Tuesday Taste – Hoaley Ill-Manored


 

Now in PRINT!

Now in PRINT!

A 200 year old manor house, a questionable death, and a cache of stolen jewelry. Who will kill to keep their secrets?

The gang flips a 200 year old manor house in the beautiful, rolling hills of Brown County, Indiana. Unfortunately the house is the site of a suicide, the result of a broken romance, and is rumored to be haunted. Adam and Maddy get caught up in the story of the young couple who were torn apart by family, local events, and something sinister that still seems to be stalking the house. It might not be a ghost, but whatever it is, it has the potential to be deadly.

 The Romance Reviews: “…a very enjoyable and rollicking story of wannabe detectives meeting villains who would rather their secrets stay hidden. Supported by some well-drawn characters and an intriguing plot line of interracial prejudice, murder and lost love, this story draws the reader in and provides a wonderful distraction to the realities of the real world.”

The Novel Approach: “As you read each novel, the characters become more alive to you, and more real. I found myself cringing and shutting my eyes and laughing, and sometimes scoffing along with the crew.”

~~*~~

“I knew the recent family of course. The last Bilsworth lived in this house up until ten years ago. They finally gave up on trying to keep the grand old lady running and sold out to a rich young man with no sense at all.” Edgar shook his head. “That was my last day at the house. I couldn’t stay on and watch the silliness that ensued.” He sighed. “But the original Bilsworths I learned about from my great-granddad. He worked for Mathew Bilsworth himself, but that was probably ten or fifteen years after.”

Adam lifted an eyebrow, tipping his water bottle for another drink. “After what?”

“After the first murder,” Edgar told him stoically.

Adam sprayed his water, showering Walter, who had been sprawled at his feet. Walter jumped up, wagging his tail. He thought they were playing spray the dog ’cause he’s hot. It was Walter’s favorite summer game. Adam sputtered, “first murder! There was more than one?”

At the screech in Adam’s voice Walter slunk out of the kitchen. He had a delicate psyche and generally went to great lengths to avoid negativity.

“Well, technically the second one was declared a suicide. But I never believed it.”

Instead of being appalled, or even surprised Adam noted, Maddy seemed even more excited by Edgar’s revelation. “Tell us! I knew about the more recent suicide. I didn’t realize there had been a murder in the house too!” She all but clapped her hands with delight.

Adam wanted to throttle her. Just once he wished they could buy and rehab a house that didn’t have skeletons in its closet…literally.

Edgar patted her hand and smiled. “Oh yes, dear, It was quite the scandal at the time. Young Mister Bilsworth was apparently a different sort…” Glancing uncomfortably at Maddy, Edgar cleared his throat, clearly embarrassed by young Mister Bilsworth’s differences.

Adam nearly smiled. “You mean he was gay?”

Edgar nodded, his pale gaze determinedly avoiding Maddy’s. “Yes. That was the story anyway. By all accounts he became…close…with a slightly older man he met in London and asked the young man, Jenks I think his name was, to come and stay at Bilsworth Manor for the summer. You can imagine how that went over with his father.”

Maddy nodded. “I’m guessing daddy Bilsworth wasn’t happy.”

“No indeed. Especially since old Mr. Bilsworth had been hoping to marry young Patrick off to the daughter of a wealthy landowner out East.”

Maddy leaned closer, clearly enchanted by the tale. “So what happened?”

Edgar shook his head. “I’m afraid Mr. Jenks was quite the scandalous fellow. Old Bilsworth asked around about him and discovered that things tended to disappear when Jenks was around. Expensive things, such as jewelry and gold. Nothing had been proved yet but there was considerable speculation that Jenks had forged a relationship with young Patrick so he’d have a way out of Dodge, so to speak, before he was arrested and hanged for his crimes in England.”

“Poor Patrick,” Maddy murmured.

Adam couldn’t help thinking Patrick must have been a unique kind of dope to fall for Jenks’s bullshit. “So despite the rumors that Jenks was a thief, Patrick Bilsworth fell for him and believed Jenks fell back?”

Edgar nodded, “It appears so. An unfortunate state of affairs to be sure.”

“So Jenks travelled to Bilsworth Manor from London,” Maddy prompted.

