Naomi Dawn Musch

Northwoods Fiction, Faith, and Family


Gotta Love an Anti-Hero Struggling to Change - Book Review of Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix

Posted by naomidawnmusch on July 3, 2013 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I stumbled upon Tangled Ashes by Michele Pheonix a couple weeks ago and devoured it. It's one of those stories you happen upon only once or twice a year -- the kind that should have a cover blurb reading, "I was written with your specific taste in mind." For me, that's women's fiction set in a superbly written historical backdrop and characters combined of both imperfect and compelling qualities.




I mean, talk about an anti-hero! I adore a well crafted anti-hero, and it was hard for me to even think I would ever like Becker, the anti-hero in this one. Gosh, but he tries so hard I couldn't help it, even though every one of his failures angered me. And Jade, who started off as so easy going, had quite a few flaws in her own character to bring her to life. But the story that really sung was that of Marie, the young French woman working in the chateau who is trying to protect her friend and rescue her friend's baby.


The story of the Lebensborn (Nazi baby factories) in Nazi Germany -- or in this case, Nazi occupied France -- is ripe with intrigue and danger, and the author did a superb job of tangling up my emotions over the women and babies caught in such a plight.


There's some mystery to the story which is a main thread, but that didn't compel me as much as the characters themselves. I would call this an extremely good character driven story, built around a strong plot, rather than the other way around.


I learned, after completing the reading, that the author spent a good deal of her growing up years around the castle in the story as well as experiencing some other things that were included in the story (no spoilers!) and the authenticity of writing "what she knows" comes through. It's a 5-star novel, and I'm a new fan of Michele Phoenix.

Write on!

Coming in August 2013:


Women's Contemporary Fiction by Naomi Musch and Desert Breeze Publishing

Characters that Reveal the Good vs. Bad Battle in Everyone - Winds Over Marshdale, by Tracy Krauss

Posted by naomidawnmusch on July 1, 2013 at 9:00 PM Comments comments (0)

An eerie sensation stole over me in the opening pages of Winds Over Marshdale, which I'm sure was the intent of author Tracy Krauss in this tale of fresh starts and the unseen spiritual forces at work in the lives of a small town community on the Canadian plains. Reading this story from the perspective of one having a Christian world view, it felt all too real, downright creepy even. 

And I couldn't wait to read more.

While not a true suspense, elements of the story are very suspenseful, while being at turns romantic and enlightening. This is one of the first inspirational novels I've read that dealt so genuinely with issues of occult practices found in certain aspects of native cultural traditions here in North America. While exposing the underlying forces at work within them, the author in no way belittled those cultures. In fact, one of the main characters, a Native American man settling in Marshdale with the task of preserving his cultural heritage for future generations, was an especially appealing and sympathetic character with a strong love for the traditions of that heritage. Tracy told her story with a strong sense of what the occult in any form can do from someone who's dabbled in it. (You can read the author's testimony here.)

That's one of the strongest achievements of Tracy's novel. She creates a cast of characters that stands out. These are really, really well-developed characters. They are flesh and blood real, whether for good or for evil, and usually a sharp dichotomy of both -- like us -- and her effort to create them with such depth is one of the main things any writer can try to emulate after a careful reading of the book.

Good and bad live in everyone. (I don't want to give any spoilers, but let's just say, watch out for the church lady in this book!) Even a delightful main protagonist like Rachel Bosworth, a kind and generous kindergarten teacher who wants a fresh start, makes some really ugly, unlikeable choices. In fact, every one of Tracy's characters is a two-sided coin. Readers are given a chance to see them on the outside, and then discover what makes them tick on the inside, sort of like we can see and know ourselves -- or really, how God can see and know the real us. The battles we rage against our inner natures can be a nasty mess, if we'll admit it.

I highly recommend Wind Over Marshdale, and I can clearly see why it won a 2013 Grace Award.

Write on!

Online everywhere!

