Monday, April 11, 2016


Dear Readers, please let me introduce you to an amazing new friend, Patty Sherry- Crewes. We met online because we are both in the same anthology, COME LOVE A COWBOY. I’m so grateful that we are now friends. I think you’ll see why in this interview:

Welcome, Patty. Please tell us something about growing up and your family.

Thank you, Caroline for letting me visit with your readers today.

I grew up just north of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan in Evanston, IL. Both sides of my family have been in this town for generations, and as this is a town where many people from other parts of the country end up, I’m proud to say we found this place ages ago and dug in. Sometimes the residents here refer to where we live as Heaven-ston. Other times we call it Winter.

My husband, Bob, is also an Evanstonian. We raised three children less than two blocks from where he grew up. I have a stepson who is a father himself now, a daughter who is a sophomore at the University of Illinois, and a son who is still in high school.

I grew up in a tiny two-bedroom house with my parents and younger sister. My father’s parents lived next door in an identical tiny house. My mother’s parents lived two blocks away. One time I counted about forty blood relatives within the four block area around my house, which I think is unusual—at least in this part of the country.

My father and grandfather were firemen and my uncle was a police detective, so discussions about “what did you do at work today?” often left us children bug-eyed with horror—different styles of parenting back then.

I wish I could say I had a magical childhood, but that is not the case. I was often housebound with asthma and migraines from a very early age. I was also cripplingly shy and buck toothed.

To compound matters I could not learn to read. I also could not figure out how to tell time. I remember staring at a clock and thinking, “this makes no sense.” Grade school was painful. I even had to repeat fourth grade.

I now know I’m dyslexic, but this went undiagnosed. I had to figure it out on my own, which I eventually did and learned to love school--and reading.

I still struggle with dyslexia sometimes and I thank technology for digital clocks. My friends and family know I am the last person to ask for directions. I can read for pleasure easily because I’m relaxed, but filling out forms and following written instructions are a problem. I suppose that is because the latter two tasks add a layer of anxiety, and then the words go for a swim on the page.

My family’s stories about my terrible form filling ability are legion. One time I was sending Bunkone Notes to my daughter at camp. It wasn’t until she secreted away a phone and called me to ask why I wasn’t sending her anything when we realized something was wrong. I was sending everything to a camp of the same name--only in another part of the country.

But all those early struggles are what have shaped who I am today. Hours spent confined at home and the need to escape reality, gave me a rich imaginary life. I always had stories running around in my head. Feeling on the outside of things as a child has made me a keen observer. People fascinate me. I love to store away odd bits of conversation I hear or strange characters I see. (But then, my children are the same way and they haven’t experienced a traumatic childhood as far as I know, so maybe it’s just how we’re wired.)

My favorite toy when I was little was a pink bag full of cowboys and Indians, which hung on my bed. I’d spend hours playing with them with the covers tented up to make caves where all sorts of dramas unfolded.

Not surprisingly, I’ve turned my hand to writing a number of historic westerns. As an adult when I’ve had a bad day I tell my friends, “I’m going to go play with my cowboys and Indians.” Only now I play on a laptop.

To relax I like to go for walks, either by myself or with friends. And being a fireman’s daughter, I love to cook to unwind. My father was a huge foodie who read cookbooks at night the way other people read novels. He did most of the cooking at home, making a big production out of it, sometimes spending all day driving around for the best ingredients. He taught me how to cook, not just how to throw ingredients together, but how to celebrate food on a daily basis. The first text I usually receive from my children is “What’s for dinner?” And they send that shortly after leaving the house with their stomachs full of breakfast.

What are your hobbies?

I read everyday. I have varied tastes. I admire writers like Colm Toibin and William Boyd, because they have amazing range as writers. No two books of theirs are alike. Sometimes, especially with Toibin, you can’t believe the same author wrote all those books. I wait for new books by Kate Atkinson to come out. I also like Mark Haddon, especially his book A Spot of Bother.

There are times I want to read nothing but a good mystery. I was into Scandinavian Noire long before everyone found Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. What I liked about that genre is it’s familiar and alien at the same time. The characters are all people we can relate to, but their lifestyle is very different—and they’re so gloomy! The lead detectives are always fighting a cold, drinking loads of coffee, and making note of the weather, which is always bad. I like the mysteries by, Tana French. She’s an amazing writer with books set in Ireland.

