Tag Archives: ind’tale magazine

Things I Learned at the Ind’Scribe Conference 2015

Sep 25, 2015
Me near the middle with the amazing and talented InD'Tale crew!

Me near the middle with the amazing and talented InD’Tale crew!

I had such a good time at the InD’Scribe conference for indie romance writers in Palm Springs, CA, that I almost don’t know how to put it into words. A good time was had by all, a lot of super talented writers came together to share knowledge and laughter, and even though there were only a few workshops and panels, I learned SO MUCH that will be incredibly useful from them. 

I think the first and most important lesson that I learned is that above all else, story is the most important part of any writing process. Sounds obvious, right? Well, this year’s conference and my experience judging the RONE Awards really drove that home. The actual prose itself could have problems (although another lesson I learned is that we must always, ALWAYS work to improve out craft), but at the end of the day, it’s the story you’re telling that will grab the reader.

We’re all storytellers. That’s why we got into this gig in the first place. Or at least it should be the reason why we got into this gig. We can try to chase trends and follow the market and write from a financial-type motivation all we want, but at the end of the day, it’s our deep, deep desire to tell stories that’s going to push our careers along and take us to the next level.

That being said, one of the key elements of storytelling is to have characters that are likeable. They don’t have to be good, they don’t have to be nice, but they do have to make the reader want to know more about them. Again, pretty obvious, right? But one thing that our first keynote speaker, Anne Perry, said that really stuck with me is that to make a character likable, sometimes you have to know a whole lot of backstory about them. Backstory that may never come out in the book. 

I don’t know about you, but when I have written some of my brightest and best characters, I’ve known far more about them than hits the page. In fact, I’d say that the characters of mine that have resonated the most with myself and with readers have rich inner lives that sort of just came to me whole. But after listening to Anne, I think that I might start investigating those backstories more and writing things down. These characters deserve a chronicle of their lives, even if it’s just in my head. And the net result, as Anne said, is that the characters will appear richer on the page with more of a real sense of why they do the things they do. So backstory. Yay! But don’t dump it all on the page. 

My view from the spot where I sat to work!

My view from the spot where I sat to work!

The other things that Anne Perry mentioned that hit home and that I really want to investigate more is the idea of plotting from the middle of the story, as she said she learned from James Scott Bell. Apparently he wrote a book about it. I NEED to go find this and read it. The concept is that in every book, your main character has a moment—a moment that usually comes right in the middle of the plot—where they stop and take stock of themselves, reflect, and then change direction mentally. Everything they do after that point is different. That’s the center of your plot right there. I want to read this book and explore more about it, because, well, heck. It just sounds awesome and right and true! So I’ll report back once I read that book. 

But for me, perhaps the biggest lesson of the conference is the thing I suffer with the most when it comes to writing and navigating my way through a world of author friends who are, in some cases, more successful than me. I was a finalist for the RONE Award in the American Historical category, but I didn’t win. That’s generally when the demons of self-esteem and comparison come after me. I’m terrible at comparing myself to other authors—heck, I am and always have been terrible at comparing myself to other PEOPLE and coming up feeling less than nothing—but that way lies madness. 

We are all on this journey of life and writing for different reasons. The world is a diverse and vast place. There is definitely enough room for all sorts of different talent, and at times, reaching any given audience takes a little more patience than at other times. One thing Catherine Bybee said in her keynote address (and let me tell you, I actually got to hang out with her a lot and go to dinner with her, and she’s FABULOUS!) is that it takes a huge amount of patience, time, and persistence to make it in this business. Actually, Tina Folsom said the same thing in her keynote. Patience is the key, but so is writing the next and the next and the next book. And so is being really energetic and aggressive about going after what you want from your career. 

So I KNOW I need to stop constantly comparing myself and my career trajectory to other authors around me. I also know that I’m utterly incapable of doing that, because that urge to compare is so deeply ingrained in my personality and has been from such a young age that it’s not going to ever fully go away. But the most mature thing I can do is to see it, accept it, let it be, and move on. There is no power in this business greater than writing the next book. 

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg of all the things I’ve learned here during InD’Scribe 2015. I’m sure I’ll come up with a few more excellent ideas for blog posts and whip those off at some point. If you ever get a chance to come to this conference, DO! And it you aren’t already subscribed to InD’Tale Magazine, please zip on over and sign up. It’s free!

Sarah Sunshine, Revisited

Nov 16, 2013

Sarah Sunshine cover_smallIt’s almost here! In Your Arms is almost here! (actually, it is here, but not officially). But I’ve got one more book from my Montana Romance series to revisit before we switch to all Lily and Christian all the time.

