Now that it is February, everyone’s mind is turning toward Valentine’s Day. Hearts, flowers,
roses, boxes of chocolate, sappy greeting cards. The one day a year we are reminded and
encouraged to pay special attention to the ones we love. And yes, I know many of us say we
don’t need a Hallmark holiday to remind of us of what’s important, but we still participate
because we enjoy it.
Before the internet gets overwhelmed with Valentine’s greetings and stories about Cupid, I want
to talk about a different perspective on love. One that isn’t all hearts and flowers.
The matriarch of our Oghma Creative Media family is known for writing romantic stories. Velda
Brotherton has been writing hot and steamy stories for years. Whether the setting is the Ozark
hills, the western plains, or somewhere in between, her writing is said to be sexy, dark, and
gritty. She does just write romances, but those are what I want to talk about today.
Because I’m working on a couple of projects with her, I’ve had the chance to spend a little more one-on- one time with Velda, and get to know her. She’s been around a little longer than some of us have, and experienced a few more things. And no matter how arrogant we are, we’re going to have to admit that she’s bound to know more about love.
I don’t know much about Velda’s personal life, and all that she has been through, but I do know that she was married to one man for many years, and was always true to him. Think about that. One man. In today’s world of transient relationships that’s something special.
Right now Velda is working on a sequel to a book she wrote in 1985, but didn’t publish until a few years ago. This book is called Beyond the Moon, and is dear to her heart. Recently I read this book for the first time, and I was stunned by the depth of love portrayed by her characters.
Beyond the Moon is the story of a Vietnam POW who comes home and ends up in the local VA hospital because he just can’t find his way back to the world. It is the story of an artist who recently lost her husband, and is trying to build a new life without her longtime partner. It is the story of these two people finding each other in a world that is new and strange to both of them, and learning what REAL love is. It is not always hearts and flowers. Sometimes it is tears, and nightmares, and fears of the unknown and the unknowable. It is standing beside the one you love, not because you should, but because it is the only thing your heart will let you do.
Beyond the Moon is a book I would recommend everyone read. If you’re a woman, a man, a person who’s been in love, a person who thought they were in love once, a person who’s never been in love—this book is for you.
Yes, there is romance. But above all, this is a love story.
The advantage of working in the publishing industry and meeting writers from different genres is that I get to meet the most interesting people in the world. I have the opportunity to learn more about different geographic areas, different time periods—past, present, and future—and meet incredible characters.
As readers, I know that you have favorite characters. Characters that you just can’t get out of your mind, that steal your heart, that you wish were real and you could learn more about after the book is finished. If you are very lucky, the character is part of a series that you can follow along with. If you are incredibly lucky, the character you adore is real.
In January 2018, I became an incredibly lucky reader. I met a character in a book, a young girl named Avery. Avery is very real, and very brave. Let me introduce you to her.
Avery lives in Canada, a country that I dream of visiting someday. A few years ago her mom Jodi looked at Avery’s back, and noticed that it looked, well, different. Jodi noticed that Avery’s spine appeared to curve a bit more than it should, and in a direction that it probably shouldn’t. A visit to the doctor confirmed their fears. Avery was diagnosed with scoliosis.
Personally, I knew very little about scoliosis before reading this book. I thought it was just something that people lived with, or at worst they might have to wear a back brace for a while. But not in Avery’s case. Her prognosis was so severe that surgery was her only option.
Imagine if this happened to you. You’re going along in life, don’t even feel like anything is wrong, and the doctor tells you that you have to have surgery. And not just a little surgery, like having your tonsils out, or your appendix removed. The doctor wants to cut your back open along your entire spine.
Now add the fact that you are a preteen girl. I don’t know about you, but I’d be terrified.
I don’t mean to minimize the effect of this news on her parents, or on her brother. This is their story too. This is the story of an entire family and how they acted and reacted to the diagnosis. As a mother, and a former preteen girl, I followed their story with trepidation and couldn’t help but think of how I’d react to the situation. And let me say, I don’t think I would have been as strong as they were.