Better Ways to Express Character Emotion and Physical Reaction -- A Book Exam of Christine Lindsey's "Shadowed in Silk"

Posted by naomidawnmusch on February 5, 2013 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (2)

Bobbing around in the yummy, inspirational, historical novel section of the internet (surely you've heard of that genre "yummy" ;)) you can hardly have missed hearing something about Christine Lindsey's Shadowed in Silk. Set in India only months after the WWI armistice, during a period when native Indians grew increasingly restless under the British raj, Shadowed in Silk tells the story of a young woman caught up in national turmoil, international intrigue, and a marriage in tatters which had barely begun. It is also the storyof a British officer whose heart has been broken by personal loss, by war, by an aching for the Indian people not shared by his peers. Sights, sounds, and other characters, richly developed, move throughout the pages giving readers an immersion into the world that was India in 1918.


While telling a remarkable and riveting tale spilling with vivid historical detail, what really struck me about Christine's book from a writer's point of view, was her diverse use of language that gave the characters emotional expression in each scene. If you write, you know how it is sometimes -- you get mentally stuck in a world of bland, worn out phrases -- she smiled, he dipped his head, her heart pounded -- those kinds. Some days at the keyboard we wrestle for a better way to express character emotion and physical action.


I jotted down forms of a few of the phrases in Shadowed in Silk that I found impactful to the scenes Christine was spinning. Here are some of them:


The tightness across her shoulders eased.

Her stomach slammed against her spine.

A flicker of excitement passed behind his eyes.

His pulse beat a tattoo at the base of his throat.

He roped his good hand into her hair and jerked her to him.

Her vision went white with pain.

Everything funneled so all she saw was his face above hers.

The old man's face wreathed with a smile but quickly became a sober mask.

Creases at the corners of his eyes fanned out with his smile.

His brain felt like the hot mash of rotting potatoes.

A flicker of awareness crossed her face.

He went on, feeling coldness lap around his heart.

Ice water flooded his veins.

His insides writhed.

A nerve flickered across one of her eyelids.

His voice dipped further


Pay special attention to the power of her nouns and verbs. Tightness eased, stomach slammed, creases fanned... She uses strong words to incite an emotional reaction from the reader.


Christine's novel is definitely worthy of the rave reviews and awards she's received. Writers would find it worth their time to read it with an eye on craft. For a debut novelist, Christine has written with a depth from which any writer can learn to improve technique, especially ways in which to express character actions and emotional responses.

Desert Breeze Publishing







For the Love of a Sweeping Historical - A Book Exam of "Heart's Safe Passage" by Laurie Alice Eakes

Posted by naomidawnmusch on March 4, 2012 at 3:35 AM Comments comments (0)

Here's a new kind of book exam. Join me by video as I give a review of Laurie Alice Eake's newest books in her Midwives series -- Heart's Safe Passage.


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Desert Breeze / Other Formats:


The First Two Secrets to Great Story-Telling -- A Book Exam of "Afton of Margate Castle" by Angela Hunt

Posted by naomidawnmusch on January 29, 2012 at 11:10 AM Comments comments (0)

What sort of novel would you read twice? With so many new books releasing every day, it's not often I consider giving a book a second go-round. Yet, some stay on my shelf because I hope to revisit them someday.


I did that last week. I'm a big Angela Hunt fan, especially when it comes to her historicals. I first read Afton of Margate Castle at least ten years ago, and it's one of those books that will always remain in my library. But when it recently turned up as a free read for Kindle, I couldn't resist downloading. I took a glimpse, remembering the characters rather quickly, and before long I was hooked again.Caught in the story of a young, innocent girl dealt a harsh, evil hand, I was as bound by the tale as if I'd never read it before.



Why? What magic does Ms. Hunt imbue in her style that can hook a reader two times around?


Hunt is one of the reigning queens of Christian fiction, yet Afton of Margate Castle was her first novel written for adults. She'd spent previous years writing in other venues.


So how did Hunt so successfully craft Afton's story? She followed the first two rules of great story-telling.


***Hunt finds what is great and strong in her characters and shows it in large or subtle ways at the onset. Then as she continues rounding out their lives, giving them even further dimension, she drops them into bigger-than-life situations that are seemingly beyond their ability to handle. But the situations serve to nurture those seeds of greatness inside them and force them to grow.


