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Saturday, December 18, 2010

More Holiday Stuff by Margot Justes

This will be a short blog, I'm expecting 20 people to dinner, and for the first time, I'm going the tapas route; from Spanish potatoes, samosas, Italian beef, chestnut and prosciutto ravioli in olive oil sprinkled with Grana Padana Parmesan cheeses. I've included a spinach and artichoke dip, hummus, a good selection of cheeses and sausages, American style wings and meatballs cooked in wine sauce.

I wanted something different with many varied flavors, but just in case I have mulled wine and eggnog with rum on hand, hopefully everyone will have a good time.

I was at Costco yesterday and bought a Brie goat cheese, and it is scrumptious. Dinner consisted of a toasted English muffin and the goat cheese, melted right into all the crevices. Delicious.

If anyone wants to make an easy and yummy fudge, here it is.
1/2 cup of butter ( 1 stick)
1 large can of evaporated milk
4 cups of sugar
1/2 lb small marshmallows
2 oz bitter chocolate
12 oz chocolate chips (I use all dark Ghirardelli chocolate)
12 oz dark chocolate (each bar is 4 oz)
2 tablespoons vanilla
1 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts

Combine butter, canned milk and sugar. Stir over medium heat until dissolved, cook to a boil. (about 5 min). Turn off heat and add the marshmallows. Stir until melted, add the chocolate, one at a time. Stir until all is dissolved, add the vanilla and nuts. Mix well. Line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap, pour and let cool. Remove from cookie sheet, cut in pieces and serve.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Season by Margot Justes

I've been absent for two weeks, Thanksgiving weekend was fantastic, had enough turkey on Thursday and again on Saturday to last me a year. Very convenient.

Last Saturday, Dina and I went downtown. The falling snow and relative warmth and little wind made it a perfect winter wonderland in which to soak up the holiday cheer.

We ate breakfast in a restaurant that faced the Chicago River, a young and very talented jazz guitarist, made our meal a sensation.

Breakfast was followed by a walk down to the Art Institute to welcome back the Chagall Windows, and I visited an old friend, the new wing now houses the Old Guitarist by Picasso.

From there we walked down Michigan Avenue to Nordstrom's, Dina needed new shoes. Pretty soon they will be knocking out walls in her bedroom to accommodate said shoe collection. She didn't buy any that day, but we had an invitation from Nordstrom's for a special event on Sunday, of course we went, and yes, she bought shoes, more than a pair. But I digress.

After Nordstrom we went to Navy Pier for dinner at Bubba Gump, my granddaughter's choice, and the Navy Pier Winter Wonderland. In the process by received a gracious tour of the Coast Guard Icebreaker, Mackinaw.

That tour was an incredible experience, the massive ship's utilitarian appearance had a few holiday trinkets strewn along and actually felt homey, but you never forgot this was a working ship, the people on board faced extreme and severe conditions to save lives, they had limited comfort and most likely would not be home for the holidays. It was a sobering experience.

We finished the evening with Navy Pier festivities, and it was fantastic, the decorations were stunning, with many rides for the kiddies. It was truly a Winter Wonderland.

And I might add by the time I got home, I did not want to move.

Now, I'm going to visit my kitchen and make rum balls, they are easy to make and delicious.

2 1/2 cups of Vanilla Wafers (About 1 box)
51/2 cups of ground walnuts
1 cup of honey
1 cup of dark rum. (I use Myers's)
1 cup of powdered sugar.
In a bowl mix all ingredients together, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for a couple of hours. Form into small balls and roll in the powdered sugar.

I recommend frequent tasting.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Holiday Season by Margot Justes

With the approaching holidays we’re all scurrying to get ready, we shop for food, we shop for gifts, we clean and cook; all the accoutrement that go with the season

I wonder, if amidst all that clatter, do we really take time to spend with family and friends. That marvelous dinner that we shopped for, cooked and prepared, do we spend it together or are we eating and listening for the latest sports scores.

Is the TV on so that no one will miss the latest and greatest, is it simply turned on for noise? Or is it turned off, and an actual conversation is taking place at the dinner table?

Who knows what world problems you can solve...of course it won't go beyond the dinner table, but you'll feel so much better having voiced your opinion about what is wrong with the world today.

You can discuss the latest scientific thrills coming from CERN, and the capture if only for a brief moment of an antimatter proton, that is certainly exciting, of course you have to understand it first, for me all of that is magic and beyond comprehension, but I recognize that it is a magnificent discovery, and brings us one step closer to an understanding of our beginning.

By the same token, that TV being on, and everyone listening to whatever game happens to be on, isn't that in itself a tradition? A form of relaxation and togetherness as family and guests gather around the TV and discuss the latest events, while nibbling on goodies.

This time of year is for family and friends and a slowdown from out every day lives, we certainly work hard all year and deserve this release during the holiday season.

I’m just curious how we enjoy celebrating it. How do we spend that precious and short time we have during this season? What do we do that is different from the rest of the year?

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Heavenly Saturday by Margot Justes

What a blissful Saturday, I've been up since six, drank a few cups of coffee, and had a delicious slice of Panettone (a big slice of Panettone) and I will spend the rest of the day writing. It doesn't get much better than that. Panettone and coffee are perfect together.

