If you haven’t figured this out by now, I have lived all over the world, including Istanbul, Turkey for 2 years. When you are a semi-professional ex-pat like my family was for the better part of 8 years you learn quickly that “the holidays” are the WORST time to try and head home to the U.S. We did that once. Once. And swore on a stack of valiums never to try that again.
Besides, why not experience the holidays in our temporarily adopted country? The first year was in Japan. The Japanese are CONSUMATE consumers. Truly professional at it. So you’d really never guess that it was a holiday in anyway meant for anything other than….shopping!
When we arrived in Turkey as the ass-end of summer, miserable, hot, culture-shocked and (in my case) pissed I had agreed to it, the “holidays” were the last thing on my mind I assure you. The first year we watched as the super upscale mall in our neighborhood converted itself into the most obnoxiously decorated bastion to consumerism I have ever seen. I thought the Japanese were bad. Granted, our little section of Istanbul was populated by ex-pat executives, diplomats and their families and some of the most ostentatiously wealthy natives going. These women shopped, got massages and mani/pedis, had their hair washed and styled nearly every night by professionals, and shopped some more before hitting Istanbul’s exclusive round of restaurants and nightclubs.
But we got invited to spend actual Christmas that year with our friends, fellow auto exec types, in Koln Germany and had a stone-cold blast at the Christmas markets, slugging back the Gluhwein, buying adorable, over priced crap and being made fun of by Germans. It was an epic holiday, Old World style. Christmas eve in the Koln Cathedral? I will never ever forget it.
But the next year we stayed put. By then I had sussed out the best rug merchants, the most reliable leather jacket tailors, had bonded with my favorite spice merchants and trinket guys. Between them, they found us a HUGE Christmas tree, and we festooned it with lights and ornaments made from all manner of “nazarlik” or the small, ubiquitous “God’s eye” good luck charms. It snowed that year. It was peaceful for us, although the Turks are nothing if not ready to see you sh*t, and with the huge population of ex-pats they knew to decorate appropriately from upscale malls to small coffee shops.
Turkey is a melting pot of a country. Its people are a mish mash of eastern Europeans, Africans, Arabs, Ancient Romans, Viennese. At one point the Ottoman Empire extended as far north as Hungry and part of southern Russia, Iran, the Palestinian coastline, Egypt and North Africa. Everywhere the Ottomans went they collected and brought back the locals. There is a large contingent of Christians there still and some of the ancient houses of worship I visited in the country that was home to every single one of the churches of Paul were amazing, spiritual and once-in-a-lifetime experiences for me.
Christmases the next 2 years were a lot more traditional. We were in England by then, and while the English high cuisine is not much beyond bangers and mash and shepherd’s pie (or Chicken Tikka Masala) they do know how to throw a high church holiday. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve gawked at Harrod’s in full Holiday Consumer Mode. Jaw dropping. Especially when you get the bill.
I channeled my Turkish experiences to create a series of short stories as part of the 1NightStand series. Turkish Delights, Blue Cruise and Tulip Princess are among the most fun stories I’ve created. I hope you enjoy reading them as much I enjoyed writing them. Am noodling a German-based time travel, beer thing. And a fun London love story has just occurred to me.
Turkish Delights: The fifteen year age difference between Elle Kensington, ex-patriat American executive and Emre Demir, son of Istanbul's most successful businessmen, has not kept them from becoming fast friends as they tour Istanbul together. But the time has come for him to return to the U.S. to finish his master's degree and she has just been named CEO of the pharmaceutical company that brought her to Turkey in the first place. Elle adores her adopted country, and is alarmed to find herself falling in love with the young man who's been her impromptu guide for the last few months.
But she knows they can never be. She will return home to California within a month, leaving behind all she loves about the ancient city. In a rare fit of spontaneity, Elle has contracted with Madame Eve's OneNightStand dating service to hopefully find a way to forget the dark, handsome young man who has captured her heart. Little does she know what awaits her in the ancient recesses of the Ottoman palace turned luxury hotel under the hands of her one night stand masseur.
Blue Cruise: Caleb and Tarkan were an odd couple, men from two different cultures, but so in love they were determined to overcome any obstacles. Fate had different plans. Two years after tragedy strikes, Caleb is still a hollow shell of himself, alone and miserable.
Adem Broussard is happy enough, as owner and chef of his restaurant on the Turkish southern coast. But a tall, American Adonis he saw once, years ago on a Turkish Blue Cruise haunts his most erotic dreams and he hopes contracting with Madame Eve's 1NightStand service for an unconventional date will help him forget.
When Caleb caves in to his friend Elle's insistence that he return to Turkey and exorcise some of the demons that haunt him, he reluctantly climbs on board a private yacht for a special 1NightStand Blue Cruise. There he comes face to face with the man who remembers him well, and wants to help him heal.
Tulip Princess: Do true soul mates exist? Can two people from different cultures and different worlds with needs only the other can meet find happiness?
Lale Deniz, young, drifting and prone to wildness that her Turkish family doesn't understand is seeking something to help reestablish control over her life. Her beloved brother Tarkan has tragically exited her life. His twin lives far away in America with his growing family. When Elle, Emre's wife has a scary brush with death, Lale is dispatched to California to help with their five-year old daughter. But a recovering Elle has plans for Lale that include a magical 1NightStand.
Andreas Michos, Greek former NFL star, now athletic director at UNLV also floats through life seeking fulfillment. His ex-wife and sexual sub left him when he took away the limelight of football stardom. He doubts his own abilities anymore and has given up finding an outlet for his natural Dom.
Set against a backdrop of ancient cultural clashes and Mediterranean family dynamics, Lale and Andreas do meet in Las Vegas at the famous Castillos resort for a date. But it appears destined to fail. Unless they are both willing to relinquish control and discover what can be found inside the soul of another.