Spotlight on Honey Baked Homicide by Gayle Leesom

The owner of a delightful Southern café tastes the sharp sting of suspicion in this delectable comfort food mystery . . .
It’s fall in Winter Garden, Virginia, and business at Amy Flowers’ Down South Café has never been better. So when struggling beekeeper Stuart Landon asks Amy to sell some of his honey, she’s happy to help. The jars of honey are a sweet success, but their partnership is cut short when Amy discovers Landon’s body outside the café early one morning.
As Amy tries to figure out who could possibly have wanted to harm the unassuming beekeeper, she discovers an ever-expanding list of suspects—and they’re all buzzing mad. She’ll have to use all of her skills—and her Southern charm—to find her way out of this sticky situation…

Excerpt from HONEY-BAKED HOMICIDE by Gayle Leeson


We were on our way back home when we saw an old pickup truck speeding in the direction of Landon’s Farm. In fact, it appeared to be Mr. Landon’s truck, but neither Ryan nor I could see well enough in the dark to determine if it was.

Ryan drove until there was a wide enough space on the shoulder of the road to pull over. Then he took out his cell phone and called the police station.

“Hi, it’s Ryan. I’m out on Route 11 just outside of Winter Garden. What appeared to be an antique Chevy truck just passed me going in the opposite direction. The vehicle is speeding, and I’d like for you to alert the officer on call—maybe contact the county dispatch as well.”

He ended the call and placed the phone back in the car’s center console.

“I’d hate for Mr. Landon to get a speeding ticket,” I said.

“We’re not sure that was Mr. Landon . . . or even if that was his truck. If it was, whoever was driving it took the expression drive it like you stole it to heart and deserves a ticket.”

“I hadn’t thought of that—that it could be his truck but not him driving. Maybe someone did steal Mr. Landon’s truck. How awful.”

Ryan picked up my hand and kissed it. “We don’t know anything for sure right now. Given what we know about Mr. Landon, I doubt that was him or his truck.”

“But we don’t know for sure. There could be something wrong. Let’s turn around and drive out to Mr. Landon’s place to see if we can help.”

“We can’t. I’m off duty, and we’ve already sent help his way. If anything’s wrong, the police will get Mr. Landon the help he needs.”

“I hope so,” I said. “I’ve got a really bad feeling about this. I can’t imagine Mr. Landon ever speeding down the road like that.”

“Would it make you feel better to call the man?”

“No. He might think I was crazy to call him at this time of night to ask him if he was speeding down the road. And like you said, it probably wasn’t him . . . or his truck.”

When I arrived at the café the next morning, I was surprised to see Stu Landon’s truck haphazardly parked at the far right corner of the lot. I took my usual spot in the parking space farthest away from the front door to the left of the building. Gathering my keys and purse and stepping out of the car, I could see Mr. Landon sitting in the driver’s seat of his truck. I gave him a smile and a wave, wishing he’d have let me know he’d planned on being here this early so I wouldn’t have kept him waiting.

He didn’t wave back, and I wondered if he was angry. Or maybe he hadn’t seen me. Then again, he could simply be preoccupied.

I unlocked the door, put my purse under the counter, and waited for Mr. Landon to bring in the honey I’d requested yesterday. When he hadn’t come inside after a couple of minutes, I went to check on him. Maybe he really hadn’t seen me arrive . . . or noticed my car in the parking lot. Unlikely, but I guess it was possible.

I walked over to Mr. Landon’s truck. No wonder he hadn’t seen me. His straw hat had slid down over his eyes. Had he been waiting on me for so long he’d fallen asleep?

I rapped my knuckles lightly on the window. “Mr. Landon?”

When he didn’t respond, I knocked a little harder. Still, no response. I was getting concerned. What if Mr. Landon had suffered a stroke or something?

I heard a car pull into the lot. I glanced over my shoulder and was glad to see Luis parking beside my Beetle. Luis was our busboy and dishwasher. He could help me get Mr. Landon out of the truck and inside the café if need be.

After knocking on the window again and still getting no response from Mr. Landon, I carefully opened the door of the truck. Mr. Landon began sliding out onto the pavement. Was that blood on his shirt?

“Luis! Can you help me?”

I heard Luis’s feet pounding the pavement as he ran to us. “What’s going on?” He gasped. “Amy, he’s bleeding.”

“I see that. And right now, he’s falling out of the truck. Could you help me get him?”

“I don’t think we should. Let’s put him back inside the truck and call for help.” He stepped between the door and Mr. Landon and gently pushed the man toward the passenger side of the truck.

Mr. Landon fell over and I could see that his throat had been cut. I was barely aware that I was screaming until I felt Luis’s hands on my shoulders.

“I don’t think there’s anything we can do for him,” he said. “Let’s get you inside.”

“No. No, we have to stay with him. We have to wait here until help comes.”

I heard Luis talking, but it wasn’t to me. He’d called 9-1-1.

“Thank you,” I said as he returned his phone to his pocket.

“You shouldn’t be looking at this.” He gently turned me away from Mr. Landon’s truck. “The man is dead.”

We walked a few feet away from the truck.

