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Saturday, December 29, 2012

2013 Goals by Margot Justes

I've often heard it said that time flies. Today I would have to agree. We have two days left in 2012, and I wonder where the year went. It disappeared. Most of us have a routine, we get up we go to work, we come home, we work at home, and so on and on. The hours roll into days, the days into weeks, then months, and once again we're saying Happy New Year to one and all.

I don't remember making serious resolutions at the end of each year. This year I'd like to change that. My copy of the South Beach diet book made it to the kitchen table, for me that is indeed progress. 
Step number one is to read the book and adapt my eating habits. The second thing on my agenda is to finish A Hotel in Venice, and start my new paranormal novel. I don't even have a working title yet, but characters and plot are already in my head, and itching to get out. Love being a writer.

I'm not a fast writer and while I'm still gainfully employed it will be a challenge, but it's on my list nevertheless. The third and most important is to spend as much time with my munchkins as possible, busy schedules sometimes make that difficult, but we're already setting time aside. The last and least important goal is to learn how to use a smart phone. I haven't even bothered to learn how to use my un-smart phone. I wonder if that will be the real challenge?
The goals I set for myself are not impossible, and quite doable...She wrote hopefully

Have you set any goals for yourself? If so, would you like to share them?
Happy New Year!

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Procrastination by Margot Justes

I procrastinated and waited until this evening to write the blog, instead I edited about seventy pages in my current WIP, A Hotel in Bath. The editor had a go at it, and now it's my turn to make the suggested changes. At the moment I couldn't think my way out of a paper bag, I'm so tired.
I kept thinking, I have tomorrow to finish, what is the rush? Of course I forgot that tomorrow I'm going downtown with the kiddies. We're having lunch in the Signature Room at the 95th in the John Hancock building.  One of my favorite Chicago buildings.

The munchkins have never been there and it will interesting to see their reaction. In any case, tomorrow is pretty much a family day, because we're also planning on visiting the Christkindlmarket at the Daley Plaza. The place is usually mobbed and for the most part, I can't wait to get out. However, the kiddies love it, and they'll get cute mugs filled with hot apple cider.
In the meantime, I have to seriously make a dent in the last book in the hotel series, A Hotel in Venice, finish the novella, and start my second paranormal, plus I'm slowly making progress on my non-fiction Memories of a Country Long Ago.

I always find it amazing, that I can spend a whole day in my writing cave and wonder where the day went. It's an amazing feeling to love doing something so much that time seems to disappear.
There are so few days like that, but I never take them for granted. In fact, the older I get the fewer things I take for granted. That is a good thing.

I'm really looking forward to the release, the cover is stunning, the setting amazing and the romance delicious.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holiday Traditions by Margot Justes

The munchkins (aka granddaughter and grandson) are spending the weekend. It's our time to decorate trees and gingerbread houses, bake cookies and make floral arrangements. All of which they'll take home with them. Afterward I'll clean up, take a deep breath and say 'that was so much fun. I'm soooo tired.'  It's the best feeling ever.
I'm eliminating all the little decorations and sticking to stuff that is easily stored. My way of downsizing, but still keeping the holiday spirit.   

Growing up I didn't have many traditions, or special set-aside days. With my own girls, I established long standing rituals. Fortunately to this day, my very adult  daughters are keeping them up. It's nice to see.
I think traditions are important; they form long lasting memories, and time is set aside to appreciate family and friends, at least during the holiday season. Hopefully more often than that, but at least during the holidays that special time is there.

In this day where everyone is working long hours, keeping a family together, running from one place to another, it's important to take time out and just relax and appreciate those around us.
I'm grateful for my family and friends.  Now, I have to prepare for the whirlwind that is scheduled to arrive in fifteen minutes, namely Sydney and Anthony.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes, Cool Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Gracious Holiday by Margot Justes

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, it is a day to give thanks for our many blessings. It is a gathering of family and friends and most of us adhere to old established traditions. Breakfast with family, setting the table, stuffing the turkey, enjoying the wafting smell coming from the kitchen as the turkey is basted; all those memories to appreciate and treasure.
It is a gracious holiday, with none of the chaos of the holiday shopping frenzy, where people will do anything to get that  super deal; people have actually been killed for a sale item during the so called 'black Friday.  There is not a single material possession that is worth someone's life, at least to me.

The traditional 'black Friday' now starts Thanksgiving Thursday, and earlier every year. I know the retailers want to make the most of the holiday season, they must make a profit during a very short period of time. I understand the economic process of retail survival. But is that profit margin enough to disrupt the actual day of Thanksgiving for their employees? Have we lost track of what this holiday is all about?
I will not be going shopping on Thursday or Friday. I will spend that time with my family and friends giving thanks for what I have; a terrific family and life-long friends.

