The Cowboy Rides Away…

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As I sit down to write this, I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve always been told to start the story at the beginning, yet I’m not sure where the beginning is in this case. Did it begin with me growing up in the hills of Northwest Arkansas? Or my love of horses, rodeos, and all things both country and western? Did it begin when I first got to meet my local cowboy hero, Dusty Richards? I’m not sure where the story begins.

Today, just a few days after I wrote about the passing of Pat Richards, beautiful and gentle wife of legendary author Dusty Richards, I learned that Dusty Richards himself passed away. One of my first blog posts was about my excitement over meeting one of my childhood heroes, and finding out what a real-life hero he has been for so many people.

Dusty was larger than life, yet always humble. An expansive  storyteller, as well as a great listener. A teacher, yet always willing to learn. A mentor, a friend, an inspiration. When I asked him how he got started writing, he said he always wanted to write, and had done a little now and again all his life. Writing western stories was his dream. One day, he made the decision to make that dream a reality. His advice to all was “If you want to write, you just have to do it. Write. And keep writing. Keep writing as long as the stories are in there.”

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And that is exactly what Dusty did. He wrote, and he wrote, and he wrote. Story after story, novel after novel. And the stories just kept coming. Dusty Richards was a master storyteller above all else. Not just the written word, but spoken words as well. Stories about cowboys, both real and imagined. Stories of his life, his travels, and his family. Stories of adventures with his beloved wife Pat.

The last few times I visited with Dusty we spoke about writing his biography together. His emails contained stories he remembered and wanted to include in the book. Although he didn’t get a chance to tell me all the stories he wanted, in the past few weeks, I’ve heard hundreds of stories from people across the country. Stories of Dusty and Pat, and their love and generosity. Stories of Dusty helping writers, and farmers, and friends. Story after story after story.

Although our hearts may be heavy down here on Earth, I have no doubt that Dusty and Pat are rejoicing together tonight. Dusty finally has the chance to meet his cowboy heroes and swap stories, with his beautiful bride of 56 years by his side. And I have no doubt that he is still telling stories, because I’m sure he wasn’t finished.

I still don’t know where the story began—but I have no doubt that this isn’t where the story ends.

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The Woman Behind the Man

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I’ve been quiet for a couple of weeks, because when my emotions are highest, my voice is the softest. As most of you know, a few weeks ago, right before Christmas, our dear friends Dusty and Pat Richards were in an automobile accident. The accident was dreadful, leaving both of them in the intensive care unit of a local hospital.

They were listed as stable but critical, and the prognosis was hopeful but guarded. There have been small gains, and small losses. Our emotions have been riding a constant rollercoaster. We have tried to carry on business as usual at Oghma, but I’m sure you all understand that is almost impossible when family members are going through trials. And Dusty and Pat have been family since the beginning of Oghma.

We worried about their conditions, waited for any and all updates, wondered what the updates meant for their futures, wondered if we were hoping for too much, or too little. We agonized as Pat went through surgery for her back, her arm, her wrist. We waited for news of Dusty regaining consciousness, regaining memories, we wonder if he will ever again be the Dusty we know and love. We agonized over infections, celebrated the removal of ventilators, celebrated as Pat began rehabilitation and we were told she might regain some movement in her legs after all, and not be completely paralyzed.

Last week, unexpectedly, we received the news that Pat had passed from this world. It was her birthday that day. I choose to view this as a positive sign. Everyone who ever met Pat Richards can attest to her strong spiritual nature. What better way to begin a new phase of her spiritual journey than to celebrate her heavenly birthday on the same day as her earthly birthday?

Today we celebrated the life of Pat Richards at her funeral. The family provided photographs of beautiful memories to help us celebrate with them. Wedding pictures, family vacations, community events, glimpses into a life well-lived. Friends and family sent beautiful flower arrangements to remind us that life is indeed beautiful, yet fleeting, and should be celebrated.

Yes, we are devastated to lose her. But our tears are for ourselves, for all of the things we won’t say, the times we won’t see her, the events we won’t enjoy along with her. And we cry for Dusty, who lost his partner of 56 years, her daughters who lost their mother, her grandchildren, her extended family, her friends, and her community. Pat Richards lived a beautiful life, and her spirit was strong, her faith stronger still. There was no need to cry for Pat, because as long as even one person remembers her, she is never truly gone. And knowing she touched so many lives, and so many generations, she will live on for many years here on Earth, as well as in Heaven.

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Oghma Family Gathering

’Tis the holiday season here around the Oghma house.  I’ve told you more than once, and tried to show you as well, that Oghma is one big, mostly happy, family. And just like any other family, we celebrate our joys and sorrows together . Now, right here at Christmas, we have experienced our biggest changes of the year for our family members. As you gather around with your family, we invite you to gather around with us as well.

