Cycle Back, Move Forward

by | April 15, 2012 | General | 7 comments

By: Craig J. Sorensen

Easter Sunday 2012, and I rested.

I’ve been working a lot lately and we’re still elbow deep in getting ready to move cross-country. But, little by little, I have found my way back into writing. In the last few weeks I worked on a short story for a submissions call. It was just a matter of sitting down to the story and finishing it. I could have done it Easter Sunday. The story was close to completion.

I rested, and remembered Easter morning eight years ago. It was a beautiful morning. A glowing sunrise ignited the budding trees in orange. Eight years ago, I had committed myself to writing regularly by working on a story I had started to develop in my youth, and worked on over the years. I had committed to finish this novel by the end of 2004, and by Easter I was going strong. I wrote a scene that day that I still remember: Both the scene and the writing of it.

Later that year, I finished the book, not erotica per se, though like most of the stories I write, there was erotic content. When it was done, I didn’t know where to go with it. It didn’t really fit the markets, and I was a total unknown as an author.

Momentum carried, I continued to write with an eye to getting published, and a natural taste for exploring things erotic emerged. A quick acceptance of a twisted short story, and I found a home here, in erotica. One thing led to another: Numerous short stories published and challenges taken, meanwhile I continued to write longer works.

Turns out, when it comes to getting published, I’ve had greater fortune with short works than novels.

To be fair, I haven’t submitted much of my novel length work. There are a number of publishers out there, but so many of them want romance. I like romantic elements, but my longer stories don’t qualify as romance. There are indeed publishers who accept erotica without romance, but often with a different rider: fantasy, horror, cuckold, etc. I don’t fit there either.

On the other hand, some publishers put out three titles a week. Click on the list of authors, and there are hundreds. I’m not a number.

Still, when I look at it truthfully, my home is novels. I commit to the long novels. I love the act of intertwining multiple characters, love the devotion to editing the work, finding problems and fixing them. Improving, growing.

I’ve been married thirty-one years, and my last day job lasted twenty-six.

Getting my short stories published over the last few years has brought me great joy. There is a more immediate satisfaction, and maybe there is a safety net in sharing the table of contents with talented authors and editors like Ashley Lister, Donna George Storey, Jean Roberta, Kathleen Bradean, Kristina Wright, Lisabet Sarai, Lucy Felthouse, M. Christian, Remittance Girl and others.

I’m sure I will continue to write short stories from time to time, but what I accepted on Easter morning is that I am a novelist at heart, even if it is hard for me to find a publisher that I feel excited about, and who feels strongly about what I write.

Between that Easter 2004 and Easter 2012, I have learned so much about writing. In the end, that book I finished back then wasn’t ready for publication, and so I’m glad I’ve taken the path that I did. I still feel passionate about the story and the characters from that book, so, for now, I’m going back to it, while I continue to look for a home for an erotic novel I finished in 2011, another novel I had worked on for years.

Two books that don’t seem to fit the current markets. Seems that is one thing I do consistently.

Somewhere down the road, I will find homes for my books, and I hope I’ll find a readership. Until then, I write.

For now, I’ll write them long.

