Crime fiction author Nike Chillemi’s spunky private investigator, “Ronnie” Ingels, just can’t stay out of trouble. As the name implies, Deadly Designs, picks up where Nike’s serial-debut novel, Harmful Intent leaves off—Ingels finding trouble in all the wrong places. A geeky radio commentator’s conspiracy views and pro-Israeli stance may have led to the disappearance of his wife and young daughter. He hires Ingels and her partner, Texan deputy Dawson Hughes, to find his family and return them safely home. Nike’s historical suspense Santuary Point series, set in the 1940s, and her Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes novels series have a few things in common—plenty of bad guys, crime and romance. Dubbed a Crime Fictionista, Nike has a passion for writing and reading crime fiction. She has just released the second Ronnie Engels novel, Deadly Designs. MARK: Nike, thanks for joining us to discuss your latest novel and to get an update on your writing career. Let’s start with what kind of trouble Ronnie Ingels has gotten into in Deadly Designs and a little about her background. Can you give us a brief overview?
NIKE: Ronnie grew up in Brooklyn, NY. She works for a small private investigation firm there. In addition to being a Texas deputy, hero Dawson Hughes is also a former Army Ranger who now moonlights for a clandestine government organization many senators don't even know exists. Because of the terrorism angle, this organization becomes involved in the search for the missing model and her seven year old daughter. Along the way, they run into despicable villains.
MARK: Tells us about your two main characters—Ronnie Ingels and Dawson Hughes. How did they meet? How has their relationship developed? Will their differences strengthen or weaken their feelings for each other? NIKE: Ronnie and Dawson met in book one when Dawson nearly accused Ronnie of having murdered her cheating newlywed husband. Of course, he soon realized she didn't commit the crime and found he had to protect her from the real killer. Since Ronnie takes a lot of chances, this was no easy task. Ronnie is looking forward to seeing Dawson again, but when she learns the police have not yet been called in on this missing persons case, their relationship looks like it's in trouble. As they hunt heinous villains, they sort through their feelings. MARK: Are you taking a break or working on something new now that you have released DeadlyDesigns, the second book in the Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels/Dawson Hughes series? NIKE: I'm working on book three Blood Speaks, in which Ronnie and Dawson are engaged to be married. In chapter one Ronnie thinks her life is perfect. Of course I have to mess that up with a murder, which involves conspiracy theories and throws way back to the JFK assassination for clues as to the murderer's true motivation. I make Ronnie and Dawson work at finding this wanton killer. MARK: Where can readers find you online? Are you still involved in writing conferences and other writing organizations? NIKE: My blog is Nike N. Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista. I'm on Twitter as @NikeNChillemi and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/nike.chillemi. I'm still very much involved in the Grace Award, a Christian readers' choice award. I'm its founder, Chair, and a judge in the Action-Adventure/Western/Epic Fiction category. MARK: As I recall, you drifted away from the traditional publisher path to venture into the indie, self-publish world. Where are you on this journey? NIKE: I'm still publishing indie. I want to write it the way I feel it and not have a publisher's editor's changing things for PC reasons. That said, I write Christian fiction, but the series is one of contemporary detective stories and it can get a tad gritty. I do have professionals I trust giving me input and I also highly value the feedback of Christian BETA readers. In my 1940s mystery series and in my contemporary series, I've tried to be authentic in handling crime scenes and investigations. I tackle sophisticated themes in a tasteful way, I think. I've never had a single complaint in a book review. In fact, I've had all five and four star reviews. MARK: What have you liked most about this new direction you have taken? What have you liked least? NIKE: I like the freedom I have. I like setting my own publishing schedule. I have to do all of my own marketing and publicity, but then I really had to do that even when I had a publisher. MARK: On your website, Nike N. Chillemi ~ Crime Fictionista, I read where you obtained back you rights to your Sanctuary Point series, a historical murder-mystery placed in the 1940s. Will you be able to re-publish them through your Crime Fictionista Press in the future? NIKE: Yes, I'm planning to republish the 1940s Sanctuary Point mystery series. MARK: What advice can you give new authors just starting out on this writing journey? NIKE: Keep writing and then write some more. Get involved in a critique group to get valuable feedback from other serious writers. Read the best authors in your genre. Don't copy them, but note how they handle words, phrasing, dialog, and the like. And when you discover your voice, don't allow anyone to talk you out of it. MARK: Nike, Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to give us an insight into you writing life and to give readers a better understanding of your latest novel. Bio: Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction. She's an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She wrote monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine. Her recent contemporary detective story Harmful Intent won the Grace Award 2014 in the Mystery/Romantic Suspense/Thriller/Historical Suspense category and has been called: sassy, witty, gritty, and uplifting. Her historical suspense Sanctuary Point series brought on a crime wave that swept the south shore of Long Island during the 1940s (Burning Hearts, Goodbye Noel, Perilous Shadows, and Darkest Hour) won acclaim and awards. You can find out more about Nike at her website: Nike Chillemi~Crime Fictionista.
