First of all, I’m so thrilled to be with you today and look forward to making some new friends!
We hear about lots of brave men – and a few women, too – who faced incredible obstacles in settling the American West. This was wilderness untamed, a place where you could never be sure what you’d find… or what would find you. Their stories are the ones I like most, for the events that brought them to their destinations often were so incredibly unlikely, yet true. As the 19th century progressed, people traveled west by wagon, handcart, stagecoach, and train. To me, each of these are symbols of that wild time period, but perhaps none more thrilling than the stagecoach.
Can you imagine traveling in one?
Nine passengers could be crammed inside, twelve more squeezed onto the roof. Belongings were packed on the roof or in the front or rear boot (those leather pouch-looking spaces). It varied, of course, on the type of terrain and road conditions, but a stagecoach averaged 5 mph (8 km/h) and could travel 60-70 miles per 24 hours.
If you wanted to ride a stagecoach from your town to another that was 100 miles away, you would typically ride 24 hours a day in the coach. That’s where you would sleep, too. They had to stop every 10-15 miles to swap out the team of horses at a swing station (ideally, they were galloping that entire distance, weather and trail permitting) and passengers could get out and stretch for a minute. Home Stations were located every 50 miles or so, and that’s where you’d come inside to have a meal.
Riding across the country in a stagecoach was miserable, dusty, bumpy, and cramped. It would be a test in patience and endurance to travel in such a way, in my opinion!
As I researched stage lines and all the fascinating treasure stories involved, I came across very few women.
Charley Parkhurst was a notable stage driver in California and Nevada in the mid-1800s, though no one knew she was a woman until after her death. She wore an eye patch and could spit tobacco and shoot a gun like any man of the west. Her story intrigued me. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to write a female stage driver?”
That’s how The Stage Driver’s Daughter came to be.
Winnifred Morgan, the heroine, spends most of her childhood in the driver’s seat of a stage coach beside her pa, learning all he knew. When he is killed suddenly, Winnie has no one left. So, she forsakes her dress and bonnet for boots and trousers and turns to what she knows: driving a coach, and not through civilized, populated roads – No. Where is the fun in that? She takes on the perilous mining routes in Nevada, and does it better than anyone else, too.
When she begins conveying treasure boxes for Wells Fargo Express, they hire a shotgun guard named Benjamin Sharpe to ride with her. Wouldn’t you know, she fights her growing attraction to him as they face many a highwayman on those dusty, dangerous roads.
But a secret surfaces, something her pa took to his grave, and those who seek it are coming after Winnie… You’ll have to read it to find out what happens when they do!
The Stage Driver’s Daughter is available on Amazon and Kindle Unlimited here.
To celebrate the book’s release one week ago, I’d love to give a paperback copy away here today.
I’ll pick a random winner from the comments to this post. Tell me your favorite way to travel, and why.
Thanks for having me, and I hope to see some of you on Facebook or my newsletter!