When I heard the call for a “high octane hero” I thought of the kind of person who could save the day—even with one arm tied behind his back.
That was where I started, but not where the story ends.
Once Upon a Time in Mukdahan touches on the time I spent living in Thailand and my personal visit to Mukdahan, which is a large city on the river border between Thailand and Laos. I visited the country in 2006 as part of a college team who went in to work with tsunami orphans. It was a life changing experience for me, and I’ve been looking for a way to tie that into my writing somehow. This call gave me the perfect opportunity! I mean, what doesn’t mix better than hot, tropical locations and a hunky man of your dreams?
What followed was a story that needed the exact kind of hero that led me to this idea. Someone who was so resourceful, well trained, disciplined and even deadly. Even with a single arm.
Growing up, my family was heavily involved with rodeo. My dad was a world champion calf roper and then team roper. My mom did both trick riding and roman riding. We toured the United States, crisscrossing this whole country, and I got to meet a lot of people. One of whom was The One Arm Bandit, a performer who is as his name says, one-armed. He rides his horse around an arena, cracking a bull whip and herding buffalo up and down a ramp built onto his trailer.
Think about that for a moment with me. A one-armed man guiding a horse, while swinging a bull whip, and safely herding buffalo. Animals that are bigger than him, and his horse, combined.
I grew up knowing this man, even getting to ride one of his buffalos, and to me it’s still a remarkable tribute to his strength as a person.
This is the kind of person I grew up around.
And that’s the kind of hero I wanted to write. Someone who has lived through the worst the world has to throw at him, and can still say, “Bring it.”
An excerpt from Once Upon a Time in Mukdahan…
She was going to die. If Emery could have chosen where she would kick the bucket, it wouldn’t be a muddy pit in the middle of nowhere-Laos.
Emery shivered and pressed her back against the side of the soggy pit. There was little shelter from the drizzling rain. Bamboo bars crisscrossed overhead, and a piece of plywood had been thrown over one side. The side of her head throbbed from meeting the butt of a rifle; she was exhausted, tired and hungry. She’d stopped praying that her team in Thailand would come looking for her. The things she’d seen around the campfire before being tossed in her prison were atrocities she wouldn’t wish on her worst enemy.
The top of her prison rose, shaking loose a shower of water droplets. She shivered and hugged herself tighter. One of her kidnappers sneered at her and said something she couldn’t translate. She didn’t need words to understand what he wanted from her.
Two more men appeared, a large bundle clutched between them. As they shoved it over the edge, she realized it wasn’t a thing. The bundle was a person.
It can never be said that Sidney Bristol has had a ‘normal’ life. She is a recovering roller derby queen, former missionary, and tattoo addict. She grew up in a motor-home on the US highways (with an occasional jaunt into Canada and Mexico), traveling the rodeo circuit with her parents. Sidney has lived abroad in both Russia and Thailand, working with children and teenagers. She now lives in Texas where she splits her time between a job she loves, writing, reading and belly dancing.