Bestselling Author

Author: EEBurke (Page 1 of 4)

Weave together passionate romance and rich historical detail, add a dash of suspense, and you have books by bestselling author E.E. Burke.
E.E., also known as Elisabeth, has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the RWA's prestigious Golden Heart®. Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist, and advertising executive, before finally getting around to living the dream--writing stories readers can get lost in.

The final chapter

Get ready for the last, and most exciting, installment in the series, Steam! Romance and Rails. You don’t want to miss it!

The Pinkerton & the Outlaw

May 1874, Indian Territory

A female Pinkerton detective and an Irish-Cherokee outlaw form a temporary partnership to solve a mystery, then become entangled in a net of corruption, crime, and murder. It’s a tale of daring deception with pulse-pounding suspense and sizzling romance in a Western setting that is as authentic as it is wild.

The entire series is rooted in historical events that follow the expansion of the railroad across the American West. For Lawless Hearts, I took inspiration from the history of the Pinkerton Agency and the country’s first female detective.

Brigit Stevens is modeled after the young female detectives employed by the Pinkerton Agency in the nineteenth century. These women defied cultural norms and broke down societal structures. In that sense, they were truly “lawless” in their pursuit of justice.

The outlaw Brigit chooses as a temporary partner is a complex, contradictory character. Jasper Byrne isn’t the devil described in the Wanted posters, but he doesn’t perceive himself as a hero either. In fact, he’s confused when Brigit treats him like one.

After spending most of his life pretending to being bad, Jasper takes Brigit up on her offer to join her on the right side of the law. Unfortunately, there are some who have the law on their side and are using it for nefarious purposes, and they have Brigit and Jasper in the crosshairs.

Lawless Hearts will be released on July 11, 2022, but you can preorder your copy today and have it on your Kindle the moment it’s available.

Can’t get enough Steam!? Check out the entire series!

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Mark Twain…a hopeful romantic?

The author Mark Twain is best remembered for his satire and his scathing observations on human nature.  But there was another side to the man, Samuel Clemens…a romantic one.

At age 32, Sam returned from a successful trip abroad with a new friend, Charles Langdon, who invited Sam to an outing with his family. It was late December 1867 when Sam joined the Langdons at Steinway Hall in New York City to hear Charles Dickens read from David Copperfield. The reading didn’t impress Sam, but the young woman he met certainly did.

“It made the fortune of my life–not in dollar, I am not thinking in dollars; it made the real fortune of my life in that it made the happiness of my life.”

samuel clemens
Photos courtesy of the Mark Twain House & Museum

At first, happiness wasn’t certain. With typical spontaneity, Sam popped the question soon after the first date. Livy turned him down. Crushed, though not defeated, he penned a respectful, yet ardent, letter, the first of many in their two-year courtship. Here’s an excerpt from that letter, in which he claims to accept her refusal and addresses her as “honored sister.”

For once, at least, in the idle years that have drifted over me, I have seen the world all beautiful, & known what it was to hope. For once I have known what it was to feel my sluggish pulses stir with a living ambition. The world that was so beautiful, is dark again; the hope that shone as the sun, is gone; the brave ambition is dead. Yet I say again, it is better for me that I have loved & do love you; that with more than Eastern devotion I worship you; that I lay down all of my life that is worth the living, upon this hopeless altar where no fires of love shall descend to consume it. If you could but—

from Samuel Clemens early Letter to Olivia Langdon

He goes on to profess friendship, but he more or less begs her to open her heart and give him a chance. She does, and after two years and many more letters, finally admits to loving him, but adds that she hopes it will pass! Sam, undaunted, redoubles his efforts until his determination pays off. Triumphant, he writes to share the news in a letter to his friend.

Refused three times—warned to quit, once—accepted at last!—& beloved!— … Oh, no—there isn’t any persistence about me—certainly not. But I am so happy I want to scalp somebody.

from Samuel Clemens letter to Joseph Twichell

By all accounts, Livy adored her husband until the day of her death in 1904. This poignant recollection from Twain’s autobiography gives some insight into one of the reasons Sam loved his Livy so faithfully and passionately.

She poured out her prodigal affection in kisses and caresses, and in a vocabulary of endearments whose profusion was always an astonishment to me.

Mark Twain Autobiography

Romance & Mark Twain

Recently, I was featured on a virtual spotlight program at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT. Museum Director of Interpretation Rebecca Floyd spoke with me about my fascination with Mark Twain and his iconic characters, and the inspiration behind two historical novels that explore what might have happened to Tom and Huck after they grew up.

