In The Defense of Naive Characters

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Like most people, I always read the good and bad reviews on a book I’m curious about reading, or even books I already love (just because I like to see how other people perceived it), and I’m often taken aback by how hostile some readers are toward naive characters.

Don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing more frustrating than a character who just doesn’t learn; a character who, after plenty of opportunities, just doesn’t get it. But why is the general state of innocence so repellent to some?

That’s a conundrum with naive characters because they don’t yet have the capability to make insightful decisions⎯⎯otherwise and they wouldn’t be called ‘naive.’ Their perspective is often fallacious because of their lack of understanding and lack of empathy for the world around them. So how do you, as a writer, redeem these types of characters?

I read an article on K.M. Weiland’s page (if you’re a writer and aren’t already following her blog, do yourself a favor and DO!) that said the number one way to write an unlikeable character is to continually make them oblivious to their own personality, or their circumstances, or other characters, or their environment; they persist in making the same gullible decisions with the same immature thought processes. You can construct a totally rude, jerky, selfish character, but as long as they are aware of who and what they are, the reader is more likely to be sympathetic to them than a character who is good but ignorant.

The way to save your naive character from being reviled is to showcase their ability to change. I personally LOVE when a character starts off ingenuous and over the course of the story, we see their thought processes and reactions to certain events evolve. They may face a considerably traumatic event that alters their perspective, or they may experience a close call that awakens them to all the what-ifs and could-have-beens, catapulting them into a state of self-examination.

Both innocence and experience possess their own kinds of beauty, though. I personally love naive characters, but only if I see them develop and learn over the course of their stories; I value that, I relate to that, I love that. I also love characters that begin damaged and scarred, because we get to watch them discover their own strength and that past mistakes or past shames don’t have to define them; I value that, I relate to that, I love that.

We all come from different points of view as readers, and none of them are necessarily wrong. I just want to plead a case for naive characters. I think a lot of readers dismiss them out of frustration (which is understandable), but sometimes, it’s not about the character; it’s about the way they grow.

So writers, beware: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a naive protagonist. But if you keep your character and their innocence on a pedestal, preventing them from developing over the course of your book, you are inviting readers to remember them for the wrong reason⎯⎯because of how much they hate them.

 

Who is your favorite naive character?

 

Who is your least favorite?

Adrian’s First Assignment (Adrian #1, Short Story Sophia’s War Series)

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This is the first short story in a series of short stories inspired by my WWII series, Sophia’s War. You can find links for more information at the bottom of the page, as well as details on my upcoming free book promotion and sales, starting June 16 – 20, 2015!

*This contains mild spoilers for Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence (#1).

 

——–

Frankfurt, Germany

March, 1932

The sky was turning a dark shade of mulberry, the first stars making their appearance through a cloudy haze. He could hear the chantey of crickets, the grating of their spindly legs bringing in the night. Looking both ways, he crossed the street, elbow tucked into his side. With each limping step, he wheezed, his eyes on the bronze eagle that ornamented the colossal concrete building of the Gymnasium. The taste of metal filled his mouth and he spat, crimson-stained saliva hitting the sidewalk and splattering on his shin. His head was pounding, and he winced from the rusty creak of the iron gate as he entered the school grounds.

The hallways were dark, quiet as the burial chamber of King Tutankhamen. Shoes shuffling against tile, he tried to straighten before grunting, doubling-over from the pain.

A faint light emanated from one of the classrooms just ahead and he hastened toward it. Through his good eye, he could see his arithmetic teacher writing at his desk. He knocked lightly on the door frame.

Herr Luther looked up in curiosity before sobering. He dropped his pen, springing from his desk chair.

“Herr Burkhardt,” he said in surprise.

Adrian still couldn’t stand upright, even for appearance’s sake; it felt as if he’d done an excessive number of calisthenics with his abdominals. Hunched over, arm still pressed against his stomach as if that would make the discomfort stop, Adrian looked around the empty room.

“Is this a bad time, Herr Luther?”

“No. No,” Luther said, coming around to the front of the desk. “What happened to you?”

With a noisy breath, Adrian sunk into one of the desk chairs.

“It doesn’t matter,” he croaked, waiting for his aches to dull. “I can’t go home like this. I’ve lost my books. My shirt is ripped, my clothes are dirty; my Oma will be furious, not to mention…”

Opa would bruise whatever part of him hadn’t been already.

He whipped the ragged black tie from around his neck, throwing it to the floor. “I didn’t know where else to go.”

