A short story book is on its way to entertain you.
On writing stories: I came to the conclusion several years ago that the best way to learn the craft is to start writing short stories. Short stories like novels must have a beginning, a middle and an end, the end usually following shortly after the middle. I composed Some Woman I Have Known (Koehler Books 2015/Sun Hill Books 2018) from memoir-short stories about my diddle daddling in love until I married, and some outstanding women I met. It got me a PAN membership at Romance Writers of America. An honorary spot for a guy among all the famous and good women-writers.
Now I am launching a short storybook, entitled Shiver, Snicker, Schmooze, which contains 12 short stories in various genres, some short-short, others somewhat longer, which my muse bubbled up for me and got my fingers hitting the keyboard. Some based on real-life, others on the after-life, brought forward to the present time, spawning a smile, a tear, a shiver, or a schmooze. To entertain you during a boring train ride, that awful waiting in the airport lounge or sitting comfortably by the fireplace.
Soon to come:
ENCHANTÉ will announce when the Short Story Book is available on Amazon.com.
COVER DESIGN BY MELANIE STEPHENS OF MS Illustrations (Frederiksburg VA)
From left to right: Monsieur Enchanté, Mars Man on Mars, Mars Man on Planet Earth, and Kathryn of Omaha TV.
The friends are meeting for their Independence drinks in OMAHA’S Hullahoo Bar and invited Mars Man and his wife Kathryn from Omaha TV to join.
“Welcome Mars and Kathryn to the Friends drink at the Hullahoo for Independence Day,” croons Frank. “So glad you could make it.”
“Wonderful to be here,” Mars Man says.
“Likewise,” Kathryn adds, smiling her enticing Omaha TV smile, raising her martini.
“Tell us, Mars, how do you and Kathryn manage your life between planets?” asks Frank.
“Easy with our technology,” Mars says. “With my Scooter One, I’m here in forty-eight hours. More than lightning speed. Planet Earth is nowhere near that technology.”
“But how come you look like us as your Mars City TV face is alien?” Fred’s eyes burn with multiple questions.
“Again, our advanced transmutation technology allows me to change into my Planet Earth body on arrival. By the flick of my wrist.”
“And how did you and Kathryn get married?” asks Cindy, always out for romance.
“Mars knows me from Omaha TV,” Kathryn says, smiling again. “Mars can see mee from his Mars City TV where he is the Chief News Anchor. So he reached out to collaborate between Omaha TV and Mars City TV and we frequently do. When he sent me his Planet Earth picture I fell in love with him.”
“But Mars lives there and you live here,” Melissa interrupted. “How can long distance infatuation work?”
“Simple,” Mars said. “The same as you in Omaha and your loved one in New York: you commute. We get together as often as we can and have two lovely mixed children on Planet Earth.”
“What!” cried out Tom. “Does your Martian body work the same as ours?”
“On Planet Earth it does,” Mars says. “On Mars, we use electrodes for penetration.”
“So you have no sex problems on Mars like we do here?” Fred asks, his face looking perplexed.
“Unfortunately we do,” Mars says. “When your electrodes misfire, you may get sued. But we don’t text as you do here to find out if a person loves you. That’s oldfashioned. We shoot an electrode and if it finds access and shoots back, you’re in.”
“But how do your kids look like, Kathryn?” Maria asks, curious as ever.
“Like yours,” Kathryn says. “Except that they have bionic powers. That causes problems at the proms or in the classrooms when they hear what friends are gossipping about them.”
“Can you travel to Mars with your kids?” Fred asks, hoping to get a ride.
“Not yet. We’d need to wear space suits and our voyage would take much longer because we don’t have Mars bodies. And once there, we can’t take the suits off to be with Mars. But we’re happy here as long as Mars comes over. Thanks to Warren Buffett, Nebraska is still a free country in the midst of China Province America and Mars can land freely in Buffett’s cornfields.”
“That’s why all Friends live in Omaha now,” Frank says, bitter-sweet but utterly relieved. “We got here just before the Chinese built a wall around the border.”
“True,” Mars says. “During my last interview with Lu Kung Si, the Chinese governor in New York, he confessed that Buffett had bribed Xi Ping with a billion of Berkshire Hathaway shares.”
“Do you know how they build that wall?” Cindy asks.