“Just ahead of the law apparently.” Edgar agreed. “From all accounts, Young Patrick insisted they throw a ball in his friend’s honor when Jenks arrived at Bilsworth. So old Mr. Bilsworth did the only thing he could. He invited every eligible female in the area to the ball, in the desperate hopes that young Patrick would come to his senses and throw Mr. Jenks over. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Apparently, young Patrick ignored all the pretty ladies and sat in a corner fuming as Mr. Jenks, who was by all accounts a very handsome fellow, flirted and danced quite happily with the ladies. In fact, the way my great-granddad told the story, Mr. Jenks fairly ignored young Patrick all night in favor of all the pretty flowers at the ball.” Edgar shook his head. “Love, thy touch is a fickle thing.”

“Amen and amen,” Adam added. “So I’m assuming Jenks’s behavior put a crimp in Patrick’s love?”

“Yes. Young Patrick and Jenks fought, quite loudly it seems, on the veranda that very night. Mr. Patrick threw Mr. Jenks off the premises and Jenks stormed away. Neither gentleman returned to the ball. It was later discovered that several very expensive pieces of jewelry disappeared from the necks and wrists of the ladies that night.”

Maddy shook her head. “How sad. But what about the murder?”

“The next morning, young Patrick came down to breakfast very upset. It seemed he’d had a change of heart about Mr. Jenks and demanded that his father help him find the man so that Patrick could apologize. I don’t have to tell you that Mr. Bilsworth was reluctant at best. But to that good gentleman’s credit, he did engage a search party. Mr. Jenks was finally found, but it was too late. He was hanging from the rafters of one of the slave cabins.”

Adam jerked upright, the bottle of water nearly slipping from his fingers. “Slave cabins!”

Edgar’s pale gaze slid to Adam, filled with surprise. “Why yes. You didn’t know about the cabins?”

Maddy gave an exclamation of excitement. “Are they still here? The cabins?”

“Only one I’m afraid.”

She stood up, apparently forgetting they were talking to a ninety-year-old man. “Can you show us where it is?”

“Mads…” Adam warned.

Edgar shook his head. “I’m sorry. I’m afraid these tired old legs wouldn’t carry me there. But I can tell you where it is. It shouldn’t be hard to find, despite the fact that the trees have quite grown up around it.”

“Did they ever discover who killed Mr. Jenks?” Adam’s mind was still stuck in the past.

“No. And the stolen jewelry was never discovered either. Many believe he hid them right here in Bilsworth Manor. But no one’s ever found them, though many have tried. The police have had their hands full, what with the treasure hunters and all those ghost people.”

Adam felt his eyes go wide. “Ghost people?”

“Yes, because of the hauntings of course.”

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Other books in the series:

A Hoale Lot of Trouble

Hoaley Inexplicable

Oh! Hoaley Night!

Monday Musings – Companion Planting Writ Large


Garden

My First Garden – And Miss Delilah!

 

For the first time, this year, I’ve planted my own vegetable and fruit garden. I’m very excited about my new project and I’m learning a lot. One of the things I’ve learned is that it isn’t necessary to plant things far apart, over vast areas in a garden. In fact, in almost every case, it makes more sense to tuck plants together. The concept is fairly simple. Basically you plant tall plants next to shorter plants that need less sun, to shade them. You plant vining plants next to stalk plants so they can climb them. Some flowers repel bugs, so you plant those between your veggies to discourage pests. Some plants attract beneficial bugs to eat the bad, veggie eating bugs. Those have a place in your garden too. It all makes perfect sense to me and it’s a fun way to plant. I like the idea that the marigolds are protecting the cabbage and the garlic is helping my roses.

The concept made me think about how it could translate to human interactions. We’re constantly fighting the urge to separate ourselves legally, geographically, domestically, or according to any number of racial, religious, financial, gender/sexual or other parameters. We’re placing ourselves far apart over vast emotional and cerebral areas, when it seems logical that we should all work together…supporting each other…to create a healthier, more vibrant outcome.

Why can’t we view real life as a companion plot, wherein the strong/advantaged provide support for the weaker/disadvantaged and the weaker remind the stronger how to be humble and kind and how to enjoy the simple pleasures of life. In this scenario, the unique qualities of each would be expanded and enhanced by his/her companion’s unique qualities. Everybody contributes. Everybody wins. Everybody grows.

It sounds like a good way to live to me.