Adrian couldn’t look him in the eye. Luther came closer, accompanied by his cane. They all joked that Herr Luther must have had a wooden leg, the way it never bent at the knee and thumped as he walked. Only once had Luther referenced it in class, implying it was from a wound he’d sustained during the Great War. Adrian didn’t find it humorous anymore.

“Wait here,” Luther murmured.

Adrian hadn’t moved from his chair, didn’t even look up when Luther returned. Setting a cup of water on the desk, he handed Adrian an aspirin. Adrian swallowed it in a gulp.

“Put this over your eye,” Luther said.

It was a fabric ice pack with a herringbone pattern. Adrian reached for it, wincing as he did so.

Luther’s brow flinched. “Raise your shirt.”

The tails of his collared shirt were already hanging out beneath his vest. Grimacing, Adrian grabbed the hem, pulling it up.

Plum and wine-colored blotches emblazoned his stomach. He lowered the ice pack, surveying it in mutual contempt and awe. Luther was leaning over to get a better look, though he peered at Adrian over his glasses.

“Have you coughed up blood?”

Adrian put the ice pack over his eye. “No.”

“Urinated blood?”

Adrian shook his head. Luther’s lips thinned.

“You’ll be fine. Though it wouldn’t hurt to rest for a couple days.” Luther sighed. “What was it this time?”

Adrian dropped his gaze, embarrassed that Luther knew it had happened before. The luminescent glow of a street light stood out in the black on the other side of the window. His grandparents were probably in a rage. He should have been home long before now.

“You wouldn’t understand,” Adrian muttered.

“Then why did you come to me?”

His eyes fell on the bonbon on Luther’s lapel⎯a Hakenkreuz, the symbol of the Nazi Party. “I don’t want to talk about it.”

Hi eyes fell on the pin on Luther’s

“You came here⎯at dinner time, when you should be home eating with your grandparents⎯and you have nothing to say?”

Adrian kept his eyes down, avoiding Luther’s scrutiny.

“This is Herr Pfenning’s doing. Isn’t it?” Luther asked, his voice low. “He and his friends cornered you again⎯because you don’t wear the uniform.”

“It’s not just that,” Adrian mumbled. The ice had begun to make his eye ache and he rested it on his knee. “Today, during biology, Herr Eisenberg called Oskar Stein to the front of the class.” Adrian bit the inside of his lip. “Oskar is Jewish⎯”

“I am familiar with Herr Stein,” Luther said.

Adrian swallowed. “Herr Eisenberg talked about his dark eyes, the hook of his nose, the curls in his black hair; he showed us all the ways Oskar is different from the rest of us⎯how he’s inferior to us. After classes, I was on my way home. Conrad and the others had Oskar in the alley, punching him, cutting his hair. One of them took his biology book and hit him with it. Conrad saw me walking by and told me to join. I asked him, ‘Why? What has he done?’ And he said, ‘He is a Jew!’” Adrian hesitated. “So I walked over and set my books down while Oskar was getting to his feet. Conrad said, ‘Do it, Heinrich. Show us you are a man.’”

Luther folded his arms across his chest. “So what did you do?”

Adrian closed his eyes, exhaling. “I told him I wasn’t going to do that. I picked up Oskar’s things and I gave them to him and told him to go.”

A strange look made a fleeting appearance on Luther’s face, as he knew it would.

Adrian scoffed. “What is wrong with me? Why am I like this? The others, they look at Oskar and they see a Jew. I look at him and I see a schoolmate I’ve known since primary school; I see a boy who once shared his lunch with me when my Opa sent me to school for a week without food. I see Conrad and the others in their uniforms and I know I’m supposed to want to be a part of it, but I don’t; I don’t want to be like them.” He hated the way his eyes stung. “My Opa says I’m just like my father⎯a coward; a coward who will shoot himself in the foot to keep from defending the Fatherland. Tell me what I’m doing wrong, Herr Luther. Tell me what I need to do to change. I don’t want it to be like this anymore.”

He bowed his head, wiping his cheek on his shoulder. Opa only struck him harder if he cried.

It was a moment before Luther spoke.

“It’s true. You aren’t like Herr Pfenning. That is not necessarily a bad thing.”

“Look at me,” Adrian shouted, pointing at his swollen eye. “It is a bad thing. I’m tired of always saying the wrong thing. I’m tired of doing the wrong thing. I’m tired of being a disappointment. I’m tired of the way he looks at me.”

“Why does it matter how Conrad looks at you?”

Adrian fidgeted. His black eye was beginning to hurt again and he pressed the ice pack to it. “I wasn’t talking about Conrad.”

