Howdy Women and Wordsters! Today I’d like to introduce you to a very cool author and incredible human being! Stacy Lynn Miller was kind enough to swing by and let me pick her brain for awhile, and I’m going to share the goodness with you. Check out the interview and drop a comment at the bottom to be entered into a drawing for a free ebook—Stacy’s debut Out of the Flames!
Let’s get right to it! Tell us a little about yourself. We all have histories, and I know you have yours!
I was born and raised in northern California, and lived there until I began galavanting around the world after receiving a commission in the Air Force. When I retired, I didn’t want to live anywhere else, and now call the Sacramento region home. I’m the mother of two incredible women, and one very old German Shepherd.
I heard you retired from the Air Force after “toting a gun and police badge.” What’s the shiz?
I spent several years as a Security Police Officer in Montana, providing security for a good swath of our nation’s nuclear arsenal. About the only action I saw, besides the plethora of antelope, deer, and elk, was a drunk fisherman who decided to take potshots at a rock pile near one of our facilities. An errant shot whizzed past one of my guards. Following an initial lockdown, cooler heads prevailed. We were not under attack, but I had to armor up to accept the poor, groveling man’s apology on behalf of the United States Air Force. I later retrained into the Communications field. I’m most proud of the time I spent in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I served as the Director of Communications for the Joint Task Force not long after 9/11. Threats of terrorist attacks were commonplace, and we were on constant alert. Our building had been vacant for over a decade when the Task Force stood up, and we had to contend with nests of Hutia, affectionately known as “Banana Rats.” Think of The Princess Bride movie and the rodents of unusual size. They were ugly, germ-infested, and plentiful.
Holy cow, you’ve done some things. And that visual is rather horrifying! You survived the Banana Rats and lived to tell the tale! Did your AF experiences color your crime fiction (or do you call it romantic thriller? Or something else?)
As far as my Air Force experiences, I spent six years as an investigator with a defense agency looking into mostly white-collar crime. That job taught me that conducting interrogations are thrilling on television, but most crimes are solved by combing through mounds of data and information. And my primary lesson from spending endless hours sifting through paperwork: follow the money. I consider my Manhattan Sloane series a romantic thriller. In each of my stories, the romance plot plays as big of a role as the crime plot. The healing power of love is a strong theme throughout the series, and with car crashes, explosions, shootouts, and raging wildfires, how can I not call them thrillers?
Follow the money, isn’t that the truth? So onto matters a bit more serious, I know you’ve been thorough quite a journey with your health. Can you tell us a little about what you’ve battled through?
Five years ago, I was involved in an accident and suffered what I thought was a minor concussion, along with a broken finger, dislocated jaw, and a deep gash over my right eye. Two months later, while driving myself to my first golf date after recovering from the accident, I felt an electrical charge on my right side from head to toe, as if I’d been tased. That was the first of four strokes in a year. Three were mild, but one threw me for a loop, and left me feeling like my head was floating in a fish bowl. For months, I was weak and had short-term memory issues. Recovery was slow, but with medication and learning how to retrain my brain, I’m mostly back to where I was before. I’ll always have weakness on my right side, but I’ll trade that for the fish bowl any day of the week.
Just when I thought my health issues were behind me, late in 2019, I was diagnosed with a rare retinal disease called Macular Telangiectasia Type 2 or MacTel 2. Essentially, I’m losing my central vision—the part of sight you need to read, drive, and perform other activities that require fine, sharp, straight-on focus. There is no cure and no approved treatment. However, scientists are experimenting with an implant that might slow the disease progression, so early this year I signed up for the clinical trial and had the surgery. The trial is for two years, and with any luck, the device will be approved for treatment.
Holy moly, you’ve been through the wringer! Have both the strokes and eye issues affected your writing?