 

First the celebration. A week before Christmas, our President and fearless leader, Casey Cowan, got married. His new bride Amy is a beautiful woman, inside and out. And I believe she is the rudder that Casey needs to stabilize himself before he burns out in his never-ending pursuit of perfection for Oghma Creative Media. She has already put her proverbial foot down, and commanded that he take time for himself and his family. She has achieved more toward making him take care of himself, and by extension, the Oghma family, than the Oghma staff has been able to achieve all year. They are currently on a honeymoon cruise, and Amy has refused to buy Wi-Fi, making sure Casey has time to rest and enjoy the important things in life. Congratulations Casey and Amy!

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And now for our greatest sorrow this year. A week ago today, our patriarch of the Oghma family, Dusty Richards, along with his lovely wife Pat, were involved in an automobile accident. They are both in serious but stable condition in the intensive care unit of a local hospital. We know that we cannot be as deeply affected by this as their children are, but I guarantee we not far from those emotions. Dusty has been an incredible influence on many writers, both those in our family, as well as other writers around the area and the country. The Richards family members have  touched countless lives with their kind hearts and generosity, and many, many people have written to ask about their condition, offering prayers and support for them and their family. It is at times like this that one can recognize the basic kindness in the people around the world. Because of the ongoing updates we receive form their children, we are able to celebrate each small victory Dusty and Pat achieve on their road to recovery, as well as keep others updated. We are doing our best to find a balance between informing the fans and protecting the privacy of the family at this difficult time. The family has granted permission for us to share their mailing address, so if you would like to send a card of encouragement, their mailbox is being checked daily:

Dusty and Pat Richards

PO Box 6460

Springdale, AR 72766 USA

It is going to be a long, slow road to recovery for both of them, but we believe in our hearts that they will recover and come home to their family, near and far.

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Welcome Painted Woman, Happy Birthday Dusty Richards

My apologies, loyal readers, for making you wait for this post. Yes, it was due Saturday past but I’m hoping that you will understand when I say that the weekend was crazy busy for me my husband is a Veteran).

Let’s start out with the film Painted Lady. Unfortunately, I was not able to personally attend the screening in Poteau, Oklahoma due to short notice and prior commitments. Our company was represented by other members, so I did get some wonderful insights to share with you.

Most importantly, I had the chance to talk to Dusty Richards himself about the film. If it weren’t for Dusty and his masterful storytelling, the film would not exist. As I previously mentioned, the characters in the film Painted Woman are loosely based on characters appearing in the Dusty Richards Spur-award winning novel The Mustanger and the Lady. Although the “Woman” in question is an important character in the novel, she is not the central character. But the world of film being what it is, some things just need to be adapted to fit the film, and create new audiences.

For those of you familiar with Dusty Richards and his work, you know that his stories are written in a traditional western style. Cowboys and their lives and goals are the central theme, throw in some bad guys, and a few women here and there for balance.

In Painted Woman, the woman is the central character, recreated as a strong, determined woman characteristic of today’s women and adored by audiences. This does not lessen the appeal of the film, and I strongly suggest you go see it if you have the opportunity (ask your local venue to request it). Dusty is very pleased with the film, and is particularly fond of Stef Dawson (of Hunger Games fame) who landed the leading role in the film. In Dusty’s words, “it’s a great film. And that Stef, she’s a great gal, she’s going places.”

Saturday, Western Sizzler in Poteau was the site of Dusty’s 80th birthday party. That is an accomplishment all by itself. Fans were invited to stop by and meet Dusty and wish him a happy birthday. Add that to the premiere of his first film, and it makes for a very exciting weekend for those of us here at Oghma Creative Media.

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Reminiscing with the Ranch Boss

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Like many kids of my generation, I loved playing the now-politically-incorrect-on-so-many-levels game of Cowboys and Indians. When my friends and I played, we didn’t care which side we were on, it was all about the game. As we grew older, we still played the game, but now we rode horses and imagined that someday we would reclaim the Wild West. Little did we realize at the time how much the “Wild” West had changed, and that the days of the cowboys as we imagined them were fading fast.

But every once in a while, a kid like me gets to meet real-life heroes. That is exactly how I felt  when I sat down to talk to Dusty Richards. I’ve known Dusty for a while, and known of him pretty much all my life. Dusty has lived in Northwest Arkansas since before I was born, and has always been something of a local legend. Besides being a successful rancher in the area, he had a local radio program for years and appeared on a regional morning TV show, and everyone I know talked about the books he wrote and had published.

Wonderful, magical books about COWBOYS.

Meeting Dusty for the first time a few months ago was exciting for me and I managed not to fangirl too much. Even more exciting is the fact that Dusty is one of the authors at Oghma Creative Media, and that means I can talk to him anytime I want.

Dusty Richards is very friendly and approachable, and absolutely loves talking about his life and his books. As part of my official duties, I sat down to ask him about his life this past weekend. As Director of Marketing, I want to try to know our authors not just as writers, but as people—who they are, what makes them happy or sad, what brought them to the point they are now as artists.

Dusty had scheduled an appearance at the Springdale (AR) Public Library as part of Indie Author Day. He agreed to sit and chat with me until his scheduled time slot, and we found a place to settle in and get comfortable.  The tables near the south windows offered light for recording, and space apart from the main activity to prevent us from interrupting others.

