As a Multiple Sclerosis patient, it has become necessary for me to reinvent myself. I have ... and continue to ... refuse to lie down and die, or in this case, follow the normally prescribed drugs and treatments that do nothing to defeat my disease. I am not only surviving by pursuing alternatives, I am thriving. I do the things specialists told me I would never be able to do. I walk and hope to one day even run regularly. I retain my cognitive and creative abilities for the pleasure of my readers. Although you may never see me on my daily walk, you are welcome to read my novel(s) and in doing so, come to ask yourself, "How can the 'out of the box' protocol she has followed, help my loved one with an autoimmune disease like Multiple Sclerosis?"

Weekend with Nike Chillemi

Shaunna:  Before I met Nike via the cyberwaves, I thought her name was a pseudonym. Nike -- wow a fast link to the teenager and their parents alike. We all think of Nike shoes, right? Then there is Chillemi. Do this aloud with me Chill-em-i. in my ear I hear Chillin'me. Thus my conjecture. Imagine my surprise when Nike corrected me with this: 
Nike: Since Chillemi is my true last name and not a pen name, I'm going to change the question a bit.
Shaunna: So here is the slightly revised question:  Tell us about your alter-ego Crime Fictionista. Was that contrived as you knew what genre you wanted to write in?
Nike:  A little known fact is I graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC and worked in the bridal industry for many years. I traveled to bridal trade shows in Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas, and of course in New York.  I became well acquainted with the term "fashionista." When I started writing murder mysteries, I thought how about "crime fictionista." I did a google search and discovered nobody was using it, so I took it for myself.  I have a very talented 15 year-old daughter who is now working on a red-haired, female-detective graphic to go with the moniker. I'll be debuting that graphic in the near future.
Shaunna: Fashion! Okay, does this mean I need to change my clothes for this interview? (I dive into my closet for a quick change to my most recently purchased jeans and button down top.) Et hum… I press the commercial button to keep you busy while I change.

Darkest Hour: (Murder Mystery w/Romance, late-1940s)
---a widow is framed by powerful people/the medical examiners knows she didn't pull the trigger
---Sweet romance, warm intimacy, sophisticated themes presented tastefully

A petite widow, secretary and sole support of her son and grandparents, is framed for the murder of her boss. Wealthy village residents conspire with the DA to indicte her and stop further investigation. The medical examiner thinks the shooter was a tall individual and when his report is shoved aside, starts snooping trying to clear her and in the process falls in love with her.

Lucinda Walsh lost her husband and parents at sea. When she discovers the body of her boss, his A-List society finacee, backed up by her powerful family and a corrupt DA, acuses Lucinda of murder.  She struggles on shielding her five-year-old son, her feisty grandfather and arthritic grandmother from the ugliness of her situation. She mistrusts the dapper ME, thinking he's a ladies' man, but soon realizes he may be the only one in her corner.

Hank Jansen, the county ME who's had his share of pain and loss, doesn't know if this little widow was in on the murder, but he knows by the trajectory of the bullet she's too short to have pulled the trigger. His professional opinion ignored, he begins his own investigation and at least one cop accuses him of an ethics violation. He certainly can't deny he's fallen head over heals for the accused, and also is crazy about her son. A huge problem is there's a leak inside the investigation and the murderer is always one step ahead of them.

Shaunna (Slinking to my seat, I nervously straighten in my chair as I fidget with my four inch heels. If I had to stand, I'd probably lose my balance.)  How did you develop the plot for DARKEST HOUR and how did you come up with the name?
Nike: (Snickering at my discomfiture.)  In my Sanctuary Point series, one novel has flowed out of another. Main characters in one novel will appear as subordinate characters in the next novel.  Hank Jansen, the Nassau County Medical Examiner, first appeared in my Christmas/New Year's novel in the series, GOODBYE NOEL. Then he popped up at the murder scene in PERILOUS SHADOWS. I got to like him and thought he'd be a terrific hero. He is the most flawed of my heroes, but like all my other heroes, he seeks to right injustice. So, he needed a heroine, but I wanted a gal who would be put off by him at first. So, I created a widow with a young son who the powerful people in the village seek to frame for the murder of the village doctor. She is dignified and protective of her son and at first thinks Hank is a ladies' man and one who is a bit to cavalier for her taste. Then, of course, he grows on her. The name DARKEST HOUR came to mind because things in this story get so scary for the heroine. 
Shaunna: That's it! I can't wait! I gotta read the first chapter.