One thing I’ve been slow to identify about myself is that I love to read (and write) romances, especially ones where the characters are smart and funny. I binge read books by Jojo Moyes, Cecelia Ahern, and Marian Keyes. And even though I know there’s going to be a happy ending (except maybe in Me After You…) those ladies give me moments where I am so anxious for the characters, I can’t put the book down. And then I smile when everything turns out just as I hoped.

How long have you been writing?

I started writing late in life. Every year on my birthday I like to spend the day doing something new. On my 50th birthday I decided to write that novel I’ve always wanted to write. The words flowed and I discovered my true passion, though making the commitment to writing was somewhat of a process. I had to give myself permission to carve out time everyday to work at it.

Six years later I’ve written seven novels and three novellas, some under the pen name Cherie Grinnell. My historic western, MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN, comes out this spring with Prairie Rose Publications, where I’ve also published stories in two of their anthologies.

What is your writing day like?

Sticking to a routine is the key for me. I like to go for an hour-long walk first thing. This is an important time for me to not only get exercise but to mentally order the rest of my day. While I’m walking I’m also writing scenes and dialogue in my head.

I read recently that there is a correlation between walking and creativity. The sights and sounds in addition to the opposable movement of the arms and legs stimulate the brain even hours after the walking activity is over.

So, in the morning I go for my walk, run my errands, and do my day job, which is caning and rushing chairs. By the time I sit down at my computer in the afternoon the words spill forth.

Do you write with music, lap top, alone or with the family?

Another important change, which has helped me in my writing, is having my own space. I set up an office for myself in an upstairs room with a great view. I write everyday from 1:00 to 4:00 and in the evenings when I feel so inspired and have time.

I used to work at a PC in the kitchen. I was constantly interrupted by family members asking me where we keep the mayonnaise. In the fridge. If you find an opened jar of mayonnaise elsewhere in the house, don’t eat it.

Then when the PC became almost unusable, crashing every twenty minutes (oh, the work I’ve lost). My husband set me up with one of the kid’s old laptops. I wasn’t sure I could write on a laptop and it did take some getting used to, but the advantage is I’m now mobile! Out of the kitchen at last! I get a lot more work done up here in what I call my Window to the World, where I look out over my neighborhood.

Music is important to my process. I have my earbuds in when I walk and I have my playlist going when I sit down to write. I feel that stimulates my brain in that while I’m walking and have my inner dialogue going, I’m listening to songs. Then when I sit down to work and hear songs again, my brain jumps into gear. I’ve had days where for some reason I can’t access my music and the writing is more of a labor without background sounds.

Are you a plotter or a panzer?

I am mainly a plotter but I can swing panzer even in the midst of organization. I usually outline my story before writing. But sometimes when I write, the characters develop in ways that change the course of the story. They surprise me sometimes.

Right now I’m working on a novel and being almost a total panzer about it. I’m loving the experience and I think it’s going very well. It might even be the best thing I’ve written. I did start with a premise, and I had an opening scene in mind, but that was all I had when I sat down to write.

What is your writing routine?

I’m a fast writer. I enjoy writing dialog. I don’t like writing (or reading) descriptions as much. My process is to write from beginning to end in a linear fashion, writing heavily in dialog and action first to propel the story along. Later I go back and fill in descriptions. That way I don’t get hung up trying to describe a room or what someone is wearing. I know some writers who write in chunks out of sequence and then go back and fit them together. That would make me crazy, but whatever works for you.

As far as research goes, when I’m writing historic westerns I do the research first. I take notes and keep Pinterest boards with articles and images. I’m a very visual person so I refer to these boards often.

For contemporary novels there is less research involved. Sometimes locations are something I have to research because I want to get that right. I’ve written novels that take place in Dublin, Wales, and Newfoundland. I’ve been to all those places but not in years. I live in fear of someone from Ireland saying “We don’t do that in Dublin anymore. That is so 1991.” So I do spend a lot of time on travel sites as well as reading fiction set in those places.

I also keep Pinterest boards on things like occupations I think would be interesting for characters to have. Then I read whatever job descriptions I can find, or when I’m lucky enough to find someone in that field, I ask them questions.

