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.


Links you might be interested in:

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

Best regards,

“What Do You Write?”

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“What do you write?” That question is asked of and by each attendee dozens of times at the annual Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference at the Ridgecrest Lifeway Center near Black Mountain, NC. That’s just a little east of Asheville.

And what a variety of answers! Novels in a variety of genres, screenplays, non-fiction, Bible studies, children’s books, blog posts, greeting cards. If something can be written, the conference has at least one person who writes it.

Uh, with the notable exception of porn, of course. Not appropriate for Christian writers.

A conference like the BRMCWC is a wondrous thing to attend. Not only do we hear inspirational keynote addresses by a variety of speakers, each group session includes a time of worship, conducted by special musical worship leaders. (More on that on Wednesday.)

And then there are the classes themselves. Dozens of classes to choose from. One-time workshops, continuing classes (they meet each day of the conference), and practicums that not only meet every day but involve homework! The daily schedule includes one class time in the morning and two in the afternoon.

An experienced conference attendee comes with some sort of agenda. Often, it’s to meet with as many publishers as possible (we can sign up for two appointments the first night and as many additional ones as we can the next morning). Published authors, publishers, and agents are exceedingly good at accomplishing a lot in a fifteen minute appointment.

The faculty also have assigned tables in the dining hall (did I mention they have pretty good food at this conference and serve it cafeteria style?), and it’s not only acceptable, but expected that conferees sitting at a specific person’s table will have a chance to pitch his or her work then or to ask questions.

I’ve been going to the Blue Ridge Conference off-and-on since 2005. Never has it failed to meet my needs of the moment, and I’m determined now to make this my every-year conference.

I can’t do the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference justice in one blog post, but I realize not everyone is interested in writing or in reading about something that benefits writers–and consequently benefits readers as well.

But if you have questions about the conference, please leave a comment.


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

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website. Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Family Christian Stores. Go HERE for links to those places.
Best regards,

Spiritual Warfare?

Let me begin by saying that  spiritual warfare is a biblical concept. So is the Devil, although the Bible doesn’t describe him in the stereotypical way we often think of him. I believe the Devil has a great deal of power.

At the same time, I’ve long marveled at the number of Christians who accuse the Devil (don’t ask me if he’s one person or many) of being responsible for all of the hard times they’re going through. Yes, he was responsible for Job’s woes and God permits him to do evil even to good people, but many of our most serious problems result from our own mistakes and bad choices–and sometimes from those  of other people.

And let’s not ignore original sin. When Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, God couldn’t allow them to remain in His perfect Garden, Eden,  and continue to live perfect, carefree lives.  So He expelled them into a world that was–and continues to be–filled with trouble. And death. Those things are to be expected. So why blame the Devil for all of them?

All of that to help you understand the rest of this post more easily…

On Tuesday the 25th, my novel–The Devil and Pastor Gus–releases. Of the eleven novels I’ve written (this will be the third one published), this is one of my favorites. If you read my recent post about legacies, you already understand that.

Martin Luther made this observation, quoted by C. S. Lewis in Screwtape Letters: “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”

And that’s exactly what The Devil and Pastor Gus intends to do–make fun of the Devil.

But how does Satan feel about The Devil and Pastor Gus? Does it so anger him that he would attack the publication of the book? What can he do–if anything–to express his resentment?

Here’s where I’m just thinking aloud. My book’s publisher, Lighthouse Publisher of the Carolinas (LPC), is small. But they do a great job. However, by oversight–certainly not intentional–some steps in the publication process got behind schedule.

Hmm. Human error. Understandable. Can’t blame the Devil for that.

But then my author representative–the person I could ask all of my questions about the publication process–cut her foot, and the resulting infection went to her heart. Her condition was life-threatening, and she’s been out of commission ever since.

I was assigned a new author rep, one who already had her own caseload. And she ended up in a car accident. She’s recovering, but not back at work yet.

Another LPC employee–I don’t know if her work had any direct connection with my book–lost her husband in an accident.

And then my marketing representative lost a family member she had been very close to. Very unexpectedly in a horrible accident. Understandably, that has affected her ability to help.

Spiritual warfare? I don’t know. But it makes you think, doesn’t it?

If you have anything to share on this subject, 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.

Be on the lookout for The Devil and Pastor Gus, which releases this Tuesday. Here’s the link on Amazon.

Best regards,