Thanks, Grace, for hosting me today
My upcoming release, Winter Duet, is the second in the Echoes series so I figured I’d blog a bit about the series, rather than just the one story. The first book, Shadowboxing, is set in Berlin in late 1943, Winter Duet takes place in Germany in 1944, and the third, Comes a Horseman, will be set in France in 1944.
I love writing series as it gives me more ‘room’ to tell a story and explore characterisation. Echoes—which is set in WWII—is really a story in three parts. I’ve written each book so that a reader can come in at any book without a problem but it is a richer reading experience reading them in order, as each book builds on the events of the previous one(s).
The title Echoes refers to how the past affects the present and future. Whether it is nationality, family background and experiences, all of the characters are a product of where they come from. These echoes of their past shape who they are, especially at the beginning of the story, but by the end of it, it’s not all they are. They have to acknowledge it, yes, but also be their own person and do what feels right.
Although the series has more of an ensemble feel to it, it’s really Kristopher’s story. At the beginning of Shadowboxing, the first book in the series, he’s a scientist who has retreated into his work, but by the end of the third book Comes a Horseman, he will need to—oops, sorry, almost gave away a spoiler there. But although it is his story—his and Michel’s really—the other characters still have their own arcs and growth. None of them are unchanged by what happens to them.
I’d worry about them if they were.
Why WWII? I’ve always been interested in the time period, and I think wars make people find strengths within themselves that they never thought they possessed. Sadly, on the flip side, it also can bring out the worst in people. The characters in Echoes come from different backgrounds, and are a mix of nationalities. Under normal circumstances this group would never have met, let alone forged an alliance leading to friendship.
I’ve also included two M/M couples in this story, in a time when homosexual relationships needed to be kept hidden in order to survive. Such relationships were illegal and being found to be in one led to being arrested and worst. Each of these men in Echoes have a different approach to their sexuality, whether it be ignoring it and hoping it goes away, being self-aware and careful, or trying to live as someone they are not. They all get to the point where they have to change in order to move forward and reach their potential. Finding the person they want to be with happens in different ways. It requires the strength to admit how they feel to themselves as well as to the one they love.
Echoes book 1
Berlin, 1943. An encounter with an old friend leaves German physicist Dr. Kristopher Lehrer with doubts about his work. But when he confronts his superior, everything goes horribly wrong. Suddenly Kristopher and Michel, a member of the Resistance, are on the run, hunted for treason and a murder they did not commit. If they’re caught, Kristopher’s knowledge could be used to build a terrible weapon that could win the war.
When Michel contacts the Allies, hoping they can work together, it isn’t long before the so-called “simple” mission becomes anything but. With both men realizing they can no longer ignore their growing feelings for each other, Kristopher and Michel must fight—not just for a chance of a future together, but for their very survival.
Echoes book 2 – Sequel to Shadowboxing
With Kristopher finally fit enough to travel, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house and continue their journey across Germany toward Switzerland. Caught in a series of Allied bombings, they stop to help civilians and narrowly escape capture by German forces.
While investigating a downed aircraft in the Black Forest, the two men discover an injured RAF pilot. After they are separated, Kristopher and the pilot are discovered by a German officer who claims he is not who he appears to be. Determined to find Michel again, Kristopher has to trust the stranger and hope he is not connected to those searching for him and the information he carries. Meanwhile Michel is intercepted by one of the Allied soldiers he met in Berlin. His help is needed to save one of their own.
Time quickly runs out. Loyalties are tested and betrayed as the Gestapo closes in. Michel can only hope that they can reach safety before information is revealed that could compromise not only his and Kristopher’s lives, but those of the remaining members of their team—if it is not already too late.
Kristopher dropped to his knees, and examined the boy. His eyes were glazed over and he flinched when Kristopher touched him. “He must have hit his head when he fell,” Kristopher said. He brought his hand away from the boy’s temple. It was covered in blood. “He needs help, but I can’t do much for him here, just try and stop the bleeding.” He quickly opened his satchel and pulled out a short length of bandage, bundled it into a wad and held it against the wound. It probably wouldn’t be enough to stop it, but it was better than doing nothing. Head wounds tended to bleed, didn’t they? It didn’t mean it was something serious, but it could be.
He let out a quick breath. Damn it. He wished he’d paid more attention when he’d watched Clara at work. Why had he agreed to disguise himself a medic? In this situation when that was exactly what was needed, he was next to useless.
“We can’t stay here,” Michel said. “Can you tie something around the bandage so it keeps the pressure on it when we move him?”