One of the things that they did was turn to the internet for information. Not just medical insights—the doctors could provide that—but real-life anecdotes about what to expect during the process. And you know what they found? Almost nothing. So in an effort to help others, as well as deal with their own fears, they started a blog. On the blog, they took turns telling their story, so readers got different perspectives. And from that blog grew this book.
But don’t worry—this book is much more than a collection of blog posts. Yes, there are a sprinkling of blog posts throughout. This is a great way to experience the thoughts and feelings of the family throughout each step of the journey. The book also includes medical information about the journey and pictures. Lots of pictures. Pictures of the family, and before and after pictures of Avery’s spine.
That’s right folks—this determined girl not only bravely faced major surgery, she allowed her family to take pictures of her back, both before and after surgery, and she allowed the pictures to be shared. With total strangers. Around the world. Because she wanted to share her story with others who might be facing the same thing.
I don’t know about you, but there are very few pictures in existence of me at that age. I was awkward, and shy, and did not want pictures taken at all. And certainly not pictures this personal. And if someone did take a picture, I didn’t want anyone to see.
The title of the book is Bent But Not Broken, which perfectly sums up Avery Butters. When you get your copy of the book, you’ll notice that she graciously allowed her father Andrew to place his name as the main author, and her mother Jodi to have her name as an author as well. They did contribute significantly, and they wrote many of the words between the covers of the book.
But Avery is the real author of this story. She lived it, she wrote it, she shared it with the world.
So buy her book—she’s a character you’ll never forget. And best of all—she’s real.
What do you do when you’re a master of words—a publisher of them, even—but none will come to describe the hole that has suddenly appeared in your heart? What do you do when your stock-in-trade can’t come close to conveying the depths of emptiness and despair at the loss of someone you looked up to more than anyone? You keep going. You keep typing. You keep doing the one thing that your mentor admonished you to do above all other things… You keep writing. Because today the world is changed, and that mentor has moved on.
They say that a child doesn’t come into their own unless and until the death of their father. If that’s the case, we as a company were shoved into adulthood this morning when we learned of the passing of our mentor, legendary Western author Dusty Richards.
What can we say about Dusty? The real question is what can’t you say about him? To say that he was larger than life is the grandest of understatements. He was an irresistible force and an unmovable object all rolled into one, a personality wider than the western skies he wrote about. He was an eternal optimist, a man who woke up each and every day renewed and ready for the next job, the next challenge, the next good fight. He was a father, a patriarch, a mentor of the first order. He toured the country teaching and encouraging new and experienced writers alike, challenging them to follow his lead, tell the next inspiring story, pen the next Great American Novel. He was a fighter, a lover, a joker, an entrepreneur, a canny businessman, a television and radio personality, a famous rodeo announcer, a cowboy, and, perhaps above all else, a master storyteller. Dusty was everything that fit under his trademark ten gallon hat and so much more, and we could keep writing for a year and not do him justice. He was a legend, and one that touched the lives of many, many thousands—possibly millions—of people.
What would he say to us right now? “Dig in those spurs and get on with it.” He’s sitting around that big ol’ campfire in the sky right now, Pat at his side, swapping stories with the likes of Zane Grey, Louis L’Amour, and his old friends Jory Sherman and Cotton Smith. He was not one for self-pity, grief, or taking his foot off the gas for a second. He wouldn’t want to be grieved, but celebrated. He’d want to keep his memory alive by following his lead. By chasing the sunset with all that we’ve got, pursuing our dream, living with passion, and cherishing the ones we love. And that’s what we’ll do, how we’ll honor our beloved father. Keep writing. Keep fighting. Keep telling stories. Keep doing what Dusty did until we can’t anymore.
Happy trails, Boss. We’ll see you again someday.
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.