“They stole the Trump designs and forced American dissenters in hard labor camps to do the work,” Mars replied. “The wall is so good that nobody gets in, even better than what the illegals faced in the south or the Berlin Wall in East Germany in the sixties. Kathryn is slated to meet with Lu next week as a free representative of what was once the great USA, to discuss China’s plans with Province America.”
“But how does she go to New York and back?” Ted asks. “Aren’t you afraid they may keep her there for ransom?”
“Kathryn gets special permission, with lots of Chinese red tape,” Mars clarifies, grinning. “And she flies back on the company plane. Lu knows that if he did anything bad to Kathryn his Xi Ping tower would be rubble the next moment.”
“I heard the Chinese also stole the NASA designs to go to Mars,” Fred says.
“We know, but Confucius said. ‘An oppressive government is more to be feared than a tiger.’ So we’re prepared. They may reach Mars but will melt on arrival.”
“And what if Kathryn came?” Maria asks.
“Red carpet out,” Mars said, laughing. “Happy Fourth!” And he raised his bottle of Buffett beer, formerly Samuels.
“A beautiful story — full of suspense, drama, and enduring love centered around music. John Schwartz has created a whole world and a wonderful escape. The characters jump off the page with such personality and imagery that this book could make a great movie. Enchanting the Swan is a very enjoyable read, and I recommend it highly.” Neal Cary (Cellist -Professor – William&Mary)
“Enjoyed the book. Well written book. A very heartbreaking love story.” Vera Wilson
“Enchanting the Swan was a nice read, and a deviation from the predictable boy meets girl and falls in love formula. There were many turns in the book that are reminiscent of life in that they were off the path to the end result. The writing was very image evoking and it all made for a good story that kept me reading until the end. Looking forward to more from this author!” Amy
“A lively composition! The various moneyed people, their elaborately appointed living quarters, and their high-wheeling lifestyle add a dash of pizzazz.” Kirkus Reviews
The Hullahoo Bar is noisy with THE FRIENDS arguing loudly about America’s hugging frenzy.
“I hear one woman got pregnant from a Biden hug,” alleges Frank.
“Impossible,” counters Melissa. “She hadn’t washed her hair.”
“Why can’t we hug anymore?” Ted wonders. “All that’s left in today’s sex craze is hugging your pillow.”
“Ridiculous,” cries Fred. “When I went to my first prom, we hugged. At my second prom, we kissed. At my third, we did it in my car. At my fourth, we had a baby and still love each other.”
“Romance is out the door,” Cindy complains. “I feel it in the office. The guys look at me as if I’m enemy number one.”
“Can you imagine,” says Tom. “I like a girl in the office and what do I do not to get fired? How about saying, ‘Hey, I’m sentimental about you. May I please give you a hug?'”
“You might try having a coffee with her in the cafeteria and, while she is sipping her latte, text her the question first,” Céline suggests.
“What if she leaks my text to my boss, saying I sexually harassed her?” Tom asks.
“Tell him the Biden doctrine,” Céline advises. “It was never your intention to hug her sexually, only to empower her.”
“Empowering her for what?” Cindy scoffs. “A pretext for impregnating her?”
“See, that’s exactly what this Me Too movement is all about,” Frank says. “They weaponize the natural drive of human love to stop procreation.”
“How would the world survive with only Me Too women left on earth?” Ted asks, raising his arms in desperation.
“Easy,” Melissa says. “There are enough plentiful sperm banks to make babies. Me Too’s favored vibrator and babylube make up for the fun.”
“And what would the male babies do?” enquires Fred.
“Do like the priests,” Melissa says. “Celibacy and feed the sperm banks. Use sex dolls. What do you think they’re doing now?”
“That’s preposterous,” yells Frank. “Worse than Orwellian!”
“It would solve today’s sex craze,” Cindy agrees. “No more Biden or Trump jokes. No more Weinstein predators. And Kamala Harris wants to make prostitution legal.”
“Do you think that’s where the US is going?” Tom asks.
“That’s where the world is going,” Cindy says, prophesizing.
Nobody feels like finishing their drinks anymore.
“What if we go back to ‘Love makes the world go ’round,’ Cindy?” suggests Frank after the depressing silence.
Mary laughs. “Without love, the birdies would not sing this spring.”
“Damn Me Too!” Ted hollers, hammering on the counter. “Love cannot be killed or swept aside.”
“‘Cause we hear in our heartbeat a beautiful sound,'” follows Mary, her eyes lighting up.