You can access a link to watch the interview here

Tom Sawyer Returns also recently advanced as a Finalist in the Chanticleer International Book Awards (CIBAs).

Next month, I’ll be sharing fun historical facts behind my new release, Lawless Hearts, the final and most exciting installment in the Steam! Romance & Rails series.

E.E. Burke

*Photos and letters courtesy of the Mark Twain House & Museum. Special thanks to Rebecca Floyd, Director of Interpretation, for her assistance with these articles.

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Romancing Mark Twain

 

When I first sat down to write Tom Sawyer Returns and Taming Huck Finn, I didn’t imagine I would one day be invited to share these stories in the home where Mark Twain penned his original tales.

On Feb. 15, at 7 p.m. Eastern, the Mark Twain House & Museum will present a virtual Valentine’s program, Romancing Mark Twain, and they’ll be featuring my novels. Folks, I am seriously on Cloud Nine!

Through the technological wonder of Crowdcast, I’ll join Director of Interpretation Rebecca Lloyd in a LIVE online discussion about my lifetime love for America’s greatest storyteller, and what drew me to the idea of giving Tom and Huck their own love stories, as well thrilling new adventures.

Better yet…you, dear reader, can join me from the comfort of your own home. You can watch the program online, and, if you’d like, participate in the Q&A.

I can hardly wait! Hope to see you there.

Get your FREE digital tickets at the Mark Twain House & Museum’s online event page: https://bit.ly/RomancingMarkTwain

Chanticleer Reviews gives Tom Sawyer Returns 5 stars/Best Book rating

“Tom Sawyer Returns delivers a Civil War era thriller worthy of its leading characters. Highly recommended!” – Chanticleer Reviews

Full Review

Tom Sawyer Returns is the second book in The New Adventures series by author E.E. Burke.

Readers join a now grown up and far more independent Becky Thatcher as she maneuvers her complicated life in Civil War era Mississippi. Tom has long since left, and Becky is engaged to Union Captain Alfred Temple, who offers her all the safety and security she needs in such uncertain times. But does she love him? Actually love him?

Becky soon discovers that her heart may have other plans.

When an injured Tom Sawyer bursts through her door and collapses onto the kitchen floor, Becky and her father – Judge Thatcher – take him in, care for him, and find out that he may have stumbled into the house for reasons more than the simple rekindling of a lost flame. With Judge Thatcher caught up in a twisted ploy posed by the rebels, Becky must partner up with Tom in order to save her father. But with Tom’s memories nowhere to be found, and his aptitude for ending up smack dab in the middle of trouble, the two find themselves venturing down a twisting road of discovery, mystery, and uncertainty.

Set in a divided world rife with danger and history, E.E. Burke takes characters so close to the heart of Americana and gives them new life.

Fans of Mark Twain’s original work will appreciate the attention to detail and the care in which the story is crafted, paying homage to the original tales of Tom Sawyer and his wild adventures. But this continuation sees a deeper, more intimate portrait of Becky Thatcher – a girl grown into a woman, who’s come into her own confidence and whose sharp mind sees her through many perilous situations.

While the title of the book may be Tom Sawyer Returns, don’t let that fool you – Becky Thatcher is the heart of this book, the backbone, the brains.

Both her and Tom have grown significantly since their childhood days, and Burke expertly takes two kids written nearly 150 years ago and turns them into adults whose life experiences have been shaped by the Civil War; two individuals who are fiercely independent, yet whose attitudes and opinions have been molded by the world they live in. They jump off the page as not simply characters, but as fully realized people. People with complexities, fears, and failures.

Not only does Tom Sawyer Returns take the reader on an adventurous ride filled with plots and ploys, but it also provides a beautiful romance that blooms amidst the thorns of trouble.

E.E. Burke writes with a balance of delicacy and sharpness, showing the true nature of love – that it is something tangled and complicated. As the reader follows Becky and Tom, they’re never made to doubt the pair’s attraction, but to instead find comfort knowing that while their combined history may complicate their feelings for each other, love will still prevail in end. As it always does, and as it always will continue to do.