But first, I just have to brag. I mean, how could I not? Sarah Sunshine got THE BEST review in this month’s InD’Tale Magazine! 4.5 out of 5 star and a Crowned Heart! Here’s what they had to say (and yes, I’m still blushing):

“Sarah Withers is free. Her contract with the local saloon is finally up and she can’t wait to begin a new life as a respectable young woman. It seems as though the sky’s the limit and with the help of her previous employer, she should be well on her way to great things – things that will make her the kind of woman Roy would want to marry.

Roy LaCroix works at the hotel in town. He has a promising future and has always loved Sarah. He doesn’t care about her past and admires her zest for a better life but when she picks the biggest prude in town to help her become “respectable” he fears she may never be his.

Originality is refreshing and abounds in “Sarah Sunshine”, making it an absolute joy to read. Farmer’s development of colorful old west characters and, especially, unique scenes is as new and invigorating as a spring day. The steamy scenes are well-written and hold an element of tenderness in loving contrast to the life Sarah has finally left behind.

“Sarah Sunshine” also breaks the annoying unfinished feel that many novellas have. Thankfully, it’s a beautifully finished novella that doesn’t leave you wondering where the rest of it is. Thank ya kindly, Miss Farmer!”

And now, without further ado, here’s a taste of Sarah…. Continue reading

An Interview with TJ Mackay, Creator of InD’Tale Magazine

Jul 12, 2012

There are a lot of things I could say about TJ Mackay, Creator and Editor-in-Chief of InD’Tale Magazine.  I could tell you about how we met through fate or how encouraging and personable she is.  I could tell you how much I believe in her mission with InD’Tale and her support of indie and small press published authors.  But nothing I could say could come close to what TJ herself has to say….

Who are you when you’re not putting together fabulous magazines and websites?

An ordinary, everyday, very average, boring Mom!  I giggle sometimes when I think of the juxtaposition of the two sides of my life.  I interview some of the biggest names in the publishing world (celebrities more famous than movie stars in my book-loving opinion) as “TJ Mackay” then rush home to change the laundry before it stinks and make dinner before it burns.

When did you first start reading Romance novels?  What drew you to the genre?

I have loved to read as long as I can remember.  My first memory of romance is of picking up a Harlequin-type serial romance. I was probably 10 or 11 at the time.  To this day, I would love to have the name of that book because it changed my life! All I remember is it had the word “Scarlet” in the title and was very “Jane Eyre-ish” in plot and style.  I read and re-read it until the cover was torn and the pages were falling out!  From there, I was hooked. The library became my best friend. My parents would often come looking for me because they hadn’t heard a peep from me in hours, only to find me curled up beside my bed, lost in a story.

Have you ever written a romance novel yourself? 

Weirdly enough, no!  I have had some great ideas rolling around but after working in the publishing field for years, I realized two things: One, how incredibly hard it is for even the most talented authors to be really successful. Two, I discovered I really love asking all the questions, then writing about all the interesting real-life authors and people in the industry.  That’s much more fun to me than trying to come up with people in my head!

And now for some fun stuff…

What first sparked your interest in indie authors/small publishers?

I have been working for the past few years as the Special Features Editor in a mainstream publishing magazine where I have seen many talented authors being published but also many more just as, and in a few cases, much more, talented authors who were really struggling because the big publishing companies, for whatever reasons, wouldn’t even look their way.     

With the huge boom in technology, after the Kindle was announced, these talented authors finally have a way to publish their books. Now, they just need a way for readers to find them.

How did the idea for InD’Tale magazine come into being? 

I had been thinking for some time about how I could better help those same, talented independent authors.  It wasn’t until right after Christmas when I received a phone call from an ecstatic Catherine Bybee, who had just hit the New York Times bestsellers list with her self published romance – a first for the genre. While excitedly gabbing, she exclaimed, “This is it! This is the perfect niche that needs filling! You need to publish a magazine that will help promote the small and indie published authors! Now that the ceiling has been broken for us to make it – it’s the perfect time to capitalize on it!”  That comment sunk in immediately and I had my answer.  Six month’s later, I’m a frazzled but very happy magazine publisher!

What was the process of bringing that idea to fruition like?  Was it as much hard work as I imagine it would be?

