American holiday culture – by Vijaya Schartz

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, or 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 enjoyed 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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ANGEL FIERCE is a winner – by Vijaya Schartz

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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
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The ancient Samurai pervades science fiction and Fantasy – by Vijaya Schartz

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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New release, BLACK DRAGON, and a cute Kitty on the cover!

Find the links to purchase this book and my other titles from BWL here
What is such a cutie doing on a spaceship? On the cover of a book titled BLACK DRAGON? He is neither black, nor a dragon.
Well, there is an explanation. You see, this kitty’s name is Marshmallow, and he is the prized pet of the fierce Black Dragon, code name of an infamous Resistance fighter, escaped from prison, and wanted by the authoritarian regime on several star systems.
Unlike his heroic guardian, Marshmallow is quite spoiled. He loves tuna, loves the ladies, loves angels, loves blue crystal, and no one can resist petting him when he rolls on his back and rounds his blue eyes into pools of cuteness. He also has a special telepathic connection with the hero, and serves as his side-kick in undercover operations. This kitty is the best at distracting the enemy.
But although everyone loves Marshmallow, BLACK DRAGON isn’t a story about a cat. It’s a sweet sci-fi action romance, set on the Byzantium Space station. Book Two, AKIRA’S CHOICE, is scheduled for release in October 2019.
This space station was previously featured in the Azura Chronicles series, in ANGEL MINE, and ANGEL FIERCE. It will also figure in book 3, ANGEL BRAVE, scheduled for 2020.
 
About Byzantium:
 
Hovering at the edge of conquered space, in orbit around a dying star, sits an aging space station under the control of the  Galactic Trade Alliance. Byzantium, once a thriving commercial hub, is turning into a den of crime, drugs, and debauchery, where anything or anyone can be bought or sold. The maximum-security penitentiary at its core, the Fortress, is a pit of despair and holds the most dangerous felons in the galaxy. For over a hundred cycles, the GTA has annexed worlds and plundered their resources. It now controls most of the galaxy, except for a few useless rocks and a small number of rebellious planets, who still manage to challenge their military might. But something is coming to upset the balance of power… something the GTA did not foresee.



BLACK DRAGON
Byzantium Book 1
June 7 release, in preorder now

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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, the Fortress, on the Byzantium space station. He will stop at nothing to succeed, even enrolling the help of the lovely straight arrow GTA enforcer.
When Zara realizes that she’s been duped by a shrewd but seductive Resistance fighter, her reaction surprises everyone, most of all herself.
Early reviews:
“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 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
 
HAPPY READING!
Vijaya Schartz, author
Strong heroines, brave heroes, cats, romance with a kick
 http://www.vijayaschartz.com
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ANGEL FIERCE by Vijaya Schartz is out!

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…

AF medium

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ANGEL FIERCE
Azura Chronicles Book 2
by Vijaya Schartz

Something’s rotten on the angel planet. When Avenging Angels turn up dead, Urielle, their Legion Commander, suspects the handsome intruder brought unspeakable evil to Azura.

Maksou never met a woman he couldn’t seduce. He came to the forbidden planet to rescue his friends and get rich in the process, but the jungle crawls with lethal life forms… including a gorgeous warrior angel, who saves his life but keeps him prisoner and challenges his irresistible charm.

Urielle, sworn to protect Azura at all costs, has no use for a maverick who ignores the rules and endangers the planet… no matter how attractive. Especially when the Galactic Trade Alliance (GTA) wages a secret war to get their greedy hands on the priceless crystal at Azura’s core.

Each book is a complete story in and of itself, but if you are wondering about the first book in the series, here it is:

e8f76-angelminemedium

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Angel Mine
Azura Chronicles Book 1
by Vijaya Schartz

What in the frozen hells of Laxxar prompted Fianna to pursue her quarry to this forbidden blue planet? Well, she needs the credits… badly. But as if crashing in the jungle wasn’t bad enough, none of her high-tech weapons work. She’ll have to go native, after the most wanted felon in five galaxies. It’s not just her job. It’s personal.

Acielon has never seen an outworlder like this fascinating female, strangely beautiful, and fierce, like the feline predator loping at her side. He always dreamed of exploring the universe, despite the legends… and the interdiction. Is it truly a hellish place of violence, lies and suffering? If it spawned this intriguing creature, it must also be a place of wonders, adventure and excitement.

Fianna’s instincts tell her someone is watching. Sheba, her telepathic feline partner, doesn’t seem worried… yet, something on Azura isn’t quite right.

HAPPY READING!

