Places to Go – Books to Write: AuthorToolBoxBlogHop

It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of experienced writers share their thoughts and experiences.  I encourage you to check out their posts by clicking on the icon at the bottom.

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Writing books is my aspiration and an avocation that continues to move in the right direction. After working three decades in corporate America, I retired in my mid-50s and released my first self-published novel shortly thereafter.  I’ve since published five additional novels and two short story collections.  My recent release, At the River’s Edge, has been my best-selling book to date.

I’ve been asked, At your age, why start a writing career? 

My answer is simple. Writing is ageless.  It requires inspiration, imagination, and hard work, none of which are limited by age.  Like learning, writing is a life long process. As long as you can learn, you can write, and in many ways, being older is an advantage.  With age, come experience, wisdom, and perspective, things that can’t be taught, and all are valuable assets for a writer.  Writing has also introduced me to interesting readers and writers of all ages, people I would not have met otherwise.

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I make no claim to ever achieving the success of the following writers, but there are numerous examples of authors who spent most of their lives at different professions, turning to writing later in life.1, 2

  • Laura Ingalls Wilder lived her life as a farmer and a teacher, publishing her first book, Little House on the Prairie, at 64. She wrote her final book at 77.
  • Wallace Stevens, winner of the 1955 Pulitzer Prize, spent a long career as an insurance executive, publishing his first book of poetry at 44, with the majority of his poems written after the age of 50.
  • Raymond Chandler was an oil executive before he started writing detective stories. At the age of 51, he wrote The Big Sleep with character Phillip Marlowe making his first appearance. He went on to write seven more novels.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien published The Hobbit at 45 years old, and didn’t publish Lord of the Rings until he was 63.

Granted, many of these late-in-life writers became authors in the early to mid-1900s. Today’s writers face broader and more diverse competition, fast-evolving marketing and advertising media, as well as rapid growth in self-publishing. It’s a complex world for new authors.

At times, I feel technology is a barrier for older writers. I didn’t grow up with iPhones, tablets and social media. I was nearly 40 when I purchased my first cell phone, and it was the size of a brick! What’s second nature to younger writers requires more effort for me.  Still, I’ve slogged through setting up a website.  I formatted and self-published my e-books and paperback novels on Kindle Direct Publishing. I’ve learned how to market my books on Facebook and Amazon.  And here I am, posting on an authors’ blog hop–something I didn’t know existed a few years ago.

If you’re looking to write your first novel later in life, I offer the following advice:

  • Don’t hesitate. You can do it.
  • Learn from other writers. Join writing workshops, writers’ groups, and author blogs.
  • Focus on writing. Websites, social media, and marketing can come later.
  • Dedicate sufficient time, and be proud of what you produce.
  • Engage an experienced editor and beta readers before publishing.

I didn’t need to look far for my motivation to take up writing at my age. Now 89, my father, a former building contractor, was an accomplished wood carver into his early 80’s, demanding high prices for his productions. My mother, at age 86, had her knee replaced. She could have easily avoided the surgery and watched the world pass from a chair on her sun room, but she had things to do and places she wanted to go.  Mom is still going places… and I still have books I want to write.

  1. https://www.vivafifty.com/famous-authors-published-after-fifty-694/
  2. https://writingcooperative.com/15-famous-authors-who-were-published-after-40-1b87e009305e

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To enjoy other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click HERE.

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Check out my latest novel, At the River’s Edge, on Amazon.com.  Learn what Emily and James discover on the bank of the New River that propels them into the path of a killer.

Click HERE to learn more.

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A New Year

Readers & Friends,

I hope your new year is off to a great start!

Claudia, Milo (our dog), and I are heading home to Roaring Gap, North Carolina on the final leg of our annual Midwestern holiday tour. After visiting family and friends in Kentucky, Illinois, and Wisconsin and traveling over 2,000 miles, I’m ready to take down decorations, get back to my desk, and reflect on the year ahead.

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With regard to 2019 writing goals, I’m excited to be halfway through BUTCHER ROAD, another murder mystery set in North Carolina. I’ve set an objective to publish this novel by June 21st (the first day of summer), and it’s currently ahead of schedule.  When the time comes, pre-publication discounts will be available for early orders.  Click HERE to learn more about my progress.

Other goals I’ve set for 2019 include participating in more book signings and book club meetings.   I enjoy meeting and learning from readers.   If you’re interested, here’s my ongoing OFFER for book clubs in the North Carolina/Virginia area.

