One neat thing about writing under pen names is being able to live out different personalities. I decided to take advantage of two of mine and treat myself to two “Christmas in July” parties. As a host of each, I chose my inspirational romance persona, Revannable, and my erotic one, Michal Scott. Then I invited colleagues to send me links to their books that occurred during any winter holiday so I could share them with my social media followers. Each day I paired the books with a seasonal song.
The Preston Sturges film Christmas In July inspired me to do this. The comedy tells the story of a poor schnook who thinks he has won a slogan contest. He shares his good fortune by treating his whole neighborhood to “Christmas in July.” It stars a young non-singing Dick Powell and the entire Preston Sturges ensemble. I love picking out familiar stalwarts like William Demarest and the lesser-known, but just as recognizable, Jimmy Conlin.
Planning a party is half the fun. I delighted in choosing Christmas music for Revannable’s squeaky clean party. The joy of Christmas was heard in carols like “On the Way to Bethlehem,” “Il Est Né Le Divine Enfant (The Infant Child is Born),” and “Mi Burrito Sabanero (My Desert Donkey).” “It’s Christmas Time All Over the World” featured Sammy Davis Jr. with a chorus of kids reciting Merry Christmas in various languages.
For my friends whose stories dealt with Hanukah, I found a video of the “Dreidel Song” that brought back memories of my childhood learning to play with a dreidel in kindergarten. For those whose stories focused more on winter than a holiday, I shared Leroy Anderson’s lovely “Horse and Buggy” instead of the overplayed “Sleigh Ride.” But lest I give the impression that classic Christmas tunes weren’t welcome, I included Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra singing “White Christmas” together.
While Ole Blue Eyes and Der Bingle did the Irving Berlin classic justice at Revannable’s, things were merry and bright over at Michal Scott’s, too. Of course, the hot holiday hop had to start with Eartha Kitt’s “Santa Baby.” In the days that followed, a slew of sultry and/or double entendre-laden music sent the party from hot to sizzling. “Back Door Santa” by Clarence Carter, “Santa Claus Wants Some Lovin'” by Albert King, “Dirty Christmas” by Junksista and “Holly the Holiday Whore.” Even Ella Fitzgerald in a naughty holiday mood belted out “Santa Claus Got Stuck in My Chimney.” I shook my head more than once at some of the album covers that accompanied such titles as “I’ve Got Some Presents for Santa” and “I Know Just What You Want For Christmas.” Did record stores like Virgin Atlantic and Sam Goody have adult-only sections? The fun ends on July 31st. Which party would you attend? Better watch out. Even in July Santa knows who’s more naughty than nice.
“Light the Fire Again” inside Fireworks
In 1896 Adelaide Hanson spent an August night beneath the Coney Island boardwalk with Hero Williams then lived with a ruined reputation while he went off to conquer the world. Two years later he returns on July 4th, a wealthy fireworks manufacturer, determined to win her back before she marries another. Will a personalized fireworks display light her fire again? And even if it does, will she let it?
Excerpt from Light the Fire Again…
Finally worn down by the rumors and the slander, Adelaide went to Reverend Johnson to arrange for a doctor to examine her to provide proof of her virginity. She’d been saving to go to an art college and hated to see her funds depleted, but her vindication would be worth it.
The examination put pay to her detractors’ misconceptions, but instead of apologizing, they showered her with condescension, especially since she still refused to say who she’d been with. Adelaide ignored the slights. She was free, Black, twenty-five and, if not virginal because of her experience with oral sex, still a virgin.
But at the end of each day alone in her rented room that fact brought her little comfort. She cried herself to sleep, unable to heal her spirit, so battered and bruised and betrayed.
Then one Sunday after church, Oscar Thompson, a member of one of Weeksville’s most prosperous and civic-minded families, asked to escort her home. Their walk turned into several months of friendship from which arose an understanding that they would become engaged.
An understanding welcomed neither by the Eligibles or Oscar’s mother.
Now the hateful reminder of why she’d lived reviled and abused had returned and was being feted like some conquering hero. They wouldn’t be so welcoming if they knew Hero had been her partner. And precisely because they wouldn’t, she’d never expose him. She wouldn’t wish what she’d endured these past two years on her worst enemy.
“Yes, folks,” Hero said, startling Adelaide from her thoughts.
She focused and found his gaze settled on her.
“Two years’ absence has been more painful than I can say,” he said.
She blenched. Holy God. Two years’ absence truly had been more than painful. For her, they’d been hell.
“It’s good to have you back home, my boy,” Reverend Johnson said, clapping a glad hand on Hero’s shoulder. “May this year’s Fourth of July celebration bring you healing to ease all that pain away.”
Adelaide bit her lip to stifle her horror. Forgiving with seventy-times-seven mercy was what Christ expected. But watching Hero receive the same forgiveness and forbearance bestowed upon her made her sick.
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