If you don't know what a Panettone is, I'll be happy to tell you. It is a delicious cake, not overly sweet, aromatic filled with raisins and orange peels. The one I just bought at Costco is made by the Bauli family in Verona, Italy. There are many brands readily available in the US.

For me just smelling the Panettone evokes the approaching holiday season, and after all we are a mere three weeks away from Thanksgiving.

All in all, other than my paying job, it was a good week. Thanks to my critique partner June Sproat, I will take my short story and included it in my novella-and voila, my novella will become a novel. It was such an obvious thing to do and I missed it until June said, 'why don't you just include it in the novella?'

And dare I mention it, I received the most wonderful rejection letter ever. I knew Amanda (an editor) didn't handle my genre, but since I pitched it to her at RT, she was gracious enough and asked to see A Hotel in Bath. She warned me it would take a while for her to respond. And respond she did. She offered advice on the conflict between the hero and heroine and then said, "with some revision and refining, this story could be a strong contender for NY Publishing houses." She urged me to pursue an agent.

To complete a great week, I received another batch of Eyvind Earle posters from Guy.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bath England by Margot Justes

We're working on updating my website to include a page on Bath, England, and of course I have pictures.

An astounding, historical city where you can actually see the two thousand year old Roman Baths when visiting the museum, and while there you can walk over Roman lead pipes that provided water to the baths.
Till Next Time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction by Margot Justes

The thing about writing is that you have to do it well enough for the reader to 'suspend disbelief' at least that is what I've been told. Except in the James Bond type thrillers, paranormal and practically every other genre. I'm convinced that the 'suspend the disbelief' axiom is very subjective just like the agent, editor selection of a manuscript.

In many cases truth is stranger than fiction. Consider this, a story I recently read on about an art treasure found in a Parisian home that had been uninhabited for 70 years, the rent has been paid, but no one stepped foot in the ritzy apartment for 70 years. The cobweb ridden place was locked up tight filled with art, books and furniture.

The owner was the granddaughter of Marthe de Florian, a muse for artist Giovanni Boldini. The granddaughter left the apartment after World War II and never returned, locking one of Boldini's paintings, along with a love note to Marthe de Florian in the apartment.

Recently after her death, the apartment was opened and among the trove one stood out, Boldini's painting of "a woman in a pink muslin evening dress" was worth a great deal of money, it sold for 2.9 million dollars.

Giovanni Boldini was born in Ferrara, Italy in 1842 and died in Paris in 1931. He is best known for portraits and did a masterful one of Giuseppe Verdi. I love it, it's stark and the face is so well done that it draws you right in, it's vivid and enthralling. Almost as if you feel the loss at never having met the composer.

Boldini worked on landscapes as well but his claim to fame was in portraiture.

Now comes the best part, no one knows why it's been locked up for 70 writers and readers alike, let your imagination soar as mine did. What mystery lies beneath the locked Parisian apartment?

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Paris by Margot Justes

A few times a year, especially in the fall I get an urge to go to Paris and visit old friends. The Winged Victory at the Louvre is by far my favorite piece there. It is magnificent, and perfectly placed, a wide staircase lead you to the masterpiece.

Not to be missed is the Rodin Museum, my ultimate favorite museum.
A glass wall with the backs of the Burghers of Calais greet you as you approach the entrance to the museum. A most remarkable and original enticement to a museum.
The Gates of Hell hail you as you enter and as you leave. And in the meantime you will be a guest in his home and gardens.
Visiting this museum feels like you're meeting old friends and as if Rodin never left, his spirit is still present in every single piece, finished or unfinished.
For me it is one of the most serene places I have ever been to...if you're on your way to Paris do not miss this amazing museum, and please say 'hi' to my old friends.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It was a Dark and Margot Justes

It was a dark and stormy night...except in this case it was morning. I always wanted to write that, and besides this morning it was dark and stormy. It really was. Instead of turning on the light in my kitchen, I lit a couple of candles, and unloaded the dishwasher, alas it simply refuses to do it by itself. But the ambiance for perfect for fine tuning a couple of scenes I'm having a problem with in Blood Art my vamp story.

Lately, I find that when I perform mundane everyday functions, I tend to day dream about scenes, dialog, characters, a new story, anything to do with writing. Maybe I'm escaping reality, boredom, sameness, whatever the case may be. I really hope every writer goes through that, otherwise...well, the alternative is not pretty.

My afternoon was spent watching my granddaughter test for a yellow belt in Tae Kwando. The discipline, the precision and dedication of those little tykes was inspiring.

Tae Kwando takes the training a step further than the martial arts classroom, it brings it home to the children and parents. It's all about respect.

The child is expected to show the same behavior at home and school. Tae Kwando offers a lot more than learning to defend yourself when necessary, it is also about respect and honor at all times.

