Monday, December 9, 2019

American culture and the holidays

Edouard Herriot famously said that culture is what remains when one has forgotten everything. Culture in the French vocabulary of the period meant learning and knowledge, but the saying is also true in today’s extended meaning of the word. 




We speak of ancient cultures, of the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, their philosophy and their mythology. We speak of the great artists of the Renaissance. They left long lasting testimonies of their history, architecture, writings, and way of life… Some say modern culture will only be evident when we are long gone and forgotten. 


I say culture is not only art, architecture, wisdom, or knowledge, but it is how we treat each other, and how we celebrate life, family, and the traditions that accompany good and bad events in our lives. 


Being raised in France, my first contact with America over the course of a three-month summer vacation was a true culture shock. I didn’t understand fast-food. Who in their right mind would eat ketchup? Why stick a piece of dry meat between two dry buns, when you can simmer your own coq-au-vin and bake potatoes au-gratin? 

I couldn’t understand why Americans worked such long hours and never took extended vacations. The French, even in those days, took five weeks of mandatory paid vacation each year, and often took a few extra, unpaid vacation weeks as well, with their employers’ blessing. Many French companies still close completely for an entire month each summer. 

When I returned to France, that fall, I declared that I would never want to live in America. These people were crazy, frantic, and didn’t know how to live… and they probably thought the same thing about me. 



As things go, life has a way of making you regret such statements made in the ignorance of youth. While studying in an ashram in India, where I felt totally at ease, despite the many cultural differences, I met an American man and fell in love. We were married, and I came to live with him in the United States. 



Imagine my reaction when he took me to eat a T-bone steak at Jack in the Box, on a paper plate, with plastic flatware. The culture shock was back. Never in my life had I cut a steak with a plastic knife. From then on, I cooked at home. It was great for a while, but soon, my husband missed American food… which I didn’t care for, and didn’t know how to cook. 

This was decades ago, and I since learned to appreciate American food and culture. I understand that a busy life requires take out or fast food, in order to spend more time with family. My mother spent all her time in the kitchen. I can now fully enjoy a barbecue party, or a seafood buffet. I absolutely love apple pie a la mode (which surprised me at first, because the French do not eat pie with ice-cream). I smile when I hear my neighbors shouting at the referee during a football game… although I still cook most of my meals at home… you know… trying to eat healthy. 

I even corrected my husband when he said America had no culture, compared to the Europeans, the Greeks or the Egyptians. But America is still young. These ancient cultures had a chance to mature over many centuries. Besides, Lady Liberty could compete with the colossus of Rhodes, and what about the faces carved in the rock of Mount Rushmore? 


Because America is young, it experiences many growing pains and is learning to cope with change, and handle diversity. It’s not an easy task, and progress is painful and takes time. Yet in the midst of all that, America has all kinds of great cultural traditions, because of its diversity. Emigrants from many countries melted their cultures together so much that we do not exactly know where American traditions come from. You can experience Mardi-Gras in New Orleans, or a Greek Festival in California. American pizza (nothing like its Italian ancestor) is now conquering Europe. Who hasn’t enjoyed a bagel smeared with cream cheese, Mexican food, Thai food, sushi, or Chinese take out? America embraced all these different cultures and from them, forged its own. 



But Thanksgiving is definitely a unique holiday of the American continent (although Europe is now trying to copy it), and I always enjoy it to the fullest, with turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and all. And I take my pie a la mode, merci beaucoup.


For a total culture shock, read ASHES FOR THE ELEPHANT GOD, a reincarnation love story set in India.
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To scatter her brother's ashes over the Narmada River, Fabienne leaves France for the mysterious India of her childhood dreams. As she awakens to a newfound spirituality, unexpected visions of a former life during the Raj stir ancient yearnings for a long lost passion. Mukunda, the palace architect Fabienne loved a century and a half ago, lives again as an American engineer and works on the local dam project.

As Fabienne falls in love again with India and the man of her destiny, the tapestry of her previous life unfolds. But, in the karmic land of the blue gods, a ruthless foe lies in wait. The Kali worshiper, who murdered the two lovers in a faraway past, has come back through the centuries to thwart their dream once more.

"... a broad-stroked, magnificent picture of a lavish India of the past and the present... a vivid tale of suspense... a gripping account of a woman coming to terms with heightened awareness... destiny." The Book Reader

"... entertaining, fast-paced yet deeply spiritual... Here is a superior metaphysical novel!" Richard Fuller - Metaphysical Reviews

"... passionate... love, lust, faith and deception... a magnificent offering to the world of fiction..." The Charlotte Austin Review

"...rich, sensual... multilayered... a thriller... magical, mystical book..." Writer's Digest

"...a striking and highly recommended metaphysical novel..." Midwest Book Review




Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, cats, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

ANGEL FIERCE wins the 2019 Arizona Literary Awards in Fiction



I am overjoyed. ANGEL FIERCE just won 1st Place in the ARIZONA LITERARY AWARDS 2019, in the Published Fiction category.

