TESS FOWLER Cons, Mistreats, and Steals From A Dying Man

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad person.

I’ve been sitting on this post for nearly a year because I hate having Fowler in my head and couldn’t bring myself to get around to it. I’ve posted a good bit previously about how she took money from me to do art for one of my books and then did not deliver, instead opting to gaslight me and claim that I was a misogynistic stalker who made her afraid to open her door. I’ve posted about other victims she has conned and stolen money from. And I’ve posted about the toxic relationship she created working with her collaborator on Rat Queens, a popular comic book.

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad, terrible person.

All that I’ve written about Fowler on this blog, I wrote in order to get the word out as well as I could so that others wouldn’t fall prey to her. I’ve had quite a few people contact me with their own horror stories who wouldn’t go public for various reasons. I’ve had professionals contact me and say they’ve heard bad things about her, and thank me for sharing my story. And I’ve had Fowler partisans contact me and malign and even threaten me.

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad, terrible, horrible person.

I want to forget this poisonous waste of human flesh ever existed. I want to forget the damage she did to me, and the damage she keeps doing to others. Unless I’m given a really good reason, I hope to never soil this blog with her name again after today. But I have to share this account, have to add it to the record, because it, even more than my dismal experience with her, even more than the other accounts of folks she’s fucked over, shows just how reprehensible a creature she is.

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad, terrible, horrible, pathetic person. And a thief.

The following was originally posted on Change.org as a petition. It was brought to my attention by another of Tess Fowler’s victims, and I immediately copied the full text and grabbed a screenshot because I figured it wouldn’t be up long before Fowler yelled at Change.org and they took it down. And, indeed, a few days later, it was gone.

Please help right a wrong.

Stuart Chapin, a gifted high school teacher, writer, and performer, is dying of cancer.  One of his last remaining bucket list items is to pass on to the next generation, bedtime stories he made up for his children: to share a legacy of creativity, independence, and inspiration for the next generation of his family, and children everywhere. His book is his chosen way to do that, and all that remains is to have it professionally illustrated.  He’s asking for your assistance to make that dream a reality.

Here’s the story:

Tess Fowler Guttierez (tessfowler7@gmail.com), a sometime Los Angeles comic book artist, turns out to be a world-class con artist, and her artistic license should be revoked. She offered commissioned artwork to a dying man, accepted gifts and money, made him wait for over a year (he has Stage IV colorectal cancer), and ultimately reneged on everything she promised, spurning him nastily without cause and delivering nothing but grief.

Here are the facts, you decide. 

My friend Stuart created bedtime stories for his little children. I reached out to Tess, who had done fine commissioned artwork for me previously. Tess and my friend hit it off.  Moved by his story and his writing, she agreed to create the 32 desired pictures for free. That was in February 2014.

By April, her ardor for the project cooled. Her financial needs mounted. She had shared only rough sketch work, but promised that the entire book had been inked. My friend Stuart begged her to send whatever work had been completed, since he was running out of time, and that he would have it colored elsewhere. She ignored him. In November, she again shared more details about her personal and financial difficulties, never offering to help find another artist to complete the project. She simply intimated the project would be forestalled indefinitely.

Again, my friend asked for her to send her whatever work she had done. He further offered her $500, practically cleaning out his savings. After initially demurring, Tess accepted his money. Then, again, silence.

Now January 2015. My friend implored her to send the pictures. She snapped that he was rude and pushy, and that the work had not been sent because she was sick (of which he had no knowledge). He apologized. February 3 of 2015 Tess curtly e-mailed him that the pictures had in fact been sent. After waiting patiently for weeks, they never arrived, she stated that she packaged them USPS with NO tracking data, and she had not bothered to make even a single digital copy of all her year’s work on the project.

In the two and a half months since, she has never once asked if the package arrived.  She clearly never sent it.  In late March, she said she would return the $500 and asked for Stuart’s home address (which she apparently didn’t need on February 3 to send the art as promised).  That check, needless to say, never arrived.  She obviously never finished the project, and kept my friend’s money.

As I had introduced them, I felt a responsibility to see it honorably carried through.  I told Tess that I was aghast she would clear out $500 from a dying man’s savings under any circumstances.  Tess replied that Stuart “made her” take the money.  She filed a harassment complaint with the LAPD. My dying friend simply wanted artwork for his children’s storybook. Instead, he was fleeced and spurned and accused without the slightest justification.  Please help me raise the $1000 needed to secure another artist to illustrate his book soon, while he’s still alive.  His book is wonderful, it’s about being different, and not fitting in, and accepting yourself for who you are.  It’s an important message for kids.  His is a worthwhile and selfless cause.  Thank you for your consideration.