Craig J. Sorensen

One evening at the close of the 1970’s, I sat on a milk crate at my job du jour and looked over Tenth Avenue in the small Idaho town where I grew up. It may not seem earth shattering now, but to a man not yet twenty years of age, the revelation of that moment was defining: There must be more to life than pumping gas. A strange answer materialized in the cold, dry, Treasure Valley air. I joined the US Army where I learned to work with computers before the introduction of the IBM PC. Armed with a blitzkrieg education in the programming language COBOL, I embarked on a journey to define myself as a programmer/analyst. Perhaps if I had been a better student in school, things might have been different. I loved writing, though I flunked my first semester of ninth grade English. Typing too. And I typed seventy words a minute. But I digress. The bottom line was that I hated school, was unmotivated and disinterested, and had problems staying focused. Had I been born twenty years later, they might have loaded me up with Ritalin. So learning a trade in the Army was my salvation from a life of disjointed jobs, searching for something I’d be satisfied with. Study for a purpose, it seemed, I could manage. Throughout the thirty plus years after leaving Idaho for military service, I honed my skills and learned to enjoy the job I stumbled into. I think that this, “path less chosen,” has something to do with my perspective and my style as an author when I delved deeper into my passion for words. I’ve lived life, not as a student, but in a constant state of trial and error. This is true in most everything I’ve done. The first story I had published was so aggressively edited, that the number of words removed was in a double digit percentile, and rightly so. I resolved that would never happen again. It hasn’t. Determination and self-teaching are a big part of me. Have I ever reached a hurdle I didn’t overcome? Of course. In my early days getting published, I submitted four stories to a particular editor before she accepted my fifth; I’ve had great results with her since. More recently, with another editor, I submitted four that I felt great about, and realized that it just wasn’t going anywhere. Another fact: I’m a lousy poker player, but I do know when to fold. Story telling has been with me my entire life. A desire to share stories is engrained in me, but as a youngster, what did I have to share? I was a boring kid, so I used to make things up. I used to hate that I’d lie. Bear in mind, these lies were limited to boasting of things I had done that I really hadn’t, or telling that the very plain house we lived in when I was young was very ornate. “Little white lies,” some might call them. I couldn’t seem to resist this desire to make people believe the stories I’d tell. When something didn’t wash, well… I suppose it is all part of how I learn things. Writing is truly my first passion as a vocation. If I could make a living at it, I’d love to, but I know what that means. I look at those authors who do this with admiration, and I’m grateful that I have been blessed to find not one, but two vocations that I love. Job one allows me to write when I’m inspired. The luxury of this is not lost on me. When I was young, I was fascinated by sex. I wrote sexual scenarios, drew sexually inspired pictures. My head was full of erotic fantasies long before my voice cracked. But writing the first stories I did after I left high school, I tried to subdue the desire to write sexual themes. Sometimes, I’d let go, but I’d eventually “come to my senses.” I wanted to be respectable, after all. It was after I had gotten some serious consideration by a literary journal, but got the response “you write very well, but your stories lack vibrancy,” that it began to settle in. My wife, partner, and most avid supporter forwarded me a call to a new “edgy” literary journal that included erotica, and suggested that I send a particularly nasty, vibrant story I had recently written when the respectability filter was disengaged. I thought, “why the hell not.” Within 24 hours I had an acceptance. Another lesson learned by example: be true to yourself. In the end, I just want to tell stories about amazing people. I want to go out on a limb. I wrote a poem once:
Only the man who goes To the edge of the branch And does not stop when it cracks Will learn the true nature Of branches
I want to turn you on, then repulse you. I want to surprise you, sometimes make you grimace, share the realities of my life and the lives of those I’ve known, but bend them through the prism of fiction. Tell about people more interesting than me, and speak universal truths, tell little white lies. I want to make you guess which is which. The three stories I am honored to share with you are examples of my testing branches. “One Sunset Stand” from M. Christian’s Sex in San Francisco collection, was written merging humor, sexuality, and romance, allows me to explore from a woman’s POV. “Severence” which appeared at the website Clean Sheets, is drawn from a difficult time in my life, where as a manager I watched members of my team and coworkers slowly, systematically get laid off. It was a hard time, a frustrating time, and I found a way to express that frustration in the words, and the characters of the story. “Two Fronts” is one of my biggest gambles as a writer, and a story I’m very proud of. In it, I not only explore my feminine side, but my lesbian side. The story, set before I was born, explores a woman dealing with her awaking to her attraction to other women is set against the backdrop of ranching in Idaho. I was particularly proud when Sacchi Green and Rakelle Valencia chose it for the collection Lesbian Cowboys. The version I present here is my “Director’s cut,” with the original ending. In the collection, it was made more purely romantic by dropping the last section. This ending is more of what I would call a “Craig ending,” though I’m proud of both versions. Truly, I haven’t planned much in life, just followed the river where it leads. I write the stories that come to mind, and for as long as people will read my work I will write. And if they stop reading? I will write.


  1. Jo

    Good luck, Craig.

  2. Lisabet Sarai

    The market is changing all the time, Craig. Write from your heart first – then worry about finding a publisher.

    I'm heartened by the story of Jaimy Gordon's book LORD OF MISRULE. It took a decade for her to find a publisher. The book won the National Book Award.

  3. Ashley R Lister


    There's a depth to your writing that shows you have the heart of a novelist – even when you're writing short fiction.

    There's not many writers can convey that sense of gravitas.


  4. Donna

    Actually, I found your meditation on the process of writing over the long haul to be very uplifting. I believe readers can sense the dedication and caring a writer feels for his/her work in every word–and I sense it in your stories for sure! Some do judge success by the number of publications and copies sold, just as they judge the success of a life by how much money someone makes. But there are other ways to measure worth, and having the courage and fortitude to take an independent path is the only way interesting things have happened in human history :-).

    Enjoy how far you've come and know that your words inspire all writers who face uncertainty–which is, in fact, all writers!

  5. Craig Sorensen

    Thanks Jo.

    Lisabet, I do feel that it is key to remain patient and find a publisher that I feel great about. I sometimes wonder if it will ever happen, but I've finally turned the corner where I can resist the temptation to just find "a publisher" and be patient.

    Ash, I'm very honored. Thank you.

    Donna, your encouragement of my writing has helped me to grow and develop since my earliest days of getting published. I feel we are on this path together, and that does my heart good. Thank you.

  6. Kristina Wright

    You are one of my favorite writers. Your books will find the right home. I believe that.

  7. Craig Sorensen

    Oh geez, Kristina. What a compliment. Thank you.

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