How to Build a Cottage in Your Mind

March 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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Grandpa Ware stone cottage Carmel circa 1950s

I admit it:  over the years, I’ve become a rather obsessed “cottage collector.” Perhaps it’s because, at around ten years old, I began visiting my Grandfather Ware at the tiny stone cottage perched on a sand dune on Carmel Beach that he rented the same year we moved as a family from Los Angeles to the amazing village of Carmel-by-the-Sea.DSCN0267  My father, writer Harlan Ware, would escort me along the streets-with-no-sidewalks to the Forest, Studio, and Golden Bough theatres thriving in our town where I would perform in semi-professional plays when I was growing up.  We’d pass by cottage after cottage that could have served as illustrations in the Book of Mother Goose.  Cottage life, to me, seemed an idyllic way to live, even during the years when I dwelled in the cities of New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

c10So, when I first walked through this gate fifteen years ago on the central coast of Cornwall, England on a research trip for A Cottage by the Sea, I knew this was the perfect spot to set this story and had in my mind  exactly how the fictional “Painter’s Cottage” should look.  It would be a stone structure with a slate roof and floor-to-ceiling artists’ windows facing the English Channel. However, on that day, all I could see across a broad field was a tiny structure clinging to the cliff on a curving bay between Nare Head on the West and Dodman Point to the East.

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As I picked my way across the loamy turf, I began to make out what was actually an abandoned “lookout” stone structure, a small, squat building–and in 1997, minus a roof.   Never mind, I thought, enraptured by the sweeping view and the sheep and Scottish Highland cattle dotting the slope, this was the place I would build my perfect cottage in my imagination.  On another research trip years later to prepare for the sequel, That Summer in Cornwall, the field’s owner—the Caerhays Castle estate–had recently restored the roof, perhaps in the hope they could add it to a list of estate outbuildings they offer to paying guests.  Luckily for me, I had that privilege last October at Bottom Lodge…once the gatekeeper’s cottage.

IMG_6352Talk about a novelist surrounding herself with the atmosphere of the place she would write about!  This is “Bottom Lodge” where visitors to Caerhays Castle (aka “Barton Hall” in my two novels set in Cornwall) can book into the left turret. I was “in residence” in October of 2012 and it was totally an experience of a lifetime!  I spent my days tramping all over the estate, reveling in what it must have actually been like to live here a hundred and fifty years ago, and also got a solid grasp of what a struggle it is in the modern world to keep these big houses solvent.IMG_6375 - Version 2

 

IMG_5654In the two, stand-alone novels (and certainly in my mind), I easily expanded the small structure I’d spotted perched on the cliff into a two-story cottage with a sleeping loft and a faintly baronial fireplace opposite windows facing the English Channel–and no cattle wandering in and out! (This cottage with the sailboat actually exists in Talloires, France–but I loved the fireplace and imagined it as part of Painter’s Cottage!)  On  my most recent trip to the environs of Gorran Haven in central Cornwall, I dared to get pretty close to those long-horned Scottish Highland cattle who’d made the old stone lookout hut their personal shelter…and what a view! Beyond those clouds, that’s Brittany across the English Channel…IMG_6534

The vistas through the abandon lookout’s glass-less windows were even more incredible. Imagine, I thought, if the Caerhays Estate eventually rehabs this stone lookout and allows their “paying guests” to stay here as they did with bottom Lodge?  But I loved the location so much, I decided as I was writing That Summer in Cornwall that the heroine would claim the “newly rehabbed” Painter’s Cottage for her own while she pitched in to help her Anglo-American cousins return the eight-hundred-acre estate to solvency.

Image-20-199x300I could easily imagine the overstuffed furniture in front of a cozy fireplace, surrounded by the magnificence of the Cornish coast.  To me, Painter’s Cottage truly exists as part of a shabby-chic castle clinging to a remote Cornish cliff–even if all you can see if you visit there this very day is a small, squat, abandoned stone hut that may one day see new life again.

In a novelist’s mind, anything is possible…

 

That’s What Friends Are For…

February 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

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collageFeb6-300x200A quite remarkable phenomenon is percolating among the community of multi-published novelists.  It’s more than a “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours”  book promotional network, but rather a curated, semi-underground system of authors who know, trust, and admire each other’s work and are willing to give a shout-out on their own book blogs and on Facebook, Twitter, etc. to a sister novelist who has a new book being launched by the author-as-publisher.url-3

This is especially true these days due to the fact that some very respected non-novelist book bloggers have thrown in the towel trying to keep up the the avalanche of new titles and have shut down their blogs that formerly trumpeted the wares of both experienced and novice novelists to the reading public.

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A few bygone book bloggers cited the online abuse they encountered from some publishers and/or authors if they didn’t describe a new novel in the noblest of terms and award it with a “5 Star Review.” Cried one plaintively on her final posting: “For some, 4.5 stars was an insult. I just want to get back to what got me into blogging in the first place:  reading and writing about the books I love!”

Frankly, who could blame them?

Ciji at work in Portofino Office 4-07Meanwhile, an increasing number of established writers with many traditionally published books under their belts are now venturing into the world of “Independent Publishing,” declaring that they feel they deserve more than 7-15% of the profits when others involved in bringing their books to the public are taking a whopping 40-70% of the “take” on a book that has been created by the person who actually wrote it. For unnumbered scribes, it simply has become a case of “Do the math!’

And then there is something so satisfying to click the “upload” button and see the colorful cover of a novel like That Summer in Cornwall appear on the major online retail sites like Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple/iBooks (by February 22).  In March, the print version is scheduled to debut via the usual online retailers and, hopefully, in a bookstore near you….

Frankly, it’s nothing short of shouting from the rooftops: “Look, Ma…I’m a Publisher!”

But, writing the book is only Step 1 and preparing it for release–merely Step 2. Step 3 is that no-man/woman’s/land of promoting and marketing an independently produced novel to the readers who might like it among virtually millions of other titles floating out there in cyberspace.

Back CameraSuddenly the author living the solitary life locked in a room with only a computer for company is thrust into the world of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Goodreads, and all the other “engines” designed to get the word out to an audience that one hopes actually wants the new novel on their bookshelves or electronic reading devices.

Which brings me to the title of this blog:  the extraordinarily generous novelists in my circle of friends and professional acquaintances who have been kind enough to invite me to “guest post” about That Summer in Cornwall on their blogs and other online outlets.  I offer up my deepest thanks to pals like Cynthia Wright, Julie Kenner, Michael Llewellyn, and Lauren Royal who have been big boosters of my first foray into independent publishing.  As blogs where I’ve been a contributor move on to newer topics, they’ve allowed me to re-post my “guest appearances” on Ciji’s Blog—which I will be doing in the next little while.Kenner Sequel Blog Post

Hey, what are friends for?

And I am more than happy to do the same, especially for these open-hearted, talent authors.  In this Brave New World, we have to forge new paths and alliances based on honesty and appreciation–and how better than to walk those paths than with people you like and trust?