Natalie Bright

The Western Genre lost a legend, mentor, and award-winning author. DUSTY RICHARDS passed this week from injuries following a car wreck in December, just one week after his wife, Pat, died.

DUSTY RICHARDS wore a wide variety of hats including renowned rodeo announcer, auctioneer, teacher, author, tremendous storyteller, cattle farmer, and cowboy. His Byrnes Family Ranch Series (Pinnacle Publishing) is one of my favorites and highly entertaining.

First introduced to Dusty as a newbie author by a mutual friend, I was a bit starstruck. Dusty and Pat were always at events and conferences for writers. Dusty would pick one of the most centrally located tables in the atrium or bar and spread out his books. With a personality as big as the endless western sky and a wide grin under that familiar cowboy hat, you couldn’t help but stop for a chat. In between the stories behind his stories and a good cowboy yarn or two, he’d ask about your work and tell you to keep at it. You’d end up buying a book, or usually the entire series, and he always autographed them with something clever.

To Natalie. Here’s the bathroom book.

At one event I had the pleasure of sitting next to his wife, Pat, at a luncheon. Quiet and unassuming, her wicked sense of humor surprised me. She pulled from her a purse a few treasures she had purchased for grand kids and we giggled and whispered away several hours. “I don’t write a word,” she said. “I just read.”

To Natalie. May the pages fly like a good horse.

Dusty handed me a 2nd place award for my Middle Grade western novel at the Oklahoma Writers Federation banquet many years ago, and I asked Pat to join us for a picture. That recognition and his encouragement motivated me to keep going, and today that manuscript is Book 1 in my Trouble in Texas Series.

After that award, Dusty relentlessly encouraged me to join Western Writers of America, an organization that he tirelessly promoted. Serving as President and on the Board for many years, Dusty believed in the power of the western novel and in the power of WWA to promote the creatives behind the genre. Finally with enough publishing credits I was approved for membership, and attended the WWA Conference in Lubbock, Texas, several years ago. On the final night, Dusty found me in the crowded banquet hall and handed me one of his books, which has become one of my treasured possessions.

“To a real Ranch wife at her 1st WWA conference. Lubbock TX June 2015 Dusty Richards”

Dusty inspired so many writers. I want to have a deeper understanding of the West like he did, and to have the ability like he does, to fill my stories with a richness and authenticity that assures readers it’s real. I am sad that his mentoring days are done; there are so many questions I have yet to ask him. Legendary Texas author Elmer Kelton said, “Dusty Richards writes … with the flavor of the real West.”

His first novel, NOBLE’S WAY, was published in 1992, and since penning 150 novels and winning numerous awards including two of the prestigious SPUR Awards from the Western Writers of America. Dusty and Pat lived on Beaver Lake in the Ozarks of northwestern Arkansas.

For more about Dusty Richards and his work, go to

Happy Trails, Dusty and Pat. See you around the next bend.


Knock Knock


Knock Knock

By Nandy Ekle



Going back through some stories I have written over the years when it happens.



Who’s there?


Muse who? I haven’t heard from Muse in forever. Be more specific.

Muse with words for you.

You’re kidding! You’ve been gone for so long. I thought you were dead.

Nope. I’m here right now. Let me in.

On one condition. Never leave me again.


*Opening the door* Look at you! You’re loaded down with stories! Come in and unload!

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.




Outtakes 333


By Cait Collins

I don’t mind winter. I can handle the cold and the wind. A little snow doesn’t bother me.

But I’m having real problems with wanting to curl up in my blankets and just sleep. I will come home after work and fall asleep on the couch and wake up at midnight. This sure does mess with my writing. It’s difficult to write coherent sentences when you keep nodding off.

Truth is I have to force myself to open my computer and attempt to write. Still I force myself to work to finish my goals. Thank goodness I have a great critique group that helps me make sense of some of my chapters.