How do you plan on spending your holiday?
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes, Cool Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A Forgotten Civil War by Margot Justes

The non-fiction look at South Africa in the early 80's is painstakingly slow, but I'm working on it. The working title Memories of a Country Long Ago brought back another memory, this one belongs to my father and also takes place in Africa.

There are very few memories for me of the time he spent in Biafra in the late sixties and early seventies. He was a very private man and never shared much of his life with others, and that included his daughter.
His decision to sell his practice and head to Nigeria and the Biafra conflict was made on the spur of the moment, one day I was getting ready to head to Paris to study-and I use the term loosely-the next day my father announced he was going to Lagos for an extended stay. There were no conversations, no further plans, just an edict that he was going.

Doctors were needed, there weren't many available and the conflict was brutal.  This was a time when we didn't  really hear much about what was going on in other parts of the world. We didn't live in a global society as we do today, but it was indeed brutal.
I've recently started doing some research about that conflict, civil war, whatever you want to call it. In about two and half years, a million or so people died as a result. The Republic of Biafra seceded from Nigeria because of cultural, economic and religious differences.  In many cases much has not changed, sad to say we still fight over the same things.

This was about the time that Doctors Without Borders came into being, but I don't even know if he went through that organization or another one. All I know is that he went there to help set up a hospital, I want to learn more about his time there.  
He was a remarkable man, and it would nice to share some of his life with my daughters, but I'm starting from scratch and so far have not made much progress.

If anyone can point me in the right direction, it would be greatly appreciated.
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes, Cool Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Day at Sea by Margot Justes

As the time nears for my cruise, I check daily to see if the prices change to my benefit. So far, it's going in the other direction.  However, it reminds me why at this stage in my life why I really love cruising.
Surrounded by water on all sides, the giant ship glides along the waves, the water lapping steadily as the ship moves forward. Mesmerizing. Relaxing. Blissful. All cares are swept away.

If the first day of the cruise is spent at sea, is a perfect time to relax and take that deep cleansing breath, as your cares glide away . The early morning is best, before the multitudes wake. That first cup of coffee and that first gaze at the ocean.  There is nothing better than the gentle breeze and sometimes not so gentle, and that fresh waft of the ocean air. Fresh and invigorating.
The coffee itch is always satisfied. I'm addicted to the brew, and fortunately it's served piping hot early every morning. It's not the best coffee by far, but considering how many people are on board and that it's continuously flowing, the ambiance makes it more than palatable. By the way, good coffee is available later in the day for an extra charge.

If your wishes tend toward walking there is a path high up above everything else, where it's just you, water and the sky. Early in the early morning twilight is just perfection. That is not a bad way to begin a vacation.
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, and...well, you get the drift. You can be as busy or as relaxed as you like. It's all up to you.  

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 will know your name, what you like, if you want coffee delivered to your cabin, and at what time. It's all part of the training to make each guest feel at home and welcome. You know what, it works.
The elevators have a plaque on the floor, changed daily to make sure you know the days of the week; a gentle reminder that you're on vacation.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes, Cool Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Time for Family and Friends by Margot Justes

I've always decorated for Halloween, and always had family and friends over for pizza. Things have not changed. Today is Pizza day.
It's been a tradition for many, many years I know what everyone likes, so the menu is simple. Most pizzas have to have sausage, as long as I order something with meat in it-I'm good.

My personal preference is thin extra crispy artichoke hearts and giardiniera combo. It is spicy and absolutely delicious. One local pizza place makes it to perfection, Good & Fresh Pizza Bakery.
I used to bake for Halloween, now Costco fills the void well. My baking starts at Thanksgiving. Time does have a way of catching up with us. Maybe once I retire I'll have a bit more of that elusive thing called 'time'. Somehow, I doubt it; the plan is to immerse myself in writing and prove to myself that I can succeed in this strange, wonderful and challenging business.

In the meantime there is one more rum recipe I want to share with you. Positively yummy and easy to make. It's all about easy.
Rum Balls:
2 1/2 cups of ground Vanilla wafers
5 1/2 cups of ground walnuts ( I use a food processor for both the wafers and nuts)
1 cup of honey
1 cup of rum (I use dark rum)
1 cup or as needed of powdered sugar
Mix all ingredients well. Let rest covered in bowl for a couple of hours. I've even left overnight.
Form into balls and roll in powdered sugar. ( I use a teaspoon to scoop out the mix)
Set on foil or plastic wrap and let dry a couple of hours, put on serving plate, sprinkle more powdered sugar on top and enjoy!

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath






Friday, October 19, 2012

Chocolate and Rum by Margot Justes

My modem failed and I lost contact to the internet. I don’t have a smart phone, so communication has been difficult at best. If nothing else this has emphasized the need for a smart phone. I’m going to join the 21st century and put the smart phone on the agenda for next year.