He saw it in the way Opa ignored him when he told his grandparents goodbye in the mornings. He saw it in the scowl at the dinner table every evening when he looked up from his school books. He saw it in the way Opa would erupt, taking off his belt when Adrian spilled a drink; when he caught Adrian reading a book for leisure; when he came home with bruises and cuts from losing yet another fight with yet another boy. He’d seen it the one time he’d come home with a reward for having the highest marks in his class:

“I thought you would be proud of me.”

Opa’s light blue eyes blackened. “I will never be proud of you. You killed my daughter. Even your own father didn’t want you. And we’re the ones who got stuck with you.”

Luther bowed his head before looking at him. “We are not what we are born into, Heinrich⎯not if we don’t want to be. We have a choice. That is a God-given right that no one⎯not your grandfather, not Conrad, no one⎯can take away from you. You can choose who you want to be. You’re an exceptional young man in a world that values ignorance and subservience. That is why you don’t fit in; that’s why you feel you don’t belong.”

Adrian stared at him before shaking his head. “Why would any of that make a difference?”

“Right there,” Luther rasped with enthusiasm. “That is why it makes a difference! While everyone else bows with blind obedience, you ask ‘why.’ You have an extraordinary opportunity, Heinrich, to not only help yourself, but to help Germany⎯to help the world.”

The feverishness on his usually stony-faced arithmetic teacher’s face put him ill-at-ease. Adrian set the ice pack on the desktop.

“I should be going,” he said, pushing himself up.

Luther’s hands were out in front of him, as if to stop him. “Wait. Wait, please. Heinrich, what if I told you this didn’t have to be the only path for you? What if I told you there was a way you could blend in, but still be who you want to be? What if there was a way to end your grandfather’s control over you?”

His eye had swollen completely shut now. “And how would I do that?”

The smile on Luther’s lips caused the hair on the back of his neck to stand.

“You fight back.”

Adrian opened his mouth to express his dissent, confused when no words came out. Eyes drawn to the Hakenkreuz fastened to Luther’s jacket lapel again, he sensed a disconnect; unless he was mistaken about what Luther was insinuating, there was a treacherous hint of subversion in his tone. Luther grabbed Adrian’s shoulders.

“I can help you,” Luther whispered. “If you agree, we can help each other. But you have to trust me. You must listen and obey, no matter what. Do you trust me, Heinrich?”

Adrian frowned. “Please don’t call me that. I don’t want to be called that. It was my father’s name.”

Luther released him. “What do you want to be called?”

“Adrian,” he said. “It’s my middle name. But it’s mine.”

Luther took hold of his cane. “Very well. Do you trust me, Adrian?”

Though he felt as if he were trading one life of servitude for another, he gave Luther a hopeful, desperate nod. Luther pat his arm, walking back to his desk.

“It’s time you joined the Hitler Youth,” Luther said, opening one of his desk drawers. “It won’t be long before enrolling is compulsory. It is better to stay one step ahead than wait until you don’t have a choice.”

Adrian felt the color drain from his face. “What?”

Luther peered at him over his glasses as he walked back with a book. “Tomorrow. First thing in the morning, you will join. If you can’t find a place among them, you will make one, but it is imperative you appear as inconspicuous, as unremarkable as possible.”

Adrian shook his head. “But, Herr⎯”

“Trust me,” Luther said, handing him the book. “I will take care of the rest.”

The muscles in his stomach ached as he held the heavy leather-bound book with both hands.

“A Bible?” Adrian asked, skeptical.

“Read it,” Luther said, “every night after your school work. If you think you won’t have time⎯and you won’t have much once you’re in that uniform⎯your school work comes second. You must always read your Bible.”

“My Opa hates when I read.”

“Your grandfather isn’t going to know,” Luther said, though it sounded like an order. “In fact, this will be the last time your grandfather will have any authority over you. Tonight, when you go home, you will tell him you’re taking remedial arithmetic with me in the evenings. Your first lesson will be here tomorrow, after your activities with the youth are done.”

“Remedial…? But I have top marks in the class.”

“Start failing.”

Adrian stared at him.

“Your first assignment under my direction, Herr Burkhardt, is to earn back your respect. The next time I see Conrad Pfenning, he had better have bruises that rival yours.”

Adrian stood motionless. With a befuddled look through his functioning eye at his formerly phlegmatic teacher, he glanced at the Bible, starting for the door.

“Heinrich.”

Adrian clenched his jaw, looking back from the doorway. Luther was watching him.

“Go home knowing that you face your grandfather’s wrath tonight; tomorrow, he will face yours. Tomorrow, Heinrich Burkhardt will become nothing but a nom de guerre. Tomorrow,” Luther said,you will show us all who Adrian Burkhardt is.”

