Please welcome our guest author today, Lauren Clark. Lauren is blogstorming her way across the web to promote her latest release, DANCING NAKED IN DIXIE. You can learn about Lauren's offer of a free book at the end of this post.
|Author Lauren Clark|
Caroline: Readers love to get to know authors. Please tell us about growing up.
Lauren: I had a really wonderful, idyllic childhood. I lived in a small town in Upstate New York, walked to school, played sports (field hockey, soccer, swimming), and was a cheerleader. I was NOT shy. I was precocious--in fact, my mother tells a story about how I slipped away from her in a department store when I was four years old, got into the elevator, and was met by a saleslady who asked me "Where are you going?" Evidently, I looked at her and said, "I'm going UP."
I am married with two boys, ages 7 and 14, and they are my world. I'm the mom who goes along on all of the field trips, loves to help with school projects, and cheer on my children in whatever they decide to pursue! I'm so happy that they adore books as much as I do--my 14 year-old has his own Kindle. I also love being silly with my boys--we make up stories, build Legos, play superheroes (I regularly tease my 7 year-old by telling him that I am "Super Mommy to the Rescue" with a pink cape and boots ... and he rolls his eyes and laughs. It's our special joke!)
Caroline: Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?
Lauren: Sophie Kinsella, Emily Giffin, Jennifer Weiner, Juliette Sobanet, and Dina Silver are among my favorite Chick Lit authors. I also love reading psychological thrillers ... I've been on a Lisa Gardner kick lately. I guess that I need a little dark suspense to balance out the light romance!
Caroline: When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?
Lauren: Spending time with family and friends is number one! We love to swim, boat, ski, bike, and spend time outdoors. My parents have a cottage in the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York and we all adore spending time there. I've been doing Pure Barre for the past two months. It's one of the most difficult workouts I've ever done, but it's pretty amazing in terms of results.
Caroline: Describe yourself in three or four words.
Lauren: Strong. Caring. Friendly. Creative.
Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?
Lauren: Reading authors that I really admire (Sophie Kinsella, Jodi Picoult, Emily Giffin), talking to interesting people who have fascinating jobs, and hearing stories about people who overcome insurmountable life challenges.
Caroline: How long have you been writing?
Lauren: I started trying to write stories as a teenager, but had a lot of distractions (sports, cheerleading, school, boys) so I didn't stick with it. When it came to college, I went into Journalism and Public Relations, so spent a lot of time interviewing, editing, and writing. That said, it was good experience, but it wasn't the same as learning how to write fiction.
Caroline: Where do you prefer to write? PC or laptop?
Caroline: I prefer to write at home, but that never seems to work out very well! There are so many distractions and responsibilities that I have there, so I find that it's best to leave it all for a few hours (while the kids are in school) and go to the library. It's so quiet, they have wonderful study rooms with big windows that let the sunlight in, and they allow coffee or tea -- as long as you bring a lid! Yay! (And I'm a Macbook girl, btw.)
Caroline: Are you a plotter or a panzer?
Lauren: Plotter. Definitely.
Caroline: Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?
Lauren: I like to do most of my research before I begin a new project. I keep a folder for each novel, filling it with facts about the area (climate, population, businesses), photos of the city or town I'm writing about, details about special events, magazine articles, etc.
Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?
Lauren: I try to write five days a week when I am working on the first draft or revisions for a novel. I shoot for one thousand to fifteen hundred words a day.
Caroline: Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?
Lauren: I'm a full-time writer now...and a mom as well. I worked full-time for many years, though, as a television news anchor and reporter, a public relations exec, a customer relations trainer for a hospital, and a pharmaceutical company sales representative.
Caroline: Tell us something about yourself that might surprise readers.
Lauren: I used to have a horrible, awful, paralyzing phobia of speaking in front of people. I actually had a panic attack when I was talking to a small group of volunteers who worked for a domestic violence shelter. A year or two later, I was sent to Portland, Oregon for an intensive customer service training program. I didn't realize that, for a week straight, we would did nothing but get up in front of the group and make presentations. By the time I decided to go into TV news, I'd gotten over my fears. There's nothing like trial by fire!