In my innocence (not being a published author) I asked the question “What got you started writing westerns?” Three hours later, I still wasn’t sure that I had a definitive answer.

But looking back over the interview, I discovered  the answer was right in front of me. Dusty had given it to me in true storyteller fashion.  I had expected him to say “This is how it happened,” but what he actually said was “This (a writer of westerns) is who I am, and here is how I got to this point in my life.”

Dusty Richards told me about his early years, living in Chicago, moving to Arizona, meeting the people on the ranches, working with vaqueros, and learning to do things with his hands. He told me about learning to ride horses, entertaining the notion of riding bulls (he became an announcer instead). He told me about the authors he read, the stories he loved, the stories he wanted to write. He told me about his failures and successes, his mentors and supporters, his family and friends.

The closest to a “real” answer to my question came down to this. Dusty once had a friend who spoke about what he wanted to do when he retired. Unfortunately, his friend died before making his dream come true. Dusty said that woke him up. He told his wife he didn’t want to miss his own chance, so he retired from Tyson Foods after more than thirty-five years, and got serious about writing his stories. After more than one hundred books, numerous short stories, three Spur Awards, and now a movie deal, I can say that his fans are glad he took the chance.

Wait—did I just say there is a MOVIE?? Yes, folks I did.  This summer (2017) Dusty earned his third Spur award from Western Writers of America for his novel The Mustanger and the Lady, published by Oghma Creative Media. The new movie Painted Woman is based on characters in that book and will be showing in select theatres around the United States. Friday night (November 10th) it will be premiering in Poteau, Oklahoma. That’s fitting, since it was filmed in Oklahoma. Ask your local venues if they will be screening it. If not, go ahead and ask them to request it. And while you’re waiting, pick up the book. We’ll talk more about this Saturday, after the show.

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Hope and Dreams in Eureka Springs

You have written a book. Or you want to write a book. Or you have a (in your humble opinion) fantastic idea for a book. What do you do now? If you were in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, the second weekend of October, it’s likely you found yourself at the annual Ozark Creative Writers Conference (OCW). This year was the first time I have attended this event, and I freely admit it was not what I expected. That is not to say I was disappointed though.

Let me say, I was misled by my own prejudices. In my mind Eureka Springs is a sleepy little town in the Ozarks, stumbled upon by the occasional visitor. In reality, this is far from true. Thousands of tourists find their way there year, many of them repeat visitors, and the town has been a tourist destination for over 100 years. A part of my mind was convinced I would encounter a handful of locals who wanted to attend some workshops because they have been told by well-meaning friends and family members that they are creative geniuses.

The first thing I found out is that this event is a BIG DEAL. Many more attendees than I had envisioned, many of them coming from long distances after having planned this trip for months. I quickly discovered the “Ozark” in the title refers to the setting of the conference, not the home locality of the attendees. And while I’m sure most, if not all, of the people in attendance were “creative”, not all were writers, myself included.

Looking at the conference agenda, I saw many interesting programs and authors listed. Fortunately, I was able to meet a few of the authors. Dusty Richards was there with his wife and a table full of his western novels for sale. And I had the chance to meet Johnny D. Boggs, also an author of western novels, and purchased three of his books, which he kindly signed for me. Oghma’s own Darrel Sparkman signed a copy of his novel Hallowed Ground for me as well. I love signed books (can you tell?) and have a designated area of my bookshelves for them.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend any of the programs, since my boss had me chained (literally? figuratively?) to my chair in the area known as Publisher’s Row. In all fairness to Casey, since I was there as a representative of Oghma Creative Media, that is where I was supposed to be. I’m sure the speakers offered many hints and tips to the attendees, although there were no actual “workshops” that I am aware of at this event.

What is Publisher’s Row, you ask? At OCW, Publisher’s Row is an area set aside where authors (both previously published and aspiring) can meet with publishers and pitch their ideas in a comfortable setting. Publishers display a selection of books on the tables, and authors can browse the tables and see examples of books from each publisher to get an idea of who might be interested in what they have to sell. Authors can see what genres each company publishes, how the books look and feel, the attractiveness of the cover art, the overall quality of the finished products. After all, if you’re writing regency romances, you don’t want to try to sell your ideas to a company that only publishes westerns. Each publisher has sign-up sheets so writers can pick a day and time during the conference to give their pitch, and publishers can let writers know exactly what they are interested in accepting, as well as providing submission guidelines.

As one of the representatives for Oghma, I was lucky enough to hear many of the ideas pitched to our company, and to meet some wonderful people in the process. Some had finished manuscripts; some had ideas and were looking for guidance. Some had published elsewhere, some had self-published their books. They were younger, older, married, or single. Genres included children’s books, romance, mysteries, non-fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and westerns.

What was the one thing everyone had in common? Hopes and dreams. They came hoping someone would listen to their ideas, hoping a stranger would say their idea/book/writing was wonderful. Hoping they would find someone to believe in them. They came dreaming of holding a book in their hand, seeing their name on the cover, presenting their stories to the world.  And with any luck, I’ll be actively helping some of those dreams come true.