Meg Mims: Traveling the Transcontinental Railroad + Giveaway

Meg is offering a free digital copy of Double or Nothing for one lucky reader and I’m throwing in a $10 Amazon gift card for another. To enter: leave a comment (and your email address) on this blog entry and then click here to enter the Rafflecopter. The winner will be chosen and notified on April 19th. Good luck!

I love reading historical fiction. I love researching them even more… and the transcontinental railroad is a favorite topic because the first book in my Double Series is a twist of True Grit and Murder on the Orient Express. Double Crossing won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel, and my new release, Double or Nothing, is the sequel. Book two is not set on a train, but incorporates some further information about the New York to San Francisco railroad.

So let’s talk trains! Most people take for granted the highways of today. Over 150 years ago, when gold was first discovered in California, men hoping to get rich traveled to San Francisco via steamships which navigated through the dangerous Panama River and jungle region in Central America. Settlers heading west chose stage coaches, river boats, Conestoga wagons, oxen or horses, which dictated how far one could go—and such trips would often take many months due to weather, Indians and no real roads.

After the ‘war of Rebellion,’ the Union Pacific began laying tracks west from Omaha. They had their own problems with marauding Indians, the Rocky mountains and keeping up the pace (although I’m not certain the AMC series Hell on Wheels is all that accurate). The Central Pacific had far greater obstacles and dangers. Relentless winter storms in the Sierra Nevada mountains stalled the work. Snow sheds were fashioned to keep progress going, and thank goodness for nitroglycerin and the Chinese laborers who gave their lives to build that route. The five-mile-long Summit Tunnel in the Sierra Nevada took 15 months, in fact, to finish. The “race” between the two companies ended at Promontory Point in Utah in May of 1869.

After the Golden Spike ceremony that joined the two lines, travelers could begin in New York and end up in Sacramento within a week or 10 days in good weather. But travel wasn’t easy. The Pullman Palace sleeping cars proved expensive for the average traveler, but were not luxurious by any standard. Station houses with 30-minute meal stops gave way to dining cars within the decade. Indians who had often sabotaged the Union Pacific crews withdrew further north to fight at the Little Big Horn—and eventual defeat after that short-lived victory by the turn of the century. The Western Pacific railroad was also built from Sacramento via Stockton and San Jose to get as close to San Francisco as possible, although many people took a spur railroad to Vallejo and then a ferry across the Bay. Within 25 years, the majority of fruit shipped to the East Coast from California via refrigerated freight cars.

The transcontinental railroad proved to be the biggest fuel for American western expansion. My Double series gives the reader that sense of the west, of adventure and mystery, a touch of romance, and a bit of inspiration as well. Double Crossing is a twist of True Grit and Murder on the Orient Express, while Double or Nothing continues the adventures of Lily and Ace with a twist on The Fugitive.


Endorsed Double Crossing 500 x 750A murder arranged as a suicide…a missing deed…and a bereft daughter whose sheltered world is shattered.

August, 1869: Lily Granville is stunned by her father’s murder. Only one other person knows about a valuable California gold mine deed — both are now missing. Lily heads west on the newly opened transcontinental railroad, determined to track the killer. She soon realizes she is no longer the hunter but the prey.

As things progress from bad to worse, Lily is uncertain who to trust—the China-bound missionary who wants to marry her, or the wandering Texan who offers to protect her … for a price. Will Lily survive the journey and unexpected betrayal?

Click here to see the BOOK VIDEO

DoubleorNothing 500x750 (3)DOUBLE OR NOTHING—BOOK 2

A mysterious explosion. A man framed for murder. A strong woman determined to prove his innocence.

October, 1869: Lily Granville, heiress to a considerable fortune, rebels against her uncle’s strict rules. Ace Diamond, determined to win Lily, invests in a dynamite factory but his success fails to impress her guardian. An explosion in San Francisco, mere hours before Lily elopes with Ace to avoid a forced marriage, sets off a chain of consequences.

When Ace is framed for murder before their wedding night, Lily must find proof to save him from a hangman’s noose. Will she become a widow before a true wife?


About the Author

Meg in ViennaClocks and time play a big part in any late bloomer’s life. And time plays a vital part in every mystery.

Meg Mims is an award-winning author and artist. She writes blended genres – historical, western, adventure, romance, suspense and mystery. Her first book, Double Crossing, won the 2012 Spur Award for Best First Novel from Western Writers of America and  was named a Finalist in the Best Books of 2012 from USA Book News for Fiction: Western.  Double or Nothing is the sequel. Meg has also written two contemporary romance novellas,The Key to Love and Santa Paws — which reached the Amazon Kindle Bestseller list.



I burst into the house. Keeping the flimsy telegram envelope, I dumped half a dozen packages into the maid’s waiting arms. “Where’s Father? I need to speak to him.”

“He’s in the library, Miss Lily. With Mr. Todaro.”

Oh, bother. I didn’t have time to deal with Emil Todaro, my father’s lawyer. He was the last person I wanted to see—but that couldn’t be helped. Thanking Etta, I raced down the hall. Father turned from his roll-top desk, spectacles perched on his thin nose and hands full of rustling papers. Todaro rose from an armchair with a courteous bow. His silver waistcoat buttons strained over his belly and his balding head shone in the sunlight. I forced myself to nod in his direction and then planted a quick kiss on Father’s leathery cheek. The familiar scents of pipe tobacco and bay rum soothed my nervous energy.