Here is young Afton, a simple villein and eldest sibling in a large family on her lord's estate. Only a child, she is proven to be sweet natured, uncomplaining, and hard working. But her uncommon beauty and poise have caught the eye of the earl's wife, Lady Endeline, who desires to raise another child, a little girl. She takes Afton from her family, as is her right, and raises her as a companion to her own plain, stubborn daughter. But the lady's desire for Afton soon turns to jealous aggravation as Afton's noble nature doesn't seem to rub off on the true daughter, Leinor. On the other hand, it does catch the eye of the mistress's son. But Lady Endeline will not allow a bond to form between her son and the daughter of a plowman. The woman's desire for Afton soon turns to bitterness toward the girl, and before Afton is even a teenager, she is thrust into forced marriage to the town miller, a jealous, brutal man.


I don't want to give anything away. If you haven't read it, you should. But the point is, Hunt's characters are like gladiolas in a sea of dandelions. They stand out. They're vibrant, developed, alluring. Most of all they have strengths that may seem small or common, but dropped into tenuous circumstances, traits such as industriousness or compassion become determination and honor.


***The next rule of good story-telling Hunt follows once she drops her characters into a sea of untoward circumstances, is to send out scenes in rippling waves -- cresting, receding, cresting, receding. Each and every scene moves the story forward, but just as the protagonist seems to balance on the brink of certain joy, Hunt plunges her again into the abyss of misfortune. With each betrayal, heartache, and yearning, we care more and more so that we must keep reading, we must keep riding those waves, hoping for a favorable outcome.


As young Afton is enjoying both the familial chores and joys of carefree childhood, she is ripped from her home to live in the castle and her loving mother is forced to reject her. Then, as she learns to trust lady Elendine and love her son, Elendine casts her into a terrible marriage and her son is sent off to the crusades. When Afton finally finds some measure of peace and joy in raising her own child, Elendine interferes yet again.


And it doesn't stop there. Wars, revenge, secrets and betrayal, the passing of years -- all keep Afton from knowing forgiveness, trust, and true love. As each scene wave brings us closer to the shore of resolution, our tension grows.


Angela Hunt is known for her ability to bring the unexpected to her readers.


More, of course, is required to make a novel sing, but by hinting at greatness in her characters, and by moving the story forward to climactic moments within each scene then pulling back to leave readers breathless with anxiety and hope, the first two rules and perhaps the biggest are accomplished.


May we all learn such craft and technique as we--

Write On!


"...moving and powerful love stories that evoke your emotions and reduce you to tears." - Review


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Ever-Enchanting, A Review of Melanie Dickerson's "The Merchant's Daughter"

Posted by naomidawnmusch on December 26, 2011 at 1:05 AM Comments comments (0)

I can never ignore a new novel spin-off the ever-enchanting Beauty and the Beast story. Now Melanie Dickerson has put her own stamp on this timeless tale. It's one of the best I've read so far.  In The Merchant's Daughter, Ms. Dickenson doesn't adhere to a magical or fantasy telling of the childhood story, but sets it in a very realistic medieval village, in mid-1300s England.

What I liked most about this book was the way she managed to bring the original story elements into this realistic setting:

**The heroine, Annabel, is a merchant's daughter whose father's ships were destroyed. After his passing, she lives with her very slothful brothers and her rather vain mother. I liked that Ms. Dickerson included this family element. Many versions of the tale over the years have included various numbers of "Beauty's" siblings. Did you know there were 12 in the original? Nothing like the Disney version, huh?

**Readers are given a valid reason for Annabel to wind up at the beastly Lord Ranulf's estate. She's indentured to pay the fine for her family's failed responsibility to do their share of work during the village harvest. She goes willingly, knowing that her family ought to have worked.

**Anabel is pursued by an underhanded bailiff who is thought of highly by the villagers, but who is a threat to Anabel's future and personal safety.

**Lord Ranulf is scarred both physically and emotionally by his past. His countenance is dour and his mannerisms brusque, giving him a terrifying reputation.

**Ms. Dickerson slips in the rose from the original story providing a symbolic correlation to Ranulf's death becoming imminent if Anabelle won't save him.