Tom Sawyer Returns comes in as a 5-star Readers’ Favorite

Tom Sawyer Returns by E.E. Burke was a wonderful reuniting of Tom and Becky Thatcher. I was hooked from the first word until the very last. There were so many things going on at once and I kept changing my mind about who was the good guy and who was bad, though I have to admit I couldn’t help but root for Tom. I love the style in which E.E. Burke told the story of a grown-up Tom and Becky. The story brought back happy hours of my youthful reading and presented a new Tom and Becky for me to enjoy in my older years. Tom Sawyer Returns is a wonderful book for young and old, male and female. This is a top-notch book that deserves lots of praise. ~ Trudi LoPreto for Readers’ Favorite

 

As we roll into a new year, I want to say “thank you!”  I think all of you deserve a 5-star rating for being the best readers in the world.

E.E. Burke

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Share the blessing

Dear friends:

Buy a book. Share the blessings.

I pray this holiday season brings blessings to you and your family. I’ve been reflecting lately on my blessings, and want to share some of what I have with others during this season of giving. One way I can do this is to donate my royalties to a worthy cause.

Through the end of this year, I’ll match all proceeds from the sales of my book, Taming Huck Finn, and donate the entire amount to a local food bank to help them in their mission to feed the hungry.  In the past, I have volunteered at food lines and seen firsthand how a little given in love can go a long way.

If you haven’t had a chance to buy and read this book, now would be a good time. If you’ve read it and enjoyed it, consider giving it as a Christmas gift and you can extend a gift to others. If you know friends who might enjoy it, please spread the word and help me feed the hungry.

I’ll be sending my money to Harvesters, a regional food bank serving NE Kansas and NW Missouri including Kansas City and Topeka. It’s a wonderful organization that provides food and related household products to more than 760 nonprofit agencies including emergency food pantries, community kitchens, homeless shelters, children’s homes and others.

Share your blessings and be blessed this holiday season!

E.E. Burke

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Myths, legends and inspiration

In my novel Redbird, elements from Cherokee myths are woven into the love story, which is set during a historical event in the 1870s involving the Cherokee Nation and the Katy Railroad. Read on to find out more about these fascinating legends that inspired me.

Uk-ten-a

Jake crept next to the dark side of the locomotive. Tonight, Uk-te-na didn’t hiss or spew its dark breath. The smoking dragon crouched on metal rails with its nose pointed south, directly at the heart of the Tsa-la-gi nation, silent and still like a predator anticipating a kill.

Most cultures have legends about supernatural serpents. In Cherokee lore, they call this mythical creature Uk-te-na.  Described as a monstrous beast with horns, similar to a dragon, Uk-te-na is originally created at the behest of men to destroy their enemy. Instead, it wreaks havoc on the people of the earth. It makes sense, then, that Native Americans would liken locomotives to this fearsome beast.

This powerful imagery fit beautifully within the framework of my story about a Cherokee hero who sets out to stop a powerful railroad from devastating his homeland. His quest takes an unexpected turn when he abducts a railroad heiress who it seems might be the personification of a legendary goddess.

Wa-ya and the little bird

How did the cardinal get its beautiful coloring? In this Cherokee tale, Raccoon (gv-li) loves to tease Wolf (wa-ya). One day Wolf is chasing Raccoon so long he becomes exhausted. While he sleeps, Raccoon covers Wolf’s eyes with mud, which hardens. After Wolf awakens, he can’t get the mud off and he can’t see. He begs for help, but Raccoon just runs off.

At long last, a little bird hears Wolf and she flies over. “What’s the matter Brother Wolf? Can I help you?”

Wa-ya cries: “I can’t open my eyes, Please help me to see again!”

“I’m just a plain little brown bird. but I will help you if I can.”

“U-wo-di-ge tsi-s-qua (little brown bird), if you can help me to see again, I will take you to a magic rock that oozes red paint. We will paint your feathers red.”

The little bird pecks away the mud until Wolf can see. True to his word, Wa-ya takes U-wo-di-ge tsi-s-qua to the magic rock and uses a chewed stick as a paint brush to paint right red over the little bird’s plain, brown feathers. She becomes to-tsu-wa--the beautiful Red Bird.

Similarly, in the novel Redbird, the heroine Kate is instrumental in saving the hero, Jake (whose Cherokee name is Wa-ya). In turn, Jake’s gift to the woman he calls Redbird is a new awareness of her beauty and strength.

The Sun and her daughter

This traditional Cherokee legend contributes a core element in my love story and the hero’s journey. As a boy, Jake is enthralled by the story about the Sun’s daughter. He forms an image in his mind about what she might look like, and even sees her in a vision, which later directs his path in ways he could never have predicted. The original legend is rather long, so I’m going to paraphrase most of it.