Share something about you that’s surprising.

One thing that is surprising about me is that I cane and rush chairs, which I mentioned earlier. I bet that peaked some curiosity. My mother taught herself that skill so she could stay home while we were little. She taught my sister, a couple of cousins, and me how to cane and rush, and we’re still at it. I started when I was 13 and helped put myself through college repairing broken seats.

Patti caning a chair

Caning chairs is something I can do at home. I loved it when my children were little. I tried to quit when my children got older, but people find me anyway. The person who lives at my old address told me they were baffled when people kept turning up at their door with a broken chair, insisting they fix it. I don’t advertise anymore in an attempt to slow down business. I admit it’s nice to have the extra income now we have one child in college, but I live for the day I won’t have to rush another chair seat. I’ll probably have to move really far away. Leave Evanston.

Rush work beside caned chairs

What scares you?

My biggest fear is that people reading this will not buy my book, but will instead ask me to repair their broken seat. ☺

Tell us what you’re working on now.

I have two releases coming out this spring.

MARGARITA AND THE HIRED GUN, which is tentatively scheduled for April 21.

When Margarita McIntosh’s father announces they have to leave town immediately, the life of privilege she’s known as the daughter of a wealthy cattle baron, takes an unexpected turn. Before he flees, her father arranges for the only man he trusts, hired gun, Rafferty, to escort his daughter from Flagstaff to the safety of relatives in Durango—a journey taking weeks on horseback.

The sheltered young lady, who's spent much of her life out east, and the gruff Irishman, who's had as many names as "careers," make an unlikely duo as they face life on the trail. They start out on the wrong foot, but after enduring harsh conditions, dangerous passages, and encounters with outlaws, they come not only to rely on each other, but also to fall in love.

Except for Rafferty loving this woman is out of the question. They reward he'll get for delivering Margarita "safe and intact" is his ticket to a fresh start. A fresh start he especially needs now that "Rafferty" has a price on his head, thanks to the fact he's unwittingly been guarding more than McIntosh's precious daughter. Concealed in Margarita's saddlebag is something which explains why men are trying to kill them.

Available now is my novella, DESERT HEAT, in the anthology COME LOVE A COWBOY at

How about an excerpt of DESERT HEAT?

Sometimes it seems like Angel Harper is going to spend the rest of her adult life making up for her youthful transgressions—like running away with a two-timing, irresponsible cowboy on the rodeo circuit.

 Now she’s trying to make things right. It isn’t easy for a single mother trying to run a small hotel on her own. She’s always two steps ahead of financial ruin, but determined to prove to herself and the memory of her parents she can do it.

 A chance encounter with handsome cowboy and firefighter, Boone Donovan, awakens a desire she’d rather bury. But he isn’t going to let her get away that easily. Angel has been twice burned by love, and it’s not only her own heart she has to protect now. She has a son to think about.

Can she trust Boone enough to let love into her life again?

Give us an excerpt from DESERT HEAT:

Her face was flooded with heat. When she fell back to sleep this morning, she’d overslept. Normally, Angel would have been up a couple of hours ago and had the stables mucked out by now. The flies were thick and buzzing in the air ripe with manure. She fought back the urge to explain all this to him. She owed this man no explanation, she reminded herself.

“When’s the last time you had the fire inspector out here?” he asked, his back still to her, his hands on his hips.

“I don’t remember. Maybe a couple of months ago.”

He turned around to face her, his hands still on his hips and his coat pushed open to show the tight t-shirt underneath with suspenders riding up a lean torso.

“You want to try that again? I can look it up, you know?”

“I’d have to check. It’s been a while.”

“That would be my guess. I can see at least five violations just from where I’m standing.”

With a tight throat, Angel watched him walk around and inspect the horses one by one. “At least your horses look healthy. I can tell you take good care of them.”

He walked back over and stood in front of her. Too close. She stepped back. His eyes went to her chest. She looked down and saw to her horror her nipples were not only very visible beneath the thin t-shirt, but were standing at attention.

His eyes grew dark, and he swallowed hard. She could see a vein throbbing in his neck. Angel crossed her arms across her chest, feeling weak at the knees with this big hunk of a man standing before her.

