James River Writer’s Conference 2014

I am a very proud member of James River Writer’s organization and if you’re not, you should be too! Go here to learn more about membership.

But I’m especially proud this weekend because of the greatest writing conference on Earth (alright, the greatest writer’s conference in Virginia at least;-) Very much looking forward to seeing all of my writing peers, attending the workshops and programs, pitching MAIDEN to Katie Grimm of Don Congdon Associates, and just having a fun weekend!

Hope to see you there!


The Idea Thief (Flash Fiction #30)

“Hello my name is Mr. Damion,” the man on the front step said, reaching out his hand.

Thomas shook it, reluctantly, then wiped his hands off on the grimy towel hanging from his belt loop. Thomas could tell Mr. Damian was from out of town – the top hat, the slim mustache and not a wrinkle in his dress shirt. No, the visitor was not from the Northeast, much less New Jersey and Thomas had no time for visitors regardless of where they were visiting from. “Yes, how can I…” Thomas began.

Mr. Damion slowly drifted from Thomas’ view. His eyes glazed over and he felt a fleeting presence lifting him, tho his feet stood firm. Seconds ticked passed and Thomas felt light, then heavy, then light again. He blinked and noticed a man in front of him, grinning.

Thomas blinked again and suddenly felt nauseous. “Can I help you?” Thomas asked, wondering how long he had been standing there.

“I have all I need, thank you,” the gentleman responded, giving a slight bow, and turning back toward the hard clay of Christie Street.

The mid-day air blew across Thomas’ face as he watched the stranger disappear. He walked in, closed the door, and stood in the parlor and scratched his head.

“Oh well,” he said and walked slowly back to his lab. Sitting on his desk, as if waiting to be picked up, was a glass container. Under it, a book. He knew it was his handwriting and sketches, but it was jumbled in his mind. He picked up the container and caressed it. It felt like his, something he owned, but it’s purpose was not clear. Waiting, gazing, he hoped for some understanding.

When none came he shrugged, took the bulb and the book, and placed them in the crate labeled ‘Discarded Inventions.’ After the lid closed shut, he looked around the room, arms folded, wondering what project he should tackle next.

NOTE: I have been tinkering with the idea for a MG novel about an ‘idea thief’ and wanted to take a crack at it. Please feel free to share any thoughts or ideas!

Anatomy of a Writing Retreat

I had the privilege this past weekend to attend my first ever writing retreat. Four writers from my writing group – Richmond Children’s Writers – and three from another local group made our way an hour and a half south of Richmond to Lake Gaston. One of the members had an in with a condo owner so we got to stay for free (yeah, big plus).

The goals of the retreat were to:

1) have time for writing and critiquing

2) to learn and grow as a writer through sharing and discussion

3) to have fun!

Mission accomplished. It was a wonderful experience and couldn’t have come for a better time for me. I find myself getting comfortable or unmotivated about every 3-4 months and need that little spark to keep me going. It was perfect!

There was a pretty organized schedule, but it was not set in stone. There was time for writing, critiquing, discussion sessions, eating and just enjoying each other’s company. Over a two day period, there was probably 10 hours for writing and 10 hours for other.

The top 3 things I learned at the retreat:

– it’s a very positive experience to sit with other writers and just…write! I’m used to being by myself and leaving all the distractions behind when I write. But sitting in the same room with other writers was very rejuvenating and encouraging. All the clacks of the keyboard, the periodic discussion…there was a great energy. We were very blessed to have a great group that melded well together.

– I need to take more time to brainstorm and discuss my writing projects with other writers. I am very blessed to have a critique group, but I need to take more time to interact about ‘big picture’ subjects and other mechanics of the craft.

– good readers make good writers! I have fallen out of the habit of reading for pleasure and need to get back in the groove.

Considering going to a writing retreat? While this was a group organized retreat and somewhat informal, I imagine all writing retreats are similar in goal and organization. Are you stuck in your writing? Do you find yourself lacking writing friends to brainstorm and commiserate with? Do you have a goal but aren’t sure how to get there? Are you at the point in your writing where you can give honest critiques and receive them as well?