A good critique group can be a writer’s best asset. Knowing your fellow writers have your back allows you to make changes and updates without second thoughts. You can trust their suggestions because they won’t lead you astray. Their input is designed to make your work better. That doesn’t mean you make every change suggested. It’s still your story and you have the creative control, but don’t dismiss everything they say. They may have a great fix for that ho-hum chapter.

Consider the Onion


Consider the Onion

By Nandy Ekle

This is not a cooking lesson, or a nutrition lesson, even though I am a pretty good cook, and know enough about nutrition that I raised three kids to health adulthood. But I want to consider the onion as a metaphor. And this is nothing new. Onions have made famous metaphors for time out of mind. I just feel like it’s my turn to consider the onion.

A lot of people don’t like onions in their food because they’re so strong, maybe a little hot on the tongue, they make you cry when you cut them up, they smell bad, and some people claim to get headaches when they eat onions (maybe because of the smell). But these are exactly the reasons onions are needed in our diet.

And so, as writers, we will examine the onion as an ingredient for our stories. First of all, they have layers. Some onions have what seem to be thousands of layers. And our stories should also have layers. The more layers we have in our stories, the better. We want thick, strong purple layer on the outside to get the reader’s attention, but we also want the thicker, juicier layers the deeper we go. This is the flavor of the story. And we want the very center, the core, to be so soft and sweet, so heart gripping, that our readers weep with every cut they make closer to the center.

We also treasure that smell. Now, it is true that an onion’s odor is not really a perfume we want to go to the store to buy. In fact, it has the reputation of being one of the worst smells in the world. But really and truly, isn’t that how we identify that it’s an onion? But then, we add heat to it, and guess what happens. The smell and the flavor change to something so mouth watering we can’t wait to eat.

So there you go. Add heat to your story. You can add a slow, all-day heat and watch the story turn different colors before your eyes. Then when your reader eats it, it will melt in their mouths and they won’t be able to stop reading. Or you can apply high fast heat, which will bring out the sweetness quickly, causing your readers to beg for more, more, more.

And then there’s the tears when you cut the onion. And when your readers cut to the middle of your story, what could be better than a good cry?

Congratulations. You have just received a post card from the muse.

Short Excerpt from Current Work

Short Excerpt from Current Work

by Adam Huddleston


This week, I wanted to share a few paragraphs from a new fantasy story I’m working on.

The voice came to O’Brien in the middle of the night like a soft breeze gliding over the top of a country stream. He had just exited one of those non-sensical dreams where you’re chastising your oldest child for eating the curtains, or where a herd of cattle is marching down the street, holding signs advocating nuclear disarmament. At first, he wasn’t sure if he had heard it, or if it was some trick being played on him by his overworked brain.

Then it spoke again.

“Build the house,” it whispered. “Eighteen inches high. Wood. Two-stories. Double-doors in front.”

O’Brien sat up in bed and rubbed at his eyes. A dried line of spittle ran down his left cheek.

“Hello,” he said to the darkness. “Who’s there?”

“Build the house,” the strange voice whispered again. “Eighteen inches high. Wood. Two-stories. Double-doors in front.”

Jacob O’Brien scratched absently at his bald scalp. A few dry flakes drifted down unnoticed and landed on his pillow. He tilted his head sideways and listened to the silence, straining to hear the voice again. After a full two minutes, he resigned to the fact that it was simply a hallucination brought on by a spicy late-night snack, or perhaps a particularly strong cup of coffee with said snack.

He laid back and just as his head hit the pillow, the voice returned.

“Build the h—“

“Okay! I get it! I’ll build your little house if you just promise to leave me alone.” Jacob rubbed at his temples then whispered into the darkness, “but I still have no idea who, or what, you are.”


Outtakes 332



By Cait Collins

I have this great idea for the last chapter of my Route 66 short story and it involves my neighbors’ dog. I’m not a real animal person. I like some pets, but don’t want the responsibility of caring and nurturing one. But Frodo is different. I first met Frodo soon after his parents brought him home. He wasn’t very big size wise, but he had personality. I soon realized I kind of liked having him greet me.

