Tara West

YA paranormal/fantasy and New Adult author


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Almost finished and looking for beta readers

Dear readers, I’m nearly finished with Curse of the Ice Dragon. Then, it’s back to my Whispers series. So sorry this is taking me longer than I’d anticipated, but summer got in the way, and I’m only able to write a thousand words a day. In the meantime, I’m looking for beta readers for my fantasy. Any takers?

Oh, and thanks for the fan mail. I LOVE to hear from my readers. And if you’d like to follow my updates on FB, here’s my page.

Before I go, here’s the blurb for Curse of the Ice Dragon. And of course, I have to show off this amazing cover one more time. THANKS Littlemeesh from Deviantart.

Curse of the Ice Dragon by Tara West

Born with mark of the Mighty Hunter, Markus saves his village from the brink of starvation –for whenever he releases an arrow, his aim is true. But for all of his skill and strength, Markus doesn’t dare stand up to his abusive father. Shamed by his cowardice, he seeks distraction by needlessly shooting the forest creatures.

The village prophet warns Markus that the Ice Goddess will unleash The Hunter’s Curse. For every animal Markus kills, a person he loves will suffer the same fate. When Markus takes no heed, The Goddess unleashes her ice dragon. Now Markus must flee the dragon without killing it … or his beloved brother will be the next to die.


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Confesions of a Cover Artist – Selina Fenech

Welcome to another installment of Confessions of a Cover Artist. When I saw Selina Fenech’s work I was blown away. Unlike me, Selina isn’t just a cover artist, she’s an amazing illustrator, who also has several illustrations in her YA dark fantasy novel, Memory’s Wake. Though the story looks awesome, I admit I bought her book mostly for the pictures and can’t wait to read it. It’s in my TBR pile right now. Though Selina isn’t currently taking clients until this fall, she still sells some amazing premades that would make beautiful cover art.

TW: How did you first get started as an artist? Was it always your plan to be an artist and a writer? Did one outlet influence the other?

SF: I’ve loved writing and drawing since I was a child. Illustrated books had a huge influence on me, mostly fairytales, and I always dreamed of being able to make pictures like the ones in the books. In high school I succumbed to peer pressure and stopped reading books as much (reading wasn’t considered cool at my school, such a shame!), and turned my attention more towards visual art, and pursued my art career from then onwards in one way or another (first I wanted to be a comic book artist, then a children’s book illustrator, then a graphic designer, then fantasy artist). I’ve thankfully been very successful with my artwork, and have made a living with my art since 2003. It was after a brush with cancer in 2008 that I decided I wanted to pursue my other childhood dream, of being an author. I’ve been putting a lot of my attention to that goal now. Part of me still loves the sequential art format (i.e. comics) and illustrated books, so my first book I released, Memory’s Wake, includes 44 illustrations I did specifically for it.

TW: What have you learned along the way?

SF: Getting into writing has been a steep learning curve, but so much fun. I had a story in my mind for years that I wanted to share, but I realised I hadn’t really learned the craft of storytelling, or the craft or writing. I didn’t just want to throw words on a page just to say I wrote a book and get my story done, I wanted it to be done well. I wanted to learn how to write well. In the past four years since I really dove back into writing, I’ve probably bought and studied about fifty books on the art of writing and storytelling, and read many more online tutorials. I joined online critique groups (specifically sff.onlinewritingworkshop.com was fantastic) where I learned from other writers. I made a conscious decision to approach storytelling with the same professionalism as I did my art career.

TW: What mistakes, if any, did you make early on when designing art?

SF: Human proportions have always been difficult, and I made a lot of mistakes with them early on. Once I even drew a character’s foot on back-to-front (they were sitting cross legged and I didn’t think enough about how the foot came out of that). As a practice in humility, I keep an almost complete archive of all my artwork at http://selinafenech.com/archives/ so that people can see all my old and embarrassing work.

TW: Do you design art for covers on commission? How does an author go about using your art for a cover?

SF: I’ve been closed to commissioned art for many years now. Like many artists, I was burned by one or two bad clients, and as I didn’t need the commission money anymore I stopped taking them. Here’s the big BUT- I’ve been loving being part of the indie author community, and would love to offer my artwork to other indie authors for their covers. Right now, I’m midway through an illustration project for a publisher with a looming deadline and much work still to do, but once it’s done (November 2012) I’m planning to open up to book cover commissions again! Until then, many of my existing artworks are available for use on covers. If an author is interested, just get in touch and we’ll work something out.