**Ranulf's utter transformation at the end from "beastly" to "princely" was beautifully written, and I loved the way the author managed to keep this element in the story without the magic of the fairytale.


The only criticism from a writer's perspective, and one which I doubt will matter much to most readers, was an occasional slippage from the deep point of view usually desired, with an occasional indulgence in telling and be-verbs. But such occurences were slight and easily overlooked by the rest of the story's dynamic plotting and dialogue.

I thought the major theme of discrimination was handled adroitly in The Merchant's Daughter, but my favorite story premise emerged in the line, " is greater than justice." Even though justice was served in the end, I found it a resonating truth that it's better to show mercy than to be right.


Ms. Dickerson's novel provides readers the pleasant escape we all need now and then. I enjoyed being carried away into it. That, at least, was magical.

Write on!

A Writers' Writer - Book Exam of "Reclaiming Lily" by Patti Lacy

Posted by naomidawnmusch on December 18, 2011 at 3:55 AM Comments comments (2)

Once again, Patti Lacy writes a book that proves she is a writer's writer. She never takes on small challenges, and in her latest novel, Reclaiming Lily, she mines the rich veins of story involving a family whose foreign adoption involves intrigue and heart-wrenching drama.


The layers to this story come down one atop the other, turning this way and that until they're woven tighter than a grass tatami mat.There's the adoption from China seen both from the side of the woman whose heart has long ached for a child, and through the eyes of the child's older sister who hoped to reclaim her sibling from the orphanage and bring her back to her birth family. Finally, it's seen through the eyes of the teenager who remembers the loss, abandonment, fear, hatred, and displacement she struggled through being left at an orphanage during turbulent times, and then adjusting to growing up in a new country.


As writers, we know that effective layering creates an unforgettable story. With each layer and sub-theme a writer puts down, there's another reason for that character and story to weave into a reader's subconscious and stick there. But weaving those layers seamlessly is an art. I guess that's why we call it "craft". Crafting layers takes practice and a great deal of thought. This is where plotting is especially helpful. SOTP-only writers surely must have more difficulty with layering.


As writers of Christian fiction, we are challenged to write about realistic situations without using a preaching voice. Reclaiming Lily speaks to the tragedies of civil unrest, culture clashes, self-mutilation, teenage rebellion, and the devastating effects of genetic disease. Ultimately, it's a story that weaves the faith factor in so realistically, especially for Kai, Lily's unbelieving sister, I couldn't help but be moved. 


As writers, we know what Patti accomplishes is no small task. Her research seems to have been impeccable. Writing a story with such breadth and depth as this requires patience as well as skill. The urge to tell a story while skimping on the research is often a temptation. We want to get to the emotional stuff, the action, those scenes we hope will fill the reader with angst and titillation. But Patti must have taken a great deal of time to explore the many avenues of research this story required. Without it, the telling would have fallen flat and left us doubting.

As writers, we have to tie the knot. Ms. Lacy brings about a huge twist in the plot eventually providing a superb "Ah-ha!" moment, and the ending is both dramatic and satisfying. It's definitely women's fiction worth reading. It will stay with you. It will show you how all those thematic elements come together.

Write on!



Writing and Solving the Love Triangle

Posted by naomidawnmusch on October 11, 2011 at 10:10 AM Comments comments (0)

I just finished reading Susan May Warren's terrific WWII novel Sons of Thunder from her Brothers in Arms series. It's a compelling story, fraught with tension, layered like a theme-and-character-deli sandwich, and structured on an aching love triangle involving a pair of brothers and the woman they both love.


Interestingly enough, I began reading this as my own novel The Red Fury is about to release from Desert Breeze Publishing (10/15/11). It's also a story spun on the heels of post-war trauma, of past regrets, of searching for meaning --and most similarly -- of a love triangle involving a pair of brothers and the woman they both love.


The love triangle is a center-piece theme found often in fiction, whether it's women's fiction, romance, suspense, or just about any genre you can come up with. Why? Because it works. It's a natural ramp to tension. We're told there are only so many plots in the world, and since this one is a biggy, the real trick is to write it in a new way that will make a reader's heart sizzle.


