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

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Can Love Eclipse Hate?

On Aug.21, 2017, parts  of Kansas witnessed an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event: a total eclipse of the sun! Ironically, this solar event occurred on the 154th anniversary of another historical, never-to-be-forgotten event in Kansas.

The Day Hate Eclipsed Decency

On Aug. 21, 1863, Confederate ally and guerilla commander William C. Quantrill rounded up three hundred Missouri “bushwhackers” and descended on Lawrence, Kansas, wreaking a terrible vengeance on a town known for its strong stance on the abolition of slavery.

Image courtesy of KansasMemory.org, Kansas State Historical Society. “The Lawrence Massacre,” black and white illustration of Quantrill’s raid that appeared in the Sept. 5, 1863, issue of Harper’s Weekly magazine. Artist unknown.

What forces drove these men to attack a town filled with civilians? Some would say a thirst for revenge. Tit for tat after a disaster in Kansas City when a building where Confederate women prisoners were kept collapsed on top of them, and other perceived injustices. By this time, deadly conflicts had raged along the Missouri-Kansas border for nearly a decade, costing innocent lives on both sides. The violence continued to spiral as the nation grappled in a civil war.

Years later, these men who’d given in to violence and hatred had to find their way back to decency. Some, like Jesse James, never did.

Although the series, Steam! Romance and Rails, begins five years after the end of the American Civil War, the two main characters in this novel are still struggling to find healing.

Her Bodyguard, part of the series Steam! Romance and Rails, weaves history and suspense together in a tale of deceit and betrayal, heroism and sacrifice, and the unfailing power of love.

Can love eclipse hate?

For America “Amy” Langford, investing in the railroad isn’t about chasing riches. The savvy businesswoman is after bigger stakes: influence, respect, success her father didn’t live to see. Rioting settlers and underhanded competitors can’t stop her, but a killer might.

Buck O’Connor has put his violent past behind him, but being a wanted man dictates a life of deceit. So what’s one more lie? He becomes Amy’s protector so he can secretly thwart her railroad’s progress to help his cousin avoid financial ruin. A great scheme—until he falls in love.

While Buck hides his true purpose, Amy lies to herself about her growing feelings for her bodyguard. But the price for deceit is steep, and secrets from the past could destroy their future—if they survive.

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

“Her portrayal of strong, realistic, well-defined characters and meticulous research transports readers back to the American West.” Jill Marie Landis, New York Times bestselling author

“Amy and Buck had chemistry and steam between them to power a train! Their push-pull relationship and witty banter was riveting.” Melanie Friedman, Bookworm2Bookworm Reviews

In this excerpt, Buck has just discovered that the railroad promoter he’s supposed to remove is, in fact, a woman–the same woman who offered him a position as her bodyguard.

Buck opened the door to the newspaper office and stepped inside.

Two men were engaged in a discussion. A bearded man behind a desk piled high with newspapers glanced up. The other man sitting in front of the desk twisted in his chair, and then bolted to his feet, his eyebrows arching nearly to a sweep of black hair.

Buck met pale blue eyes similar to his own, but untainted with the icy gray of the cold-hearted bastard who’d sired him. He took an uncertain step forward, waiting a heartbeat for the familiar grin. “Sean?”

Relief flickered across the matured face, however Sean didn’t embrace him as he’d always done in years past. He offered a handshake instead. “”Buck, we wondered if you’d show up.”

Buck gripped his cousin’s outstretched hand and squelched a twinge of disappointment. He hadn’t really expected to be greeted with open arms. They’d not seen each other for years and in between had served on opposite sides of a war. Yet, he had hoped for a warmer welcome than this.

His gaze flickered over his cousin’s shoulder to the grizzled man who’d stood, waiting to be introduced. Sean did his duty. “Buck, this is Amos Sanford. He’s the editor of the Workingman’s Journal. I wrote to you about him. He’s helping us settlers organize.”

Sanford inclined his head but didn’t come out from behind the desk to shake his visitor’s hand. “Mr. O’Connor, good to see you could make it here to help us out.”

Buck held a neutral expression. “What kind of help would that be?”

“What kind?” Sean looked startled. “Well, the kind I wrote to you about.” He sent a worried glance the editor’s direction.

“We need your help with removing an obstacle,” Sanford said smoothly.

Aggravation churned in Buck’s stomach. “An obstacle? Is that what you call her?”

When neither man answered, he strolled over to the desk and picked up a newspaper. The headline urged settlers to rise up and defend their rights. Where had he heard that kind of rhetoric before? Simmering, he rolled the paper like a club and tapped it against his palm. He had a good mind to beat these two over the head with it. “You got the wrong man for the job. I don’t kill women.”

Sanford sat and leaned back in his chair, stroking a gray beard that reached to the top button of his vest. Canyon deep lines rearranged themselves into a paternalistic frown. “You must have misunderstood, Mr. O’Connor. We haven’t asked you to kill anybody, much less a woman.”

Buck tossed the newspaper aside and snatched Sean’s letter out of his pocket. He slapped it on the desk. “States here you want me to get rid of a railroad promoter. That don’t mean sending a body away on a pleasure excursion.”

