By Suzy Kridner
NEW SMYRNA BEACH - Ann Lee Miller has always wanted to write.
But it wasn't until her four children were grown that she had the time to begin her career, starting with a young adult novel set in New Smyrna Beach and other areas from Ms. Miller's youth.
That first book, "Kicking Eternity," is doing great since it came out this summer, she said in a recent telephone interview from her home in Phoenix, Ariz.
"I've had over 60,000 downloads," she said. A free download of her first book is available from www.annleemiller.com.
In her second novel, "The Art of My Life," which came out recently, the former resident recalls her adolescence aboard a 36-foot sailboat that she calls an aquaculture for mold and dysfunction that launched her - in lieu of therapy - into writing.
Now sailboats appear in all of her completed novels. Two more books will be out this winter and she's working on a fifth one, about a young man struggling with his sexual orientation.
Book No. 3, "Arva's God," to be released Dec. 1, is about four friends who navigate college and the drama churned up by their Florida beach band that cements their friendship.
In March, Book No. 4, "Tattered Innocence," will be available.
Ms. Miller says it's a tale of passions indulged, denied, and ultimately forgiven.
Perhaps, just maybe, her family drama wasn't the boat's fault.
Ms. Miller's second novel, "The Art of My Life," came out in September and focuses on a New Smyrna native struggling to get his charter sailing business off the ground.
She said the secondary characters in her first book are carried over as main characters in "The Art of My Life."
"I am writing, working on my fifth book, doing a lot of marketing and writing press releases," she said.
The boat she lived on in Miami was named after her, the Annie Lee, and was built by her father in their Miami backyard.
She said the yawl ended up being the crucible that broke her parents' marriage.
But she remembers a lot of positives about ages 11, 12 and 13 living at Dinner Key Marina in Miami.
"The whole living on the boat experience, you remember all the smells and dampness."
Her father taught her and all the other "dock rats" life skills like how to open a coconut with a hammer and screw driver without spilling a drop of coconut milk, filet a fish by sticking your fingers into the eye sockets for a good grip, and rub a blow fish's stomach till it puffed up, then throw it back into the bay to deflate and swim away.
Among the dock rats was Kate Canfield, a local acupuncturist, who moved as a youngster with her family to New Smyrna Beach. Ms. Canfield's brothers Matt, a career army officer now living in Texas, and Scott, a New Smyrna Beach resident and voice systems engineer for QinetiQ North America, were part of the dock rats.
In Miami, the Canfields lived two slips down in a houseboat. Their now-retired parents, Dick - a 20-year adjunct professor at Daytona State College, New Smyrna Beach campus, and Anita, a registered nurse - migrated from Miami to New Smyrna Beach a few years before Ms. Miller's family arrived in 1974.
Ms. Miller's family ended up living here on Faulkner Street, catty-corner from the Canfields on Riverside Drive with the old Faulkner Street Elementary School between them. Ms. Miller graduated from New Smyrna Beach High School, then went off to college.
The families continue to keep in touch as adults.
Ms. Miller earned a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Ashland (Ohio) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach.
She said she loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn't writing or muddling through some crisis - real or imagined - you'll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her pastor husband or meddling in her kids' lives.
She is planning a trip to New Smyrna Beach in April to visit friends and hopes to speak at the New Smyrna Beach Library.
Her website is AnnLeeMiller.com
E-copies of "The Art of My Life" are available at Amazon.com, BarnesAndNoble.com, and Smashwords.com. Paperbacks also are available.