 

—–

Get more information on the Sophia’s War characters here!

Find out more about my writing philosophy and why I wrote the Sophia’s War series here!

Get the Sophia’s War series for free and reduced prices June 16 – 20, 2015!

Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence (#1)

Sophia’s War: Lies and Allies (#2)

Sophia’s War: Stalemate (#3)

Sophia’s War: Hidden Halos (#4)

Sophia’s War: Veil of Secrets (#5)

Sophia’s War: Death Knell (#6)

The Art of “Show, Don’t Tell.”

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The whole idea of “Show, don’t tell” was one of the most intimidating concepts for me when I started writing my first novel nine years ago. Now, it excites me; I see it as a challenge. It’s too easy to just say “Mary was angry,” and much less interesting.

What do you envision when you read that? “Mary was angry.”

The throbbing temple?

The clenched fists?

The red face?

Why not just say that instead? It’s those little details that are going to jump out at the reader and paint a picture for them. That’s what makes readers feel like they are in the character’s head, seeing and experiencing emotions and events firsthand.

Show, don't tell!

Show, don’t tell!

And that’s the goal. You want your book to be written in such a way that the reader forgets they are even reading. You want it to play like a movie in their head. The way to do this is with vivid, seamless description.

I am about to break a cardinal rule by using an example from a film rather than a book, but that’s only because this was the first time the “Show, Don’t Tell” technique began to click in my head. It happened while watching the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice.

Aside from fact that it was not proper etiquette for the time period for a woman’s bare hand to touch a man’s bare hand in such a manner (which I didn’t know until researching glove etiquette for this article), there was something so significant to me about this scene. Watch it here:

From the moment I saw this movie for the first time, I loved this scene, but I wasn’t sure why. Now, as an author, I do. It’s because no one ever says out loud what Darcy and Elizabeth feel for each other. Darcy and Elizabeth don’t even say what they are feeling; we see what they are feeling, the way Elizabeth’s lips part and she stares in surprise upon feeling the bare touch of his hand on hers. She doesn’t yank it away, showing us that she’s not embarrassed or scandalized by it. Even more revealing is the way Darcy turns around, as if he’s not even sparing their physical contact a second thought. In contradiction, though, we see the way he stretches his hand at his side as if in discomfort, conveying to the viewer that he’s feeling an ache he isn’t comfortable experiencing.

There are little tidbits like this throughout the film before they declare their feelings to each other, but this one was always the most striking to me. These little “showing and not telling” moments are stepping stones in a novel or film, a buildup that allows the climax to really pack a punch. This is why Darcy’s proposal to someone he purportedly views with condescension (Elizabeth) doesn’t come out of left field for the viewer. If we weren’t given these little signals beforehand–if the tension wasn’t being built under the surface–the big reveal wouldn’t have such a potent, memorable effect later. If we weren’t already primed for the possibility that Darcy and Elizabeth were falling in love, we would feel nothing when he finally proposes to her. It would just seem implausible.

However, there is a very fine line we authors must walk. Yes, we must drop hints, but we have to be careful not to come right out and say it. It’s okay for the readers or viewers to assume or hope, but we don’t want them to know for certain until we are ready for the big reveal to actually occur. Showing–and not telling–is definitely an art that must be perfected over time.

So it’s okay if you feel you haven’t mastered the skill yet, or if you feel you don’t even understand how to do it properly yet. Just keep trying, and most importantly, keep writing. What I’ve discovered–for myself at least–is that I improve a little and grasp the concept a little better with each sentence, each novel I write.

So don’t give up! We’re in this together! You’re doing great!

sunset skies

For more great articles on the art of “Show, Don’t Tell”, check these out!:

Helping Writers to Become Authors: The Secret to Show, Don’t Tell

The Write Practice: The Secret to Show, Don’t Tell

Five Incredibly Simple Ways to Help Writers Show and Not Tell

Playlist: Death Knell (Sophia’s War, #6)

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This is the playlist of songs that inspired book 6 in my Sophia’s War series! Hope you enjoy!

