Sometimes I sit back and let my characters talk.
In all honestly, that's how the cottage came to be. Alice-Ann and Carlton were speaking ... getting to know each other on a deeper level than they'd known each other previously ... and Alice-Ann mentioned a house in town she liked.
"A cottage, really," she said.
If I go back and look at my character sketch for Alice-Ann, I can't find a single mention of "the cottage." But there it was. She'd said it and ... yep. There it was.
And so (and I remember it clearly), after a day of self-editing, I decided that I liked the cottage idea as much as Alice-Ann. All mentions of the house / cottage would remain within the manuscript.
I also remember the day I began searching for the cottage online. I found one that pretty much "fit the bill," but it wasn't until after I'd written the scene that I found EXACTLY what I'd pictured in my mind. THE cottage ... the way it would look after Alice-Ann and Carlton put their backs and sweat equity into it.
So, here it is (above). THE cottage. What do you think? Is it what you thought it would be?
Now, here's the really fun part. When the editors at Tyndale read the book, and the marketing team (those geniuses!) read the book, they came together and came up with the most fun contest: My One True Cottage contest. If you are on Pinterest (and who isn't???), you should check it out.
Carlton’s brow shot up. “I’m suddenly very glad I’m a city kid.”
“City? Ha. Ha.”
A light blush kissed his cheeks. “All right. Bynum’s a mite of a town, I grant you, but it’s still not the country.”
“The country’s not so bad.”
“I know . . .”
“But, if I could . . .” Her words had come too easily, she realized, so she allowed the hidden wish to slip into the sunshine and fresh air that had now filled the room.
She giggled. “It’s silly. I can’t even believe I almost said it.”
Carlton grinned. “Tell me.”
“You know,” she drawled while reaching for the book on the floor, “I’m supposed to be reading to you.”
“Tell me,” he coaxed.
She opened the book, the paper sighing as she turned to the first page. Alice-Ann cleared her throat, preparing her voice for the words.
She looked up. “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” she said. “It came out last year and I had to get on a waiting list at the library. Picked it up yesterday afternoon—”
“Alice-Ann,” he repeated her name, his voice rising in a question. “Tell. Me.”
She closed the book. “All right, but you’ll think I’m silly.”
“I promise not to make fun of you.”
“Well . . . all right.” She sighed. “If you promise.”
“Cross my heart,” he said, imitating the words, “and hope to die.”
“All right, then. See, there’s this … house. A cottage, really.”
Carlton used the strength of his arms and fists to shift in the bed, to face her better. “Where?”
“Near Nancy and Harry’s. You remember them, right?”
He chuckled. “I lost my sight, not my memory.”
“Don’t be. Go on. Nancy and Harry. Cottage.”
He wanted to hear. Carlton Hillis truly desired to know her thoughts. Her dreams. A first, for sure. Not even Mack had. Not really. Not ever. Alice-Ann had written to him, she’d shared, but he’d never come out and asked. Or even coaxed her as Carlton seemed to do now. “It’s in disrepair. Slight, but still, it’s in disrepair. No one’s lived in it—Nancy says—for ten years or more. But, it’s so . . . cute.”
She laughed again. “It is.”
“A house that’s cute.”
“A cottage, really,” she reiterated, hoping that the words “cottage” and “cute” used together kept her from sounding completely idiotic. After all, Carlton had been in college when his sense of American pride had taken over and he’d enlisted. “He’s so smart, that Carlton,” she’d heard a thousand times or more, followed by the typical, “Always has been.”
“What’s so cute about it?” he asked. The tone of his voice made her feel more girl than woman, but somehow less silly.