In the meantime, I promised a recipe for fudge. Adding the rum was a huge success. I can confirm that rum and chocolate go well together. Very well.

½ cup of butter
1 large can of evaporated milk
2 oz bitter chocolate (I only use Ghirardelli chocolate)
20 oz semi sweet or dark chocolate chips
3 ½ cups of sugar
12 oz dark chocolate
½ lb marshmallows
1 ½ tbsp Vanilla
1 cup of chopped walnuts (I use 2 cups)
1 ½ cups of raisins soaked in rum overnight

Combine butter, canned milk and sugar, stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved, cook to a boil, about 5 minutes.

Turn off heat and add marshmallows, stir until melted, add the 3 types of chocolate, one at a time, stir until each is dissolved. Add vanilla and nuts, and raisin mixture and stir until everything is well blended.

Line a cookie sheet with saran wrap, extending the edges; pour the fudge into the cookie pan, spread evenly with knife or spatula.

Let dry for 2 days. Invert the fudge unto your counter, remove wrap and let dry for another 2 days. Cut into squares and serve.

This recipe makes quite a bit of fudge, I cut it all up and store in a sealed plastic bag. My family loves the fudge; usually it doesn’t last very long. Makes a great gift too…


Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
And coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fall by Margot Justes

Fall automatically means the start of the holiday season; at least to me. The golden, burgundy and gold foliage outside, the cloudy overcast sky, and the occasional rain drops add to the comfort of being home. Today is just such a day.  A perfect day to sit on the couch, sip a great cup of coffee and read that wonderful book.
I'm half way there, I do have that terrific cup of nectar, but instead of sitting on the couch I'm waiting for my kiddies to arrive. We're going to decorate for Halloween and bake cookies. That is also a perfect fall day.

In my last blog I mentioned a banana bread with rum raisins-the addition of rum worked really well-the bread was yummy. Below is the revised recipe.

Banana Bread:
½ cup cooking oil (I use extra virgin olive oil-but any oil will do)
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs-beaten
5 ripe bananas-mashed
2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use any flour, but I love the nutty flavor of the whole wheat)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 cup of chocolate chips (optional)
1 cup of raisins (soak raisins overnight in rum and pour everything into mixture. I use dark rum)

Beat oil and sugar together. Add the beaten eggs and banana pulp and beat well. Add the dry ingredients, milk and vanilla. Mix well and stir in nuts, raisins, and chocolate chips. Pour into greased and floured loaf pan (9 x 5 x 3). I use a lasagna pan, cooks more evenly.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 F for about an hour. Cool well before cutting.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath






Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Nip in the Air by Margot Justes

There was a nip in the air last night; we had our first frost. The holiday season is upon us.

Our local Costco was selling Panettone, an aromatic yeast semi sweet cake filled with raisins and candied orange peel. I love anything orange peel-my favorite is dark chocolate covered orange peels; Marshall Field's used to have the best, but I digress.
Panettone is just a sign that the holidays are approaching, it is a traditional Italian holiday offering that has become popular here at home. I even see it for sale at the local grocery story. There is something very special about the scent of oranges and yeast dough that brings back memories from my youth.

During my young life in Poland, oranges were a rarity, a luxury, not available under normal circumstances throughout the year. In the winter time they became available, but not to any great extent. The scent of a freshly peeled orange has remained with me to this day. Those happy memories are few and far between. They are safe and uncomplicated memories. Maybe that is why I love orange peels and the holiday season.
We always decorated for Halloween, carved pumpkins, baked cookies and cakes that looked like witches. My daughter Solonge has continued the tradition. Next weekend the kiddies are going to help decorate, design their pumpkins and bake cookies. It is something I look forward to every year. I will post pictures of our efforts in my next blog.

I thought I'd share some favorite fall recipes this season. I'll start with a rather strange concoction.
Bake a spaghetti squash. I usually split it, season with pepper a dash of olive oil and cook until done. I don't use salt, but that is a personal preference. After squash is done, shred with fork to get that spaghetti look, and fill with chili. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve. I love the sweetness of the squash and the spicy acidic taste of the chili. I told you this was strange. I made chili last week, and bought the squash yesterday.

Guess what's for dinner tonight?
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks
and coming soon A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Apple Picking by Margot Justes

In the fall we always go apple picking, something I've done with my daughters since they were little, very little. The tradition continues now with my grandchildren. Fall is upon us and of course it's apple picking time.

We tried to go apple picking today, tried was the operative word, no apples to pick at this particular orchard in Woodstock, Illinois. All the apples packed in tiny little bags with huge price tags were kept in the cooler.