Sons of Thunder and The Red Fury both tackle the classic problem of torn love. While the reader may understand the direction the love relationship ought to go, he or she should deeply feel the plight of all involved. It isn't really a love triangle if one of the parties doesn't truly ache with love and commitment.


Picture a physical triangle for a moment. An object with three straight sides and three angles. The sides and angles don't have to be equal,or they could be. Triangles can be shaped as differently as story plot itself. Character relationships can differ in degrees of love, passion, faithfulness, yearning.


But the closer they are to being equilateral, the bigger the quandary of the characters will be. Building a love triangle's shape will depend somewhat on how you intend to solve the problem -- pulling out one leg (character) of the triangle and allowing the other two legs to fall together and intertwine.


Ways to solve the love triangle problem vary. They might include:

  • The death of one lover
  • Distraction of one lover by another party
  • Unsolved - One party merely goes away, perhaps finds love in another book

Whichever means you use to solve the love triangle problem, it has to make sense. It has to be satisfying. It shouldn't be plainly expected. And it must tear at the heart.

Option #1 - You know how it is when you kill off a bad guy in a book. Sometimes it causes rejoicing. But sometimes the bad guy is redeemed or at least reconciled to the opposing characters, and you feel a sort of sorrow in killing him off. Well, if the death of a bad guy can cause an emotional bump, think of the emotions likely to roil if you're killing off a party in a love triangle. It's going to be a lot more wrenching if he's likeable or heroic. So give him those qualities. Give him some redeeming feature that will help the lover feel the stab of his loss while at the same time finding even greater solace with the love interest that remains.


Option #2 - If the choice for one party in the love triangle is to become distracted by another party (a new love) it shouldn't be that the party being left is utterly relieved to not have to make a choice. Make the reader care that something important has been lost, even though something new and good can now grow. That's just how it is in real life. Seriously, haven't you ever been an eye-witness to the heartache of a true love triangle? Letting go is hard, even if there's someone else to help ease the pain. Pieces of broken heart can mend, but they can never be returned.


Option #3 - It can be compelling if one character simply goes away to nurse his/her wounds. It peels at the heart to watch someone lose at love if they have no other love to turn to. In series stories this is a likely option because it helps readers see growth and maturity in a character who will likely find even greater love in another book.


Writing the love triangle and solving its nuances takes some delicate balance and a real ability to see the situation from all angles. And that, of course, is what makes it so much fun to write.


Write on!



Secrets Sunday: Nike Chillemi along with her Hero and Heroine from "Burning Hearts"

Posted by naomidawnmusch on September 18, 2011 at 1:10 AM Comments comments (5)

I have an interesting combination of guests today. Crime Fictionista, Nike Chillemi is here along with the two protagonists from her historical romance mystery, Burning Hearts.

Welcome to Secrets Sunday! To start off, tell us something readers might not know about you, Nike.


Nike: I'm often called the Crime Fictionista. That's due to my passion for murder mysteries, detective stories, and thrillers. However, I'm also a lady, implied by "fictionista," and I also like some romance in my stories. The novels I write are known for equal parts mystery, action, and romance.


You write a romance and Burning Hearts is also Historical. What is it that particularly draws you to Inspirational Romance, and do you usually write in the historical sub-genre?


Nike: My break-out novel, Burning Hearts, is set at the close of World War II (1946) on the Great South Bay of Long Island, NY. I've been intrigued by that era for quite a while and decided to put my hand to writing about it. It's a time when America came out of the pain and loss of a war that they hoped would end all wars. The nation pulled together, became a little wiser about evil in the world, and America rose up to even greater heights. I admire the America of that era and wanted to look back at it. I don't think of myself particularly as a Christian writer or an inspirational writer. I write fast-paced murder mysteries with a strong romance element and they have Christian characters. I try to make all my characters as believable as possible. My Christian characters talk and act, as I know Christians do. My bad guys also behave quite badly and you may find an occasional mild profanity in my stories.


Burning Hearts is an eBook. What drew you to an eBook-only publisher?


Nike: Desert Breeze was open to publishing a romance that had equal time for murder/mayhem, and action in its plotline. So, it was a natural fit for me. They give their writers a lot of creative freedom, which I appreciate.


