Sunday, December 21, 2014

Illuminating the Holidays

"...the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely and think of [other] if they really were fellow-travelers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys."
--Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.  

There was an erotic, holiday story writing contest and I wanted to win.

...I didn't win. I came very close to winning, but tales of naughty, toy-making elves and lusty Santas tend to have the upper hand in such contests. So I wasn't all that surprised when my old fashioned, holiday-spirit romance lost out to such a story. Nor did I regret for a minute writing it. I only mention the contest to explain why this particular stocking is so stuffed with holiday elements: from wreaths to chestnuts to colored lights.

I even made the story multicultural and interfaith to cover all the holiday bases. While this aspect of the story started out as part of my ├╝ber-holiday trappings, however, it didn't stay that way. In fact, it turned out to be the story's shining star. You see, to me, the most important aspect of this time of year is sharing. Yet so many people get proprietary about the holidays, insisting that this or that celebration or tradition is theirs and theirs alone. No one outside it should be allowed to enjoy it.

That seems pretty contrary to the "good-will-toward-all" message of the season.

Thus, as I began to explore different seasonal traditions my goal changed from winning the contest to illuminating that shared center. The holiday spirit, if you like, which doesn't focus on what gifts are offered, or how they're wrapped, but on the wonderful wish we all have to give of ourselves. 

I ended up with a fable, of sorts, a romance between a odd woman and a desperate man both looking for love, yet fearing themselves too strange or broken to give or receive it. It's a story about those lonely times we all go though--sometimes short, sometimes long--when we feel like outsiders. Either outsiders to the world of love, or outsiders with no place to belong. Such a feeling is most keenly experienced during the holidays when everyone is gathering together; and it doesn't help if our relatives, nation or culture has told us that we must be something that we're not if we want to be welcomed in and sit at the table. 

Those who guard the door during the holidays, letting in only those who conform to their dictates...they prove, I think, that the shelter they are offering is false, a facade rather than a true haven.  

Those who maintain true sanctuaries refuse to harp on differences. They don't care if a stranger's appearance or faith or background isn't the same as theirs; their hearts are open, and when they look on that stranger, they see a kindred spirit, someone to be invited in and given a place by the fire. Which is why we should never lose hope of finding a people, a neighborhood, a family...and someone to love. There is a lantern out there to guide us all home. And once we arrive there, we should, in turn, make sure it stays lit to guide others home as well.

Which is why I called this holiday romance: A Many-Colored Lantern

I did not win the contest with this story, but as often happens, I got something that mattered a great deal more to me. Which is why I'd want to wish everyone reading this blog a very happy holiday season. My thanks for the gift of your readership. Whatever my stories might mean to you, that you enjoy them means to world to me.

Have faith in each other, fellow travelers. We've more in common then you think.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

An Act of Charity

The holidays. They're either viewed as the sweet, soaring hymns of the year or as a time of jarring, depressing discord. Illuminated weeks of giving, all charity and generosity, or interminable days of crass commercialism. They're festive and pretty, or tacky and silly.

I wondered if there might be a really wonderful romance in all this dissonance. Of course, the typical tune would be that of the Grinch or Scrooge: a protagonist, cold and grumpy, who learns the true meaning of Christmas. It occurred to me, however, that the opposite might make for a more interesting tale.

What if our protagonist was not the Grinch, but a kind, generous, loving young woman who adored the holidays--even the silly parts like sappy movies and an over-abundance of poinsettias. And all that music. Everything about her would be the holidays. Even her name: Noel.

Noel, the music teacher, a living Christmas angel. And she would have her faith tested by....

Hm. Would one Grinch be enough to make her doubt? I hardly thought so. After all, it took three ghosts to transform Scrooge. Nothing less would make Noel waver. And giving her three challengers instead of one would allow me to explore the wide range of "anti-holiday" views. Maybe one of those in opposition to her isn't a holiday "hater." He just doesn't "get" those who, like Noel, go overboard with lights and trees and cards. Our heroine's boyfriend, say. Roland. He finds her infatuation with the holidays charming, but it totally mystifies him. He would be the baritone.

Then there would have to be the real hater, the bass note to Noel's soprano. A sceptic who sees the holidays and everything about them as completely bogus. He would roll his eyes and make sarcastic comments about her snowman-themed mugs and over-generous gift giving. Maybe he works for her and thinks it his job to keep her from being a gullible fool? Her accountant? Benjamin. Oh, yes, I could see Benjamin looking down his nose at Noel's reindeer cookies.

Last...Well, last would have to be someone closest to her position, an irresistible tenor. Noel might not be willing to take a leap from her faith, but she might go a note down. If doing so was tempting enough. An old crush come back into her life? One working for a charity who seems like he could learn to love the holidays as much as her? Hank. Handsome, devil-may-care Hank.

And so came about my Christmas Carol: An Act of Charity. A sparkling sugar romance about Noel, who believes the holidays bring the world into her frequency, one of charity and kindness. And then, forced to doubt this, she must rediscover the music she's lost. It was a wonderful tale to write, and a very challenging one as well. With a Grinch the transformation is fairly direct: doubter to believer, low to high. But I had to find a way to move this tune from high to low to silence and where? If the believer becomes a doubter, how do you get them back? Can you? Would you even want to?

I found the answers as I wrote it, and an ending that I felt rang true. I hope it will do as much for you, hitting all the right notes and leaving you with a feeling of seasonal harmony. It is my gift of the season to all romance-loving readers.

Enjoy & Very Happy Holidays,
Julian Keys

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Julian Keys' Midnight Cafe: Welcome

Greetings, readers & friends, to my MIDNIGHT CAFEblog and hangout of erotic romance writer: JULIAN KEYSformally known as "Thirteen." 

You can find all my published erotic fiction at: 

FORBIDDEN FICTION   These currently include: 
(1) Some of my short, erotic romances
(2) my gay, BDSM short stories including the Fancy Man series
(3) my one short, erotic horror story "Wicked Dreams" and 
(4) "Executive Benefits" my unique sci-fi gay-male tale, also in: Desk Job.

I'll be posting the stories behind the stories here, and I hope you'll join in the conversation with feedback, comments, questions and wish-list desires. The cafe is always open, even late into the night. Get yourself some refreshment and a book of the shelves, settle into a favorite seat, stay as long as you like. And enjoy!

Yours, Julian Keys