 

All Fall Down – OneRepublic

All of Me – John Legend ft. Lindsey Stirling

All You Never Say – Birdy

Apologize – Timbaland ft. OneRepublic

Arms and Enemies – The Quiet Kind

Atlas – Coldplay

Au Revoir – OneRepublic

Ball and Chain – Martin Harley

Be Still – The Fray

Beautiful, Beautiful – Francesca Battistelli

Bedroom Hymns – Florence + the Machine

Been a Long Day – Rosi Golan

Oats in the Water – Ben Howard

Between – Courrier

Bleed for Me – Saliva

Bleeding Out – Imagine Dragons

Bones – MsMr

Busted Heart – for KING & COUNTRY

Chop and Change – The Black Keys

Citizen Soldier – 3 Doors Down

Cold – Aqualung and Lucy Schwartz (Tub scene)

Comatose – Skillet

Come Away to the Water – Maroon 5 ft. Rozzi Crane

Control – Garbage

Damn Your Eyes – Alex Clare

Dark Days – Punch Brothers

Diggin My Own Grave – Nik Ammar

Echo – Jason Walker

Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Lorde

Everything – Lifehouse (end scene)

Everytime – Britney Spears

Falling Inside the Black – Skillet

Family – Noah Gundersen

Far Away – Nickelback

Fire and Dynamite – Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Flightless Bird, American Mouth – Iron and Wine

Flow – Emma Lee

For You – The Calling

Found – Christel Alsos

Glory and Gore – Lorde

Guarded – Kevin Daniel

Hardest of Hearts – Florence + the Machine

Hearing Damage – Thom York

Heart By Heart – Demi Lovato

Hero – Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott

Hero – Skillet

Holding On and Letting Go – Ross Copperman

I Could Live With Dying Tonight – Emma Lee

I Need You – LeAnn Rimes

I Was Wrong – Sleeperstar

I Will Not Be Moved – Natalie Grant

Incomplete – Backstreet Boys

Innocence – Avril Lavigne

It Makes No Difference Who We Are – Celldweller

It Plays On – Diane Birch

It’s You – Michelle Branch

Just a Game – Birdy

Kingdom Come – The Civil Wars

Lights – Josh Ritter

Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons

Long Trip Alone – Dierks Bentley

The Longer the Waiting – Anna Ternheim

Longest Night – Howie Day

Lost Cause – Imagine Dragons

Love is Marching – BarlowGirl

Lullaby – Dixie Chicks

Metal and Dust – London Grammar

Monster – Imagine Dragons

Mundscheinsonate (Moonlight Sonata) – Beethoven

My Immortal – Evanescence

My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark – Fallout Boy

Navigate – Band of Skulls

Never Alone – BarlowGirl

Never Say Never – The Fray

O Children – Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Only One – Alex Band

Only One – Yellowcard

Please Remember Me – Tim McGraw

Praise You In This Storm – Casting Crowns

The Proof of Your Love – for KING & COUNTRY

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

The Reason – Hoobastank

Rescue Me – Kerrie Roberts

Rules – Jayme Dee

Run Boy Run – Woodkid

Say (All I Need) – OneRepublic

Set No Sun – UNKLE ft. Elle J and Joel Cadbury

Shelter – Birdy

Short Change Hero – The Heavy

Skinny Love – Birdy

So Cold – Ben Cocks ft. Nikisha Reyes Pile

Speechless – Morning Parade

Things We Lost in the Fire – Bastille

Tonight – Jeremy Camp

Too Old To Die Young – Brother Dege

Turn Into Earth – The Yardbirds

Turning Pages – Sleeping At Last

Walking Blind – Aidan Hawken and Carina Round

Weapons – The Daylight

The Weight of Us – Sanders Bohlke (Courtyard scene)

What I’ve Done – Linkin Park

Whispers – Dave Baxter

Whispers In the Dark – Skillet

Who We Are – Imagine Dragons

You – Switchfoot

 

Book 6

 

Get Sophia’s War: Death Knell (#6)!

Playlist: Veil of Secrets (Sophia’s War, #5)