TW: List in order, the five most important elements of a good cover.

  • Indicative of the genre/target reader
  • Relevant to the story
  • Professional typography (many covers, no matter how great the image, are let down by bad typography.)
  • An eye catching image (or eye catching text and design if there is no actual image)
  • True to the story- more something that annoys me personally, where a detail on the cover doesn’t match the story, e.g. model’s eye colour is incorrect.

TW: What are common mistakes indie authors make when designing their own covers?

SF: Poor typography is one of the hallmarks of self-published covers. Even complete amateurs with a decent eye and good taste can put together some great looking graphics, but typography is an art form in itself, and without some understanding of the art and science of type, it’s rare that the text on a book cover is going to look good.

TW: What advice would you give to the indie author trying to design cover art?

SF: On typography again, if you aren’t sure what you’re doing, follow the Keep It Simple rule. No more than two fonts on the cover (including variations of the same font), and a simple ALL CAPS, Serif font (Trajan is great, widely used on movie posters) will keep things classy with little room for error. Check out some professional book covers and see how they lay out their text as a guide as well, although, many mass published books will have the author name way more prominent than the title itself. For Indie authors, it’s probably better to have a bit more balance, or emphasis on title instead of name.

TW: What software do you use to create art? Where do you go for inspiration?

SF: I almost exclusively use Photoshop CS5 for all my design work and also my digital painting work. I am also spoiled in owning a Wacom 24HD, which is a pressure sensitive screen for digital art. I paint straight into the screen!

TW: Tell us a little about your novels. Where can we buy them?

SF: I write exclusively to the young adult market so far. My first novel, Memory’s Wake, is a dark fantasy with a Victorian flavor, and Emotionally Charged is a paranormal romance novella, about super-powered teens who’s abilities are charged by other people’s emotions.

TW: Memory’s Wake synopsis:

SF: Lost in a world of magic and monstrous fairies, a troubled sixteen-year-old with no memories must discover who she is, before she is discovered by those who want her dead.

Thanks, Selina for stopping by my site and sharing your beautiful drawings. I can’t wait to read Memory’s Wake. 🙂 Tara

Selina Fenech – Portfolio Website

www.selinafenech.com

Fairies and Fantasy Pty Ltd – Selina’s Online Art Store

http://www.fairiesandfantasy.com

Memory’s Wake – Illustrated Fantasy Novel by Selina Fenech

www.memoryswake.com


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Ugh

Well, after an awesome birthday celebration with my bud, Shea MacLeod, I’m home sick this week with something nasty that settled in my chest. Cough, hack, wheeze. No fun.

 The good news is that I’m not letting that stop me from working on my latest Whispers book with Heather Marie Adkins. I’ve also got a bonus short ghost story, The Smell of Death, releasing this Friday with my good friends at Curiosity Quills Press. Please stop by there this week and check it out. I’ll post a link when it’s up. If you like Krysta’s Curse, you’ll like The Smell of Death, about a young girl with powers much like Krysta’s.

And speaking of Krysta, here’s a scene from my next Whispers novel, Visions of the Witch. Without giving away too many spoilers, AJ was just in a car accident and Krysta is in the hospital waiting room.

“Do you want to play with me?”

She couldn’t have been older than five. She was adorable. Pudgy hands and cheeks, big brown eyes, dark, curly hair. She actually looked a lot like me when I was little. I tried to imagine her with olive skin like mine, but this child’s skin was deathly pale with a slight blue tint. Her tattered dress dripped with what looked like water. She had a large gash on her temple.

I stifled a sob before plastering on a smile. “I’d love to, but if I played with you, people would think I was crazy.”

I quickly scanned the few people in the hospital waiting room. A middle-aged couple was gawking at me. An elderly woman had moved to the far side of the room while she glared at me from beneath her lashes. They probably thought I’d escaped from the mental ward. The only person in the room who knew I wasn’t crazy was Sophie, but my BFF was snoring on the bench next to me.

I sighed while rolling my eyes. “They probably already think I’m crazy.” After all, to an outsider it must have looked like I was talking to myself.

“That’s okay.” The little girl shrugged. “There are other kids here.”

“I know.” I nodded, as again, I fought to hold back the tears. “I’ve seen them.”

Gawd, how I hated hospitals. Hated them. I’d never seen more dead people in all my life.

