Thursday, June 21, 2012

Dancing Naked in Dixie

Lauren will be awarding a $25 Amazon GC to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour.

Lauren Clark is going to tell us what sets life in the South apart from the rest of Julia's (Dancing's heroine) travel experiences.

Julia Sullivan lives at twice the speed of life, traveling to the far-reaches of the globe to bring Getaways magazine's readers the latest on fabulous resorts and exotic new destinations. She's quite content visiting different cities and meeting new people every day. The constant change doesn't allow Julia to get attached to anything or anyone. This is her comfort zone, as Julia is still nursing wounds from her mother's death and father's abandonment.

As a travel writer, the five-star hotels and celebrity restaurants also have Julia a bit spoiled. Her view of the world skewed, as she doesn't spend time in the 'trenches.' Though she's aware of how the economy has impacted America, she's still naive. The day-to-day struggles, especially in small towns, aren't really on Julia's radar.

Her trip to the Deep South is a bit of a shock because there's no disappearing into a crowd, no skyscrapers, no blending into the scenery. The people of this Eufaula -- in a very loving way -- won't let it happen.

Julia's stop at the Citgo is a prime example. Elma broadcasts her arrival to the far reaches of Eufaula, all of fourteen thousand people. For those who don't catch the news, her visit is also made public knowledge at the Honeysuckle Cafe. Julia is questioned and examined like an (adorable) alien who's landed her space ship on the White House lawn.

When invited to dine with the Jordan family at their home, this very personal connection throws Julia even more off-balance. She sees the inner-workings of this family, the passion with which each member loves Eufaula and the Pilgrimage, and how much her visit really means to this historic community.

As Julia spends more time with Shug and his family, she discovers that progress may destroy this lovely city as she knows it. For the first time in Julia's life, her assignment becomes more than words on a page. Her article, and how she chooses to write it, will affect the future of Eufaula and the people who live there.

For anyone who's visited the Deep South -- likely because of the intense heat of the summer -- you know that everything operates at a much slower, more languid pace. People aren't in such a hurry. Almost everyone is friendly, waves, and will offer a hand if you're in trouble. Be prepared for a conversation while shopping at a store or having lunch at a cafe -- it's considered rude not to comment on the weather, church happenings, or make general small talk.

If you love comfort food, no region of the country does it better than in the South. From the golden fried chicken and fall-off-the-bone ribs to peach cobbler and fresh banana pudding, meals here are savored, shared, and celebrated. Often, in the evenings in my own neighborhood, everyone sits out on their porches to enjoy the occasional breeze and share a chilled glass of sweet tea with friends.

Pride in community, family name, and Southern history is fierce. College football has a cult following, especially in Alabama where there are no professional teams. From birth, children are dressed in orange and blue for Auburn University or crimson and white for the University of Alabama. There are many folks who will still argue that the Confederacy should have won the "War of Northern Aggression."

Life in the South isn't perfect -- as Julia finds out -- there are fire ants that bite and stinging insects that will attack when disturbed. The snake population is live and well, especially in the country. Tiny green lizards love to hang out on my azalea bushes. One occasionally makes it into my house. I still shriek in surprise when I see one, even after years of living here. (I grew up in Upstate NY)

Julia, at the outset of the novel, sees a visit to the Deep South as punishment. She announces loudly to her boss that she'd rather "dance naked" than go on assignment to Eufaula, Alabama. Realizing that she might lose her job, Julia makes the trip, and the visit ends up changing everything in her life for the better.

Have you ever had an experience similar to Julia's? What good came out of it?


Travel writer Julia Sullivan lives life in fast-forward. She jet sets to Europe and the Caribbean with barely a moment to blink or sleep. But too many mishaps and missed deadlines have Julia on the verge of being fired.

With a stern warning, and unemployment looming, she's offered one last chance to rescue her career. Julia embarks on an unlikely journey to the ‘Heart of Dixie’—Eufaula, Alabama—home to magnificent mansions, sweet tea, and the annual Pilgrimage.

Julia arrives, soon charmed by the lovely city and her handsome host, but her stay is marred by a shocking discovery. Can Julia's story save her career, Eufaula, and the annual Pilgrimage?  


I’m a travel writer at Getaways magazine. Paid for the glorious task of gathering up fascinating snippets of culture and piecing them into quirky little stories. Jet-setting to the Riviera, exploring the Great Barrier Reef, basking on Bermuda beaches. It’s as glamorous and exhilarating as I imagined.

Okay, it is a tad lonely, from time to time.

And quite exhausting.

Which is precisely why I have to get organized.


I sink into my chair and try to concentrate. What to tackle first? Think, think.  

“Julia Sullivan!”
Third reminder. Uh-oh.