By Mark Young
[The latest Tom Kagan novel, Circle of Lieswill be released today in digital form through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, Smashwords, and IngramSparks. Hardcover and paperback formats to follow very soon.]
I caught up to our Circle of Lies character in California—Sergeant Art Crenshaw of the Santa Rosa Police Department’s Organized Crime and Intelligence Section (OCIS)…wow, that’s a mouthful. Anyway, Fat Louie—
CRENSHAW: “—hey, buddy, that’s not my name. If you can’t be civil in this interview—“
MARK: “—sorry, sergeant. That just slipped out. It won’t happen again.”
CRENSHAW: “Yeah, well, Tom Kagan came up to me later and apologized for calling me that behind my back. Just because I have aspirations to become a lieutenant, and my backside is a little…oh, just forget it. You can call me Art, Crenshaw, or sergeant, but just because you are the author doesn’t mean you can make a joke at my expense. After all, even supervisors have feelings.”
MARK: “Okay, okay, cool your jets, Artie. Like I said, it just slipped out.”
CRENSHAW: “Authors don’t make mistakes. They have to be very specific about the words they use. You just wanted to give readers a little laugh at my expense. Just because you have that power over us characters doesn’t mean you have to be mean.”
MARK: “Gee whiz, Artie, for a cop you have thin skin. Why can’t you be more like Kagan—tough, blunt, no nonsense.”
CRENSHAW: “You’d be sensitive too, Mark, if you had to try and supervise a cop like Tom. I mean, the guy’s a supervisor’s worst nightmare. Never know what he is going to do or say; and the trouble he gets into is enough to make me lose what little hair I still have. He attracts trouble like a magnet. I never know what he is up to. And that gives me nightmares."
MARK: “But he always lands on his feet.”
CRENSHAW: “Yeah, one of these days he’s going to bite the big one and I won’t be able to protect him. He’s a good cop—none better—but he is the reason our department keeps re-writing our rules of conduct. He’s broken just about every one of them getting the case done, and I wind up having ton of paperwork trying to save his butt.”
MARK: “Okay, what about his last case in Circle of Lies?Didn’t he do a fantastic job?”
Crenshaw gives me a quizzical look before answering.
CRENSHAW: “For an author, you are some kind of stupid. You want me to tell your readers everything Tom did in this novel. If I do that, no one’s going to want to read the story.”
MARK: “I didn’t mean to tell them everything Tom did. Just give them a hint of the trouble Tom faced."
Crenshaw shifted his ample behind in the chair as he thought about everything that had happened in the last few months.
CRENSHAW: “Well, I would say that Tom came as close to dying as he has in any police action since he joined the department thirty years ago. For a moment there, I thought they were going to kill him. And if he survived those killers, I feared he might end up in prison for the rest of his life. Now, that’s what I call ‘high stakes.’”
MARK: “How did this all start?”
CRENSHAW: “Hey, writer-man, you can tell them better than I. After all, you made this all up in that twisted head of yours. You tell them.”
MARK: “Hey, Artie. Drop the attitude or I just may write you out of the next novel.”
CRENSHAW: “See, that’s the attitude I was talking about. Now that is just down-right threatening. What? You going to get me killed in the next book?"
MARK: “Worse! Maybe I will make you in charge of all internal affairs cases. Everyone will treat you like you have the plague.”
CRENSHAW: “You think being a supervisor is much better. Always looking over everyone’s shoulder. Telling them all the things they can’t do. Being a supervisor is not a bed of roses. Always on the outside. Never being trusted. Never one of the guys.”
MARK: “Let me share a little secret with you, Artie. Kagan actually thinks you are an okay guy. He felt sorry for joining the other guys with that Fat Louie joke. He stopped calling you that after the Broken Allegiancenovel."
CRENSHAW: “He told you he likes me? Are you on the up-and-up, or is this one of your author’s lies you just came up with.”
MARK: “No, I’m being straight with you. From my lips to God’s ears…it is the truth.”
Crenshaw gave me a look like he was trying to figure out whether I was telling the truth, or I was setting him up. I think being the author is like being an internal affairs investigator—no one trusts you.
CRENSHAW: “Okay. Here is how the case started. Tom got a call from a buddy of his up in Seattle about an armored-truck heist and a murder. The victim turned out to be Tom’s old partner at SRPD years ago. The guy was retired and he was working as a driver to make some extra coin. They shot him point-blank. Later they realize the shooting may have been about more than the robbery. It appeared to have been racially motivated. Jason—the dead guy—was black.”
MARK: “So how did Kagan get involved?”