The top two or three apples in the tiny bags were nice enough, the bottom few not so much, they were bruised and soft. I do understand the drought, the lack of apples, and the necessity for the orchard to support itself, but I don't have to pay a premium for at best mediocre quality.

I chose to vote with my pocketbook and not buy any of their apples, instead I went to a fresh fruit market and bought the delicious honey crisp apples for a fraction of the cost and I still supported the local growers.

The day was fun, we were together and the drive down was gorgeous. Fall arrived early and the trees were in their glory-the colors were magnificent. We stopped at Papa G's, for a late lunch. A delightful diner in Huntley, where the food was good and my meatloaf (love meatloaf) delicious. I tend to judge diners on their meatloaf.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Voices Within by Margot Justes

I've noticed that anytime I do something mundane I hear voices. Not only voices but dialog, darn good conversations. It used to scare the proverbial living daylights out of me. Now, I look forward to them because not only do they wind up in my stories, but they are fun. I like my imaginary characters.

It is in essence an escape from reality. I'll be a full time writer next year and as the saying goes, I have one foot out the door at work. I'm retiring from my paying job. The thing that I want most is to be able to say to myself  'I'm a full time writer'.
Once I've reached that decision and have something that I truly love waiting for me, there is a sense of freedom. The sameness is slowly ebbing away, and excitement builds for what's ahead. Now I  want to push the time forward, but still enjoy the coming holiday season with friends and family.

I started to think about my brand, visibility in the magic world of the web-have to connect Mr. Gore's internet tubes-they seem to be pretty darn long. I want it set up so that after I retire I'll know what I'm doing, well, at least know more than I do now. Any progress in that direction would be an improvement. I'm even thinking of joining the 21st century and get a smart phone. Next year...first I have to remember to keep the one I have on.
All this electronic connectivity is not my thing. People can't even enjoy lunch or dinner without their gizmos. Is there something that is so important that you would text yourself off a cliff, or fall into a well or get run over? Is it so important that you can't even hold a conversation with a friend without an electronic interruption? Maybe I'm missing something...

Margot Justes

A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Another da Vinci by Margot Justes

Leonardo da Vinci was in the news again. It is amazing how frequently he's made headlines, well at least in the art world. Yahoo News claims a Scottish farmhouse was the recent venue for the discovery. The value of the painting could be upwards of 150 million dollars. Leonardo has indeed survived centuries and through his work became immortal.

According to the Daily Mail, it is believed to be a painting of Mary Magdalene holding a child. If it is not an original da Vinci, it most probably is from his school, maybe one of the master's students. Further analysis and tests are being performed at Cambridge University and the Hamilton Kerr Institute.
I wonder why the recent rash of discoveries of his work? There was the article about the metal casting of a sculpture. The hunt for the grave of the Mona Lisa? Who was she? Was it his lover in the portrait? Or maybe bits and pieces of his lover blended in the Mona Lisa work? When you think about it, new discoveries are being made about him as an artist, as a man and as an immortal. In his time he drew things that were beyond the scope of imagination for mere mortals. In a century where industrially we were just beginning to walk, he had us flying.  

In this century we are captivated by his vast talent and the things he foresaw.  
I'm fascinated by all things da Vinci. He plays a prominent role in my paranormal romance because I find him to be an incredible talent whose myth grows larger than life with every new discovery. Every new whisper. As if what already existed wasn't enough.

The new discoveries just add substance and depth to an incredible existence.
Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Cool Crimes Hot Chicks





Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Wonder of Travel by Margot Justes

My roots go back to Europe, and I've always been kiddingly (I hope) told that for me it's not a vacation unless I cross the pond, aka the Atlantic or any other ocean. I've been blessed in being able to travel. I seek out the best deals in hotels, air fare and anything else needed to keep the price down and affordable; of course that is all relative. We have to plan according to our budgetary constraints. The idea is to be able to go somewhere and see something new and have an adventure and still be able to afford it.  
That adventure can happen right in your own backyard, all it takes is a bit of research and voila, there are things to do. Everyplace offers something new to discover. I'm not at all interested in beaches, not my choice, but I have made an effort and have seen a few. Okay, I'll admit to the old adage if you've seen one beach you've seen them all. Well except the beaches in Santorini, Greece, it is black sand because of volcanic activity. That was unique. Here is my point, it was different and I learned a bit about Santorini's history because of that beach.  

The same can happen right here at home. A beautiful building, an enticing restaurant with a terrific view, an age old bookstore filled to capacity with history and books, local history museum and yes, bars and beaches. No matter your interest, there is always something new to see. It doesn't have to cost a lot, just a bit of your time.