“I didn’t expect you back so early, Lily. What is it?”

With an uneasy glance at Todaro, I slipped him the envelope. “The telegraph messenger boy caught me on my way home.” My voice dropped. “It’s from Uncle Harrison.”

Father poked up his wire rims while he pored over the brief message. His shoulders slumped. “I’ll speak plainly, Lily, because Mr. Todaro and I were discussing this earlier. My brother sent word that George Hearst intends to claim the Early Bird mine in a Sacramento court. Harrison believes his business partner never filed the deed. He needs to prove our ownership.”

“Hearst holds an interest in the Comstock Lode, Colonel.” Todaro had perked up, his long knobby fingers forming a steeple. The lawyer resembled an amphibian, along with his deep croak of a voice. “His lawyers are just as ambitious and ruthless in court.”

Father peered over his spectacles. “Yes, but I have the original deed. I didn’t plan to visit California until next month, so we’ll have to move up our trip.”

“Oh!” I clasped my hands, a thrill racing through me. “I’m dying to visit all the shops out there, especially in San Francisco. When do we leave?”

“We? I meant myself and Mr. Todaro.”

I stared at the lawyer, who didn’t conceal a sly smirk. “You cannot leave me behind, Father. I promised to visit Uncle Harrison, and what if I decide to go to China?”

“Lily, I refuse to discuss the matter. This trip is anything but a lark.”

“It’s a grueling two thousand miles on the railroad, Miss Granville. Conditions out west are far too dangerous for a young lady,” Todaro said. “Even with an escort.”

“The new transcontinental line has been operating all summer. Plenty of women have traveled to California. I’ve read the newspaper reports.”

“I’m afraid the Union and Central Pacific cars are not as luxurious as the reports say. You have no idea. The way stations are abominable, for one thing.”

I flashed a smile at him. “I’m ready for adventure. That’s why I’ve considered joining the missionary team with Mr. Mason.”

Father scowled. “You are not leaving Evanston until I give my approval.”

“You mean until you dissuade me from ‘such a ridiculous notion.’”

“Need I remind you of the fourth commandment, Lily?”

“No, Father. We’ll discuss this later.”

My face flushed hot. Annoyed by being reprimanded in front of Todaro, I ignored the rest of the conversation. I’d always wanted to see the open prairie and perhaps a buffalo herd chased by Indians, the majestic Rocky Mountains and California. California, with its mining camps, lush green meadows and warm sunshine, the cities of Sacramento and San Francisco that had to be as exhilarating as downtown Chicago. I’d pored over the grainy pen-and-ink drawings in the Chicago Times. Uncle Harrison, who’d gone west several years ago to make a fortune and succeeded, for the most part, would welcome me with open arms. I plopped down on an armchair and fingered the ridges of the brass floor lamp beside me. Somehow I needed to persuade Father to allow me to tag along on this trip.


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28 thoughts on “Meg Mims: Traveling the Transcontinental Railroad + Giveaway

  1. The book sounds really interesting I also like the unusual cover. Doubt I would pick it up just based on the cover but the excerpt sounded interesting.


  2. I enjoy reading about this time in history, especially knowing that my great-great grandmother came to California by ship around the horn, and my grandmother came west on the transcontinental railroad. Fascinating times for women! linda (at) lindabenson (dot) net


  3. Double Crossing is a terrific story.
    one of my favorite aspects was the rich detail of the train ride … and those stops along the way. Meg gives such vivid descriptions, that you can taste the food at the stations and see the merchandise in the few shops where towns existed.
    Plus, you can feel the dust and heat and even ?salt? from one area.
    yes, I’d like to be in the drawings.


  4. I do Twitter on the computer! Much easier than on the phone! I’m still trying to learn how to use the smartphone I got in December!


  5. Can’t wait to catch up on my reading this summer I still have yet to start Santa Paws .. I just need some “spur” time so I get caught up on your newest book .. Slow down Meg !!


  6. The story sounds so interesting being situated on the train and seeing what life was like traveling on it. Of course, the mystery and being trapped on a train sounds so suspenseful.
    strive4bst(At) yahoo(Dot) com


  7. I have wanted to ride the train from Dallas to San Francisco, but never have. As a child, we sometimes traveled from CA to OK to visit my grandmother. Loved it. Love reading about rail travel and have tons of research on travel around 1878.
    caroline (at) carolineclemmons dot com


    • Hey, Caroline! I have traveled a few times by rail and love it. But modern trains are nothing like during the 1800s, with sparks, steam, smoke, etc. I would have resented the men having their own smoking car, too. LOL


    • Fantasize away — my books have a *touch* of romance, since they’re primarily mystery. Focus is on solving the murders. But the relationship between Ace/Lily is there too! 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, LaGina.


  8. This sounds delightfully intriguing. I’ve loved trains and train whistles, since I was a child. My mother, didn’t have the luxury of a train and crossed from Texas to California in 1921 before roads were paved and bridges erected. They scurried out of their open Ford to install the isinglass windows, whenever it began to rain. They forded rivers because they didn’t have the $1 it cost to have the local farmer tow the car across using two oxen. The trek across this land was hazardous for many years to come. They were quite excited to arrive in California and discover paved roads. Signs of the riches California offered. I do look forward to reading these historical novels. Fascinating times.


  9. Congrats to Cathy B., winner of “Double or Nothing” and Linda B, winner of the $10 Amazon Gift Card. Thanks for visiting Susana’s Parlour!


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