FREE BOOKS THIS WEEK!

I think we can all agree it has been a tough week (month… year…), so how about some free books?

For three days, all of my titles will be free across all Amazon sites worldwide in Kindle form. The whole Canna Medici mystery series, the whole Secrets of Spain series about the Spanish Civil War (including the mammoth three-in-one if you want to grab it as a set) and my most recent release, set in 19th century Valencia.

Never purchased a Kindle/e-book? You are late to the party, but I know there are still some of you out there. No need to have a Kindle, you can download the Kindle app on any device for free and the book(s) will also be yours for free.

There is a limit of 1,000 copies of each up for grabs, so if you want Night Wants to Forget, I suggest you get in quick because that particular title always sells out first.

The sale starts at 00:01 Wednesday June 7 and ends at 00:01 Saturday June 10. These times are PST, so check the time zone for your area. (It’s 7pm June 7 in New Zealand, 9am June 7 in Madrid, 3am June 7 in New York, as a reference)

Quick links (all other amazon sites are also eligible) –

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‘VENGEANCE IN THE VALENCIAN WATER’ NOW AVAILABLE: Read the first chapter free!

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Valencia, Spain: October 1957 – After a long hot summer, Guardia Civil officers José Morales Ruiz and Fermín Belasco Ibarra have had enough of their lives. Sick of dealing with lowlifes and those left powerless under Franco’s ruthless dictatorship, the friends devise a  complex system of stealing babies, to be sent away to paying families. But as the October rains fall, the dry Valencian streets fill with muddy water, and only greed and self-preservation will survive…

It’s 2010, and Luna Montgomery is busier than ever. With the mystery of her murdered grandfather solved, she reluctantly prepares to be the bride in Spain’s ‘wedding of the year’. But four more bodies lie hidden at Escondrijo, Luna’s farm in the Valencian mountains. Her fiancé, bullfighter Cayetano Beltrán Morales, is not eager to have his name brought up in a post-civil war burial excavation. When Cayetano’s grandfather José, an evil Franco supporter, starts to push his ideals on Luna, her decision to join the Beltrán family comes under scrutiny.

The Tour de France is fast approaching, and Luna’s position as a bike mechanic on Valencia’s new cycling team begins to come under pressure. When an ‘accident’ occurs at Escondrijo, lives hang in the balance as more of Spain’s ghosts come to life and tell the story of a flood in 1957…

CLICK HERE TO READ THE AUTHOR Q+A

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As promised, here is the first chapter to read ~

Agosto 1957 – Valencia, España

 Valencia. It was hot. Stinking hot. Not as hot as back home in Madrid, but still, when combined with the stench of a fly-ridden body, the heat was hell. The whole place was hell. At least while standing in Plaza del Temple, outside the Delegación de Gobierno building, there was a hint of a breeze.

José sighed as he pulled a packet of cigarettes from his pocket. Fuck, not many left. Perhaps some of his fellow funcionarios could start paying back the ones that they owed him. They would have to; he didn’t have a céntimo to spare for cigarettes. God forbid luxuries in this shithole. Why did his wife want to bring more babies into this world? For God and country, she would say. Our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ will bless us with a son, she would say. More appealing was the bonus that José would get from Franco for having more children. The Caudillo encouraged more children from his downtrodden population. It was a mystery how anyone could feed these extra mouths; a  Guardia Civil pay-cheque couldn’t feed more kids. But after four years of marriage, all José and his wife Consuela had produced was their daughter, Inés. It was staggering what a beautiful baby girl could do to man, even a hard police officer like Teniente José Morales Ruiz. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever laid his eyes on. His fellow funcionarios would howl with laughter if they knew how soft he was with this daughter. Especially since they knew how rough he was with the sons and daughters of his fellow Spaniards when he hauled them into the cells of this hot city. Upholding the law didn’t produce half the excitement José expected, so he needed to create his own.

“Sueñas, Morales?”

José glanced up from the dusty footpath and watched Teniente Belasco come towards him; the tall thin man looked sweaty in his dark green Guardia Civil uniform. “I’m not daydreaming,” he replied and poked his unlit cigarette back into his pocket. “Where have you been? I thought we agreed to meet here.”

