Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Story That Wrote Itself by Patti Sherry-Crews

Hello, Roses! Big thanks to my friend and fellow author, Andrea Downing, for inviting me to be here with you today.
Recently another author said something that got me thinking. She described one of her earlier works as “the book that wrote itself,” adding “I know we all have at least one of these.” I do have a few books that wrote themselves! But then I probably have more that I have had no help whatsoever from the book. I’ve had to write the whole thing myself by pulling words and ideas out of my head and trying to fit them all together to form a complete story.
Are we talking about inspiration? I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m ever uninspired when I write, but there are maybe degrees of inspiration.
Books that write themselves, how does that happen? For me there have been a few ways. One, I’ve lived with storylines in my head from the time I was a child. I developed a repertoire of stories to draw from and would play through these stories to put myself to sleep or during other idle activities such as long car rides.
Because I was more a cowboy and Indians kind of girl than a Barbie fan, my earliest stories went something like this: A girl and her pony LOVE each other. But one day they have a falling out (maybe another pony was involved) and the pony runs away! The girl discovers he’s gone, and remembering why she loved the pony so much in the first place, goes out to find him. This is all heart-wrenching stuff, by the way. She finds the sad pony hiding in a cave and after many things are said (because the pony speaks fluent English) and many emotions emoted, they go on to live happily ever after.
Obviously, the story has evolved along with me. I began the process of fine-tuning their story and somewhere along the line, the pony became a human and the story more complex. In my new narrative a naive, rich girl has to flee when her father gets in trouble, and to get her from point A to B, her father sends her out on the trail under the protection of a hired gun, a journey that will take weeks on horseback. By this time, I’d seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid about a hundred times, so I add a section to my story where they have to take shelter at a Hole in the Wall type outlaw hideout for added suspense.  
When I started to write down my stories rather than imagine them, I sat down to write that historical western romance I always wanted to write, and Margarita and the Hired Gun, which had lived in my imagination for years practically wrote itself—and then got published, so that was cool.
Magic is another thing that helps a story write itself. Twice I woke up after vivid dreams involving people I’ve never seen before enacting a drama, which I’ve turned into books. And the other bit of magic is that I channel the spirit of a long dead Irishman, who speaks his own lines for me. It’s absolutely true. My psychic confirms this and says he was once a storyteller and has lots of stories to tell, so this is hundred percent fact. I’ve worked with him a few times. He’s great. He leaped into my head when I was writing the character of Michael, AKA Rafferty, in Margarita and the Hired Gun and spoke his own dialog lines, which was helpful.
But, now at nearly sixty years of age, I’ve pretty much run through all my childhood stories (some have become medieval romances). I haven’t had a vivid dream in years, and I don’t know where the dead guy’s gone, so I’ve been left to my own devices lately.
Gone are the days when I’d say to myself, “I fancy writing a book today.” Now, I am a professional writer with deadlines and things.
I still love writing as much if not more, and the characters I create populate my day even more than their allotted bedtime stories used to. But, my focus is scattered and it’s slower going. I sit down to write, churn out a sentence, decide to check out Twitter and Facebook, see this week’s slideshow of what celebrities did over the weekend to prove they're just like us—there are only 132 slides to flick through after all (and they prove they’re just like us by grocery shopping or walking around in their yoga pant while carrying a takeout coffee), and then go back and review what I last wrote. That sentence is really good, I think. Then I might write another sentence before seeing someone needs to take out the garbage (where are those celebrities when you need them to act just like us?).
I think I’m a better writer now than when I first started, but it sometimes feels like I’ve slowed down. This might be because since I don’t have old stories to rely on, I’m not always sure where a storyline is going and have to work that out. One trick I find helpful to jumpstart my inspiration when I seem to be floundering is to go back to an earlier portion of a work-in-progress and reread what I’ve already written, which gives me a renewed vision.
What about you? Do you have books that have practically written themselves? Where did that come from? Have you felt intervention from supernatural sources while writing? How do you find inspiration when it’s not finding you?

Blurb for Margarita and the Hired Gun:
Pampered Margarita McIntosh is not used to being forced to do things she doesn’t want to do—but when her father, Jock, sends her away for her own safety, she has no choice. The long journey from Flagstaff to Durango tests her personal strength of will as never before, and the secret she carries in her saddlebag could be the death of her.
A rough Irish gunman, known to her only as “Rafferty”, is entrusted with getting her to her destination “safe and intact”—something he fully intends to do to claim the reward he’s been promised by Jock McIntosh. With a price on his head, the promised money is Rafferty’s ticket to a new life, and he’s not going to jeopardize that for anything—not even love.
But there are steamy nights and dangers all along the arduous trail for MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN, with deadly secrets between them that passion cannot erase. With her father’s enemies after her and the secret she conceals, will Rafferty’s protection be enough to save their lives? And will the heat of their passionate love be enough to seal their future together—if they do survive?

