Dancing Naked in Dixie
by Lauren Clark
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?
“But, I have plans. Every night next week. Tickets to the Met, a fundraiser, a gallery opening, and I have book club on Monday.” I don’t mention the Filene’s trip I’d planned. Or the romantic date I’ve been promising Andrew, my neglected boyfriend of four years.
David waves a hand to dismiss it all. “Marietta can handle the magazine-related responsibilities.” From the top drawer of his desk he produces an airline ticket and a manila folder with my name on it. He sets them on the edge of his desk. Something I can’t decipher plays on his lips.
I keep my voice even. “What about Bali?” I had planned to leave for the South Pacific a week from Friday. “It’s on my calendar. It’s been on there…”
David shakes his head. “Not anymore.”
The words wound me like a thousand bee stings.
“Alabama,” David repeats.
My face grows hot. He’s plucked me off a plum assignment without a thought to my ability and my schedule. My new boss is sending me to God knows where and he looks perfectly content.
“If that’s my next assignment,” I sputter, “I’d rather…I’d rather dance naked!”
The announcement comes out much louder than I intend and reverberates through the room. Dolores probably has her ear pressed to the door, but the phrase bounces off my boss like a cotton ball.
David smothers a chuckle. “Suit yourself.”
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 http://www.laurenclarkbooks.com.
GUEST POST BY AUTHOR LAUREN CLARK
The Deep South as a Setting for Dancing Naked in Dixie
There’s nothing like an authentic setting to create mood, emotion, and intensity for a story. Compare The Devil Wears Prada’s bustling, urban skyline with Gone with the Wind’s sprawling, lush cotton plantations. Then, there’s the stark Swedish landscape in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the complete opposite of Sophie Kinsella’s glamorous, Shopaholic London.
In Dancing Naked in Dixie, I wanted to explore the Deep South from a big-city travel writer’s perspective. When readers meet Julia Sullivan, she’s at home in the anonymity of New York. She perfectly happy disappearing into a bustling, crowded sidewalk, being whisked away in taxis, and jetting off to plush European resorts.
In tiny Eufaula, Alabama, there’s no place for Julia to hide. Faster than she can park her rented SUV, Julia is surrounded by the city’s unofficial welcoming committee. First, at the Citgo, she meets Alma and Stump, neither of whom waste any time announcing her arrival to the rest of Eufaula. Charming Shug Jordan–her host and tour guide–is ready and waiting–along with his sister and windshield-cracking niece. Not an hour later, Julia is introduced to Shug’s girlfriend, Mary Katherine, the flamboyant B&B owner Roger, and the entire Jordan family, including MeeMaw, matriarch and keeper of secrets.
Like many of us, Julia harbors many cliche and preconceived notions about an area of the country she’s never visited. While the city is boasts the typical BBQ joints, high-strung Southern debutantes, and SEC college football fanatics, her expectations are shattered when the people of Eufaula open their hearts and homes to embrace and care for a complete stranger.
Julia is invited to dinner at the Jordan home; and without realizing it, is drawn into an intimate, emotional conflict that threatens the very future of Eufaula. For the first time in a long time–Julia truly understands her job as a writer–and can visualize how those stories impact real people and communities. All at once, Julia slows down, taking the time to evaluate and appreciate her surroundings. With Shug’s help, she enjoys the delicious food, drinks in the rich culture, and learns about Eufaula’s strong, nearly two-hundred-year-old history.
I was fortunate enough to live near the Eufaula community for several years. It was a pleasure to spend a lazy afternoon walking along the wide sidewalks, admiring the gorgeous architecture, and looking out over the shores of nearby Lake Eufaula.
The people who live in Eufaula are welcoming, gracious, and lovely. The homes lining the historic district are magnificent and regal, full of ghost-stories and vibrant memories passed down through generations of families.
For those of you with a sweet-tooth, a wonderful location to check out is the Donut King…home of the best glazed melt-in-your-mouth confections I’ve ever tasted. After I’ve picked up a bag of doughnut holes, one of my favorite places to visit in Eufaula is the red-brick Carnegie Library.