Tara West

YA paranormal/fantasy and New Adult author


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Ignore the haters and keep writing…

mommy pankerFive years ago I suffered a breakdown at a parent-teacher conference. I bawled in front of my little girl’s teachers, counselors, and the principal.

Why?

Not because of anything my preschooler or the teachers had done, but because I thought I was dying.

My health had been declining rapidly over the past year. I spent most of my days sleeping, and when I wasn’t asleep, I suffered from chronic pain and depression. My body was covered in bruises and my hair was falling out in clumps.

My doctor had just discovered several lumps in my neck, and I was scheduled for a biopsy the next day. What if it was cancer? What if I was dying? Even though I had been too sick to give my child the attention she deserved, I knew no other woman could love my daughter the way I did. I couldn’t leave my child without a mommy.

I drove myself to the biopsy. My husband was working out of town, and I had no one else to take me. The needles stung my neck, but I endured. I even joked with my doctor while she was stabbing me.

I don’t care if it stings, I thought to myself. I’ll suffer through anything, just please God don’t take me from my child.

I drove myself home from the hospital, crawled into bed and cried. Then I waited for the results. Those were the longest two days of my life.

Much to my relief, it wasn’t cancer. Further testing revealed I had the auto-immune disease, Hashimotos. I began hormone replacement therapy right away and even changed my diet, eliminating certain foods like gluten which triggered the disease. Slowly, I began to feel better, and once again, I was able to be a mommy to my little girl.

Prior to my health scare, I had published a few young adult paranormal novels and was working on a fantasy. After a few years of treatment, I republished my YA series and finished that fantasy. And then my books started selling. I was getting fan letters and actually making enough money to pay the bills, as I continued to write and publish more books. Most of my reader reviews have been amazing. I’m simply floored and humbled by the outpouring of support from my fans.

Of course, I’ve also gotten a few negative reviews. Some of the reviews are so mean, I’m certain I would have cried had I received them prior to my illness. But the thing is, I’ve already hit that low point in my life. And no review, no matter how hateful, can ever bring me lower than the paralyzing fear I had when I thought I’d be parted from my child.

Lately I’ve read a few disheartening stories about authors being bullied by readers and bloggers. It saddens me to see these authors buckle under the negativity. If I could give advice to these authors, it would be this. Focus on what matters: your family, friends and fans.

I guarantee you will hit low points in your life far worse than the humiliation brought on by a few readers who didn’t connect with your books.  If you have the strength to wake up each day and craft stories, then draw from that strength, ignore the haters, and keep writing.


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Heroes and Villains blog hop

306058_10152246040880476_703387183_nWelcome to my stop on the Heroes and Villains blog hop. Read below to see how you can win a free signed copy of my YA fantasy, Curse of the Ice Dragon. A few months ago I talked about my villain, Madhea, an evil goddess from Curse of the Ice Dragon.  You can read about Madhea here.

For this blog post, I wanted to focus on one of the heroes in my book, Alec. Though he’s plagued with illness and not able to hunt or defend himself like his brother, The Mighty Hunter, Marcus, Alec is a hero to me because he’s never afraid to stand up to his tyrannical father. Despite their father’s best efforts to make Markus a monster, Alec serves as Marcus’s moral compass, teaching his brother right from wrong, knowing their father will beat him for it. To me, a true hero isn’t measured by physical abilities and strength, but the strength of heart and willingness to stand up for what he/she believes is right.

Curse of the Ice Dragon scene fCurseoftheIceDragon_web,jpgrom chapter one:

“I wish I never had such skill. I wish I was more like you.” Tossing the blade aside, Markus turned toward Alec.

                Eyes narrowing, Alec’s gaze intensified. “Do you wish for every breath to be a struggle? To be weak and infirm, and hardly a man even at nine and ten winters!”

                “You are the strongest man I know, Alec. It takes strength and courage to stand up to our father. And your kindness to me…” His voice quavered as he dropped his gaze. “I do not understand.”

                “You are my brother.” Alec gripped Markus by both shoulders, looking up into his face with a pained expression. “What is there to understand?”

                Markus shrugged and swallowed the lump in his throat that seemed to originate from a hollow pit in his belly. “He beats you, even for my mistakes. A lesser man would despise me.”

                “You have good in you, brother, despite our father’s best efforts to make you a monster.”

                “I do not stand up to him as you do. I do not defend you as I ought.”

                “You might be as strong as an ox, but you are a lad still. Your time will come, brother.” Alec’s voice cracked before he coughed into his hand for several interminable seconds.

                Finally, Alec righted his posture and looked at Markus with a glazed-over expression. “On the night you were born, I made a promise to the Goddess that I would teach you compassion. A promise I will give my last dying breath to uphold. This is why I scold you when you kill more than you can eat. A kind hunter respects those animals he kills and does not take their lives unnecessarily.”