“The saloon must serve as a hotel,” she said.
Homer gave her an odd look as he stood up. “Something like that. I’m going to go find Rafferty.”
Now, she waited uncomfortably, alone at a table, while Homer went
up the stairs at the far end of the room. With relief, she saw him
returning, just one of the cowboys at the nearby table
half rose out of his seat as if about to approach her. Homer nodded to
them as he walked by, a warning in his face directed at the cowboy, who
sat back down.
Homer pulled out a chair next to her. “He’ll be down directly.”
The girl who had been sweeping minutes earlier, put down a pot of
strong smelling coffee and two chipped enamelware mugs at their table.
“Make that three mugs. A guest will be joining us. Can we get
something to eat?” Homer asked.
“Biscuits, eggs, and bacon.” The young woman headed off
without waiting for a reply.
Margarita’s attention was drawn to the stairs again. A man in a fancy
brocade waistcoat under a black jacket was making his way down the
stairs. He had long, silver hair, and a mustache curled up at each end,
defying gravity with the aid of mustache wax. Catching her eye, he
tipped his hat to her.
“He’s older than I expected,” she whispered to Homer, who turned to
look over his shoulder.
“That ain’t him,” he said, as the gentleman joined the card game in
After a beat, another man appeared at the railing overlooking the
The tall man with black hair leaned on the railing. With his
arms stretched out at full span he took in the room below with a
predatory gaze. He was powerfully built with broad shoulders and long
limbs. Like a bird of prey, he held his head still while his eyes shifted
around the room. Margarita felt like he was deciding which one of them
he would swoop down to pick off first.
Although nobody moved, the room changed. It felt like
the very air grew hot and dry in his presence, charged with a heaviness
that wasn’t there a minute ago.
When he saw Homer, the man’s gaze came to rest for a second. Then
his stare shifted, and met with hers. He lifted his eyebrows in surprise,
fixing her with such an intense stare that Margarita leaned back in her
“Rafferty,” said Homer, nodding his head in the direction of the man,
who now moved toward the stairs, eyes still on Margarita.
He walked slowly, swinging one long leg after another, a slight
swagger in his shoulders. Unable to bear up under his direct gaze any
longer, Margarita looked down at her coffee. Her throat constricted in anticipation, but still,
he moved down the stairs and across the room at an unnervingly slow pace.
When he arrived on the scene, the women at the table stopped talking and looked
expectantly at him. He didn’t register their presence as he walked past
them—to their apparent disappointment.
The men playing poker watched him with wary eyes. One of them
touched the gun in his holster, nervously.
The cowboys stopped talking and drew closer together.
Without a word or invitation, the tall man pulled out the chair across
from Margarita. The gun sticking out of his waistband put a lump of fear
in her stomach.
He jerked his head in her direction, looking at Homer. “Why is she
here?” he asked in a deep voice, speaking in the same slow pace as he
walked. He had an Irish accent, she noted.
Homer poured out a cup of the thick, dark liquid for him. “Rafferty.
This is Margarita McIntosh, Jock’s daughter.”
“And she’s here for what reason?” he asked in a brusque tone.
Margarita looked up, her face burning with indignation. She was met
with quite a sight. The man across from her had a few days’ growth of
black whiskers covering the lower part of his face. Jet-black hair stood in
loose curls around his head in an uncombed mass in need of a wash.
He was without a jacket, and his long john’s undershirt was
pushed up at the elbows, showing long, muscular forearms. Worse, the
top buttons of his shirt were unbuttoned, exposing the patch of black hair
on his chest. The tight, sweat-stained garment showed every bulge and
indent in his lean torso, including his nipples. He was as good as naked.
Margarita tried to hide her shock at this unseemly display. She’d never
seen so much of a man’s body before, up close.
His eyes bored into her. They were steely eyes the color of indigo set
in bloodshot orbs. Her discomfort seemed to amuse him. He narrowed
his eyes, and a smirk twisted his lips as he observed her watching
him. Other than his lips and eyes, he was as still as if he’d been carved in
stone. Very economical in his movements.
“Well, here’s the thing. She’s the job. Jock wants his daughter
delivered to his sister in Durango. He wants you to make sure she gets
there. Safe—and intact,” Homer said, in a way which made her redden.
The man called Rafferty grinned rakishly, displaying surprisingly
even, white teeth. “If it’s safety he’s after, there’s better ways to
transport his precious cargo, I would think.”
“He wants her movements to go undetected.”
Rafferty leaned over the table. She could smell him now. He smelled
like sour sweat, whiskey—and cheap perfume. There was some other
odor Margarita couldn’t identify, but it repelled her.
She raised her handkerchief to her nose to breathe through its
lavender-scented folds. Catching her gesture, the dark man glowered at
her briefly before the smirk returned to his lips.
“I’m a hired gun. Why does he need me to accompany her? She can’t
take a stagecoach or train? I have to wonder what’s going on that my
particular skills are required.”
Homer raked his hand through his hair, clearly wrestling with how to
answer the question. “Jock is on the run. He got involved in a dispute.
He’s afraid the men that are after him will grab his daughter to lure him
back. That’s all you need to know.”
He jerked a thumb in her direction. “I’m not interested in this job,” he said, starting to stand up.

