Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for Beneficial & Billy the Kid

Hi there, and welcome to Day 2 of the A-to-Z Challenge! Today is the last day to sign up for it.

Quick note: If you're interested in writing flash fiction, check out the flash fiction contest on the Flash Fiction tab above. The theme is "Are you Devious at Heart?"

is for beneficial. What's beneficial to your writing career, and what's just extra junk you get sucked into? With the clamor for the establishment of a portfolio up to three years before you even get published, social media has become a bit of a necessary evil. Figuring out what is worth the time suck and what isn't is rather tricky.

One way to go about it is choose one or two forms of social media to focus on then analyze, over time, what seems to be working and what seems to have little to no impact. If you're just messing around on one of them, and not accomplishing anything or finding any significant connections, drop it. If you feel you need more, try out another form of social media.

Set yourself a time limit for how long you'll spend on social media each day, which includes your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linked In, Good Reads, etc. I'm still pretty terrible at checking up on anything other than Facebook and my blog, and I can't say I'm unhappy about that.

For me, the less time I spend on social media, the more writing I get done. Each person has to decide what holds merit for them and what doesn't.

Now for a little information on Billy the Kid:

Born William Henry McCarty, Billy the Kid, aka William H. Bonney, came from New York. His exact birthdate is unknown, but it is speculated to be in 1860 or so. His mother came down with tuberculosis, so she moved her boys to New Mexico for the dry air. She died in 1874; his stepfather didn't want the kids, so he stuck them in separate orphanages, where Billy was forced to find work. He got in trouble when a friend stole laundry and asked him to hide it, but escaped from prison through the chimney.

He floated around for a time, making his way around New Mexico and Arizona. For a time, he was involved in stealing horses, but decided that wasn't the best plan and moved on. He made his first official kill (some say he killed someone at 12 years old, but there's nothing to back it up) at about 16 years old in a fight with Frank "Windy" Cahill. Billy the Kid was now officially an outlaw, and he fled Arizona to return to New Mexico.

When he got there, he joined a gang called "The Boys." They started working with James Dolan, of the Santa Fe Ring (you may recall this ring from yesterday - it consisted of property owners, politicians, etc.) He was trying to drive John Tunstall out of town, as he was competition, and he enlisted "The Boys" to steal Tunstall's livestock. Billy was caught and jailed, but Tunstall felt he was only a boy and took him in, requiring that he speak against Dolan and the rustlers in court, which he did.

Had things stopped here, Billy the Kid could conceivably have led a good life as a ranch hand. Instead, Sheriff Brady and "The Boys," working for Dolan and Murphy, shot Tunstall down. His ranch hands, including Billy, called themselves "The Regulators," were deputized and began to fight back, first legally, then with violence. They ended up killing Sheriff Brady and his men as they headed down the street to arrest Alex McSween, Tunstall's lawyer, and his partner in trying to fight the Murphy-Dolan faction.

The other side fought back, and full battle ensued. Billy the Kid and "The Regulators" hid inside McSween's house until they were burned out, with several of them being shot and killed as they escaped. Billy fled south, returning to rustling to make a living. When he heard there was a new governor (Axtel had been replaced by Lew Wallace), he wrote to the governor and asked to surrender. Wallace agreed, though he didn't have the power to fully pardon Billy, and Billy turned himself in. Unfortunately, the Santa Fe Ring owned the court at that time, and Wallace was making no effort to help Billy get pardoned, so he was forced to escape prison again.

Billy fled to Fort Sumner, where he hid out for a time. However, Pat Garrett was made sheriff, and he was dedicated to bringing Billy in. He trapped Billy and three of his gang in Stinking Springs, bringing him to court in Mesilla. He was sentenced to hang for the death of Sheriff Brady, but escaped by killing two deputies (Bell and Olinger). He went back to Fort Sumner, where Garrett tracked him down again, shooting him in a dark room on July 14, 1881.

Billy the Kid has been oft romanticized, but it all boils down to a young kid having been thrown into several bad situations. First, his stepfather abandoned him. Then a friend allowed him to be blamed for his crime. Ultimately, he ended up facing the Santa Fe Ring, a group that controlled much of New Mexico with their financial power and political clout. Though he made plenty of bad decisions in the mix, it's sometimes hard to remember that he was only twenty-one when he died (and research tends toward him being slightly younger than that). We don't trust kids with alcohol before that age, let alone expect them to make their own way in an uncivilized, violent and corrupt part of the country, dependent upon themselves for their own support and protection.