The strokes? No. Those are thankfully behind me. (Crossing my fingers.) The MacTel? Definitely. My disease has progressed to the moderate stage. I still have significant focus-ability, but letters disappear. For example, a road sign might read, “Broadway” but I see it as “Broway.” The entire middle is missing. The larger the letters or the closer I get, the better I can see.Man alive,
For now, when I work, I can compensate using existing features in Microsoft Word. I magnify the text to 200% on a good day, and 400% on a bad. I also work using a soothing dark green background with white letters. The contrast seems to work for me. I also pace myself to minimize eyestrain. I work in spurts. For every half-hour staring at the screen, I take a half-hour break. When I edit, I like to use the “Read Aloud” feature to give my eyes a rest. If a treatment isn’t found, there will come a time when I’ll have to move to special adaptive tools, such as full-screen readers and magnifiers.
Here comes the age old question everyone always wants to know the answer to. What inspired you to begin writing?
Short answer: Strokes.
Long answer: Recovering from strokes had me couchbound for a year and needing to remap my brain around the damaged sections. (I have two dead spots in my brain, each the size of a quarter.) Binging the L Word on Netflix filled the time, but didn’t help with my memory issues. My neurologist said the best way to retrain a brain is to read. Lots and lots of reading.
I wasn’t a reader before, so the first thing that caught my attention was L Word fanfiction at LesFan.com. (check out a shout out to Stacy on the #Lword News sidebar!) I read hundreds of stories there, and some were absolutely amazing. A handful of writers stood out, one of which who would later become a Goldie winner for her debut novel (Cameron MacElvee for By the Dark of Her Eyes). While the quality writing captured my interest, it was the beginning writers who captured my imagination. They had little to no training, yet they churned out story after story for no other reason other than they had yarns to spin. They had guts. It was that collective demonstration of courage that sparked the writing bug in me.
What an amazing story, Stacy! So fanfic fired you up to write. What happened next?
Cameron MacElvee saw one of my stories on LesFan and commented, “You have a very good shitty first draft.” Translation: All first drafts are shitty, but my shit had promise. She turned me on to the GCLS Writing Academy to learn proper writing craft. During the nine-month intensive program, I used my fourth fanfiction story as my work in progress, and applied all the lessons learned.
The last phase of the academy was the highlight. I was assigned Ann Roberts as my mentor. I struck gold with her. Ann is an award-winning author with Bella Books, as well as an editor and gatekeeper. Most submissions go through her. Ann’s first round of edits on my manuscript was humbling. Gentle, but eye-opening. When she returned her second round, she gave me the most incredible news. She said she was impressed with my work and recommended my manuscript to her publisher. The next thing I knew, I’m on the phone with Jessica Hill with a contract offer. That manuscript was Out of the Flames, my debut novel that released this past April.
That phone call with Jessica must have been incredibly exciting! So now that you hooked up with a publisher, you must write more books! What is your writing process?
I write or edit my work every day, usually on the recliner couch (feet up) or in bed. Too many years of sitting at a desk for work made me sick of it. I find when I’m reclined, the words flow better. And I have to be inside. I tried working on my back patio, but the birds chirping and trees rustling in the breeze made me want to be on the golf course, so I had to bring it inside.
Distractions are a bitch. I totally get that! So tell us about your debut novel!
Out of the Flames started as a fanfiction piece in The L Word fandom. I’m a TiBette fan, so the main character, Manhattan Sloane, started as Bette Porter, and her love interest, Finn Harper, started as Tina Kennard. Sloane is a tough police detective with a haunting past. She blames herself for her parents’ death. The guilt she carries drives her relationships and her work ethic. She compensates for her guilt by always doing the right thing, no matter how much it costs her, including avoiding love. That is until a woman who reminds her of Finn, teaches her that a life without love isn’t worth living.
Sounds like a great adventure! Speaking of adventure, a little birdie told me you have a connection to the inimitable Karin Kallmaker. Dish it!
