Like most writers, I write because I’m drawn to put my thoughts on paper. Okay, these days it’s more like converting thoughts into digital data, but you know what I mean. We as writers have something inside that we want to share.
For some of us, it’s a spirit of adventure we want to communicate to our readers, a mystery or thriller that’s been rattling around in the back of our minds. But for me the desire to write is a combination of exploring experiences and outcomes while living vicariously through a fictitious character. My characters are free to travel through events I survived, but they will be far more intelligent, less dramatic, more diplomatic, and all around handle it better than I did. Through my stories I can put my characters into settings I struggled with, then I can manipulate them and the conditions to come up with a far better ending.
Even more fun is to have the characters get opportunities I wish I had been given, and to live through their eyes as they get to do things I may never get to do. I get to explore what would happen if a personality were presented with the conflict and excitement of moving outside their comfort zone and into situations of success and triumph.
Writing gives me the opportunity to travel another road and walk in another’s shoes. So what happens when you come across someone who has actually lived the experiences of a character in your book? My mother used to say “truth is stranger than fiction” but when it happened to me and my work, I was caught off guard.
In my novel Hometown Girl After All, Julia moves to a small town to start over when her life in the city has become unbearable. She finds a love of gardening, which builds her confidence and she eventually opens a flower shop. Imagine my surprise when my daughter sent me a link for an article she read on boredPanda.com that reminded her of my book (link below). The brief article featured a florist’s Instagram feed, filled with photos of her beautiful flowers. The post said Erin had given up her life in the city to live in the country and through planting a few flowers her grandmother had loved, she found she had a gift for growing flowers. The photos in the article were exactly how I had pictured Julia’s flowers in my novel. And the way my daughter had envisioned it too, evidently.
Immediately, I had to follow the chain of links to find who this woman was. Erin’s blog Flower Farm Journal is truly lovely. One of the things I love most, is that the whole front page is devoted to promoting other women who are florists, farmers, and photographers, like herself. What a refreshing view in this day and age of never ending self-promotion! And it keeps getting better from there. As you click through pages of Erin’s site, you find tutorials on how to grow beautiful flowers for yourself. I could spend hours reading these pages filled with brilliant photos.
As I read the story of Erin’s farm for the first time, I felt as if the spirit of my book was coming alive. Julia’s story in Shabby Chic after All is one of recovery, unexpected friendship, love of neighbors, and healing. I was thrilled to read the following quote from the “Our Story” tab of Erin’s Flower Farm Journal web page.
“Years ago we left the hustle and bustle of city life and moved to the Skagit Valley to pursue a slower, simpler and more intentional lifestyle for our little family. We dreamed of eating fresh vegetables from our garden, tending a flock of chickens and planting a small orchard. Shortly after we moved in, a generous neighbor brought his tractor over and tilled up a new plot of ground so that we could plant a garden. His kindness that day offered a glimpse into what country life would be like.”
In my novel Julia finds healing through the growth of her garden as well as love and friendship as it draws people to her. Here is another quote from Erin’s page.
“…word got out and someone ordered a jar of flowers for a friend. I’ll never forget that day as I nervously knocked on her door and awkwardly thrust the bouquet into her hands. Surprised, she buried her face in the flowers and tears immediately welled up in her eyes. She was instantly transported back to her own childhood summers, to a time of great happiness and to her own grandmother’s garden…right then and there I knew I had found my calling.”
I’ve personally have never had the opportunity to move to a small town in the country and start a flower shop, but in my mind it felt lovely. It seemed like a scenario that would be healing and promote friendship and confidence. I couldn’t be happier to see, at least for one woman, this has been a real life experience. Erin’s business has grown far beyond anything Julia ever dreamed in the novel, bravo Erin! But who knows, maybe Julia will return someday in another novel, and her dreams may have burst their seams as well.
