Farewell to the Crime Fictionista

In this age of email, social media platforms, cyber chats, and zoom calls, is it possible to build relationships? Real ones? I suppose it could depend on the personality type of the involved parties.  

Just in case you’re thinking romance, I’m not talking about that.

Back in the twenty-teens, I joined a small critique group hosted by American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). They host a massive number of groups, so it is sometimes difficult to find the right fit. This was my third try.

The “captain” of this group was a local writer and friend, Jean Thompson Kinsey. Rather than being all historical fiction/romance, we had historical, suspense, mystery, thriller, and contemporary. Among them, was a writer named Nike Chillemi.

I had never met anyone quite like Nike. She hailed from Brooklyn, New York. I could easily imagine her accent.

Her writing? I’ll let her describe that:

Today, you might call me a crime fictionista. My passion is contemporary detective stories, murder mysteries, national security/espionage thrillers, and cozies. I like my bad guys really bad and my good guys giving their all fighting the good fight. I write gritty-funny-uplifting detective novels with a national security/public safety twist. My main characters, both male and female, are jump into the fray, fighters for justice. They are tough and very likeable.

Nike Chillemi – About Me

And so was Nike—tough and very likable. In fact, over the years of working together on stories, I grew to love her. Though I’d never met her in person, she became a best friend. She taught me a lot about telling stories, especially the joy of writing. Never lose the joy.

Nike, when we “met.”

When Jean Kinsey retired due to illness, Nike should have become head of our group, but she was far too busy with her many other roles, so she suggested that I take over. I did, with Nike’s help. She might have been second banana, but she never let that keep her from expressing her opinion. 😊

She was my go-to whenever a decision needed to be made in the group. She liked being in a “small” small group. Ours was one of two groups she participated in. As we added other writers to our roll, she made them feel at home, though her wit often caught them off guard. Afterward, I would receive a private email from one of the newbies, “What did Nike mean by that comment?”

She was fond of slapping my hand over misplaced or missing commas. The hand slap was more like a guffaw. It was an ongoing joke between us.

Not so long ago, Nike left Brooklyn and moved to a place she loved—Jacksonville, Florida. She adored her new home and told funny stories about her many pets. This post from February gives us a tiny glimpse into her day-to-day life: “I really do have a life besides writing detective novels and sticking my nose into politics. I cook a lot from scratch and bake. I also have four senior cats and a senior dog.”

Yes, she stuck her nose into politics. Further proof that she was not afraid to express her opinion.

Most recent publicity photo

Then, a few months back, Nike told me she had cancer. She intended to fight, and fight is what she did. All the while, she wrote. She finished her work-in-progress, Courting Danger, and managed to get it released on Amazon. There was a book release and then there was silence.

No emails. No posts on social media. Nothing. I sent emails that went unanswered.

That’s when I knew her condition was grave. In April, she sent out a note to all her friends. She was having surgery and would be out of touch for a while. Then there was a brief post on Facebook, written while in rehab,

While I was in post surgery I watched TBN exclusively. It was honey to my soul. Now I’m in rehab an it’s going well. Every time I come to FB I am overwhelmed by fear and panic. So I will only be posting about writing Christian murder mysteries on writing centered sites. I will not be making comments much on my stream or responding.

That was the last post I read from her. In June, I received a note from a mutual friend to let me know hospice had been called for Nike. The members of our critique group sent emails to be read to her.

On June 9, she passed away.

I had never met her in person. I had never heard her voice. Yet in her passing, my heart was broken. I had grown to love our conversations. I grew to respect her as a writer. She was my mentor, and a dear friend.

The members of our group mourned her passing. We haven’t had much heart for working on our stories yet.

No more sorrow. I know it was well with her soul. She is resting in Jesus now. No more suffering or anxiety for Nike. Our group will begin again, but I think we will always have Nike in mind when we send through our chapters.