Although my books won several awards over the years, this one is meaningful. It's not a popularity contest, or the opinion of a reviewer on a website, but an official recognition by the writing community of Arizona. It's also in a very large category, Published Fiction, not a limited genre, like romance or science fiction.

So you can see why I'm excited. This contest has existed for decades, and is open to all authors everywhere, so I had a lot of competition. Still, ANGEL FIERCE won 1st place, and it's wonderful.

Find it on: amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo

BLURB:


All Maksou wanted was to rescue his trapped friends and get rich in the process. But this forbidden blue planet crawls with lethal life forms… including Urielle, a gorgeous angel of frightening power, who saves his life but shuns his irresistible charm.

Urielle, Legion Commander of the Avenging Angels, is sworn to protect Azura at all costs. She has no use for a maverick intruder who ignores the rules and endangers the planet by his very presence… no matter how handsome and charming. Especially when the Galactic Trade Alliance (GTA) wages a secret war to get their greedy hands on the priceless crystal at Azura’s core.

When immortal angels turn up dead, Urielle springs into action… and Maksou is in her line of sight.

Here are a few review snippets: 

"This romance is full of fascinating elements and a unique spin on Angels... fast pace and strong, vivid characters that draw readers in and keep them glued to the pages... an entertaining and intriguing read."Ind'tale Magazine 

"Action-packed twists and blooming romance fill each chapter to the point I didn’t want to stop reading it. I adore her planet, Azura, and the abilities of her Avenging Angels, but even above those, her two main story-stars, Maksou and Urielle, take the lead. Truth beyond all…especially when one can’t lie. Love it! I will be reading more of this author, entertaining and intriguing, along with vivid, intense action…plus the fact, this author knows her sci-fi." Susan on amazon.

"This is a TERRIFIC story with angels, people doing questionable things for the right or good reasons and women who are more than strong. They are leaders and can kick butt as well as the men." Beverly on amazon



Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, cats, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
 amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo  -  FB

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Getting inspiration from ancient cultures - The way of the Samurai

Not so long ago, I practiced Aikido, a Japanese martial art. I lived in Hawaii at the time, a place of mixed cultures, where part of the population is of Japanese descent. I had a Japanese Sensei, who taught his pupils the fascinating traditions of ancient Japan. I even learned the language and visited the country with its feudal castles and many temples.
  



The most mysterious part of Samurai culture, at least for Westerners, is that deep sense of honor that pervades every thought and action. The Samurai were the equivalent of the medieval knights of ancient Europe… on steroid. Their dedication to the clan was complete. Without a second thought, they would sacrifice their life to save their master’s honor or the honor of the clan. 


 

 Myamoto Musashi was the most famous Samurai of ancient Japan. He was a Ronin, a masterless Samurai, and had the reputation of being ruthless. Himeji castle illustrates the architecture of the period. It was built to withstand battles and invasions... and it did survive the test of time. 



The movie THE LAST SAMURAI illustrates that innate sense of honor in a way most westerners can understand. But Martial arts are not reserved for men. Many young women, even in ancient times, took the sword and adopted the way of the Samurai... until they chose to marry and have children.



As I am finishing the story of AKIRA’S CHOICE, a November release from Books We Love, I enjoyed revisiting the heroic times of the Samurai. Although it's a science fiction romance, my heroine is of Japanese descent, a Samurai by tradition, and a bounty hunter by necessity. More precisely, she is a Ronin, a masterless Samurai. The story is set on the Byzantium space station, part of the Byzantium series but a standalone story, although a few characters do appear in several books. Oh, and Akira has a cheetah retriever as a companion.

When bounty hunter Akira Karyudo accepted her assignment, something didn't add up. Why would the Galactic Trade Alliance want a kidnapped orphan dead or alive?

She will get to the truth once she finds the boy, and the no good SOB who snatched him from a psychiatric hospital. With her cheetah, Freckles, a genetically enhanced feline retriever, Akira sets out to flush them out of the bowels of the Byzantium space station. But when she finds her fugitives, the kidnapper is not what she expects.

