Sunday, August 11, 2013

Meet our third author of the Western Anthology "Passion's Prize" - E.E. Burke


Once again, I'm very happy to introduce another lovely author, E.E. Burke. She's a talented writer and has worked hard to build her career. A finalist and winner of many contests including a Maggie Award, a Daphne Award and RWA's most prestigious Golden Heart, Elisabeth has certainly earned the right to publish her wonderful story, Kate's Outlaw.

This is the last in our series of interviews with three award-winning authors whose fascination with the TV series “Hell on Wheels” led to a historical romance anthology they wrote together. E.E. Burke, author of the novella Kate’s Outlaw, which is featured in the anthology Passion’s Prize is sharing her story with us today.
Thank you, Mimi, for hosting us and letting us share about our stories. Mine is the third of three interlinked novellas revolving around a historic railroad race through southern Kansas in 1870. We mentioned that we came up with this idea after watching the AMC television series, Hell On Wheels. Let me explain a little as to why this series inspired me.

Like Jennifer and Jacqui, I’m a huge fan of Westerns. There are so few anymore with truly legendary characters (think Clint Eastwood and Sam Elliott). Hell On Wheels has those kinds of characters: larger than life, complex and deeply flawed, a mix of good and bad. I love that about the show, and those are the kind of characters I like to write about.

There is an interview with Anson Mount (who plays Cullen Bohannon) on where he says he’d rather play the role of a “weak” man, versus the stereotypical strong man. I think what he’s saying is a flawed character makes a much more interesting character, and one we can more readily identify with. I couldn’t agree more.

Beyond the appeal of writing these kinds of characters, the fact that this show has been a big enough hit to warrant three seasons indicates people are hungry for great Westerns.


Now, about our project:

Jennifer, Jacqui and I made the Golden Heart finals in 2010 with Western historical romances. The idea of writing something together seemed natural, and using the expansion of the railroads as a backdrop was very appealing. Even before I started watching Hell On Wheels, I wanted to set a book in this era because it captures the passions and ambitions that drove America to ultimately become what it is today.

I’d done quite a bit of research on two railroads in Kansas that engaged in a cutthroat construction race in 1870. When I mentioned this to Jennifer and Jacqui, they were excited about using the race as the backdrop for the book we’d write together. Honestly, we couldn’t come up with better ideas than what really happened: spies, outlaws, saboteurs, fraud, settler riots…gosh, that’s like great movie stuff.

We decided to write three novellas interlinked by an underlying plot (racing for riches) and a cast of characters drawn from life. We brainstormed the characters, and then each of us took the couple we wanted to write about. I chose the heiress and the outlaw.

Kate Parsons is the heir to the railroad and the fortune that comes with it. She also happens to be a free-spirited crusader for equal rights. She comes west to prove to her father that she can run the railroad as well as any man.

Jake Colson is an outlaw, and he happens to be Cherokee. Why make the outlaw a Native American? Historically, the railroad faced significant opposition from the Cherokee (and other tribes in what was then Indian Territory, now modern day Oklahoma), who didn’t want the “smoking dragon” to cross their lands.

This set up a perfect conflict. Add to that, Kate is wealthy and white and Jake is poor and he’s Cherokee. They face all kinds of obstacles before they can get to their happy ending. And that leads us into my story, which I think will speak for itself.

The Katy Railroad may have won a contentious race against their rival, but construction comes to screeching stop six miles inside Indian Territory—halted by the Cherokee, who refuse to let the "smoking dragon" pass. With bankruptcy looming, railroad heiress Kate Parsons takes negotiations into her own hands. Her plans go awry when she’s abducted, and worse, finds herself attracted to one of her Cherokee captors, a man so sinfully handsome he could steal more than her fortune if she doesn’t escape.

Jake Colson, known among his people as Wa-ya, “the Wolf,” didn’t intend to kidnap anyone, but now he's stuck with a white woman whose personality is as bold as her fiery curls. When his partner threatens to kill her before she can expose their scheme to save their land, Jake takes off with his beautiful captive. Now, he must protect the woman he’s named Redbird, and at the same time prevent her father's railroad from steaming ahead.