In a sense, writers "meet" their characters like we meet anybody. We see them at some place (imaginatively speaking) and we approach them, get to know them; how did you first meet  Lorne and Erica, your protagonists?


Nike: I wish I could come up with something exotic to tell, but it ain't so. I get ideas for novels all the time. Some of them are quite bad ideas. I put them all into a file that's kind of a think-tank for plots. The plotline for Burning Hearts kept jumping out at me. Many moons ago,when I first started this writing adventure I took the Harlequin free writing course that was offered then. It consisted of many in-depth weekly lessons. I still use a version of their characterization outline. So, I started a biography folder for the book and, using that outline, started fleshing out my hero and heroine. My hero rode a Harley and my heroine sported slacks in the village and it outraged some. Their names came to me and I began fleshing out their life story.


Well, let me ask your main characters  a few questions. Lorne, you roll right into the opening chapter of Burning Hearts on your Harley and become a local hero, though a number of people resent you for it. Yet you seem a humble sort. How did you feel about Nike deciding to write your story? Were you comfortable baring your soul to her?


Lorne: Thank you for having me here, Miss. I wasn't entirely comfortable with having my life spread out over the pages of some electronic kind of book. I'm a private sort of fellow. But it turned out all right and people seem to enjoy reading it.


Your Harley is your pride and joy. Tell us about it. Did you let Nike have a ride?


Lorne: I functioned basically as a courier in France during the war and rode a Harley Davidson WLA which was produced to US Army specifications. It was a fine machine. When I returned to the states, I was lucky to find one that was the civilian model and I bought it. I don't allow anyone to ride my Harley, but if I were ever to make an exception, which is doubtful, it would be for Nike.


Here's an even more serious question for you, Lorne. Did you arrive in Sanctuary Point with any profound regrets or secrets from your past?


Lorne: I arrived in Sanctuary Point running from my past. I had more regrets and secrets than anything else. I didn't like to talk about them then, and I don't like to talk about them now. Sorry, but your blog followers, and I'm not too sure what a blog is, but they'll have to read the book to find out more on this subject.


Well, that is secretive! But I'm sure you can tell us, what was your faith like when you arrived?


Lorne: To tell the truth, my faith was nearly nonexistent. I knew there was a God. I wasn't totally ignorant. It's just that I was very angry with Him. I even pretty much knew it was okay to be angry with Him. The hard truth about life is that it's not always pretty and my life hadn't been pretty. My faith had to mature for me to be able to see a portion of the larger spiritual picture.


Thank you for being so candid, Lorne. I'll put the spotlight on Erica now.


Erica, can you relive for us, for a moment, your first reaction to meeting Lorne? (Oh, I think she's blushing.)


Erica: Well, I knew right away he was cute, but I couldn't take any time to focus on that. My friend and employer was trapped inside her burning house. Looking back on that first moment, you could say I fell for him. Actually, I was so crazed with fear for my friend that I tripped and fell right in front of his motorcycle. He stopped short so as not to hit me and helped me to my feet. Then he went into the blazing house and brought Ada out. It still breaks my heart to say this, Ada died at the hospital.


I recall that tragedy. I'm so sorry! Maybe you can tell us how you met Nike and what it was like sharing your story with her.


Erica: I became aware of Nike little by little. She set up things that were to happen in the story and I told her how I would react in those types of situations.


Are the two of you anything alike?


Erica: Oh, yes. Well, we're both of Czechoslovakian extraction. I adore fashion and can get lost in the pages of a fashion magazine. Nike is a graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology and worked for many years in the bridal industry. We both like to wear pants. I envy Nike because in your era, pants are acceptable at all times for women.


What was your faith like on the day you walked into that burning house to search for your friend?


Erica: It wasn't as strong as it had been as a child.The loss of so many boys I'd grown up with in the war had shaken me. I began to doubt God -- not that He was God, but that He cared. I had to grow up and face that evil was a real force in the world. Just as God was good, the devil was real, and he was evil and causing evil occurrences. I could no longer blame God for bad things happening to good people.


Nike, what themes did you recognize in the lives of Lorne and Erica that you thought would be compelling for others to read about?