Margarita and the Hired Gun is available alone or now in the collection Under a Western Sky along with five other full length historical western romances for only $0.99.

Patti can be found at 


Andrea Downing said...

Well, welcome here pal, and thanks so much for sharing your stories with us. I must say I've had a few books that have really written themselves--and that's such a pleasure because they get written really quickly. I'm currently working on one, however, that is like pulling teeth, despite the fact I know the storyline fairly well. Good luck with Margarita--it sounds like a winner.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Welcome to the Roses of Prose. Those few stories that write themselves, I think, keep us working all the harder on those that don’t. Best of luck with your latest.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Hi, Andi and Margo, thanks for stopping by. Pulling teeth, that's how I feel sometimes, but even with those slow-going ones when I look at them I can see how I've grown as a writer and that's encouraging. As Margo says the ones that come almost outside ourselves remind us of our calling and keep us writing.

Jannine Gallant said...

At this point, with over 20 books written, coming up with new ideas is a challenge. I do remember the good old days of having those specific plot lines and characters I wanted to share. They were wonderful! Best of luck with your latest book, Patti, and thanks for visiting us.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Hi, Jannine! I visit your blogspot frequently as a reader so it is fun to be here as a guest. 20 books, wow! It's good to have a big body of work behind you. I feel so slow and distracted lately but I wonder if realistically I'm getting more done than I give myself credit for? I probably spend more time sitting down to write now than I did back in the day.

Cheryl Pierson said...

Patti, I love Margarita and Rafferty and the journey they took together. You did such a fantastic job of everything in this story. I was much like you as a kid--going through all kinds of scenarios and dialogues in my head. I know I've slowed down in my writing, but I think it's because there is so much to do OTHERWISE in this writing world--marketing, publicity engagements, social media--it's all time consuming--it's not like "back in the day" where we just got up and thought "I'm going to work on such and such a scene today." All these other things get in the way. LOL

One thing I've discovered that helps me with inspiration is to work on something shorter that can be finished quicker than a novel--probably something with a tighter deadline than a novel--and sometimes a joint project that doesn't allow for any "down" time. I've done a few of these recently with Scott Harris and his projects with 52 authors all using the same prompt to write a 500 word story. It's amazing how invigorating that has been and how very different 52 stories can be using that same prompt!

Great post, Patti. I look forward to your next wonderful tale!

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Hi, Cheryl, so good of you to stop by! You've made some excellent points which make me feel better about my seemingly lessening of productivity. I do have to spend much more time marketing and promoting my babies that are already out there! Not only do I have to write blog posts, I have to visit other writer's. And, it's true writing novellas with deadlines really helps keep me in tune. I like to have a couple of things going at once so if I'm feeling bogged down in one, I can switch to the other.
I'm closing in on the ending of a full length HWR right now (you may be happy to know) and was really dragging for a bit but realize I have more trouble ending a book than starting one--not that I emotionally have a problem saying goodbye, but technically endings can be hard to get right. Thanks for being here!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Welcome, Patti. Your worries sound familiar...the need to feel inspired, impassioned is important. Since the stories I write develop as I write (my head has always been empty of stories), I need to keep writing. Simple as that. The promotion part keeps me from writing. Tough to balance the art and the marketing. Your story about the ponies of your youth made me smile. I actually pretended to be a horse at one period in my life, when I was about 9 or 10. Weird but wonderful. Oddly I never yearned to own a horse or ride one...I just thought it was cool to BE one. Thanks for telling us about your journey...good luck with your books!

Brenda Whiteside said...

Great post. I do have lots of stories that begin with characters developing in my head. I've been putting the to paper for about 10 years and I've not exhausted the voices yet. Enjoyed reading about your process.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

You made me laugh, Rolynn! I think I went through a brief I-am-horse-phase now that you mention it.I'm not much of a plotter myself so you can get stalled in the story line while you have to work out the next step in your head.

Thanks for stopping by, Brenda. I often wonder if other people have voices in their head all the time or is it only writers and madman who have that going on?

Kaye Spencer said...