“Keep pressure on the wound while I look.” Kristopher searched around in his bag, ripped some more of the bandaging material, and tied it quickly. His hands were shaking, but at least there didn’t seem to be any blood seeping through the original cloth he’d put over the wound. “I think that should hold it for now.”
Michel handed Kristopher the flashlight and then lifted the boy into his arms. “What’s your name?” he asked softly when the boy opened his eyes and looked up at him.
“Fritz,” the boy replied, his voice wavering. He put his arms around Michel’s neck and clung to him. Thankfully he seemed more alert than he had a few moments before.
“Hello, Fritz. I’m Michel and this is Paul,” Michel said. “We’re going to keep you safe, I promise.”
“You promise?” Fritz’s earlier confidence was gone. “I didn’t think it was so dark. I know this place. I shouldn’t have tripped.” He glared at the ground. “Stupid thing. Stupid stupid. Everything looks different.” He sniffled loudly, and wiped one dirty hand over his face.
“Do you remember the way to the bunker, Fritz?” Kristopher asked. Michel was watching Fritz carefully, holding the boy close to him. His grip had tightened at the first sign of Fritz’s distress.
“I don’t need to put you down,” Michel reassured Fritz. “You can still guide us while I’m holding you.”
“I don’t want to walk.” Fritz bit his lip. He looked around and then pointed to a street to their left. “If we go down there it’s only about ten minutes away.” They’d never reach the bunker in time before it closed.
“There isn’t one closer?” Michel asked.
“It’s the one I know about,” Fritz said somewhat defensively. “Mutter told me if something happened I should go to it.”
“Where’s your mother now?” Kristopher asked. The light from the flashlight was dying quickly. They had to hurry.
“I don’t know. She went to get my baby sister but she never came downstairs.” Fritz stuck his chin out. “I waited like she said, even when I heard the loud noises and people crying.”
“You live around here?” Kristopher hoped Fritz’s family had survived this. They’d have to try and reunite them or at least find someone who could look after him before they left Stuttgart.
Fritz nodded. Whatever his wound, it seemed as though it was definitely superficial or he wouldn’t be talking as much as he was. “I went looking for her, and I couldn’t find her.”
“You sound much better, Fritz. Do you think you could walk?” Michel asked.
“I don’t want to lose you and Paul too,” Fritz said. He let Michel put him down and then put one small hand into Michel’s.
“You won’t lose us,” Michel promised. “Keep holding my hand and Paul will look after the flashlight. We can work together.”
“Michel’s very good at working together,” Kristopher told Fritz. He shone the flashlight around. The further out into the street they got, the more rubble there was. It wasn’t safe to move too quickly and at this speed they’d never reach the shelter before daylight. He glanced up at the sky. Most of the flashes of light seemed to now be focused toward the city centre. “I’m wondering if it’s safer to stay here, but get as far away from the buildings as we can, and wait for daylight.”
“We don’t know how long this raid is going to last,” Michel said, “but we need to make a decision.” Something creaked and groaned to the side of them. “Move!” Michel yelled. He picked up Fritz and ran back the way they’d come. Kristopher didn’t stop to see what was going on behind him. He followed.
Moments later, more rubble hit the street where they’d just been standing. If they’d stayed there they would have been buried in it.
Kristopher shone the flashlight on it and shivered. “I think finding the shelter is the least of our problems,” he said. “We need to get out into the open. It’s not just more bombings that could kill us, but the buildings that are already damaged.”
“I know a place,” Fritz said after Michel put him down. “I’ll show you.” He took hold of Michel’s hand again. “You and Paul are soldiers.” He pointed to the Red Cross on Kristopher’s arm. “You’ll stay and help look after all the hurt people, won’t you? Vater is a
soldier too. He’s fighting at the front. Mutter says he’s very brave.”
“Yes, we’ll stay and help,” Michel said before Kristopher could say anything. He squeezed Fritz’s hand. “We’ll also help you find your mother, or at least someone who can look after you.” He looked over at Kristopher and gave him a questioning look.
“Of course we will,” Kristopher said, wondering why Michel felt he’d even had to ask.
Anne Barwell lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She shares her home with two cats who are convinced that the house is run to suit them; this is an ongoing “discussion,” and to date it appears as though the cats may be winning.
In 2008 she completed her conjoint BA in English Literature and Music/Bachelor of Teaching. She has worked as a music teacher, a primary school teacher, and now works in a library. She is a member of the Upper Hutt Science Fiction Club and plays violin for Hutt Valley Orchestra.
She is an avid reader across a wide range of genres and a watcher of far too many TV series and movies, although it can be argued that there is no such thing as “too many.” These, of course, are best enjoyed with a decent cup of tea and further the continuing argument that the concept of “spare time” is really just a myth.