From Chapter One

Sanctuary Point, NY

Lucinda Byrne backed further away from the dead body of her boss, the sides of his suit jacket wide open. Blood oozed from a hole in the center of his chest and spread over the front of his white dress shirt and yellow tie. Dark, angry red... sticky...
A baby-faced police officer snapped photographs of the body where it lay in the gravel parking lot.
Even at this hour, the day threatened to be a hot one, and the smell the body threw off intensified by the minute. She hugged herself, but couldn't stop the trembling, then took another step back. "Someone said the medical examiner was on his way," she mumbled to nobody in particular.
A burgundy Chevrolet sport coupe pulled into the lot. A stylish man with wavy brown hair and a tinge of gray at the temples got out. He walked toward the detective in charge and they talked.
The village detective, with a riot of salt and pepper hair beneath a fedora, jutted his chin in her direction.
The newcomer turned his face toward her. She felt small under this Dapper Dan's scrutiny, but forced herself to stand pat and return his gaze.
He tugged at the razor like crease in his pants, looked down, and squatted beside Dr. McCloud's body, but didn't touch it. There was obviously no need to feel for a pulse.
The detective turned on his heel and approached her. "I'm Detective Ian Daltry, ma'am. I understand you found the body." He took a small notebook and a fountain pen from his jacket pocket.
"Yes, I... I did." She started to sniffle and fought it, not wanting to fall apart while being questioned.
"And Dr. McCloud was your boss?"
"Both you and Dr. McCloud came into work early this morning?"
"I knew he wanted to clear up some paper work, so I came in as well." She clasped her hands together, squeezing the fingers of one hand into the back of the other.
"Really?" His eyes narrowed.
"Yes, Detective, really. Early is fine with me, so is late. I really need my job."
He tapped his notebook with his pen. "When you arrived this morning, did you notice a car coming into the parking lot or pulling out?"
"No, I wasn't looking for that." She'd had her head down as she rushed for the front door, wondering what type of mood the self-important doctor would be in. She'd keep that tidbit to herself.
The detective jotted a note. "When you got out of your car, what did you see?"
"I was walking toward the main entrance and there he was -- on the ground. Blood spreading all over his shirt." She swiped at a tear seeping from the corner of her eye.
The detective wrote in the notebook. "After you got out of your car, did you see anyone walking in or out of the hospital?"
"No one." She looked toward the hospital to prevent the detective from seeing her lower lip trembling. A lock of shoulder-length brown hair fell into her face and she brushed it away.
He made another notation. "Nobody at all?"
"No. I'm sorry. I wish I could help you, but I didn't see anything." The relentless yammering of her thoughts had crushed her, worries that babysitting her young son might be too much for her elderly grandparents. She hadn't been paying attention to her surroundings.
"That's about all the questions I have at this time." He took her address and phone number. Stepped away from her, then turned back, and asked a couple more questions that made no sense to her.
She stood there staring at him as he returned to the body.
If only this morning would end. She rubbed her hands together in an attempt to quell a slight tremor.
A black coach resembling an ambulance drove into the lot. An older man in overalls pulled a collapsible gurney out of the back and raised its bed to hip level. Its chrome gleamed.
A night orderly and two nurses getting off the night shift stopped to watch.
The brown-haired man pointed to the gurney and his voice carried. "They finally allocated some funds my way. Makes transporting much easier. Oscar and I used to carry them on a stretcher. My back sure is grateful to the board of supervisors."
The detective laughed. "Don't you county guys have all the dough you want?"
"Who're you kidding?"
The gurney's wheels rumbled across the gravel parking lot. The older man pulled on the straps of his overalls."Hank, you ready to move the body?"
The stylish man nodded. "Let's do it." They lifted the body onto the gurney and the man in overalls covered Dr. McCloud with a white sheet. Blood seeped through and began spreading.
Lucinda gasped, took another step back, stumbled, but managed to keep her footing. She straightened her spine. She still had to go into that building and work a full day. She had a son to support.
The detective nodded toward the body. "By the size of the hole in his chest, I'd guess he was shot with a pistol, maybe at close range. I need to have the bullet as soon as you recover it."
"Then by all means, you'll be my guest at the autopsy."
"Gee, thanks." The detective shook his head.
The debonair man chuckled, turned, and approached Lucinda.
A tremor ran down her back. More questioning, and all she wanted to do was run and hide. She sniffled and wiped her nose with the side of her index finger.
He reached into his inside pocket and offered her a folded white handkerchief. "It's rough if you've never seen anything like this. I'm Hank Jansen, the medical examiner, by the way."
Lucinda's gaze followed the gurney to the black coach. "He was my boss."
"You work at the hospital for Dr. McCloud?"
"Yes. I... I'm his secretary... was, I mean. And Dr. Hinsey's too." She couldn't believe the doctor's life had ended this way.
Detective Daltry barked, "Hank, can I speak with you?"
"Excuse me." The medical examiner stepped away.
"Wait." Lucinda quickly refolded the handkerchief and handed it back to him. She didn't know this man. Wouldn't begin to know how to return the white cotton cloth. "Don't forget this."
"Take it with you. The day's not over. Things could still get rough." He smiled.
"No, I can't take your hankie."
"Listen, I'll pick it up the next time I'm at the hospital. You say you work for Dr. Hinsey?"
"Hank," the detective called, impatience sharp in his tone.
"Yes, Dr. Hinsey. She's the head of the maternity ward. I'll launder it and have it ready for you."
The medical examiner nodded and smiled. "It's a date. I mean, I'll stop by and pick it up." He turned and trotted toward the detective.
Lucinda slipped the handkerchief into her purse. She headed for the main entrance of the hospital, bent and picked up a fountain pen in the gravel lot.
She pivoted and advanced toward the two men.
The detective made a chopping gesture with his hand and raised his voice. "I'm not fooling, Hank. Don't go putting another notch in your belt. She's a witness."
"Can't a fellow do a simple act of kindness?"
"I'm warning you, stay away from her." The detective spun around and nearly collided with Lucinda.
Heat rushed to her face, and she couldn't meet either man's gaze. If the ground would only open and swallow her. She held the pen out to Detective Daltry. "Uh... I… I'm sorry. I think you dropped this."

---continued tomorrow guys. I'm hooked!  Don't forget to come back!
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