Belasco glanced up at the 300-year old building behind his partner. His eyes traced along the triangular turrets of the Monastery del Temple attached to the government building. The original temple had been built to commemorate the conquest of the city in 1238. “Sorry, but when a member of the public needs a dose of Guardia Civil justice, I must go where I’m called. You know I love beating people.”

“Why did you leave me to submit your paperwork with the civil protection division today? I’m not your slave.”

Belasco gestured over his shoulder in the direction of the prison near the end of the river. “Had to throw a few whores in one of the cells on Paseo de la Pechina. Nasty bitches, too. The ones who scratch when you shove them.”

“The kinds you use in the night?”

“Yeah, one of them did look familiar. I tell you, the whores back home are far more beautiful.”

“You won’t ever get back to the Basque country,” José commented. “So stop dreaming about their whores. If they look anything like you, they must have faces like wild pigs.”

“I suppose you’re going to tell me that the whores in Madrid are better?” Belasco challenged.

“I wouldn’t pay to touch one of those skeletons. Christ, I wouldn’t do it if they were paying me.”

“Do you ever dream of returning home?” Belasco asked as he wiped the sweat from his brow in the midday sun.

“You know the rules,” José sighed. “No, the Guardia Civil needs us here. So, here we are, stuck in Valencia. I will go home one day. My life won’t be like this forever.”

“Ah, yes, the big dreams.”

“You bet. One day, I am going to save enough money to buy my own land and people will work for me. No more wrestling petty criminals and dirty whores.”

“I love being a bully in a uniform. Plus, it gets us paid.”

“We are not getting paid enough.” José studied his fellow officer. He and Fermín Belasco Ibarra had worked together for several years, and he was sick of it. Belasco lived in the Guardia Civil barracks, but spent most of his free time drinking and sleeping with women, whether they consented or not. This hard-hitting life spoke through Belasco’s features; he looked exhausted all the time. “I don’t know how much more of this life I can take.”

“What does that mean?”

“I don’t know.”

“You want out of the Guardia Civil? Fuck, no other work pays as steady as this. Sure, you can go home to Madrid, but then what? It won’t be happily ever after for you and the lovely Consuela if you starve to death.”

“Tell me about it.”

“If I had a pretty girl waiting at home, I might be a bit happier.”

“If you keep quarrelling with whores, the only thing waiting for you is a rash.”

“Too late for that.”

“Gracias, Fermín. Thanks for sharing.”

“We’re not all as lucky as you. You get a wife, a daughter, and permission to live outside the barracks on Calle de Calamocha.”

“Soy un hombre afortunado.”

“A very lucky man indeed.”

“One day, I will be just as lucky. I will go home to my beloved Basque nation and have a real life.”

“Don’t let any of the others hear you say that. May I remind you that the Basque country is part of España? Get in line, hermano, you are no different to the rest of us.”

“I thought I could trust you. I thought we were friends.”

José shrugged. “I could arrest you. Say you are an enemy of the State, and are plotting against Franco and the unity of España. And I would, too, if I would get something out of it.”

“Gracias.”

“De nada. If we were in Madrid…”

“Here we go again.”

“Shut up. If we were in Madrid, we could be part of an elite squad, out chasing rojos, the dirty red socialists who are hiding. That would give us some excitement.”

“Part of Franco’s special forces? They work here, you know.”

“But in Madrid, they’re catching the most dirty rojos, the filthy ones who got up to all sorts of treachery during the war. Those guys get to chase those pigs. They get to meet Franco. Valencia may as well be in the fucking desert compared to the action going on in Madrid.”

“It feels like the desert,” Belasco grumbled. He pulled at the collar of his heavy dark green jacket; beads of sweat ran down his neck as he did it. “Valencia saw plenty of action during the war, so surely there are loads of socialist pigs to catch here, too.”

“But we aren’t seeing any of that action. We are guarding cells full of whores and drunks.”

“One of them was dead in there this morning, you know.”

“Fuck, I know, I could smell him when I dropped off a pimp earlier.”

“And the truck isn’t taking him out to the cemetery until nightfall. They are stuck with the body all day.”