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All Fall Down – OneRepublic

Apologize – Timbaland ft. OneRepublic

The Argument – Aidan Hawken

Arms and Enemies – The Quiet Kind

Atlas – Coldplay

Au Revoir – OneRepublic

Ball and Chain – Martin Harley

Beautiful, Beautiful – Francesca Battistelli

Bedroom Hymns – Florence + the Machine

Been a Long Day – Rosi Golan

Oats in the Water – Ben Howard

Between – Courrier

Blame – Nik Ammar and Oliver Jackson

Bleeding Out – Imagine Dragons

Bones – MsMr

Busted Heart – for KING & COUNTRY

Chop and Change – The Black Keys

Citizen Soldier – 3 Doors Down

Comatose – Skillet

Come Away to the Water – Maroon 5 ft. Rozzi Crane

Dark Days – Punch Brothers

Devotion – Hurts ft. Kylie Minogue

Diggin My Own Grave – Nik Ammar

Everybody Wants to Rule the World – Lorde

Falling Inside the Black – Skillet

Family – Noah Gundersen

Fire and Dynamite – Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors

Flightless Bird, American Mouth – Iron and Wine

Flow – Emma Lee

Fragile Love – Adam Agin

Give Up the Ghost – Rosi Golan ft. Johnny McDaid

Glory and Gore – Lorde

Guarded – Kevin Daniel

Halt dich an mir fest (Hold On To Me) – Revolverheld ft. Marta Jandová

Hardest of Hearts – Florence + the Machine

Heart By Heart – Demi Lovato

Heartbeat – Kopecky Family Band

Hero – Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott

Hero – Skillet

I Wanna Be With You – Mandy Moore

I Will Not Be Moved – Natalie Grant

It Makes No Difference Who We Are – Celldweller

It Will Rain – Bruno Mars

It’s You – Michelle Branch

Just a Game – Birdy

Kingdom Come – The Civil Wars

Lights – Josh Ritter

Lights – Phantogram

Little Deschutes – Laura Veirs (Park scene!)

Little Lion Man – Mumford & Sons

Long Trip Alone – Dierks Bentley

The Longer the Waiting – Anna Ternheim

Lost Cause – Imagine Dragons

Lullaby – Dixie Chicks

Medicine – Daughter

Metal and Dust – London Grammar

Monster – Imagine Dragons

Mundscheinsonate (Moonlight Sonata) – Beethoven

My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark – Fallout Boy

No Sugar in My Coffee – Caught a Ghost

No Way Out – Rie Sinclair and Mike Suby

Only One – Alex Band

Only One – Yellowcard

Place For Us – Mikky Ekko ft. Ammar Malik

The Proof of Your Love – for KING & COUNTRY

Radioactive – Imagine Dragons

Rescue Me – Kerrie Roberts

Romeo – Revolverheld

Rules – Jayme Dee

Shadows – David Crowder Band

Shelter – Birdy

Short Change Hero – The Heavy

Skinny Love – Birdy

Speechless – Morning Parade

Sweet & Wild – Dierks Bentley

Things We Lost in the Fire – Bastille

This Is Really Happening – Taylor Swift

Too Old To Die Young – Brother Dege

Treacherous – Taylor Swift

Turning Pages – Sleeping At Last

Whispers In the Dark – Skillet

Who We Are – Imagine Dragons

Why Try – Young Summer

With You – Dan Gautreau and Wolfgang Black

 

GET IT HERE!:

http://www.amazon.com/Sophias-War-Secrets-Stephanie-Baumgartner-ebook/dp/B00S1Q84U8/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1421044745&sr=1-2&keywords=sophia%27s+war

Sneak Peek of Sophia’s War: Veil of Secrets (#5)!