Not everyone likes museums, I've heard a great deal of disdain in my life from people who do not want to waste their time in a museum. My philosophy is, if you don't try you'll never know. Stretch the imagination a bit. Many museums charge a fee, some nominal and others not so nominal. If you're in the DC area, the Smithsonian is free and the museums are unbelievable, you hop from the National Gallery to the American History Museum , and so many others in between-and they are all amazingly free.
As the proverbial saying goes, I cut my teeth in museums, but my palate was severely limited to Polish food. That is what I grew up on. There was no exposure until I was on my own, timid and afraid slowly I ventured out, now there is not a cuisine in this world that I would not try. I'm grateful that I took that first step. I apply that same process to a vacation, whether it's in other parts of the world or right here at home.

Margot Justes

A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A Couch and A Hotel in Paris by Margot Justes

As promised, a picture of my brand new orange couch. Sydney can't wait to try it out.

The rest of the blog is an excerpt from A Hotel in Paris. I started editing A Hotel in Bath, before I hand it over to an editor and re-read Paris. Made me feel as if I were there.

       The shrill wail echoed in the hallway, Minola Grey slammed the door to her hotel room and

followed the sound of distress. She saw the maid dart out of a guest room in sheer panic.  Minola

reached her in a few brisk strides and asked, "Yvonne, what's the matter?"  She didn't detect any sign

of injury, just pure terror in her eyes.  This type of behavior was unlike Yvonne, who was always

steadfast.  Nothing ever ruffled her.

"Mademoiselle Grey…body…blood…" she sobbed.

"Body?  Blood?  Whose body?  Yvonne, please…please sit down."  Minola led her to the plush oversized chair near the elevator.  "Tell me what happened," Minola pleaded.

"Lord Yardleigh.  In his room…dead…blood," Yvonne said, her voice shook, but the weeping now dwindled to a whimper.

"Yvonne, knock on Dr. LeBrun's door.  See if he's in.  I'll go to Lord Yardleigh's room."  Minola's voice quiet and subdued, she thought to offer comfort to the distraught maid. “Please call the front desk for help, and get Security up here, fast."

Lord Yardleigh's open door allowed Minola to walk in, and what she saw left no doubt in her mind.  Lord Yardleigh was dead.  The body splayed out on the floor did not diminish the quiet elegance of the room.  Minola’s stomach twisted in a knot, her muscles tightened and nausea rose in her throat.

She'd never seen a body, much less in this bloody state.  Think!  Don't touch anything.  She shook her head, as if to clear any lingering cobwebs.  Get hold of yourself. Where is the gun? I don't see a gun. Murder? Must be. He didn’t get up and dispose of the gun and then conveniently lay down and die. Not with that wound. A great fan of the mystery genre, Minola knew enough not to disturb anything in the room.  The crime scene needed to be preserved. 

Reluctantly, Minola looked at the body again and noted how impeccably dressed he’d been–crisp white linen shirt, gold cuff links, and an expensive watch still on his wrist–impeccable except for the bloody stain that had spread beyond the hole in the shirt and created a crimson river against the achromatic background.  To relieve her queasiness, Minola swiftly glanced at the rest of the room.  As an artist she focused on the de rigueur hotel furniture, then on the few contemporary canvases displayed on the walls. These were not hotel issue, and were good.

The colors and textures of the paintings strangely complimented the hues of the grim, yet powerful, scene before her. Contemplating the pieces on the wall gave Minola a much needed reprieve from the ghastly outline on the floor.  Her hands clenched as she began to shake.

Nothing appeared to have been disturbed in the quiet, serene room.  The curtains were open, and the sun filtered through to cast a warm dappled glow over the body.  Minola shuddered, turned and without touching anything walked out of the room.

Back in the hallway, she patiently waited for what she knew would be a barrage of questions by hotel security and the Police Nationale de Paris.

This hotel is my home.  What happened here?  To give her an essential, although temporary, reprieve from the tragedy, she focused on yesterday’s idyllic day sitting in a cafĂ©, in a cozy secluded booth across the street from the Luxembourg Gardens. Through the gilded wrought-iron fence she gleaned the contemplative and everyday life of the Parisiens unlike today, where the horror of sudden death intruded on her contemplation.

As she waited for the police, she relived the relaxed pace inside the gardens, so peaceful and calm.  She remembered the old couple who sat on a bench and held hands, a woman watched her child play, and on another bench, two women sat in comfort and rolled the prams containing their precious cargoes.  Their hypnotic movements, back and forth, back and forth, helped lull Minola into utter contentment as the mesmerizing and soothing minutes flicked by. 

The image of Lord Yardleigh's body intruded on her thoughts.  So peaceful in repose…so still, so sanguine, except for the blood.  Go back to the gardens.   Go back to the gardens.

"Mademoiselle Grey…pardon, Mademoiselle," she faintly heard a voice call her back to reality.        Art drew her to Paris, so well represented–not confined to museums, but present everywhere, and always in the gardens which peppered this amazing city.