Caroline: What is something unusual you learned while researching and writing this book?
Lauren: I knew that Eufaula's old jail (built back in the late 1800s) was moved and, most recently, was converted into a hair salon. What I didn't realize was that the jail had only two cells: One side for men, the second side for women and lunatics.
Caroline: Obviously, that jail was built by men who believed women were little more than lunatics. LOL What do you hope your writing brings to readers?
Lauren: I hope that my books are entertaining and provide an escape into a world they wouldn't otherwise experience (i.e. DANCING NAKED IN DIXIE explores a historic town in the Deep South, STAY TUNED goes behind the scenes in the television news industry). I hope readers are also inspired by my strong, yet flawed, protagonists who take on tough challenges, take chances, and find happiness.
Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?
Lauren: Write a lot, read a lot. It's Stephen King's advice in ON WRITING, but it rings true for everyone who wants to be an author.
It takes a long time for most people to get a handle on the process--from finding his or her voice, to deciding on the type of stories to write, to having the endurance to finish an 80,000-word manuscript. Rarely will a writer's first draft be a best seller. A really good book takes a lot of time, revision, learning, and editing. Dixie is the sixth novel I've written. (And no one will see the first few because they were not very good!)
Caroline: Good advice. Tell us about your latest release.
Lauren: It's really a story about a career girl finding happiness, love, and her place in the world where she least expects it. Without getting too deep, I think Dixie also looks at a woman allowing herself to be vulnerable (and emotionally naked, if you will). While it's scary, it also opens her up to finding love and happiness. Julia's been closed up, hurt, and guarded for so long that it takes visiting Eufaula and being humbled by the kindness of strangers to strip away all that she's built up to protect herself.
Blurb: DANCING NAKED IN DIXIE
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?
DANCING NAKED IN DIXIE
“The new editor needs you, Julia.” A stern summons from Dolores Stanley leaps over the cubicles and follows me like a panther stalking its prey.
“Just give me a minute,” I beg with a wide smile, sailing by the front office and a row of hunch-shouldered executive assistants. Steaming Starbucks in hand, my new powder-white jacket stuffed in the crook of my arm, I give a quick wave over my shoulder.
I am, after all, late, a bit jet-lagged, and on deadline.
A very tight deadline.
A glance at my watch confirms two hours and counting to finish the article. I walk faster. My heart twists a teensy bit.
I don’t mean to get behind. Really. It just sort of happens.
But that’s all going to change, starting today. I’m going to organize my life. Work, home, all of it. I’ll be able to check email on the road, never miss an appointment, and keep up with all of my deadlines.
Just as soon as I can find the instruction manual to my new iPhone. And my earpiece.
Anyway, it’s going to be great!
So great, that I’m not the least bit panicked when I round the corner and see my desk. Which, by the way, is wallpapered in post-it notes, flanked by teetering stacks of mail, and littered with random packages. Even my voicemail light is flashing furiously.
Before I can take another step, the phone starts ringing.
In my rush to snatch it up, I trip and nearly fall over a pile of books and magazines someone carelessly left behind. My briefcase lands on my foot and excruciating pain shoots through my toes.
“Darn it all!” I exclaim. Other choice expressions shuttle through my brain as I catch the edge of the chair with one hand to steady myself. I frown at the offending mess on the floor. Who in the world ...?
Until in dawns on me. Oh, right. I left it all there in my rush to make the red-eye to Rome. My fault. I close my eyes, sigh deeply, and the strap of my canvas bag tumbles off my shoulder. Everything – keys, mascara, lip gloss, spare change—falls onto the desk top with a huge clatter. Letters and papers flutter to the floor like confetti in the Macy’s Day parade.
Just as Dolores sounds off again, her voice raspy and caffeine-deprived.
My spine stiffens.
“Be right there,” I call out in my most dutiful employee voice. Right after I scoop up this mess, find my notes, and calm down.