Thank you Erin for being an inspiration to many, and for living your dream. I encourage you all to check out her blog and enjoy the gorgeous flowers and photos that she creates. And never stop dreaming!
The Shabby Chic movement, and my romance series it's inspired, are all about seeing beauty in the old and worn. My leading ladies find solace and satisfaction in some old thing with a great patina. This concept lends well to the core basics of Earth day, which this year is April 22. Reuse and recycle, love it and find a way to put it back to work, in order to help save the environment. No need to throw away items that could offer more function. My grandma always said “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without,” and I couldn’t agree more. Take a moment this week to talk to a friend or family member about the advantages of recycling, especially if your re-loved item turns out beautiful!
What is it about spider infested, filthy old things that make my hearts race?
How could dragging and manipulating a half ruined piece of furniture that weighs more than anything I ever lifted in my heyday at the gym, be so thrilling that instead of collapsing against the wall with my eyes bugging, I still have the energy to circle the thing with my eyes shining?
When did roaming the paint department looking for brushes and rollers and tape become more fun than the shoe store at the mall?
At what point of my life did I decide shabby was better than shiny, old was better than new, and something that needed completely worked over was so dang attractive?
When did I decide that an old farmhouse with no plumbing or electrical was my dream home?
I may never be able to pinpoint when the shabby chic bug bit me, but I’m so glad it did. I’m more productive, less wasteful, more creative, and far more stiff and sore. My thoughts wander through the possibilities of an item; what is once was, what it could be, and then what would it be if I did something entirely new with it. I stop to chat with folks about their gardens and their projects. I search out the odd little shop with an artistic owner rather than a brand name box store.
Did this happen when I wandered into that first little boutique and my mouth fell open in surprise and pleasure at someone else’s creativity? Was it the day I looked at the item thinking I understood what it was, and yet someone had come up with another way to use it that was gorgeous?
Or maybe my heart had simply forgotten how much I’d loved crayons and play dough and finger paints.
All I know for sure is that as my attention narrowed to focus on what some call a trend, my heart and mind opened to encompass a broader and far more colorful world.
Each morning I log onto my computer and spend well over an hour visiting my social media friends. First I visit my Romance Novels Face Book page where I post photography of shabby furniture and quotes about reading or things famous authors say, as well as snippets from my novels and blog posts. Then I open up Pinterest and visit the pages of the people who liked my pins. I see so many beautiful and inspiring things there. Sometimes I wonder how many of us have our home designs, travel, cooking, and wardrobe fantasies parked on that site.
This morning as I was scanning through photos of amazing places and fabulous ideas I got a comment on one of my novel pins! You may not think that a comment on Pinterest would make someone’s day, but I consider Pinterest one of my major marketing sources. I spend a great deal of time taking photos of my shabby style projects, as well as sorting, pinning and organizing pins that represent my novels. I get nearly half of all the foot traffic to my author website from Pinterest so to have someone comment on a pin of my novel cover was very exciting. To add to the warm fuzzies, she said that I was the first author she’d met on Pinterest! Is this a major breakthrough moment for me??!
My novels are a new concept in that they are novels about a lifestyle. The stories are very character driven and about ladies who find comfort, strength and satisfaction in shabby design. Tara saves and restores old homes, Julia works in her garden, and Lizzie love prairie style comfort; plus some sweet romance with a handsome man to round out the fun. Come by and check them out!
I hope you’ve all got a Pinterst page full of tabs containing things you love, and I hope you take the time to comment on a pin that touches you. You just may make someone’s day!
I want my author website to visually represent my novels, so this week I contacted a professional web designer to rework and redesign the whole thing from the bottom up. Now the big question, if I had to choose five or six pictures that would immediately bring to life my stories, what would I choose?
Those of us who love to rework, remodel, recycle, and pick through treasures know that shabby style is not a goal but a process. It’s a journey. It’s a vision not only to redesign a space, but to search out lost and unexpected gems that will come together in a way that is charming and meaningful.