(Excerpt from Kate’s Outlaw)

Uk-tena crouched on metal rails with its nose pointed south, directly at the heart of the Tsa-la-gi Nation. Tonight, it didn’t hiss or spew smoke, as usual, but lay silent as a predator anticipating a kill.

Jake crept along the dark side of the locomotive, which his people had named after a mythical serpent. Not because they believed it had special powers. Everyone knew it was just a machine. But like its namesake, the “smoking dragon” had been created as a tool of domination. Its owners were the real monsters—and they had to be stopped.

Clouds skated across the sky. Light from a full moon struck the engine’s iron skin, turning it silver. Jake crouched lower, trying to make himself small. An impossible task when he was taller than most men, including the one in front of him. He stood out when he’d rather fit in.

As he passed between two cars, he glimpsed a bonfire on the other side. Orange flames leapt above the heads of dancers, their writhing silhouettes casting eerie shadows over a patch of ground cleared for the celebration. Strains of fiddle music mixed with shouts of drunken revelry.

The railroad chief’s party had been underway since sunset and wouldn't end anytime soon. Members of the Tribal Council hadn’t attended, even though they were the honored guests, and they’d warned their people to stay away. But there were always those happy to take advantage of free liquor.

Jake and Charley weren't here to drink. They'd come to steal the payroll.

The rhythmic crunch of footsteps came from the other side of the train.

Charley halted. His black clothes and dark coloring concealed him from view, but Jake was close enough to see his cousin’s fingers curl around the handle of his revolver. The gun slithered out of the holster.

Jake’s heart kicked in his chest. If his cousin started shooting with all these armed workers around, they'd both get killed. Of course, if they were caught stealing, they'd be hung from the nearest tree.

Holding his position, he peered beneath the train. Denim-clad legs scissored past. As the footfalls faded, he released a slow breath. By Thunder, this job would be his last. After tonight, they ought to have adequate funds to defend their land from those who wanted to take it.

"There, at the end, the fanciest car," he whispered. "I wager the owner brought the payroll with him."

A moment later, he swung up onto the metal platform, taking care not to tread loudly, and eased the door open. The compartment was dark, quiet.

"I’ll cover the windows. You find a lamp.”

His cousin slipped past. Circling the room, Jake pulled down tasseled curtains, which were rolled up on brass rods. A match rasped, followed by a sulfurous smell, then a soft glow filled the compartment.

Charley lifted the lamp. Light splashed across his features, making the scar more noticeable. During the war, he'd been struck in the face with a saber and the injury pulled his mouth down in a permanent grimace. The worse scars, however, couldn’t be seen. They were the ones on his soul.

“Where do think they stashed the money?” Charley rasped.

Jake scanned the paneled room, which looked more like a fancy office than a railcar. There was a sitting area, a table spread with papers and maps, a large desk positioned in front of bookcases that were pushed up against a partial wall, and beyond that, probably sleeping quarters. Last time, the money had been in a safe, something they’d been able to easily discover. But if there was no safe…

“Maybe it’s in the desk.” He checked the drawers—locked—then ran his hands underneath, feeling for a release that might trigger a secret compartment. "Nothing. I'll bet he keeps the key on him. We'll have to pry it open."

Pulling a knife from a sheath on his belt, Jake went to work on the top drawer.

Charley flipped open the lid on a fancy cigar box and stuffed the contents inside his coat. He threw a frowning glance over his shoulder. "Hurry up. I hear something."

From outside came a scrape on the metal platform.

Jake scrambled to his feet.

"Stay there. Distract them,” Charley hissed. He pressed his back against the wall to the left of the door and pulled a knife from a sheath in his boot.

Growing nervous, Jake shook his head. No bloodshed. That was the deal.

The knob turned and a woman stepped inside, one with hair as bright as a sunset.


Recognition jolted through him. Even though he'd only seen her from afar, there was no mistaking her fiery crown. It was the same woman who’d been following the railroad for months, mostly on the arm of the chief.