As I crouch down and start to search through my briefcase, a head full of thick silver curls and a pair of wire-rimmed glasses appear over the nubby blue paneling.
“Hey, before you rush off,” Marietta whispers, “how was Italy? Was it gorgeous, wonderful?”
“Marvelous,” I smile broadly at my closest friend and conjure up a picture postcard of sun-drenched Tuscany. Five cities, seven days. The pure bliss of nothing but forward motion. “From the sound of it, I should have stayed another day.”
Marietta sips her latte and studies my face.
It’s the understatement of the year. I hate to admit it, but the prospect of inhabiting an office cubicle for a week intimidates me more than missing the last connection from Gatwick and sleeping on the airport floor. Claustrophobia takes over. I actually get hives from sitting still too long.
Most days, I live out of suitcases. And couldn’t be happier!
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. Today.
I sink into my chair and try to concentrate. What to tackle first? Think, think.
Third reminder from Dolores. 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 magazine’s new editor and my new boss.
Every last gory detail.
“I’m still in another time zone,” I offer up to Marietta with a weak smile. My insides toss from side to side, churning 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.
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.
At least half of the NATJA awards hanging in the lobby are mine.
The last three editors adored me.
The best projects land in my lap. Almost always.
Well, there was the one time I was passed over for St. Barts, but I’m sure what’s-her-name just had PMS that day. And I did get Morocco in February.
This last trip to Italy? Hands-down, one of the choice assignments.
I round the corner and come within an inch from Dolores Stanley’s bulbous nose. As I step back, her thin red lips fold into a minus sign. Chanel No. 5 wraps around me like a toxic veil.
Dolores is the magazine’s oldest and crankiest employee. Everyone’s afraid of her. To be perfectly honest, Dolores doesn’t like anyone, except Marietta—and the guy in accounting who signs her paycheck. And that’s only twice a month.
Most of the office avoids her like she’s been quarantined with a deadly virus. “Good morning, Dolores,” I say with forced cheer.
As expected, she ignores me completely. Instead, Dolores heaves her purple polyester-clad bottom up off the chair, and lumbers toward the editor’s office. Breathing hard, she pushes open the huge mahogany door, frowns, and tosses in my name like a careless football punt.
I follow the momentum, shoulders back, hoping Dolores doesn’t notice that my hands are clenched together so they won’t shake.
Stop it, Julia. No worries, right?
Dolores pauses and murmurs something that sounds like ‘good luck’. Wait. Dolores wished me luck? That freaks me out completely. I want to run. Or fall to the floor, hand pressed to my forehead, prompting someone to call the paramedics.
Too late. The door clicks shut behind me. The office already smells different. Masculine, earthy, like leather and sand. I crane my neck to see the new person’s face, but the high-back chair blocks my view; an occasional tap-tap on a keyboard the only sound in the room.
I fill my lungs, exhale, and wait.
Light streams onto the desk, now piled high with newspapers, memos, and several back issues of Getaways. A navy Brooks Brothers jacket hangs in the corner.
I gaze out the window at the majestic skyscrapers lining Broadway; a blur of activity hidden behind a silver skin of glass and metal. A taxi ride away, three international airports bustle with life. Jets ready to whisk me away at a moment’s notice. My pulse starts to race just thinking about it …
“Not in a big hurry to meet the boss?”
The gruff voice startles me. My knees lock up.
“Sir?” I play innocent and hope he’ll blame Dolores.
The chair spins around. Two large feet plop on the desk and cross at the ankles. My eyes travel up well-dressed legs, a starched shirt, a red silk tie, and settle on a pair of dark eyes that almost match mine.
For a moment, nothing works. My brain, my mouth, I can’t breathe. It absolutely, positively may be the worst shock-of-my-life come true.
“David?” I stutter like a fool, and gather up my composure from where it’s fallen around my feet.
The broad, easy grin is the same. But the hair is now salt-and-pepper. The face, more weather-beaten than I remembered.
“I told them you’d be surprised.” David’s face flashes from smug to slightly apologetic.
I say nothing. It’s the understatement of the year.