I can relate to everything you wrote as pieces and variations of it are woven throughout my writing experiences. I do have a story that wrote itself. It's the first book I had published. It is a western romance that is autobiography-lite. I started writing it in 1976-ish and it was published in 2006. However, I have a rights reversion on it and it's waiting for me to return and update it to where I am in my life now as it tells me it's incomplete (hope that made some sort of rambling sense - lol).

As always, Patti, I enjoy reading your blog articles. Thank you for letting me know about this one.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Hi, Kaye! It's always good to see you. Your book sounds very intriguing. "autobiography-lite." It's interesting to know we all have many of the same struggles and it's helpful to know that and see how others deal with the hurdles.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

Loved this post!! I think I had magical intervention with my very first book. After that, it's just been hard work all the way. I would LOVE for the magic to come back, but I fear it's my own inner critic that stifles it. We should all pretend we're 6 when we write, without a care in the world.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Thanks for coming by, Kristy! I remember your story about how you thought you saw one of your characters, which inspired you to write. Whether the magic has deserted us or not at least it was the thing that got us started and when we discovered a calling. I'm still trying to get over to your blog post today and your wonderful series on creativity. There's a lot going on today! So I do appreciate everyone taking time to visit with me here today.

Renaissance Women said...

I love hearing where authors find their stories. Like you, I had a vivid imagination and so many stories running around in my head. Perhaps being sick so much as a child played a big part in that. Still, I loved the pony who became a man, *smile*.

Perhaps because I spend so much time in research for non-fiction work, and for enjoyment, I'm always coming across something that sparks a story. I'm just running out of time to write them, since I still chose to work.

May you continue to find inspiration and 'voices' that want their story told, for you tell it very well. Doris

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Hello, Doris! I was sick a lot as a child too! Asthma kept me indoors a lot, but I think the active imagination came first. And, you're right that sometimes the best source of inspiration are real life stories. You live in a part of the country rich with stories. I know because you've shared some of that with me. Thanks for stopping by!

Leah St. James said...

So sorry I'm late, Patti! Love your story of your story that wrote itself. I love how your first musings with the talking pony grew into MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN. Fantastic excerpt with great descriptions--especially Rafferty's long, slow walk down those stairs, and how she holds her scented hankie to her nose to mask the ripeness of his scent!

I share your frustration with the slowness of the process. If we keep at it though, those individual sentences will grow and your story will bloom, just as your first one did!

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Hi, Leah, better late than never because I do appreciate knowing that you stopped by. To set up that excerpt, Rafferty has been tracked down to a brothel where he's been holed up and has a massive hangover--which accounts for his slow descent down the stairs.
Reading everyone's comments, it occurs to me that sometimes we need to step back and look at the big picture to see how much we are actually accomplishing. When we move from stories in our own head to writing as a vocation there's so much more to do than writing.
Thanks for your comments!

Elizabeth Clements said...

I loved your blog and excerpt, Patti, and now I have to make time to read it. You do a great job of making the reader "see" Rafferty and find out what happens next. Perhaps I can learn from you because I'm not that good at writing an alpha male and look forward to seeing how you do it. There's such a fine line when writing a romance about a "bad" boy and making him dangerously appealing. Good job!

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Thanks for stopping by Elizabeth! When I sat down to begin writing I knew Rafferty/Michael would be a challenge. How do you make a man who makes a living doing bad things a romantic lead? The readers I've spoken to love him so much, so even now when I'm creating a new hero I have to wonder what I did right! I gave him a mysterious event in his past and as the book unfolds and he starts to reveal his history to Margarita, you have sympathy for him. He is Alpha with a capital "A" but he's complex: self-reflective, funny, tender at times, and well aware of who he's become and wanting to change. In the end, they rescue each other.
And, by the way, from the reviews I'm seeing of your new release, it sounds like you got this writing thing right!

Beverly Wells said...

Hi Patti, I too apologize for being late, but had to agree with most of your comments. I too as a youngster would fantasize about different things and till this day I still do. I get an idea or see a happening and bingo my juices start flowing and my imagination runs wild. That's when one of my stories comes alive and I can't get it down soon enough on the computer. But other times I think, WOW, I have a story to tell and then the inspiration needs more thinking through than I'd thought it would need. But it all comes alive again, as you know and bingo! we have the ending paragraph. You know I loved Margarita and the Hired gun, heck I enjoy all your stories. A great blog as always and thanks for reminding me of why I write. And I best get back to my WIP.

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Hi, Bev! I'm glad you stopped by. I know exactly what you mean when you've got a great story in your head, sit down to write,and although you get from points A,B,C, and D easily you realize you're not sure how to get to the next few points! Good luck with your WIP! I look forward to seeing your next work.