Most of us have experienced the stress and joy of tearing things completely apart and pieced them back together. Shabby style is that excursion, the whole tour from ugly and horrible, (outdated and nasty dirty) to unthinkable, (How will I ever fix what I just uncovered?) to salvage, (I can except this) to fabulous, (Not exactly how I’d planned it in the beginning, but…) and then the never ending tweaking (Ohhh this would be perfect in the…)
The photos I select will need to include the bare and naked middle part of reworking a piece or a space, as well as the calm and serene, comfortable and beautiful part at the end; maybe a few piles of junk, stripped screw heads, or a second hand shop? Nothing could convey the aching back or the endless brain drain involved.
And what about the characters in my stories? How can I ever hope to capture the essence and wisdom of Winnie, or the meddlesome charm of Marge? How to convey frustration and sadness and joy?
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words mean ten thousand things to five different people. So perhaps I will use words to convey my design goals to the web designer and believe that her talent lies in translating them into visual representations of my novels.
I’m happy to report that this week I got back final proofs for book two of my Shabby Chic series! I received not only the book block, which is the formatted version of the text part of the book, I also received the cover design! Needless to say, this blog is late because I’ve been up to my eyeballs in proofreading.
For some reason I can work for months on editing and rewrites of a novel, but when I see the cover design, the book finally seems real. The digital artist at Friensen press, along with my author rep Brelan, have a done a great job on both novels to come up with designs that reflect the core of my story.
I loved the grubby feel of book one to represent Tara and her issues, and I am just as thrilled with the outdoor rusty garden jibe they sent me for Book Two. Julia would love the peeling teal paint and the roses on the back cover.
If you’d like to see what book two, Shabby Chic After All, will look like, you can check out the front page of my website. Authorkirstenfullmer.com
I’m home! After a month of travel out west, and enjoying my sweet new grandbaby, I’m finally home again. I’m stationed on the sofa with one leg tucked under me, my computer on my lap, and Bingo curled up and snoring by my side, just where I belong.
Yesterday I spent the morning making Mother’s Day cards for my mom and my mother-in-law. Both are in poor health and I’m not sure how many more Mother’s Days I’ll get to have the honor. I can never just pull out a few supplies to make cards, I have to drag out every box full of paper stacks, stickers, pencils and markers, embellishments, two sided tape, glue, stamps and stamp pads I own. Then I am forced to dig through each and every box to find the items that suit the situation and my mood. Yesterday, for some reason, I fixated on birds and flowers, spring theme. My table was piled with stacks of crafty items that had to be continually shifted and sorted and moved over to make more space to work. Am I the only one who can’t create without everything I may ever need in plain sight?
As for my own mother’s day, my sweetheart bought me a Yonana! For those of you who don’t know what that is, it’s a cute little appliance that turns frozen bananas into what looks like soft serve ice cream. It tastes like guiltless smashed frozen bananas, but feels like a treat. My naughty sister Melanie told me I could also put chocolate chips and cookies through the thing to doctor up the banana, but I’m trying to forget that and stick with my low sugar frozen fruit. I’m thinking I can keep this up until at lease next week, when mother’s day actually happens.
Book number two of my shabby Chic series, Shabby Chic After All, is getting close to release! On Monday I should receive the final proofs for approval of the cover and finished text. It seems like it takes forever to publish and I’m very excited to get book two out to my fans. As soon as folks finished book one, Shabby Chic at Heart, their first question is always “When will book two come out?”
Book three, Shabby Chic Forever, is well under way, and I have to say that I’m loving Elliot. He has become one of the quirkiest male characters that I’ve written. Funny how they take on a life of their own!
I better get back to work now. I hope you all have a wonderful Mother’s Day. If you don’t have someone to celebrate with, may you search out someone who has mothered you and send them some love!