The Sun lived on the other side of the sky vault, but her daughter lived in the middle of the sky, directly above the earth, and every day as the Sun was climbing along the sky arch to the west she stopped at her daughter’s house for dinner. Now, the Sun hated the people on the earth, because they could never look straight at her without screwing up their faces. But the people of the earth smiled at her brother, the Moon. The Sun was jealous and decided to kill the people, so when she came to her daughter’s house, she sent rays down that created a great fever and many people died.

The people went for help to the Little Men (supernatural beings), who changed two people into snakes (Copperhead and Spreading-adder), but they were unsuccessful at killing the Sun. Then the Little Men created a monster, the great Uk-te-na and the Rattlesnake. They surprised the daughter of the Sun when she came outside, thinking it was her mother who was knocking.

After the Sun finds her daughter dead, she goes away and the world is plunged into darkness. Representatives of the people go to the land of the dead to retrieve the Sun’s daughter and bring her back alive, but along the way, they mistakenly let her out of a box she’s being kept in and she flies off,. A moment later, they hear the song of a red bird. The daughter of the Sun can’t return to her mother in her previous form, but she is brought back to life as the beautiful Redbird.

In my novel, Jake associates Kate with the Sun’s beautiful daughter and nicknames her Redbird. His fascination with her allows him to lower his defenses and open his mind and heart to new possibilities.

As far as Kate is concerned, Jake is the only man who accepts her on equal terms. With him, she feels beautiful and strong. She also comes to believe she is uniquely suited to help Wa-ya and his people. In the end, she is transformed, like her namesake.

Redbird, Book 2 in the series, Steam! Romance and Rails

A rich, white heiress. A Cherokee outlaw. They have nothing in common except a desire for peace…and each other.

Railroad heiress Kate Parsons has spent a lifetime trying to win her father’s respect. Her heart isn’t in the marriage he demands for her, but she is eager to help him peacefully resolve a land dispute between his railroad and the Cherokee Nation. Instead, her life–and her future–take a sharp turn when she is abducted by outlaws.

Jake Colston longs for peace, but not at the price the railroad wants his people to pay. Rather than fight a war against the smoking dragon, he devises a scheme to stop it. But a split-second decision to abduct Kate pitches his plans into chaos and creates havoc in his heart. Like the legendary goddess Redbird, his captive is brave and quick-witted, curious and compassionate. Is she the incarnation of a vision? Or does she portend the end of his dreams?

A captivating, cross-cultural love story, which unfolds during a fast-paced race through historic events. Redbird was originally released as a novella under the title Kate’s Outlaw. This new edition has been expanded into a novel with exciting new scenes and renamed after the Native American legend that inspired it. 

Read Redbird

Have you read the series yet? If not, get started on the first book, Her Bodyguard.  Right now, if you sign up as a new subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll receive a link to a free download. Sign up today!

Steam On!

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A new edition, a new book and a brand new look

My bestselling series is better than ever.

 

The Steam! Romance and Rails series was inspired by my love for Western movies and TV shows that deliver exceptional drama, passion and suspense in authentic historical settings. I’ll give a nod to Hell On Wheels as one of those inspirational shows. And you can really see the influence in these new covers for the latest edition of the series. I’ve tweaked and polished the stories, given them new covers that are closer to my original vision, and expanded the second book into a full-length novel.

The series begins with Her BodyguardAn 1870 railroad race plagued by crooked politics, angry mobs, liars, cheats and killers sets the stage for a story about betrayal, love and redemption.  A wanted man with dark secrets falls in love with the woman who hires him to protect her.  Packed with passion and suspense, it’s a thrilling ride with twists and turns right up to the end.  Buck O’Connor is one of my favorite heroes. I think this new cover fits the book and this character perfectly! Her Bodyguard is a BookBub Featured Deal on Aug. 19 and you can pick it up for 99 cents through Aug. 23. Buy it now!

Redbird was originally released as a short novella under the title, Kate’s Outlaw. I’ve expanded the storyline, added new scenes to extend it into a novel, and renamed it after the Cherokee legend that inspired it. This cross-cultural love story is set against the historical backdrop of a bitter battle between the Katy Railroad and the Cherokee Nation. Through this story, I strive to present a perspective that often gets lost in our glorification of Western expansion. Its central theme is hope–for peace, understanding, respect, and, ultimately, a sense of unity despite our differences.