“You’re shaking,” he said. “You need to sit down.”

He needed to sit as badly as I did. Still, I wasn’t about to leave Mr. Landon until after the paramedics arrived.

“I’m fine,” I told him, knowing fully well that neither of us was fine.

I was relieved when I heard sirens approaching. Poor Mr. Landon was almost out of my incapable care.

Gayle Leeson is a pseudonym for Gayle Trent. I also write as Amanda Lee. As Gayle Trent, I write the Daphne Martin Cake Mystery series and the Myrtle Crumb Mystery series. As Amanda Lee, I write the Embroidery Mystery series.


I live in Virginia with my family, which includes her own “Angus” who is not an Irish wolfhound but a Great Pyrenees who provides plenty of inspiration for the character of Mr. O’Ruff. I’m having a blast writing this new series!

Updating an Older Manuscript By Karen McCullough

For the last few years, I’ve been working on getting rights back to most of my older published novels.  In some cases, this has been relatively simple. I had an agent for a while who did a good job of getting an excellent reversion clause written into my contracts. Once the books were out of print for five years, I could demand the rights back.


I’ve self-published several of those older books as ebooks. I’m not making huge profits on them, but since they’ve been out of print for ages, anything I make at this point is gravy. And I have had a few people ask how they could get my older works.


I re-edit all of them and even rewrite some before I release them to the public again. Some of the books can go with just minimal updating, but with others, I’m faced with a dilemma.


Several of those books were written and published in the 1990s and early 2000s. It’s astonishing to read back through those books and realize how much technology has changed in such a short time.


I debated whether to release them as they were, with just the usual rewrites or to update them. They’re in a gray zone timewise – the setting isn’t long ago, so they don’t really work as historical, but they don’t sound contemporary now either.


A couple of them worked with the addition of some technology that didn’t require significant changes in the plot. But, in some cases, newer technology wrought major changes in the plot. One of my early suspense novels had a computer programmer for a heroine. Computer technology has changed so much I had to completely rewrite that story before I released Programmed for Danger.


In another of my early romantic suspense novels, my heroine had to go to a library to do research she would now be able to do much more efficiently on her laptop using Google. That was a change that wouldn’t affect the plot itself too much. But when she was being chased by the bad guys, it could have made a huge difference if she’d had a cell phone. I finessed that by having the heroine lose her purse along the way in A Question of Fire.


My most recent release, Hunter’s Quest, was in a similar position. It’s never been published, but it’s been sitting on my hard drive for almost twenty years.  It was written for a specific publisher and line, but it didn’t make the final cut, so I moved on to other projects and forgot about it. I found it again last year while cleaning out older files. I re-read it and decided I still liked the story. Since I’d started publishing some of my older stories on my own I thought it worthy of releasing.


But first, it needed some rewriting and updating. Adding cell phones into the story was necessary but proved to be relatively easy. The setting in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina helped because there are still places there that have no service. (Verified by personal experience!) When using a phone would’ve made things too easy for my protagonists, I gave them no bars. I added in a laptop that isn’t actually needed very much.


Where I almost tripped up was in smaller things. Fortunately, I hired a sharp-eyed editor go over it. She pointed out a couple of things I read right over. Things that were normal at the time but aren’t now.


In one scene the hero consults a map for directions—a paper map. My editor noted that these days most people use GPS, either on the dashboard or a smart phone. I should know this. I haven’t consulted a paper map in years.


And then there was the car that had a bench seat in the front. Er, no. Following her instinct, the editor checked. The last sedan with a bench seat was made in 2014. Only a few SUVs and pickup trucks still have one.


And this is why I hire an editor. I should’ve picked up on those things myself, but I didn’t. And now I wonder what else we might have both missed? I hope readers will let me know if they find anything like that. I include my email address right at the front of the book for that purpose.


Blurb for Hunter’s Quest


Kristie Sandford’s vacation is interrupted when a man jumps out in front of her car. She avoids hitting him, but when she stops to see if he’s hurt, he demands she help him escape from the people chasing him. Kristie has an odd “gift” – she occasionally gets warning messages, and she gets one saying he needs her help or he’ll die. Jason Hunter is an NC SBI (North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation) agent working on his own time searching for a friend, an investigative reporter who disappeared while tracking down rumors of corruption in the bureaucracy of a small mountain town. Jason is grateful to Kristie for rescuing him, but dubious when she insists she has to continue helping him. Kristie is attracted to Jason, but the edge of danger she senses in him reminds her too much of the abusive family she escaped as soon as she could.

Still, the message said he’d die if she didn’t help him, and the messages have been right before.



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Karen McCullough is the author of more than a dozen published novels in the mystery, romantic suspense, and fantasy genres and has won numerous awards, including an Eppie Award for fantasy. She’s also been a four-time Eppie finalist, and a finalist in the Prism, Dream Realm, Rising Star, Lories, Scarlett Letter, and Vixen Awards contests. Her short fiction has appeared in several anthologies and numerous small press publications in the fantasy, science fiction, and romance genres. She has three children, three grandchildren and lives in Greensboro, NC, with her husband of many years.


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