Friday Flash – Crunchy


Friday Flash, courtesy of Changeling Press: *** You agreed to pet sit not realizing what kind of pet your friend has (hint — it’s not a typical pet). ***

 

I arrived at my pal David’s house with a box of dog biscuits and a laser light toy…certain I was prepared for everything. He’d been vague about the type of pet he wanted me to watch, so I’d come prepared for the usual types. I was actually looking forward to having a couple of days to myself in his new place, though I wondered at the location. David had recently returned from Ireland and promptly moved from his cozy loft to a drafty, concrete crib at the edge of town. I glanced around before knocking, taking in the broken glass along the front of the beaten down warehouse building and the colorful display of gang art over the chipped surface of  the street-side wall.

Light flared behind the dirty glass of the nearest window. Something shot through a hole in the glass, leaving behind a fog of gray smoke.

“What the hell?” I started toward the window, intending to look inside.

The door opened and David stood there, a smile on his face and smoke wafting upward from his spiky blond hair. He took one look at the dog biscuits and laser toy and shook his head, handing me a fire extinguisher and a length of chain. “Don’t unlock the manacles and whatever you do, don’t let him see you naked.” David trotted down the steps, a wide grin on his face. “Have fun!” he called over his shoulder.

“Wait…” Stunned, I watched him climb into his car and screech away. With a deep sense of foreboding, I swallowed hard and pushed the door open. I stopped, my nerveless fingers releasing the extinguisher. It rolled out of view.

The creature standing twenty feet away from me, chained to the wall, stared at me through a hostile, turquoise gaze and flapped jagged silver wings. Ever so slowly, its naked humanoid body tightening with interest, the thing smiled, licking lush lips with a long, purple tongue.  “Oh good, he gave you the chain.”

I frowned.

“Come on, sweet piece. Close the door and I’ll tell you my safe word,” it drawled.

I shoved the door closed and stepped back, keeping as much space between me and what looked like a cross between a man and a dragon as I could. “What the hell are you?”

The thing smiled, showing jagged teeth and two perfect dimples that made my knees wobble just a little.

“I’m your fondest dream…” Smoke wafted from the creature’s mouth as his features sharpened, darkening to purple. “And your worst nightmare.”

I thought about this for a moment and then grinned. That definitely sounded promising. “Oh. Okay,” I responded. Clutching the chain tightly in my fist, I started forward. “So, what’s your safe word?”

The creature’s dimples deepened with pleasure. “Crunchy.”

I stopped, frowning, and then shrieked as he shot fire in my direction.

Well…that certainly explained the fire extinguisher.

 

Tuesday Taste – A Hoale Lot of Trouble


 

 

Sexy gay construction company owner,  Adam Hoale, sometimes gets more than he bargained for when he flips a house!

Adam Hoale owns a construction company called, predictably, Hoale Construction. When he finds an eye opening surprise in the walls of a house he’s flipping, and a libido flaring surprise standing on the lawn, he’s willing to do the right thing with the surprise in the wall while entertaining dirty thoughts about the surprise on the lawn.

But as the world finds out what he discovered, and his new boy toy seems to be keeping too many secrets to make a relationship a reality, Adam soon realizes he may just get flipped himself if he’s not careful.

 

The Novel Approach “Strongly Recommends” the Hoale Construction Mystery series! “I really enjoyed these books. They are light, fun, the sex is really hot…”

5 Stars from The Romance Studio: “This is a very good story from beginning to end and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. The author has written this one so well I could have sworn I was part of the story as the characters felt like old friends. They are well drawn in a clever, solid plot that is very inviting. The romantic aspect is charming and realistically written with some mysterious elements also. I really loved this book. The author took a simple theme and made it into something grand. A Hoale Lot of Trouble is the first in a new mystery series. I can’t wait to read what’s coming next.”

4 Stars from The Romance Reviews: “I really enjoyed this quirky, fast paced, mystery story from Declan Sands. … a wonderful well written romp of detective like proportions, steamy in the bedroom/out the bedroom interludes between Adam and Dirk and a seething tide of emotional baggage and secrets that threaten to spill out and endanger everyone involved. I definitely want to read the rest in the series.”

~~*~~

By the time Adam finally got home that night, Walter was sitting cross legged in front of the door and almost ran him over trying to get to the grass to pee. Exhausted, with his mind roiling under the load of worries and problems, Adam just wanted to grab a beer and a hot shower, and hit the sheets.

The beer was easy enough. But as he tipped it and took the first, big swallow of the icy brew, Walter started barking. Walter only barked at people. Mostly people who were in places they shouldn’t be.