The little girl scrunched her brows. “How do you see us?”

“I’ve been curse—gifted with the power to see spirits.”  I tilted my chin and tried my best to sound upbeat. If it’s one thing I’ve learned about ghosts, they don’t respond well when the living cry, scream or faint when they see them.

Her eyes brightened with an unnatural glow. “My brother is here, too. Do you want to meet him?

“Sure,” I said, but then I spied AJ’s mom, Mrs. Dawson, out of the corner of my eye.

She was walking briskly toward me while waving me over. Her eyes were puffy and red, just like they’d been the past five days, but thankfully, this time she was actually smiling.

I leaned over and shook Sophie.

She sat up and rubbed the sleep from her eyes. “What is it?” Sophie mumbled. “Is AJ okay?”

Mrs. Dawson had turned and was walking back down the hallway.

A jolt of excitement shot through my spine. “I think so,” I said. Then I turned toward the little girl. “I’ve got to go and see another friend. I’ll catch you later, okay?”

She smiled and waved goodbye.

As I watched the child’s reflection disappear, I thought of AJ and how, for five long days I’d been expecting to see AJ’s ghost visiting me in the waiting room instead.

I looked over at Sophie who was still untangling herself from her blankets. She had turned the hospital waiting room into her own personal bedroom, preferring to sleep there rather than to stay awake and listen to all of the depressing thoughts of the hospital patients and their families.

This was such a horrible place. The last place people like Sophie and I needed to be camping out.

Hot tears slipped over the rims of my eyelids and down my face. My nose dripped, and I had nothing to wipe it but an old napkin I had to dig out of my purse. I flipped open my little cosmetic mirror and stole a quick glance at my reflection while Sophie put on her socks and shoes. My eyeliner was smeared. My skin was blotchy. My hair looked like an electrified mop. Before AJ’s accident, I’d never been caught dead in public without my makeup looking perfect.

But almost losing your best friend puts life into clearer perspective.

At the moment the only thing I cared about was if AJ was going to live.


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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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Tribute to our furry friends…

Best buds forever.

Today’s blog post is dedicated to our favorite friends.This has taken a while to write, as I’m still struggling with the loss of our family’s best friend. In January, we lost our black lab named Jack. He and our yellow lab, Benny, both escaped through a hole in the fence and were run over two miles from our house. After we found Jack’s body, we searched all day for Benny and had just about given up hope. Benny limped home at 2:30 the next morning. And I have no idea how he made it with two broken feet and dislocated hips. My daughter and I believe that Jack’s spirit helped guide Benny home.

Our big sweeties.

She and I have been mourning Jack nearly every day since then, while also nursing Benny back to health. To say these past few months have been rough is an understatement. To add to the pain of losing Jack, comes the misery of watching my child suffer. He was her playmate and best friend. She has cried nearly every day since he died.  Thankfully, after three hours of surgery and several weeks of recovering at home, Benny is almost fully healed.

As a tribute to our furry friends, I’ve decided that animals will have a key role in the plot for my next Whispers book. I love animals, especially dogs. I’m allergic to cats, but I have several friends who have feline friends.  I speak from experience when I say that pets are a boon when we are feeling depressed or sick. Though their time here with us is relatively brief, their loyalty and companionship inspires the characters in my books.

Back when I was seriously ill, my step-daughter gave me a rat terrier, P-Nut. I didn’t have much energy to play with my doggie, but somehow she sensed my illness and was there to comfort me during a difficult time. I think pets have a sixth sense and are more attuned to our bodies sometimes than we are. So wouldn’t it make sense to have animals play an integral role in my Whispers series as my girls’ paranormal powers are strengthening with each new book?

Brinley and P-Nut are hard at work protecting the family from the evil vacuum.

On a more positive note, this past year we welcomed Brinley, the sweetest little chi, and Hunter, our new black lab, to the family.  Both dogs spent most of their time locked up in kennels because their owners were too busy to take care of them. And though no dog can replace our sweet Jack, I’m happy to open my heart and home to other furry friends in need.To all of my past friends, you will forever be missed: Peaches, Scooby, Buster and Jack.

* * *

Today, please check out my buddy, paranormal author Shea MacLeod’s blog, as she kicks off ZOMBIE MONTH.  My awesome author pals, The Eclective are also giving away a cool Celtic t-shirt to celebrate the release of their newest anthology, The Celtic Collection, now available on Amazon for .99 and Smashwords for FREE.