My granddaughter indicated she wants to get her black belt, I think that is terrific, because along the way she'll learn to become a more rounded, tolerant human being and still be able to kick...when needed.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Playing Tourist in Chicago by Margot Justes

Friday was one of those incredible days in Chicago, the weather sheer perfection, sunny and warm with a light breeze, everything was still green and plenty of blooming potted flowers on Michigan Ave.
I spent a fantastic day downtown. We parked the car in Grand Park North and walked to State Street, then on to Wacker Drive, and right across the river from the Trump Tower, we found a new restaurant for breakfast. Hotel 71, appeared to be a boutique hotel with an inviting al fresco outside dining area, so we stopped to eat. I had an egg white frittata with mozzarella cheese, veggies and black beans, and it was tasty. Dina had an egg and bagel sandwich with goat cheese. Also yummy.
The Trump Tower is gorgeous, the sleek lines and glass seem to go on forever, nothing garish about this building, except maybe the Trump name everywhere you turn.
After breakfast we walked down Michigan Avenue to Nordstrom's and the Water Tower, where we stopped at Macy's and had a LancĂ´me make over with master make-up artist Alex Sanchez.
That was fun, but I never wear that much make-up, and it took two tries in the shower to get my face really clean, but in the meantime I felt pampered and relaxed.
We walked back on Michigan Avenue and stopped in the Art Institute, there is a certain comfort in stopping in a gallery and meeting old friends.
What makes a master in art, literature, in any of the arts? Is it simply a matter of survival? Or is it somehow so well done that it survives and is still relevant? Who decides that a work is masterful and worth saving? Is it that it gives us comfort because it is familiar, reaches us, makes us think? I've often wondered why a piece of art in whatever format survives through the ages.
A short respite downstairs in the outside cafe, was just what was needed before heading home. And the ride back at 5:00 pm was a breeze, we wondered what happened to rush hour traffic.
Chicago is a beautiful city, with much to offer any visitor; the architecture rivals the rest of the world, as does the theater, restaurants and certainly the museums. Yesterday was a reminder I don't have to go far from home to feel like a tourist.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Art Fairs by Margot Justes

Yesterday was one of those rare perfect days, it started with a delicious cup of coffee, breakfast with my daughter Dina and the Port Clinton Art Fair, shopping at Old Orchard and dinner at Zapatista's, a really good local Mexican Restaurant. After which, we collapsed on the couch and watched Murdock.

The fair is one of my favorites, and this year it was truly fantastic with many new artists and some very original pieces.

We were there by nine thirty, half hour before the start but most artists were already set up, and this way we beat the crowds. By the time we left, around twelve thirty the place was packed.

An outdoor art fair is the perfect place to see what is going on in the art world at a much less intimidating set up than let's say, walking into a gallery. Although, I've gotten very good at saying I'm just browsing, still the open art fair is the perfect place to chat up an artist, thank them and if you like the work, acknowledge their efforts.

The photos are not great, the glaring sun didn't help my efforts, but I found a new artist whose work I admire and I asked if I could take pictures, he graciously allowed me to do so. Check out

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Wonder of Blogs by Margot Justes

A while back I posted a blog about my favorite contemporary artist, Eyvind Earle.

A collector read the blog, and I received an e-mail asking if we exchange our selection of cards.

I was touched at the prospect of someone taking the trouble to e-mail me, a perfect stranger, and trust me to follow through with the bargain.

Of course I jumped at the chance, and quickly received a gold mine. Not only did I receive cards that I didn't have, but three fabulous posters. I could not reciprocate fully, I have cards and that is all, certainly not incredible and fantastic posters. I framed them, picture is above.

The exchange was not fair at all, but I am very grateful for his generosity.

I have since had them framed, and can honestly say that a day does not go by that I don't look at them with delight.

I have pictures, finally getting the hang of visual blogging. Isn't the work enticing? Each stroke of the brush is mesmerizing, light, airy, effortless and enchanting...enjoy. I certainly do.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Greek Island of Delos by Margot Justes

About a thirty minute ferry ride from Mykonos is the island of Delos. And what an island it is. Almost uninhabited, there are approximately 25, all either archeologists or security personnel.

The island is bare, there are no snack shops, no hotels, no restaurants, the wind can whip up in a quick frenzy, it is in fact quite desolate. A museum, the only modern accommodation for the tourist, books and other Delos souvenirs can be bought, but that is the extent of the touristy trade. The rest of the island is in ruins. Magnificent ruins.
What makes this island unique are the ruins. Amazing ruins. The whole island is covered with them. It is an immense site and one not easily forgotten.
Delos is said to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Archeological traces indicate the island was inhabited as early as 3000 B.C. Some of the ruins are so well preserved that you can actually imagine what the structures looked like and how they were utilized.
From the Doric Temple of Isis to the Archaic Lions to the mosaic floors, the sites are truly inspiring.
Off the beaten path, I observed an archeologist crouched on a low portable chair, a pad and pencil in hand as he meticulously measured something on the ground and then put it on paper. I snuck up on him and watched as he quietly continued his research. Time stood still and the serenity on the island was disturbed only by the fierce whipping wind.
If you ever find yourself in Mykonos, do take the time to visit Delos. I promise, you will not be disappointed, you will in fact be enthralled. The terrain is rough, wear comfortable shoes, you will be walking in worn and uneven footsteps are about three thousand years old . It doesn't get better than that.
Till next time,
Margot Justes

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Sean Hayden and His Mystery Machinations by Margot Justes

Today, I would like to introduce a fellow Echelon author, Sean Hayden, who will tell us about writing and reading and his move from the Chicagoland area, to the arctic, frigid state of Florida. Tough move, Sean.

Please wlcome Sean to Margot's Muse.

Born in the suburbs of Chicago, Sean moved to the frigid arctic climes of south east Florida as a small child. The son of a fireman and a proofreader (that’s what they had before spellcheck) he fell in love with reading at a young age. When he hit the age of 35 he wrote his first novel, an urban fantasy about vampires entitled Origins. It will be available from Echelon Press soon, and he has almost finished writing the sequel Deceptions.