This morning I find myself on a bumpy plane ride home to West Virginia. With no major airports in our home state, the trip is all small planes and checked bags. My finger hovers in the air over my tablet, attempting to touch the correct selection for Sudoku, only to have the plane pitch and bounce and I hit the wrong number once again.
It’s been an exciting and eventful month of travel and grand babies, but now I get to return to my quiet empty nest, to enjoy steaming mugs of coffee over an early morning table across from my husband, and curling up on the sofa with my little Bingo dog.
I miss the grandbaby, sweet little Lucy, even now. Her velvet soft skin and squeaks and grunts will have to be transmitted to grandma by video clips and Skype. As we descend and the plane hops from side to side down through the clouds, my mind already slips back into my novels, to Smithville PA, where book two of the Shabby Chic trilogy is nearly ready for print. The final proofs will be arriving this month for review. Julia and Chad will make their debut mid summer, and I hope you all enjoy another fun filled visit with Tara and Justin.
Book three of the Shabby Chic trilogy is taking shape as Lizzie and Elliot butt heads planning the opening of the day spa. Lizzie loves her tiny prairie style farmhouse, so my days will be filled with helping her design and decorate her home as she finds her way through adjusting to small town life. Rusty vintage treasures and furniture with chipped and natural finishes will fill her rooms, herbs will be hung to dry in her kitchen, and her weaving loom will arrive.
Elliot, completely out of place in the country, will grapple with the craziness of Smithville folk as he falls for Lizzie and her off beat ways. Justin and Tara may manage to entice him to stay on longer and design a new project with Justin, similar to the one they’d originally planned for the project Tara claimed in book one.
So it’s true, as wonderful as traveling and family may be, and it was truly a gift to be by my son’s side to greet his new daughter, getting home is also a treat. I can’t wait for Bingo to jump around my feet and bark happily when I arrive, for quiet evenings walking through the wooded beauty of our neighborhood with my husband as Bingo sniffs along our well-worn rout, snuggling into cold sheets with my sweetheart, and of course, returning to the world of my novel friends.
Some blogs are pure happiness we share, and this is one of those. I am now a grandma! I knew seeing my son and daughter-in-law with their new baby would be one of those life moments you never forget, but it was even better than I dreamed.
I think and write about family and vintage love and antiques, the appreciation for old things and the love of renewing them, but a new baby in the family brings the old and young together in a whole different way. Images of the last week are locked in my mind, such as a soft pink hand tied quilt made with love, laid across the arm of the antique rocker my son bought for his beautiful wife as a welcome home gift. Aunts bring casseroles, cousins crochet afghans, and children hovering curiously around the baby for a peek. Even my mother’s cowlick, which was passed along to me, then to my handsome son, now on the sweet forehead of my granddaughter, brings my mother closer to my heart.
The love of vintage items warms our hearts, like family drawn together in joy and awe. New treasures are created for special events, and will be cherished for a lifetime, then handed down again and again.
May we all relish the current amazing moments of our lives and create new treasures for future generations to find and love.
I’m out of state this month visiting my wonderful son and his beautiful wife. The two of them are blessing us with our first grandchild very soon! I came out early to help them move and set up their new home in preparation for the baby, and lucky for me, my daughter-in-law loves to shop second hand stores!
In the last week we’ve found mismatched but fabulous china, a sweet pedestal table with cottage style chairs that just need fresh paint, an old brass head board, and lots of frames for family photos, all in second hand stores. We couldn’t find any old dressers so we got a few unfinished wooden chest-of-drawers to paint. Painting furniture always reminds me of my mother teaching me, with news paper spread across the driveway, brush in hand and bandanas ties around our heads.
The moving is done now and we can settle into the joy of sanding and painting. When that is finished we have baby quilts to tie and bind as we await the arrival of the baby. I can’t think of a better way to spend time with my adult kids than passing along the joy of furnishing a home for their family.
May you all find a treasure for your family to enjoy in the coming weeks!