Boone took a step closer, eyes now lifted to hers, lips parted. She could hear the breath coming hard out of his flared nostrils. He was so close, she could take in his scent. All man.

Her arms fell to her sides. She took a step closer so their faces were inches apart. A familiar thrumming moved through her body. Desire rearing its head.

“Mom! There are firemen in the yard! They said I can climb on the truck if that’s all right with you.”

Boone took a big step back. He practically jumped away from her.

Rory stood framed in the door, still in his pajamas, dark hair, sticking out all over his head. There was a dried patch of milk in the front of his top. On top of everything else she now looked like a negligent mother. He pushed his glasses back and looked at her.

“Yes, go on Rory, but then get dressed.”

Angel looked back at Boone, the look of lust in his eyes replaced by a blank expression. She was used to that. Men were interested in her until they heard she had a kid. Her anger, which had been at a slow simmer, went up a few notches to boiling.

“Not so interested in getting to know me better now, are you? Kids have a way of taking the mystery out of a woman.”

“I don’t have a problem with kids. It’s husbands I have a problem with. Are you married?”

“If I had a man around here do you think things would be in such a state? I’m trying to do this all on my own, which is why I don’t appreciate you stealing business away from me. You know that, right? The contract you signed with Star was formally mine,” she spat out.

“Hey, first off I didn’t steal your business away from you. I didn’t go out looking for it. Clint came to me. And yes, Clint told me who you were after you left. Then when I was left holding two bowls of ice cream last night, I guessed you had it all figured out by then. I wanted to talk to you. To clear the air.”

“There’s no clearing the stench out of this air,” she said, instantly regretting her choice of words, because the un-mucked stalls reeked of urine and manure.

“I’m going to call the fire inspector and make sure he comes out here next week.”

“You spiteful…You’d do that to me because I stood you up?”

“I’m going to call him, because I’m worried about your horses. If there’s a fire, you’re in danger of losing more than a contract. Tomorrow when I get off my shift I’m coming back out here and bringing this place up to code. The brush needs to be cleared away from all sides of the stable, and these cobwebs are a fire hazard.

He gestured overhead. “You don’t have cages around those bare bulbs. You have extension cords running all over the place not to mention all the other things scattered around that would make clearing the horses out in an emergency a problem. And when we pulled in there was a low branch over the drive we weren’t sure the engine could clear. You’re a disaster waiting to happen.”

With that he pushed past her, brushing against her as he walked by.

“You don’t have to do that!” she called after him.

“Gonna do it anyway,” he said walking away, his back to her.

“I don’t want you…”

Without a glance back he waved to her.

What was your inspiration for DESERT HEAT:

While writing DESERT HEAT, I drew inspiration from many places, but there are a few things that helped me put heart into my tale.

The setting of the novella is based on a quirky guest ranch outside of Phoenix.  I don’t remember how we found this place but it was a treasure. The hotel and guest cabins had originally been built to house workers who were building a damn on the Salt River. The couple who later ran the place as a hotel hadn’t altered its d├ęcor from the day they opened in the 1940’s. It was a charming place to stay, and the view of saguaro cactus and red mountains was unmatchable. The chef did create many dishes based on what she pulled from her garden.

A second inspiration for this story is my experience growing up around firemen. Being a firefighter is a dangerous job, and I remember a few trips to the ER to see my dad after he’d suffered smoke inhalation and on two occasions a broken back.

I don’t know if there is a paint factory near Phoenix but one of the biggest fires we had in Evanston, where I live, was the fire at the Rustoleum paint factory. My father was on call that night. I remember watching the odd pastel colors light up the sky from all the chemicals burning—knowing my father was in the thick of it.

Lastly, the relationship between the heroine, Angel, the hero, Boone, and Angel’s son, Rory, was inspired by my own story. When I first met Bob he was a single dad. After the initial flush of excitement upon meeting someone new, I had to accept my man had another priority that came before almost all else—for a good reason. Twenty some years later I’m still married to that man, and his son has made us grandparents.

Patti and  Bob
Don't you love this photo?

How can readers find you?

You can find me at:


Caroline Clemmons said...