“Cheers to love, Mary!” Frank shouts, raising his glass, and everybody does.
(with due credit to Deon Jackson and Jennifer Lopez).
ENCHANTING THE SWAN – REPRINT BY SUN HILL BOOKS.
“A very enjoyable read. Could make a great movie” – Neal Cary.
“A fine romantic thriller” – Daniel Dwyer
“A heartbreaking love story” – Vera Wilson
Get it on Kindle: https://amzn.to/2UID9dQ
Read it while traveling or waiting in the doctor’s office.
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Mars Man is back at Lu Kung Si’s office in the Empire State Building for an interview with the Governor of China’s Province America. Mars visits Lu on behalf of Mars City TV which is interested in hearing Lu’s views about China’s Plans to invade Mars to make it a Chinese Province as well. The interview is relayed through Omaha TV with charming anchor Kathryn. Lu speaks first.
“You know, Mars, that Planet Earth’s Napoleon in his days already said that China was a sleeping giant and that Planet Earth should worry when it awoke. You see what happened to what was previously called the USA. You ask what China’s Plans are for Mars? Tell your audience they would never have it any better: daily access to Peking Duck and Chinese food, the main staple of America’s carry outs, even long before it became a Chinese province.”
“May I remind you Lu that Mars people have different bodies than you have. We live underground, have worm farms, plant farms, eat olms, salamanders, and wild bats, a delicacy as good as Peking Duck. We do not keep messy flee-infested poultry. Chinese could not live on Mars.”
“China would build structures above ground, Mars, acclimatized to Planet Earth conditions, bringing in our own food and drinks.”
“Unlike Planet Earth, we manage our climate and would make sure that storms, heat and cold would wipe you off our surface. My wife Kathryn cannot come with me. I have to come here but I have the ability to change into a human body, and that’s a secret you cannot steal.”
“I must remind you not to speak in adversarial terms, Mars. China does not steal. We acquire technology through partnerships, ‘Made in China.’ Find me one box in Province America without that label. We make things together and in exchange, we use our label. Walmart likes it, so does QVC and so many others, and so do we. Those that do not go out of business.”
“Lu, on Mars, we do not use cheap malnourished Chinese labor to make a profit on what we sell. You have no future on Mars. So spare yourself the trouble and stay away.”
“You don’t understand China, Mars. China aims to rule the universe and Mars will be one of our provinces in space from where we dominate Planet Earth.”
“Mars will import redundant flatulence from the failed New Green Deal and make your landing impossible.”
“Don’t fool yourself, Mars. We acquired NASA and the Russian Space Station. We put our footprint on the Moon. Mars will be next. Venus and Jupiter will follow.”
“The inhabitants of these planets will eat you alive, Lu. Contrary to Marsians, they like Chinese food. It’s a suicidal move.”
“China has 1.5 billion people and that’s too many. We must ship the overload off to space, starting with the Tibetans and Urghs, and unruly residents of Province America. Those deplorables as defined by comrade Hillary Clinton, including racists, sexists, homophobics, xenophobics, Islamophobics. Like the Brits did with sending their criminal crop to Australia. Only true collaborators of China are allowed to remain on Planet Earth.”
“How will China get to Mars?”
“Before you leave, we will X-ray your body to re-engineer it and replicate it for our own use.”
“X-rays do not work on my body, Lu. Besides, if you try that I will turn you into a Mars bar with devastating power. When somebody eats that bar, that person will also turn into a Mars bar, and so on. That might be a better policy to deal with your population problem.”
“Don’t try April Fools Pranks on me, Mars. I can arrest you for disrespect of a senior Chinese official. I insist you follow me to our health room.”
Lu rises, but his face and body crumble with a painful scream. All that’s left on his desk is a Mars bar.
When Mars Man leaves Lu’s office, he pushes the icon ‘Utilities’ on his smartphone to restore Lu to his human condition. He needs him for further interviews but knows that Lu will think twice before trying to take his body next time.
While stationed in Dhaka, Bangladesh, between 1980 and 1984, for the World Bank, we traveled with the two kids, David and Samantha, (8 and 6), through India on several occasions, from east-west to north-south: wonderful and unforgettable experiences. Some pictures you may remember from your own travels in that intriguing part of the world.