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Here’s a sneak peek of the upcoming volume of Sophia’s War (Sophia’s War: Veil of Secrets), coming January 2015! Keep in mind, if you haven’t read Book 4 (Hidden Halos), there will be some spoilers in this excerpt! Thanks, and I hope you all enjoy!

~~~~~~~~~~~

Sophia sighed, looking up at the sky once they’d finished dessert. She could just make out the stars past the yellow haze that enveloped them. Adrian was gulping down the rest of his Apfelwein as she checked her watch.

“I suppose we should be going back,” Sophia said. “It’s almost eight.”

Adrian came up for air, bringing his glass down on the table harder than he needed to. She laughed.

Some of the people who had been there when they arrived had already left. One couple that had been on the trolley with them had finished eating, drifting around the pond, and a trio of women who’d also ridden with them were getting up to leave. Adrian was laying marks on the table when the hum of a trolley making its way toward the mansion could be heard. The waitresses were starting to pull the empty tables and chairs inside. Another couple stood, heading toward the path to leave.

“Ready?” Adrian asked.

Sophia nodded, picking up her purse and flower from the table.

“I hope you had a good day,” Adrian said, putting his cap on as they trailed after the group heading for the trolley.

“I did,” she replied. “I’m actually not looking forward to going home—for a few reasons,” she said, remembering Diedrich. “I wish we could have come here earlier. I would have liked to have seen the whole park.”

Adrian didn’t speak, though he was right by her side. One of the women ahead of them gave a high-pitched laugh at something.

“It’s so quiet and still out here,” Sophia mentioned, looking out over one of the gardens they’d passed on the way in. “I’m sure it would have been my favorite if…”

Adrian pulled her into him with a motion so graceful that her lips found his as if it had been perfectly planned. They were kissing right on the path where anyone could have seen. She should have been embarrassed; she should have protested. That would have been the respectable thing to do.

“Come with me,” he whispered, his voice rough in her ear.

He had a hold of her hand, pulling her away before she could even gather a response in her head. They weren’t taking the pathways that had already been made, instead stepping over bushes and weaving through flower gardens. The dwarfish tower was becoming clearer in the dark, its medieval archways showing through to the grassy knolls that lay beyond it.

“Won’t someone see us?” she asked through a giggle, noticing the light from the mansion radiating above the trees.

“Probably,” he replied.

The mortification that would come with being caught made her apprehensive, but it wasn’t enough for her to make him stop and turn around. Kissing him had been in the back of her mind all day, but it would have been puerile to mention it, and it required more boldness than she had to initiate it again. Though she wouldn’t have dared to tell him, she felt relieved that he’d finally done it.

Underneath the tower now, they held onto each other the way they had outside the doorway to the clock shop. Anyone could walk up and catch them and she would have no excusable justification. There was nothing suitable about a young, unmarried woman being alone in the dark with a man—even if they were married, it would have been considered uncouth.

His hands were bracing her jaw, the skin on his formerly smooth upper lip and chin scratching her face. He pulled away, resting his forehead against hers. His thumb caressed her cheek, and she closed her eyes, savoring his touch.

“I don’t want to go back yet,” he said. “I want to stay with you a little while longer.”

“Okay,” she said as he kissed her again.

Dreamstime

Dreamstime

They walked around the gardens, finding an open patch of velvety grass underneath the sable sky. Adrian had laid down beside her, keeping the proper distance of a gentleman.

“I like this,” Sophia said. “I haven’t been able to do this in a long time, and I needed it. Sometimes, at home, when I was frustrated or sad, I would go lay out in the field below my parents’ house. I’d pour my heart out to God in the quiet, or just lay there, taking in His stillness in the stars. It made me feel at peace, like my head had been emptied of all the clutter. Lately, I feel like I need Him more than ever. I can’t seem to shake the fear or worry, no matter how much I pray. I wake up and it’s all still there. I know He’s listening. I just don’t understand.”

“Sometimes, I don’t either,” she heard Adrian say, commiserating.

“Tell me about your faith,” she said.

“What about it?”

“Everything,” she said. “You said Luther introduced you to Christianity.”

“I suppose I should have said he’s the one who introduced me to the idea of having a relationship with Christ,” he said. “My grandparents were Christians. They did good things, but they made sure everyone knew about it. They also made it their business to police others’ good deeds, or lack thereof. They weren’t bad people, necessarily, they were just…”

“Misguided?” Sophia offered.

“That’s one way of putting it,” he said. “I went to church with them, repeated all the same prayers, but that was as far as it went for me. I didn’t have much accountability, besides what is considered to be good or bad in general. That wasn’t good enough for Luther. He said that if I was going to work for him, it required utmost dedication, unrelenting focus and a superior comprehension of morality.”

Sophia studied him. “To be a photographer?”

She could hear the smile in his voice. “There’s a little more to it than that, but I suppose, yes. His standards are high.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because when I’m given a task, I’m supposed to accept it without hesitation. When I’m executing that task, it has to be precise. The bible helps me cope, sometimes. It helps keep me focused, finding acceptance and validation in God instead of elsewhere. Luther suggested it as a precaution at first, but I gave my life to Jesus when I was seventeen. Does that mean I haven’t failed on occasion and that Luther hasn’t struck me upside the head with a bible once or twice? No,” he said. Sophia chuckled. “But I do my best.”

“He’s hit you with a bible?”

“Yes. I deserved it, though.”

“What did you do?”

She sensed his sudden reluctance to speak. He gave a nervous laugh under his breath. “Let’s just say it was something bad enough that it could have jeopardized both of us.”