Some facts:

1. Billy the Kid was not left-handed, as is sometimes said. This confusion was a result of a reverse image on the tintype.

2. Not only could Billy the Kid read well, he also spoke Spanish fluently.

3. Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett weren't friends, but may have known each other superficially.

4. Billy the Kid did not, in fact, kill 21 men, as is claimed. Only four deaths can definitely be attributed to him, specifically, rather than to other members of "The Regulators" and others he rode with. A posse killed one of their own men via friendly fire and promptly blamed that death on Billy.

5. Most of what has been told about Billy the Kid is false, made up by newspaper reporters at the time. Pat Garrett's book also sullied the waters further, making Billy the Kid out to be much more vicious than he actually was in order to build his own image.

What do you think? Was Billy the Kid a bad guy or just a stupid kid thrown into a horrible situation? Is your social media out of control, or do you feel you have a good handle on it?

May you find your Muse.

*Letter B image courtesy of OCAL at
**Image of dandy Billy the Kid courtesy of Criminals
***Bob Ollinger stone image courtesy of Daniel Mayer (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
****Billy the Kid holding a gun image courtesy of Ben Wittick (1845-1903) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


Jeremy [Retro] said...

I am learning some thing every day... just a dumb kid he was.

Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
A to Z Co-Host
IZOMBIE: Visit the Madness

Lindi said...

I'm still trying to work my way through all the social media and what to spend time on. :)
I do like blogging and have met great friends from blogging.

Angela said...

This was a really interesting read. My social media is out of control, but I've decided that's okay. Also, great info on Billy the Kid.

I learned lots of new things. Like that he wasn't left handed. Very cool.

Dani said...

Billy the kid! One of my fav outlaws and what a smarty-farty! Another great A-Z post!

Annalisa Crawford said...

As I'm already seeing April disappearing into a blur of blogs and NO WRITING, your time limit advice is well timed!

Anonymous said...

Great post!! I learned a lot about Billy the Kid, thank you for sharing your knowledge.

As for social media, I find that I concentrate on Facebook and my blog more than the others but even then, I am dissatisfied with myself and the amount of time I devote to "research and contact" when compared to "compiling stuff to write about" and actually getting down to writing it. I would be happier setting myself a time limit each day, but then I get onto the trails from one blog to another and my writing time is compromised. Argh!!! I am loving making new contacts with the A-Z challenge though so maybe I can clock up my "blog hopping" time as legitimate "research/compilation" time haha!!

Matthew MacNish said...

I'm not sure of the actual history, but he's fascinating either way!

Anonymous said...

He was a bad guy but so were a lot of people on both sides of the badge after the Civil War.

blank said...

Im going with he was a dumb kid trying to survive.

MMMmm im a part time blogger mostly and facebooker. I often forget I even have twitter.

I think the only issue with social media is that in some cases a simple falling out between two people can quickly become your whole friends list. Its a little to open some times.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Interesting and informative post! I agree that social sites can be a time suck, and it's hard to judge just how much is beneficial.

Gossip_Grl said...

Nice post and I agree on the media, even today propaganda will sell a newspaper. :/

Anne Mackle said...

I never knew any of that about Billy theKid used to watch cowboy films with my dad years ago which sometimes featured him. This a-z challenge is making it very hard to get off the internet and back to real life.

M.J. Fifield said...

Whenever I think of Billy the Kid, I always think of the movie Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure.

I can't believe how many people have signed up for the A to Z challenge. I don't know how I'll ever make it to everyone's blog but I'm going to give it my best shot.

Happy Blogging.

Cat Lavoie said...

I'm a bit overwhelmed with social media... but I don't know which one to give up.
I knew next to nothing about Billy the Kid. Fascinating stuff! :)

Unknown said...

Hi, Shannon! Great post! I, too, am a bit overwhelmed at all the social media out there. Keeping up with a blog, alone, is hard enough without Facebook and Twitter and la la la. But, yeah. I'm guilty of surfing the net for much too long, therefore allowing my writing to suffer. Setting a time is a great idea.

Precy Larkins said...

I limit my social media to what is doable for me. There's only so many hours in a day. ;)

Unknown said...