                Markus turned back to his kill. Picking up the knife, he cut through the meat of the rabbit before ripping open the ribcage with the tip of his blade. “Aye Brother, but when I see an easy target, I cannot stop the blood that pumps through my veins, driving me to kill the beast. It is a feeling I cannot explain.”

                With a hand on Markus’ back, Alec breathed at barely a whisper. “You must not surrender to your impulses.”

                Repressing the urge to laugh at his brother’s request, Markus pulled down the animal’s innards before ripping them free of its body. A smile crossed his face as the gutting was finally finished. All that was left were meat and bones for the stew.

                “I cannot help it.” He shrugged before tossing the organs in the bucket.

                Alec stood speechless behind him, leaving nothing between them but the wheezy sound of his strained breathing and the odor of fresh blood.

                Finally, he cleared his throat. “Killing comes too easily to you, Markus. It would seem your gift is more of a curse.”

TaraWest.ent

Do you have a favorite fantasy or sci-fi hero? Leave your answer in the comments below and one random winner will be chosen to receive a free signed copy of Curse of the Ice Dragon

THANKS for stopping by! 🙂 Tara                                              

Blog Hop Participants — Visit them to win other prizes!

  1. Nyki Blatchley
  2. Martin Bolton
  3. Mike Cooley
  4. Karin Cox
  5. Joanne Hall
  6. Jolea M Harrison
  7. Tinney Sue Heath
  8. “K. Scott Lewis
  9. Paula Lofting
  10. Liz Long
  11. Peter Lukes
  12. Mark McClelland
  13. M. Edward McNally
  14. Sue Millard
  15. Rhiannon Douglas
  16. Ginger Myrick
  17. David Pilling
  18. Kim Rendfeld
  19. Terry L Smith
  20. Tara West
  21. Keith Yatsuhashi


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Self-Esteem Part III – Bullies

It all started when I learned to walk. Our next-door neighbor had a baby girl, Aimee, who was also my age. Our moms basically did everything together, from grocery shopping, to play-time, we practically lived at each other’s houses. Our big sisters were best friends. It only made sense that Aimee and I were friends as well. From toddler time to elementary school, Aimee and I were inseparable.

Aimee was also a bully. From a very young age, I learned to follow her orders. If she wanted me to do something, and I refused, she’d make me pay by pouting and screaming until I gave in. By the time my family moved, and I was assigned to a new school, I had already been conditioned to take other kids’ orders.

Not until freshman year in high school did I learn to stand up for myself. By this time, I had a new best friend, Heidi, who didn’t take crap from anyone. She was a good friend to have around, not just because we understood each other so well, but because when she was with me, nobody messed with me. Kinda pathetic, relying on someone else to fight my battles.

One day in Spanish class, another student did order me around in front of Heidi. We were working on an art project and a bully rudely told me to give her my pair of scissors. This was one of the tough kids, so rather than risk a confrontation, I handed her my scissors. Heidi snatched them back from her.

Completely ignoring the girl’s look of shock, Heidi said to me, “Don’t give her your scissors. She was being rude. When are you going to learn to stick up for yourself?”

The bully just sat in silence. So did I. She was probably intimidated by Heidi’s attitude. And me, I was embarrassed by Heidi’s attitude. Because Heidi was right. I did need to stick up for myself.

Later on in geography class, I didn’t have Heidi there to defend me when a girl named Dawn demanded I give her my extra pencil. I refused, telling her that since she was always rude to me, I wasn’t about to share. Her jaw dropped and she turned around. Everyone around us laughed at Dawn. I have to admit, it felt pretty awesome watching her turn ten shades of red.

Now that I’m an adult, I see how bullying takes many forms. As we age, we allow college professors, coworkers, and bosses to bully us, too. If kids allow bullies to taunt them in school, it won’t end there. It will just continue on into adulthood.

As a parent, I couldn’t let my kiddo go through the trauma that I suffered. Not every kid gets their own Heidi. They need to be taught how to defend themselves. She’s dealt with a few bullies so far this year, but my husband and I have already prepared her. Thankfully, she knows to stand up for herself. Unfortunately, not every kid is taught these life lessons.

But we as parents, brothers, sisters and friends need to do our part and help kids who are being bullied, not only do we need to teach them how to stand up for themselves, but we need to get school officials involved when necessary.

Heidi was the inspiration for AJ Dawson, one of the characters in my Whispers series. In SOPHIE’S SECRET, she teaches Sophie Sinora how to stand up for herself against a locker bully. In DON’T TELL MOTHER, AJ has to defend herself when her mother refuses to believe she has the power to see the future.