When I was preparing to attend my first GCLS Conference in Pittsburgh last year, as a newly-signed “Baby Bella,” I familiarized myself with other Bella authors who were going. I read Karin’s bio, and discovered we’re both from the East Bay Area, and attended the same college at the same time. Our paths never crossed, but when we brushed off the cobwebs, otherwise known as our memories of the ‘80s, we discovered we had ventured to many of the same venues and watering holes. At Con, I hung around Linda Hill, Becky Harmon, and Karin like a little lost puppy. At the end, I gathered the courage to ask Karin if I could pick her brain about writing and the business after we returned home. I almost fainted when she said “yes.” Karin is a wonderful, giving person. We live two hours apart by car, and we had just started meeting at the halfway point for lunch and ice cream—well, mostly ice cream—when Covid hit. Whenever the all-clear is given, we have a standing ice cream date to talk about writing.
That damn Covid sure has gotten in the way of life! But I know you’ve been busy not only writing, but also putting Bella’s Author’s Corner videos together. (Check them out here! ) How did that come about?
The Bella Author’s Corner is the brainchild of Ann Roberts. With all conferences and book signings called off, Ann pitched to Bella the idea of authors recording themselves reading a passage from one of their works. All she needed was a platform to post the videos and someone to create and tack on the Bella brand to each video. After Bella offered their YouTube channel as a platform, Ann reached out to me. She had seen a book trailer I created for Out of the Flames, and asked if I would lend my video editing talents. I said, “of course.” What a wonderful idea she had to connect readers with authors during a worldwide pandemic. So, I created a short opening and closing graphic set to music and we were off to the races. Authors began sending me their videos. I then added the opener and closer, and then Bella uploaded them to their YouTube channel. We’re up to seventeen videos. The hope is that the trend will continue and Bella authors will add to the collection for many years to come.
I love that! I hope the collection keeps growing. What a great way to help promote your book. Speaking of promotion…promotion is always a difficult thing for authors. Now that you have a book out and one on the horizon, how do you feel about hawking your work?
I’m usually a behind-the-scenes person, so self-promotion doesn’t come naturally. I’m a stutterer, which was made worse from the strokes, so I tend to shy away from public speaking. Both points, mean I have to force myself to come out of my shell. My website is up and running. That’s the easy part because I’m a bit of a computer geek. I’m still finding my legs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Once I get over the hurdle of thinking that I don’t have anything interesting to post, I’ll be golden. Now, the really hard part is being interviewed and not sounding like a blithering idiot. Written ones like Women and Words makes it easier for me to open up. Videoblogs or podcasts scare the crud out of me, but I do them when asked. My secret when doing those? Wine. Lots of wine.
Wine helps lots of things! What are you working on now? And with patience and persistence, into the future?
From the Ashes, book two of the Manhattan Sloane Series, is with my editor. Book three of the series, Beyond the Smoke, is drafted, past the beta reader stage, and is waiting in the editing queue. I’m keeping busy by drafting a book I proposed recently to Bella. The working title is Despite Chaos. It’s book one of a planned three-book romantic suspense series I’m calling Falling Castles. I hope to introduce you to two American families separated by class and coasts, but drawn together by lust and love. Set in New York City and Northern California, the series follows the secrets plaguing Alexandra (Alex) Castle and Tyler Falling after they cross paths. Their promising love affair is tested by painful pasts, blackmail, embezzlement, plots of revenge, and murder.
Stacy, do you have any additional words or thoughts?
Geez! Isn’t that enough? But, yes, one more thing. Your readers can find me at www.stacylynnmiller.com, or connect with me on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Stacy Lynn Miller is a late bloomer as an author. She’s a retired Air Force officer, having spent twenty years toting a gun and police badge, tinkering with computers, and sleuthing for clues as an investigator. She’s a visually impaired proud stroke survivor, mother of two, tech nerd, chocolate lover, and terrible golfer…with a hole-in-one. When you can’t find her writing, she’ll be golfing or drinking wine (sometimes both) with friends and family in Northern California.