 "Mademoiselle Grey…Mademoiselle, s'il vous plait."  She heard that voice again, faint but urgent calling her.  Her serenity shattered, she faced the certainty of a gruesome murder in her quiet hotel.  Slowly Minola opened her eyes, and noticed the hallway was filled with police and crime investigators.  She recognized what looked like a solitary pathologist carrying a black medical bag.  The police did not block his entry.

"Mademoiselle Grey, are you all right?  I need to ask you a few questions."  The gentle yet insistent voice persisted through her hazy reality.  "Yes, of course.  I am sorry," she replied, and again clenched her hands to keep them from shaking.

"I'm  Luc Dubois with the Police Nationale.  Mademoiselle, we already have a statement from the maid.  She said that you went into the room.  Did you touch the body?" he inquired politely.

"I didn't touch anything…no…nothing at all.  I went in to see if I could help.  Yvonne had said blood…I just wanted to make sure…  I…"

He nodded his head and continued, "Did you notice anything unusual?  Did you see or hear anyone come up to this floor while you were waiting for the police?"

"The room appeared undisturbed.  So clean.  I didn't see or hear anyone, but I closed my eyes because I needed to escape. I am sorry, but I believe I drifted off a bit.  Maybe Yvonne heard or saw something.  Not a robbery…"  Her calm voice belied her distress. She looked down and tried to still her quaking hands.

"Yes, I know.  I had a difficult time bringing you out of your reverie, Mademoiselle.  The maid had gone downstairs to summon help; she could not get the phone to work.  I believe she was too agitated.  Pourquoi?  Why are you so certain that it was not a robbery?" he queried.

"You must have noticed he wore a gold Rolex.  There are also several very worthwhile contemporary art pieces on the wall.  A thief would have certainly stolen these items.  No self-respecting crook would leave a Rolex on his victim's wrist.” She said. “The Luxembourg Gardens are a far more delightful escape than seeing a murder victim." Her voice was wistful as she looked up, her eyes shimmered, but she refused to let the tears fall.

"There I would agree with you, Mademoiselle.  I am sorry you were a witness to such a tragedy."

"Merci.  Thank you for understanding."   

Minola closed her eyes and saw the sun filter through the pool of blood–a macabre scene, one that would stay with her forever.  She blinked twice and looked down at her watch. "Pardon, but I am already late for class.  May I please go, unless you still need me for any reason?  I will be back this afternoon.  I can leave my passport at the front desk."  As an afterthought she added, "If necessary."

"That will not be required, Mademoiselle.  You may go.  I understand that this is difficult for you.  There will be more questions for you this afternoon; please do make yourself available.  Merci, Mademoiselle."  He moved on to speak with another policeman.

* * *

Yves Lanier, of the Police Nationale, was a man with a mission.  His dingy grey office with matching furniture was so littered with papers and books that he couldn't find the phone on his desk.  It was here somewhere, he knew.  Damn it, I used it yesterday.  He briefly stared at the mess…then, with quiet efficiency, slid everything off his desk to the floor, and heard the ping of the phone hit the ground.  He bent down, picked it up, and dialed a London number he knew well.  A quiet voice answered: "Peter Riley."

"Bonjour, Peter.  How are you, my friend?"

"I know that tone, Yves.  Interpol at your service.  What's going on?"

"Peter, Yardleigh was murdered sometime late last night or early this morning.  I think your investigation into money laundering just veered off track."

The silence at the other end was palpable.  "What the hell happened?  He was cooperating.  What do you have?"

"We have nothing, mon ami.  He was shot once in the chest with a small-caliber gun.  No exit wound–the lab's still working on that.  Purely as an observation, it looks like he knew his killer.  No surprise or fear…there's nothing reflected on his face.  Nothing stolen.  Everything, as you English say, was neat and tidy, save for the corpse on the floor.  We secured the crime scene and did all the lovely things we are supposed to do.  The bastard was not nice enough to leave any clues."  Lanier spoke with the confidence of a seasoned cop.

"Let me talk to Clivers, my superior.  Murder is out of our jurisdiction.  I suppose that leaves Scotland Yard in the game."

"Peter, this started in England."

"Don't I know it.  I will call you back."  Lanier heard the phone click in his ear.

* * *
Margot Justes

Saturday, July 28, 2012

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 to eat in restaurants was not the thing to do. You ate at home.

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 wander lust and always want to see more.
Growing up in that environment allowed me the freedom to sample different cultures, but as I matured and became more independent my taste for travel grew as did my palate.