Thanks for helping make AT THE RIVER’S EDGE my bestselling novel to date and for subscribing to my monthly newsletter. Please “like” my Facebook page when you get a chance.

I look forward to hearing from you in the coming year.

— D.R. Shoultz

‘Tis the Season

 The holiday season is upon us, and if you judge by department store decorations and TV commercials, it arrived before the last trick-or-treater came to your front door.  

With all the parties, family events, and planning that occupy Thanksgiving through New Year’s, time to write, or even think, is significantly reduced.  It’s been my practice to start a writing project in the summer, get it well underway, and then write as time allows the remainder of  the year.  So has been my plan this year. 

Butcher Road, my next murder mystery, is outlined and approaching 100 first-draft pages.  If I go heads down in January, I should be able to wrap it up by mid-2019.  In the meantime, I’m pecking away at the keyboard as Michael Bublé croons Let it Snow on our Amazon Echo and Claudia wraps presents for our grandchildren.  

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year!

— D. R. Shoultz 

P.S.  Please take a break and read A Christmas Found by clicking 
HERE!  It’s a short story that will warm your heart on a chilly night.

Writing is a Business: IWSG

It’s time for my November contribution to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) blog hop. This month I varied from the recommended topic to discuss my recent marketing ventures.  Be sure to click on the #IWSG icon at the end of my post and check out the responses from dozens of interesting, experienced writers.


Being a self-published author is like running your own business. There’s a lot about writing books that I like, or else I wouldn’t do it.  But there are many activities I’m not that crazy about.

I like that I set my own schedule.  I don’t have a publisher or agent looking over my shoulder checking on the content and status of my next book.  Most of what I do is at my own pace.  Don’t get me wrong. If an agent or publisher would take me on, I’d be glad to crank out books on their schedule, but for now, I’m not real sure if this is Wednesday or Saturday, nor does it matter that much.

Time at my desk writing is what I prefer.  When I’m heads down, typing away, it can be exciting.  It’s not like work.  It’s more like discovery or invention.  I frequently ask myself if I’d write if no one read my work.  It’s a tough question, but most days the answer is yes. The creative process alone is its own reward.

I’ve mentioned before in blog posts that marketing is the part of self-publishing I struggle with the most.  The creativity required to write a novel is not the same as the creativity needed to market a book. Sure, there are some common elements, but selling me and my books is not something I find easy to do.

After finishing At the River’s Edge, I promised myself I would spend more time learning the “ins and outs” of social media marketing.  I’d had a website and Facebook and Twitter pages for many years, but I had never spent much time running ads.  I closely studied what others had done, trying to understand what to do and what not to do.  I targeted specific readers and ran test ads to see what caught their eyes.  I tweaked the ads as I learned.

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I spent more money on ads than I had originally planned, many weeks in excess of my sales.  I woke up mornings checking my CPC (Cost per Click) on Twitter, Facebook, and Amazon Marketing Services.  I became obsessed with the daily sales tally on Kindle Direct Publishing.  After three months, I ended up selling many more copies of my new novel than any other over that period.  But I wasn’t making any more money than before, and I was spending less time writing.

I’m still marketing my books, but electing to run fewer ads and put my focus back on my writing.  I learned from the past three months.  I learned the part of the writing business I like best is writing.


Many thanks to Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor,Ann V. Friend, JQ Rose, and Elizabeth Seckman for hosting this month’s blog hop.  To follow nearly 200 writers participating in this week’s IWSG blog hop, click on the icon below.  You can also follow on twitter @TheIWSG  or #IWSG.

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Click HERE to check out my latest novel, At the River’s Edge.

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** Tablet image from Pixabay.com **

Writing Across Multiple Genres: AuthorToolBox

It’s time again for my contribution to this month’s #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop where dozens of experienced writers share their experiences.  I encourage you to check out their thoughts by clicking on the icon at the end of this post.  This month I ask the question: Can an author write across multiple genres and develop a following? 


My latest book, At the River’s Edge, is a murder mystery set current-day near my home in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Prior to this novel, I’d written the Miles Stevens investigative suspense series. This three-book series is based on a CIA agent from a couple decades in the future sent back in time to stop global terrorism: Cyber One (cyber-attacks), Melting Sand (nuclear flare-up), and Gone Viral (viral contamination).  I’ve also written three short story collections of eclectic tales and two additional crime/suspense novels set a few years into the future: Better Late Than Ever and Corrupt Connection.

