Blast from the Past: Winter Duet by Anne Barwell


WinterDuet400x600Thanks, Kim, for hosting me today.

Winter Duet is a blast from the past in a few ways. Firstly, it came out last year and I’ve had two releases since then. Secondly, it’s an historical, set during WWII, and the second of my Echoes—soon to be renamed Echoes Rising when it is republished with DSP Publications—series published with Dreamspinner Press.

Winter Duet is the middle book of a trilogy, and as such needed to advance the plot and grow the characters, but not tie up all the loose ends. After all, there’s still book 3 to come—Comes a Horseman—to finish the series. I’m writing that one next.

Being an historical, there was a lot of research involved in writing the story. Although I stress about getting all the details right and the research often seems daunting, it is a part of the process I enjoy. I always learn something new with each book, and one of the cool things about writing stories set in this time period is that it is well documented. Part of the action takes place during ‘The Big Week.’ This is when the Allies bombed parts of Germany night and day over the course of a week in 1944. I found detailed records, which not only gave the types of aircraft used, but the dates and times of their missions.

As well as discovering new things for this story, I was also able to pull on existing knowledge. When Kristopher and Michel needed a code phrase when contacting members of the Resistance, I used lyrics from a piece of music I’d studied at university a few years ago. It ties into the title of the story quite nicely, with its dual imagery of winter and music. This is reflected in the cover by Reese Dante. I love the way she’s used music and the outline of a violin against the isolation of winter and the lone Mosquito aircraft to capture the feel of the story.

In addition I have written a short story called Phoenix which features one of the characters from Winter Duet which one of my beta readers is still pining over. It does gives a bit of the plot away, but it is a nice teaser into my writing. You can read it here:

I hope you enjoy this story, and Winter Duet, as much as I did writing them.


Winter Duet

Echoes book 2 – Sequel to Shadowboxing

Germany 1944

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.

Buy Link:


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 shelter, 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 shelter 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 farther 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 now seemed to be focused toward the city center. “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.

Anne’s books have twice received honorable mentions and twice reached the finals in the Rainbow Awards.



Coffee Unicorns:




Dreamspinner Press Author Page:




Blast from the Past: Magic’s Muse by Anne Barwell

MagicsMuse_dspThanks, Kim, for hosting me.


Magic’s Muse is the second book in my Hidden Places series, and was published in 2012. Although the book I’m writing now—One Word—is the third book in this series, it’s a side novel to the first book, Cat’s Quill.


So why choose Magic’s Muse as the blast from the past?


Although Cat’s Quill ties up quite a few loose ends, and may seem on the surface to finish the story, it’s just the beginning of the journey for Cathal, Tomas and their friends. With Cat’s Quill being only from Tomas’s POV, I wasn’t able to explore Cathal’s world in much detail. The readers only ‘saw’ what Tomas did, and his perspective of everything was very much that of an outsider seeing everything briefly for the first time.


Magic’s Muse picks up those threads and runs with it. As well as finding more out about Cathal and his world, and getting to know some of the other characters a bit better, a few more dangling plot threads are introduced in this book as their story is far from over.  In Cat’s Quill, Cathal’s sister, Irene, had warned Tomas that there will be a price to pay for their escape. That time is coming, and sooner than they think.


But in the meantime, in Magic’s Muse, there are more immediate concerns, like how to rid Cathal of the magic that binds him to the tree, and the fact that, in our world, his cousin Christian is still a cat.


Buy link:



Sequel to Cat’s Quill

Tomas and Cathal have escaped from Naearu, Cathal’s mystical homeworld, but happily ever after is never as straightforward in real life as it is in books. Then again, most people don’t deal with the complication of a lover who’s magically bound to a tree or have an interfering cat for a cousin.

With Naearu’s police force, the Falcons, still after Cathal, he can’t go home. Now that he and Tomas have consummated their relationship, Cathal’s abilities are evolving and changing to the point that Tomas can sense them. And until the oak portal closes, Cathal—and his new life with Tomas—are in limbo as Cathal can’t expect Tomas to stay with someone who can never venture past the property line. Will he and Tomas ever get to follow through on their engagement?