CRENSHAW: “The Seattle cop gave Tom a lead in our neck of the woods. Once Kagan got his teeth into the case, there was no turning him back. I tried several times to give it to the FBI—but that son-of-a-gun keeps finding ways to land in the middle of the investigation. I warned him. The FBI warned him. Even the bad guys tried to get him to stop. But like I said, there was no reasoning with that guy. Tom was going to do it his way. Even taking his gun and badge away—which the chief did at one point—Tom continued to search for the bad guys until…well, I can’t tell your reader that or it would give the story away. Let’s just say Tom got into a heap of trouble. And he had an IA lieutenant looking for anyway to bring him down. Inside the department and outside, Kagan had enough problems that a reasonable man would have just walked away."
MARK: “But not Tom?
Crenshaw ran a hand over his thinning hair, a look of frustration painted on his face.
CRENSHAW: “Look, oh powerful one! I’ve played along here telling your readers about this novel since you have me over a barrel. But enough is enough. I’ve got a desk full of paper from Kagan’s latest fiasco. I’ve got to make sure that he doesn’t have to face off with that IA lieutenant again. So why don’t you run along and harass one of your other characters.”
MARK:“I thought we were developing a little connection here.”
CRENSHAW: “Yeah, when pigs fly.” He started to rise, then sat back down. “Hey, I heard you are leaving town and heading back to Idaho, to the Nez Perce reservation. Does that mean you won’t be back for a while?” He shot me a look of hope.
MARK: “I’m going to drop in and check on Travis Mays and the gang up there. But I will be back soon, to monitor Tom and the rest of you. I don’t want to leave you guys to your own devices—without a little of my authoritarian supervision.” I gave him a big smile.
Disappointment rained on Crenshaw’s features like thunderclouds, dark and foreboding.
CRENSHAW: “Oh, joy.” He stood, looking down at me. “Next time, promote me to lieutenant and give Kagan another supervisor to harass. I’d like to sit the next one out on the sidelines.”
I just shook my head. Crenshaw needs a little R and R; particularly since I have an idea what kind of trouble Kagan is going to get into next time. Crenshaw will have his hands full. Oh well, an author has got to do what an author has got to do. And I have all kind of ideas that will give Kagan and the others a run for their money.
Author Peter M. Klismet’s latest book, FBI Diary: Home Grown Terror, reads like a crime-thriller fiction novel. Bullets flying. Stolen vehicles. Camo-clad terrorists. High-speed chases through rural America. One of the greatest manhunts in American western history winding up in some of the most rugged lands this country has to offer. Former FBI special agent Klismet writes about this event from the inside—as a participant in a manhunt for three cop-killers that disappeared into an unforgiving wilderness. It began Friday, May 29, 1998 on a warm spring morning on the streets of a small town in southwest Colorado. What started as a traffic stop for a suspected stolen truck became a fight for survival for many officers and an event that shocked the entire region. Welcome author Klismet to Hook’em and Book’em! MARK:Pete, thanks for returning to this blog to discuss your latest non-fiction book, FBI Diary: Home Grown Terror. It has been over two years since you wrote a guest blog for us about your first book, FBI Diary: Profile of Evil, and your experiences as a criminal profiler for the bureau. Tell our readers a little about your latest book about home-grown terrorists in Colorado. PETE: And thank you, Mark, for having me back on your blog, which is one of the best ones around. In May of 1998, a small cadre of three young, anti-government, paramilitary extremists were spotted in a stolen water truck by an officer in Cortez, Colorado, and pulled over to the side of the road. One of the men jumped out of the truck with a fully-automatic weapon, peppering the police car and Officer Dale Claxton with round after round of bullets. And then the chase was on. The three men commandeered a flatbed construction truck, and wrought a path of destruction as they were chased by police cars, sheriff’s deputies and state patrolmen. The men put seven police vehicles out of commission and shot two more officers before racing forty miles into the forsaken desert wilderness and canyons near the Four Dorners. It became a national news story, not unlike the recent prison escape in New York State. With over five hundred officers from state, federal and local agencies, as well as Indian Reservation officers, it is still considered the largest manhunt in the history of the modern West. And it is a search which took nearly a decade to conclude. MARK: I can only imagine what it must have been like trying to work within the confines of a manhunt that encompassed local, state and federal agencies from a three-state area. In the book, I thought you were very forthright about some of the problems that developed between these agencies. How did you manage to get the job done without losing your cool? What were some of the challenges you faced? PETE: Fortunately, coordinating the search teams was not my responsibility, nor did I have a role in the ground search for the three killers. My job was supporting the investigation, identifying the three men, and working to build a prosecutable case once they were found. Regrettably, that never occurred, which is one of the more compelling parts of the story. In doing some fairly extensive research for the book, however, I did interview a number of people who were directly involved with or coordinated the search efforts. It has saddened me to see many times over the years how people’s egos can get in the way of getting the job done. There was constant disagreement between numerous agencies, even including the Indian Reservation police. The FBI, the sheriff of a small county in Utah, the National Guard, and even the governor of Colorado, among others, were constantly in disagreement over how the search was to be conducted. Whether or not this contributed to the eventual resolution of the case is not known. But there was more than enough drama to go around, and at times it put the lives of searching officers at risk. MARK:You write about this tragedy from a unique position. What were the motivating factors prompting you to sit down and relive this experience? PETE: While I was in Cortez, I vowed to write a book about this case ‘someday.’ I had collected a considerable number of reports, some of which I wrote. I took over thirty pictures, some of which are inside the book. I collected news accounts for over a year. When a cop is killed, it becomes a personal issue for other cops. It took me almost seventeen years to complete the book and to keep the vow I made. I’m glad I did to venerate the memory of Officer Claxton. MARK:Hindsight is always easier than living in the moment as things are happening all around you. Looking back, what would you have done differently in this manhunt to locate these suspects quicker? PETE: Other than the bosses constantly being at odds, I don’t know what else we could have done to make the search easier. In hindsight, as you say, it turned out to be an unresolvable search, except for an incident when one of the three fugitives shot at a deputy sheriff and then killed himself. While we didn’t know it at the time, our efforts proved to be meaningless into the final resolution of the case. Let me simply add that it was plain luck, as often seems to happen, that the entire matter was resolved. But it was some very dramatic luck as the book points out. MARK:Your book raises some interesting insights into possible motives driving these criminals that may have prompted them to commit these acts. Do you think that some of these motivations might reach a broader group of receptive people in light of what has happened to this country over the last seventeen years? I think we can all agree that our rights to privacy have shrunk considerably since 1998, and the reach of government has grown beyond anything we could have imagined. People who might not otherwise think about living off the grid, for example, might have reconsidered their opinions based upon recent national trends. Certainly this broader group of citizens would not applaud what these three criminals did in Colorado, but they might share the frustration and fear that our government has overstepped its bounds. What are your thoughts? PETE: Actually, these three had something of a fan club, and there were many people in the area with anti-government feelings who would have gladly helped them escape if possible. Since it was a national story and got major news coverage from all the large media outlets, people of a similar ilk around the country express their approval in many ways. I’d have to say these three men, like Timothy McVeigh, felt the government was far too oppressive and perhaps they believed they were the leading edge of a revolution they thought would follow.
A lot of these anti-government sentiments started back in the 1980’s with the Farm Crisis in the USA. However, one could also argue it started much earlies, and that the Civil Rights Movement in the 50’s and 60’s contributed, as certainly did the Vietnam War. We have more than a few issues facing our country right now, and it will be interesting to see which one surfaces as the next threat to the country.
MARK:How would you classify your three suspects—Jason McVean, Robert Mason, and Monte Pilon? Do they fit in the category of domestic terrorists, or did their anti-government rhetoric just lend them self-aggrandizing justification to commit common criminal acts of robbery and theft for personal gain? PETE: That’s really a good question because we tend to ascribe ‘mastermind’ status to some of our criminal, most of whom are anything but. In this case, we have one leader and two bonehead followers—but all of them were equally violent. Toward the end of the book, I analyze all of the different theories as to ‘why’ they did what they did. While we’ll never know, my analysis brought the facts down to one common denominator—committing a robbery of large scale. I think I make a case for this, and I still don’t think I can be talked out of it. MARK: What have you been up to in your writing career since your last contact with us here on Hook’em and Book’em? PETE: In between this book and FBI Diary: Profiles of Evil, I published another book entitled FBI Animal House. This one chronicles some of the madcap adventures of my class at the FBI Academy, has plenty of funny stories of our antics, and truly exposes the fact that FBI agents are really people, just like everyone else. MARK:Can you share with us any books that you might be working on for future release? PETE: After several meetings with myself, I have started writing a bok with a rather unique, and hopefully ‘catchy title’—Sleeping With Torpedoes.” Before I ever went into law enforcement, I was part of the crew of an old, World War II diesel/electric sub marine. We had plenty of ‘adventures,’ and two interesting tours off the coast of Vietnam during the war. It’s something of a memoir, as are all my books, but really only amounts to a four-year slice of what has turned out to be a fairly interesting life. MARK:Where can people go to find out more about your writing, or to buy your books? PETE: Probably the best way is to check my website, which is Criminal Profiling Associates
. I get quite a few ‘hits’ and referrals to assit law enforcement agencies with unsolved cases on the site. But I also try to keep my readers not only posted on what I’ve been up to lately, but profiles of all my books. It’s a good website, I think, mainly because my wife designed it!
MARK:Any other thoughts or comments you would like to make before we part ways? PETE: You know, I’ve been thinking about this lately. There is something about the concept of ‘retiring’ I simply don’t get. You hear a lot of retired people say how busy they are, but I think a lot of it is less than true. Maybe busy sitting around and watching the daily soap operas. I truly am never out of something to do. In the last week, for example I spoke before a group of about 200, and a second group of 50. We took a bunch of books with us and sold the majority. I’m constantly doing that type of thing to promote my books, and I do a fair job of keeping my publishers happy. Plus, I’m trying to work on my fourth book, and have several others in mind. I am also an on-air consultant to CNN, MSNBC, and couple of local television stations, newspapers in Colorado, and even Canada’s version of CNN, Canadian TV. When something big happens, I am often called and appear on anyone of the outlets. I‘d like to get out and play some golf, but I have a hard time doing it. I doubt I’ll ever truly retire until I find myself on the south end of the grass. But as I tell Miss Nancy, I have way too much stuff left to do to die! MARK:Again, thanks for joining us, Pete. Best wishes on the success of your latest book.
