Monday, June 17, 2013

Carla Stewart on Finishing the Book, Sneak Peak and a GIVEAWAY!!


Finish writing the book. It sounds simple, but it’s not. There are so many things that can trip you up. And only by writing can you put to use all the craft things you’ve learned and find your writing voice.

The other thing that sort of goes along with that is that you shouldn’t be afraid of being unique. Yes, there are many conformities that you must adhere to, but having a unique story to tell and a voice that captivates will get you noticed and on your way to success.


Dusty Fairchild and Paisley Finch are close-knit cousins but opposite in every way. Blonde and top in her class, Dusty has lived a sheltered life, raised on a Texas ranch by her widowed, oilman father. She’s never lacked for material possessions but yearns for a life of adventure and studying geology in college. Instead, her daddy sends her to finishing school in East Texas.

Paisley, has grown up traveling the country with her bohemian mother, and is wise to the ways of the world. Dark haired and clever, she’s grateful to her uncle for letting her join Paisley at Miss Fontaine’s. She’s weary of the “grasshopper” lifestyle of her mother and ready to live a settled life.

At Miss Fontaine's, their loyalty to each other binds them, but when they fall in love with the same handsome young man, their relationship teeters on shaky ground. Only after a tragic accident do they learn where their true hearts-and dreams-lie.


Two Forks, Texas ~ 1947

She found the stones the day they buried her mama. Three of them catching the sunlight, twinkling beyond the grave site. Her daddy clamped her small hand in his beefy, calloused one while she busied herself with sniffing the air, the smell of fresh earth tickling and sweet, mixed with the heavy perfume of roses. She itched to break free, to muster her way through the skirts that swished this way and that, to run past the stiff black britches of the men who stood like wooden soldiers at the ends of the box they said held her mama.
She craned her neck, keeping watch on the shiny stones. They winked back from their nesting place along the fence row. 

When her daddy’s hand went slack, she dashed for it and dropped to her knees on the grass, the scent of sage sharp from the field next to the graveyard. With plump fingers, she reached shyly and touched the stones. They were warm like the summer sun, one of them full of sparkle with rough edges that bit into her fingers, another smooth, the size and shape of a pecan, black on the top and bottom with a ribbon of white through the middle. And the last one, dull brown and rough to her fingertips but flecked with a million black dots. When curled in her palm, it had a perfect indentation to rest her thumb.

“Whatcha got?”

She jerked her head around, then smiled. Her cousin, Paisley, stood with her hands planted firmly on her narrow waist, the taffeta of her dress noisy.  

“Nothing.” The spiny stone, the prettiest one, bit into the palm of her balled fist.

“Yes, you do. Show me.”

One by one, she uncurled her fingers. “Here, you can have it.”

“Really? Oh, look, it’s covered with diamonds.”

They plopped their bottoms on the grass and had just gotten settled when a shadow crept over them. Aunt Edith reached down and snatched Paisley up by the arm. “Come on. You’re getting your dress dirty. It’s time to go. Tell Dusty goodbye now.”

When Paisley offered the stone in her open hand, Dusty shook her head. “You can have it and bring it tomorrow when we play.”

Aunt Edith had already started toward the iron gate, pulling Paisley with her. Just one quick wave, and they were gone.

Paisley didn’t come over the next day. Or the day after. Dusty’s daddy said it was good riddance, and the way he spit the words out, she knew Paisley was gone for good. She squeezed her eyes to shut out the tears. Daddy didn’t like crying. No tears for her mama. None for her cousin. All she had left was two stones—one with a skunk stripe, the other dull brown. She carried them everywhere in her pocket, the lumps as familiar as the dimple in her chin and the blue of her eyes when she stood on the bathroom sink and looked in the mirror.

She knew as sure as her name was Dusty Agnes Fairchild that the earth that swallowed her mama had given the stones in exchange. There was no other explanation. Later, when she told her daddy about them, he said she was mistaken about when she got them, that no three-year-old child could remember such a thing. He said there were a dozen places on the ranch she could’ve picked them up, and that her imagination would get her in a heap of trouble.

She left him to his opinions and didn’t mention that she also knew someday Paisley would return. She didn’t know how or when, but the feeling never left her, like a tiny suitcase packed by the door, waiting for the day when the door would burst open and life would return to normal.

Thanks so much for having me at WRITER’S ALLEY! May this be the summer you pursue your dreams with fervor!  


E-mail address:

Thanks so much, Carla. Let us know what has been your biggest barrier to finishing the book or leave a comment or question for Carla along with your email address:

writersanonymous (at) writersalleys (dot) com

and we'll enter you for a $5 amazon gift card.


