Monday, April 26, 2010

Publishing Drama-Rama

If you've been as confused or as busy as I have lately, and unable to follow the recent drama regarding the big six publishing houses and Amazon in all its gory detail, here's a good wrap up.

A worthy read, and I think, a sign of things to come...

Publish or Perish
Can the iPad topple the Kindle, and save the book business?
by Ken Auletta

Saturday, April 24, 2010

The absolutely, wonderful, fantastical, life-saving Duotrope Digest

You'd be surprised at how many novelists find the time to turn out a short story or two.

Maybe you wouldn't.

I'm surprised. The Battered Suitcase receives a great deal of short stories and poetry by writers who have already turned out and published glowing, full-length novels. Between day jobs and kids and writing and publishing, I rarely find the brain space to create a short. And even when the ideas are flowing, there's rarely enough time to put them to paper. Throughout my teens and 20's, short stories were how I expressed myself, how I talked to myself, how I revealed my inner workings to the world. The world wasn't particularly interested, and thereafter I turned my composition skills to non-fiction: technical writing, journalism -- even ghost wrote a few books for an alternative health researcher. Interesting stuff, but not emotionally satisfying.

Short stories were my first literary love, and that's never faded. Maybe it's because I have the attention span of a dazed hedgehog, or maybe because I love the compactness of them, the brevity of a short clip from a life that can say so much with so little. My first and standing poetry love is the haiku, particularly those of Kobayahsi Issa; the Geoffrey Chaucer of Japan. It seems reasonable that my taste would follow into fiction.

A few years ago, when I decided I was strong and brave enough to face the fiction market again, my friend, Nathalie Boisard-Beudin turned me on to Duotrope Digest. Now Nathalie is a prolific writer, and her work reminds me of nothing more than drinking bubblegum absinthe, so free and sweet and head-lightening and dizzy, always dancing on the outskirts of what's expected. I'll never have her easy relationship with words and ideas, my brow furrows and sweats with every sentence, but Nathalie's are delivered with easy-breezy aplomb and trip from her pen like ... she's been drinking bubblegum absinthe.

Duotrope Digest is probably the singularly most useful website for short fiction writers online. There are plenty of websites that will give you listings of agents and editors for full-length novels, but Duotrope will help you find a home for your flash, your short and your novellas as well.

Personally, I love the short story and the novella. Maybe it's because I grew up in the MTV age, maybe it's because of the day job and the kids and all the other attention and energy zapping distractions of modern life.

If you're a reader, Duotrope Digest will also help you find online (and free) sources of great writing that will suit your own particular tastes.

Highly recommend you check it out. Try not to get sucked in to browsing all of the great sources only to be disgorged ten hours later when the light fails and the stomach begins to complain. That always happens to me.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why We Write

Everything I've ever needed to know about the creation of art, or at least everything I've felt I've ever needed to know, I learned from Tom Robbins. Imagine something that you would like to see in the world that doesn't already exist and then create it. It's that simple.

When we set out to open up Vagabondage Press, there was something that we wanted to see in the world. We wanted to see a writer-friendly publication that focused on the stories that happen inside our heads. We wanted to explore, document and celebrate the small changes that happen inside characters, inside people made real through craft, that turned their lives around. The creation of this has been, I must say, its own reward. 

But there's more to it than that. Having an audience that sees your creation and recognizes its worth, understands its intention and is moved through experiencing it... well, that's worth more than gold. We've gotten some great feedback from writers and readers both, and it never fails to put a spring in our step, make us try a bit harder, make us more mindful of what we're creating. It takes the sting out of not getting paid, because money simply can't do that.

I recently finished a novel of my own and sent it out for beta reading -- anonymously. I write under a pen name so my editing and publishing work isn't confused with my writing. Yes, I'm that insecure. I know good writing when I see it - unless it's mine.

(And yes, we do get a lot of great writing that we can't accept. I wish we could.)

I got back a glowing review. This piece, that I'd sweated over. This piece that I can't seem to write a selling query on. This piece that I'd buried on my hard drive and pretended didn't exist anymore. My beta loved it. He loved the characters. He read some parts of it twice.