Kazmo, a decorated Resistance fighter, stole his nephew from the authorities, who performed painful experiments on the boy. Stuck on Byzantium, he protects the child, but how can he shield him from the horribly dangerous conditions in the lawless sublevels of the space station?

Akira faces the worst moral dilemma of her career. Law or justice, duty or love. She can't have it both ways.

"A captivating story with interesting, appealing characters. Being a cat lover, I found the relationship, with its psychic element, between Freckles and Shane absolutely captivating. As always, Ms. Schartz’s solid plot and crisply-written prose incorporates a good blend of action and intrigue... This story can easily stand alone... but I believe you’ll enjoy this exciting Sci-Fi series much more if you start reading it from the beginning... a must read for all fans of Sci-Fi romance. Go pick them up and settle into your favorite armchair for some entertaining reading. 4.5 stars - Manic Readers


Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
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Monday, September 9, 2019

Writing the past or the future?

WHITE TIGER on amazon
Free in Kindle Unlimited
A book can take you wherever and whenever you like. We are bound to the present, and the reality of our existence, but when we read, we can escape and learn about a different time and place. Some of us like to revel in the past, others prefer their entertainment in the future. As a historical and science fiction author and fan, I love both… and to me, they are very similar.

Some readers dream about living in slower times, simpler times… when people worked with their hands, and took the time to plant trees, grow their own food, smell the flowers and bake their own bread. Sounds idyllic, right? As writers, however, we have the responsibility to research the period, discover the truth, and write the reality of those times. The people in those days died much younger. Swords didn’t kill as many as automatic guns, but there was also tyranny, social inequalities, enslavement, exploitation, revolutions, famines, pestilences, the din of battle, the smell of horse sweat and burning homes... vultures swooping over gory battlefields. You get the picture.

CURSE OF THE LOST ISLE MEDIEVAL CELTIC LEGENDS SERIES ON AMAZON

Others readers dream of future times, when we have resolved our petty differences, to explore the confines of space in shiny starships and establish colonies on faraway planets. It also sounds good... until we realize that space is a dangerous, inhospitable place, and we are not alone out there. Our prejudices now apply to other species we call aliens. Our world may have expanded, but the main conflicts remain the same. Competing for essential resources, survival vs. greed… sounds familiar? Except that the stakes are higher, since our weapons can destroy entire planets.

ANGEL FIERCE
AZURA CHRONICLES
ON AMAZON


Whenever and wherever we are, there is good and evil, courage and cowardice, selflessness and greed… and whether it’s a human or an alien world, conflicts will arise. Which is good for us writers, because without conflict there is no story. I’m often told that my imagination knows no bounds, but to me, writing a story is only a matter of logic. I start from what I know from extensive research, then I put myself in my characters’ shoes, sandals, or combat boots. Who are these people? How do they live? What do they want? What do they fear? Who do they love? Then I live their lives in my head, like a 3D movie, and I write their struggles, hopes, defeats, victories, and rewards. 

I have been known to write action, adventure and romance, featuring fierce women, brave heroes, and cats. These are only a few of my latest releases. Find the full list on my website or on my author page at each retailer below:

amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo  



Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, romance with a kick
 www.vijayaschartz.com 
  

Friday, August 2, 2019

Are cats telepathic? Or is it just me?

I have been accused of having a wild imagination, and I plead guilty. I’m a writer. It comes with the territory. I write strong heroines, brave heroes, and cats.

You may not know it, but in my world, real and imagined, most cats are telepathic and exhibit all kinds of special powers. Some are very judgmental, others just loving, and others yet very food motivated. They can read people’s thoughts and intentions and sense whether a person is good or evil. They can disappear from a room and reappear through closed doors, or vanish entirely… until they decide to re-materialize… usually around meal time. 

Jasmine never misses a meal, no matter how invisible she has become.

As I revisit the Chronicles of Kassouk for their second edition through BWL Publishing, I am thrown again into the sci-fi fantasy world I created for the series, Humans and their cats, fighting for their freedom against technologically advanced aliens with their own agenda. 

In the world of Kassouk, as you can tell by the book covers, cats are an important part of the culture. In Noah’s Ark, the hero’s companion is a fierce domestic cat named Viking. But all the following books eminently feature large felines, kept as pets and trained for battle. These cats are usually loyal companions, often heroic to a fault. 

Noah’s Ark is set against the dramatic background of Human scientists, runaways, fugitives, and settlers crashing on a wintry planet. The title of each following novel is the warrior name of its hero or heroine. White Tiger is the heroine of her book and all the stories after that have a corresponding big cat as a secondary character. In this series, each novel is a complete standalone with its own set of characters, its own romantic story and satisfying ending, and can be read independently from the others. 