Jill Weatherholt said...

Thank you Carla, for the simple yet so important writing advice. Finish things you start is something my parents stressed growing up.

Unknown said...

"Finish the book." sounds so simple, but feels soooo hard sometimes. Probably my biggest barrier is fighting the constant urge to go back and revise earlier chapters over and over and over... :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

Carla, Thanks so much for being on the Alley today!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Carla, "Finish the book." Some of the best advice I've received. It's good to hear it re-iterated by you. Your book sounds very good!

carla stewart said...

Wise parents you had, Jill! Mine were the same way, and it's something we've tried to instill in our own kids. With every book, there's been a point when I've wanted to throw it away and start over (or join a convent!) I'm glad I didn't!

carla stewart said...

Hi Melissa - YES, I'm like that, too. In the beginning, I think it's all right to work on the first few chapters until they shine, but at some point, it really is beneficial to write through to the end. When you come to a plot change, make a note in red and continue with the new plot element. When it's finished, you can go back and make the necessary changes. It has taken me FIVE books to learn this. You can do it!!!!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Hi Carla,

Just wanted to say how much I enjoyed that little snippet of your book. Lovely writing.


carla stewart said...

Julia - thanks for inviting me to the Alley! What a great place to hang out. I'll be in and out today - learning from you all, too!

Jeanne - welcome! And yep, I'm pretty sure "finish what you started" will stand the test of time. So why does it seem like writing to THE END of a book is so hard? Thanks for your kind words about Sweet Dreams. Hope that you get a chance to read it!

carla stewart said...

Thanks, Sue! What a nice thing to say! Blessings! ~C

Julia M. Reffner said...

Jill, Finishing is such a good feeling, isn't it.

Sue, Carla does have a lovely writing style, doesn't she?

Hope said...

Seriously great :) I think my biggest barrier while writing is having this feeling that it will never be what I dream for it to be. Now that I'm editing, I'm finding it even harder to believe I have it in me...I seem to be unable to see any skill in my writing...hoping it's something everyone deals with!! ;)

Lynda E. said...

Thanks for the great advice, Carla. My biggest barrier to finishing seems to be finding a way to end the story in a satisfying way--not a cliché but not unrealistic, ether. Thanks for the giveaway, too!
danandlyndaedwards (at) msn (dot) com.

carla stewart said...

Hope, I understand exactly what you're saying! We have such hopes that our stories will be beautiful and resonate. I'm not sure why writers suffer from such paralyzingly fear, but you're not alone! Write the best story you can and put it out there. Thank goodness for critique partners and editors who can help. Hang in there! Wishing you much joy and success.

carla stewart said...

Lynda, oh goodness - can I ever relate. My editor just nixed the cliched ending on the book I'm working on. Boy am I glad! It took some work but the one I came up with is stronger. One thing I like to do is have something in the end that reflects the beginning. In Sweet Dreams, Ch 1 and the last chapter are both at a party, but at the end, the characters have changed, and I hope readers are satisfied with the journey I have taken them on. Keep working, and I'm sure your ending will be stellar!!

Julia M. Reffner said...

Great advice in the comments, Carla!

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Carla -

This sounds like another great read!

My greatest barrier to finish writing a book is time and a reluctance to leave my characters.

susanjreinhardt AT gmail DOT com


carla stewart said...

Susan, I always grieve when I send my characters off to the safe hands of my editor. Sometimes I wonder if they miss me :-)

Deadlines work wonders for pushing through to "the end" - either self imposed or the kind that come with contracts.

Keep writing, Susan! You've got one book out there - your fans are waiting for the next one!

carla stewart said...

Thank you, Julia - I've so enjoyed being her on the Alley with you all! Thanks for having me!!

Beth Pettifor said...

The biggest barrier between me and finishing my book is major plot changes. I'll get halfway done with one version and then a flaw in logic or just a more fluid plot twist will worm it's way into my head. I can't be satisfied with anything I write along the old plot lines after that.

carla stewart said...

Beth - I've had that happen, too. It's tempting to go back and change what you've written to go w/ new plot line, but you can also make a note in red for what the plot change is and then move forward with the new direction. I recently did this, and it wasn't all that hard to go back to the beginning and make the changes once the book was finished. I'm still learning to do this right along with you all, but I'm a believer in pushing through to THE END. I talk to myself in "red" ink throughout the mss so when I go back I know what I was thinking at certain points.

Joy and success to you in your writing, Beth!