Peter M. Klismet served his country with two tours in Vietnam on submarines. Following military service, he earned a college degree, then worked for the Ventura Police Department in Southern California. While there, he attended graduate school, earning two master’s degrees. He was offered and accepted an appointment as a Special Agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In a twenty-year career with the FBI, the author was highly-decorated, served with distinction in three field offices, and received numerous awards and recognition from the FBI. Klismet was selected to be one of the original ‘profilers’ for the FBI, perhaps the FBI’s most famed unit. Before his retirement, he was named the 1999 National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year. Following his retirement, he accepted a position as an Associate Professor and Department Chair of a college Criminal Justice program. Having now retired from that, Pete and his wife, Nancy, live in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
By Mark Young
An interview with novelist James Scott Bell regarding his latest how-to book on writing might—at first blush—seem a little off topic for this blog about cops, crime and novels. You are right, but let me plead my case. I feel strongly enough about this just-released book that I've chosen to break the rules this one time. There comes a time in any writer’s career where they find themselves fighting off feelings of discouragement and disillusionment. I believe that How to Make a Living as a Writer (HLW) can be one of those tools that helps writers regain solid ground in their publishing career.
|James Scott Bell|
This book goes well beyond what the title suggests—selling books and making money—by giving a writer a holistic approach to writing. Writing quotas, time management, and creating a workable business plan are just a few of the topics discussed in HLW. Jim writes from experience as both a traditionally published author and as an indie author. His twenty-year career includes many novels, anthologies, books on writing, and a weekly contribution to the popular blog The Kill Zone.
It is a privilege to have James Scott Bell with us today to discuss his latest book on writing.
MARK: Jim, thanks for joining us here on Hook’em & Book’em once again. What prompted you to write this book? Who do you consider to be your target audience?
JIM: I have always been about helping writers not only write better, but write with an eye toward making actual money. I believe in professionalism. I believe it’s quite all right to make a living doing what one loves to do.
In my case, it was writing. When I started out to pursue this dream, I didn’t think the odds were so great. But it’s what I wanted to do and I never stopped, and I managed to make it my career.With this book I wanted to pass along the principles I used that I think will help all writers who want to be pros.
MARK: What is the most important message you want writers to glean from this book?
JIM: That you have to think of this as a business. You have to put some rational thought into this if you want it to give you a return. When I began to pursue writing as a career it was after several years of being a lawyer and also running a successful small business. I had learned both study and entrepreneurial skills. These were invaluable to me.
The good news is that these principles are not difficult to understand or put into practice. The trick is in the doing of them. That’s discipline. I explain how to be disciplined in the book.MARK: In HLW, you debunk the idea that only a few chosen writers ever succeed in this business. Why are you so positive that new writers can actually make a living at this game?
JIM: Because the playing field has changed drastically in the last 7 years. The Kindle was introduced in 2007. The next couple of years saw writers starting to self-publish on Amazon with great monetary success. At the same time, there is still a traditional publishing industry, which I continue to be part of. The key is there are options now, and the writer who approaches things systematically, with a commitment to quality, improves his or her odds of making significant bank.MARK: In a chapter titled The 7 Things You Absolutely Must Have to Succeed—you cast doubt on the concept that writers must have talent to make it in the writing game. Please share your take on this issue with our readers.
JIM: What I actually say is that talent has to be there, but it’s the least important quality. There are many, many naturally talented writers out there who never make it. There are a number of reasons for that. One is that they rely on the talent but never master the craft. Or they’re the sort that “just wants to write” and never think about being businesslike.
On the other hand, there are always those who may not be as gifted who work hard and work smart, and they surpass the “unrecognized geniuses.” That’s true in anything—sports, schooling, the arts.MARK: In another chapter—titled Running A Successful Business—you discuss creating a business plan. How can this help to focus a writer to look at the bigger picture?
JIM: Every successful business has a plan. That plan may change, it may morph, it may be thrown out for another. But you have to have a direction and steps to take that are reasonably related to your goals. I give a sample plan in the book that anyone can adapt.MARK: Later in HLW, you discuss the importance of time management and how to squeeze more time in a writer’s busy schedule. There are those writers just starting out who may be ‘contemplating’ writing their first novel. They may have a fulltime job, a family to take care of, or other commitments that make their hope to write seem like an impossible dream. They may take a look at HLW and say, “Wow! I can never accomplish all this.” What would you say to them?