“They talked me out of retirement.” David folds his arms across his chest and leans back. “Said they had to have me.”
“I’ll bet,” I offer with a cool nod.
His face reveals nothing. “Not going to be a problem, is it?”
Of course it is! I dig my fingernails into my palm, shake my head, and manage to force up the corners of my mouth.
“Good.” David slides his feet off the desk and thumbs through a pile of magazines.
I stand motionless, watching his hands work. They are thick and tanned. The familiar flash of gold on his left hand is gone. I glower at his bare finger, incensed, to the point of nearly missing all that he’s saying. I watch David’s mouth move; he’s gesturing.
“…And so, we’re going to be going in a new direction.” He narrows his eyes. “Julia?”
I wrench my eyes away from his ring finger and nod. “A new direction,” I repeat in a stupid, sing-song voice.
David frowns. With a smooth flick of his wrist, he tosses a Getaways across the desk. It lands inches from my hand. He motions for me to take it.
“The latest issue,” he says casually.
Gingerly, I reach for it. And choke. That’s funny, I purse my lips. Funny strange. The cover story was supposed to be mine. My feet start to tingle. I want to run.
Instead, I force myself to calm down, and begin paging through for article and stunning photos I’d submitted—shots of the sapphire-blue water, honey-gold beaches, and the lush green landscape.
With forced nonchalance, I search through the pages. Flip. Flip. Flip. In a minute, I’m halfway through the magazine. No article. No Belize. No nothing. My fingers don’t want to work anymore. I feel sick.
“Julia, what is it? You look a little pale.” David prods. He leans back in his chair and stares at me with an unreadable expression.
I continue looking. Where is my article? Buried in the middle? Hidden in the back? More pages. I look up at David, who meets my dismay with a steady gaze.
What kind of game is he playing?
I yank my chin up. “No, nothing’s wrong,” I say lightly. “Not a thing.”
Inside, I’m screaming like a lunatic. There must be a mistake. My bottom lip trembles the slightest bit. I blink. Surely, I wasn’t going to … lose my …
“It was junk. Pure and simple.” David interrupts, the furrows on his forehead now more pronounced. He jumps up and folds his arms across his chest. “Bland, vanilla. The article screamed boring. It was crap.”
Crap? Don’t mince any words, David. He might as well have toss a bucket of ice water on my head. I shiver and watch him start pacing.
“Let me ask you this.” David stops walking back and forth, puts his fists on the desk, and leans in. “How much time did you actually spend writing and researching the article? Just give me a rough estimate. In hours or days?” David’s finished making his point. He sits down and begins glancing through a manila folder.
My mind races. Last month? Right. Trip to Belize.
Focus. Try to focus.
I fidget and tap out an uneven rhythm with the toe of my shoe. Excuses jumble in my head, swirling like my brain is on spin cycle.
David clears his throat. He opens a manila folder, thumbs through it, then gazes at me with the force of a steam-driven locomotive. “Are you taking care of yourself? Taking your … prescriptions?”
The words cut like a winter wind off the Baltic Sea.
I grope for words. My thoughts fall through my fingers.
My attention deficit isn’t exactly a secret. Most everyone knows it’s been a problem in the past. But things are under control … it’s all been fine.
I start to seethe. David continues to gaze intently and wait for my reply.
What are you, a psychiatrist? I want to spout. Not to mention all of the HR rules you’re breaking by asking me that.
“I’m off the medication. Doctor’s orders. Have been for several years,” I answer, managing to give him a haughty, the-rest-is-none-of-your-business look.
David backs off with a swivel of his chair. “Sorry. Just concerned,” He says, holding one cuff-linked hand in the air. “So, exactly how much time did you spend on the article?” David enunciates each word, stabbing them through my skin like daggers.
“Five hours,” I blurt out, immediately wishing I could swallow the words and say twelve. “Maybe seven,” I look at the floor and try not to fidget. My bruised toe stares back at me.
David makes a noise. I don’t look. Then, I realize he’s laughing. At me. At my enormous fib.
I want to run, jump, hide. Anything to get away.
Head bent, David flips through a set of papers. He pauses at a small stack. I recognize the coffee stain on one edge and the crinkled corner. My article.
“Let me quote verbatim to you, Ms. Sullivan,” he says, his tone mocking. “Belize offers the best of both worlds, lovely beaches and a bustling city full of good restaurants. One can find both fascinating art work and treasure hunt for souvenirs downtown.”
Surely, my article was better. He must have the draft. Oh, there wasn’t a draft. Oops. Because I hadn’t allowed myself much time. Come to think of it, I banged most of it out on the taxi ride from the airport. I accidentally threw away most of my notes in a shopping bag, which wasn’t really my fault. I was late for my plane. And then—
“So, I killed it.” David ceremoniously holds the papers over the trash can and lets go.
I watch the white papers float, then settle to their final resting place. Maybe I should jump in after them? My legs start to ache from sitting still. I want to fidget. Why did I wear these stupid Prada pumps that pinch my left heel?
“But, all is not lost,” David says dramatically. “I’ll give you a chance to redeem yourself.” He drums his fingers on the desk. “If you can up the caliber of your writing. Spend some time. Put your heart into it.”
I don’t say a word. Or make a sound. Because if I do, I’m sure to sputter out something I’ll regret. Or, God forbid, cry.
Redeem myself? Put my heart into it?
Deep breath. Okay, I can afford to work a teensy bit harder. Give a tad more effort here and there. But, the criticism. Ouch! And coming from David, it’s one hundred times worse. The award-winning super-journalist who circled the globe, blah, blah, blah.
David cracks his knuckles. “Look, I know it’s been tough since your mother’s illness and all.” His tone softens slightly. “Her passing away has been difficult for everyone.”
I manage not to leap over the desk and shake him by the shoulders. Difficult? How would he know? My blood pressure speeds up. Stay calm. Just a few more minutes. Doesn’t he have some other important meeting? An executive lunch to rush off to?
David drones on like he’s giving a sermon. I try to tune him out, but can’t help but hear the next part.
“Julia, it’s affected your writing. Immensely. And look at you. You’ve lost weight. You’re exhausted. I want you to know I understand your pain—”
“You don’t understand,” I cut in before I can stop myself. My mother died five years ago. She was sick for two years before that. I took care of her. I still miss her every day. Damn him. Get out of my personal life. And stay out.
We stare each other down, stubborn, gritty gunfighters in the Wild West.
“Fine,” David says evenly and breaks my gaze. “So, as you’ve heard, the magazine is going in a new direction. The focus group research says …” He glances down at some scribbled notes. “It says our American readers want to see more ‘out of the way’ places to visit. Road trips. A Route 66 feel, if you will.”
Focus groups. I forgot all about that obsession.
David pauses to make sure I’m listening. For once, he has my undivided attention.
“According to the numbers, they’re saturated with Paris, London, the Swiss Alps. They want off the beaten path. Local flavor.
So, we’re going to give it a shot. We’ll call it something along the lines of ‘Back Roads to Big Dreams.’”
What a horrible idea. I swallow hard. Our readers don’t want that! Who did he interview in these focus groups? The Beverly Hillbillies?
David continues, looking immensely pleased with the concept. “The emphasis is going to be on places and people who offer something special—perhaps historical or cultural—to their community. But the town or city has to be also looking toward the future. Planning how to thrive, socially and economically. It’s going to be part of a new series, if it turns out well.” David puts emphasis on ‘if’ and shoots me a look. “What do you think?”
Is he joking? He doesn’t want my opinion. Does he really think I like the idea?
David pauses. Apparently, he expects a response. An intelligent, supportive one.
“Sounds … interesting,” I manage to squeak out and shift uncomfortably. I predict that I’ll be spending a full day spinning half-truths. I’ll likely be offered a lifetime membership in Deceivers Anonymous if I don’t die first.
David snatches up his glasses. Glasses? When did he start wearing glasses?