Patti, you are such an interesting person. I love the photo of you and Bob. Wishing you continued success with your writing career.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Patti, we obviously have much the same taste in books--Toibin, Atkinson, Haddon--it's that English thing perhaps. And don;t be afraid, one day I might just ask you to cane my antique dining chairs but I'll still definitely read your books!

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Thank you for inviting me to join you today. It has been a pleasure to meet all the ladies of CLAC. I treasure the experience. I'm reading the stories myself now and they are all top-notch! Andi, we should talk books sometime--maybe while I teach you to can your dining room chair ;-)

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Thank you for inviting me to join you today. It has been a pleasure to meet all the ladies of CLAC. I treasure the experience. I'm reading the stories myself now and they are all top-notch! Andi, we should talk books sometime--maybe while I teach you to can your dining room chair ;-)

Unknown said...

Patti, I've got this chair... ;-)

This was delightful. Now I'm even more convinced that your bubble is slightly off center -- which is good. Those who find it difficult to keep their bubbles in place don't have to sit at the big kids' table. The big kids' table is overrated, and you're expected to eat nasty things like green peas.

I can't wait to read Margarita and the Hired Gun! After enjoying "Store Bought Ornaments" in the Christmas anthology, I know Margarita will be a wild ride. :-)

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

You know I love you, Kathleen! Yes, for years my cousins and I had to sit at the "kid's table"--even when we started to have kids of our own. The year we graduated to the Big Kid's table was a big disappointment. No fun at all. Broken chairs or not.
I am so excited for Margarita to come out! That one came right out of my heart and I thank Prairie Rose for having faith in me. You gals rock!

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Also, Kathleen Rice Adams, I am delighted to see that Margarita is scheduled to be released the week celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Irish Uprising. My hero, Rafferty/Michael, is an Irish immigrant. He'd be pleased.

Unknown said...

That was intentional. No, you did not see me cross my fingers behind my back. That was your imagination. ;-)

What a nice coincidence! We should endeavor to stay on Rafferty's good side. He sounds like a man best not antagonized.

Keta Diablo said...

Hi Patti,

Well, I learned so much about you and it was so interesting, I read it twice! I love it when people don't all march to the same drummer. Boy, that's me in a nutshell. I never went along with the 'norm' as a child, so my mother tells me, and I still don't. No one would know you were dyslexic, news to me. Your writing is fab and I'm so happy you joined Come Love A Cowboy. You were loads of fun to work with and still are. Like Caroline, I'm wishing nothing but oodles of success in all future writing endeavors. I hope we can get together again on some projects,

Best, Keta

ps: I'll be checking out these fave authors you and Andi have. English, you say?

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Thank you for inviting me to be part of it, Keta! And you've done such a great job overseeing the program. I call you The Whip. I'd always be open to working with you again. I learned so much!
Are you kidding? You didn't know I was dyslexic? Who is the one person in the group who couldn't figure out how to use the files, make a simple Paypal transaction, or join the Pinterest group!?!
thanks too for your praise. I loved your story in CLAC. Such great detail! I could see that town--heck I've been to that town! You're a talented lady.

and, yes, Katleen, you don't want to antagonize Rafferty.

Hebby Roman said...

Patti, loved your post, and like everyone else, learned so much about you!!! Would have never guessed you were dyslexic. See, you fooled me! I think it's awesome that you still work with your hands, as well as write. And taking a long walk each morning, how I wish I could do that.
You were a joy to work with and I loved your book in CLAC! And I'm NOT surprised that you got your inspiration for the dude ranch from a real place. I know you said you're not big on description, but you described the place to a T, and I could really visualize it. I was almost certain you knew of a real place like that. Great blog!

Patti Sherry-Crews said...

Thanks Hebby!I think working with your hands lends itself to writing too. Jigsaw puzzles and stuff like that. It lets your mind wander.

I loved your story too! I learned so much about the different kinds of horses and that part of Texas. It sounds like a unique place. I enjoyed the Hispanic spice you brought to the project. I want to go there now after reading yours and Caroline's stories. I just started Margo's last night, which is another one set in Texas.
And Hebby, your love scenes...enviable.
I believe the piece I wrote for Andi's blog comes out this week too and I talk about the guest ranch that inspired the story in more detail, including a link to their website.