If you answered yes, then it sounds like a writing retreat might be for you! Have a look here for a great tool to help you look for retreats.

I know I am looking forward to doing it again next Spring!

What’s My Writing Process?

I have been extremely blessed over the past few years to have fellow writers help me become more involved in the writing community. I have learned so much by interacting and networking with other writers. Most importantly, I have grown and it has given the me the opportunity to share my experiences so hopefully others can grow as well.

One of the most interesting things I’ve learned over time is that no two writers have the same process for how/when/what they write. That’s where today’s post comes in to play. I am carrying on the chain from fellow writer and my personal mentor Lana Krumwiede, who wrote about her writing process here. I’m thankful to have the opportunity to share my writing process and I hope you come away with something that helps you.

What am I working on?

DAMSEL – The sequel to my debut YA novel, MAIDEN, (which I am actively querying, if you have an in, let me know;-). Inspired by the life of Joan of Arc, the story follows 17-year-old Jeanette as she struggles to accept her mission to help save her war-torn kingdom. I am just finishing up the outline and my goal is to have the first draft done by the end of the year.

SEARCHING FOR MALCOLM MILLER – My first foray into MG fiction, a contemporary story about a 13 year old girl, Nadia, who on the same day she is sentenced to detention for 30 days finds out her brother who died 10 years ago left her a letter. We follow her as she deals with the realization that she cares about her brother more than she thought.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I wrote MAIDEN for my daughters, wanting them to have a story with a strong female protagonist that what she thought was important in life, is really not. As a novel that is clean and meant to be uplifting, I hope it is different enough for those looking for more than just an entertaining read.

For MALCOLM MILLER, I hope that my experience working with teens for 15+ years helps give a unique voice to a story with very real emotions. It’s a coming of age story in every sense of the word.

Why do I write what I do?

I used to write because I wanted to be a famous, published author. Wrong way to do it! I have grown over recent past to realize I need to write what’s in my heart, and what is in my heart are my children. I, as a father and a writer, more than anything, want to leave a legacy. If no other person on the planet reads my work, I hope my children find joy and insight from it. But having said that, it is my dream to become a full-time writer,and I hope that as I write what is in my heart and stay true to the story and characters, my writing will find the readers that need it.

How does my writing process work?barton-fink-at-his-typewriter

Before saying anything else, if you have not read Stephen King’s On Writing, do it…now! It is, by far, the best, most inspirational advice I have read on the craft of writing. When I read it 4-5 years ago, it changed my life as a writer. Go get it…now!

This isn’t set in stone, but if I had to sum up my writing process, it is this:

1) Storyboard – I have to have an outline. That’s just me. Otherwise, I’ll work on a story for months/years and then get halfway through and go, ‘Oooh, I thought of a cool new twist!’ Yeah, I don’t have that sort of time. So I call it my Storyboard phase. No movie EVER gets made without having a plan in advance of scenes and outline. I like to think of my outline as a storyboard. I don’t start working on a project until I have a storyboard.

2) 500 words a day – It is my goal to write 500 words every weekday…period. It took me a long time as a writer to get to this point, but writing so many words a day is what sets a ‘person who wants to write’ and a ‘writer’ apart. Half of what I write is crap and won’t ever get used, but it’s part of the process. The more you write the gooder better your writing becomes. Practice, it’s that simple. So figure out how much you can write each day. It might only be 200 words or maybe 2000. The key is to be realistic and then do it. If you miss a day, start fresh the next day. Writing 500 words a day every weekday gives me 10,000 words a month. The typical fiction is anywhere between 60,000-80,000 words, so that gives me at least one first draft every year. Figure out your goal and put your butt in the chair and write!