JIM: I deal with that. The key is finding out how much you can reasonably write in a week, taking into account all the other responsibilities you have. That becomes your weekly quota of words. I suggest upping that number by 10%, to stretch yourself. But keep it. Be zealous about it. I know there are some writers out there who think a quota is a crimp on their style. I beg to differ. I’ve had a quota ever since I started and it’s the biggest key to any success I’ve happened to achieve. As Robert B. Parker put it, the most important thing a writer does is produce the words.MARK: Based upon all the topics you’ve discussed in HLW, is there one area in your own writing career that you found hardest to master? Why?
JIM: It’s hard for me to single out one thing. A writing journey is a series of challenges, and you do what you can to overcome them. I’ve always felt I could learn anything I needed to know in order to succeed, and the rest would be up to hard work. I don’t believe in pure luck.
I will say I’ve always been interested in the mental game of writing, too. Learning how to handle rejection and keep going, things like that. Most of it boils down to slaying expectations and concentrating on being productive every day. Every moment you’re writing in flow is a moment you’re not worried about things you can’t control.
MARK: Where can writers purchase How to make a Living as a Writer?
JIM: The book is available as an ebook on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. The print version is available here.MARK: You have taught at a number of writing seminars nationally and internationally, and hosted your own writing seminars. What are a few of the most common questions you encountered from writers attending these sessions?
JIM: Many people want to know about structure, if it really matters that much. I tell them to try making an omelet without eggs and a frying pan. It’s not that structure is a rigid slave master; it’s that it works for connecting readers to stories. So once you understand it you can feel free to mess with it all you want, just know that the more you mess the less you’ll sell.I also emphasize that you don’t have to try to copiously outline an entire novel before you write it. You need freedom to be creative. But creativity alone is not enough. Throwing eggs on the road is not art. Breaking them one-handed into a bowl, scrambling them up, putting them in the pan and throwing in selected cheeses and spices, that is art!
MARK: Speaking of writing sessions, you teamed up with two other men— agent/author Donald Maas; and Chris Vogler, movie/novel consultant and author of The Writer’s Journey—to help others improve their writing skills. What do the three of you try to teach at these retreats? Where can a writer go to find out more information on this?
JIM: If it was only Vogler and Maass, I’d call this the best storytelling conference going. I am pleased to be part of it. Vogler leads off with his mythic take on storytelling, providing the wide universe of what connects us deeply to a work of fiction. I follow with my specifics on the critical areas of fiction—plot, structure, character, scenes, dialogue, voice, theme. Maass comes along after and gets the writers into the nitty gritty of their works-in-progress, prompting them to deeper and better stories.
On the fourth day, the three of us lead a chapter by chapter analysis of a great novel that everyone reads beforehand. At this upcoming session it will be To Kill a Mockingbird.
People can find out more at the Story Masters site.
MARK: Any last words of wisdom to share with writers struggling to gain traction in this writing game?
JIM: Recognize that it IS a game. A good game, a fun one, and one that can pay off if you know how to get the odds in your favor. That’s what my teaching is all about, getting people to a place where their chances for success improve. It takes time and it takes practice, but so does anything worthwhile. So I counsel writers to write until they die. That about covers it.
MARK: Jim, thanks again for taking the time here to share your thoughts about the writing business. I am sure your latest book on writing will be a success.
Writing friends, be sure to check out How to Make a Living as a Writer.
*******James Scott Bell is the #1 bestselling author of Plot & Structure, and thrillers like Don’t Leave Me, Blind Justice,Deceived, Try Dying, Watch Your Back, and One More Lie. Jim is currently at work on two series: pulp style boxing stories featuring Irish Jimmy Gallagher and the vigilante nun series Force of Habit. Under the pen name K. Bennett he is also the author of the Mallory Caine zombie legal thriller series, which begins with Pay Me in Flesh.
Jim served as fiction columnist for Writer's Digest magazine, to which he frequently contributes, and has written four craft books for Writer’s Digest Books: Plot & Structure, Revision & Self-Editing, The Art of War for Writers and Conflict & Suspense. His Write Your Novel From The Middle was an instant #1 Amazon bestselling writing book. A former trial lawyer, Jim now writes and speaks full time. He lives in Los Angles and blogs every Sunday at The Kill Zone.
“A rolling stone gathers no moss” is an old proverb attributed to a Latin writer of maxims in the 1st Century. These words would aptly describe our guest today—bestselling novelist Nike Chillemi. She is a writer with boundless energy.
Since Nike last visited us over a year ago, she has released a new novel, Harmful Intent (A Veronica “Ronnie” Ingles/Dawson Hughs Novel) as an indie author, jumping from classic historical murder/romance novels to a story of contemporary mayhem and romance. She started her own publishing entity, Crime Fictionista Press, which just released Harmful Intent in May. Never slowing down, this writer is also a member of the Christian Indie Novelist (CHIN) network; involved with the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) organization; and founded and co-chaired the Grace Awards book contest each year.
MARK: Wow! Nike, the first question that comes to mind is when do you find time to write? You seem to be involved with more organizations that there are letters in the alphabet. What is the key to getting your writing done?