As an Urban Fantasy writer, the entire genre of mysteries was often, for lack of a better word, a MYSTERY to me. Every time I picked one up and read it I often found myself trying to guess “who dunnit” rather than enjoying the landscapes, plots, and character that the talented authors were trying to paint in my head. This childish, on my part, game I would play with the books left only two possible outcomes at the end of the story. I would go “PAH! That was too easy,” or “They made that person the villain to throw everyone off!” In my defense, it’s really not my fault. Being twelve years younger than the next youngest of five boys, I often used competition to prove my worth not only to myself, but to my brothers as well. I’d like to say I grew up, but what we learn as children often molds our adult selves. Sad but true.
Reading is without a doubt my favorite pass time. I never found myself playing or even interested in sports. The more I read, the happier I was. Now an adult with two children of my own, nothing could make me happier to say that my children inherited my love of not only reading, but telling and writing stories as well. It was my ten year old son who changed my outlook on the genre of mysteries and made me fall in love with the concept. I still guess at “who dunnit”, but that definitely takes a back seat to the plot, storyline, and characters.
It started with, and I’m ashamed to say it, Harry Potter. I know what you’re thinking, “HARRY POTTER IS A FANTASY NOT A MYSTERY!” You’re absolutely right. It was that very realization that made me rethink the mystery of mysteries. Human beings have an insatiable thirst for not only knowledge, but answers. It is that insatiable thirst that makes mysteries like candy bars.
1. You can’t put them down once you start.
2. Not easily digested, but they always leave you satisfied.
3. They’re often full of nuts.
4. When you finally finish you want another.
Back to the point of this blog, Harry Potter taught me one thing. Anybody who says they don’t enjoy a good mystery is an outright fibber. Mysteries are EVERYWHERE. Even bound between the pages of innocuous children’s literature! Sure harry potter is a work of the purest fantasy, but every book has Harry and his friends bound on adventure to solve a mystery.
In my eyes, mysteries are the universal genre and the element of it is essential to any plot in any story, book, movie, etc. Without that insatiable quest for answers to questions, how good would anything be? You can write science fiction, and include elements of romance, but it wouldn’t wither away and die without it. Write science fiction without an element of mystery and see what happens!
Thank you, Sean.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Changing Face of Publishing by Margot Justes

We live in a world where publishing changes almost daily. Every time Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Apple sneeze, something new has evolved. From best sellers going on for a specific sale or Apple allowing the publishers to name their price; the publishing world as we know it, is changing rapidly.

More and more new and established authors are going the self pub e-route, for obvious reasons-there is more money to be made. Let's face it, the mid-list author hardly makes enough for...I was going to say a good cup of coffee...but that would be an exaggeration. Wouldn't it? Still, there are some pretty darn expensive cups of coffee. One cafe in New York charges $10.00 for a brew.
I don't think my palate is developed enough to taste that difference, but I digress. Back to the publishing world.

Morgan Mandel, in her blog last week discussed the self e-pub route and it how makes sense for an author. Amazon pays 75% to the author if price is $2.99 or higher; the money goes directly to the author's pocket. That is not a bad return for a mid-list author.

Consider, Dickens got paid by the word and he certainly used them well, but today that is most assuredly not the case, the mid list author does not make enough to live on. I would hazard a guess and say far from the minimum wage. I might be wrong...but I don't think so.

The stigma of self-publishing is rapidly disappearing for the same reason, more money to be made, it is easier and there is a vast amount of information available on the internet. The how-to-publish process has been taken out of the hands of the few and given to the multitudes, and writers realized that the potential for more money is much greater going the self-pub route.

Of course it goes without saying that it must be well written, and advertising is essential, otherwise no one will know there is anything to sell. Facebook, Twitter and all the other social networks will need to know the author exists and the product is available on Amazon, and everywhere else in the vastly changing publishing world.

I'm doing the same thing, I have two short stories available and will put them on Amazon. The covers have been selected, and I am fortunate enough to have a very creative web designer who will format them for me.

I'll post two travel articles I have written (previously published by Crime Spree Magazine) on travel sites for free just to get my name out. We'll see what happens, but for now, it is fascinating to watch the changes as they occur. It is a publishing revolution and we're here to see it happen..

Next week, I'll introduce fellow Echelon author Sean Hayden.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sayat Nova by Margot Justes

I don't go to Chicago as often as I'd like, it takes time away from writing and I still work full time.

Usually when my younger daughter comes home, we visit Chicago, and the trip always includes a visit to the Art Institute and a new restaurant.

Sayat Nova is not exactly new, it has been in that same location for decades, about 40 years. I used to eat there frequently (also decades ago). Lat winter I introduced my daughter to the restaurant, and beside I was curious whether it was still a good and reasonable place to eat. I'd hoped the old saying you can't go back again didn't apply. I was delighted to find that it didn't, the food was delicious.

I love Middle Eastern cuisine, and they serve the Falafel, Baba Ghannouj, Armenian Spinach, various Kebabs in style, nicely seasoned, fresh and simply mouth watering.

The restaurant is small, cozy, with just the right touches of Eastern decor; the lighting subdued and romantic but you can still see what you're eating. It is perfect for an intimate dinner.

The location is perfect, right off Michigan Avenue and shopping frenzy. A great place for lunch or dinner.

