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Friday, June 28, 2013

Paris Promotion 2 by Margot Justes

With the recent promotion of A Hotel in Paris,  I would like to share a snippet with you. Minola’s journey of self-discovery. It is a love story that began with murder.

Chapter 1

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 café, 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
A Hotel in Paris
A Hotel in Bath


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Paris Promotion by Margot Justes

For the first time, A Hotel in Paris was offered free on Kindle last weekend. I’ve never been sure if the free promotion works in building name recognition, or even increased long term readership. Do the people that download the book, actually even read it?

I’ve heard pros and cons about that specific promotion, but I took a chance and tried it.  Can’t say if it was or wasn’t successful, it’s too soon to tell. 

The only way to gain readers is to increase visibility, and since I’m now an indie author, it’s up to me to figure out how to do it. The Kindle free promotion was a way to try it.

One promotion idea was to post quotes from the book on Twitter and Facebook. Melissa from Author RX asked if I wanted to do it. I readily agreed. She framed the quotes to go along with my heroine who is an artist.  I enjoyed getting the quotes, and had fun relating to them. I think that was a successful strategy.

My little niche market is growing, and I’ve been told by a few people that they love my art world, and they have learned a bit about art. That pleased me more than anything.  I tell anyone who will listen, that art is everywhere we turn, and that it is highly therapeutic.

If nothing else, after the free Kindle promotion, I’m convinced that e-books are growing in popularity at an incredible pace, and that is where my efforts are going to be.

I think price is important too. A reader is more likely  to give a midlist author a chance if the book is priced reasonably, let’s say a dollar, two, or three. Other than formatting costs, there is no additional expense once the book is out; that was a no brainer.

I’m working on additional promotional ideas, and once they’re in place I’ll share them.
So far the process has been interesting, and fun. I love it.

I can tell you now that I’m retired, loving what you do takes the ‘work’ out of it. 

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

Friday, June 14, 2013

Romance in Paris Redux by Margot Justes

This weekend A Hotel in Paris is free on Kindle. I 'd like to share a blog I wrote a bit after the book first came out. Paris has always been my first love. It was the city that gave me my first taste of freedom. Let's take an imaginary trip to Paris right now.

It is spring at least according to the calendar. It is cold, damp and dreary, the flowers are barely sprouting, grass is still brown and potential for snow not an impossibility. You keep waiting for it to improve. And it will. Eventually.

Ah, that is because you’re home. It’s the everyday expectation in our existence. We perform our daily rituals without really thinking about them.

So instead, let’s hop on a plane and go for a ride, a change of scenery if you will.
Let’s imagine we’re in Paris in the spring, walking along in the Luxembourg Gardens. The gentle mist falling on the tree branches leaving a crystal reflection, a heavenly clean earthy smell permeates your nostrils as you take a deep breath.

Walk along the gravel path and hear it crunch beneath your feet. Listen to the birds chirp as they spread their wings and take flight only to land perched on a shoulder of a statue.

Watch the grass as it seems to become greener right in front of your eyes, the rain still falling and sinking deep into the earth.

Leave the peace of the gardens and walk out through the wrought iron fence. Go across the street while the gentle rain is still falling, sit down in the café, order your favorite brew and observe the wet wrought iron glisten in the golden sun peeking through the clouds.

While in Paris, I have done exactly that many times and have found that a gentle rain, overcast sky can be as romantic as anything else-whether you’re alone strolling and day dreaming or walking with someone special by your side. It’s what you make of any given moment.

Truly, in Paris every little thing that you take for granted at home becomes incredibly special. Every moment counts and is treasured. There is something magical about the city.

Maybe that tells us we should not take anything for granted when at home but seize every moment. I’ll leave that up to you.

Margot Justes
A Hotel in Paris
Art brought her to Paris, then a stranger’s death changes her life.
A Hotel in Bath

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blessings by Margot Justes

How often do we take the time to just whisper thank you to one in particular. Just a whispered thank you. How often do we count our blessings? How often do we take the time to just relax?  How often do we smile for no reason at all? I think we should, on a daily basis. If we did that, we’d see how lucky we are, because there are always others that are worse off.

We get on with our daily lives, but most of us are blessed, sure enough we have problems, various ills, issues at work, with friends, all the daily stuff that I call drudge stuff, but it is in fact life.

With age comes wisdom, or at least that is what everyone says. Wisdom to take a breath and say thanks, wisdom to know the difference between what is important, and what is superfluous.

I’ve always had the philosophy that you should do what you can now, tomorrow is not guaranteed. Don’t wait to call family and friends. Don’t wait to do what makes you happy; take that road trip, read that book, visit that family member or friend.  Stay physically connected to the people important in your life, and don’t let minor disagreements destroy those human connections.

We’re so hooked on those electronic connections that we lose sight of what matters. You go to lunch with friends, sit down and start texting.  Wasn’t it the idea to go to lunch with friends-sans the electronic equipage-is it really that important to answer that text? Don’t we get a break, maybe more to the point do we want that break. I do. Am I missing something, or is it just the age difference. You know, the with age comes wisdom adage.

Last week, I was walking out of Macy’s and a young thing bumped into me at the door, she didn’t even know I was there, didn’t look up, just plowed ahead. She was busy texting, and what was more telling, she didn’t even apologize. Must be the age thing.

On that note, smile, take a breath, and be thankful for what you have, instead of what you wish you had.

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


Saturday, June 1, 2013

Lifestyle Change by Margot Justes

I can’t say I’ve always wanted to be a writer, but I’ve always been a reader.  The need for a challenge allowed me to become a writer. When faced with mundane tasks, I’d hear voices in my head, and that was becoming more frequent when at work. My characters would hold some lively conversations, until one day I said enough, you’ll be heard.

I started writing. It was that easy, at least that is what I thought. I was wrong. Musings are lovely, but to make coherent observations, learn whose point of view (POV) you’re in, and all the other lovely writing essentials are hard to come by-osmosis notwithstanding.

It’s a continuous learning experience, one that keeps me challenged, that was after all what the process was all about. The challenge of putting a coherent product out, keep the voices in your head happy, and  get better with every word, while at the same time make it  fun. Writing for me has to be joyful, it cannot be a drudge, because then it becomes laborious in the worst sense possible.

I don’t plot out my stories, I have an idea and go with it. The most fun I have is when characters interact with each other, and take me on their journey. More often than not they surprise me. It keeps the process fresh and enjoyable, except when the evil writing block hits, and the voices are silenced. So far they have always returned.

I didn’t want my writing to become homework, an obligation. I wanted to have fun with it and learn by reading others, doing research, which I love doing anyway, and just seeing where it would lead. That was my first lifestyle change as a writer. I still kept my day job, and wrote in the evenings and on weekends when possible. That became increasingly more difficult.

My formal retirement notice was eighteen months-probably the longest in the company’s history. There was a perfectly logical reason to do so. I gave myself enough time to make sure I was disciplined enough to become a full time writer, and making it official meant I wasn’t going to back down. That time is fast approaching, one more week to be exact, and I’ll be a full time writer. I’m ready for that change of life.

It’s never too late to change.

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