3) Revise – I am at the point where I can only write on one story at a time, but I can write on one story and revise another. So during my revising phrase of a manuscript, I use that as the opportunity to start a new project. Revising is kind of writing, but not really. But it’s just as important

4) Beta-readers – Writer’s don’t (or shouldn’t) live in a bubble. After so much time on a project, the lines start to blur and the writing becomes hazy. Finding a few (key term…few) people you can trust to give you honest and sincere feedback is crucial. While the manuscript is out to beta-readers let your brain rest for a month or two on that story and work on something else, something new, refreshing.

5) Final edit – With feedback from beta-readers, and a fresh pair of personal eyes, you are ready for the final edit. Consider everything your beta-readers come back with, but remember that you control the story and you don’t have to make all the requested changes. Make the changes that help the story the most in your eyes, tighten it up grammatically, get rid of words/sentences/paragraphs/storylines that are not needed, and…tada!

Are you a writer? What’s your process like?

New Website Giveaway (woo-hoo!)

FACT: I have not been as active blogging over the winter months as I should have been.

FACT: One excuse is that I was basically sick of trying to deal with Blogger after numerous issues, but was lazy and didn’t want to put in the effort to switch.

FACT: I finally took the time to switch, and my new site is with WordPress (which I LOVE) and is at http://www.csorensenwrite.com

FACT: To celebrate the switch I am having a…


That’s right, the lucky winner will receive a $20 gift card to BN or Amazon.com, your choice!

Click on the link below to use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway (note: okay, apparently everything isn’t 100% better on WordPress, so far, I can’t figure out how to get the widget to show in my post, so sorry for the extra step)!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

You can share with friends, follow or subscribe to my sites, and just basically enjoy all the fun and joy that come from helping a brother out;-)

Where have I been?

That’s a great question. Busy, busy, busy!

Point is, I’m still alive. Slow going more often than not, but still moving forward.

I’m on query number 18 (give or take) for MAIDEN with still no nibbles. But never fear, revising and submitting, waiting for just the right agent. Sent four more out yesterday, so we’ll see.

While working on landing an agent, I’ve taken a short break from MAIDEN to work on an middle-grade novel that’s been in the back of my mind…SEARCHING FOR MALCOLM (working title). Very excited about this one. Different style and tone than MAIDEN and, as a writer, it’s a little refreshing. Will share more about that project as time goes on.

What else have I been doing? Let’s see, work, family, church, and oh yeah, trying – somewhat successfully – to read THE STAND by Mr. Stephen “What Editor?” King. Wow! Talk about a man that isn’t short on words. I really do enjoy his writing style, very down to earth, and really draws you in, but good grief. One of my favorite quotes of King is “1st draft – 10% = manuscript”. More like 1st draft – 46%. But, ultimately, the fault lies with the editor, not him.

I hope you are doing well and I will continue to update (hopefully more frequently).

Be good!

Song Writing vs. Fiction Writing

I don’t think I have ever talked about it much on here, but I enjoy writing song lyrics. Of my own accord, I have close to zero musical talent when it comes to instruments, but I love words and I love what happens to them with the right music. For over 15 years now I have collaborated on a number of songs with my good friend and singer-songwriter Justin Young. He is a phenomenal musician and singer…check him out here.

Is my song writing different than my fiction writing…I would say yes. In both instances I’m trying to tell a story, but the inspiration for each come from different sources. My novel writing ideas usually come from thoughts or plot ideas that I can’t get out of my head. It takes time to build upon the initial idea and make it into something coherent and believable.

Songs are different (at least for me). My inspiration for music usually comes from a feeling rather than a thought. For instance, this past week I watched the music video for ‘Back Then,’ by regular Youtube-er Julian Smith. I like his videos (very well done and usually very funny). This was his first music video for a more serious song and I loved it.

After listening to it, I couldn’t get the chorus or the tune out of my head. My wife happened to be out of town for an extended trip and I found myself missing her.  From that, with the tune of ‘Back Then’ still in my mind and a feeling of hope in my heart, the words started flowing. And just like any good writer should do, I just put them down on the page.