A pitiful meow, although it could be better described as a squeak, filled the air, followed by a frantic scrabbling of claws. Cathal slid further out the window, so that one foot was resting on the roof, and focused on the direction of the noise. Without the window frame obstructing his view, it was easier to look around for the culprit. Further down the roof, on the overhanging part near the drainpipe, sat a tiny gray tabby kitten, growing more distressed by the moment. “I think it’s stuck,” he decided, when the cat’s meows became louder.


“It probably jumped out there when it saw us and then couldn’t figure out how to get back.” Tomas studied the kitten. “We can’t leave it up there. I’ll go find a ladder.”


“A ladder won’t reach that part of the roof.” Cathal squinted, working out the distance between the kitten, where they were, and the ground. He slid his other leg out of the window, finding his balance while he still had his back against the outside of the attic wall.


“Cat?” Tomas tried to grab Cathal’s arm to bring his back inside, but Cathal took another step further out onto the roof, just out of reach. “You can’t go out there. It’s dangerous.”


“I’ll be fine.” Cathal was already working out the quickest way to reach the kitten. At least it wasn’t about to move, but hopefully it wasn’t so scared that it would try and attack him when he got there.


“Let me do it then.”


“So it’s dangerous but you’ll do it?” Cathal snorted at the sensible way in which Tomas had gone from one conclusion to the other. “Your ankle is still tender. It makes more sense for me to.” His voice softened, realizing Tomas was concerned and scared for Cathal’s safety. However, that did not mean he should risk his own in the process. “It’s okay, love. I’ve been on this roof before, and I know the safest way to do this. Why don’t you go find that ladder? We might need it.”


Tomas hesitated. “I could help you here,” he offered.


“There is less chance of scaring the kitten this way.” The kitten meowed again. Cathal didn’t need his ability to know how scared it was. “I’m not leaving it out here, Tomas. Ladder, please. Now.” A ladder would work in that spot. He just had to get the kitten over there. “The drainpipe is closer than the outside stairs, but I don’t know if it’s still in good repair.”


“Drainpipe?” Tomas looked between Cathal and the kitten. He paled. “You are not going down that fucking drainpipe with that kitten. Promise me?” Without waiting for a reply he was gone, calling for Donovan.


“I promise,” Cathal said softly. This looked more dangerous than it was, but Cathal was not about to take any unnecessary risks. He’d done this before, on more than one occasion, the first time just to see if it could be done, much to Christian’s amusement. Alice had ripped verbal shreds off him after she found out, and then Christian too when he’d laughed at her reaction.


There was a light breeze, but nothing that would cause any problems. Cathal stood for a moment, enjoying the freedom of being so exposed to wind and sun with nothing between him and the elements. He’d forgotten how good it felt being up here like this, despite the cold, especially after a decent amount of rain, the air crisp and clean. It always smelled better up higher for some reason, closer to the sky.


The kitten squeaked. It was watching him cautiously. He projected reassurance and comfort, figuring that even if the animal couldn’t feel the emotions at least it would keep himself calm. His brother, Kane, had used the strategy once when rescuing a cat from a tree. It had worked for him, but being able to project his emotions onto others drew on the strengths of his ability rather than Cathal’s.


Cathal edged further out along the roof, choosing his footing carefully. There was more moss on the tiles than there had been the last time he’d done this, and it occurred to him that perhaps the roof might not be in as good repair, being that much older. Still, he’d got this far and wasn’t about to give up yet.


Below him, he heard voices. Tomas would be organizing the ladder. Cathal hoped it wouldn’t be needed, but the idea of having it as an option was beginning to feel very welcome. Six more steps and he’d reach the kitten. Another meow, but this time it was accompanied by a loud purr. “You know you’re going to be rescued, don’t you?”


Up closer, he could see just how tiny it was, barely weaned from his mother at a guess. It must have wandered away from the litter wanting to explore, and got out of its depth very quickly. How had it got up here? Perhaps it had found its way into the inn through an open window and then onto the roof from there. Maybe from the attic, as Tomas had originally suggested?


His foot slipped, the feel of the firm roof beneath him disappearing as he scrambled to find a foothold, barely managing to right himself.


Heidi screamed. Tomas swore loudly, his voice carried by the wind.



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.





Coffee Unicorns:




Dreamspinner Press Author Page: