Friday, June 1, 2012

Friday Guest: Lauren Clark

Stranger in a Strange Land by Lauren Clark

I moved to the Deep South twelve years ago after living on the East Coast for most of my life. When people talk about culture shock, I really know what they mean!

A month into living in Alabama, I began a new job at a television station in Dothan (WTVY-News 4) working the early morning shift (2 am – 10 am). I was the morning anchor, and try as I could, I still managed to botch words like “Choctawhatchee” and confuse mascots for Auburn and Alabama college football (Tiger and Elephant, BTW).

Joe, the man who directed the morning show, would chortle into my earpiece and Oscar Fann, my co-host and meteorologist would tease me relentlessly about being a Yankee!

One of the funniest experiences I can remember about that first month was running to grab lunch for my news director. I was headed to Subway, and my boss requested a chicken sandwich with “baked glaze.” I paused, as I had never heard of “baked glaze,” so I repeated it back to be certain. A bit annoyed at this point, he huffed his confirmation and sent me on my way. Ten minutes later, standing in line at Subway, I realized that he was asking for “Baked Lays” potato chips. Sigh. I did return with the Baked Lays, by the way.

Since that time, I’ve embraced all that is the Deep South. I've been to "meat and threes," a restaurant that serves an "entree of the day" like pork or beef, then adds 3 vegetables. I understand that when someone says "mash the button" they mean "press it." If a person says he wants to "carry you" to the store, it means "drive you there in a car." I no longer wonder why, on country road, would a stranger behind the wheel of a pick-up wave as you pass going the other direction. My second son was born in Alabama. Every bit the Southern boy, he spouts phrases like “I’m fixin’ to go to my friend’s house,” or “Where y’all going?” and talks about quail hunting and biscuits for breakfast.

Living in the Deep South is not perfect. It is 100 degrees in the shade mid-August, I have found lizards in the laundry (once or twice), and if you're not careful where you step, you might land on a bed of fire ants. They bite and your feet get yucky, puffy welts! I do miss snow at Christmas and the cool breezes on a summer evening. I miss my family. I miss the change of seasons and the brilliant autumn leaves.

But nothing can replace the Spanish moss hanging from the Live Oak Trees or the sound of children playing on the sidewalk outside our 100-year old home. Nothing can replace a neighbor offering to sit with you on your front porch when you’ve had a bad day. Nothing can replace the smell of honeysuckle on the vine in the spring.

For a while, I was a stranger in a strange land. But embracing change and cultural differences is something I truly believe in. My life is richer and fuller because of it. The South is home now and I love 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.

About the Author:
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


marybelle said...

Baked Lays - I think I will always remember that & laugh. This was so much fun to read. It amazing how much diversity there can be in the one country.


Isabel Roman said...

It was a great story, thanks so much for dropping by today!

Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting Lauren today.

Lauren Clark said...

Marybelle - Thanks! I was mortified when I realized what he'd actually said. He is a soft-spoken man, which made it even more difficult to hear him. Then, I made him repeat it, which made him irritated!!! LOL

Thanks for stopping by the post! xx, Lauren

Lauren Clark said...

Isabel - Thank you for hosting Dixie on your blog (even though the novel doesn't have a paranormal element ... unless you want to count the evil festering inside beauty queen Mary Katherine!!)

Can't wait to spend some time looking around your site :) Lauren

Karen H in NC said...

Loved your description of life in the South when your first arrived. It can be a bit of a challenge. Like trying to figure out what they ask 'do y'all want some ass (ice)?' I swear, they sound the same!

I like books that are based on real places or have some element of actual buildings, cities, roads, etc. I can pick up a map and have a look..sort of brings the story to life for me. So let me ask you: Do you now, or have you ever, based your characters on real people you know? If so, could the real person recognize him or herself in print?

Anonymous said...

Great stories...there must be a transitional period going South from the North, but it sounds like a fun one!


MomJane said...

It sounds as though you have found your place. When you wrote this story, it shows in the way it is described.

Catherine Lee said...

You broke a cardinal sin by confusing those mascots! College football is SERIOUS in the South. I was also a transplant from the Northeast, but MANY years ago I knew I was finally a Southerner when I was in a NJ diner and ordered "hot tea." My mother gently corrected me, saying "Here we just say 'tea' dear and it comes hot." But I will never give up my "sweet tea."

Anonymous said...

MomJane - it is certainly a lovely place and I look forward to going back to visit soon!


Anonymous said...

Catherine Lee - YOU are soooo RIGHT! Football is very, very serious!!!

Yes, the tea request proves you are a Southerner now :)

xx, Lauren

Anonymous said...

Karen - There are so many confusing words and phrases ... the "mash" a button and "carry" someone to the store or school really got me! The ice example is GREAT!

And to answer your question, I don't base characters on anyone I know, but I do include phrases that I hear or funny situations that have happened to me or friends. I am always on the lookout for ideas!

xx, Lauren

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