At the end of Redbird, we leave Indian Territory and return to Kansas, where the Katy Railroad has a new headquarters in Parsons, and a new general manager. Henry Stevens is charismatic, courageous and ambitious. Could he also be a murderer? A clever young woman, who has more to lose than her heart, sets out to discover the truth about the fascinating man the loyal railroaders call Chief.

In A Dangerous Passion, the character of Henry Stevens was inspired by bigger-than-life stories about the real “Colonel Stevens,” the man who led the Katy Railroad to victory. I do a lot of research when planning a series. This one, in particular, follows the historical journey of the Katy Railroad as the underpinning for both settings and plot lines.

Oh, and this cover! When I first starting working on A Dangerous Passion, I pinned some “inspirational” images to my Pinterest board.

To the left is how I envisioned Henry Stevens might look. The cover model is a dead ringer, right?

No, I didn’t pay Richard Armitage to pose for the cover, but if this book ever gets made into a movie, I know who I want to play the lead role!

In Fugitive Hearts, two runaways take a wild ride through Indian Territory where outlaws and train robbers plague the new Katy Railway line.

A hotel owner confesses to accidentally killing her husband, which sets off a scandal and an investigation. When the widow sets out to find her missing foster child, what follows is a passionate, suspenseful game of cat-and-mouse between Claire and the sheriff, who is determined to uncover the truth. When he does, it will challenge his preconceived notions about justice—and love.

I’m currently writing Book Five in the series, Lawless Hearts, which will be released in early 2022. Get a sneak peek at the cover and read the blurb here.

Another word about the covers. I owe a special thanks to photographer Matthew Malkiewicz for his inspiring images of the old steam locomotives that grace my book covers. His photography really captures the mood and drama of this series. (You can see more of his amazing work at www.losttracksoftime.com.)

What other authors say about Steam! Romance and Rails

“Gripping, realistic western writing at its best! E.E. Burke is an exceptional storyteller!” ~ Rosanne Bittner, USA Today bestselling author

“I thoroughly enjoy E.E. Burke’s historical romances. Her portrayal of strong, realistic, well-defined characters and meticulous research transports readers back to the American West of old.”  ~ Jill Marie Landis, New York Times bestselling author

“Pure passion and romance that will steal your breath.” ~ Linda Broday, New York Times bestselling author

“E.E. Burke understands the heart of romance…and delivers it!” ~ Maggie Shayne, New York Times bestselling author

Give me your take on this series if you’ve read it. I’d love to know which hero was your favorite.

Steam On!

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E.E. Burke: On The Journey

The New Adventures novels feature original paintings by Missouri artist Gary R. Lucy (you can find his work at https://garylucy.com)

From an early age, I’ve been afflicted with a fondness for two precocious Missouri-bred boys introduced to me by Mark Twain. As I read (and reread) Tom and Huck’s adventures, I hated to bid them farewell at a point where their stories were just taking off. I wanted to know what happened to them when they grew up. Did they find new adventures? Did they embark on the greatest adventure of all—falling in love? No one (not even the author of their stories) provided sufficient answers to my questions.

In fact, Mark Twain wrote at the end of Tom Sawyer:  Some day it may seem worthwhile to take up the story of the younger ones again and see what sort of men and women they turned out to be… The great author never did revisit his characters as adults. But I could not be satisfied until I had explored what might have been.

Mark Twain in front of the house where he grew up in Hannibal, MO

Tom Sawyer Returns picks up more than a decade after we left him as a carefree lad in a sleepy town on the Mississippi River. It made sense that Tom would eventually leave to seek adventures. History provided a desperate event that would bring him home, determined to be a hero.

This story is set in the fictional town of St. Petersburg, which was the setting in Twain’s original story (a thinly veiled fictional rendering of Hannibal, Missouri, where Twain spent much of his boyhood).

Numerous incidents in this book are based on historic reports, one of which alludes to a shadowy conspiracy by Confederate sympathizers to seize control of Mississippi River. Put Tom in the middle of a deadly scheme, having to solve a mystery without crucial memories, and you have an exciting plot. But a love story requires more.

Becky ignites Tom’s jealousy with Alfred Temple

In Twain’s book, the character of Becky Thatcher fits the traditional stereotype of the Victorian female: beautiful, helpless,  idealized–quite frankly, boring. I wondered what a girl like that might do when faced with adversity if she were made of more than fluff? The Becky Thatcher who sprang to life on these pages surprised me with her cleverness, compassion, courage and sense of adventure. She’d shown something of her spunk in choosing Tom in the first place. Seeing her develop into a multi-faceted, independent woman, was pure delight.