Adam hurried to his office and quickly unlocked the bottom drawer of his desk, pulling out his 38 special. He checked the chamber as he moved quickly to the front door of the office, but by the time he pulled the door open, Walter had stopped barking.

He flung the door open, holding the 38 down by his side, and gasped.

“Hey!”  Dirk stood with one foot on the threshold and one hand resting against the brick of the building’s exterior. He was dressed in fashionably tattered jeans and an oversized Colts sweatshirt. His big feet were covered in loafers, a golden line of skin showing below the hem told Adam he was sans socks.

Dirk had always hated footwear. He liked to tell Adam he had hot feet. Adam completely agreed, in a non foot-fetish kind of way. Everything about Dirk was hot.

“How’d you find me?”

“I went to your old place first and found out you’d sold it.” Dirk lifted an eyebrow in question but didn’t ask.  “I thought I’d just give the office a shot.”

“Yeah. It was stupid to pay rent on two places.” Adam placed the gun on a small table by the door and peered around the frame. “Where’s Walter?”

“Pooping on the plumber’s lawn.”

Adam grinned, giving Dirk a high five. He hated the plumber who owned the business next door.

“So…what did you do with the woman who’s named after a popular, upscale department store?”

Dirk frowned for a moment, then grinned as he realized Adam was referring to Macy, his date from earlier in the evening. “She’s at home, I think. Her home. Though I’m pretty sure she was making plans to go clubbing with friends.”

“Ah. So she knew she was just ‘Distract-o-Date’?”

Dirk laughed easily, leaning against the doorframe and crossing his arms over his chest. “Macy’s an old friend. She and I have never dated romantically.”

As if romance was really even an option for Dirk when it came to the boob and clitoris set.

“Ah.” Adam peered around the door again. “What’s taking Walter so long?”

“I think he’s harassing a squirrel.”

“Walter!” A moment later the big dog loped over, slavered a long, tender lick up the denim covering Dirk’s well muscled thigh, and slipped past Adam. The ruffled arch of his long tail slammed against the door frame as he passed.

An awkward moment ensued, during which Adam tried really hard to think of a way to just close the door and not invite Dirk inside.

“Can I come inside?”

Adam caught Dirk’s gaze and held it, terror thumping against his ribs. He knew only too well what would happen if he let Dirk in. “Um. I…ah…I was just going to take a shower…” Oh good lord!

Dirk’s expression brightened. “Perfect. I’m feeling a little dirty myself.” He took a step closer, trying to push Adam backward into the room.

Adam held his position, but Dirk’s chest was so close a deep inhalation would have them touching. His breath danced across Adam’s face, smelling of minty freshness and heated memories. Adam gulped, swayed, his hand came out to touch the doorframe, steadying himself.

Dirk leaned in and swiped his tongue across Adam’s bottom lip. “Mmm, beer.  I could get drunk just kissing you.”

Despite the bad movie line, Adam’s cock pressed against his pants, his balls tightened. Pain throbbed in his chest. He’d been holding his breath. Releasing it slowly, he tried to step away, but Dirk’s hand grabbed his wrist. His arm snaked around Adam’s waist, and suddenly their bodies were pressed tightly and Dirk’s lips crushed his. God help him, Adam’s mouth opened as his hands wrapped around the other man’s shoulders.

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Monday Musings – Morel Shmorel!


Okay, I’m convinced that Morel mushrooms, you know the ones that look like a human brain on a stick, are nothing but an urban legend created to make people like me feel inadequate.

Seriously! I’ve spent hours picking through my woods, following the sage advice of supposedly experienced mushroom hunters, and have so far come up with exactly squat. Is it possible that my little neck of the woods (literally) is the only 14 acre plot of forest in the entire country that hasn’t a single brain on a stem within its boundaries? I mean, is that possible?

Come on mushroom hunters…you can admit it here…I won’t tell anybody…hehehe…It’s all a cruel joke isn’t it? Nobody’s ever found Big Foot either. Or the Loch Ness monster. I’m picturing old giganto paw and his friend Nessie sitting somewhere together chomping brains on sticks.

All the sage advice: “Look in the shadow of a dead Elm tree.”   Been there.   “No, no search beneath an Ash tree.”   Done that.   “Poke around with a stick and the stupid things will appear before your very eyes like sprites in fairyland.”  Yeah right.

