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.

Tips from a Pro

Tips from a Pro

By Natalie Bright

Award winning author of 147 books, Dusty Richards, visited our critique group along with a few of our writerly guests to share insight on story craft and the crazy world of today’s publishing business.

Getting Started

Dusty writes short stories and novels set in the west which usually include a few cowboys on horses, but as he pointed out, story craft can apply across all genres. “For beginning writers, don’t think you have to write Gone With the Wind,” he says. “Write about one character and tell his story.”

Structuring a Story

Basic story structure can be divided into four parts:

Part 1: character lost (first 60-80 pages)

Part 2: character is alone

Part 3: emerging hero (somebody comes forward to help him & he has purpose)

Part 4: the main character becomes a Hero or Martyr

Keeping this basic structure in mind, you can apply this to most mainstream novels and movies. Think of story as a collection of scenes and sequels. Every action deserves a response.

Newbie Writer Mistakes & POV

Dusty told us that the number one mistake he sees over and over is Point of View. If you’re writing in the main characters point of view, an action statement should never be “they walked inside”, for example. It should always be he or she. “He took her arm and led her inside.” Stay in your characters POV and be true to that character. Don’t use words that seem awkward or stilted for that character.

Writing Exercise

Here’s your homework: for those writers having trouble with internalization, Dusty suggested finding a few used paperbacks and highlighting the internal dialogue. Not quotation spoken dialogue or action or imagery, only the character’s internal thoughts.

For more information about books by this SPUR Award winning author, visit

Ten Best from Enid

Ten Best from Enid

by Natalie Bright


Enid Writers Club sponsored a one day seminar on The Story, a Craft of Writing seminar. Based on my notes, here’s the best quotes from Saturday’s workshop.

1)    Things will be tough in your life, but when you get to the other side you still gotta write that book. Dusty Richards, Spur Award winning author and President of Western Writers of America

2)    Anybody can be published in 40 days. We all know there are a million opportunities for writers these days. To rise above the others, you must have a kick-butt story that connects with readers in a unique way.  Lucie Smoker, Enid Writers Club

3)    There’s a time, there’s a publisher, there’s a place on the shelf for your story. Never take no for an answer. Work on getting better.  Dusty Richards

4)    Begin with a commitment to write a chapter every day. Stop whispering, “I’m a writer.” Don’t be afraid to declare it—I write! Tara Hudson, best-selling YA author

5)    Kick that story off like you kick a football to start the game. Get ‘em by the shirt front and grab that reader into your book. Your job as the writer is to intrigue people. Dusty Richards

6)    A reader doesn’t give a damn about all the things the writer thinks we need to know. We want to have an adventure. It’s up to you as the writer to take us on one. Dusty Richards

7)    Let your mind run. That’s when you write your best. Create the book. Don’t listen to anyone during this part of the process. When it’s time to edit, then listen to others. Dusty Richards

8)    Write at least one paragraph on the next chapter before you quit for the day. Don’t stop at the end of the chapter. Dusty Richards

9)    Setting is a character. You may not have thought of it in that way.  Tara Hudson

10)  Develop rules of your world, which is particularly helpful if you are writing a series. Don’t ever break them. Tara Hudson

Very inspiring conference and we made it home before the snow storm hit. Thanks Enid Writers Club for a great day!