Follow Your Dream

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.

My cottage in Ireland
My cottage in Ireland

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.

The lane to the cottage--and the For Sale sign that's no longer there
The lane to the cottage–and the For Sale sign that’s no longer there

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.

The view from the front--and a landscape that is so very Irish
The view from the front–and a landscape that is so very Irish

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.

30 Thoughts

    1. Thank you! Another word for persistence is stubbornness. If somebody tells me I can’t do something, I dig in my heels. But patience helps.

    1. And you’d be welcome. Just let me get beds and figure out how to turn things on. (No, I am not a helpless female–it’s just that I’ve never had a well of my own, much less a pump for it.)

  1. Congratulations! Does this mean more County Cork books (please!)

    1. Of course! The 2017 book is already written, and I’m plotting the 2018 one (need more research–there’s this really nice restaurant I think my characters should check out).

  2. Wow..So happy for you!!! My dream is to visit Ireland and see the city where my Mother was born….then to see the country as I’m not a city person.

    1. Where was she born? And I have to say that much as I love Dublin, it’s the country that I think of most often. When we were looking at the house, the estate agent (realtor) said something like, this is really out in the country. I told him I like country, and that’s why I liked the house. (But there are great towns not far away.)

  3. Dreams flourish best in soil rich in persistence. I’m a country girl and would love to visit.

  4. My sister and I are huge fans of the County Cork mysteries! For me, the dream is a little flat in Listowel, County Kerry, same reasons. You’re an inspiration– not just with this but with writing my mystery series. Rock on!

  5. Sheila, I’m so happy for you. You’ve worked very hard and now you have the retreat that you’ve always wanted. Enjoy!!


  6. Congratulations on making your dream come true! I started with your museum mysteries (I am a career archivist) and then followed you to Ireland in that series. Ho wonderful that you now own a home in that very special land.

  7. So happy for you! I want to visit too. Don’t need a fancy bed, just a blow-up mattress will do. I was saying to a friend just yesterday, if I was to live in another country it would be Ireland. (And I’m not even Irish!) They love Americans, everybody is helpful and pleasant and there really are fairies there. I saw them. really. Looking forward to hearing about your adventures, both fiction and non-fiction ones!

  8. I finally got the word from my Flaherty relatives – we’re from somewhere in Galway! A bit north of you, and when I ever get there and drive between the two, I might feel a Limerick coming on…

  9. Congratulations, Sheila. I’m so happy for you. My family line is from County Cork, too. I want to get to Ireland one day and see what my older brother and sister have seen.

  10. Congratulations Sheila! That is so awesome. Love the view too.

  11. I’m so thrilled for you! And this is inspiring. Safe travels — I wish I was there to help you find furniture and lamps.

  12. Persistence, stubbornness, whatever you want to call it, I am so inspired that you made it happen. Wishing you much happiness in your new home!

  13. This is so inspiring! You have no idea. I really want to be a successful writer and find a good job with my Ph.D in Educational Psychology that I will have in about 2 and half years. This story is so touching. Thanks for giving me hope. And I live in the slums of Wilmington, Delaware. Currently looking for a job out of state…anywhere!

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