José glanced away from his worn black boots on the dusty path, and up out across the riverbed before him. Nearby limp trees were still in the heat. The river looked the same as always. Quiet. Innocuous. The river itself was 150 metres wide, yet the water that flowed was a tiny fraction of that, and the stream didn’t offer much water today. The rest of the riverbed was dry, and a few slum shacks had emerged. Those people would be royally fucked if the water level rose. But it was August, summer in full swing. It would be hot and dry for months ahead. That river wouldn’t come to life.

“There’s another one of ‘those’ in the cells today, those women who attack the clergy. Had to haul her out of Iglesia de Santa Catalina. She was in there, hurling abuse – and blows – at the priest. She had already injured two of the nuns.”

José turned and looked at his friend. He knew what Belasco meant. Nuns stole babies from their young mothers in the hospital, and the infants were sold at a profit through the priest – all against the mother’s wishes. Every church was the same, running the hospitals for their own desires. “Why was she arrested?”

“Assault. Might be able to throw in a few other charges, just to keep her quiet. She is a mess; a few months in the cells, and she will be dead. She was covered in blood, I guess from assaulting the clergy.”

“Or from giving birth.”

Belasco paused. “I don’t know about all that.”

“Me neither, but it can’t be pretty. I waited at the bar around the corner from my place while Consuela did all that.”

“This woman isn’t as virtuous as Consuela.”

“Just another whore?”

“When we pulled her off the priest, she was raving that she and her husband would have raised the baby, but he died back in the winter. But who knows. Either way, she is a single mother, and they suspected that she wasn’t a staunch Catholic, so they took the baby.”

“Don’t they usually just tell the mother that the baby is dead and show her a closed coffin?”

“They did; she didn’t believe them. Said she wanted to see the body of the girl. But by then, the baby had already been removed to be sold on to another family. A buyer was already lined up, someone more ideologically suitable for parenthood.”

“She probably deserved to have her baby taken.”

“They said she was speaking Valencian in the hospital while giving birth.”

“That’s a crime on its own. The baby is better off with a devoted Catholic family.”

“As they all are.”

José took off his dark tricorne hat and fanned himself with it. “Sometimes you have to wonder where all these babies are going.”

“A lot of cities developed a decent system where foreigners can come in and collect the babies. Those Americans who come in, they pay top dollar. Pity is, the system isn’t working so well here. The priests and the nuns work alone in public or private hospitals, and they are getting a large profit margin, but aren’t attracting many foreigners. Locals can’t afford to pay as much as extranjeros.”

“It sounds like a market to be exploited,” José mused.

“What are you saying?”

“Well, most of the babies are shipped out of here and on to bigger cities. There could to be a sort of go-between business that provides extra babies to the church. The church can sell them, and the baby-supplier gets a slice of the profits. They would get a slice of the foreign dollar. Imagine having a wad of American notes in your hand at the end of your work day.”

“What about our work here?”

“We could do both.”

“But wouldn’t that be stealing from the church? That money is for finding homes for disadvantaged children.”

José scoffed. “Targeting a vulnerable woman and taking her baby, or stealing a twin, is not done to save babies’ immortal souls. It’s for profit. Don’t tell me that it’s done because it’s God’s will.”

“Franco approves of the practice.”

“Franco is fostering a country where we all starve. Babies are stolen from their left-wing families, to create a population where he remains in power, by rearing the rebellion out of them. It’s crazy bullshit.”

“I could arrest you for saying that. Maybe you’re the enemy of the State, not me.”

“I just want to feed my wife and daughter. Plus, even with enough money – just – a man can only take so much paella.”

“Better than starving in Madrid, isn’t it?”

“But I took this job to see action! And where is it? Standing outside a set of cells filled with thieves and whores? They starve in the dark while I stand in the heat.”

“So, what, you want to be in the Brigada Especial in Madrid? The war ended 18 years ago, how many rojos can there be left to chase?”

“They killed my family,” José spat out. “Those Republican bastards shot my father, and my mother was killed in an air raid.”

“The town where I grew up is no longer on the map, thanks to air raids. I was lucky not to get shipped off to Russia to live out my days with the other orphans,” Belasco said. “But it’s old news.”

“I don’t feel like vengeance has been carried out sufficiently yet.”

“Maybe you should have joined the army.”