Like you, of all the social networking platforms that exist I prefer my blog - with FB coming in second. Loved your story of Billy the Kid. What an education this is. And we think life is violent nowadays. Yes, he was a traumatized kid, no doubt. BTW, I wonder where Frank Cahill got his nickname from. How'd you like to be called "Windy" (you can give me a thin smile now LOL)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Yes, will need to do a little less blogging and more writing this summer.

sulekkha said...

I have met many great writers on fb groups and through my blog. I have launched my very own social networking website now and spend quite a bit of time there.

I am at

Rosaria Williams said...

Great advice!

Unknown said...

Makes a lot of sense. As for the kid, some people let events change them and yet others are born with the mental and emotional tendencies to be nasty.

SweetMarie83 said...

I have a writer friend who refuses to use Twitter, but I keep telling him it's a necessary evil if you want to bring attention to your work and build a platform and a following. I'm pretty much everywhere online, but like you said, I tend to focus mainly on Facebook and my blog, although I'm on Twitter a fair bit, too. Very interesting info about Billy the Kid, I actually didn't know much about him before!

Ramblings of a Daydreamer

Unknown said...

Very interesting about Billy the kid and great advice about how to organize the writing with the networking. I still haven't got that balance worked out yet, but I am working on it!!


Unknown said...

I definitely need to limit my blogging time, but then there are so many good blogs to read!
The only knowledge I have of Billy the Kid is from the Bill and Ted movie, so thanks for the lesson :)

Jamie Gibbs
Fellow A-Z Buddy
Mithril Wisdom

k~ said...

I think that Billy found a method of survival that worked for him during a time of gun-slinging and lawless mayhem. I'm not quick to put him in a bath of bad water, but rather to take a look at what his world was like, and what prompted him to behave as he did.

As for the social media... I am bordering out of control! LOL, but also realize that it cannot continue like that, and writing is my first passion, so the blogging (and quiet writing offline) take precedence every time!

Thank you for a fun read, and some trivia about Billy the Kid that I did not know.

A-Z 2012 (#49) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Poetry
A-Z 2012 (#861) - Bloggit Write A-Z 2012 - Haiku

Julie Flanders said...

I saw an old movie about Billy the Kid when I took a films class in school, I can't remember the name of it but Paul Newman played Billy the Kid. I've thought he was so interesting ever since then, this was a great post.

I am still struggling with social media. I really like blogging the best, but I know the rest are necessary. It's so hard to find time to manage them all, though.

Rebecca Alexander said...

Fascinating stuff! As I'm English (and a writer too) I've missed a lot of American history and folklore. I found your blog through the A-Z, which I am also trying to do, and I'm glad I did. Reb

Sue McPeak said...

William H. McCarty would be mighty pleased with your BlogBio that gives your readers a 21st Century perspective on the life and times of a 19th Century troubled teen. Afterall, he didn't get the chance to learn from his mis-spent youth.

About 'Social Media' Billy, I've floated around...New Blogland and a few other Spaces and found a niche with my Blog in Texas and a crazy Book with a Face. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it.

Looking forward to this month of Alphabetical Blogging.
Sue...CollectInTexas Gal

shelly said...

I didn't know any of this. Wow! You've been busy researching. You gonna write western?


Unknown said...

I have always loved the romanticized version of Billy yhte Kid, but I agree he was just a troubled kid surviving in a rough world and from that sort of grit legends are made.

Susan Kane said...

I have seen documentaries and books on Billy the kid. What can be said? That time period was a crazy out-of-control western free-for-all.

Maybe Bill was just a little more free.

Cynthia said...

Aside from my blog, I don't use a whole lot of social media even though I have a Twitter account. While I think social media is important in this day and age, my main focus is still just to work on my writing.

jerichas said...

Have you read Arielle Eckstut & David Sterry's The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published? It's friendly, cheap, amazing, and it's completely changed how I use social media. They have a lot of wise words about what is really "beneficial" - in their opinion, being generous (and genuine) with praise and appreciation of others, which in turn inspires people to share the same warmth with you. The A-Z Challenge is a great model of that, if you ask me!

Chuck said...

My social media tends to be my blog and my blog...I may get on Facebook a couple times a month but I refused to be as addicted to it as my wife is.

Billy the Kid was a great story. I think it shows even back then that a broken home and no parental figures at all are a bad recipe in life. Just so happens everybody had a gun back then and corruption was rampant. He was a product of his environment.