Though her curiosity was killing her, she decided to leave it alone, mindful of the fact that he didn’t want to talk about it.

“Have you ever seen a falling star?” she asked him, after they’d been quiet for too long.

“Yes. A few,” he replied.

Sophia sighed. “I’ve never seen one.”

“You’re joking,” he said, turning his head toward her. “As often as you look at the stars, you’ve never seen one?”

She looked at him, shaking her head.

“Hmm,” he sounded. “Maybe you’ll see one tonight, then. Do you have a favorite star?”

“Three. Orion’s Belt,” she replied. “There’s nothing really special about them. They’re just the first thing I look for when I look up at night.”

“Orion is one of my favorite constellations. His mythology is laced throughout the entire sky.”

Smiling, Sophia adjusted herself, moving a little closer to him. “Show me.”

“Okay,” he said, removing the hand behind his head to point. “There are many myths about Orion. Pictures often depict him as hunting Taurus, the bull, but that’s not entirely true. See that cluster of stars? That’s the Pleiades—or, the Seven Sisters. One myth says that Orion fell in love with the sisters. Zeus didn’t like that, so he picked the sisters up and put them in the sky to separate them from Orion. If Orion is looking at anything up there, it’s not the bull. It’s the Seven Sisters within the constellation.”

“Zeus could, and did, have any woman he wanted. That was selfish,” Sophia said, joking.

“Yes, and poor Orion had no luck with women in the first place. He fell in love with a king’s daughter in one story, and the king blinded him. He got his sight back eventually, but still. And then the next one he fell in love with was Artemis, and she was the one who brought about his demise, though the details vary, depending on who you ask. Some say he wasn’t such a nice guy to her, and she set a Scorpion on him which stung and killed him. Another version is that he bragged to Artemis that he was such a skilled hunter, he could kill any creature on earth, so she set the Scorpion on him and it killed him. That’s why Scorpius rules the summer skies, while Orion rules the winter. He asked to never be in the same sky with the scorpion. They’re always half a world away from each other.”

He lowered his hand, searching for hers.

“How do you know so much?” she asked.

“It’s a bunch of useless information, really,” he said with a sigh. “It’s what a man gets when he reads meaningless books that have nothing to do with what his occupation will be.”

She squeezed his hand, more out of sorrow than anything else. She knew he didn’t really believe that.

“You are full of so much fire to learn and understand everything,” she said with admiration. “You have compassion, and sometimes, I swear it feels like you know what I’m thinking and feeling without me even having to say it. And then something happens, like today, and I see someone else. I heard you laughing with him, Adrian.”

Adrian released her hand, sitting up. She propped herself up on her elbows as he looked away from her.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m not saying you did something wrong. I just…I don’t know how you do that.”

He seemed distracted, in a stupor of introspection. She wondered if he was contemplating telling her the truth, or if he was ferreting about in his psyche for an exoneration. He cracked a knuckle, shaking his head to himself.

“I turn it off,” he finally replied, looking at her. “Whether it’s for a second, a week, or for months, I turn it off. All of it. Because if anyone knew the truth, it would all be over. When the situation is so dire that we could face an interrogation right now for having this conversation because someone overheard, it’s not worth the risk. I have too much at stake, too much to protect, too many people who would be destroyed because of a single, trivial misstep on my part. I am a war photographer for the Third Reich, Marelda; an inconsequential peon for a propagandist. Not whatever it is you think I am. Not anymore.”

She stared at him in the dark. He blinked away, his voice having been stern. Though it was clear she had no insight to all the things he felt he had to lose, she understood his desperation. The lives of two human beings were fully dependent on her; one slip up, and their lights would be extinguished forever. Though he had no hand in her decision, Diedrich would go out with her—perhaps even Adrian, all because of her association with them. It was a bittersweet truth, and though in a perfect world it was all wrong, in theirs, she had no other choice. Neither did he.

She sat up, cupping his face as she kissed his cheek.

“To them,” she whispered, “you can be Heinrich the photographer. But to me, you are Adrian the historian, the scholar…a man who can still find beauty and goodness in a very dark world.”

He turned his face against hers at her words. Soon, they were kissing just as before. He cradled her, and his arms tightened as she caressed his face.

Flashes, visions of them smiling and laughing, lying in a bed of white flickered in her mind. She watched him touch her bare skin with the kind of casualness that he’d walked through the city with, as if it was something he’d always done. The strength of the senses in her imagination caused chill bumps on her skin in the present; she had been naked—physically, emotionally. It didn’t matter if it was a premonition of what was to come, or a mere reflection of her innermost desires for him. In that moment, she knew she was going to spend the rest of her life with him, no matter how short it might be.

She pulled away from him, overcome with emotion.

“Do you love me?” she whispered looking up at him through tears.

There was a crinkle of concern in his brow. She watched it slacken in the faint light coming from the sky. He swallowed, his nose brushing against her own.

“If I was Orion, and Zeus had put me in the sky, then you would be Pleiades, and I would spend the rest of eternity looking at only you.”

She clung to his neck in response, comprehending the fact that his answer didn’t surprise her. She wondered just how long she had already known.

“Do you love me?” he asked.

“Yes,” she murmured. “I love you very much.”

“What’s wrong, then?” he asked as she battled tears.

“Nothing,” she whispered, kissing him. “Everything’s perfect.”

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The first book in my Sophia’s War series is FREE from now until Tuesday (September 9, 2014). Books 2 (Lies and Allies) and 3 (Stalemate) are available for $0.99 for a limited time also! Get started on it today!

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