The end result (see below) took a little more darker turn than I expected. The initial feeling of the song was hopeful, but as the words kept coming, the song turned more negative than I expected…but that’s what came. I felt the need to explore what would happen if wanting someone else did not end as we hoped, how would that feel. (and for the record, my wife and I are perfectly wonderful:-) I have sent the lyrics to Justin and will see if he has any musical inspiration for it, and if not, that’s okay. But hopefully someday in the future, someone will read the words to this or hear the song and it will have the same affect on them that ‘Back Then’ did on me.

And that’s what writing is all about…leaving a piece of ourselves to inspire others.

Copyright 2014 Chris Sorensen

It’s 12:01 on Thursday
You’re waiting to fly away
I sit in bed and lie to myself
Saying I don’t care either way
You said that it was over
You said I had my chance
But there’s something inside me
Can’t let you go…won’t let it end like this
Did you receive my message
Way up in the clouds
I’m curious and patient
I’ll wait till you come back down
I just need a little glimmer
I just need you to throw a bone
Cause there’s something inside me
Won’t let you go…Can’t imagine you not at home
And you probably think I’m crazy
And you probably wish I was dead
But you’re not alone
Not here inside of my head
It’s all for you, these feelings
The feelings and the pain
My love is lost…Nothing left to gain
As I go insane
Without you
As I go insane
Without you
As I..
As I…
As I try to be me…without you
I never got your answer
With your feet back on the ground
I used to be full of hope
And try to spread some joy around
Now it seems eternal
The love that we lost is dead and gone
And there’s nothing inside me
Just an empty hole in a heart that did nothing wrong
And I’ve gone a little crazy
And some days feel like I am dead
Cause I’m all alone
In my heart and in my head
It was all for you, the feelings
It was all for you, the pain
My life is lost, nothing to gain
As I go insane…without you
As I go insane…without you
As I
As I
As I
Can’t ever be me…without you.

Reluctant Goodbye (Flash Fiction #29)

As soon as the light on my dash came on, all I could hear were my mother’s words from yesterday echoing in my head…

”Do you have enough gas in your tank? You don’t want to run out of gas on the way to bury your father, do you?”

I laughed. But as my 92′ Buick choked over to the side of the road, I realized that one phrase summed up my life…Do you have enough gas in your tank?

“Well you’ll be in the car with me, so if I do run out, you can help me push,” I responded, trying to keep the moment light.

She slowly lowered her coffee cup and smacked her lips. “Why in the world would I want to go to my ex-husband’s funeral? I haven’t talked to that man in probably ten years. Sorry honey, you’ll need to go alone.”

And so I was…alone. Steering out of the way of the funeral procession. Up ahead, the local police escort slowly slipped away from me.

Of course I forgot to get gas in the car. Maybe in some deep psycho analysis of things, I did it intentionally. I knew I was supposed to want to go to my father’s funeral, but in all honesty the man was not a good father, or really a good person for that matter. But everyone said I would want closure, that I needed the opportunity to say goodbye. Fate seemed to be saying the opposite as the air conditioner coughed it’s last cool breath and the car officially died.

Out the window to my left, my Uncle Mike’s car passed, full of family. My nephew Jimmy’s face pressed against the window as Mike’s wife gave me a ‘what are you doing look’.  Of course, Mike didn’t slow down. Neither did his sister Tammy and her family as they drove by.

Who finally stopped?  The guy driving the hearse.

He rolled the passenger window down, the black drivers hat perfectly placed on his bald head. In the two seconds I hesitated, the line of cars behind him came a complete stand still. I finally rolled my window down.

“Looks like you could use a lift?” he said with a grin. How could he not grin?

“That’s an understatement,” I replied. Something inside told me I was going to be riding to my father’s funeral in the same car that carried his dead body. There was no need to fight it. Providence.

I grabbed my jacket off the seat next to me before the driver said, “Hop in. I’ll give you a lift.”

I plopped down in the impeccably clean, extended Lincoln. It didn’t feel like a car that carried death – shiny upholstery, glistening chrome, it even smelled nice – but I was certainly uncomfortable.

