The First Seven Years of Retirement


When I retired seven years ago at the age of sixty-two, my intention was to become a full-time novelist. By that time I’d already written two or three novels. I hadn’t found an agent yet, however, and I hadn’t succeeded at getting anything published by a traditional publisher. The self-publishing of my first novel several years earlier had proven a good way to spend money, but not a good way to make a name for myself.

But at least I had time to read writing books by the dozen, attend writing conferences, and–most important–I had time to write. Although I kept cranking out more manuscripts, I wasn’t getting anywhere.

Two things changed that. James Scott Bell, a fine novelist in his own right and one of the best writing teachers around, looked at the first page or two of Found in Translation. “Roger,” he said, “this doesn’t even begin with a scene.” That led me to scrap the first fifty pages and write a new beginning. Had that not happened, who knows whether that manuscript would ever have been considered publishable.

And then Kimberly Shumate, who at that time was an editor at Harvest House, not only gave me a great deal of encouragement in spite of the fact that Harvest House couldn’t use any of my manuscripts but believed so strongly in Found in Translation that she went out and found an agent for me. Mr. Terry Burns, who has since retired, served nobly in that role until recently. And he got me the contracts with Barbour Publishing for my first two books.

I’ve since learned that even some of the most popular authors struggle to find publishers for the next book. Especially as a newbie, I found that to be true. Especially when Barbour discontinued their Young Adult line when I was 30,000 words into writing the third book in the series.

Thanks to friendships made at writing conferences, I was able to pitch The Devil and Pastor Gus to Eddie Jones of LPC (Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas). I agreed to make one basic change to my manuscript and to work with a wonderful editor to reduce it from 100,000 words to 80,000.

That was important because LPC uses POD (Print on Demand), which is a more expensive way to print, but prevents a publisher from having to make a gigantic outlay of money to print and house a certain number of copies that might or might not ever sell. My other option would have been to go with only an electronic book (Kindle, Nook, etc.).

The Devil and Pastor Gus came out in November of 2014.

I have completed nine yet-unpublished manuscripts. One spent two years under contract to a small publisher who failed to carry through with getting it published. Fortunately, a friend and editor at LPC loves that book and will do whatever she can to help.

But even if she succeeds, that would leave eight unpublished novel manuscripts–approximately 800,000 total words.

I’m working on another novel now, but it’s hard to keep going at times, knowing that only three out of a dozen novels have been published. I keep praying that God will either relight that spark or give me another idea–for something He would prefer for me to be writing.

When I started this post, I didn’t intend for it to be only about writing. Sorry about that. I’ll try to do a Part Two on the subject of my retirement next time, and I promise not to mention writing except in passing.

Are you retired? How do you spend your time productively? If you’re not retired, what do you hope to do for fulfillment once you do retire? Please leave a comment.


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Best regards,

4 thoughts on “The First Seven Years of Retirement

  1. Potential writers need to hear even the downsides of writing, so thank you for posting. In my retirement, I enjoy photography and using it to create personal greeting cards for my children, grandchildren, and friends.


  2. Retirement is an ugly idea to me. I never plan to retire, ever. If I become incapacitated and am confined to a wheelchair then I will keep pushing with my pen.
    Maybe change jobs is what you mean, or transition onto writing for a living. You are not retired although you may be recieving a pension.
    No one retires from a traditional society, but are revered for their knowledge, wisdom and experience. This is something I hope I am able to achieve: to live and work like my dad, well into my eighties, until I can no longer physically do it and then go at it solely on an intelectual level, like you.
    I have built at least 11 successful business and sold them all for profit. I tired of the rutine or changed interests or just wanted to try something new and moved on. I realize this is not the path to riches but money has never been my goal. I want to live good enough and not lose my soul to a position for the sake of a paycheck. Learn, explore, test myself. These are things that motivate me. Money is so easy to make it is almost absurd to think some folks worry about it.

    I realize I am aproaching retirement age, that number of years mandated by a society inhabited and controlled by folks who watch tv for intelectual pleasure. These are the folks who stop working, buy an easy chair, grab the remote and slowly kill themselves watching the boob tube. I have paid into the fund and will gladly accept my portion. But I will not retire. Ever. I love living.


  3. Tom, I couldn’t have expressed those sentiments better myself. And practically every time you leave a comment, I marvel at how little I knew about you and your potential when you were my student. It’s been great getting to know know you.


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