Friday, June 10, 2016

"The Calamity Cafe" by Gayle Leeson

The Calamity Café
(A Down South Café Mystery Book 1)
by Gayle Leeson

The Calamity Café is currently on tour with Great Escapes Book Tours. The tour stops here today for a guest post by the author, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

First in a new cozy mystery series featuring Southern cooking that is to die for.
Aspiring chef and small-town Virginia native Amy Flowers is ready to open her own café offering old-fashioned Southern food. But her dream may go up in smoke when someone kills the competition ...
Tired of waiting tables at Lou’s Joint, Amy Flowers doesn’t just quit - she offers to buy the place from her bully of a boss, so she can finally open the café of her dreams. Amy can't wait to serve the kind of Southern, down-home treats and dishes that her grandmother always loved to the kooky cast of regulars at the restaurant. She knows her comfort food will be the talk of the sweet, small town of Winter Garden, Virginia.
At first Lou Lou refuses to sell, but when she seems ready to make a deal, she tells Amy to come see her.  Showing up at the eatery ready to negotiate, Amy is shocked to find her former employer murdered. As the prime suspect, Amy will have to clear her name by serving up the real killer - and with Lou Lou’s stack of enemies, that’s a tall order.
Includes delicious Southern recipes!

I took a deep breath, tightened my ponytail, and got out of my yellow Volkswagen Beetle. I knew from experience that the morning rush at Lou’s Joint had passed and that the lunch crowd wouldn’t be there yet. I put my letter of resignation in my purse and headed inside. Homer Pickens was seated at the counter with a cup of coffee. He was a regular . . . and when I say regular, I mean it. The man came to the café every morning at ten o’clock, lingered over a sausage biscuit and a cup of coffee, and left at ten forty. It was ten fifteen a.m.
“Good morning, Homer,” I said. “Who’s your hero today?”
“Shel Silverstein,” he said.
“Good choice.” I smiled and patted his shoulder. Homer was a retiree in his late sixties, and he chose a new hero every day.
You see, when Homer was a little boy, he noticed his daddy wasn’t around like other kids’ daddies. So he asked his mom about him. She told him that his dad had died but that he’d been a great baseball player, which is why she’d named him Homer. When Homer was a teenager, she’d finally leveled with him and said his father hadn’t been a baseball player . . . that he’d basically been a bum . . . but that Homer didn’t need a father to inspire him. Heroes were everywhere. Since then, Homer had chosen a new hero every day. It was like his inspiration. I looked forward to hearing Homer’s answer to my question every day I worked. When I was off from work, he told me who his hero was the day I asked plus the day I’d missed.
I could sympathize with Homer’s desire for a heroic father figure. My dad left Mom and me when I was four. I don’t really remember him at all.
“That apple tree? The one he wrote about? I have one like it in my backyard,” Homer said. “I cherish it. I’d never cut it down.”
“I’m sure the rain we’ve had the past couple of days has helped it grow. You bring me some apples off that tree this fall, and I’ll make you a pie,” I told him.
My cousin Jackie came from the back with a washcloth and a spray bottle of cleaner. She and I had waitressed together at the café for over a year. Jackie had been there for two years, and in fact, it was she who’d helped me get the job.
My mind drifted to when I’d come back home to work for Lou Lou. I’d just finished up culinary school in Kentucky. Nana’s health had been declining for the past two or three years, but it had picked up speed. As soon as I’d graduated, I’d come home and started working at Lou's Joint so I could be at Nana’s house within ten minutes if I was needed. I was only biding my time at first, waiting for a chef’s position to come open somewhere. But, then, Nana had died. And, although I knew I could’ve asked her for a loan to open a café at any time, I wouldn’t have. I guess I got my streak of pride from my mother. But the money Nana had left me had made my dream a reality—I could open my café and stay right here at home.
“Morning, Amy!” said Jackie. “Guess what—Granny says she has a new Pinterest board. It’s called Things I’d Love to Eat but Won’t Fix Because What’s the Point Anyway Since I Don’t Like to Cook Anymore.”

Praise for the Book
"This book had all the elements that I love in a cozy. The crime took place early on, and the plot stayed focused on the investigation, while weaving in Amy’s delicious Southern cooking and her pursuit of opening her own café. Lou Lou had many enemies, so figuring out whodunit wasn’t easy. Fun cast of characters, and some nice laughs along the way. A little romance too. I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next for Amy and the folks of Winter Garden, Virginia." ~ Book of Secrets
"This novel is so well written and didn’t seem to be fast paced but I did read it very quickly. The pages were flying. I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. The final reveal was totally unexpected. I hated for the story to end but then we had made it to the recipes! I want to try them all." ~ Lori Caswell/Dollycas
"This book has a wonderful cast of characters and were a joy to read about. I hope they all will become the same wonderful customers of the Down South Cafe." ~ F. Yoder
"Brilliantly penned by author Leeson, The Calamity Café is a fast paced story that will leave readers anticipating every new page. I know I did! From the discovery of the murder victim, to the surprising reveal, this is a solid mystery, and everything I look for in a cozy! I’m looking forward to reading this series for many years to come!" ~ Lisa Ks Book Reviews
"This is going to be a fantastic new series. This book has everything a cozy mystery needs, a strong character, a great support system of friends and family, intriguing mystery and a little bit of romance thrown in." ~ Lisa, reviewer at Haven't Got a Clue