OH. MY. GOODNESS!!! I can’t count how many times I have said, “What was I THINKING?!?!?!”  I’ve also been known to say, “This is what happens when you’re too stupid to know you can’t do it!” I have worked harder than I have ever worked in my life. I have had nights where I’m so tired I’m actually sick to my stomach – especially right before that first issue went out!

When starting this wonderful endeavor, I felt I had a very good plan on how it would play out.  I had no way of knowing, however, that what I imagined had never been invented!

 It wasn’t until everything had been set up and partially paid for that I learned that in the publishing field there are two kinds of magazines; “print” magazines – those that pay graphic designers to design and format their content for copy, then send and again pay a digital designer to re-format it for the internet. Then, there are “online” magazines, basically websites where people can go to read the information. The idea of a magazine that combines the best of both worlds had never been done, and the kicker in the gut was, there was absolutely NO technology with which to do it!

 Needless to say by the time I had exhausted every single avenue to discover this small fact, it was too late to back out.  I ended up with a blank sheet of “paper” on my computer, and a magazine that was due to publish in less than a week!  Yep… a lot of hard work seems an understatement!  If I wasn’t so committed to the good of what this endeavor can do? Not a snowballs chance we’d be this far!

For those who might be hearing about InD’Tale for the first time, could you give a brief run-down of what the magazine is, who your target audience is, and what kind of submissions you’re looking for?

Absolutely! InD’Tale is a digital magazine that is sent directly to subscribers e-mail inboxes and geared towards all who are interested in indie and small published books with at least a thread of romance in them. 

 So far, our readership is split pretty much down the middle between authors and readers, which makes for a great combination! We work hard to include both informative and educational articles along with entertaining and enjoyable stories. Each month we also spotlight talented people who are forging new paths in all fields of publishing.  And, of course the staple every month is the professional reviews we offer to all readers.  These reviews are the foundation with which those talented authors we have been talking about are able to find a platform for success.  InD’Tale is really a group endeavor. We sincerely want to help talent succeed, therefore we encourage anyone who wants to write an article, a story, submit a book – whatever, to contact us! We also really appreciate those who choose to advertise with us, as that is the only way we are able to pay the bills and continue (we chose not to charge for subscribers because we sincerely wanted everyone to be able to benefit), and do our best to promote those who do.

What has been the most challenging part of launching the magazine?

Spreading the word that we are here and willing to help! Although I have worked in the business for years, I have never had to deal with marketing. Man, it’s hard to know how to toot your own horn without sounding obnoxious! How does one convince people we really want to help but they have to participate by subscribing, submitting and advertising, in order to do it?  I’m still struggling with that.

How about the most fulfilling part?

Oh, absolutely  it’s getting to know and love the wonderful, warm people like you, Merry, that appreciate and are as excited about this awesome opportunity as we are. There is nothing better than when someone we really believe in and have highlighted drops me a note to say they have just hit number one or have been nominated for an award of excellence! Yep, it’s the people and the friends we make along the way!

Where would you like to see InD’Tale in five years?

[huge smile] Sitting as the number one magazine in the publishing field, of course! That would mean indie and small publishing has truly revolutionized the reading world 🙂 Cool, huh!

And a few extra fun things…

Who is the hottest guy in the world and why?

Oh gosh! Aside from the obvious, my husband (who just happens to be the epitome of the handsome, alpha, cop, hero) that is a very hard question! I have a horrible time separating a person’s looks from their character so most of the celebrity world falls short.  

If I had to pick, though, it would have to be my dear friend and cover  model, Jimmy Thomas. He is as hot as a man can possibly be without spontaneous combustion!  He is also the type who will sit for four hours helping a clueless girl figure out how to put a website together or personally spend an entire evening teaching said clueless girl how to finagle the devil that is Photoshop, expecting nothing more than a thank you in return.  THAT’S the kind of man that is truly hot!

If you could be the heroine in any romance novel, which novel or which type of novel would you choose?

Yikes! These “fun” questions are the hardest! Part of the joy of reading is that I get to put myself in every type of novel I read!   I truly found my doppelganger, however, in Julie Garwood’s book, “The Bride”. That was the one heroine with whom I felt like I was actually living the story because I would have acted exactly the same way and made the same decisions, for good or bad, as that heroine, her personality was so identical to mine. Obviously it is one of my all-time favorite books! 🙂

Who would be your dream interview for InD’Tale?

Jeff Bezos, the guy who conceived and built Amazon! Now there’s a guy whose brain would be amazing to learn from!

Thank you so much, TJ, for visiting!

I urge everyone to check out InD’Tale, both as a reader and if you’re a writer looking for a little support.