15 October, 2012

#SpecialFeature:: Dancing Naked in Dixie by Lauren Clark

*** SPECIAL FEATURE - October'12 ***
"Dancing Naked in Dixie is a must for modern fiction collections." - The Midwest Book Review

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?

An Excerpt

Chapter 5

“Are you always in such a hurry?” Shug asks, his voice slow and steady compared to my frantic pace. My usual velocity is hyper-drive. Get there as fast as I can, I don’t care if I break my neck, or the speed limit.
            “Oh, sorry,” I slow my brisk stride into a leisurely walk, “hazard of living in the City. Everyone’s in a rush, twenty-four seven. Always someplace to go, somewhere to be. When I was younger, I used to wish I didn’t have to go to sleep—you know, so I didn’t miss anything.”
            Shug gives me a strange, amused look. If he thinks I’m crazy, at least he is polite enough not to say so.
            “Where are we going anyway?” A towering statue of a Civil War soldier stares off into the distance as we cross the intersection.
            “Honeysuckle Diner,” Shug answers, “just down the street a piece.”
A piece. How cute.
            Shug describes the thick French toast and warm, buttery cane syrup. Fluffy eggs. Sausage and grits. Suddenly, I’m famished. Seconds later, we arrive at the door.
            “Yoo-hoo,” a simpering voice calls out from across the street. A car door slams.
No. We can’t stop. The smell of fresh-baked biscuits makes me weak. I try to tell Shug telepathically that I’ll die if we don’t go inside now. I look longingly at the Honeysuckle Diner. Shug is completely distracted.
            And then I see why.
            Thigh-high boots on a pair of long legs, a short red skirt over tights, and a sequin-trimmed sweater. Topped off by a thick, shiny mane of white-blonde hair and a mega-watt smile.
            The girl blows a kiss and waves, as if we might somehow miss her or the white Mercedes convertible she just poured herself out of. Gosh, people are friendly down here. And gorgeous.
            I glance down at my standard New York garb—black head to toe. What else did I pack? Oh, right. Almost everything I own, down to my panties, is black.
            So what? I argue with myself. Why compare myself to a random girl on the street? Someone I’ll never see again.
            “Um, that’s my girlfriend,” Shug leans closer to explain. “Mary Katherine.” He gestures for her to come across the street.
            Of course. So, she’s not a random girl. Lovely. I’ll bet we’ll be seeing her every day.
But Mary Katherine shakes her head coyly, points a finger to her cell phone, and steps onto the opposite sidewalk. By the time I decide to wave back, she disappears around the corner.
Shug doesn’t seem bothered in the least. He holds open the door to the diner.
Sweet salvation.
            My knees weaken at the sight of steaming breakfast plates on every table. Raucous laughter, animated conversation, and the clang of pots and pans from the kitchen make it almost impossible to hear. Shug motions for me to follow him, but stops every few feet. He shakes hands, exchanges back slaps, and chuckles as we move through the crowd.
            Curious stares follow us. Polite, inquisitive looks. A wrinkled forehead, pursed lips, a raised eyebrow. If I make eye contact, which I’m trying not to do, the person smiles brightly and chirps a greeting.
            Great. I can imagine what they are dreaming up. Star magazine-type rumors, followed by a heinous paparazzi photo. I see it all too clearly. The headline will read:  Who’s that girl? Is Shug Jordan cheating on Mary-what’s her name?
            Oh well. There’s always food. At least I’ll die embarrassed and happy.
I center my attention on the tiny empty table in the back corner. Mentally, I push Shug toward it. When I start walking, I almost kick him in the ankle. Closer, closer, there you go. A few more feet.
            Without warning, another roadblock appears:  A short, round, heavily made-up woman stops Shug to hug him and kiss the air next to his cheek. And then someone, who must be her daughter, goes and does the same thing. No one’s in a hurry. Except me.
Five long minutes and three stops later, we make it to the table and sit down. I pick up the narrow menu, hold it in front of my face, and scan the list. Grits, biscuits, red-eye gravy—
            “It must be overwhelming,” I hear Shug say.
            I edge the menu to one side and peek out. He gives me one of those open and honest looks, with piercing eyes. Like an actor on daytime television about to reveal who killed so-and-so’s sister’s cousin’s mother.
            “What must be?” I tilt my head in his direction, thinking Shug must mean the menu. It certainly wasn’t what I’d call gourmet, but even ostrich eggs and endive smeared with peanut butter would do at the moment. Can’t he tell I’m about to gnaw apart the table?
            “All of this.” Shug makes a sweeping gesture at the rest of the room. “I’m used to it. I was just thinking, to an outsider, well …” Shug seems to lose his train of thought. He glances down at his own menu, suddenly self-conscious.
            Very observant. Pasting on a big smile, I grasp for a witty and off-hand remark, which comes out a jumbled mess. “Oh, no, not at all. It’s different from New York, but I’m not uncomfortable. Quite the contrary. I feel right at home.”
            Shug gives me a thoughtful nod and picks up his menu.
            It’s not the truth. Me being right at home in small-town Alabama is the equivalent of Kim Kardashian never shopping again.
            In New York, it’s all about anonymity. No one cares who you are, unless your last name is Trump. No one says hello or waves, unless it’s to grab a taxi.
            A waitress hovers nearby. I hurry to take a look at the menu, and then realize she’s not just wiping down the table next to us. She’s staring. Shug hasn’t even noticed.
            Another server appears, and two hands plop down glasses of light brown liquid. “Good morning, y’all! Cute hair, sweetie,” the girl, who appears to be all of nineteen, is calling me sweetie. She inspects my roots and chews on the eraser of her pencil.
            “Did I hear you say New York?” Her voice raises several octaves. “I’ve always wanted to visit New York. Rocker-feller Center at Christmas time. The big tree. All of the lights.”
            I try not to visibly wince at the mispronunciation, but keep my lips buttoned. The minute I correct someone, I’m certain to butcher some Southern phrase in front of a dozen people.
            Shug speaks up. “Julia’s here to do a preview on the Pilgrimage for Getaways Magazine.”
            The girl’s eyes widen like I’m a movie star. Her voice rises a few octaves. “A real magazine reporter?” Several heads swivel near our table. “Can you interview me? Can I be in the article?”
            I attempt a serious look at Shug, who stifles a laugh, entertained by the entire situation.
            “Um, I’ll do my best to include everyone.”
            That seems to placate her. The waitress prattles on, waving her notepad. “If you feature the Honeysuckle Inn with a picture,” she taps her lip, “Brad Pitt could see it and come in here. People from London, and Europe. Zillionaires.” She practically jumps up and down.
            I shrink down in my seat and reach for the closest glass. Suddenly parched, I take an enormous swallow.
            YUCK! It’s so syrupy-sweet I gag. My eyes water. The liquid swills around in my mouth and I long to spit it on the ground. Don’t think about it, I instruct myself. Just do it. I force the tea down my throat in one big gulp.
            And start to choke. Then cough. I can’t stop.
            “Bless your heart!” The girl drops her notepad and starts pounding my back so hard I’m certain my ribs will crack any second. “She’s choking. Oh, my Lord! Someone help her!”

