Category: American Mail Order Brides

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. Burke

Facebooktwitterpinterest

On the Journey with an award-winning photographer

Seven years ago, I launched my first novel in the Steam! Romance and Rails series. The covers of several books in this series, and in the subsequent Bride Train collection, feature the work of award-winning photographer Matthew Malkiewicz. His breath-taking photos of authentic steam engines captured my fancy and provided a perfect backdrop for book covers that looked as lush and evocative as the time period they represented. (In fact, the header for On The Journey features one of my favorite images!) I asked Matthew to share a memory about each of the photographs featured on my books. Come with us on the journey to visit the last of America’s steam railroads.

E.E. Burke

“Opening a window to the past”

Matthew Malkiewicz is a widely recognized photographer specializing in steam railroad history, “keeping a window to the past open for us to see.” His work has appeared in print and online. He is the recipient of the Center for Railroad Photography & Art’s prestigious John E. Gruber Creative Photography Award, and is a Hasselblad Masters of Photography 2016 finalist, and has been published on CNN International, The Weather Channel, DPReview and PetaPixel websites. He earned honorable mention in the 2017 Monochrome Awards in both the professional fine art and landscape categories. His entire portfolio can be viewed at his “Lost Tracks of Time” website.

Take a journey with Matthew:

Photos used in Steam! Romance and Rails series

A Dangerous Passion cover: Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, Chama, New Mexico, March 16, 2014 

A long day of plowing the line after a recent winter storm, #489 catches its breath with snow still on the front pilot. Living at sea level, this day winded me from being in the upper elevations of the Rocky Mountains. I was at the rear of the train and hustled getting into position to capture this image while daylight was quickly turning to night. The things we do for fun.

Fugitive Hearts cover: Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, Cumberland, Maryland, December 10, 2009

Sunrise as the train pulls into the station to pick up its passengers. I remember well capturing this image. The dramatic smoke and steam combined with gorgeous morning light spoke to me.

Photos used in American Mail-Order Bride Series

Santa’s Mail-Order Bride cover: Steam Into History, New Freedom, Pennsylvania December 8, 2013

This location is only a few hours from my house. I knew of an oncoming snowstorm and arrived extra early in the morning. My 4×4 kept me safe, and the train crew put on a great show in the falling snow. The Christmas garland, ribbons, and illuminated lanterns on the locomotive add to the festivities.

Photos used in The Bride Train novella collection

Valentine’s Rose cover: Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, Yacolt, Washington, October 13, 2014

One of the all-time favorites in my portfolio – a foggy morning in the Pacific Northwest. Two minutes earlier there were horses grazing in the field. The train scared them away. The ground fog would soon burn off, taking with it a lot of the mood and atmosphere.

Patrick’s Charm cover: Rio Grande Scenic Railroad, Alamosa, Colorado, August 22, 2011

Sadly, this steam excursion railroad is no loner in operation. The locomotive sits locked up in a dark engine house. But on this summer day it was in all its glory. I don’t know why the smoke plume goes from black to gray to almost white to black and then gray again; but it draws my eye as much as the train in the surrounding Rocky Mountains.

 

Tempting Prudence cover: Cass Scenic Railroad, Cass, West Virginia, May 17, 2008

A workhorse from the days of a thriving logging industry in the West Virginia Mountains. A shay locomotive, its cylinders and drive train on one side with the boiler offset to the other for balance. A timeless reproduction on a foggy rainy day.

Seducing Susannah cover: Cass Scenic Railroad Cass, West Virginia, May 17, 2008

The same locomotive used on the Tempting Prudence cover. The three vertical steam cylinders in front of the engineer, connecting to the horizontal drive shaft are much different than a traditional steam engine with rods on both sides. One of the few times it was not raining on this day.

Born too late…

My hobby of photographing steam trains across our country has taken me well off the beaten path – without it I doubt to have ever visited any of these locations. I truly believe that life is about the journey and not the destination–the people met along the way and the stories they share, or that moment that takes you back to a better, vanished time. E.E. Burke and I have collaborated quite a bit over the years. I am thankful for her vision in selecting these images for her stories. Her choices were perfect.