Sayat Nova
157 E. Ohio St.
Chicago, IL 60611

Till next time,

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Dining in Chicago by Margot Justes

I live about 30 minutes away from the center of Chicago, the city offers world class amenities, architecture, museums, orchestras, operas, hotels and restaurants. The city has everything, including a magnificent lake shore. It is a world class city, yet it gives the impression of intimacy.

It is not as the expression goes, 'a concrete jungle'. Trees and depending on the season, flowers, and all sorts of greenery line the sidewalks of Michigan Avenue.

The Fine Cuisine is also world class and sometimes the restaurants are housed in amazing places.

The two I list below are just such places.

The Everest restaurant, (run by the Lettuce Entertain You establishment) sits atop the 40th floor on 1 Financial place. It is a world class eating establishment. The French cuisine is excellent, the service incomparable, the view stunning and the price very steep.

It is dining at its best, not a place for casual every day eating, unless you're very wealthy and incredibly thin. But for a special occasion it is perfection. For me it is the top of the food chain for fine dining. It is elegant. It is worldly. I have dined there once, and I'm waiting for another truly exceptional reason to go back.

The Atwood Cafe is far less expensive, a prix fixe dinner menu can be had for $40.00, of course you could pay more, but the less expensive option is there. The setting is dazzling. The service meets the requirements, it fits the restaurant. It is less formal and of course far less costly. The food is excellent, and the recent egg white frittata with goat cheese was yummy.

The Atwood Cafe located in the Hotel Burnham-a boutique hotel that is a Chicago landmark, and it is exquisite, the lobby boast floor to ceiling wrought iron walls, stone inlaid floors, beautifully carved wood staircase, and even before you enter the Art Deco restaurant your eyes feast on the decor of the lobby.

The huge windows in the cafe and 18 foot walls welcome you to an intimate Art Deco setting. Located on Washington and the famed State Street, you're right in the center of the city.

Needless to say both restaurants serve excellent coffee.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Taste of Chicago by Margot Justes

I may have mentioned once or twice before that I love to travel but I also love going out to eat and trying new things. I was raised on simple fare and going out to restaurants was not the thing to do. You ate at home. Period.

The one thing my father instilled in me was the love of travel; we moved frequently and lived in some pretty amazing places. Maybe that is why to this day I have wonder lust and always want to see more.

Growing up in that environment allowed me the freedom to sample different cultures, and as I matured (I hope) and became more independent my palate grew as well. That is not to say I do not love Polish and Jewish food. I do, very much so.

I live near a truly amazing city, thirty five minutes away from my home is Chicago, and that means world class museums, theatre, opera, orchestra and food; all of that just minutes away.

This weekend starts The Taste of Chicago, over three hundred restaurants are represented, and for the first time, the participating restaurants must have a Chicago presence. An excellent idea, because we do have some great ones, from The Lettuce Entertain You chain of restaurants, Everest, an exquisite restaurant that offers dining at its best to the very casual and delightful R. J. Grunts in the Lincoln Park area. And of course, any discussion of fine restaurants must include Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, and I don't even have to whisper the chef's name, but I will...Rick Bayless.

Inexpensive fare to the very high end and everything in between can be found in Chicago. And because we're so culturally rich, all ethnic foods abound.

More next week about my favorite Chicago restaurants.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Photographer Matt Connor by Margot Justes

I would like to share some wonderful photographs taken by a young and very talented photographer.
Just looking at them makes me want to travel, not that I need a reason.
Rome, Capri and Egypt are scheduled for next year and the shots from both Rome and Capri just increase my desire to roam the world.
I really think I could live out of a suitcase on a permanent basis.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
Read and travel the world...
A Hotel in Paris

Vanity Press by Margot Justes

It would seem that even the Wall Street Journal is paying attention to the explosion of the digital books and the resourceful authors that navigate the complex and timely world of e-book publication.

A recent article in the Journal, 'Vanity' Press Goes Digital mentioned authors who either can't get published, as in an example of author Karen McQuestion, who was rejected, self published, sold well and even has a film option with a Hollywood director. Not bad a way to start your career.

The Journal went on to mention authors like Joe Konrath. Joe is already a very well established (check out his Jackie Daniels series) author who took his work directly to the reader via Amazon and is succeeding admirably. Joe is selling like the proverbial hotcakes, he is also a master of marketing and a personality with a goofy, funny sense of humor, his books are a scary, spooky good read. He is in fact the complete package to sell well.

For mid-list authors, the e-book avenue or any avenue for that matter, is not an easy one to manage. You have to let your readers know you're out there. But first, you have to figure out if you even have any readers. If you're lucky enough to have established a following, albeit a small one, you now need to grow that readership, and somehow let them know you're out there.

The social networks are always a good idea, in fact a great idea, but how to tell all your friends out in the nebulous land of the internet that you're out there, without hitting them over the head and becoming a nuisance. That is my question? Does anyone have a few answers?

I regained my rights to two short stories, and this weekend I plan to go to the Amazon site and learn how to download and sell them. Amazon, it would appear actually helps the author promote the work, and they have vast resources at their fingertips. We'll see how it all works out.

Till next time,
Margot Justes

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Taste of Italy by Margot Justes

Susan Miura and I will be doing our first library event A Taste of Italy on Monday May 24th at the Elk Grove Library, 1001 Wellington Ave Elk Grove, IL 60007 7:00 pm.