Heidi and I are still friends. She’s got four kids of her own now and teaches school. Her kids are lucky. I’m sure they’ve learned all about standing up for themselves from a great role model.


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Self-esteem part II – Your differences are what make you beautiful

I’ve never thought idol worship was healthy for young girls. That’s why when the Hanna Montana craze spread throughout the country, I discouraged my daughter from following the millions of other young girls.

Why?

Because I think a girl needs to focus on feeling good about herself as an individual, not try to follow in the footsteps of another. 

Why do you want to wear a Hanna wig and pretend to be her when you can take pride in being yourself?

Recently, though, Miley Cyrus did something that I think is worth admiration. She shared with the public that she has food intolerances, the same intolerances my daughter has.

My little girl was actually happy to learn that a Hollywood celebrity has the same dietary restrictions as her. And though I think girls should take pride in what separates them from others, every once in a while, a girl likes to feel like she belongs.

It’s hard for my daughter sometimes when the class has a pizza party or the kids’ parents bring in cupcakes and she can’t eat what they’re eating. Although, I think it gives her some perspective. Now she understands why the kid in the wheelchair feels left out when the other kids are on the swings.

In this country, we place so much emphasis on eating as part of reward and celebration. We equate good food with good behavior and success. Often times, teachers and other parents don’t take into consideration how the kid with food intolerances will feel when he/she is left out of the celebration. Many parents end up leaving my daughter off the Birthday party invites because it’s easier to not invite her than to accommodate her.

This is why kids with disabilities or restrictions, physical, emotional or mental, can feel so isolated and depressed. Though I tell my daughter she is unique and special, sometimes she would rather be like everyone else.

Her dietary issues are just one example of the many challenges kids face today. Sadly, young girls are bombarded with ads about body image at an early age. It’s so easy for a young girl to feel isolated or depressed because she thinks her breasts are too small or her nose is too big. It’s so easy for her to overlook the fact that nobody is perfect. Nobody. And those Hollywood celebs they idolize are most-likely air-brushed and professionally styled.

I tell my daughter to focus on what makes her special. Though she’s not at the age yet where body image is a big deal, I know it won’t be long. By then, I’m hoping she will have the inner strength to realize that her differences are what make her beautiful.


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Self-Esteem Part One: You Never Have to Settle

When I was fourteen, my morning wake-up call was the sound of my dad screaming obscenities at my mom. His tirades were usually about money and the family business. After a while, the verbal abuse caused me to resent and disrespect my dad. It got so out of hand that finally one morning I went downstairs and yelled back. This was a bold move because my dad had a bit of a temper, but he stopped yelling at her for at least a few days afterwards.

Though the screaming didn’t start until my teen years, for as long as I can remember, my dad had always talked down to my mom. I remember asking my mom why she’d never divorced him. Her answer was simple: She stayed with him for my sister and me. She’s seen too many step-fathers mistreat their step-kids. She figured my real father beat the alternative.

I also suspect that her past marriage had a lot to do with it. Her first husband was abusive to the point that he’d broken her nose twice. He’d threatened to kill her if she ever left, but after eleven years of abuse, she finally escaped, telling no one where she was going, not even her mother and father. My dad never hit my mom, which is an improvement over physical abuse. While there are no visible scars with verbal abuse, the damage runs deep, especially with children who look to their parents for guidance.

My mom is an amazing and resilient woman who made many sacrifices for her children. I admire and appreciate her for it. At the same time I’ve come to realize that no woman should tolerate abuse in any form.

The summer before my freshman year in college, I fell for a boy who was cute, sweet and respectful of my feelings. We talked about a future together. I thought I’d found ‘The One.’ This harmony lasted for about a month.

Then he changed.

He quickly became verbally abusive, and I had a hard time reconciling this cruel boyfriend with the sweetheart I’d first met. I blamed myself, thinking I’d done something to offend him. I’m ashamed to say that the relationship went on like this for a few more weeks until he broke it off.

Thankfully.

Looking back now, I wonder if I would have been strong enough to end the relationship if he hadn’t. I realize I’d been conditioned to think that abusive relationships were the norm.

It took a while, but I finally realized my own self-worth. The man I married is nothing like those others. He is kind and respectful and simply the best husband a woman could ever want. We have a very lucky little girl. She gets to witness firsthand exactly how a woman should be treated by her spouse.

Sophie Sinora, the main character in the first book in my Whispers Series, has a similar self-esteem issue and falls for the wrong boy. Sophie is very much like I was as  a teen. Luckily, she’s got two great friends who help her see the error of her ways. Sometimes, even the smartest girls can make unwise relationship decisions.

Recovering from the damage of growing up in an abusive household isn’t easy, but it can be done. The first step is realizing that when it comes to your future, you never have to settle.

Never.