Chatting with Lauren Clark about 'Dancing Naked in Dixie'

1) Who was your favorite character to write in this novel?
I really loved Julia, but I have to say that Roger was a close second. At the beginning of the story, Julia is at a crossroads in her life—a place where the decisions she makes are really important. She really comes into her own, takes responsibility, and becomes an adult during the story. Julia finally realizes that there are consequences to her mistakes and that she is the only person who can change the way her life is headed. It was so fulfilling to watch her grow as the novel progressed.
Roger was such fun because he is Julia’s complete opposite—always perfect and put-together, always ready to say the right thing, do the right thing. He’s a great host and loves coming to the rescue for Julia. And although he appears to be happy, he really has a deep, secret longing to travel to New York, but hasn’t had the confidence to make the trip. Julia’s visit changes that for Roger.

2) How is this novel different from the competition?
There are many novels about a character excited about moving to a big city or traveling to Paris or London, but Dixie follows a big city girl who visits a very small town. At the outset, she doesn’t want to go—in fact, she throws a hissy fit about it! She’s really a fish out of water—the accents, the food, the mannerisms are all foreign to her.
I think we’re all somewhat guilty of having preconceived notions or ideas about people and places we haven’t visited. The fun of this storyline involves Julia discovering how wrong she was about the Deep South. It’s a life-changing experience for her. It’s my hope that readers feel that Dixie honors and celebrates cultural differences.

3) Share a secret (or two) about this book in its development.
I really panicked about the title. I was unsure that readers would like it and didn’t want anyone to think it was erotica. The members of a book club I visited changed my mind—I was there talking about my first novel, Stay Tuned, and everyone asked about my next book. When I shared the title, everyone exclaimed and got really excited, so I knew then that I had to keep the “Naked” in Dixie.
Also, I began with the idea that PD’s pastry creation was going to be the “something special” that made people want to ‘Dance Naked,’ but the story was really Julia’s.
After thinking about it, I added the “I’d rather dance naked” comment to her new boss—underscoring how upset she was about being sent to Eufaula. It also provided some nice romantic tension at the end between Julia and Shug!

4) Share one secret about yourself.
I am such a girly-girl. I love the color pink. My phone cover is pink. I have a pink purse. I have a pink coffee mug. I am drawn to books with pink covers. The cover for my Kindle is pink. I even like pink food—raspberries and strawberries! And yes, I like pink clothes.
Knowing that I have to draw the line somewhere, I do not drive a pink car, have a pink laptop, or have a pink house. My husband and two boys would never forgive me!!

5) Who is your inspiration?
My inspiration as an author is Sophie Kinsella. I love the way she tells a story—and I appreciate that her characters aren’t perfect. I adore that her writing makes me laugh out loud!
I’m also inspired by people who overcome life’s almost-insurmountable obstacles. I love everyday heroes. I’m inspired by bravery and courage—the firefighters in 9/11, our country’s soldiers, the men and women who make incredible sacrifices to save lives and protect our freedom.

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Now for the most amazing news! The Giveaway! Ms.Lauren Clark is giving away a $50 Amazon gift card. Yeah I know its amazing & I wish I could enter it myself. The number of books I could get for it!
So,what are you waiting for??? Go Enter NOW!!

1. There's only two compulsory entry to qualify for this Giveaway. 
2. Please provide proper info & links in the Rafflecopter. I will be checking the entries - so no cheating please.
3. The Giveaway is open Internationally.
4. I will select the winner through Random.org on 31st October and will send an e-mail. They have to reply with their mailing address/e-mail id within 48 hours, or I will select another winner.
5. Please do not leave your e-mail id in the comment section.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 comment:

  1. Thank you Debdatta for featuring Dixie!!!!! Can't wait to find out who wins the Gift Card!

    xx, Lauren