It's a travel show and discussion along with a sampling of Italian food. I found Italian cookies and coffee flavored hard candy at Joe Caputo and Sons, our local grocery food store that carries many international products. I love going there just to see what's new.

I was especially thrilled to find coffee flavored candy, the Italians love their coffee as I do. Since I wasn't going to lug my Nespresso machine to make coffee, the candy was good enough. I am seriously considering getting one of those portable Nespresso machines. Really, really seriously considering it. I can even rationalize it, after all it's for work. Hmm. The reasoning is beginning to sound better and better.

My favorite all stop shop, Costco has a selection of Italian cheeses and I'll need to get some crackers and of course Pellegrino. In case you didn't know May is gelatto month, of course gelatto will be served.

We'll have a good time and short of taking a trip to Italy, this is the next best thing.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Romantic Times by Margot Justes

RT, as it is affectionately known is a hoot, the days long, the nights longer.

Now that I have your attention, let me tell you that for the most part it was work.The panels and various programs started early and lasted till six, that gave you an hour to get ready for the balls, or stop by the bar for a drink. I noticed many people did both.I found the panels informative and in many case entertaining.

There were two New York Public Relations firms that gave an inkling of what it takes to represent writers; both best sellers and newbies. I fall into the latter category. One agency did a Power Point presentation and listed best selling authors they represented over a five year period.

My personal favorite was The Nancy Berland Public Relations Agency, they had representatives from the agency discussing various approaches and Sabrina Jeffries as a panelist, along with a newbie author. The audience had an insight into how they represented an established best selling author and someone relatively new on the scene. For my money, The Berland Agency won hands down.

Exposed to the various romantic sub genres gave an inking of what's going on in the industry as well as a feeling of "I need to get out more."The balls were a blast, from Ellora's Cave and her Cavemen, to the Fairy Ball and my personal favorite the Vampire Ball. I attended all three and let me tell you they were memorable and incredibly fun.

I didn't get to see much of Columbus, but did get to walk on First Street and found quite a few lovely art galleries. Fortunately for me, I walked very early Friday morning and the stores were closed.I found the people friendly, helpful and even though the conference was huge, I didn't get that lost feeling, but actually felt welcomed.

One interesting side note, there was a Bishop's as well as a Mortician's conference, and plenty of swag, (big posters, covers, etc.) from the various romance and erotica authors.

Since I had to leave Saturday morning, I signed books Friday afternoon, sandwiched between two authors who wrote for Ellora's Cave. Sandwiched between two hunks on the cover and me with the gun and postcard. Need I say more?

But the best part for me was a fan who brought her previously purchased book for me to sign. She took the trouble to find me and even ask when A Hotel in Bath was scheduled for release. Thank you, Ruth, you left me speechless and incredibly grateful.

I will be back.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
Art brought her to Paris, a stranger's death changes her life.
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Taste of Italy by Margot Justes

I'm meeting with Susan Miura this afternoon to go over our 'Taste of Italy' presentation, and this is the perfect opportunity to segway to Venice and begin my travel blogs.

Getting to Venice is not difficult, hop on a plane to any central European city and transfer to a small plane bound for the Marco Polo airport in Venice.

It took a while to get my bearing, my nickname Wrong Way Rodal is well founded, I get lost easily and have a hard time with left and right, and we won't discuss North, South, etc.

I wanted to get an ACTV 72 hour pass, that would allow me to take the bus to the center of town and more importantly would allow me to use the vaporetto at will. I asked and received a blank stare, a finger pointing to a sea of faces, no kiosk selling anything, just tourists looking as lost as I was. One person actually answered in Italian, and since I spoke in English and don't speak Italian it presented a slight problem. But we smiled at each other and I thanked him in Italian. Grazie goes a long way but unfortunately not to a place that got me a ticket.

The fact that I spoke English, had this totally lost look on my face, was at an airport, lugging luggage behind me and hoping against hope someone would take me for a tourist, nope, no one did. Odd that.

I kept walking a bit further, probably in a circle, although nothing looked familiar and I didn't get that- been there done- that European Vacation 'look kids Big Ben' feeling.

Finally, I got lucky and bought the three day pass and took the bus that took me to Piazzale Roma, the central hub where it would appear all travelers converge.

From there it was walking distance to our hotel the Boscolo Bellini, the hotel was just steps away from the Grand Canal in the Cannaregio district.

Going up and down the various bridges was a treat, the luggage thumping, bumping and groaning as the was person pulling the darn things. That would be me.

The area was perfect, the hotel was not, at best it lacked a personality, however the people at the desk were gracious and helpful, and the location more than made up for the shortcomings of the hotel.

My first day was spent wondering through the maze of tiny alleys and streets in hope of finding the elusive Piazza San Marco. You guessed it, even following the clear markings and arrows, I got lost, but you really never get lost in Venice, invariably you'll get to the Grand Canal and every street and alley is a treasure trove filled with charm and history.

Next door to the hotel was a remarkable Romanesque church and it so happened that there was a concert that night right in the church. It was fantastic. All in all, an incredible first day in a wondrous city.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, April 9, 2010

Eyvind Earle by Margot Justes

I've written a few blogs about art, and I just realized not once have I said a word about my favorite contemporary artist, Eyvind Earle.