You’ll meet other characters featured in Twain’s original story, such as Tom’s obsessively rule-bound half-brother Sid, Becky’s elusive cousin Jeff, a beleaguered Judge Thatcher, Tom’s secretive former girlfriend Amy Lawrence, and Alfred Temple, who has risen to great heights and is still competing with Tom for Becky’s affections. They all had bit parts in Twain’s original tale. I thoroughly enjoyed expanding on these secondary characters, delving into backstories, and exploring their relationships with Tom and Becky.

Here is a book trailer I put together as a teaser. I wonder if you can guess who the shadowy character at the end represents?

After you finish Tom Sawyer Returns, be sure to pick up Taming Huck Finn.

Where Tom’s story is an action-adventure, Huck’s story is a journey. Throw in one young orphan who idolizes his famous uncle and a spinster who is determined to civilize them, and you have a recipe for Huck’s greatest challenge.

I humbly offer these historical tales with profound gratitude to the man who inspired it. Perhaps more than any other author, Mark Twain influenced my love of the written word and my belief in the power of a well-told story.

Enjoy my New Adventures!
E.E. Burke

Of the two–Tom and Huck–do you have a favorite? Which one and why? Leave a comment and enter my raffle for a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card.

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Merry Christmas, Santa

My novella Santa’s Mail-Order Bride incorporates a number of American Christmas traditions, including the beloved character of Santa Claus. Our present-day version of Santa may appear contemporary, but the venerable gift-giver has a long history.

Santa started with a real person. Saint Nicholas, born in the 3rd century in a village in present-day Turkey, is said to have spent his inheritance to help the needy, and he had a special love for children. It’s from his generous nature we get a gift-giving Santa.

Fast forward to 18th century America where immigrants from Holland brought with them the tradition of Sinterklaas, who became “Santa Claus.” Woodcuts distributed in 1804 show images of an old man in a robe and long white beard filling colonial stockings with fruit and toys.

In 1823, an anonymous poem (later acknowledged to have been penned by Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister), took the legend another step. Entitled An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas or The Night Before Christmas. Moore’s poem is largely responsible for the image of Santa Claus as a “right jolly old elf” with a portly figure and the supernatural ability to ascend a chimney with a nod of his head. This is also where we first have references of flying reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.

But we have American artist Thomas Nast to thank for the richest legends we have today surrounding Santa Claus. From 1863 through 1886, Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly with references to Santa.

To the left is the most familiar Santa “portrait” he did in 1881. It is Nast who gave Santa his familiar suit, his North Pole workshop, the elves and his wife, Mrs. Claus.

 

America’s Victorians were very familiar with Santa and his legend.

Department store Santa’s popped up at the end of the 19th century and early 20th century.

Santa’s on parade became a popular theme in towns and cities, and in the 1930s, Santa received “contemporary” red costume.

Yes, Santa’s reputation reaches far back in history, and at the heart of his character we find love and generosity, and a special kind of magic that makes the world a better place.

Merry Christmas, Santa!

E.E. Burke

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10th Anniversary Celebration: Passion and Photography

Steam train image by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

One of the greatest challenges and pleasures in self-publishing is partnering with other artists to conceive the book cover. It’s the physical representation of your story, and so it has to be right. For the Steam! Romance and Rails series, I didn’t just want pictures of trains, I wanted images that would capture the passion and drama of a long-ago time and bring it alive.

When I came across a website featuring the photographic art of Matthew Malkiewicz, I knew I’d found perfect fit. His photography visibly defines the era and captures the mood I want to evoke. His trains are featured on eight of my books, and his iconic images are also featured in the banner of my website and on my newsletter.

Contrary to what some might say, authors can’t launch and sustain careers without great partners, such as critique buddies, editors, illustrators, and designers, photographers, to name a few.  In this post, I wanted to extend a special thanks to someone who has been a valued partner and friend on the journey, Matthew Malkiewicz.

I’ll let him tell his story in his own words:

How did you get started “shooting” trains?

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

It was more an awakening than an idea, it all started at the age of 4 months. I have a photo of myself watching a toy train run around the Christmas tree as a baby, it must have hooked me well. As a kid I had a model train layout on a piece of plywood in the basement, and in my teens I received my first camera, which I aimed at every train I saw. After a long period in my life without cameras or trains a job assignment in Colorado (a train mecca) during 2005 rekindled both hobbies, driving me to buy my first digital camera. At the same time I discovered the power of Photoshop, soon after I created my website to showcase my rapidly growing collection of photographs. It’s been a snowball effect ever since.

