Tag Archive for: #writinglessons

Focus by Debra H. Goldstein

by Debra H. Goldstein

Photo by Chase Clark on Unsplash

Focus. From a writer’s perspective, the word embraces a simple but necessary concept – concentrating on the task at hand. It sounds easy: pay attention and the idea will be conceived, executed, eventually published, and promoted. But, that’s not how the real world works. Life offers each of us major distractions. How we handle them and retain our focus determines if an individual will be a wannabe or an author. Have you had things or issues disrupt your focus?  How were you able to get back on track with your writing?


Judge, author, litigator, wife, step-mom, mother of twins, and civic volunteer, are all words used to describe me. My life and writings are equally diverse. I’m the author of Kensington Press’ Sarah Blair mystery series. Sarah, like me, is a cook of convenience who might be scorched if she gets too close to a kitchen. One Taste Too Many, published in January 2019, was picked as a Woman’s World Book of the Week. The next three books, Two Bites Too ManyThree Treats Too Many, and Four Cuts Too Many were each named as Silver Falchion finalists. The fifth book in the series, Five Belles Too Many, released on June 28, 2022.

I am an active civic volunteer in Birmingham, Alabama and have served on the national boards of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, as well as being past president of the Southeast Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and Sister’s in Crime’s largest chapter, The Guppies.

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From My Garden
Saralyn Richard

I’ve always loved to plant flowers and vegetables and
watch them grow, but never, until now, have I had the time to nurture, weed,
water, and admire the horticulture. For all of the things the pandemic has
taken away, the joy of gardening is one thing it’s brought to my life in

days when time inside seems to stand still, when one day pours into the next,
so it doesn’t matter whether it’s Monday or Saturday, the ever-changing
splendor of my garden provides something new. In March, I planted the caladium bulbs
kept in the garage all winter. Even from the first day after planting, they
were pushing up shoots that turned into buds, that opened into showy broad red
and green leaves. The progress was rapid and almost magical.

caladiums reminded me of the book release process. When I published my debut
, in 2018, I experienced that creative
push of final edits, review blurbs, pre-publication hype, and, voila! The book
was “above ground,” out into the world. As the book was nourished by reader
reviews and a dizzying book tour schedule, it opened up to book clubs, new
readers, and beautiful new connections.

fig tree in my back yard, however, has taught me patience. The sequel to MURDER
this year. I had no idea that a pandemic would wreak havoc with every launch
party, book talk, and book club I had so enthusiastically planned. Like the new
mystery novel, the fig tree burst forth in a passionate profusion of fruit.
Once the first crop was picked, though, the tree slowed down. It’s still full
of potential. Hundreds of green buds remain, patiently awaiting their natural
time to explode into luscious purple fruit. Though the book launch for PALETTE
was not what I expected, the joy of the first crop of readers and the early
reviews has been gratifying. Now I need to nurture the green buds, knowing
that, if I’m patient, they will produce fruit.

final parable comes from the enclosed planter on my front porch. I’ve never
been able to grow anything in this shady area. Too little sun, too little
water, and too little attention from me were all to blame. I had literally
given up on having anything there, except an air plant, a few aloe vera plants,
and a touch of tradescantia zebrine (wandering
jew). I decided that this was the time to experiment. I took a cutting from a
healthy ginger plant in my back yard, and I planted it in the planter. I
decided to keep the porch light on all night to give it extra light for
growing, and I water it every day. At first the leaves turned brown and I was
sure the plant was dying, but after a few more days, baby shoots started
popping up in the soil. Now the plant is thriving, and the planter is a source
of pride.

many times in writing, the easy path would be to give up. I might blame a lack
of time, a dearth of creative ideas, a busy calendar, family demands, even a
pandemic—innumerable excuses for not writing. The truth is, however, that an
author with a creative spirit can produce a story to be proud of. Yes, there
are obstacles, but obstacles can be overcome, as long as the passion and will
are there.

of us who read and write, who love books, have likely learned many lessons
during these months of social distancing. Here’s hoping all of our lessons bear
the sweetest fruit.
Award-winning mystery and children’s book author, Saralyn Richard
strives to make the world a better place, one book at a time. Her books, Naughty Nana, Murder in the One Percent, and A
Palette for Love and Murder
, have delighted children and adults, alike. A
member of International Thriller Writers and Mystery Writers of America,
Saralyn teaches creative writing at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, and continues
to write mysteries. Look for A Murder of
to be released in January, 2020. Reviews, media, and tour
schedule may be found at