  
 

As the population of Kassouk evolves, however, a few long-lived characters and continuing story threads develop through several novels, and have repercussions in more than one story. So, it helps to know what happened before. And if you are like me, you’ll want to read the Chronicles of Kassouk in the right order. 

I am thrilled with the republication of this series. NOAH’S ARK was just released in July 2019. WHITE TIGER is on pre-order, to be released August 1, 2019. And the following titles will come out back to back over the summer – RED LEOPARD – BLACK JAGUAR – BLUE LIONESS – SNOW CHEETAH. 

Here are the specifics of the first two novels currently available. Enjoy the read.



NOAH'S ARK
Chronicles of Kassouk - Prequel
Exclusive on amazon for a short time HERE

When Trixie's starfreighter, Noah's Ark, drops out of jump space in an uncharted part of the universe, she believes the Earth-like planet on her viewer represents hope and salvation for her motley crew and the ragtag settlers aboard her ship.

Kostas, ex Space Marine, the expert survivalist recruited for this expedition, doesn't believe in coincidences, and knows that when something looks too good to be true, it usually is.

Everyone on this voyage to seed a new planet with life, is running from something, and harbors dangerous secrets... including Trixie, who vowed to never let a man control her life again. As for Kostas, he would get lynched on the spot if anyone suspected who he really is.

But on this seemingly abandoned planet, others are watching, herding them for evil purposes... And when the truth emerges and secrets unravel, Trixie and Kostas will have to fight for survival, for freedom, and for the right to love...

"Filled with action, adventure, greed, betrayal, and love..." 5-stars on amazon.



WHITE TIGER
Chronicles of Kassouk Book One
Exclusive on amazon for a short time HERE

On the frozen plains of Kassouk, where a few aliens rule a medieval Human world, Tora, Human warrior trained by tigers, seeks her father’s murderer. But what she finds at the point of her sword confuses her. How dare Dragomir, the handsome Mutant, question her bloodline and her loyalties? And could a new enemy control the savage hordes of the fringe?

Dragomir offers to help, but Humans and Mutants are forbidden to fraternize under penalty of death... Should Tora trust her mind, her instincts, or her heart?

In the vortex of war, treason and intrigue, among blizzards, avalanches and ambushes, Tora sets out to solve the mystery of her father’s death. When she unveils the secret of her birth, she realizes Dragomir is the key, and together, they must save their planet from the invaders and fulfill their destiny... if they can survive dire persecutions from those they mean to protect.

"...an exceptional tale that belongs in a place of honor on keeper shelves everywhere." Coffee Time Romance - 5-cups

"...this is one futuristic that you do not want to miss!" Fallen Angels Reviews - 5 angels - Recommended Read

HAPPY READING!

Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
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Monday, July 8, 2019

Angels and aliens, myth or ancient history? by Vijaya Schartz

Throughout the ancient world, various mythologies feature extraordinary beings with incredible powers, coming from the heavens to teach and help, or chastise the Human race... or to mine some rare metal.

Whether we call them deities or angels, or aliens, or any other name, they look very much like technologically advanced extra-terrestrials, some with blue skin, some with several sets of arms, some with wings, others with animal heads. They taught our ancestors and made a lasting impression upon the minds of the population of the time. So much so that they left us gigantic statues and sculptures to remember them by... not unlike the US presidents immortalized in the rock at Mount Rushmore.

In the ancient Sanskrit texts of India, these beings wield fantastic weapons. There are several factions, and sometimes they wage war in the sky against equally powerful beings from the stars. They ride flying chariots of fire, and inhabit floating cities... not unlike a mother-ship.

Shiva is represented with blue skin and four arms. This protector of India, possessed a weapon so powerful, they named him the destroyer of worlds:



Some of these beings in different cultures are represented with bird heads, some with wings:

Anunnaki ancient Sumeria

Egyptian god Thoth
  
Indian god Garuda


Others have different animal heads, like Ganesha the elephant god, bringer of harmony and happiness in the home.


When you read the Vedas (ancient Sanskrit texts) or ask the people of India about these incredible beings, they will tell you these epic adventures actually took place in their ancient past. According to them, these beings were real and lived among the population of the time, and these are not stories or legends, but their ancient history.

If you want to explore exotic India in an award-winning novel, I suggest this one:

by Vijaya Schartz

A novel of reincarnated love, set in India - Two lovers, murdered in a previous life, meet again in India, where their murderess awaits...

To scatter her brother's ashes over the Narmada River, Fabienne leaves France for the mysterious India of her childhood dreams. As she awakens to a newfound spirituality, unexpected visions of a former life during the Raj stir ancient yearnings for a long lost passion.