What are some of your favorite locations or settings?

I concentrate on vintage steam locomotives from all across the United States. Now they have second lives as tourist operations, the fortunate trains that survived the scrapping after the fleet was retired in the middle of the last century. Modern day railroading, both passenger and freight revenue, are pulled by either diesel or electric engines. My passion gravitates to the machines of yesteryear, fire-breathing monsters that seem to be alive whether you have your hand against the polished steel or you are two bluffs away looking across acres of prairie grass. I envision how it must have been back in the day and try to create photographs as timeless as possible to depict what I consider a vibrantly better and sadly vanished time.

What drew you to photographing old steam engines?

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

The allure of capturing images that stimulate one’s senses is what drew me to photograph steam-powered locomotives. I wanted to bring to life the smells of the coal fueling the engine, the sound of the steam hissing, and the earth rattling as these magnificent machines sit idling or are in motion. These machines of steam are alive. Each is unique, its own personality, which changes from day to day. At a state of rest the locomotive is groaning, sweating, simmering, creaking, spitting. At speed it’s controlled madness – the ground shakes, sound deafening.

What’s the coolest train you’ve ever photographed and why?

Halloween weekend 2011 at the East Broad Top Railroad in Pennsylvania. Nothing, and I mean nothing; can keep me away from capturing that awe-inspiring shot of a majestic steam locomotive.  However, the Halloween nor’easter would certainly test my fortitude. The storm produced unusually early season snowfall across the northeastern United States, breaking records for total accumulations. As the morning passed on, the snow intensified. By the time the train made its way out of town for its first run of the day, we had experienced near whiteout conditions and things got real quiet. With a typical steam train, you would expect to hear wheels clacking against the rails and steam puffing from the stack. But to my surprise, the snow seemed to envelop and muffle the familiar sound of the locomotive. As the train bellowed down the snowy rails, it was visible that the pine trees struggled to support the weight of the fresh snow, and the cornfields became covered in a white blanket. The autumn-colored leaves indicated that perhaps the trees were also caught off-guard by the storm. An image from the day, aptly named “Train on a Snow Day”, placed second in the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s 2014 Awards Program.

Photo by Matthew Malkiewicz

Do you enjoy seeing your work interpreted on book covers? Is it how you might have imagined, or completely different?

Yes I do. We all interpret a scene differently, it’s what makes us individuals. I enjoy seeing how others, such as the graphic artist of a book cover, takes my photograph and add their own style, flair, and techniques to enhance. The final results have been beyond my expectations; very pleasantly surprised every time.

Here are some of Matthew’s images on book covers designed by the very talented Erin Dameron-Hill.

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

Photograph by Matthew Malkiewicz; cover design by Erin Dameron-Hill

What dreams have been realized as a result of your photography?

Throughout life, we all seek our own way in the pursuit of happiness, to find something that’s going to set us apart from the pack, mold our life into something special, and discover the sense in it all.  We test different things to determine what will help us in our quest, push us beyond our own limits, and achieve our dreams. My galleries capture my travels and experiences across our countryside.  Some near home, others far away and remote, all uniquely memorable.  It’s a passion that has taken me to where I am in life today.  My hope is that someday my portfolio will be an inspiration to others interested in this hobby I truly love.  I’m confident that one day I will capture my most spectacular image.  Until then, each photo tells the story of lost time, remembered.

While Matthew continues to pursue his dream of capturing soul-stirring images of an era long past, I continue to pursue my dream to write stories that will transport readers to the past and connect them to the hopes and dreams of others and themselves.

I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to share them with you, dear reader.

Enjoy a safe and happy Thanksgiving.

With fondness and gratitude,

E.E. BurkeFacebooktwitterpinterest

10th Anniversary Celebration: Romance, Rails and Riots

This month, I’m celebrating my 10th anniversary as an author. I’ve always been a history geek, so it seemed natural to combine a passion for the past with my lifelong love for romance, which is how I arrived at historical romance. The potential for subject matter is as vast as humankind, but as I thought about what most piqued my interest, I found myself drawn to a particular period in American history. Something about the story of the railroads called to me. Maybe it was the passion and excitement of that long-ago era when America expanded her boundaries as fast as men could lay track. A little booklet I picked up in a museum ignited an idea, and I started writing what became my first published novel.

Here’s a blog post I did shortly after I released Her Bodyguard (Book 1 in the series Steam! Romance and Rails).