I live near am amazing city. I'm 35 minutes away from Chicago and that means world class museums, theatre, opera, orchestra and food. The restaurants are simply amazing. All of that... just minutes away.
Not raised on fast foods and to this day, the only fast food  I buy is from the Pita Inn, love their falafel. Falafel is basically ground chick peas and assorted seasonings formed into balls and quickly deep fried. Stuffed in a pita bread with tomatoes, lettuce and tahini sauce makes a yummy sandwich. (Tahini sauce is made from sesame seeds)

Chicago and the surrounding area offers amazing restaurants, from The Lettuce Entertain You chain of restaurants, like Everest that provides an exquisite dining experience, to the very casual and delightful R. J. Grunts with a funky menu 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 and diverse, all ethnic foods abound.

One of my favorite restaurants in Chicago is the Russian Tea Room, first because of its location, as you step out of the Art Institute and look across Michigan Avenue, you can see the sign. They serve traditional Russian fare and the black bread as the saying goes-is to die for.  Their afternoon tea is reasonable and delicious.
Another favorite is Sayat Nova, a Middle Eastern gem on Ohio Street, off of Michigan Ave. A small intimate place with a big sign. It has been in that location for decades, charming Middle Eastern decor with a great menu selection from kebabs to couscous. And the lentil soup is amazing.  

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Went Shopping with Granddaughter by Margot Justes

My daughter and granddaughter came for breakfast, so I cooked their favorite dishes. My daughter loves kiszka, so I got one for her. (Kiszka is a sort of Polish sausage made from barley and beef blood) My granddaughter loves scrambled eggs and Polish sausage. I cooked that along with tomatoes, various cheeses, and pretzel rolls. She loves pretzel rolls. It was a feast, and I might add the coffee was sublime.
They came over to pick up a bed I no longer wanted. We disassembled the bed, packed it in the truck and went shopping for a little chair I wanted to put in the spare bedroom. There is a queen size bed there already, a sleeper couch in my office. I have enough sleeping accommodations. The additional trundle bed took up too much room. A small chair is all I wanted.

Back to my shopping for the little chair. I love Dania, they have lovely contemporary pieces that do not cost an arm and a leg. Maybe a couple of fingers at most.

My daughter and I found a lovely small, comfy chair. My granddaughter found a semi circular, orange couch. It was love at first sight. We tried to talk her out of it. She was willing to look around, but always came back to that orange couch.

I am now the proud owner of a round, orange couch. The room is painted a light green. It is a good thing that other than the dining room furniture, nothing matches in my house. I buy pieces I like and it always seems to work out. Maybe it is an inherited trait.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Hearts & Daggers
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Island of Delos by Margot Jutes

I thought I'd post this blog again, it's been a couple of years and wanderlust is visiting me once again; time to plan another trip. Hope you enjoy the post.

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 people there, all either archaeologists 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. Archaeological 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 archaeologist 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 that are three thousand years old . It doesn't get better than that.

Margot Justes

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Swept by History by Margot Justes

I spent a long weekend in Alexandria, Virginia visiting my daughter. I took my granddaughter with me, and I must say she was incredible. I  plan to make this an annual event with her. She said she loved it, even though she got a work out.

It was hot and humid and the little munchkin didn't complain. A few stops at Starbucks along the way helped, bottles of water and hats were required at all times.

We walked all along King Street, took a boat ride to Mt. Vernon and visited Washington's home. My granddaughter is interested in American History and she certainly got quite a glimpse.

We spent a day in DC and visited the Vietnam Memorial. It is one of the most poignant and profound memorials I have ever seen. 

The Lincoln Memorial is nearby and we climbed up and paid a visit, and the view of the Washington Memorial is quite amazing from that site. We walked by the White House, and she took many pictures through the fence.

The Smithsonian was not left out, we stopped at the National Gallery and daughter Dina introduced me to an amazing portrait done by Chuck Close. A marvelous, huge portrait of a remarkable, worn, feisty and spirited face. Truly an astounding piece. Finger painting at its best. I will have to visit again. I'm making plans to go back end of September. After all, I have to visit my daughter.

To round out our history lesson, we stopped at the American History Museum.  

Margot  Justes
Hearts & Daggers
A Hotel in Paris
Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Are blogs effective by Margot Justes

Blogs take a bit of time to write, at least for me. I know that marketing has to be a factor in sales, and that name recognition goes to marketing and sales.

A midlist author needs that crucial name recognition to build a readership, and so it goes. E-book sales are a huge business and growing rapidly, and many of us are taking the plunge and going indie, and trying to build on that name recognition.

How to do it? One way is to blog and post all over e-net creation. That is an upside, our name is out there. There is also a downside. How many read all the blogs that are posted?  People are busy with everyday life.

Are blogs effective? Do the readers really get to know us through them? Is a shorter version of communication better? There is Facebook and Twitter, and many other social networks that take far less time and are a faster way to communicate.

What do you think? Are blogs effective, or have they outlived their usefulness?