Marietta rolls her eyes and jerks a thumb toward the inevitable. “Guess you better walk the plank,” she teases. “New guy’s waiting. Haven’t met him yet, but I’ve heard he’s the ‘take no prisoners’ sort. Hope you come back alive.”

I grope for something witty and casual to say, but all of a sudden, my head feels light and hollow.

I’ve been dying to find out about the new editor.

Every last gory detail.

Until now.

“I’m still in another time zone,” I offer up to Marietta with a weak smile. My insides toss from side to side as I slide out of my chair.

Marietta tosses me a wry look. “Nice try. Get going already, sport.”

I tilt my head toward the hallway and pretend to pout. When I look back, Marietta’s already disappeared. Smart girl.

“Fine, fine.” I tug a piece of rebellious auburn hair into place, smooth my wool suit, and begin to march toward the inevitable.

Our new editor.

My neck prickles.

I’m not going to worry. Not much anyway.

My pulse thuds.

Not going to worry about change. Or re-organization. Or pink slips.

Focus, Julia.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Lauren Clark writes contemporary novels set in the Deep South; stories sprinkled with sunshine, suspense, and secrets.

A former TV news anchor, Lauren adores flavored coffee, local book stores, and anywhere she can stick her toes in the sand. Her big loves are her family, paying it forward, and true-blue friends. Check out her website at


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Lauren today.

Shelley Munro said...

I love to travel and explore new places, so I haven't had an experience like Julia. I'd love to visit the South one day.
All the best other your new release :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Shelley :) I think the most interesting experience for me was visiting Germany. I had some ideas about what I thought it would be like, but in many ways, the country and the people way exceeded my expectations! Even though I didn't speak the language, people were helpful and friendly and the country was beautiful. I'm so glad I had the chance to go. xx, Lauren

Anonymous said...

Wow Sandra - I've been looking at all of your book covers on the side of the blog~ You are one busy writer!! Thank you for taking time to feature Dancing Naked in Dixie today ... I'm really glad to be here! I appreciate the opportunity for the guest post and enjoyed writing about what sets life apart in the Deep South! All the best, Lauren

Sandra Cox said...

Hey Lauren, Its a pleasure to have you. Love the title and cover of your book. You're going to do well.

Hi Shelley, Glad you stopped by.

Goddess, my pleasure

Lisa Cox said...

Wow, you are one busy writer!
All of your books sound great, but I'm really looking forward to Minder.
lisa at vetteklisa dot com

MomJane said...

I have never experienced anything like Julia. I like to think I would love new places and new things. I know that she did eventually.

Sandra Cox said...

Thanks, Lisa Cox:)

Thanks for stopping by Jane.

Joanne said...

Lauren's book sounds fantastic. Can't wait to read it it see Julia out of her element.

Anonymous said...

I haven't had total culture shock like that, though being the only arts major in a dorm full of engineering students came close!


Sandra Cox said...

Joanne, it does sound good doesn't it?

Vita, too funny:) My daughter was an art major too.

Unknown said...

new follower through GFC as lucyatmax. Would love it if you return the follow at
I just signed up through CBLS promotions....can't wait to have a gorgeous blog!

Sandra Cox said...

Thanks, will do, Beth:)

Anonymous said...

Vita ~ That is hilarious (I haven't had total culture shock like that, though being the only arts major in a dorm full of engineering students came close!)

Yes, I still can't reliable add up a large sum of figures without a calculator, and even then, it's iffy :)

I'M A TOTAL right-brained girl and proud of it!!!

xx, Lauren

Anonymous said...

MomJane ~ Okay. I would love to know where you would send Julia .... if you could go with her?

xx, Lauren

Anonymous said...

Joanne - Thank you for stopping by Sandra's lovely blog! I adore the pink and brown and butterflies :)

xx, Lauren

Anonymous said...

Sandra ~ Thank you for the lovely comment about the book cover! I can't take a bit of credit other than to say "Could you put some red polish on her toes?" LOL

I was lucky to have an Excellent cover designer who just GOT what the book was about and executed it with the cover. Sigh. If only everything could be so easy :)

Thank you again for hosting Dixie today, Sandra!

xx, Lauren

Sandra Cox said...

Lauren, I love when that happens:) Funny about 'could you put some red polish on her toes':)

bas1chs said...

Thanks for featuring Dancing Naked in Dixie on the blog. I haven't experienced this myself so I can only imagine.

bas1chsemail at gmail dot com

Sandra Cox said...

My pleasure. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

Catherine Lee said...

The South DOES have great comfort food, including fried chicken and banana pudding. And, as a big city girl originally, I have not quite adjusted to people "knowing my business." That is a Southern THANG.

Mary Preston said...

I had the opposite experience. I went from quiet country living to living in a huge city. Scary, but wonderful too.


Sandra Cox said...

My former boss made homemade banana pudding. OMG. It was wonderful.

Marybelle, quite a change...