How did we travel? By air (it takes three hours to fly north-south), taxicabs, and rickshaws. We visited palaces and temples of artful architecture which showed the richness of India in the Middle Ages and earlier, while Europe was building its own cathedrals and palaces.
We watched the Gometeswara statue above in awe on our way from Bombay (now Mumbai) to Bangalore. The kids were still too young to feel ‘shocked’ by the enormous penis, but on a beach in Goya later, daughter Samantha pointed startled at a live male nudist’s penis because to her big shock it dangled precipitously.
Dave and Sam in front of the impressive Palace at Mysore in southern India, a huge complex designed by Englishman Lord Henry Irwin and built between 1897-1912 after the old wooden structure burned down. Maharaja Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and his mother Maharani Kempananjammanni Devi, commissioned Lord Henry to build it. The royal family lived in these palaces since the 14th century.
A photograph of the Hoysaleswara temple at Belur. Here is where Sam and Dave disappeared in the dark inside. Worried about child kidnapping in India, we found Sam later sitting with a local family, selling mango fruits as if she had become Indian. They did not want to be photographed. When Sam ran back to us I sneakily took a picture of them anyway.
Notice the natural Indian beauty of the young women selling mangos, squatting with – probably – their mother.
The ancient Indian art of temple sculpture is breathtaking. You see much of that art spread throughout South Asia and the Far East (Indonesia).
Of course, we had to visit the Taj Mahal (“Crown of the Palaces” – in Hindi) in the city of Agra while staying with friends in New Delhi who kindly babysat the kids for this trip. Joy is shown with the Taj Mahal in the background. My grandfather, a great-uncle, and father went there too, so it became sort of a pilgrimage for me. For Joy, all travel in India, in particular Bombay and the south where her family hailed from, was an all-out pilgrimage to visit her roots. Her family name in Guyana being Jaundoo, we searched the English language Bombay telephone book, which listed the name Chandoo. In Guyana, it had become Jaundoo. The pronunciation was exactly the same in Hindi, but spelled differently in English in British Guyana.
The inside of the Taj Mahal glorifies Persian, Mongol and Indian art. It was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan (who reigned from 1628 to 1658), to house the tomb of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal (source Wikipedia) Next to the Taj Mahal is the tomb of I’timad-ud-Daulah, commissioned by Nur Jahan, the wife of Jahangir, for her father Mirzā Ghiyās Beg, originally a Persian Amir in exile. I’timad was an important Persian official in the Mughal Empire, whose children served as wives, mothers, and generals of the Mughal Emperors.
From Agra we traveled to nearby Fatehpur Sikri, a remnant of the capital of the Mughal Empire in 1571 built by Emperor Akbar, serving in this role from 1571 to 1585 (Wikipedia). It is a remarkable assembly of impressive buildings which excel in structural simplicity.
From there, we traveled to Jaipur to complete the Taj Mahal ‘triangle.’ A historic old town with a remote castle on top of a mountain that one can only reach by elephant.
A ‘Joyful” elephant rider: the elephant seems to like her.
Following are two local Indian paintings we bought in Jaipur. The one with the Hindu figures we could not get because the store where we saw it displayed in the window case was closed. Indian friends of ours – thanks again Anand Seth if you read this blog! – who are from Jaipur purchased it for us later. The other painting displays a typical Indian rural scene as we encountered them on our travels by car.
Back to New Delhi to pick-up the kids to travel to Srinagar in Kashmir, a state torn by strife between Pakistan and India, now dangerous for tourists. We spent there a week in a houseboat on the lake at Srinagar, from where we traveled around Kasmir with its beautiful scenery that reminded me of Switzerland.
Following are some more pictures of fascinating Kashmir with Joy, Dave, and Sam:
It was great to relax in Kashmir. But on a day trip with a rented car, we got a flat…and no spare in the back! I had to walk to a nearby village to get some young guys to help me carry the tire to a local workshop to get it repaired. The young guys said proudly: ‘Kashmir is Pakistan.’ They were also proudly Islamic. It reminded me later when I sat with Palestinian colleagues looking over the Dead Sea at the West Bank mountain ridge. ‘There is Palestine,” they said, as proudly. Behind the scenic beauty in the world, strife is not far behind.
Meanwhile, Sam took it easy: she ate an apple I plucked from a nearby fruit yard, with the scenic valley and Himalayan mountain ridge in the back.
Next album: Darjeeling and more.