Nike: In a way, it was a romantic coming of age story. Two young adults who have little experience with the opposite sex fall in love and have to face some huge challenges. As their love grows, they mature into full adulthood and are able to face the more perplexing challenges of life, but they do it together.


So a terrible murder took place in Sanctuary Point,and you both faced some pretty perilous situations. Lorne, you were set up for murder, and Erica, you were nearly killed. Is there anything about those experiences you'd like to share with readers here (without giving too muchaway)?


Lorne: I felt caught in the cross hairs when it looked as if it would be a whole lot easier for the village establishment if I went down for Ada's murder. But what really shook me to the core was the thought of facing life without Erica.


Erica: To put it quite simply, I had no doubt that Lorne would turn every stone and do everything in his power to save me.


Thank you, all three of you, for joining me. Do you think you'll work together again, or Nike, are you going to spend more time with some other folks in Sanctuary Point?


Nike: I've given Erica and Lorne quite a long honeymoon. A week in Myrtle Beach and then an extended stay visiting Erica's dad's relatives before Lorne has to come back and start state trooper training. So, they're conveniently away when the next murder occurs in Sanctuary Point. 

Goodbye Noel, which is a Christmas themed historical romantic suspense is the second book. The main characters in book two are more mature and socially experienced and so I'd have to rate it a "warm romance." But it's also a Christmas murder mystery, much authors such as Mary Higgins Clark, Susan Wittig, or Carolyn Hart might enjoy penning. One of the sub-themes in Goodbye Noel is to show how Christmas was so universally celebrated across America in the mid 1940s.



Sounds interesting! I love sub-themes. How can readers connect with you and where can they buy your debut novel?


Nike:I'm on Facebook and Goodreads under my name, Nike Chillemi.


My blog:




Barnes & Noble:


Desert Breeze:



What Multiple Antagonists Can Do For Your Story

Posted by naomidawnmusch on September 7, 2011 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (2)

A sure way to ramp up tension in a novel is incorporate more than one antagonist and to give the reader a glimpse into their psyche. I prefer to do this on several levels by using man vs. man, man vs. self, and man vs. nature -- all three if possible. As a reader, I enjoy a story more when there are a variety of antagonists as well.


T.L. Higley did this extremely well in her 2011 release, Pompeii: City on Fire. I was spellbound by the number of antagonists in her story, every one of them ramping up the tension with evil presence.



Of course the primary antagonist is Mount Vesuvius itself. But even in this man vs. nature aspect, Higley gave Vesuvius character, telling portions of the story through the eyes of the volcano viewing itself as a mother-god whose children have been ungrateful and would receive the recompense for their neglect. Higley incorporates two very heinous political antagonists whose depravity knows no bounds. She also created antagonists in the gladiator arena who give the main character reasons to worry on several levels. Finally, there is the antagonist of self, which, without it, the story would contain no character arc, no growth.


As I implied earlier, it's important that readers have glimpses into the psyche of some of your antagonists. They should understand what makes them tick, even if it (hopefully does) make them despise or fear the antagonist more.


• Antagonists may be ultra-evil, and if they are evil at all, ultra-evil is even better.

• Antagonists may be merely annoying, but then they should be annoying to the point of causing upset.

• Antagonists can be weak-minded but able to cause huge stumbling blocks to the protagonist's goal.

• In the case of the "self" antagonist, there has to be continued reasons for the character to continue in a pattern of wrong thinking or misunderstanding.


Examine your WIP for clearly defined antagonists. Is there another way you can ramp up their hindering ability? Can they become more menacing? Is there another antagonist who can enter the plot? You can deepen your story conflict and provide more layers by considering more antagonism.


Write on!


Book Two: THE RED FURY coming October 15th!

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My Affiliations

Apples of Gold News: A Homeschool Newsletter (Publisher)

Desert Breeze Publishing (Author)

Living Stones News: Midwestern Christian Newspaper (Staff Writer)

A Novel Writing Site: Mentoring Young Writers (ContributingMember)

Home School Enrichment Magazine: (Feature Contributor)

The Barn Door

Clash of The Titles

I review for BookSneeze