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Our Cowboy is Gone, but His Legacy Lives On – My Memories of Dusty Richards

My writing circles are in mourning right now over the death of Dusty Richards. For those of you who don’t know who he was, Dusty was a best selling author who wrote Westerns. He was also a real deal cowboy who lived on a ranch. He passed away a few days ago from complications resulting from a horrific accident that he and his wife, Pat, were involved in last month. She preceded him in death by a few days.

Dusty wrote more than 150 books and recently had one of them made into a movie. Painted Woman is based on his book, The Mustanger and the Lady, and was released last year. The man won more awards than I can ever hope to contemplate. His achievements are to be admired, but he was much more than just a successful author. Dusty was a Titan among writers here in the Ozarks.

I first met Dusty two years ago when he was a guest speaker at one of our Joplin Writers’ Guild meetings. I had heard wonderful things about him for many years from one of my mentors, Claudia Mundell, who often quoted his pearls of wisdom. Dusty’s presentation that night changed everything for me in the way I approach and execute my writing.

Dusty explained that he used a clock face for plotting as opposed to a typical outline. I’m a natural pantser writer. That means that I write by the seat of my pants. I sit down at the computer and just start writing. I’ve tried outlining in a typical format, but my mind doesn’t work that way. I feel too restricted.

The clock face is just as it sounds. I draw a clock on a piece of paper. The first 15 minutes on the clock is the first 25% of the story. The second 15 minutes is the next 25% and so on. If I’m writing a 200 page book, each 15 minutes on the clock is 50 pages. Using the clock face meant I could see my entire plot outline at a glance while I was writing. This changed everything!

I attended the Ozarks Creative Writers Conference last October for the express purpose of speaking with Dusty again. This may make me sound like a stalker, but he was so popular that I had trouble finding a chance to talk to him. I saw him pull into the parking lot of the conference venue one day after lunch. I saw my chance and went for it. I chased him down in the parking lot and thanked him for sharing his wisdom and especially the clock face plotting method with my group.

He and his wife were quite gracious and didn’t recoil from the crazy lady sprinting across the parking lot toward them. Dusty took the time to talk to me about the clock face and share other tricks of the trade with me. He even asked me about my book. He asked pointed questions and discussed various ways to tighten my writing with me. All the while, Dusty’s wife, Pat, stood by patiently waiting for me to stop monopolizing her husband’s time.

Dusty was always generous with his time and wisdom. Since his death a few days ago, my writing groups’ social media outlets have been buzzing with stories of how he helped different writers get their starts and grow their craft. He was a larger than life cowboy who was loved by everyone I’ve ever heard speak his name.

The writers of the Ozarks have suffered a great loss with his passing. Our cowboy is riding the Heavenly range now, but he left behind an amazing legacy for the rest of us.

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