Terri Meeker is a fellow Samhain Publishing author who’s awesomely entertaining and so much fun to read. I’m delighted she could join us today amid her packed schedule. Enjoy!
When you come to a fork in the road, choose the path that will make a better story.
These are words that my daughter’s ex boyfriend lives by. Yeah, I know. Ex. But he’s a great guy and has some pretty amazing adventures. Lately, I’ve been pushing myself a bit with his motto. People express regrets on their deathbeds, but you never hear “I wish I’d have stayed home more. Played things a little safer.”
A few months ago I took a solo drive to Wyoming to see my Dad. While planning my trip home, I got a horrible/wonderful idea. Since I was in the middle of writing a book about Billy the Kid, and his old stomping ground was a mere few states away… a little detour was awfully tempting. And between a direct route of 1,200 miles or a side-trip to New Mexico – it wasn’t hard to see which would make the better story.
I phoned darling hubby. “What would you think if I came home via New Mexico? It’s kind of on the way.”
“Define kind of,” he replied. “Because my map of earth says otherwise.”
“Well, it would add more than four hundred miles on the trip,” I admitted. “But still. Billy the Kid!”
He’s known me for a while and he knows I am a woman of obsessions. Since beginning my Billy book, I’ve devoured more than a dozen books on the Kid. Hubby has sat through countless documentaries. But a trip to his actual haunts would be magical critical to my research! (Spoiler alert: my approach to Billy is somewhere between serious scholar and your average 12-year-old girl’s position on One Direction.)
At six pm, I said goodbye to Dad and started driving. I drove all night. The next day around noon (and 943 miles later) I pulled into Fort Sumner, New Mexico. A dusty little town with one going concern when it comes to dining establishments. But it featured no less than two Billy the Kid museums. I spent the day taking photos of saddles and cooking equipment and getting into passionate discussions about Billy with a lot of old guys wearing seriously enormous belt buckles.
At dusk I made my way to a lonesome cemetery, where Billy and his two best ‘pals’ are buried. They even share a tombstone. I’d bought a fifth of Jack Daniel’s in town at the Liquor Store/Minimart. As the sky turned from orange to purple in the setting sun, I sat down by Billy’s grave and splashed out the first shot on his grave. It was, admittedly, very dorky but – I ain’t gonna lie – it was also kind of awesome.
The next day I went a hundred miles further south, further away from home. To Lincoln – the site of Billy’s most famous jailbreak and the setting for the first third of my book. Was it awesome? Well, is the thought of me drinking whiskey by myself in a cemetery creepy? (That was rhetorical. The answer to both is yes, of course.) It was one of the most charming experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
I’m not entirely insane, however. Though I got into many wonderful conversations with many Billy experts throughout the day, and took scads of notes, I was hesitant to come right out and tell these strangers what kind of book I was writing. Or even that I was a writer. These were serious Billy scholars, who’d dedicated years reading old newspaper accounts and letters.
By nightfall, I settled into the Wortley Hotel. It boasts a mighty eight rooms, but I was the only one staying there. At a population of 52, Lincoln is a pretty quiet little town. But the Wortley sits right across the street from the jail and figured prominently in his escape (and my book).
Donna, the hotel’s minder, was thrilled to hear I was writing a book and plied me with questions, snacks and wine. So we sat on the porch as the sun fell. I watched Billy’s jailhouse window from across the street (word to the Billy fangirls, upper left corner) and we finished off the bottle. Then we finished off another. By the third bottle, I was telling Donna all about my story.
“It’s a time-travel. I’m sending a professor from 2015 back in time and she will mess with Billy’s jailbreak. And then he’s going to experience things from our time and see what’s become of his image. I’m especially excited for him to see a clip from the movie ‘Young Guns’ because his reaction is going to be some next level shit.”
Wine will do that to you. Make you choose the path that might make a more interesting story. In this case, when the hotel’s owner and acting ‘mayor’ of the little town showed up, she insisted I tell him all about my wacky time-travel romance featuring their town’s legend. And I did.
He laughed his ass off and was fully on board.
He said not everyone in town likes people messing with the legend. That some took their Billy quite seriously. But he insisted most folks would like it and Billy hadn’t gotten the time travel treatment that he knew of. He even confessed that he too had gone to Billy’s grave years ago and shared a beer with him at sunset. (Okay, he was a teenager at the time and there was simply no excuse for me … but… moving on!)
I’ll be damned. When you that interesting path sometimes it yields pretty amazing stories. In this case, a real, actual story! I’m on my second draft now and my ‘little’ detour to New Mexico has made all the difference in understanding the tale.
And as pure bonus, I met some pretty amazing people along the way.
Read Terri’s debut time-travel, Not Quite Darcy.
How to Woo a Gentleman and Weaponize Dessert
Terri Meeker is supposed to write her author blurb in the third person. It’s just how things are done. She shouldn’t question it, but then she’s always been difficult. Even in high school, her best friend’s mother described her as ‘eccentric’ before urging her daughter to make friends with a nice, normal girl.
She was born in Wyoming but has made her home on Fidalgo Island in Washington state. She’s loved history since childhood and has been fortunate to live in lots of places with fascinating pasts, including: Washington DC, Philadelphia, Virginia Beach, Albuquerque, Missouri and Mons, Belgium. She’s an ex-history teacher, a mom a Whedonite, a gamer and a ginormous nerd. She also loves to write.
Terri is really getting into this third person thing and thinks it will give her a lot of gravitas during future dinner conversations. She thinks you should probably start doing it as well.
Her website is at terrimeeker.com. Check it out and you’ll be able to find her on twitter, fb and all that social stuff. She’d love to hear from you. Trust me.