Vijaya Schartz, author
Romance with a Kick
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
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The magical power of deadlines – by Vijaya Schartz

Deadlines can make you do what you thought was impossible. The first time I was given a deadline by a publisher, I panicked. It had taken me eighteen months to write my last book, and I only had six months for this one.  But I didn’t want to miss this publishing opportunity, so I signed the contract. Then I realized what a great motivator that deadline provided.

Whether it’s a high stakes countdown in an action novel, or a self-imposed goal, or an imperative work time limit, for some reason, our subconscious treats deadlines like a do or die situation. Unlike new year resolutions, which tend to fade by February, deadlines can motivate us all year long.

deadline

If my critique partner didn’t come to my living room every week, I might not have my chapter ready, or the floor might not get cleaned as often. The prospect of taking pictures at holiday parties certainly motivated me to lose the three extra pounds I gained in early fall.

This month, I wrote “the end” on the second book in the Azura Chronicles series, making my January 1st deadline, and it’s a good feeling. Last year, without a specific deadline, it took me much longer to write the first book. I discovered that deadlines not only keep me on schedule, but they sharpen my focus on my story and characters. They force me to stay the course. Next to my wall calendar are reminders of my deadlines for next year. Three book releases. And because I have strict publisher deadlines, these books will be released on schedule.

So, instead of New Year resolutions, I suggest you give yourself deadlines. Keep the goals realistic and take control of your life. Using deadlines as a motivator, you will reach your goals, and get a great sense of accomplishment.

As for me, back to my newly finished novel. It’s polishing time, and this is my favorite part of the work. I wish you all a wonderful year in 2019.

ANGEL FIERCE, Book 2 of the Azura Chronicles is coming out in February. In the meantime, you can read ANGEL MINE, Book 1 in the Azura Chronicles series.

e8f76-angelminemediumWhat in the frozen hells of Laxxar prompted Fianna to pursue her quarry to this forbidden blue planet? Well, she needs the credits… badly. But as if crashing in the jungle wasn’t bad enough, none of her high-tech weapons work. She’ll have to go native, after the most wanted felon in five galaxies. It’s not just her job. It’s personal.

Acielon has never seen an outworlder like this fascinating female, strangely beautiful, and fierce, like the feline predator loping at her side. He always dreamed of exploring the universe, despite the legends… and the interdiction. Is it truly a hellish place of violence, lies and suffering? If it spawned this intriguing creature, it must also be a place of wonders, adventure and excitement.

Fianna’s instincts tell her someone is watching. Sheba, her telepathic feline partner, doesn’t seem worried… yet, something on Azura isn’t quite right.

“… fast-paced space adventure/romance with lots of twists, turns, and enough action to satisfy sci-fi enthusiasts… storytelling is imaginative and action scenes vivid… pleasing happily ever after that sets up a sequel.” Ind’Tale Magazine.

Vijaya Schartz, author

Romance with a Kick
http://www.vijayaschartz.com
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Favorite holiday movies of this century

I love this time of year, especially because I can binge-watch Christmas movies on cable. I’m not talking about the black and white classics, like It’s a Wonderful Life, or Miracle on 34th Street, but about the movies of this century that are becoming the new classics. Not all are noteworthy, but here are two of my favorites. Of course, the stellar cast helps, as these feature some of my favorite actors. You may also notice that they are not movies for children, nor are they tear-jerkers, but drama-comedies for grownups to thoroughly enjoy.

LoveActuallyLOVE, ACTUALLY (2003 Romantic Comedy) – Now, my favorite holiday movie of all times. You can’t go wrong with Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Billy Bob Thornton, to name only a few. The story follows eight different couples embroiled in their own problems during the holidays. From the playboy prime minister (Hugh Grant) to the pathetic lowly employee with a disabled brother, and the blocked writer (Colin Firth) who leaves the country to write and falls in love with a Portuguese immigrant. This holiday tapestry puzzle comes together as we gradually discover what links these characters. At the end, as they are all gathered in the same room, we are overjoyed, and our faith in the holiday spirit is renewed.

theholidayTHE HOLIDAY (2006 Romantic Comedy) – This movie is rapidly climbing to the top of favorite holiday movies lists. Again, great actors, like Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Jack Black (who shines in a serious and touching kind of role). On impulse, two recently single women of vastly different backgrounds swap houses across the pond for the holidays. The movie trailer genius from L.A. ends up in a snowy English countryside cottage, and the British columnist with a heart of gold experiences a Hollywood mansion for the first time. As a result, both their lives are changed forever. A feel good movie with lots of holiday cheer.

Here you have them, my favorite holiday movies. What are yours?

In the meantime, you can read my books. Which are not holiday related, but full of action, love, good and evil, angels and villains, and other historical or futuristic characters. Happy Reading!

Vijaya Schartz

Romance with a Kick

http://www.vijayaschartz.com

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