It seems like recently the Wickeds have been coming out of their winter hibernation and are looking for places to go, people to see, new projects to start. And maybe, just maybe, summer has arrived.
I’m doing the same thing: tonight I’m leaving for Ireland to claim the cottage I’ve been fantasizing about for years, ever since I first visited County Cork in 1998.
We all need dreams, even if they never come true. Even the imagining part gives us comfort and hope—maybe that’s part of the writer’s “what if?” way of thinking. And if all we ever do is imagine, well, then we don’t have to deal with all the messy realities that might spoil the dream. As in our books, we can edit out the boring and annoying stuff and make the story come out the way we want.
Except I decided to follow my dream and make it happen: I bought an Irish cottage.
When I first came up with this mad plan, years ago, I had no money. But why let that stop me? I had my heart set on acquiring the last Connolly house in a tiny place out in the country in West Cork. I even went so far as to have a structural inspection—which showed that the sill was rotting and the roof was shaky, and by the way, there was a huge manure pile with a tarp held down by used tires just behind it (belonging to the neighboring farmer) and a definitely odorous pig farm just up the hill (and upwind), and the seller was asking for too much money, thinking I was a gullible idiot. I put that dream to bed, or so I thought.
But it wouldn’t let go of me. Among the first books I wrote, not long after that, was one set in Leap, in the pub that became the heart of the County Cork mysteries. Over time I rewrote it more than once. The characters changed, and the plot, but the setting never did. It took a few years to sell that as a series, but I kept going back to Ireland.
Fast forward to 2014. I was making some money with my books, hooray. I started looking at online property listings (which are very entertaining). I even applied for a mortgage at a local bank—twice. I was rejected twice. We could never make the numbers work, and that was for even the least expensive houses (that had plumbing and such indulgences).
Still, I kept looking at listings, and I kept saving my pennies, until finally the two lined up. I found a small place that didn’t need too much work, that had been on the market for a while (so they’d accept a low offer)—and that just happened to be in the village where my Cork great-grandmother was born. I made an offer, the owners accepted the offer, and as of a couple of weeks ago it was mine.
OMG, what have I done? I know nothing about setting up utilities there, and how to pay the bills, and what do I do with the trash, and who’s going to mow the lawn, and where the heck do I buy sheets, and… And you know what? I don’t care. It will work out. And I have lots of friends to help, both in Ireland and on Facebook, where people have offered great suggestions.
But the clincher? The first time I saw the place in person last year, as we approached it along a country lane there was a blazing rainbow over it. That sealed the deal. The rest is just details.
So I’m off to fix the gutters and the drains, and find furniture, and make sure the wifi is connected, and meet my neighbors (none are too close), and say hello to friends I’ve already made there, and just wallow in the fact that I finally made it happen. It took only 18 years.
If you want a message, here it is: If something matters to you, never give up. This applies to writing too. And the County Cork Mysteries is the most popular of my series, because the place is special to me, and I hope that shows.
P.S. If I can turn it into a writers retreat, I’ll do it. But I assume people will want beds, and something to sit on, and maybe a lamp or two. Also you must like the country, where it’s actually dark at night and there are a million stars (look! It’s the Milky Way!), and cows and sheep grazing across the lane. But I’m thinking about it.
Oh, right, I have a book coming out tomorrow: Dead End Street, the seventh in the Museum Mysteries series. But as you can imagine, my head and heart are in Ireland, not in the slums of Philadelphia. If you want to find out how Nell Pratt and her crew are finding ways to make those slums better, check my website for the details.