Monday, August 29, 2011

Retire into Writing by Mike Befeler, Guest Blogger

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.


Jan Morrison said...

Thanks so much, Pat, for hosting Mike - this is so encouraging. I just finished Sue Grafton's U for Undertow and I was thinking how wonderfully she draws elderly folks such as thee and I! Well, we're not that elderly (she's got a whole group of siblings in which the youngest is!
I like it. I'm going to look up your books. Thanks.

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks so much for hosting Mike.

Mike - Thanks for your perspective. I often think that one of the advantages of being - er - not 20 anymore when one writes is that one's got some "life perspective." But as you say, sometimes young people write some wonderful work, too. That's the beauty of writing; there is such variety out there.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I admire the fact you were able to retire. For me, the pressure would be too great.

E.J. Wesley said...

Great story Mike! I really love to read about people chasing down their dreams at various stages in life. Just another lesson to keep after your goals.


Mike said...

Pat, Thanks for including me today and blog readers, I appreciate your comments. I like to say that older people are POVs, not prisoners of ware, but persons of wisdom. We have a lifetime of experiences to bring into play.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Jan, Margot, and Mike, let's think of ourselves as mature, experienced, and very wise. :)

Alex, I wasn't able to work and write at the same time because of the hours and pressure on my real-world job, so I had to wait until I was retired to get serious about my dreams. My first book was released when I was 65. It's never too late, as long as you stay healthy.

E.J. -- Always have something new you want to learn. That helps keep you young in mind and spirit. The body...well, that's another story.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Good morning, Mike. Looks like we were writing our comments at the same time. I really appreciate your being my special guest today, and I wish you tons of luck with Senior Moments are Murder. I had one of those just senior moments just yesterday. Thank goodness no bodies were involved. :)

Talli Roland said...

What a wonderful post, and so inspirational! I love the term 'geezer lit'!

Mike said...

We all have those senior moments. As a specialist said at a talk I attended recently, there's no problem with losing your car keys. It's only a problem when you don't know what they're for.

Patricia Stoltey said...

LOL -- so far I still know what to do with the keys when I find them.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Mike and Pat,

I enjoyed the interview. Mike, congrats on your latest novel. I know it's gotten excellent reviews as have the earlier two in this great series. I also began writing fulltime after taking an early retirement. I agree you have to be persistent if you intend to be a writer--have the tenacity of a pit bull!

GigglesandGuns said...

Thanks Pat for hosting Mike. (There's a pun in there somewhere?)
These sound like my kind of reading. Can;t wait to get them.

Dean K Miller said...

Ahhh those "seasoned citizens" always out making thing happen. I like the CU tip @ age 55 (I edging closer by the day!), and I'll be forced out of my job at 56, so I like how you've rolled. Seems like a good act to follow.

Thanks Pat for hosting Mike!

Marlena Cassidy said...

I would love to retire into writing, so I guess I should get started now! Thank you for hosting Mike, Patricia. He's an inspiration.

Mike said...

Thanks again, Pat, for hosting me and for all the terrific comments. May you all retire into what you are passionate about.

Patricia Stoltey said...

Mike, it's always a pleasure. I hope you'll be back when book #4 in the series is released.

Redspring said...

Great post, Mike. I am finishing up my first "geezer lit" mystery now (my first book for Five Star was a police procedural).

Thanks for having Mike here, Pat. Great blog.

Sharon Ervin said...

Hello, and I enjoyed the visit with Mike, a character in his own right.

Sharon Ervin

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...


I'm definitely going to read your book. I also write senior lit. My protagonist, Henry Grave is an 85 year-old investigator who solves crimes on cruise ships. My book Mediterranean Grave is getting some good reviews.

William Doonan

Anonymous said...


I'm definitely going to read your book. I also write senior lit. My protagonist, Henry Grave is an 85 year-old investigator who solves crimes on cruise ships. My book Mediterranean Grave is getting some good reviews.

William Doonan