Wednesday, January 5, 2022

#IWSG + Cozy Review & Author Interview: Murder in Second Position

This is a big post! Lots going on... hang in there.

What is the IWSG?
We are a group of writers who gather on the Internet to offer support and encouragement to each other! And we owe it all to the founder, Ninja Captain Alex Cavanaugh. Thanks, Alex!
Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say. 

Remember, the question is optional!

January 5 question - What's the one thing about your writing career you regret the most? Were you able to overcome it?

Be sure to visit the awesome co-hosts for the January 5 posting of the IWSG:  Erika Beebe, Olga Godim, Sandra Cox, Sarah Foster, and Chemist Ken!

A quick answer to the question, and on to the rest of this post! I don't feel like I have any huge regrets... mostly, I wish I had known when I published my first book what I know now about the craft. I'm often tempted to pull it and re-edit, but probably never will. Mostly, I have no big regrets.

Now, my Writer's Update:
The holidays naturally derailed writing progress some, but also put pressure on me to finish editing my Nepal photos--I made it in time for a family slide show! I'm sharing those photos a few at a time on this blog over the next month or so. I also did finally (after far too much mucking about) get started on edits on the new novel (note to self: MUST decide on a title and start using it!). I'm still working on that first read-through where I create a new outline so I can figure out how to rearrange things. 

I've not been submitting things, and need to get back to that. And the blog is moving to it's new home starting tomorrow, if all goes well. You can check it out at, and sign up to follow me there,though we may still be working on the details. Note: If you are following me, and want to keep getting notices about new posts, you will need to re-follow on the new blog!

And now... from Great Escapes Blog Tours...

Murder in Second Position: An On Pointe Mystery by Lori Robbins

About Murder in Second Position


Murder in Second Position: An On Pointe Mystery  

Cozy Mystery 2nd in Series 
Level Best Books (November 23, 2021)
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 258 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1685120210
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1685120214 Kindle ASIN ‏ : ‎ B09FM1JTFL


Ballerina Leah Siderova belongs onstage. Not in an interrogation room at Manhattan’s Twentieth Precinct. And yet, for the second time in less than a year, that’s where she has a starring role. It wasn’t her fault someone killed the autocratic new director of the American Ballet Company. And it wasn’t her job to find the killer.

Leah is determined to stay as far away as possible from the murder investigation. After all, if she were going to kill someone, it would have been the woman who’s been relentlessly trolling her on social media. And that’s where things get complicated. Because when dancers say “ballet can be murder” they don’t mean it literally.

Most of the time.

My Review:
This was a fun, well-written read! I really enjoyed the glimpse into the world of ballet, despite not being a dancer (but one of my best friends was...), and it felt real and accurate from what little I know. Leah is a likable main character and an engaging narrator, if not always as sensible as she should be. I did worry about the whole eating disorder thing--dancers really do abuse their bodies in all directions.

They mystery was well constructed, with enough clues to point the way and enough misdirection to keep it interesting. If Leah doesn't always use good sense, she at least always *thinks* she's being safe and careful, and her reasons for not just leaving it all to the police are convincing. The police might not always agree, but she doesn't mess up the evidence so she passes!

There are a lot of characters, and in my usual scatter-brained fashion I had a little trouble at times remembering who is who. I'm honestly not sure if that's the book or my brain, and in the end it was all clear enough. Some of my issues might be because this is book 2 of the series, and there is some history that, while adequately reported, is left tantalizingly vague.

This is a nice addition to the cozy-mystery shelf, and the series seems worth following up on. Especially if you are interested in the world of dance, check it out!

And now, we are delighted to have author Lori Robbins stop by for a chat!

RD: When did you start writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a writer, or did you stumble into it later in life?

LR: My first career was as a dancer, and the second was as a high school English teacher. Like many voracious readers, I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but it definitely took a while before that dream came true. My hero is Frank McCourt, who, after a long career as a high school English teacher, published Angela’s Ashes at the age of sixty-six. I figured if Frank could do it, so could I.

Over the years I wrote character sketches, parts of stories, and two terrible novels. All of that writing was good practice for when I began my first mystery, about five years ago. I’ve since written three books and am under contract for three more.

RD: What are your books about and who is the audience?

LR: Leah Siderova, the protagonist of my On Pointe Mystery series, is a thirty-something ballerina, who dances with a fictional ballet company based in New York City.

I’m a former professional dancer, and the books are filled with inside information about that very competitive world, although you don’t have to know a single thing about ballet to enjoy them! My readers, like me, enjoy traditional mysteries with more than a little humor.