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” And so it always goes. While we were all busy planning vacations, honeymoons, family gatherings, and drumming up Christmas cheer yesterday, two other members of our family had life throw them a curveball.
For those of you who don’t yet know, our friend Dusty Richards and his incredible wife Pat were involved in a serious car accident yesterday afternoon near their home in Springdale, Arkansas. Both are now in critical but stable condition in a local hospital, though Dusty remains in a coma after incurring a head injury during the crash, and Pat is currently undergoing surgery for a spinal injury.
There really are no words to convey the depth of our grief over this turn of events. Dusty is a true living legend. A big man with an even bigger personality and a heart of gold, there isn’t a writer in this region whom the Ranch Boss hasn’t helped or influenced at some point in the last thirty years. Heaven knows he’s had a massive influence on all of us here at Oghma, and there has never been a better mentor or greater friend for any of us. As for Pat, she’s the perfect foil for our favorite cowboy, the epitome of grace under fire, as quiet as he is boisterous, but as strong as they come. They’re a matched pair, and one we’re honored to count among our family.
Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Pat or Dusty, please glance through these photos of him, and join us all here in the Oghma Creative Media family in keeping them and their loved ones in your thoughts and prayers, both today and in the days to come.
It’s December now, and NaNoWriMo has been over for more than a week. I promised to report back to you on my results, and here I am to keep that promise. Not surprisingly, I crashed and burned on my first attempt at winning NaNoWriMo. The reality is that I pretty well stopped writing after the first 5000 words or so. I’m not going to make any excuses for myself, but I do see reasons why it happened.
First, I am not a professional writer. I haven’t yet developed the discipline needed to complete a project of that magnitude in a short time. I’m sure that you will agree with me, as you have experienced evidence of me trying to “find my groove” here on the blog.
Second, as a reader, I had no real idea of the WORK that is involved in getting the stories and characters from my head to the page. When I’m thinking a scene through in my mind, it seems as if the events and the dialogue go on for hours. On the page, it turns out to be a few paragraphs, may be a couple pages if I’m really lucky. Now what do I do? Go to a new scene? Create more dialogue? More background information? It’s a delicate balance.
Third, I’ve spent my life as a wife and mother. I have not yet learned that it’s okay to create a time and place in the day for me to concentrate on myself. People are constantly talking and writing about “self-care”, and this is just another form of that. Learning that I am important, and that it’s okay to put aside the needs of others in order to accomplish my own goals. I’m honestly not sure that is a lesson I can ever learn.
Fourth, I am a professional procrastinator. I’ve told many people that my house was never cleaner than when I was going to college. Every time I had a paper or project due, I suddenly discovered the dishes or laundry needed washed, or a closet needed cleaned. Or something similar would occur at the most (in)convenient time.
Having said all that, I have a question for you—have you ever seen anything crash and burn? Does the fire instantly die out? NO. What happens is that the fire continues to burn, consuming everything, burning brighter when it finds more fuel. And that is what has happened to me. No, I didn’t win NaNoWriMo this year. I didn’t really expect to. But I did light a fire, and am now consumed with the dream if being a professional writer.
So come along with me, follow the adventure, join me if you will—the dream is burning bright.
After a much needed, but much lamented, break from writing for this blog, I’m back on track
again folks. I know the past couple of weeks have been busy for all of us, and the next month
won’t be much better. The holiday season is always a busy time for everyone, and it’s not any
different at Oghma Creative Media.
In addition to the novels we publish and the events for writers that we are involved in, we have
an incredible western-theme magazine that we publish. Saddlebag Dispatches is a full-color,
glossy publication that comes out twice a year right now, perhaps more often in future, that
features fiction, non-fiction, interviews with western writers, articles, and advertising featuring
other western-themed writing.