So, can you build lasting relationships, sight-unseen in this electronic age? The answer is yes, you most certainly can.

Nike Chillemi on Amazon

A July Post

Rain on the roof this morning! Like many of you, we needed rain.

June was a dry month, but a fun one! Here on my blog, June was all about travel.

Welcome, July. I am deep in the editing of my latest work-in-progress, “Still Water.” It will be Book 1 in the HomeFound series. Due to the need for an extensive rewrite, the release date has been postponed until March, 2022. I’m excited about this book and the new series.

What is the book about? When a young woman’s parents are killed in a car accident, and facts about their early lives begin to surface, she is forced out of the comfortable life she has built for herself. Then she discovers that the wreck that killed them may not have been an accident. Someone from their past had finally caught up with them.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

From my publisher: In mid-July, my other books will be on sale. If you’ve never read my books, or haven’t read all of them, watch for this e-book sale. E-books are easy to read on the road, on the beach, in the air, beside the lake, on break at your desk, or wherever this summer happens to take you.

This weekend many will gather for cookouts and picnics to celebrate our country’s birthday. I can remember several consecutive years that my husband and I spent the 4th of July in Panama City, Florida, where we watched the fireworks from a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. This year, we’ll be in our little court, celebrating with our neighbors.

Have a safe and blessed July 4th weekend.





Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.

Hosea 6:3

Off to the Mountains

We are home again but the mountains have left an impression in our hearts and minds. We stayed in a condo above a golf course in the village of Cobbly Nob. Our view, other than the golf course far below us, was of Smoky Mountains National Park with pristine woodlands blanketing the mountains. Nature at its finest.

In the early morning–very early–you can sit outside and listen as the clouds move through the valley in front of you. It’s the air moving through a million leaves. A thrilling sound for me. A cool breeze, the soft twittering of thousands of birds in those thousands of trees. Peace.

My Morning View at Cobbly Nob

We learned an important lesson, this trip: stay away from resort areas when school is out for the summer. And you can’t beat them to it, because folks get out early here. There are pancake houses on every corner and a few in between. They are all busy. By midday, a living tide moves along the wide sidewalks as thousands vie for space in the hundreds of shops.

We ducked into a quiet gallery and enjoyed some excellent artwork. We didn’t buy anything but it was a nice break from the crowds.

Our favorite thing turned out to be the sky lift. It was just fun and the views of the city and surrounding mountains was perfect. We sat in rocking chairs at the top while sipping cool drinks. A nice respite on a hot afternoon.

Our trip up into the mountains was less than perfect, due to roadwork that closed one lane of the two-lane highway. This meant long delays due to the crowds–thousands making the same journey. We left early (good thing!) and made another discovery. My husband’s recent health issues made breathing difficult at the top, so he was unable to hike up to Clingman’s Dome. We turned around and headed back down.

The views along the way made the trip a little less painful.

The “blue smoke” of the Great Smoky Mountains lay heavy in the early morning.

One of us was disappointed that we didn’t see any “large” wildlife. No bears. No elk. Bummer. I enjoyed the wildflowers and the expansive views. I was happy to note that the forest is healing after the devastating fires of a couple of years ago.

So, back in the land of blue grass and beautiful horses, I am quite content. I do love the mountains, but if there’s a next time, we will head there when the crowds are thinner, and hopefully, the roads will all be open.

If you go, and you love the hustle and bustle, do stay in town. There are some fine places to rent. You might consider one of those that backs up to the Little Pigeon River. The sound of the water rushing over the rocks is mesmerizing. If you prefer to be away from the noise and the crowds, the surrounding area is filled with nice cabins, fully equipped homes, and some great campsites.

Don’t forget the Alamo! We enjoyed a wonderful steak dinner on the front porch of a restaurant known as “The Alamo.” Excellent service! There are other good restaurants in town, but this one was our favorite.

As always, thanks for reading!