If there’s a common thread in all my novels, it’s suspense.  I attempt to build tension early in each novel and then dedicate the rest of the story to disclosing and resolving the conflict. I also include a male and female protagonist in each novel working as a team to thwart evil.

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I’ve recently decided I prefer writing murder mysteries, and have already started my second, putting the Miles Stevens series temporarily “on hold.” But can an author write across genres and still build an identity and following with readers?

My short answer is probably not.

It’s tough enough for indie authors to develop a following when they focus on a single genre.  Most big-time authors narrow on a niche, and if they ever decide to divert course, they sometimes write under another name. Witness J.K. Rowling’s efforts to step away from YA/Fantasy as Robert Galbraith, crime novelist.

Admittedly, I’m no J.K. Rowling. My following numbers in the hundreds, not hundreds of thousands.  Nonetheless, my readers have expectations. And if I ever want to get to thousands of dedicated book buyers, I doubt I can do it writing in multiple genres.

So, where do I go from here?

My plan is to continue to market the Miles Stevens series.  I may even add to it if there’s continued interest, but my writing focus going forward will be on suspenseful mystery novels.  This is for several reasons:

  • At the River’s Edge has sold more copies in the first two months than any of my other titles.
  • I also believe mystery and suspense has a wider appeal to both men and women, whereas my Miles Stevens series leans more toward men.
  • And most of all, if I were to pick a genre in which to write, it would be mystery novels, and specifically murder mysteries.

Keep a lookout for Butcher Road, the next in what I hope to be a long line of murder mysteries.


To enjoy other great blogs in the monthly #AuthorToolboxBlogHop or to join, click HERE.  Thanks to Raimey Gallant for facilitating this year’s blog.  I look forward to 2019.   Happy blog hopping!Nano Blog and Social Media Hop2


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Life Events – How They Impact Writing: IWSG

It’s time for my October contribution to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group blog hop. The questions posed this month to IWSG writers are: How do major life events affect your writing? Has writing ever helped you through something?

Be sure to click on the #IWSG icon at the end of my post and check out the responses from dozens of interesting and experienced writers.


I consider “major life events” to be things like births, deaths, illnesses, marriages, divorces, starting a new job, losing a job and other events of similar magnitude.  Given this definition, I have experienced only one major life event since I began writing novels nearly ten years ago. After being widowed years earlier, I met and married Claudia. This event had a profound effect on my writing and my life.

I’ve chronicled on this blog the role Claudia plays in my writing.  Without her personal encouragement and professional editing support, I would not have produced the quantity and quality of writing that I’ve been able to deliver.  We enjoy many things together: travel, friends, hiking, our dog Milo, and of course, our family, but writing is something we do on an ongoing basis and occupies a great amount of our time.  I’m not sure what would replace this time together if I ever decided to stop writing.  Therefore, I probably won’t.

Author and Editor - Copy (2)With regard to the second question, I can’t come up with a good example of where writing has helped me through something. I have a good routine and rhythm to my life these days, so there’s not much that I have to “get through.”  Writing is something I do because I enjoy it and find it challenging.

I do believe writing helps keep my mind sharp and continues to give me a feeling of accomplishment. Both are important at any age, but especially for someone of my generation.


Many thanks to  Dolorah @ Book Lover,Christopher D. Votey, Tanya Miranda, and Chemist Ken for hosting this month’s blog hop.  To follow nearly 200 writers participating in this week’s IWSG blog hop, click on the icon below.  You can also follow on twitter @TheIWSG  or #IWSG.

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Taking a Break

It’s hard to define what “taking a break” means when you’re a retired businessman- turned-writer, but that’s what I’ve done the past several weeks.  After wrapping up my recent novel, At the River’s Edge, and self-publishing it on August 15th, I’ve taken a break from writing.

I missed the September posts to the two monthly writers’ blog hops where I regularly participate, and I haven’t written a single word on my next murder mystery (working title Butchers Road).

What I have done is visited family and taken a New England/Canada cruise with my wife, Claudia, and two longtime friends.   It was the longest I’ve been away from writing and our dog, Milo, in years.  Milo acts as if I’ve never left, but I still haven’t gotten back into full writing mode, as yet.

Claudia and I were very impressed with the towns and scenery in Maine and Nova Scotia.  There were too many people on the cruise ship to our liking, but once ashore, we were able to relax and soak in the cool sea air, visit with friendly natives,  and hike the picturesque countryside.

I’ll get back into writing and return to my blog in October, but until then, here are a few snapshots of our trip and one of Milo begging me to get up from my desk.

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