Romance, Rails and Riots

In the second half of the nineteenth century, the United States entered a time of explosive growth and expansion that has been unmatched since. The country had just emerged from a devastating war and its people needed to have faith in something. That something turned out to be what railroads represented: opportunity and hope for the future.

A hotly contested  construction race between the Missouri, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad Company (nicknamed The Border Tier) and the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (more commonly known as The Katy) encapsulates the spirit of these times and the challenges. This race turned out to be the perfect setting for the first two books in my railroad romance series.

Her Bodyguard follows the history of the Border Tier and tells the story of an unlikely romance that develops between two people caught up in the cutthroat railroad race and a violent settlers’ revolt.

“If the railroad can be put through next season, we can sell lots enough to make such sinners as we are, rich as sinners ought to be.” Samuel Pomeroy, Kansas Senator, 1870

With the Cherokee Treaty of 1866, President Grant establishes a large tract of land in southern Kansas for settlement. Using political pressure, the railroads got the land cheap, less than $1 an acre. That same month, the President signs the Land Grant bill into law, giving first railroad to reach Indian Territory (modern day Oklahoma) exclusive rights to build through the sovereign nations.

The race between three contenders quickly becomes a neck-to-neck competition between the two most powerful railroads: the Southern branch of the Union Pacific started by Judge Levi Parsons and the line owned by then-president of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, James Joy. Both men are Eastern investors who get into the railroad business for the easy money. It turns out to be not so easy.

Since the end of the Civil War, settlers have been “squatting” on what is now railroad land. They claim Congress promised it to them and refuse to pay the railroad’s asking price.

“Hang the RR man as high as Haman, without benefit of clergy” Crawford County Settlers Land League.

By late 1869, competitive railroads are racing toward a prescribed crossing at the border of Indian Territory.  Working for James Joy’s Border Tier line, brilliant engineer Octave Chanute (who gained famed by constructing the first bridge over the Missouri River in Kansas City) draws a straight line south and builds to altitudes of 300 feet, intent on constructing a “first class” railroad.

Meanwhile, settlers in Southeastern Kansas organize into armed militias (Land Leagues) to violently oppose the railroad. Leaguers attack railroad agents, burn out rail crews, steal supplies, tents, articles and camp equipment. Federal troops are sent in to keep the peace. The settlers, predominantly Union veterans, face off with the government they’d fought for just a few years earlier.

Despite problems with angry settlers, all bets are on the Border Tier to win the race. The railroad is laying track over two miles a day, has a head start on the Katy, and more money.

“Give me the iron and the big stuff and I’ll put your railroad down if I have to lay it flat on the prairie.” John Scullin to Katy brass.

In January 1870, the stockholders of the Katy Railroad meet in Emporia. Parsons has hired a new general manager who will win the race for him. While the Border Tier builds a railroad that will last, the Katy’s workers lay iron “flat on the prairie” and adjust routes to minimize bridges and curves. They focus on speed, rather than quality. Rumor has it Parsons’ men are stirring up the settlers and encouraging them to riot. The Border Tier strikes back and is accused of vandalism and banditry. Both lines engage in bidding wars for workers.

“One must be prepared to pay for the victory, or not play at all” James Joy

Sneaky competitors hire “fake” Indians to direct Octave Chanute to wrong border crossing, a pile of stones that mark an 1837 survey, which is few miles away from the official 1854 border. While the Border Tier celebrates, the Katy lays track to the correct borderline.

The problems with the settlers continue to plague both railroads as they dispute the results of the race.

I won’t tell you how it ends, although I will say at least two people get their HEA.

Books in the Steam! Romance and Rails Series include:

HER BODYGUARD: A determined railroad investor stalked by a mysterious killer seeks protection from a wanted gunslinger, who is hiding a dangerous secret.

KATE’S OUTLAW: After a railroad heiress is abducted, one of her captors becomes her protector. On the run from danger with enemies on all sides, they discover a love as powerful as it is forbidden.

Originally part of the anthology Passion’s Prize. Catch up on the stories of two other women caught up in a dangerous race for riches in Adella’s Enemy by Jacqui Nelson and Eden’s Sin by Jennifer Jakes.

A DANGEROUS PASSION: An inquisitive author sets out to expose a charismatic railroad baron and becomes ensnared in a deadly mystery and a dangerous passion.

FUGITIVE HEARTS: When a newly-made widow tries to cover up the truth behind her husband’s violent death, her plan backfires, sending her fleeing from a hardened lawman determined to bring her to justice.

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