Lesson Plan for Murder is the first book in my Master Class Mystery series. The protagonist is a crime fighting English teacher. Each chapter begins with the title of a famous book, which doubles as a clue to the mystery. That work is being rereleased by Level Best Books in June 2022, as part of a three book series.

All of my books feature amateur sleuths. I think part of what makes this genre so satisfying is that an ordinary person is given the opportunity to do extraordinary things. But the books aren’t one dimensional. In Murder in Second Position, for example, Leah’s quest takes place externally, in the context of a murder investigation, but it takes place internally as well. She learns there’s more to life, and to her, than being onstage.

RD: What is the best thing about being a writer?

LR: Because I write in the first person, I get to live, quite vicariously, through my characters. They’re a lot funnier and wittier than I am, and they’re far braver than I am.  I love how they take on a life of their own, which includes the ability to surprise me, even though I’m the one who brought them to life.

RD: If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

LR: Paris is at the top of the list. I visit that beautiful city every year, and I’m looking forward to returning. I love the language as well, although it doesn’t love me back. My accent owes a lot more to Brooklyn than to France.
This love of all things French has made its way into most of my writing and has been the inspiration for several characters.

RD: If there’s a spider in the corner of the room, do you a) panic, b) have to drop everything until it is removed, or c) hope it’s planning to eat the more annoying bugs that get in?

LR: Thanks to Charlotte and her web, I’ve got a soft spot for spiders, as long as there aren’t too many of them. And I do encourage them to eat mosquitoes. This forbearance does not extend to creatures of the six-legged variety.

I will admit, though, if the spider crawled on me, as opposed to the floor or the wall, I would shriek madly and stomp mercilessly.

RD: Do you use a detailed outline before you start writing, or... ?

LR: I think detailed outlines are the best way to plot and plan a mystery. And someday I’ll write one. In the meantime, I’ll continue with my hybrid model. I begin with a character list and the characters’ relationships with each other. I then write a skeleton outline, which is constantly getting revised. For Murder in Second Position, a completely new character waltzed into the novel, and I love her so much she’s returning in book three.

In this book, as in the first installment, I tagged the wrong person as the murderer and had to rewrite quite a bit of text. I might have to rethink my earlier answer about the best thing about being a writer, because there are few things more exciting than being surprised by the story you yourself are writing.

RD: I love that answer, and am glad to know I'm not the only one with that problem. Before you go, is there anything else you would like your readers to know about you?

LR: My husband and I have six kids, which I realize sounds excessive. People often ask what we were thinking. And the answer is that at the time, rational thought was the last thing on our minds.

Now that the kids are mostly grown up, I can’t imagine what my life would be like if we’d been more like the very prudent people we admire.

As I was framing my response to this question, I realized my writing is a lot like my family life. I didn’t plot out every detail. And there were more than a few surprises along the way.

But it all worked out just fine in the end.

Thanks for stopping by, and have a great time with the next book!

About the Author:

Brooklyn-born Lori Robbins began dancing at age 16 and launched her professional career three years later. She studied modern dance at the Martha Graham School and ballet at the New York Conservatory of Dance. Robbins performed with a number of dance companies, including Ballet Hispanico, the Des Moines Ballet, and the St. Louis Concert Ballet. After ten very lean years as a dancer she attended Hunter College, graduating summa cum laude with a major in British Literature and a minor in Classics.

The opening book in her On Pointe Mystery Series, Murder in First Position, won the Indie Book Award for Best Mystery, was a finalist for a Silver Falchion, and is currently on the short list for a Mystery & Mayhem Book Award. Murder in Second Position will be released November 23, 2021. Her debut mystery, Lesson Plan for Murder, won the Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery and was a finalist in the Readers’ Choice and Indie Book Awards. It will be re-released in June 2022. She authored two short stories in 2021: “Accidents Happen” in Mystery Most Diabolical, and “Leading Ladies” in Justice for All. She is an expert in the homicidal impulses everyday life inspires.

