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The North Country Confessional has received a Gold Quality Mark from Books Go Social.

The North Country Confessional has been nominated for a New Hampshire Literary Award in the Outstanding Work of Fiction Category. http://nhwritersproject.org/content/nh-literary-awards

The North Country Confessional
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Craig C. Charles is both a writer and a teacher. When he is not writing, he likes to explore the beautiful White Mountains of New Hampshire.

Follow him on Twitter (@GraniteWriter) and PLEASE join the mailing list for periodic news about his writing projects and future events.

The North Country Confessional is his debut mystery novel.

Blog: Random Thoughts

'I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends.' 

I was extremely pleased to recently learn that my book 'The North Country Confessional' was selected as a recommended buy to the members of an online book club. This opportunity despite garnering me some quick sales, more importantly offered me a chance to explore how a short-term increase in purchases would impact my rankings on Amazon. Over the course of a week a significant quantity of additional ebooks were purchased. This increase in sales drove my book up the Historical Mystery category rankings. My book reached #118 in this genre. I was shocked to learn how many book sales it takes to generate a large jump up on Amazon's Kindle charts. This experience has made me rethink my marketing strategy for my current book and how I will promote my future release (book #2) that should be ready to go in 2019.

In God's Country 

In the summer of 1988, I left the familiar confines of my youth, following an unclear path to adulthood. New England was all that I had known. The stone walls, the hardwood forests, and the lobster traps stacked haphazardly on a sun bleached dock were the landmarks of my young existence. My decision to head to the desert southwest at the age of 18 was influenced by many things: a determination to figure out who I was, an escape from family and friends, and the release of a musical album.

Thirty years ago, U2's The Joshua Tree was released. It was a sonic and visual haj that led me to the deserts of Arizona. The black and white cover art encapsulating the dry and barren landscape that awaited me. It was a harshness that mirrored the nation and my outlook on life at that time. It was also a pivotal moment in my existence. My senses came alive with the smells of creosote advancing ahead of the summer monsoon. My eyes burned as I gazed upon the dried and jagged arroyos scarring the red earth and I wondered under sunsets that made me believe in a higher power. It was my Eden. Six years later, I left thinking I would never return. I figured out who I was and had grown to appreciate and identify with being a New Englander. I had wandered the desert long enough.

Last summer, I finally returned with my own family to the desert after a self imposed absence. Much had changed, but much was still the same. The July heat remained stifling, but the landscape continued to speak to me. It was an unexpected homecoming that I had needed. The smell of the desert is unlike anything I have encountered. The memories returned to me, harbingers of my future. Life is cyclical, but it continues to surprise.

'Desert sky...Dream beneath a desert sky...The rivers run but soon run dry...We need new dreams tonight.'

Like Riding A Bike 

The summer of 2015 is quickly coming to close. As a teacher, summer vacation affords me more time to write, plot, do research, and sleep whenever. I've settled into a new groove and have been churning out words at a more acceptable rate. The first draft of the next book is proceeding nicely and I am excited with where it's heading. That said, book two is still taking me longer to finish than I anticipated. This book is going to be special. I say that not to be egotistical, but because its scope, characters, and plot are complex and rich. I get lost in it sometimes (this is a good thing) and the euphoria of being there in the story makes me understand that taking my time will be worth it in the end. Stay tuned.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors...Sometimes. 

In the late 80's, I packed up a single suitcase and moved to Arizona. I lived in a house with a red Spanish tiled roof in the city of Tempe while I attended Arizona State University. My dad bought the house as an investment/vacation home and he would drop by a few times a year to visit. The rest of the year, I resided there with three other roommates. We paid the mortgage and maintained the house...well maybe not maintained, but hey we never burned it down. The home was located in a housing association and there were several 'Rules' of the association that we tested frequently. We threw some parties, the grass in our front lawn was a little too high, and once we flooded our neighbor's backyard. Actually, the company that cleaned and maintained our pool flooded our neighbor's backyard when they failed to close the back flow valve, but we caught the blame from our neighbor.

I considered the 8' high fence that separated our two properties a godsend at the time. It was our DMZ, our no man's land that kept an uneasy peace between young and old. I was a good neighbor (trust me), but the association and it's silly rules regulated us into individual fiefdoms - 'follow the rules or else.' Do you have a beef with someone? Go complain to the Association. What a sack of rocks.

Fast forward to the present...I live in a nice house on a large wooden lot in New Hampshire at the end of a cul-de-sac . I have neighbors, but there are no fences and no rules about what I or my neighbors can and can't do. If something bothers you, you go discuss it in the front yard with your neighbor. You interact, you don't isolate yourself.

