“Take your passion,” ran the words of a popular 1980s song, “and make it happen.” Whatever your passion is, it is never too late to make it happen.

I published my first novel when I was 64-years-old: "Red Tide", published by Black Rose Writing in Castroville, Texas. I’m 70 now, and my second novel, "The White Cockade, A Novel of the American Revolution", is coming out on Sept. 30, likewise published by Black Rose Writing.

I had dreamed of becoming a novelist since I was a boy. And while I was often praised for my writing skills in high school and college, I never thought I could actually put enough words on paper to see them emerge in the form of a novel. This was something other people could do, not something I could do.

But dreams die hard, and the urge to write a semi-autobiographical story that I christened "Red Tide" would not stop nagging at me. So I wrote it, thinking it would be more for my own amusement than anything else. But when I finished it in 2015 I sent a query to 10 small-to-medium sized publishing houses, just to see what would happen. To my surprise I received several requests to see the completed manuscript, and then two offers to publish it. This gave me enough confidence to begin another, this time a historical novel.

I grew up reading stories like "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey," "The Count of Monte Cristo," and "War and Peace". I loved the big, sprawling historical films like Ben-Hur, Spartacus, El Cid, and Dr. Zhivago. These stories of people being caught up in historical forces they cannot control, like the Napoleonic wars and the Russian Revolution, captivated me, and I saw the same kind of compelling drama in our nation’s birth, as people with high ideals and strong feelings were caught up in the events of 1775 and 1776.

I spent nearly four years researching and writing "The White Cockade". When I finished late in 2019, I realized I had written two books, for at 300,000 words this was twice as long as my publisher wanted. So I essentially cut it in half, wrote an ending that brought the first part of the story to an end and left the door open for a sequel, already more or less complete.

I sent the finished product to Black Rose Writing in January 2020. The publisher promptly informed me that while he liked what he saw, it was too long. So I went to work trimming the word count, no easy task, and in the midst of this the hammer of the pandemic came down. This impacted my writing time, for having to learn to teach remotely took up a good part of my day. Still, by December 2020 I was ready, and sent the new, shorter version to the publisher.

Two weeks later, in January 2021, I saw a very welcome sight, “Contract Offer,” in my email inbox one morning.

“Take your passion and make it happen.” We all have a passion, a dream we would like to see come true, and it is never too late to go after it. Whatever your passion is, don’t lose sight of it. Make it happen.

Mark James Miller is an English Instructor at Allan Hancock College. He can be reached at mmiller@hancockcollege.edu.


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