Travel Month

I read that June is the biggest travel month of the year. Happy thought, since that’s when we scheduled our few days away.

June is usually perfect because the spring rains have mostly ended and it’s not yet summer hot. Well, this year is a little different. Not surprising, since the last year or so has been different. Our weather map is showing rain for the foreseeable future from the Mississippi River to the east coast.

Should be an interesting vacation.

Time away is time away, though. Even if rain pours all over it. We’ll find indoor things to do. What that means for me is a quiet phone, no computer, and time with my favorite person.

Favorite vacations? Happy memories? Funny or poignant vacation memories? Please share in the comment section.

My personal favorite was several years back. It was late June and one of us (not naming names) was feeling a bit depressed after another episode of empty-nesters syndrome. We made a spur of the moment decision to head to a gulf beach. I think we settled on Panama City and found a brand-new beachfront hotel with special pricing for their grand opening.

The “hotel room” was more like a condo and it was beautifully decorated and so comfortable. The ample balcony was the perfect place to hang out in the early morning hours. We usually had breakfast there.

We could rent those beach chairs with the umbrellas for the week, and a “cabana boy” served us icy drinks and moved our umbrella when needed. It was worth every penny. We felt anchored to those chairs. So lazy, but healing.

As our departure date approached, my husband said, “Hey, let’s see if we can stay a couple more days.”

Aww! They said yes! We called our employers and took a couple more days off. Those two extra days were the best of the whole week. We enjoyed every moment and arrived home more rested than we’d felt in ages.

That’s what a vacation should be. A time of relaxation and restoration. I still smile at the memories of that week. It has never been repeated, though I have tried.

I can still hear the waves rollin’ in…

Rainy Day Post

It’s raining today. I don’t hate the rain, but it does tend to keep me inside. But hey, I have plenty of coffee and lots of things to accomplish today. Writing, writing, and writing!

Sometimes you just need to let your imagination run free. I read a recent post about “our” childhood–specific to the boomers–when being inside was a punishment. We spent our days running free, only going in the house when we had to. Stayed out till the streetlights came on, if you lived in the city. Stayed out till the fireflies rested in the country.

Voices carried from numerous front porches where folks sat and whiled away the final hours of daylight before they “stepped inside” to watch their favorite show. Chuckled at Hoss and Little Joe on Bonanza. Laughed out loud at Red Skelton, Lucy, and Carol Burnett. Sat on the edge of their seats to see if Perry Mason would win his latest case.

Paladin. Sheriff Andy Taylor. Gunsmoke. The list goes on. Watched for an hour, then to bed.

Vacations for our family usually meant piling in the car and heading west. Most of Dad’s family lived in Tennessee. Mom’s family…well, they were spread out all across the west. Many lived in Texas, a few in Arizona. Grandpa lived in L.A., and others lived up the coast in Seattle.

Having family along the way helped with lodging as we headed to Southern California to see Grandpa. Dad drove long hours, stopping only when necessary. Mom shooed us out of the car and encouraged us to run and rid ourselves of pent-up energy. We weren’t used to sitting for long hours.

I saw a lot of the West. Route 66, old boom towns, last gas stations for 100 miles.

I still remember those times, spent close to our loved ones (sometimes a little too close!). Did I pass the wonder along to my sons? I hope so. It’s a thing that should never be lost, that wonder. The fascination with new places. The desire to spend time with family, those who are near, and those we’ve only known from letters, long ago.

So, I suppose the rainy day has brought on this nostalgia. If you’re still reading, thank you so much for your time. If you have a favorite childhood memory, please feel free to share it in the comments below.

I’m getting ready for the release of my next book–it’s a mystery! I don’t have an official title, cover, or release date yet. Just September. I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, enjoy your time this summer. May God bless you as you gather with your loved ones. May we never take that for granted.

…have a little laugh at life and look around you for happiness instead of sadness. Laughter has always brought me out of unhappy situations.

Red Skelton