NIKE: Most of the time I write every day, or do research. I spend a lot of time researching. I like to get details right. If real life interferes and I can't write for a day or two, or more, I make sure I get in a writing marathon. I'm not a writer who can crank out two-to-three books a year. As an indie author, I'm trying to release a novel every ten months or so. That way I can keep all the other balls in the air.
MARK: Above everything else, one of the most driving forces for an author are the latest novel they just released or the one they are working on. Your latest novel, Harmful Intent came out last May. I know there exciting things to share surround this novel. First, tell us about the story. What is Harmful Intent about?
NIKE: Harmful Intent is the first in the Veronica "Ronnie" Ingels and Dawson Hughes novels. Ronnie is a Brooklyn private investigator who thinks her marriage of one year is nearly perfect, except her motivational speaker hubby travels too much. She finds him in Abilene, TX, in the arms of her college BFF, then he's found dead. Deputy Sergeant Dawson Hughes has the feisty, armed to the teeth PI as one of his prime suspects, until be begins to think she is in danger and he finds he wants to protect her. As in all my novels there are quirky secondary characters, but this novel is far more zany than historicals I've written. But don't let that fool you. The story goes from a hilarious scene to a chilling one.
MARK: Most of the story takes place in Texas. How did you—a New York writer—prepare to write ‘Texan’? How did you capture those nuances in dialogue that gave readers that sense that they are in the company of characters from Texas?
NIKE: I think I have a facility for dialect. I can hear the Texas drawl in my head. But I didn't leave it to my innate ability. Research, research, research. I listened to hours of Kenneth Copeland's teaching tapes which can be found online. He uses certain expressions and drops tidbits about Texas…and a few of those found their way into the novel.
MARK: I loved your sassy character, Veronica “Ronnie” Ingels as she tried to come to terms with events shaking her life. Is this a character you created from a compilation of several real people, or is Ronnie a total figment of your active imagination?
NIKE: There are a few ugly things lurking in Ronnie's childhood. She's fully aware that her dad blatantly and repeatedly cheated on her mom, then abandoned the family. There are other memories she can't quite bring to the foreground that haunt her. She even dreams about them, but can't quite put her finger on them. That will be further developed in later books in the series. Ronnie is a character created from my imagination. I know a few young women who had ugly childhoods and who were nearly crippled by the abuse. They struggle to survive. Ronnie has a career and can take care of herself, but these girls prompted me to write a character like Ronnie.
MARK: Up until the release of Harmful Intent, historical murder and romance novels had been your cup of tea. Four previous novels under the Sanctuary Point series—Burning Hearts, Goodbye Noel, Perilous Shadows, and Darkest Hour—have all been set in the post WWII era. Tells us what led you to write this latest contemporary murder series.
NIKE: I love the 1940s. It was an elegant time in American history. Ordinary Americans had style and a can-do attitude. It was an exciting time and I loved writing about it. But after four novels, I thought it was time for a change. I wanted to write gripping mystery stories, but also deal with relevant issues that face people today. Although, to be honest, I think people in the 1940s grappled with the same issues we do today. However, there was a national feeling of dignity as they walked the walk. I pray America can get that sense of worth back.
MARK: Let’s switch gears. Your previous novels have been published by Desert Breeze Publishing, Inc., but your latest novel is an indie-release through your own publishing entity, Crime Fictionista Press. Can you tell us a little about your reasons behind this major change in your publishing journey?
NIKE: I wanted to write this novel in double first person. Ronnie's point of view, then Dawson's, both in first person. I couldn't find a publisher who wanted to do that. Also, I wanted to write it my way. I sound like Frank Sinatra here. But seriously, Ronnie and Dawson are not together at the end, nor do they get saved. I didn't want to have to follow any formula. I just wanted to write the story.
MARK: What are you learning as an indie author and publisher that you did not expect going into this latest venture?
NIKE: I didn't know how exhilarating it would be when Harmful Intent was released as an indie effort. I also didn't know how easy it would be to work with Amazon.
MARK: Would you share with us about the kind of novels we can expect from you in the near future? Will you be using Crime Fictionista Press?
NIKE: Deadly Designs is next in the Ronnie/Dawson series. This second novel kicks off with the disappearance of a young mother and daughter. This novel ventures into the world of high fashion with the possibility that terrorists are pulling all the strings. The novel will be published by Crime Fictionista Press.
MARK: Not that you don’t have enough to do, but are you still involved with the American Christian Fiction Writers organization? Tell our readers a little about this organization and how you are involved.
NIKE: Yes, I'm still involved. I have led an ACFW critique group for serious writers (many already published) for a number of years. In 2013, I wrote a mini-class on building suspense in a story for their at-home-conference (for those who couldn't make it to the annual conference). I try to participate in their email LOOP when I can.
MARK: Another project I recently learned about through you is the unique Grace Awards literary contest of which you are founder and co-chair. What is the purpose of this awards? How does it work?