Jeremy Bates said...

great post! i love billy the kid
cant say whether he was a dumb kid or just thrown into a bad situation because all i really know of him is the role emelio estevez (sp??) plays in Young Guns
still, that was enough to make me like the legend :)

Sharkbytes said...

Social media is a giant labyrinth. I mostly hate it, but must do it. I just signed on to the A-Z challenge, nearly at the last minute, but I'm trying to visit every blog at least once.

Beth Camp said...

I love the way you've separated out fact from embellishment to give us a sense of the real person 'Billy the Kid'. Re social media, I get stuck between trying to build a reasonable platform and playing around with online friends. Can a serious writer play Farmville? Could I visit 10 new pages every day as part of the A to Z challenge? Not sure, but so far, this is fun.

Lynn Proctor said...

i have to go with the side that billy was a poor kid that had a lot of bad breaks and no one to mentor him---not sure about my time and social media's place in my life--great post!!

Leslie S. Rose said...

Great social media advice. I'll be monkeying with a consistent sched. Love your wild west lore too.

Christine Rains said...

My time spent on blogs is a little out of control. Yet there's just so many interesting ones to read. Especially this month!

Adrienne said...

I'm trying to get on some kind of social media schedule, but so far, not so good. I do love Twitter, and I may need a little blogging break after this month!
All that information about Billy the Kid is fascinating. Great post!

Rob and Lisa said...

Your topic for the challenge is very interesting. I learned a lot :)


Debra Harris-Johnson said...

Who knew such things about the Kid? Too much of anything can't be good for you. The Kid was well, just a dumb kid.

Jessica Marcarelli said...

I think I'm finally starting to get the hang of social media but this gives me something to think about. Sometimes I just end up running after the next big thing advertised as the #1 thing writers should do on a writing forum, article, etc. But you're right - it should be about benefits, first and foremost.

I didn't realize you were from Colorado Springs. I practically grew up there! <--Always excited to find other Coloradans.

Visions of Other Worlds

Sarah Tokeley said...

He was just a dumb boy who made some bad choices and had some bad breaks.

I'm officially on Twitter, but I never use it. Apart from that, it's just my blog.

Jenn said...

Interesting read on Billy the Kid!! Thanks for sharing :)

Cheers, Jenn

Jenni Steel said...

Interesting thoughts with Billy the kid, I guess I always enjoyed the film. I think it reflects on his bad start as a child.

As for my social media, I seem to be spiralling out of control since joining A-Z challenge but I have a buzz and I'm loving it. I haven't felt that up until now, so I have decided to go with the flow. I hope it will help me to make up my mind of the best direction to take and/or make me a better blogger.

Thanks for sharing:)

A Girl and Her eBooks said...

Awesome post! I'm a huge fan of the Wild West.

Jessica L. Celaya said...

Cool to learn about Billy the Kid. I think he was like most people and good characters, well rounded. He must have had good traits and bad and simply lived his life.
And it is important to figure out what is beneficial for writing. Blogging is important but writing novels is more important.

Huntress said...

I'd say both; stupid kid AND bad guy. Character is built by environment but only up to a point. After that, it's the kid's responsibility.

FYI, Jesse James watered his horse at our well.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your post for the letter B. I blog, I'm on Facebook and also Twitter. I really like the blogging. Have met some really great people. I find it hard to keep up with Facebook and Twitter. They both change so fast with the postings.


Unknown said...

I love hearing the truths behind the legends. I think it makes the legends more accessible and understandable.

Andrew Leon said...

Often, an outlaw is just someone trying to do the right thing in the face of a corrupt government.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Jeremy, that's what I think, too.

Lindi, I really enjoy blogging, too! That's not going anywhere anytime soon for me.

Angela, yay! I love that you learned something new from it. I figure if you're happy with your social media, it's right for you.

Danielle, I've always had a fascination for Billy the Kid.

Annalisa, ruh roh! Yeah, I have pretty much figured I will get no writing done outside of blogging, BUT I am hoping it will get me back on a good office schedule, what with being glued to the comp in my office all day every day.

Sterling, I feel you! I am trying to find that happy medium with my time between social media/platform building and actual writing.

Matthew, it's hard to know how much of any bit of history is true. As long as people pass it down, it will be flawed.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Stephen, valid point!

Serena, I forget I have Twitter, too. So much for that! I've seen adults bullying each other online, gossip spreading like wildfire, fights, etc. Amazing how much adulthood resembles high school, and how social media can amplify that.