Mukunda, the palace architect Fabienne loved a century and a half ago, lives again as an American engineer and works on the local dam project. As Fabienne falls in love again with India and the man of her destiny, the tapestry of her previous life unfolds.

But, in the karmic land of the blue gods, a ruthless foe lies in wait. The Kali worshiper, who murdered the two lovers in a faraway past, has come back through the centuries to thwart their dream once more.

"... a broad-stroked, magnificent picture of a lavish India of the past and the present... a vivid tale of suspense... a gripping account of a woman coming to terms with heightened awareness... a destiny that yields true fulfillment." The Book Reader Magazine - 5 stars.

Happy Reading!


Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, cats, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
 amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo  -  FB   

Monday, May 20, 2019

Are we becoming cyborgs?

The future is here. Many of us already have surgical implants, heart valves, pace-makers, artificial knees, bionic legs, hands and arms controlled by the mind. Some have artificial lenses in their eyes, cochlear implants to allow the deaf to hear. 



Science can now regrow in a lab new body parts or make them from biological material with 3D printers.

Babies can be born with the DNA of three parents. Animals have been cloned. Human cloning is illegal, but how long will it take for some governments to secretly grow their own human clones?



In China, tests have proven successful in creating improved babies by replacing DNA strands with stronger ones, or different ones. Soon, parents will be able to have designer babies, choosing the hair and eye color, the physical strength, the intelligence, the immunity to known diseases. 

Nanotechnology (tiny microscopic machines introduced in the blood stream) will allow us to repair or rectify any malfunction in the human body, cure any disease. Some day humans will be quasi-immortals... and part robots. Linking the brain to computers will increase the capacity of the human brain.



The next step will be to produce super-intelligent human beings, super-soldiers, special individuals adapted to live in  specific environments, like space, or on different planets.

These changes are happening quickly and soon, we'll have to deal with the problems of the future. We'll need new laws, new guidelines, to accommodate the progress of science. That's what makes science fiction fascinating.



And if you like reading futuristic fiction, you may want to try my latest series, Azura Chronicles, set on a tropical planet inhabited by angelic beings. amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo

  

There is a planet out in the universe, emitting a strange turquoise glow. A long time ago Azura refused to join the Trade Alliance. The Alliance sent their military fleet to destroy the Azurans, but their powerful supernatural abilities spread fear even among the fiercest Devil Dogs. Since then, records have been erased. Rumors and legends all but died. Azura is strictly forbidden, and the daring few who ventured beyond the warning space beacons were never seen again...

Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
 amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo  -  FB  -  

Thursday, May 2, 2019

My cat character in my June 7 release made such a impression on my publisher, that they decided to have Marshmallow on the cover. Here he is, the spoiled telepathic cat, in all his cuteness, at the helm of a spaceship. Well, he's not really piloting, just enjoying the view... like all cats do.

Preorder it on amazon or Smashwords


As for the story, it goes like this:

A gambler is cheating in a den of the Byzantium space station, and Lieutenant Zara Frankel intends to catch him in the act. She always gets her man, but this one could prove more than she can handle.

Captain Czerno Drake, code name Black Dragon, has come under cover to break his innocent uncle from the most secure penitentiary in the galaxy, on the Byzantium space station. He will stop at nothing to succeed, even enrolling the help of Zara, the lovely straight arrow GTA enforcer. When Zara realizes that she’s been duped by a shrewd but seductive rebel, her reaction surprises everyone, most of all herself. 

"I love this one by Vijaya Schartz. As always, her action-packed, well-plotted out prose kept me glued to the pages of Black Dragon from start to finish." TwoLips Reviews 5-kisses and a RECOMMENDED READ 

"I like the balance of humor and danger in this story, and the action kept me glued to the pages... I enjoyed watching as suspicion turned to admiration, and admiration became the first flickers of love between Czerno and Zara... Pick up a copy of Black Dragon, by Vijaya Schartz, and enter a world of adventure, romance, and a spoiled cat named Marshmallow." 4½ stars sensual, Long And Short Reviews 

"Vijaya Schartz is known for her strong female characters and Zara is no exception... gives the reader lots of action and a sweet love story." Single Titles Review 4½ stars 

So, if you like sci-fi, romance, and cats, this is the book for you. You can pre-order the ebook now from amazon and Smashwords. The paperback is coming live early. 


Happy Reading.

Vijaya Schartz, author
 Strong heroines, brave heroes, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
 amazon  -  B&N  -  Smashwords  -  Kobo  -  FB  -