentage of value in the same order — almost 100% of the value from the donations, about 75% of the value from the auction, and maybe 0.3% from the bulk sale to the bookstore.  If I’d had a few more months to dispose of the collection, I probably could have done much, much better.

As far as the life-threatening dental condition is concerned, that may sound like a joke, but it wasn’t exaggerated at all.  While suffering from the flu one day, I suffered a dizzy spell and collapsed to the tile floor in my bathroom.  I don’t really remember how it happened, exactly, but I bashed my jaw in the process and broke several teeth.  Before I could see a dentist to get any work done, my entire lower jaw (and most of the upper jaw) became infected.  Treatment (which involved three bridges, caps on all my teeth, six tooth extractions — three of which were wisdom teeth — and two dozen root canals) left me ill for most of a year (did I mention that novocaine — or whatever painkiller the dentist favored — left me ill for days afterwards?).  The dentist told me that the reason my teeth were so vulnerable was a congenital (inherited) defect in the enamel of my teeth — a flaw my father and grandfather both were known to suffer from (and one which may have contributed to their deaths, if the link between poor dental health and heart disease is accurate).

It should be noted that, according to many surveys (including such authorities as the Author’s Guild), the average author earns far less annually than a full-time minimum wage job.  These surveys aren’t exactly trustworthy, however.  Either they focus primarily on part-time writers who may traditionally publish only one book every other year, or they are self-selecting by people in only one segment of the market (such as “High Literature” or “Poetry”), or they include ALL authors (including those who don’t actually publish anything), or they are self-selecting among a community that is atypical, or — as with the Authors Guild survey, they are all-of-the-above.

While I had been scribbling stories and the like for years — mostly fanfiction — it was only after recovering from my “life-threatening dental condition” that I started seriously pursuing a career as an author.  And while it took quite a while after that before my first book was launched, I don’t regret my decision one bit.  The only thing I do regret was not moving to self-publishing sooner; I spent far too many years in slush piles waiting for answers that never came.  As a consequence of waiting so long to get published, I wound up starting too many series; rather than work on sequels to the books under submission, I decided I would start something new.  I wrote quite a few things, not all of which is publishable.

What I did, eventually, decide was worth keeping were the first books of three series:  In Treachery Forged (Book I of The Law of Swords; Book 2 will be out soonish), The Kitsune Stratagem (published but, due to sales, I’ll probably hold off on the sequels for a bit), and The Merrimack Event (Book I of the Shieldclads series; sales figures will determine how quickly I get around to sequels).   I know a lot of authors who would say three series were too many to juggle at once.


This is just a draft; I may include some things more or cut some things out.  Let me know what you think, because there’s still plenty of time to change things.