“I know you’re our token globe-trotter, but I’d hoped you’d be more enthusiastic.” He taps his Mont Blanc on his mostly-buried desk calendar, and then points to the massive wall atlas. “I’m thinking Alabama.”
Something massive and thick catches in my throat. My head swivels to the lower portion of the map. I begin to cough uncontrollably.
Ever so calmly, David waits for me to quit.
When I catch my breath, my mind races with excuses. The words stumble out of my mouth, tripping over themselves. “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.”
“It’s a done deal, isn’t it?” I finally manage, my voice low and uneven. The answer is obvious. The airline ticket and folder are within my grasp. I don’t move a centimeter toward them. For all I know, the inside of one of them is coated with Anthrax. For a brief moment, I picture myself, drawing one last ragged breath, on the floor of David’s brand-spanking-new office carpeting.
“It’s your choice.” David swipes at his glasses, settles them on his nose, and swivels his chair toward the laptop. “Deadline’s a week from today. That’s next Wednesday. Five o’clock. Take it or leave it.”
I stifle an outward cringe at his tone and the way he’s spelling it out for me, syllable by syllable, like I’m a toddler caught with my hand in the cookie jar.
Take it or leave it.
Not the assignment. My job.
It’s your choice.
David’s fingers hit the keyboard. Click-clack. “Oh, and leave me your notes on Italy with Dolores. I’ll write the article myself.”
That’s it. The meeting’s over. I’m fuming. Furious. I want to rip up the papers an inch from his face and let a hailstorm of confetti fall to the carpet.
Take it or leave it.
I start to turn on my heel and walk out like we’d never had the conversation. David will come around, won’t he?
Then, I stop. It’s a joke. An awful, terrible joke. Do I have other job prospects? Do I want to change careers? What about my flat? What about the bills?
Fine. Okay. Have it your way, David.
I catch myself before I stick my tongue out. He probably has surveillance cameras set up on a 24-hour loop.
David knows I’m beaten.
So, I bend, ever so slightly. In one quick motion, I reach out to tuck the folder and ticket under my arm. In slow motion, papers slip through my fingers like water between the rocks of a stream.
Damn! I think I’ve said the words out loud, because the clatter of David’s awkward typing stops. But he doesn’t turn.
So much for a smooth exit.
On the ground lies a square white envelope and matching note card. I swoop down to gather my mess.
Though I’m trying not to notice, I can’t help but stare at the delicate pen and ink lines on the front of the card. There’s no lettering, just thin strokes of black that form the outline of a majestic mansion and its towering columns. Before I can stop myself, I flip open the note card, expecting a flowery verse or invitation. Some event I’ll be expected to attend for the magazine? A party?
But, there are only a few sentences inside, barely legible, scrawled in loopy, old-fashioned writing. David, Please help, I can make out. Underneath, a scribbled signature. An M, maybe?
Hmph. There’s no end to what people will do to get a story. Gifts, money, flowers, I’ve seen it all. Traded for a snippet of publicity.
I refold the note and hand it across the desk. It must not be very important, because David takes the card and sets it aside without glancing at it.
Necessary papers tucked securely in the crook of my arm, I straighten up, flick an imaginary piece of lint off my skirt with my free hand, and begin to walk out. My feet brush the carpet in small, level steps.
My hand reaches for the doorknob. I am inches from the hallway.
“Have fun! Don’t forget to check in,” David calls after me. “Oh, and send a postcard.”
That’s low. Lower than low. He knows I collect postcards. Make that used to. In my past life. I want to stomp out—have a proper four-year old temper tantrum. Be in control, I tell myself. Keep your chin up. Walk. His voice is ringing in my ears.
David can go to Hell!
I make the most horrible, gruesome face I can think of.
Surveillance cameras be damned.
Caroline: Where can readers find your books?
From Amazon for print and Kindle
Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know?
Lauren: 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 someone asked about my next book. When I shared the title, everyone was really excited, so I knew then that I had to keep the “Naked” in Dixie.
Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?
https://twitter.com/ - !/LaurenClark_Bks
Thanks for sharing with us today, Lauren.
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