Thank you, Matthew! You and I share a love for the grand old age of steam. My historical romance novels set during this period feature many characters and events straight from pages of America’s railroad history. If you are interested in reading the Steam! Romance and Rails series or The Bride Train collection, I’ve provided a handy guide for the reading order here.

You can see Matthew’s full gallery at www.losttracksoftime.com.

Steam on! 

E.E. Burke

Facebooktwitterpinterest

Bestselling Christmas Collection Only 99 cents

I’m delighted to announce that USA Today Bestselling Author Caroline Lee is featuring my #1 bestselling box set, An American Mail Order Bride Christmas Collection, in her book club this week! I’ve put the collection on sale for 99 cents because I want all her readers (and mine) to be able to afford it! If you haven’t yet read this set yet, I hope you’ll try it. Goes well with a cup of hot cocoa and a warm fire!

Here’s the link for the book.
Here’s the link to the group if you want to participate in the conversation and giveaways I’ll be offering.

Victoria Bride of Kansas

In Victoria, Bride of Kansas, we meet a little girl, Fannie, who is mute. She hasn’t spoken since her mother left her two years earlier. Victoria initially tries to break through Fannie’s defenses with a very special gift. Desperate to communicate with the troubled child, Victoria teaches her sign language.

Where did Victoria learn sign language? At the first American school for the Deaf in Hartsford, Conn., which opened its doors in 1817. Within forty years of the opening of the Hartford school, more than twenty other schools for the deaf had been established, the majority residential, teaching manual sign language.

David O’Brien doesn’t react well to Victoria teaching his daughter how to sign. If she doesn’t speak again and relies on sign language, he fears she will be excluded. His feelings reflect the general consensus of the time, which was fired by a fierce debate over the best way to teach the deaf to communicate. “Oralists” argued that the deaf should be taught to read lips and speak (English) in order assimilate into the broader society. Even Alexander Graham Bell, better known for his invention of the telephone, advocated banning sign language.

David reluctantly agrees to try Victoria’s approach, with surprising–and touching–results.

Santa’s Mail Order Bride

After I wrote Victoria’s story, which introduces David’s sister, Maggie, I knew I had to give Maggie her own HEA. A year has passed, and Maggie is now a teacher. She comes home for Christmas and finds a new mission—to gather toys for orphans. When she approaches Gordon Sumner–the shopkeeper across the street and David’s fiercest competitor–for his contribution, he comes up with a plan that will not only garner toys, but also allow him to “woo” a woman he’s had his eye on for some time.

Santa’s Mail-Order Bride incorporates America’s Christmas traditions and the beloved character of Santa Claus. How much do you know about Santa?

Santa Claus was a real person…sort of. Nikolaus of Myrna was born in the 3rd century in a village in present-day Turkey. He spent his sizable inheritance to help the needy and is credited with numerous miracles (including bringing dead people back to life), and he had a special love for children. It’s from his generous nature we get a gift-giving Santa.

Fast forward centuries later and we find the Dutch giving Santa a ride across the ocean when immigrants from Holland bring the tradition of Sinterklaas to America. Woodcuts distributed in 1804 show images of an old man in a long robe and long white beard filling colonial stockings with fruit and toys. There are also colonial images showing Santa as a something of a trickster in a tricorn hat.

In 1823, an anonymous poem (later acknowledged to have been penned by Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister), gave us a mythical, mischievous Santa. 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 mere nod of his head. This is also where we pick up flying reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.

We have American artist Thomas Nast to thank for developing the more familiar images of Santa Claus we cherish from Victorian times. From 1863 through 1886, Nast contributed 33 Christmas drawings to Harper’s Weekly with references to Santa. Here is the most familiar Santa “portrait” he did in 1881. It is Nast who gave Santa his familiar suit, his North Pole workshop, elves, and even his wife, Mrs. Claus.

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

By the 1930s, Santa had even ventured into marketing, appearing on Coca-Cola ads.

Connection to other series

This 2-book collection features characters from another series I’ve written. You’ll meet David’s mentor, Buck O’Connor, whose sage advice on relationships has come as the result of hard-earned lessons (Her Bodyguard, Steam! Romance and Rails).

If you haven’t read this collection, I hope you’ll give it a try this season while it’s still on sale.

May God bless you in this season of miracles, hope and love.

Click here to purchase

Facebooktwitterpinterest

© 2020 E.E. Burke

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