“The army is weak and pathetic. Anyone could take over España right now. At least the Guardia Civil has undisputed power.”

“Too much ambition, Morales. That’s your problem.”

“Franco rules this country and we help him do that. Why shouldn’t there be some benefits on the side?”

“Ask the boss later on then. He knows a lot of people, and he is getting plenty of benefits.”

“Whores, mostly.”

“Nothing wrong with that. Even respectable women, one angry word from people like us, and they are on their backs in fear.”

“I have no need for that.”

“Doesn’t mean you can’t indulge. Consuela doesn’t need to find out. Besides, she still hasn’t given you a son.”

“Shut the fuck up.”

“Hey, you could buy her a son for Christmas if that cock of yours doesn’t fire up often enough. Or practice on other women first. The choice is yours.”

“You’re a prick, you know that?”

“Hey, my prick is happy, when it isn’t itching.”

José swatted a fly from his face and shook his head in disgust as Belasco laughed. There had to be a better way of making a living.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE IN PAPERBACK

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Part 1: Vengeance in the Valencian Water Q+A (plus a FREE book)

Valencia, Spain: October 1957 – After a long hot summer, Guardia Civil officers José Morales Ruiz and Fermín Belasco Ibarra have had enough of their lives. Sick of dealing with lowlifes and those left powerless under Franco’s ruthless dictatorship, the friends devise a  complex system of stealing babies, to be sent away to paying families. But as the October rains fall, the dry Valencian streets fill with muddy water, and only greed and self-preservation will survive…

It’s 2010, and Luna Montgomery is busier than ever. With the mystery of her murdered grandfather solved, she reluctantly prepares to be the bride in Spain’s ‘wedding of the year’. But four more bodies lie hidden at Escondrijo, Luna’s farm in the Valencian mountains. Her fiancé, bullfighter Cayetano Beltrán Morales, is not eager to have his name brought up in a post-civil war burial excavation. When Cayetano’s grandfather José, an evil Franco supporter, starts to push his ideals on Luna, her decision to join the Beltrán family comes under scrutiny.

The Tour de France is fast approaching, and Luna’s position as a bike mechanic on Valencia’s new cycling team begins to come under pressure. When an ‘accident’ occurs at Escondrijo, lives hang in the balance as more of Spain’s ghosts come to life and tell the story of a flood in 1957…

It’s that time again. With time ticking away until Vengeance in the Valencian Water is released on January 24, it’s time I got onto answering some of your questions! I have merged some questions together, to answer as many as possible, but will post in a few parts. Let’s jump right in.

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1 ) What is Vengeance in the Valencian Water all about?

VITVW is the second in the Luna Montgomery ‘Secrets of Spain’ series, which continues right where Blood in the Valencian Soil left off. VITVW follows the same vein – two different time periods, with their own themes that are bound together by similar circumstances. VITVW is centred in Valencia 1957, with a Guardia Civil officer, José Morales and his battle against the struggles of Franco Spain. Common in this time period was the horrendous baby-stealing practices in hospitals, where the church would steal babies from mothers at birth and sell them, with the law on their side. José gets caught up in this vicious circle, only to find his real adversary is the Valencia flood of October 14 the same year. The story runs alongside the 2010 storyline of Cayetano Beltrán, José’s grandson, and his life with Luna Montgomery, which is under pressure. With the financial crisis weighing down Cayetano’s career as a bullfighter and the impending bankruptcy of his grandfather’s huge business, life is increasingly difficult. Luna is still struggling after the recession claimed her job in the first novel, and just as she finds some stability, her late husband’s alleged drug cheating as a professional cyclist rears its head. The long-awaited trial of a Spanish doctor caught doping Tour de France riders leaves Luna to face a legacy she never wanted to be part of. Luna continues pushing to dig up unidentified Spanish civil war bodies, the common clash in Luna and Cayetano’s relationship in BITVS. All the themes in both 1957 and 2010 interlink as ‘coincidence versus fate’ is again explored.

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Pretending to be researching in Segovia

2 ) How long did it take to write Vengeance in the Valencian Water?