Being around this pup inspired me to write a new character to end my story. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it works. The point is that inspiration can come from so many sources. It might be a picture, a song, a laugh, or a sigh. Experiences inspire us to create settings, characters, and story lines. Don’t ignore these little moments.

2018 Just Might be YOUR Year to Shine!


2018 Just Might be YOUR Year to Shine!

Natalie Bright

Goal setting for writers allows you to experience something positive and measurable. I understand how the weeks and months can be unbearable and discouraging. You might surprise yourself with what you can achieve over a year’s time.  Even if the only time you can manage is thirty minutes a day three days a week, by the end of 2018 you’ll have a completed novel! That’s exciting. Be flexible in managing your time, and have goals in mind that are achievable and realistic. Make this process easy on yourself. 2018 is YOUR year! With a little budgeting and planning, the next step is publication, but you can’t publish if you don’t have a finished manuscript.

Write. Then Publish.

It is true that putting your book on Amazon involves minimal expense, however you need to decide how to allocate those funds. Do you want to go the traditional route or Indie?

Do you want a literary agent and a traditional publishing deal?

o       Know your genre. Research editors and agents who might be interested in what you write. Do not send your serial killer horror to an agent who represents romance writers.

o       Plan a trip to a conference. You must go where the agents and editors are. That means you need to attend writer’s conferences. Pay extra for break-out editor workshops where you can meet industry professionals, enter contests with editors and agents as judges, and make certain you have a polished manuscript that can rise above the slush pile.

o       What is the unique hook for your book? What will make your work rise above hundreds of others to become a viable product in today’s market?

o       Do you have an online presence?

Indie Author.

o     Identify your target market.

o     Hire a professional editor, take a class on formatting or hire a service. The book must meet spec requirements so that it can be downloaded successfully.

o     Invest in a graphic designer who can create an original book cover, and make certain you have a polished manuscript that is ready for readers.

o     Do you have an online presence?

o     Enter your book into several contests to boost visibility.

o     Research and determine the best advertising options for your book and your target market.

Crazy Business, Crazy Life

In my own mind, I have everything under control and organized. I did take an online class about formatting only to realize that I will never be proficient at the task. I hate it and I’d rather be writing. The time and efforts of a professional is worth the money to me.

This past month, I laid out guidelines and entry forms for three contests along with my book copies and envelopes neatly addressed. All was in order, and then (thank goodness), I got an email from a reader who found a typo in the first chapter. A character’s name was wrong! What are the odds that a contest judge will find the error? Will it hurt my chances? Most likely. That little snafu, and the time it took to contact the formatter, upload the new version, and reorder corrected hard copies, wasn’t part of my plan. I just barely made the contest deadlines.

I don’t write fantasy, but sometimes I feel like I live in a fantasy world. This writing gig rarely works out according to my timetable. A demanding day job and family keeps me crazy busy, and yet I will keep moving forward because these stories are important to me. I really want to be a successful, published Author.

You’ll be thrown a lot of curve balls and obstacles whether you go traditional or Indie, but all your efforts are worth it when you host your first autographing event. Seeing your book cover on Amazon is exciting. Getting a pay summary and cash in your account is achievable. The ups and downs are normal with every business, because selling books is most definitely a business. Decide now. Is it going to be YOUR business in 2018?


  1. Write 52 Monday blog posts for WordsmithSix (a blog for writers)
  2. Write 26 Friday blog posts for Prairie Purview (a Texas blog)
  3. Promote and market every day.
  4. Six books in the pipeline scheduled to be published in 2018.
  5. Write more, remain focused, and press onward.

Let us know what’s on your goals list for 2018.

Here’s wishing you a prosperous and productive 2018, and may you find an overabundance of readers in the New Year!

Happy New Year!


Happy New Year!

By Nandy Ekle

Ok. Public resolution setting time. Gonna finish at least 5 previously begun writing projects and get them published. Finish two cross stitch projects previously begun. Finish reading ALL THE BOOKS. Go to Winchester House in October. And stay low key next Christmas.

Watch for upcoming announcements.