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,

A Time for Downsizing

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[NOTE: Last Wednesday was an unsaved post. Today’s problem was Internet speed. Sorry this is late.]

When my first wife and I decided to divorce, I was faced with a decision. Many of them, actually. But the one I’m talking about now was where to live. And not just where, but how.

We planned to sell our less than ten-years-old 2100 square-foot house. I had no idea whether I would ever marry again, but our daughter was going to live with her mom and visit me as often as she could. So I wouldn’t need but so much space. I certainly didn’t need a house or a mortgage.

At the same time, I didn’t want to throw my money away each month on an apartment that might  not even provide the kind of peaceful atmosphere I longed for.

My ex- and I had once lived in a mobile home. Yes, there are “trailers” out there, but please don’t label all mobile homes that way. We’d lived in such a well-kept park that we got notices from the front office if we failed to cut the grass when it needed it. But at least the home had been ours, and it had provided every advantage we needed at the time.

And living in a house–even a new one–sometimes left me missing the kind of compact living I’d once been used to.

So a mobile home seemed to be a natural solution. Because my ex- and I were on good speaking terms, I let her join me on my home-shopping expeditions. In fact, I followed her advice about which of two homes to buy, and I’m glad I did.

My new home had close to 1200 square feet of space, and–considering how compactly mobile homes are designed–I probably had more usable space than I would’ve had in an apartment of comparable size.

My share from the sale of the house didn’t quite cover the complete cost of my new home, but I borrowed from an annuity to pay cash for the balance. Paying my annuity back was a pleasure. Less so my monthly land rent.

I was thrilled with my purchase. I designated one of the three bedrooms as my daughter’s and turned the third bedroom into a music room, where I could record and listen to music to my heart’s content.

I moved into the mobile home years before I was old enough to retire. My wife (yes, I did remarry) and I agreed that this would be all we needed. Neither of us is much interested in things. Especially useless things that just sit around and collect dust.

So this kind of lifestyle–with its limited space–has kept us well-motivated to be careful about buying only things we really need–and a few of the things we want as well.

But when one of us dies, at least the surviving spouse won’t face what my ex- and I did when my mother died a year after my father. Their attic was full of more stuff than we could figure out what to do with, and it took months for us to go through enough of the important papers to conclude that my mother must not have had life insurance.

So we highly recommend downsizing when the time comes.

Have you faced anything similar? Please leave a comment.


I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”check it out here. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list here.

Best regards,


Aging Doesn’t Mean Quitting

Faubion             FriendMePage

I  remember a fellow who went to the same church I did. When he reached retirement age, he retired—not just from his day job—but from everything. Even singing in the choir.

The funny thing is—to this day—I can still picture him and the unhappy scowl he wore for the rest of the time I knew him. Giving up his previous activities may have given him loads of free time, but it didn’t make him happy.

My situation is just the opposite. I retired from work because I wanted to write full-time. While I monitor my outside activities to keep from being overwhelmed and not have enough writing time, I’m well aware of the importance of balance.

And balance for most people at retirement probably means continuing to do at least some of the things they’ve always done.

I recently received an invitation to review a new book from a fellow named John Faubion (picture at the top of this post). He’s a couple of years older than me and retired after spending  thirty years as a Christian missionary in Southeast Asia.

But you know what? When John retired, he didn’t retire. He wrote a novel.

Writing a first novel is a HUGE undertaking, but he didn’t let his age or lack of prior experience hold him back. His suspense novel, Friend Me, releases in early February, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

He admits that the prospect of following up with a  second novel is a daunting one. But he’s ready to try. Ready and anxious.

Why couldn’t that poor man who quit everything including the church choir have turned retirement into a time of fulfillment the way John and I have done?

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Best regards,