Margot  Justes

Hearts & Daggers

A Hotel in Paris

and coming soon Hot Crimes Cool Chicks

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Words on Paper and Time by Margot Justes

It's been a while since I've blogged. Time has a way of disappearing. There is work, the one that actually pays bills. There is family and somewhere in between there is solitude. The type you need to put words on paper. The solitude where you escape to a world of your own creation. Somewhere in between there has be time to do errands, take care of house and make time to read.

Then of course, it's time for bed and you realize the day is done. Time has flown.

That is what happened to me the last few weeks. I have a deadline for my short stories.

Amy Alessio, Mary Welk and I are back together for a short story anthology.

Coming soon to a Kindle near you, Hot Crimes Cool Chicks.

I have a request for a full submission for my paranormal manuscript, and have to wait until my editor is ready-should be end of this month. Have to work on another novella due in September, and so it goes.

The one thing I have learned is time is precious, and anytime I can spend with family, is always my priority. Except for today, got an afternoon call from Solonge (older daughter) and she asked if there was time to go boating-I said no. She caught me in the middle of cooking-yes indeed-I was actually in the kitchen making chili.  A dear friend is ill and I promised him some homemade chili. It's actually quite excellent, if I say so myself. It was something small but important for me to do. I gave Solonge an option for breakfast tomorrow morning.

Back to my point, I really have one. Time is short, we need to pick the things that are truly important to us and do them first, and if there is time, well then we go on to the next item on the list.  I think we'll find that no matter how hard we think our life is, there is always, always someone worse off. Enjoy your life and make time meaningful.


Margot  Justes

Hearts & Daggers

A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, May 5, 2012

An Incredible Talent by Margot Justes

Renaissance in a literal translation means rebirth. I'm specifically writing about the later Renaissance period that started in the 14th Century in Florence, Italy.  The massive movement affected, politics, literature, industry and of course art; and that is just gliding over the surface.

The impact on art was profound, a new realistic approach to painting where perspective became important-more specifically something called linear perspective-where parallel lines converge so as to give the painting an illusion of depth and distance. That is the accepted definition.

When we look at a painting, we don't say 'ah, I see the linear perspective', we just see a painting and recognize distances and depth and sometimes an added dimension.

There is a recent BBC article written by Robin Banerji about the quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci, despite being dead for centuries.

The latest article states that his anatomy drawings were quite accurate and better than the 19th Century Gray's Anatomy, and according to the article his anatomy studies were "hundreds of years ahead of its time." A series of drawings of the skull were anatomically correct and  perfect. The article goes on to say that the drawings were as good as what can be drawn today.  Leonardo died in 1519, that puts things in perspective.

Among his many talents, Leonardo da Vinci could paint what he saw perfectly.  That is not as easy as it sounds. I imagine it as he photographed it in his head and later developed it on paper.  A perfect visual image rendered in pigment.

 Till next time,

Margot  Justes

Hearts & Daggers

A Hotel in Paris

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Family Vacation by Margot Justes

I spent a week with my whole family at sea; a Celebrity Cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.

Even Dina who hates cruising-but went for the family-admitted this one was not all bad. She did get to go to 3 wine tastings, the last one was a course on proper glass selection. Her new motto, "Life is too short to drink wine from the wrong glass." Apparently the correct glass makes a
huge difference in the taste of the wine.

On our last dinner, Dina reminded the sommelier about using the correct glasses, and soon the master sommelier brought the large, wide rim and ultra thin goblets to our table. I have no idea what wine was selected, all I can tell you is it was red. I'm not a wine drinker, and saved my calories for chocolate.

The two little munchkins loved being at sea. My grandson said he wants to go on a cruise for his birthday, which is this May. Somehow, I don't think that is going to happen.

This was my first cruise on Celebrity, but not my last. The service was exemplary, even cold water, juice and ice towels were provided as we boarded the ship from the excursions. It was very hot and very humid. There was a tent with a couch and a couple of lounge chairs, just in case you wanted to take a break before going back to the ship, or while waiting for your

There was even an artist in residence, Graham Denison, a palette knife artist. I
watched him work and found it fascinating that a couple commissioned a painting
using colors that are currently in their home. I wonder what happens if they
change the paint on the walls?

Mr. Denison is British, and his work has a distinct European flair, scenes from Paris, Venice and Portofino dominated the available selection. Bill and Solonge liked his work so much that they bought an enhanced serigraph, a scene from Portofino; and no it will not match their decor at home.

I found the glass furnace on board ship to be truly astounding, there were lectures provided by the blowers in residence and sponsored by the Corning Museum of Glass. All the pieces that were completed during the lectures were signed by the artists and sold at a charity auction on the last day at sea.

I'm looking forward to another Celebrity cruise.

Till next time,
Margot Justes
Hearts & Daggers
A Hotel in Paris