“Don’t worry,” the driver said, ascending quietly to the proper processional speed of 25 miles per hour. “You’d be surprised how often something like this happens.”

I laughed, trying to make sense of it, but I didn’t believe him. It didn’t matter. My father used to say all the time, ‘Over my dead body.’

I could officially take him up on his word.

Goodbye 2013, Hello 2014!

Are you excited for the New Year?!  I am:-)

I have not been on as of late…my family moved into a new home over the Holidays and it kept me fairly busy. But as exciting as the move was, I have repented of my online absence and ready to start the year anew.

Writing firsts in 2013:

– Finished the manuscript of my debut YA novel – MAIDEN
– Queried an agent for the first time
– Got an agent rejection for the first time

And so it goes. But I have learned from that rejection (and the subsequent 7 I have received), but I am moving forward with determination and faith.

Writing goals in 2014:

– Get an agent for MAIDEN
– Finish the first draft of the sequel to MAIDEN
– Be more active in my local book community as well as online

Don’t stop writing, don’t stop getting gooder better, and take it one day at a time!

Poison Study by Maria Snyder (Through the Shelf Thursday #14)

Title: Poison Study
Author: Maria Snyder
Genre: YA Fantasy
Description from Goodreads:

Poison Study (Study, #1)About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Date I Finished Reading: November 2, 2013

My Rating: 3

My Review: (also on Goodreads and Amazon):

I read this book because the name kept coming up when I mentioned my YA novel, MAIDEN. There were a few recommendations because of the books world building.

Yelena is a strong character and has been through hell and back. Instead of facing her fatal sentence for murder, she is chosen as the new food taster for the Commander. As the story begins and takes us around the castle, we are introduced to the other characters that will be involved. I enjoyed Snyder’s simple, to-the-point introduction of the characters and they were intriguing. As can happen sometimes in fantasy, there can be an overabundance of characters, and that doesn’t happen here.

One of the other main characters in the book is Vilek, the chief of security who is in charge of just about everything in the castle, including Yelena. He is a wonderful character. He is strong, but has moments of emotion, we slowly learn that he cares for Yelena, but he plays his cards very close to his chest. The relationship between Vilek and Yelena ebb and flow through the story, leaving the reader to wonder a) if there are romantic sparks and b) if Vilek is really as trustworthy as he seems. Though one of my disagreements with the book is the way it is hinted that there might be a romantic relationship with Vilek and Yelena, one that mutually approved. Vilek, how I read him, is much older than Yelena and I don’t have the first clue how their would actually be mutually beneficial feelings in that department. It was just hard for me to picture.

The vast majority of the first 3/4’s of the book take place in the castle. While Snyder is very adept at world building, there wasn’t much of a world to be involved with…not stuck in the castle. As with my review for Bitterblue, I found having the story in the same location stifling and uninteresting. I wanted more of the world of Ixia. The story eventually get’s there, having Yelena travel on a caravan with the Commander to a neighboring land, but I have already felt constrained to the castle walls by this point.

Speaking of traveling to other lands, there is a magical aspect to the book that hints at powers that Yelena may have that she doesn’t know about. The characters with magical abilities do add to the story and help build for some interesting scenes, back story, and setting up for future books in the series.

I was pleased with the ending of the book (probably a little biased just because it wasn’t in the castle), but there was way too much emphasis on a random twist in the story involving the Commander and his [spoiler alert] sexual orientation. Honestly, it was odd, and seemed to be added just for shock value than anything to do with the story. That was disappointing.

At the end of the day, I do care about Yelena and want to see what happens to her (and I’m 50/50 as to whether I’ll read the 2nd book), but I just couldn’t get into it. The focus on food and culinary is an interesting plot point, but there was a little much focus on it for my opinion. I wanted to really, really like it, but it just didn’t resonate. Though I did end up finishing to see what happened.

Have you read ‘Poison Study’?  What did you think