Tyrean, thanks! I definitely envy anyone who really has it down (social media, that is).

Gossip Girl, oh you know it! Propaganda is everywhere.

Cassam, I've only ever seen Billy the Kid in Young Guns, if I recall. I would love to see another of the movies featuring him. And I figure this month is break month, so I'm not going to beat myself up over not getting writing done!

M.J., it's insane how big the A-to-Z is this year, isn't it?! I had totally forgotten that Billy the Kid was in Bill and Ted. Bogus! ;-p

Cat, it's tricky making that decision. For me, I use some more than others, and have to force myself or remind myself to use anything else, so I figure those are the ones that can stay on the back burner.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Alyssia, hi!! Oh yes, the internet is a time suck! I can get pulled in and just start looking at stuff that is absolutely not important, because once I'm online I can't leave.

Cherie, exactly! Good attitude to have about it.

Susan, oh no, that deserves a grin! I wonder if I can track down Windy's origins?

Alex, definitely!

Sulekkha, very cool!

Rosaria, thank you!

Rek, that is so very true. Some are just born evil. I feel like Clay Allison is dancing along that line.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Marie, that necessary evil is why I signed up on Twitter in the first place.

Kathy, me, too! It's a constantly evolving thing; there's always a new form. It's hard to keep it under tabs.

Jamie, it has been way too long since I watched Bill and Ted. I keep hoping they will show up on Netflix so I can watch them. I had them on VHS, but they never made the transition to DVD for me.

November Rain, I'm hoping May will be a month of much production for all us writers!

Julie, I haven't seen that one! There's got to be a way to balance everything and do it just right (without hiring someone to do it for you, LOL). We'll get there!

Reb, so glad you came by! I know I've done some English history, but I think because it was Western Civ classes that there are big gaps in my knowledge that I'd like to fill.

Shelly, I'm working on an idea for an Urban Fantasy-type novel set in the Wild West. I'm finding all these great characters that can maybe make cameos.

Shannon Lawrence said...

A.M. Swan, no matter how much I may learn about Billy the Kid, I don't think I could ever let the legend go. I had a fictional character crush on Emilio Estevez's version in Young Guns.

Susan, there you go! He's maybe the most well known outlaw of them all.

Cynthia, that is such a healthy attitude about it! I need to reach that place.

Jericha, I haven't, but thank you very much for the recommendation!

Chuck, that's a good way of seeing it. He had access to different things than kids these days would. I admit that I have gone through periods of being quite addicted to Facebook, but it was so great to have constant access to family I've always lived so far away from. I still need to get better!

Karen, I imagine!

Jeremy, I love that movie! Always will, despite the fact that it's incredibly inaccurate.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Sharkbytes, I hope you make it! If not, you can always continue visiting after the challenge is over. Many of us will keep our lists up for quite some time. And what a good way to put it: a labrynth!

Beth, thank you! And, um, I play Castleville! ;-p

Lynn, that's the side I'm going with!

Leslie, finding the schedule that works for you is such a good idea, but can be hard!

Christine, I know!!!

Adrienne, I know, it's hard! And thanks!

Lisa, thank you!

Shannon Lawrence said...

Debra, I agree!

Jessica, how cool! What schools did you go to? Yeah, that's a tricky thing about social media; there is always a newer, better form.

Sarah, I agree!

Jenn, thanks!

Jenni, if you mean Young Guns, I've always loved that one, too! The A-to-Z will definitely get you going! Good luck to you!

Amy, me, too! I just hope I do it justice in squished format.

Jessica, you are so right! Writing novels/short stories/whatever your preferred format is the more important.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Huntress, oh, how cool! Valid point. It's sort of the nature vs nurture quandary.

Susanne, I agree, both Twitter and Facebook change so quickly. It's hard to keep up.

Melissa, me, too! I can still keep those legends tucked into the place that first fell in love with them, though.

Andrew, that is a continuing theme throughout the Wild West, for sure.

Isabella Amaris said...

Very interesting. Billy the Kid has always fascinated me... mostly because he's always felt like a sympathetic character... Good to know that's not far from the truth. Nice one:)

C for Cinderella

Shannon Lawrence said...

Isabella, thanks! Yeah, his actions can be seen in a different light when one takes it all into consideration.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Sue, this one was also blocked until I released it! You're right; he never got a chance to learn from his mistakes. Pretty sad.