I created something of worth, and somebody else understood its message and intention and was moved by reading it. I can't ask for more than that. Although it would nice to sell it, I'm happier that it was enjoyed and loved than I would have been if it had been 'monetized'.

I'd like to be able to do both. I'd like to see a lot more debut writers turn real emotional worth into a living -- rather than turn art into a commodity. It's something I've imagined.

What have you imagined that you'd like to see in the world?

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Although the entire landscape of publishing might be changing, don't forget the most fundamental skills you were taught in Composition 101. Specifically - formatting.

Now, we're not ones to stand on formality here at The Battered Suitcase. After all, our editorial staff is made up of street rats, band campers, squatters, gypsy dancers and other nefarious characters with dark and secret pasts. But there's a reason they invented manuscript formatting... it's so people can read your writing. Honest. There is no other reason for it. It's not a conspiracy to make you jump through hoops. It's not an excuse to allocate demerits and reject otherwise solid, imaginative writing.

It's so your solid, imaginative writing can be read. It's so the editor, agent or intern can see that it's solid, imaginative writing. It's so the layout staff can convert your manuscript into print or html that matches your vision for the work.

That being said, here's a good example of manuscript format:

Consider fonts; currently, Courier font isn't the die-hard standard as it was in the old days, but it is easy to read. Personally, I think it's trog-ugly, and I'm always put-off when I convert my own manuscripts into Courier for an editor or agent who demands it. I think it looks cheap and ugly. But it's one of the three fonts you can use when submitting work to an agent or publisher. I do my own writing in a font I like, Garamond, and then convert it to the request font or standard Courier before submitting.

Why not use fancy, attractive and attention-getting fonts? Won't it make your work stand out?

Yes. It might. Mainly it'll stand out when they open to find a nasty mess of hieroglyphics because the font you've used is not installed on their computer. It'll stand out in the 'Recycle Bin' on their desktop when they decide that it's not worth spending the time trying to convert it because they have 500 other submissions waiting that are in a legible font by writers that followed submission guidelines.

There are only three fonts that are standard for every single computer, whatever its age, manufacture or operating system: Courier, Times New Roman and Arial.

Do. Not. Use. Any. Other. Font.

Just basic stuff and something that makes complete sense when you know why it's done the way it's done.

More on manuscript formatting later. Carry on writing - and have fun.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Call for Submissions: Short Erotic Fiction

Call for Submissions:

Short Literary Erotica Fiction; 2,000 - 6,000 words
For Anthology Series: "Lyrotica"

In 1964, Justice Potter Stewart tried to define pornography, or what is obscene, by saying, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced... but I know it when I see it... "

Which is kind of funny, because that's exactly how many people feel about Literary Fiction; we're not exactly sure how to describe it, but we know it when we see it.

In order to further our battle against entropy in the universe of letters, Vagabondage Press has decided to stir up a little chaos by combining the two and launching our new anthology series of Literary Erotica, working title "Lyrotica" scheduled for release in September 2010.

We are currently seeking well-written pieces of steamy literature--with the emphasis on literature. This is smut with its opera gloves on, elegant and provocative, perhaps even satisfying—but never tawdry. (Well, maybe just a little.)

The focus is on character development and thematic plot via the wonderful world of human reproduction—rated NC-17. All genres will be considered and we hold no editorial bias in regards to stories for or about individuals of any race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or planet of origin.

As well as our own in-house reprobates, our Guest Editor for the Lyrotica Anthology is none other than Creative Loafing Sex and Love columnist, Rebecca Ammon, who will be helping us make sure that the finished product is racy enough for any connoisseur. You can visit her website here:

Please see our submission guidelines for full details:

Saturday, April 3, 2010

eReader Version Release

The Spring 2010 issue of The Battered Suitcase is now available in multiple eBook formats, including Kindle, Sony Reader, Stanza, and Palm through Smashwords.

Check it out:

Facebook Links

More news on the call for submissions over the weekend...

In the meanwhile, if you're on facebook and would like to follow our news and updates there, you can find our fan page at:!/pages/Vagabondage-Press/102865243086898?ref=ts