One of my favorite Colorado mystery authors, Mike Befeler, is here today with a post about his path to publication. If you haven't read the first two Paul Jacobson "Geezer-lit" novels, you're missing a bit of fun mixed with a few poignant moments all mixed up with murder. It's a winning combination.
The first two novels in the series, Retirement Homes are Murder and Living With Your Kids is Murders, are now available as ebooks.
Retire Into Writing by Mike Befeler, Guest Blogger
At the age of 56 I made the decision to pursue fiction writing. I put the planning skills I had learned in business to use and followed the following steps:
1. I reviewed things I had really enjoyed doing over my lifetime.
2. I discovered that my list included creative activities such as writing and painting.
3. I made a commitment to begin writing.
4. After negotiating with my boss to work three days a week, I signed up for a fiction writing course at the University of Colorado as a way to jump start my writing. (If you’re 55 or older you can take any course at CU for free with the instructor’s permission.)
5. I began writing short stories and then novel length material
The reason I went through this process—I didn’t want just to retire away from my day job, I wanted to retire into something that I could pursue for the rest of my life. I was fortunate enough to publish my first novel before I retired, and now I’m pursing my retirement world as a speaker and author, something I’ll keep doing as long as the brain cells hold up.
After listening to authors who say they’ve been writing since they were eight years old, I represent the other end of the spectrum. Maybe I was a slow learner because I wasn’t that good an English student during high school and college, but over the course of a business career I learned how to put a sentence together, and you might even say I gained some experience with fiction writing because I used to write press releases.
Writing can be done at any age. Several years ago I mentored an eighth grade student who wrote the rough draft of a novel for a school project. On the other extreme Milliard Kaufman published his first novel, “Bowl of Cherries,” when he was 90 years old.
One of the major lessons I’ve learned in fiction writing is perseverance. Nothing happens quickly, and you have to keep trying. I didn’t sell my first short story until my 112th submission, but this isn’t that unusual. Several well-known examples: Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen received 134 rejections for “Chicken Soup of the Soul.” Louis L’Amour collected over 350 rejections for over 200 stories before making his first sale.
If anyone tells you that writing is easy, they’re lying. It’s the most difficult, frustrating, lonely and disappointing avocation. But it’s also the most incredible and fulfilling experience as well. I’m fortunate to be having published the third novel in my Paul Jacobson Geezer-lit Mystery series with a fourth under contract for release in December, 2012.
I enjoy writing about older characters. My protagonist, Paul Jacobson, is in his mid-eighties and suffers from short-term memory loss but still becomes an amateur sleuth and even has a romance with a young chick in her seventies. So if you meet someone like Paul with short-term memory loss, you only have a second, third or fourth chance to make a good first impression.
I try to give a balanced picture of the aging process: the problems but also the vitality, sense of humor and wisdom of older people.
In my latest book, Senior Moments Are Murder, Paul is in Venice Beach, California, and learns about the beach scene, graffiti artists, homeless people, disreputable art dealers, and must stay a step ahead of the police and the bad guys. I’ve visited Venice Beach because our daughter lives there. It’s a place where I can sit for hours and watch every imaginable form and type of human being walk by. So now that I’ve retired into writing, I have an opportunity to visit my kids and grandkids and do a little research along the way.
Thanks a whole bunch for being here today, Mike. I'm looking forward to reading Senior Moments Are Murder and plan to buy my copy at the Colorado Gold book sale.
To learn more about Mike and his books, visit his website and blog.