Please say hello to Anne Barwell and
Echoes Rising #2
Thanks for hosting me today.
At the beginning of Winter Duet, book 2 of my WWII Echoes Rising series, Kristopher and Michel leave the safety of the convent in Alexanderdorf to head for Switzerland. They are supposed to meet up with the Allied team—Matt, Ken and Liang—who were sent into Germany to retrieve the plans Kristopher now carries. However, if their journey were straightforward, it would make for a far less interesting story. I had debated having them go around the areas where the Allies were bombing, but then decided it would be more exciting if they were caught at ground zero.
Meantime Matt and his team leave Berlin and take an alternate route to Switzerland. Neither group can ignore a downed RAF aircraft in the Black Forest, and so decide to look for the pilot. Naturally they each run into problems of their own, and become separated. When they regroup it’s not with the person they started with, and there is a new addition to the team—an injured New Zealand pilot, Leo Dawson.
One of the early decisions I made when I was planning the story for Winter Duet was to have characters working together who hadn’t before. Also, as two of the men I was throwing together had never met, it would add an extra element of suspicion and uncertainty.
With writing an ensemble cast of characters, I try to have more than one storyline although they come together toward the end of the book. Having all of the characters in the same scene tends to marginalise some of them, and I wanted them to each have a decent amount of ‘book time’.
These men are on the run from the SS during war time and behind enemy lines, so they cannot afford to confirm their true identities to someone they’ve just met. Then there is the language barrier. While most of their group speak fluent German, Ken doesn’t. He knows enough to get by but as their original mission was supposed to be a simple in and out retrieval of the plans, he realises his shortcomings could be a problem.
“I know my limitations,” Ken said, “and I’m following most of what you’re saying but not all of it. As long as you don’t speak too quickly I’ll be fine.” He was quiet for a few minutes before continuing. “This was supposed to be a simple mission. We were to go in, get the plans, and get out. I wasn’t expecting to be in Germany for this amount of time. Matt would have handled most of the conversation with the locals. He sounds like one. I know I don’t.”
I’d wanted to play around a bit with those issues in this story, although the men do pick up more of the language they’re lacking the longer they are together. While operatives who were sent into enemy territory as undercover agents were chosen because of their language skills, others—such as Ken who is the radio operator for this team—had different skills. For example a pilot for the RAF didn’t need to speak fluent German, just know enough basic phrases so he could surrender in case he was captured. And that’s only if his aircraft went down. So...if he meets Michel, who speaks fluent German, but not English, it’s going to be a problem.
About the book:
Echoes Rising book 2 - Sequel to Shadowboxing
Hunted for treason and the information Kristopher carries, he and Michel leave the security of their safe house to 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 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.
After ten minutes he stopped to catch his breath. His intention to walk slowly hadn’t lasted long, and he’d picked up his pace as soon as he’d gotten past the soldier he’d saluted. It had begun snowing again, and he shivered despite feeling warm from the exercise. At this rate he was never going to make it back to the truck in time. If Liang had any sense, he would be there and getting ready to drive back to the safe house while the Germans were preoccupied searching the forest. Finding one RAF crewman would only serve to make them all the more determined to find the other.
The search seemed to be focused back the way he’d come. He’d heard several voices and sounds of movement, but they’d grown quieter the farther north he’d gone. He took a moment to get his bearings. If he stayed on his planned course, there should be another road about half an hour ahead. His stomach rumbled, a reminder that it had been several hours since breakfast. A check of his watch confirmed it was now early afternoon. Getting back to the safe house from here on foot was still an option, although it would take a while. Once he found the road, he’d follow that but keep to the outskirts of the forest.
He caught movement from the corner of his eye, something up ahead in the distance. Matt stopped and focused, then saw it again, a patch of color that didn’t quite fit the mix of brown and white of the forest. He moved quickly but silently, closing the distance between himself and whatever or whoever it was. As much as he was tempted to give it a wide berth, it might be the pilot he was searching for.
Yes, he’d definitely found the pilot. The man was sitting on the ground, his back against a tree. A quick scan sized up the situation. The pilot appeared to be injured; his leg was wrapped in the remains of his flak jacket. He still wore his goggles and flight helmet, and when he moved, he hissed in pain.
The color Matt had seen was the red strap of the flak jacket lying on the ground. Although the emergency pull release was no longer attached to it, the strap should have been buried or at least tucked out of sight where it couldn’t be seen.
A German soldier, gun in hand, stood over the pilot. The soldier glanced around nervously. He seemed about the same age as Matt, but if his demeanor was anything to go by, he hadn’t seen much in the way of action. The pilot appeared to be much younger than both of them, not much more than a kid. He looked up, and his gaze met Matt’s. His eyes widened.
The soldier spun around quickly, aiming his gun at Matt. His knuckles were white where he gripped it with both hands. He was shaking. “Drop your gun and raise your hands,” he said slowly and clearly.
Matt took a couple of steps toward him. He already had his own gun out and aimed at the German. “Lower your weapon, Gefreiter. You’re pointing it at a superior officer. We’re on the same side.”
Get the book:
About the author:
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.
Anne’s books have received honorable mentions four times and reached the finals three times in the Rainbow Awards. She has also been nominated twice in the Goodreads M/M Romance Reader’s Choice Awards—once for Best Fantasy and once for Best Historical.
Promotional post. Materials provided by the author.