NIKE: The Grace Awards is a reader generated literary awards. It's staffed entirely by volunteers. We're sort of the little engine that could of literary awards. There is no fee the author has to pay to get his/her book entered. Readers nominate all the entries. In fact many finalists don't even know they've been nominated until we contact them. I'll bet you were surprised when your Broken Allegiance was a finalist in the Mystery/Thriller/Romantic Suspense category. We allow readers to choose the finalists. In that way no group or clique can control the outcome. Readers have to submit a 35-word reason why they chose the novel. This is how we determine they've read the book. Some of our readers give a NY Times book review. We do have talented judges pick the winners. That gives a good balance in the selection process. Our judges always write a review of the novel for the winner and finalists in each category. They bring out the many good things in the story, and also point out where it could be strengthened. Part of the mission of the Grace Awards is to help improve the quality and scope of Christian fiction.
MARK: Yes, I was blown away that someone anonymously recommended my novel. And you are right, I recieved a review that gave me good suggestions to make the next novel better. In looking through your biography, I noticed that you belong to the Christian Indie Novelist (CHIN) network. Frankly, this is the first time I heard of it. Can you tell us a little about this group, when it was formed, and what its objective might be?
NIKE: I'm not a founder or administrator of this group, only a lowly member. CHIN is a Yahoo Loop. We help each other with marketing, give support to each other, share technological knowledge, industry news, and much more. Any Christian indie author, Christian world-view author, inspirational author can become a member. You simply have to ask. One way is to join the CHIN group on Facebook and then ask to be a member of the Yahoo Loop.
MARK: There is a lot of controversy waging in the publishing industry. The current negotiations between Amazon and Hachette is just one of many issues that writers must face as they try to get their books sold. What do you see as the short-term future in publishing? How will this affect writers, publishers, and the cottage-industry of editors, designers, and formatters?
NIKE: I'm often surprised that I'm doing as well as I'm doing in this industry. Though, I have honed my craft and paid my dues. Amazon has been very good to me. They are author friendly and I pray they remain so. I hate to admit, there's an impish (maybe even childish) part of me that enjoys seeing Hachette get its clock cleaned by Amazon. The big publishers had a death grip on the industry. They determined who would get published and who would not. Sometimes a little guy with a great book got through. Most of the time the fiction authors who were best sellers were all in the in-crowd. They were married to an exec in the publishing company, or went to college with them. Or were married to someone in media. I once looked at biographies of the most popular authors and did a study on who they were married to and what their spouse did for a living. It's an eye opener. New York City is the epicenter of the publishing world and there's been a lot of elitist back scratching. However, Amazon is a game changer. Because of Amazon, Mark, you and I were given a chance.
MARK: Yes we were very fortunate to be given this opportunity to publish on our own terms. I am very appreciative. From a writer’s perspective, what do you see as the role of an agent in this evolving industry? Are they needed?
NIKE: I have no need for an agent at this point in my career. I do everything through Amazon. If one of my novels were to be optioned for a movie (please God), then I would definitely need an agent.
MARK: Enough with the heavy questions. Here is a light one. How do you let off steam when you’re not writing?
NIKE: I let off steam by reading a good murder mystery or thriller. I like to walk my dog. Walking is very good for the body and mind. In the summer I putter in my garden. I grow tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, basil, and mint. I also have roses. When my rose bushes first bloom, I like to sit out on my deck with a cup of tea and look at them. This is very relaxing.
MARK: Thanks for joining us, Nike. We have seen a glimpse of your busy schedule. Any last pearls of wisdom for writers just starting out on this road of writing and publishing?
NIKE: Be true to yourself. If you're a newbie and come across a free or inexpensive writing course, take it. But don't get married to it. Use it as a tool, one of many you will find helpful on your writing journey. Read the top writers in your genre, not to copy them, but to study them. Find your own unique voice and style and don't let anyone talk you out of it. If you're a Christian writer, check in with the Holy Spirit and see what He's got to say about what you're writing.
Bio: Nike Chillemi has been called a crime fictionista due to her passion for crime fiction. She is a member of Christian Indie Novelists (CHIN), and the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). She is the founding board member of the Grace Awards, a reader's choice awards for excellence in Christian fiction.
She's an Inspy Awards 2010 judge in the Suspense/Thriller/Mystery category and a judge in the 2011, 2012, 2013 Carol Awards in the suspense, mystery, and romantic suspense categories. She writes monthly book reviews for The Christian Pulse online magazine.
Her recent contemporary detective story Harmful Intent has garnered acclaim and has been called: sassy, witty, gritty, charming, and yummy. Her historical suspense Sanctuary Point series brought on a crime wave that swept the south shore of Long Island during the 1940s (Burning Hearts, Goodbye Noel, Perilous Shadows, and Darkest Hour) won acclaim and awards. You can find out more about Nike at her website: Nike Chillemi~Crime Fictionista.