Guest Post by the Author
Say It Right, Y’all!
I’ve got a little something stuck in my craw, but I’m going to do what I can to fix it. And I want y’all to help me. It’s about the word Appalachian. It is NOT pronounced Appalaychian. It’s Appalachian. Short a like in apple.
I tend to use that word as a measuring stick of how well TV and movie writers "know their southern." For instance, it was like fingernails on a chalkboard when I was watching Justified one night and heard (I believe) Boyd Crowder say Appalaychian. "No, Boyd, NO!" Those writers did and actors did so well with dialect and then…that word. When watching Big Stone Gap, I held my breath at the "Appa—" and released it with a relieved sigh at the "—lachian." I have to say, though, that I was a little disturbed at the way the actors pronounced the word married. It sounded like murried. I thought, "We don’t say married like that, do we? Do we?" And, no, I don’t think we do. Of course, some Appalachians might—there are several different dialects.
Admittedly, I didn’t think I had an accent at all until I visited a resort in my twenties. Everyone I met there asked, "Gayle, what part of the South are you from?"
The reason I didn’t believe I had an accent was that, compared to my grandmother, I didn’t. My grandmother could turn cornbread into a four-syllable word. I heard her do it. Her daughter—my aunt—was in the hospital and my grandmother was making dinner for the family. She said, "I don’t know what I’m going to fix Bud [two syllables, by the way]. He won’t even eat my co-rn-bray-ed." 
My other grandmother used words I’d never heard of, such as, kyarn. She’d say, "That stinks like kyarn." I mentioned it to my husband once and said I never did find out the meaning of kyarn. He said, "Road kill."  My jaw dropped.  "You mean, carrion?  Kyarn is carrion?"  "Yeah," he said.  "Put the Appalachian accent to it."  It made sense.
So, I did a little research and learned that the Appalachian region has its own language.  Linguists call it "Appalachian English."  The Scots-Irish settled the entire region known as Appalachia (all of West Virginia and portions of Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Georgia) in the mid-1700's.  At the time, physical boundaries kept modernization out.  Then in the 1940's, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was created; and that brought tourists to the area.  By the 1950's, highways and telephones were more prevalent throughout Appalachia, bringing the modern world another step closer to its rural inhabitants.
Now, I don't want you to think we in Appalachia are a bunch of snobs.  We realize that the same immigrants who settled here settled land elsewhere, but the linguists tell us that our speech patterns will not be found in any other dialect to the extent that they are in Appalachia.  In addition, we Appalachians use variants of our own speech patterns.  Just because I don't use the same words as my grandmothers doesn't mean that I don't have an Appalachian accent. In fact, the linguists say that each region has its own speech patterns and that most of us allow our situations to govern our speech.  For example, when I'm talking with my family, I'm liable to let down my guard a little—use a bit more Appalachian English and a bit less Standard American English.  In a more formal situation, I'll try to employ a lot less Appalachian English.  Even though I know from personal experience that most Appalachians are not "dumb hillbillies," I'm afraid that others might see me that way if I use the language I naturally use.  And yet, some phonological differences are so inbred, that I can't not use them.
Did you know that the "t" at the end of slept is not silent?  You might say, "I slept in this morning."  I would say, "I slep in."  To me, that "t" just doesn't feel right.  It reminds me of an episode of All in The Family where Edith met a Jewish baker and he called her "Edit."  She told him, "My name's Edith!  Th!"  So then he called her "Edit-th."  To me, "slep-t" would be every bit as awkward. 
The linguists also point out some lexical differences in Appalachian English.  For example, the Standard American English word might be faucet, but the Appalachian English version would be spigot.  If somebody looks sick, we might say, "he's peaked" (that's peek-ed).  Did you hurt your finger?  Then we might say you "stoved it up."  I once knew a man who substituted "for" for "because."  He'd say, "I need to go to the store, for I'm out of milk."  My brother would substitute the entire remainder of our family with the word "nim."  He'd ask me, "Did Mama and nim go to the store?"  Some people say "knowed" rather than "knew."  We're famous for our double negatives. "I don't have none of that."  Our present perfect tense has raised some eyebrows, too. "He's done done it now!"
This little foray into my Appalachian heritage has given me new insight.  We might chop off some of our "-ings"; we might "reckon" rather than "guess" sometimes; and we might have places with such outlandish names as "Lick Skillet," "Frog Holler" and "Sugar Loaf," but we have a rich history.  We know where we came from and, for the most part, where we're going.  And if anyone thinks we're a bunch of ignorant hillbillies, then you ought to come and get to know us a little better.  If you stay long enough, we might be able to teach you how to talk right. 

About the Author
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!

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.