Fear flickered across her face, but instead of screaming, she raised her chin and leveled a stern look. "What are you doing in here? This is a private office."

Charley eased up behind her, his eyes glittering with grim intent. Surely, he wouldn't harm a woman.

The knife flashed.

"Tsali, no!" Jake shouted.

Confusion flickered across Redbird’s face a second before Charley clapped one hand over her mouth and jerked her back against him, putting the razor-sharp blade to her throat.

She froze, her eyes huge with terror.

Jake placed his palms on the desktop, prepared to leap over and grab the knife. But he checked himself. If he startled her, she might bolt, and the glint in Charley's eyes made it clear she wouldn't get away.

"Don't hurt her," Jake continued in Tsa-la-gi.

Charley scowled and jerked his chin toward the door. "See if someone followed."

Taking care to be quiet, Jake looked outside. No one lingered by the car and the only sounds were the strains of music and drunken laughter. He shut the door.

Redbird hadn't moved a muscle. Good thing she was smart enough to keep her wits about her. Now he had to calm Charley down.

"Don't see anybody, but we can't risk staying long enough to find the money. Let's tie her up and get out of here."

Charley flicked a dark glance at the petrified woman in his arms. "She's seen us. It'll ruin our cover."

"Only if they connect us with the other theft."

"You know they will if she squawks."

Redbird's frightened eyes darted back and forth and her brow knitted with confusion. Better she didn't understand.

"I’ll cut her throat and we can run. No one will be the wiser." Charley made the remark as casually as if he were discussing the weather.

Horror thundered through Jake, and in a burst of protectiveness, he moved closer. Charley might be right about the danger of letting her go, but killing her was out of the question. "I've got a better idea. Give her to me."


***For one lucky commenter, Elisabeth will be pleased to present a
Amazon gift copy of her new E-book, Kate's Outlaw.
Leave her a message, making sure to include your
e-mail address***


You can get Kate’s Outlaw as a separate novella on
 or as part of the anthology
which is available as an e-book or print book also at Amazon

About the author:

E.E. Burke writes sexy, suspenseful historical romance set in the American west. Her writing has earned accolades in regional and national contests, including the prestigious Golden Heart®. Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to pursuing her dream of writing novels. Her stories are as deeply rooted in American soil as her family, which she can trace back to the earliest colonists and through both sides of the Mason-Dixon line. She lives in Kansas City with her husband and three daughters, the greatest inspiration of all.





  1. Elisabeth, I agree with you and Anson -- a "flawed character makes a much more interesting character, and one we can more readily identify with." It's been wonderful seeing our project progress through the creation stages and now it's amazing to see it all together. I never get tired of looking are our book covers :)

  2. It's always more fun to share doing what we love with friends. Thanks for making the journey with me. And yes, I stare at my cover with just about every day. Rick Mora makes a mighty fine outlaw, don't you think?

  3. Yes Rick does make a "mighty fine" outlaw! For those of you who don't know who Rick Mora is -- think Twilight, and check his website

  4. Super excerpt. What a writing journey for all of you. I'm sure you learned lots along the way. All the best with this adventure!

  5. Hi Elisabeth!
    Great interview. Very well put! I guess we should have thanked the cast and crew of HOW for bringing to life the genre we all love. LOL And yes, Rick makes an awesome outlaw.

  6. oh, what a great excerpt! And I love the "Hell on Wheels" inspiration. heading over to Amazon to purchase now. So glad I saw this! : )

  7. I love a flawed character and Jake is a great one!

  8. Can't wait to sink into your story. :)

  9. Thanks Jennifer! Thanks Ellie Anne. Appreciate your support. And Katy, you know Jake wouldn't be nearly so swoon-worthy if not for your expert critiquing. Speaking of flawed characters, you write wonderfully flawed characters! Can't wait for the next one to make his debut.

  10. Jodie, thanks for visiting. Appreciate your encouragement!

  11. Thank you, Mimi, for hosting me. Appreciate everyone's comments. I'll be sending a book out to one of you just as soon as I can track down the email. All the best!