And western-themed isn’t limited to cowboys. We are also serializing Bender, the Graphic
Novel, the true account of America’s first family of serial killers. The Bender family lived in
Kansas, and therefore fits the western criteria. Brothers David and Michael Frizell do an
incredible job of bringing the story to life in all its horror. If you’ve never heard about the
Bender family, I encourage you to check out either the serialization in our magazine, or better
yet, get the full-length graphic novels telling the story. The first two volumes are currently for
sale, and the third in on its way. Keep your eyes open for public appearances around the Midwest
as well. The Frizell brothers love meeting their fans and talking about their work.
When we say “western-themed”, we mean anything that happens west of the Mississippi River,
and embodies the spirit of the Old West, as most American imagine it. This of course includes
the cowboys, but also the pioneers, the women, the settlers from all nations who moved
westward to create a life for themselves and future generations. And it includes modern stories of
rodeos, and ranchers, and anyone else who continues to work hard, play hard, and keep the spirit
alive for all of us.
We’ve talked to romance novelist Linda Broday about the power of storytelling, interviewed
Craig Johnson, the man behind the incredibly popular Longmire books and television series,
included articles about Native Americans, and introduced our readers to museums and
collections that are relevant to all of our topics.
Our next issue will be out soon, but in the meantime pardner, mosey on over to pick up an issue
or two. Then grab a chair or a log, get a little closer to the campfire, and let yourself be
transported to the spirit of the West.
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.
Small children love to hear stories, and I was no exception. My mother didn’t tell her own stories, so my bedtime stories came from books. I loved the books the stories came from, the look of the covers, the smell of the pages. Before I could read, I snuck books into my bed to sleep with the way other kids slept with stuffed animals. When I grew older, I took a flashlight with me so I could hide under the covers and read. I knew someday I would write the books and tell the stories. I dreamed of having my name on the cover of books, of going into stores and meeting my fans at book signings, of traveling the world to “research” my next novel.
I still love the stories and the books. But my reality has deviated from the dream. I’ve never written a book, a short story, or even a poem. My husband is an author, as are many of my friends. Other friends are working on making their dreams of publication a reality. I admire each and every one of them. I simply haven’t joined them.
My husband and I live in a log cabin, tucked away in the Ozark hills of Northwest Arkansas. It’s an idyllic setting for a novelist to hide away in and write, if you don’t mind staying home when the creek rises. Or having no internet access, because the cables don’t come out this far, and the satellites can’t receive a signal down in this holler. No TV signal either, for that matter. But we don’t view these as hardships—we are from a generation that grew up without computers, and children weren’t allowed to spend hours in front of the television. We do have indoor plumbing, and even electricity… we aren’t completely out of touch with the times.
We both grew up in this area, in the next county over. The town where we attended high school had less than 1500 people then, and you mostly knew the same kids all through school. Some of those people are still in our lives, and we consider ourselves fortunate because they are the people who made us what we are today. My husband is my rock star and has four published novels so far, and promises me there are more to come. He tells me I can write, that I should write, and I know he’ll guide and support me along the way if I choose to try. We shall see.
Along my life journey I managed to stumble into the world of writing, an exciting world populated by authors and artists, publishers and libraries and bookstores. I admit that it happened with the help of my awesome husband. I am currently the Marketing Director for Oghma Creative Media, a publishing house based on the principle of putting the authors first. We aren’t a “vanity publisher”, where anyone can pay to have a book published and call all the shots. We are a traditional publisher who understands that without talented authors and artists we have nothing to publish and sell. We work closely with the authors to help them achieve success, and think of ourselves as one big, mostly happy, family.
But this blog isn’t about the company, or even the industry. I love what I do, I love the people I meet and the places I go. This blog is about my amazing life on the fringes. Will I talk about Oghma Creative Media? Probably so. Will I do my best to introduce you to the authors and artists we publish, as well as others that I meet at conferences? Of course! Will you find book reviews on here, as well as shameless plugs for writers, books, and events? Absolutely! But this isn’t a place for sales and marketing. It’s a place to show you what life is like behind the scenes of my world.
So grab a comfortable chair, settle in with a warm quilt and a cup of tea, and let the stories begin.