I’ve been had. I’m morel-less.  And I’m not going to fall for the bullshit again.

Wait…What? Where? Are you sure…because I’ve just about worn my mushroom hunting stick completely down to the nubs? It’s now a hunting toothpick. Okay. Yeah, I’m coming. Just give me a minute…

Erm, okay, I have to go…um…clean a bathroom right now.

I’ll talk to you later. And don’t worry, I’ll say hi to Big Foot for you.

Snort!

 

Monday Musings – Name the Movie of Your Life


I was asked in a recent interview what the title for the movie of my life would be. I responded, only partly in jest, that my life story would be entitled The Storm Cometh.

It’s true, I pretty much have my own black cloud. It keeps me company wherever I go, flinging lightning bolts and rain down on my head whenever I even think about feeling content. But that’s okay, I told the interviewer, adversity builds character and everybody who knows me knows I’m a hell of a character. #:0)

The interesting thing is that, in the big things I’m very lucky. I have people whom I love and who love me, I’m healthy, and I live a comfortable, interesting life. Most importantly, I’m a writer so I get to do what I love most for a living!

It’s just the small things, the dribs and drabs of everyday existence that tend to hit me in the face like a shaving cream pie. Win a prize? Not a chance. I go to one conference every year with a writer friend of mine. Competing against hundreds of people at this conference, she repeatedly wins multiple raffle baskets. Every year. And she doesn’t have a lot of money so she drops a limited number of tickets. She’s very lucky like that. I could be in a pot with one other person and have dropped four times more tickets and still lose. That’s me. If I order something, it’s pretty much a guarantee it will be defective when I get it. I’ve planned a picnic? You might want to take an umbrella when you leave the house that day. Diets make me fat. Bargains nearly break my bank. The book that should have taken the reading world by storm…HATED…by one and all.

So, have these little setbacks…these constant nose flicks made me a stronger person? Maybe. Or maybe they’ve just improved my sense of humor. Who knows? If that’s the only outcome I’ll take it. Laughter is the greatest gift of all.

Even if it usually gives me hiccups.

Sigh…

Friday Flash – Good God! I Need to Pee!


Many thanks to Zenobia Renquist for this fun Friday Flash premise, posted on the Changeling Press Yahoo site. ***Every doorway in your house leads to a different time or a different dimension and you really, really, REALLY need to get to your bathroom.  ***

I crawled wearily out of bed, my full bladder dragging me from sleep. Plodding to the bathroom I ran up against a closed door. “What the hell…?” I grasped the handle and screamed as heat seared my palm. Dragging my sleeve over my hand I grabbed the handle and turned it, fast.

Flames shot from the floor and danced on the air, coloring the fixtures in my bathroom in vibrant orange and red.

“Hey there,” said a husky voice.

My gaze shot to the toilet, where a sexy, naked demon sat, a New York Times clutched in his big hands. “I’ll be done in a minute.”

Squealing, I slammed the door shut and moon-walked to the hall bathroom. I’d deal with the demon on the toilet later.

The door to the hallway bath was closed too. I frowned, tentatively touching the handle to make sure it wasn’t hot. The door opened without mishap. But a white mist wafted out, sending the smell of Ozone into my face. Hopping on one foot, I peered through the fog. “Who’s in there?”

The shower door opened and ahandsome face popped out. Wide, blue eyes blinked at me and a soggy wing drifted through the opening before the angel yanked it back. “Oh, sorry. Do you need to get in here?”

I hopped again, my hands diving down to cup my groin. “Um…Yeah.”

The angel turned the water off.  “Can you hand me my halo, over there?”

Something in the blue gaze warned me. A devious light flared and the perfect, square jaw tightened slightly.

“I shook my head. I’m not coming in there.”

He cocked his golden head. “Don’t you have to pee?”

I backed away. “I’ll pee outside.”

Locks clicked all over the house and a terrifying awareness slammed through me. Trapped!

The angel shrugged. “Sorry. I guess you’re gonna have to choose…your bladder or your soul.”

A deep voice called to me from my bedroom. “Bathroom’s free.”

I looked from the devious angel’s face, to the flickering orange light coming from my bedroom, thinking fast. Finally I shrugged and slammed the door. I’d just pee on the flames in my bathroom and call it a day.

Problem solved. Maybe the sexy demon would like to try out my new mattress with me.

 

Have a great weekend, everybody!