I started writing in February ’13, with the intention of having the bulk of the storyline completed before my research trip in May. That failed dismally but while in Spain, I learned so many things. Once back from Spain I was busy with Violent Daylight‘s August release and the story went on hold. I didn’t get back to VITVW until October and finished at the end of November. The book dragged out longer than ever planned, and many ‘real-life’ things got in the way. I had the background for the book, with the research on the Valencian flood, the baby black market and the drugs in cycling done a year in advance, so when it came time to flesh out the book, there was no delay. Going to Spain to learn more about bullfighting and the reality of the recession in Spain really helped with the final touches. Because this book had swirled in my mind for so long, the writing was the final piece of the puzzle, rather than just writing and seeing where the book led, as I have done in the past.

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wonderful photo by @v_puerto

3 ) How can you justify being a fan of bullfighting? Bullfighting is grotesque, so why do you condone animal cruelty? 

I have heard it all. I have three things that attract internet trolls – bullfighting, supporting cycling (in NZ) and being a feminist. Bullfighting tends to bring out the animal in people themselves. I have been told I am vile, I am cruel, I don’t deserve to be a parent, I am disgusting, my family deserves to be hurt… the list goes on. Are all these people interesting in the way their meat was raised and processed? Bulls raised on ganaderías and sent to bull fights are treated like kings. Quality healthcare, exercise regimes, carefully controlled diets… none of those things are taken into consideration for the chicken or pork in your fridge. Yes, bulls are taunted and exhausted in the ring, surrounded by the real beast of bullfighting – the crowd – who hungers for the animal to die. Is that degrading? Yes – that is without question. Do I feel sorry for the bulls while they stand disoriented and weakened as they get stabbed to death? Absolutely! The combination of watching the animal die, combined with sitting beside people who love to watch the event is not a nice feeling at all. Am I trying to promote bullfighting? I’m not sure if that is even possible – people can make up their minds about the corrida long before they get there. Many argue on the side of tradition, and I can identify with that. Bullfighting is more than killing an animal. The toreros are fascinating men and their dance with death is something I could write about forever. They are brave, proud and skilled. They have a talent that is frowned upon in the modern age, and stand in the ring to cheat death of its right to claim them, and are both reviled and revered every time they do so. (Numbers of men wanting to be toreros is up, not down as expected). I have great respect for these men, but I have no desire to promote cruelty to animals. I don’t plan on opening minds to both sides of the argument – many minds cannot be opened. The bull is the orchestra, the torero is the conductor. The crowd chants for a kill. I don’t write to glamourise the event – in fact, if you read, you’ll find the books regularly grapple with the subject, and show there is more to a torero than his sword.

4 ) Do you need to read Blood in the Valencian Soil before you read Vengeance in the Valencian Water?

A tricky one. Yes and no. Book one tells the story of a lonely bullfighter and a grieving bike mechanic teaming up to unearth a civil war grave, running parallel to the 1939 storyline of their grandparents trying to flee Valencia at the end of the civil war. The story tells of how Luna and Cayetano meet and how unorthodox they are as a team. However, book two tells the story of them battling through the trials of 2010 Spain, alongside unearthing an all-new grave. The story does stand alone, and the book should give you enough of background that you don’t feel like you’ve been denied any detail. But they are designed to run together, with VITVW starting off just a month after BITVS ended.

5 ) Why have alternate storylines? Isn’t that complicated?

I’ve never had anyone tell me that alternate storylines is complicated. I personally feel that VITVW is even easier to follow than BITVS with the different time periods. The series tells the story of Spanish families throughout the civil war and Franco time period. BITVS is a snapshot of life in 1939, VITVW tells of 1957 Valencian life, and the third book (out 2015) tells the story of 1976 Spain, as the country comes to terms with Franco’s recent death. These times are pitted alongside modern Spain and the very real struggles that the nation is facing. Given the laws that the current Spanish government passes, there is no need to imagine fantastical fiction; reality continues to inspire in depressing ways.

Portal de la Valldigna ’57/’13 – Different and yet the same (photo courtesy of Juan Antonio Soler Aces)

I will be back with part two of the book Q+A in a few days, so if your question hasn’t been answered, have no fear! In the meantime –

For 48 hours only – Blood in the Valencian Soil is free on Kindle/Kindle App. Catch up for free before Vengeance in the Valencian Water is released!

(promotion runs from midnight January 9 until midnight January 11 PST)