There is a giveaway with this blog tour!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

January 5 – Brooke Blogs – SPOTLIGHT
January 5 – The Ninja Librarian - REVIEW, AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 6 – Christy's Cozy Corners – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 6 – Sapphyria's Book Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 7 - Celticlady's Reviews – SPOTLIGHT

January 7 - Baroness' Book Trove - SPOTLIGHT

January 8 – Nellie's Book Nook – REVIEW, GUEST POST


January 9 – Author Elena Taylor's Blog – CHARACTER GUEST POST

January 10 – Literary Gold – SPOTLIGHT

January 10 – Maureen's Musings – SPOTLIGHT

January 11 – Mysteries with Character – AUTHOR INTERVIEW

January 12 – BookishKelly2020 – SPOTLIGHT

January 12 – Escape With Dollycas Into A Good Book – GUEST POST

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Monday, January 3, 2022

Flash Fiction: One-Eyed Yak

This is a story written for the amusement of my trekking group in Nepal, using some very random prompts they gave me. I'll put the prompts at the end of the story! It was a great way to spend a couple of afternoons, and was meant only to be a bit of goofy entertainment. I'm sharing it here as a supplement to the photo posts on Nepal!

One-Eyed Yak

High above a wildly scenic lake way up in the Himalayas, a hermit lived in a cave with hand-painted walls.

Elbert Pumpernickel was not a happy hermit who had chosen the life of isolation and deprivation from religious or spiritual motives. He was in fact embittered, broke, and on the run. Or he had been on the run, until he came to the end of the trail at the cave above the lake. Now he was stalled, trapped, and more bitter than ever against the cause of his ruin.

None of the problems he had were his fault, of course. It was certainly not his fault he was stuck on this mountain, with nothing to do all day but stare down the valley at the lake, which he hadn’t yet realized was beautiful, because he was too busy being bitter. His bitterness, like everything else that had gone wrong in his life, was his parents’ fault.

It wasn’t that they failed to love him, though he had no real reason to believe they did, either. No, it was all their fault because they had named him Elbert Pumpernickel (though the surname, he admitted in his more reasonable moments, wasn’t actually their fault, they hadn’t done very well with it).

The torment had begun early. After months of staring at the lake he decided his course toward this cave on the mountain was set in motion by the teasing he received from the moment he started school and first began to interact with other children. Exactly why “Elbert” should be a risible name is unclear, but there it was. Six years of “Elmo-Bert” and “Elbow” had softened him up for four years of high school. There, aside from jokes about pastrami sandwiches, the torment consisted mainly of a universal cold shoulder. That, and a periodic dunking in the nearest garbage can, something that was all too possible because his parents had also failed to provide the genes that would have made him large and muscular.

There were also the stinky feet. Even the kindest and most pitying of the girls left him at the sock hops when they became aware of the rotten-cheese smell wafting from Elbert’s socks. When word of that got around, being dumped in the garbage can would be accompanied by an explanation that that was what you did with spoiled cheese and stale bread.

Later, as an initiation rite for a college fraternity that turned out not to exist, Elbert had stolen the makings for enough s’mores for his floor of the dorm. Out of that venture, he had gotten one marshmallow, and a knock on his door from the police before he had time to roast it. He did manage to stuff the evidence in his mouth before they cuffed him.

The CCTV had caught his face, a so-called friend fingered him, and there he was with a court date and an insulting fifty-dollar bail, which he’d still had to borrow from the coke machine in the student union.

Unable to face the shame and humiliation, not of being sent up, but of being sent up for stealing marshmallows, Elbert fled.

Where a young man of normal upbringing and sense might have fled to another state, Elbert concluded his life was over. Once he started running, he just kept going.

When he finally stopped running, Elbert was in Nepal, in a cave overlooking a lake at an absurd elevation. He had traded his jeans for a set of monk’s robes and his fringed buckskin jacket for a set of down pants and parka, and he managed to convince the locals, if not himself, that he was on a holy quest. The locals shrugged, having seen this before, and expected to find him shivering on their doorsteps any day.

After three years in his cave, Elbert had begun to paint the walls in psychedelic designs with pigments made from ground rocks. He had also learned to sit motionless and gaze down the valley at the lake for three hours at a time, and was working on making it four. In short, he was adapting, though he didn’t realize it and still bitterly resented his parents and his fate.

When the one-eyed yak began hanging around the cave in the fourth year, Elbert found the final link to the peace he hadn’t known he sought.

It took another three years, but in the end, Elbert and the yak became friends. The yak was the first friend Elbert had ever had, and he loved it more than he had ever loved his parents. He named the yak “Pumpernickel” in an ironic nod to his parents, and lovingly combed its hair daily.

Elbert didn’t return to the US until the yak died of old age, and every bit of the cave walls was re-painted in portraits of the love of his life, the yak who never minded about his smelly feet.  

Not a one-eyed yak.

Here are the prompts I was given:

—smelly feet


—A man named Elbert who thinks all his misfortunes are due to being named Elbert

—A one-eyed yak

—looking down the valley for 3 hours

—a mountain lake


 ©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2021
 As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated.

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