For more years than I'd care to mention or remember, I have loved and coveted his work. I went through a period where anytime I could get my hands on his Christmas cards, I would buy a box and never send them out, because I couldn't bear to part with them.

There is something magical about his style. It's nature and yet not. Colorful, stunning in the grandeur of the landscape he often portrayed, but you can still see the illustrator at heart. His work is simple, elegant, almost Oriental and yet not. The colors are vibrant, alive, brilliant, the combination is simply magnificent.

I finally own a numbered serigraph, my prize possession, and dare I say it, I want more.
When I was in San Francisco a couple of years ago, I visited Carmel and stopped at Gallery 21, the gallery now owned by his estate, since Mr. Earle died in 2000 at the age of 84.

His career started early, in fact I read that at the age of 10 he was already very prolific. His career included a stint with Walt Disney as a n assistant background painter. His work for Disney included Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty, among others. But it is his later efforts that truly show a master at work. Someone wrote that his style is lyrical, and I would never associate lyrical with art, but it fits, it flows, it moves you. It is indeed lyrical.

If you're interested in seeing some of his work, just Google his name, and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Food and Travel by Margot Justes

Susan Miura and I are getting ready for our 'Taste of Italy' presentations. I've been hunting for Italian delectables that our guests at the library can sample. To be sure, there are plenty, but along the way I've been paying attention to the international foods that are becoming increasingly available in our local grocery stores and I don't mean the small markets, but the large chains like Jewel and Dominick's.

Yesterday, I stopped at Dominick's to pick up a couple of items and I always look at the cheese section, (I love cheese) which by the way has grown considerably to include a separate and substantial international selection.In the middle of the cheeses, I found fig and orange spread. I love orange marmalade and I love figs and fig jam. I picked up the tiny jar and noticed it was from Croatia, so of course I bought it, and as soon as I got home I tried it. Heaven. A little tangy, not too sweet and you can really taste the fig and orange; oddly enough the two flavors compliment each other.

I have added a new favorite to a growing list.By the way, a dab of really good fig jam on a piece of brie is delicious. Try it.When I was in Venice last year, I tried black pasta, didn't even know it existed. The pasta becomes black when you add squid ink. You can make a black sauce or if you're making your own pasta, add the ink along with your egg and oil. Recipes are available on line. I'm still having a hard time finding the ink.

If any readers can point me in the right direction-that would be wonderful.

Travel and food go really well in hand if you're not shy or afraid to try new things. If travel is not an option, check out the many international food items in your local markets. Discovery is a great thing.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, March 13, 2010

A Day at Sea by Margot Justes

Our days are still bleak, the snow now dingy grey still has not all melted, and I needed a reminder of warmth and sun.

Surrounded by water on all sides, the giant ship glided along the waves, the water lapping steadily as we move forward. Mesmerizing. Relaxing. Blissful. All cares swept away.

The first day of the cruise was spent at sea. The early morning is best, before the multitudes wake, I have my first cup of coffee and look at the ocean. There is nothing better than the gentle breeze (sometimes not so gentle) and the smell of the ocean.

I satisfied my coffee itch, and went to the 12th deck to walk, not a bad way to begin a morning.

Having built up an appetite, (not that I have to work hard to do that) a leisurely breakfast seemed like a good idea, and of course I needed more coffee.

The delightful part of being at sea, is that you can do as much or as little as you want. There are plenty of planned activities, from belly dancing, belly flops and I'm sure other belly things, there is ballroom dancing, get the drift. But I brought books to read and a pad to write on. A

The staff always on hand to bring fresh coffee, milk, whatever you need; they are continuously working. By the end of the first day, the steward knew my name and not because I was an 'unknown' author, but because it is part of the training to make each guest feel at home and welcome. You know what, it worked.

The elevators had a plaque on the floor, changed daily to make sure we knew what day it was; a reminder I'm on vacation.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Operation Paperback by Margot Justes

Did you know that you can ship 'gently used' paperback books to our troops. All the information is on line and it's relatively easy, all you need are books, boxes, tape and a little bit of time.

When I heard about it from my friend Gina, we decided to check it out and see if we could do something. After all, what a terrific idea, the books will be passed around and benefit many.

We started a drive at work and within a week we shipped four boxes, and by Friday afternoon we had enough books for a couple more shipments.

Once you register, you get a set of names and list of preferred genres. We were able to ship sixteen books per box. Because we had actual names of soldiers it became a bit more personal.

I had a lot of fun going through the books and see what people read. We had Ludlum, Patterson, Brown, the usual suspects. But we also had a few classics and mid list authors. A nice rounded selection.