The chair creaked as Sanford reached for the letter. He peered through round spectacles perched at the end of his nose, perusing the lines like he’d never seen them. The crafty old fox had probably helped Sean craft the damn missive. After a minute, he folded the letter and crossed his arms over his chest. “There are many ways to remove obstacles, Mr. O’Connor. I suspect you’re bright enough to figure it out. Sean told me you led a company of irregulars during the war. The fact you’re alive proves you’ve still got a few tricks up your sleeve.”

An alarm tripped in Buck’s head. So that’s why the Land League wanted to hire him. They thought he was still in the ambushing business. He looked at Sean, who wouldn’t meet his eyes. He’d risked getting his neck stretched by returning to Kansas, but honor demanded he at least try to right a wrong done to his kinsman. Now it looked like he was a fool who’d walked into a trap.

His cousin stood at rigid attention, his tanned face drawn tight as the hide on a drum, not meeting Buck’s eyes. An ache started in the center of his chest. Despite their past, they were the only family each other had left. How could Sean have betrayed him like this?

Pulling back his coat, he revealed the twin Navy Colts at his side before pinning the editor with a cold stare. He hadn’t killed anyone since the day he’d left this godforsaken state, but he would reinforce the perception he was a dangerous man to cross so they’d think twice about hiring him to do their dirty work and then trying to collect a reward. “My wartime sentiments don’t have a damn thing to do with this.”

Sanford huffed. “We don’t care about your sentiments. It’s your skills we’re interested in.”

“So, you admit it. You want to hire a big gun to take care of one little lady.”

“Don’t be fooled by that pretty face,” Sanford blustered. “Amy Preston will do anything to advance that cursed railroad. With this Young Ladies Immigration Society she’s using the age-old strategy for dividing men. Women.”

Buck snorted a derisive laugh. “What’s so dangerous about importing wives for a bunch of horny settlers?”

The editor swelled up like a toad. “She’s dangling petticoats as an enticement to get us to pay those exorbitant prices her boss is charging for land. These boys were soldiers and most of them are unmarried. I suppose you’ve noticed how few decent women there are out here. It’s a devilishly brilliant scheme concocted by a woman who’d sell her soul for thirty pieces of silver.”

It was a brilliant idea, but Buck had already figured out Amy was smart. Her motives, however, weren’t so clear. Was she really that greedy? “I met her already, so I know what she’s up to, but she thinks somebody’s trying to kill her.” He narrowed his eyes in a way that put most men in a fearful sweat. “If I decide to help, I need to know whether you’ve hired somebody else—and don’t even think about lying to me.”

“We don’t have enough money to hire somebody else,” Sean grumbled. “If somebody’s trying to kill her, it’s probably ‘cause she robbed him blind.”

Sanford grunted an agreement. “Maybe she’s making that up so you’ll feel sorry for her. Where did you say you met her?”

Buck didn’t say, nor was he interested in providing the details. “I happened across her. She was waiting on some fellow who was supposed to help with that immigration society you mentioned.”

Sanford’s eyes sharpened with interest. “We had a talk with him. I don’t think he’s interested in volunteering anymore. Did she happen to mention her next move? We can’t afford to lose any more leverage against the devil who’s behind this fraud.”

James Joy. The force behind the Border Tier and Satan incarnate if the settlers were to be believed. He was Amy’s boss. So what did that make her? Last night, she’d looked downright angelic, even wringing wet.

If Sanford hadn’t hired another gun, then her attacker was likely a renegade. Was he an irate settler, an unhappy farmer, one of the men who’d signed up for her program and gotten an ugly wife? The list could be endless.

“She didn’t mention her plans.” Buck lifted his hat and threaded his fingers through his hair, his unease getting worse. She hadn’t told him much, but she’d played him masterfully to gain his promise of protection, something he’d offered to no woman since being betrayed by another smart, pretty one.

Still, he’d given his word and he wouldn’t go back on it. He adjusted his coat, covering the guns at his side. “Just so we’re clear, I’m not using violence against a woman, so I don’t know what it is you want me to do.”

Sanford jerked to his feet. “Distract her. Deceive her. Discredit her. We don’t care, so long as you prevent her from succeeding in her schemes.”

The frown melted as he came out from behind the desk and clapped a hand on Buck’s shoulder. “Why don’t you boys go over to the saloon and get reacquainted? Tell them I’ll pay for your drinks. I’m sure after you hear Sean’s side of things, it will clear up any misgivings you might have about ridding us of that troublesome woman.”

Buck shrugged off the unwanted familiarity. He hadn’t signed on for this kind of work. On the other hand, he couldn’t walk away without at least hearing what his cousin had to say.

Sanford casually laid his fingers on a dog-eared Bible at the corner of his desk. “You recall the story of Samson and Delilah? Makes a man think twice about falling for a pretty woman.”

Her Bodyguard, the second book in the series Romance and Rails, weaves suspense and history together in a tale of deceit, betrayal and the unfailing power of love.

Read Her Bodyguard today.

Or purchase the entire Steam! Series in a boxed set at a special price!

This week, I’m giving away a $5 Amazon gift card. Just enter the raffle and leave a comment.

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Did you see the eclipse yesterday? What did it look like in your part of the world?

 

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