The act of writing, at different times, has felt like being a property owner at each of these locales. It's easier, more convenient, and less confrontational to built up your fences as a writer. Isolate yourself, do what you like, and try not to burn down the house. The problem is that you don't grow living on a property such as this, you only build a fortress of solitude. The lack of fences, the lack of barriers, and the lack of excuses make the no fence approach to living and writing so much more invigorating. You need a community as a writer. People to learn from and people to critically look at your work in progress. I think Robert Frost had it wrong as least in terms of writing, good fences don't make good neighbors, they make good hermits who think everyone else is nuts. Then again, Frost wasn't from New England, he was from California.

'Tis the season to be distracted 

Holy, it's been 17 days since my last blog entry. The holidays are killing me. Between visiting relatives, gift shopping, and the endless holiday parties, I'm all out of sorts. Despite all of this, I continue to "write" just about every day. I might research topics, people, or settings but it's all related to writing. I try to get something down on my StoryMill software everyday. A steady routine is the best thing you can do for yourself as a writer. Books do not write themselves and what takes 10 minutes to read, might take all day to write. So you just plug away everyday. I'll have to try harder on my blog though. 5 days until Christmas. Why aren't you writing?

Writing Software 

When I first attempted to write my 'Great American Novel' I was thirteen years old. I had a blank sheet of paper and a royal blue Olivetti Valentine typewriter. Inspired by John Knowles' classic A Separate Peace, I thought how hard could this be? For starters, I couldn't type a lick despite taking a keyboarding class where all the keys were blank, forcing you to memorize the position of letters on the keyboard. Well that didn't work so I hunted and pecked and went through a ton of correction paper. If you don't know what correction paper is, consider yourself blessed. You're too young to appreciate just how far the tools of writing have come.

Computers revolutionized everything. MS Word was a godsend. You mean I don't need correction paper anymore and you'll check my grammar AND spelling too? The ability to cut and paste also allowed for some pretty fancy editing. Then came the development of writing software. This was a game changer in terms of organization, research, and the ease of squeezing out word after word of beautiful prose. I've tried many different writing software programs, but I finally settled on one which I've been using for over three years now.

Storymill by Mariner Software is absolutely phenomenal and gets my endorsement everyday of the week and twice on Tuesday. It allows me to write in terms of scenes and then assign those scenes into chapters and rearrange the order anyway I like it. It's logical, simple, and has way more features than I will ever use. If you are looking to simplify your writing so that you can be more creative, I urge you to check out the Storymill package. Your Mac or PC will thank you.

Setting - The Michener Effect 

My wife dislikes James Michener. "He's so unbelievably wordy in terms of the setting and describing every aspect of the place." I'll admit to being a science nerd so I actually like Michener's lengthy descriptions of the changing geology over the eons. When I begin a new novel, I tend to find myself beginning with the setting as well. I'm no James Michener, but I like to describe it using all my senses. The prose comes more naturally and it gets me into a writing rhythm. The dialogue usually flows freely after this 'senses setup'. Even when I have no idea of the plot yet, there's always the setting. 

Banker's Hours 

I stayed up to almost 1AM last night writing. I wish that my inspiration kept banker's hours. The Thanksgiving holiday has definitely cramped my writing routine. Relatives visiting, endless cooking, dishwasher running non-stop, cold weather keeping everyone trapped inside, and the kids complaining that they're 'bored' and wanting you to entertain them, have all disrupted what was a good daily writing routine for me. It's only after the kids have gone to bed and the fire has died down to a bed of glowing embers that I find myself able to emerse myself back into the world of my novel. I still have to fight off fatigue and the growing list of things that need to be fixed around the house, but I find time to write. Unfortunately it is in the wee hours of the morning. I should have been a banker.

Black Friday 

Black Friday really should be called the Hunger Games. People kill each other and the winner gets a $20 crock pot. I am not opposed to capitalism or even consumerism, but on days like today, I feel so disconnected from the human race. I'm convinced it's a sickness or powerful addiction worse than heroin. People pack up their carts to the brim like a junkie filling their crack pipe. Take a hit says the Madison Avenue Executive. Spend $100 and I've give you more for free. Oh yeah, isn't that good? Didn't I tell you? Welcome to the new age. Sigh.

Muted Autumn 

I am relaunching my personal writing website on Thanksgiving Day 2013. As I sit at the kitchen table writing, the smells of the turkey cooking in the oven wafts through the house and conjures up remembrances of Thanksgiving's past. It's weird how a simple smell can take you back 30 years or more.

This time of year people start to reassess their lives and make goals for the upcoming year. For me, I've rededicated myself to the task of finishing my first novel. I started it years ago before the birth of my first child, but life has a way of altering the best laid plans. I put away the unfinished manuscript for far too long so I'm dusting it off and I'm determined to finish it in 2014.

I plan to blog about the experience; the exhileration, the pitfalls, and the many moments of doubt. Writing is deeply personal to me and at times tracelike. You can follow my rollercoaster journey here. Come along for the ride.

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