This will be an on-going effort, as long as we have books, we'll ship them out.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Island of Delos by Margot Justes

About a thirty minute ferry ride from Mykonos is the island of Delos. And what an island it is.
Uninhabited, that is not exactly true-there are approximately 25 people living there), but they are either archeologists or security personnel.
The island is bare, there are no snack shops, no hotels, no restaurants, the wind can whip up in a quick frenzy, it is in fact quite desolate. There is a museum where you can buy books and other Delos souvenirs, but that is the extent of the touristy trade.
What makes this island unique are the ruins. Amazing ruins. The whole island is covered with them. It is an immense site and one not easily forgotten.
Delos is said to be the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis. Archeological traces indicate the island was inhabited as early as 3000 B.C. Some of the ruins are so well preserved that you can actually imagine what the structures looked like and how they were utilized.
From the Doric Temple of Isis to the Archaic Lions, the mosaic floors, the sites are truly inspiring.
Off the beaten path, I observed an archeologist crouched on a low portable chair, a pad and pencil in hand as he meticulously measured something on the ground and then put it on paper. I snuck up on him and watched as he quietly continued his research. Time stood still and the serenity on the island was disturbed only by the fierce wind.
If you ever find yourself in Mykonos, do take the time to visit Delos. I promise, you will not be disappointed, you will in fact be enthralled. Wear comfortable shoes, the terrain is brutal.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Friday, January 22, 2010

Mykonos by Margot Justes

The water lapping the shore, the beaches along the coast primed for tourists, the cafes and restaurants all facing the deep blue water, the caress of a gentle breeze, the radiant sun warming your soul; all is well with the world. At least the world of Mykonos.

I only spent about three very short hours in Mykonos, but they were memorable hours. I walked the length of the beach in the center of town and of course stopped in the obligatory shops, just because you have to stop, it's the touristy thing to do, and never let it be said I'm not a tourist. Nor were the cafes neglected, just in case there were any questions about my coffee addiction, I happen to love Greek coffee, sweet. Very sweet.
It has been said that Mykonos is one of the most beautiful islands of the Cyclades. It's history is vague, but somewhere around 1207 and 1390 the island was ceded to Ghisi family. There is also a record that at some point in time the inhabitants turned to piracy. By the 18th century the island established an economic presence and today tourists provide a great deal of economic prosperity. Of course there is more to the rich and vibrant island, but I'm only writing a blog.
There are some 400 churches on the island, the most renowned is the Virgin Paraportiani, and of course let's not forget the famous Windmills, as they beckon the ferries, boats, ships and anything else floating in the water. Up close and personal they are huge and oddly welcoming.
Next week, the reason I only spent three hours in Mykonos-the island of Delos-an island like no other.
Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Burt Wolf and Me by Margot Justes

It would appear I have wonder lust, or better yet travel lust. There is that itch begging me to go somewhere exotic. To be sure cruising the Mexican Riviera will be pure vacation, visiting the ports, relaxing, swimming, all the great stuff. But I wouldn't mind living out of a suitcase on a more permanent basis. And more to the point, in my next life I would love to come back as a female version of Burt Wolf.

This very elegant man who travels all over the world, has a terrific sense of humor, stays in the best hotels, eats in the best restaurants, writes his own stuff, seems to have a marvelous time and he gets paid for doing it. What a career.

I have watched his shows for many years and have greatly enjoyed every one. He provides a glimpse of the local culture, food, art, places to see and things to do, and everything is done with great style.

So, in this life I'm preparing myself for future possibilities and during the cruise I will write a daily blog while cruising on Royal Caribbean, the ports we'll visit and of course the ever present food on board ship.

But in the meantime, next week, I'll start writing about the Greek Islands, starting with Mykonos. Purely to quiet down the yen to pack and go somewhere. Maybe it work.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This is for Librarians and Booksellers and friends of the above mentioned, this way if you know a Librarian and/or bookseller, you can extend an invitation to the Bookseller-Librarian Appreciation Reception at the Chicago North RWA Spring Fling 2010. (That is a mouthful).

I volunteered to help with this event, and somehow wound up chairing it. Odd, that.

Below is the information you will need:

Chicago North Chapter of RWA Spring Fling 2010 Conference
Bookseller-Librarian Appreciation reception
Friday, April 23, 2010
7:30-9:30 pm
Hyatt Deerfield
1750 Lake Cook Road Deerfield, IL 60001

Sign up for this FREE event at the conference by visiting
then fill out the RSVP form.

Our guest of honor is Cherry Adair and Julia Quinn, and the warm welcome will include our fabulous chocolate reception, we know how well chocolate and romance go together.
And if you register by March 30th you will receive a goody bag full of books and other surprises.

If you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me at

Till next Time,

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year Resolutions by Margot Justes

I tend not to make resolutions because I never keep them, usually by the third day, it’s gone. The most common one is a diet…I wonder how many of us after the non-stop eating during the long holiday season are saying that at this very moment. Our family holiday season starts with Halloween and ends in the New Year. Two long months.

Okay, I’ll admit it’s on my list. Not a resolution exactly, but I brought the South Beach Diet book from my office to the kitchen table. And I started this morning, but still have Chinese food left over and tomorrow we’re taking our son-in-law for his birthday celebration and it is a delightful and delicious buffet at Pinstripes in Glenview. There goes the diet.

I also booked a ten day cruise to the Mexican Riviera, and if you have cruised, you know that food is available practically round the clock and it is plentiful. Absolutely no diet. But to offset the food, there is plenty to do, walking and swimming which I love, lessons in ballroom dancing and even belly dancing; there are activities to keep the pounds at bay however, there are also deck chairs, a library and a couple of books I plan to bring with me, not exactly a strenuous exercise but absolutely necessary.

Back to resolutions, this year I hope to keep the only true one I made; to learn more about this fascinating world of internet promoting, our very own Morgan Mandel is a mistress, and I plan to learn from her.

I know I’ll keep this one after all I have a novel and a novella to sell.

Till next Saturday,
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris ISBN 978-1-59080-534-3
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
Missing ISBN 978-1-59080-611 1
available on