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

AmWriting AmReading

pc-1207686_1280When I’m not writing, I’m reading about writing, or doing research for writing. One thing I’ve learned so far, writers never stop learning. If you stop studying and researching, your writing can become stale and boring. Like old crackers.

Part of the growth process for a writer is reading fresh, new fiction. I’ve done a little of that in the past couple of months by helping to judge writers’ contests. I’ve read some absolutely wonderful chapters by talented writers that make me downright jealous. But that’s not a good reaction unless it spurs me to push forward to write crisper, more entertaining fiction.

IMG_9611One thing writers don’t really want to mess with is their unique voice. But you can write different types of stories in new genres, and explore different angles of the art. I’m anxious to do that, to learn how to craft a better story. Because stale crackers are only good for meatloaf or feeding to the squirrels.

Writers–When you started your first novel, how did you go about it? Did you just sit down and write, or did you outline it or plot it first? I’d love to hear your stories! First novels are a little like first babies or first jobs or even first love. We have sweet memories we like to share.

My first novel — I sat down and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. I wish I could do that now! Oh the freedom of fingers flying over keys, not worrying about content, just slugging it out there.

So that first novel–have you published it? Or is it squirreled away like a couple of mine?

books-927394_1280How do you learn more about writing?

  • Take a course
  • Attend a conference
  • Read/study a writing book or course (on your own)
  • All of the above

If you could attend a course taught by the best of the best in writing–who would that be?

I’m asking these questions because I’m curious, but also–I’m writing a post and could use the input. So, if you have a moment, please leave me a comment below. Thanks so much!

Right now, I’m sitting in my favorite writing spot, hammering out this post–it’s late again! I’m at my dining room table, occasionally looking out the window at pouring rain and beautiful buttercups in bloom. So, my final question is: Where do you write? Do you have an office, or do you–like me–move around with a laptop?

window-1287611_1280Wherever you write, however you write, I hope your writing is successful. But most of all, I hope your writing fulfills you, because doing what you love is the greatest kind of blessing.