Donate to help Stuarts family remember him.

Artist Tess Fowler is a bad, terrible, horrible, pathetic person. And a thief. And, I suspect, a sociopath.

Stuart Chapin died on August 27, 2016. Before he did, he wrote his own obituary:

Please feel free to spread the word.

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TESS FOWLER: Her Rampage Against Rat Queens, aka “Here She Goes Again”

ratqueens

If you read my blog regularly, you’re probably aware of how I hired comic book artist Tess Fowler to illustrate and paint a cover for my next Doc Wilde novel, of how that turned out to be a very expensive mistake when Tess utterly flaked on the job and kept my money, and of how she publicly (and privately) libeled me after the fact.

This was what she told one editor who asked her about the matter:

“You’re referencing a disturbed man who fired me from a job and then went out of his way to tell a string of lies about me on the internet. He stalked me by phone and internet even as he was about to be committed. I am afraid of him.

“This is a person I have called the police about on more than one occasion. And I am deeply fearful of his lack of stability.

“Thank you for completely wrecking my day by bringing up a person who I look over my shoulder for when I leave the house. If you choose to pursue anything involving him don’t come to me.

“This is a person who had every opportunity to rectify a situation he created. And chose to torture me. Please do not ever write me again.”

This is such complete bullshit that it’s comical. I have chronic depression, and have fought a terrible battle with it for years. She tries to use that to gaslight me, to cast me as unhinged and dangerous. I did not stalk her, I barely even tried to convince her to return to work once it became plain she wasn’t willing to do so. I have never been “committed.” And she never called the police on me, or, if she did, she’s clearly the crazy person here. (To see more of her nonsense about me, check out this post.)

I offered a full account of working with Tess here, built from our actual correspondence, in order to show exactly how the project fell apart and just how difficult she was to work with. My primary motive was to try to help others avoid being victimized as I was. And, indeed, over time, I’ve been approached by others who have also been ripped off by Tess Fowler, some professional, some just fans who commissioned her to do some art for them that they never received.

The latest victims I’ve heard from are Kurtis Wiebe, the creator of the esteemed comic book Rat Queens, and his wife, Shannon. Kurtis hired Tess Fowler to replace the original artist on the book and apparently had an experience that was agonizingly similar to my own. Eventually, they had a very public falling out, and Tess went on the warpath to slander and libel and gaslight both Kurtis and Shannon, threatening to ruin Kurtis’s career by  showing him to be “the worst man in comic books.”

Kurtis hasn’t chosen to share his full account publicly yet (I hope he does at some point), but Shannon shared her side of the sordid tale in a lengthy comment on one of my previous postsHere’s that comment in full because I felt it needed more sunlight than it was getting lost as it was in a comment section under an old post. Much of it is all too familiar… Continue reading

The Once & Future Wilde: GREAT News About The Doc Wilde Series!

Wilde Adventure!

Today, I get to share some huge news with you about the future of Doc Wilde.

As you may know, the first book in the series, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, was published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 2009. It was very well reviewed and sold well enough that Putnam contracted me for two more books toward building a regular series. The safe (and possibly sane) course of action would have been to stick with Putnam and all the benefits of publishing with a big house. My experience with Putnam was largely positive, and I’d beaten the odds by landing with them in the first place. But…

But I wasn’t satisfied with the book Putnam put out or their support of it. There were some editorial dictates I allowed myself to be persuaded to follow that I felt weakened the story, the book was pigeonholed by the publisher as a middle-grade work rather than a tale for all ages as I intended, and the publisher put very little effort or money into promotion (this is, alas, mostly par for the course these days).

Additionally, I was simply more ambitious about the Wildes than Putnam was, and had wanted the books to be fully illustrated. With this in mind, before I’d even finished writing the book I’d sought and found the perfect artist for it, a hellaciously talented Aussie named Gary Chaloner. Gary read what I’d written to that point and fell in love with the characters and agreed to join the Wilde team. While I finished the book, he put a lot of time and work into getting the characters just right, and I loved his take on my heros. A fellow pulp-fan, Gary understood the Wildes in his bones, and his images were dynamic and clever and made my story look good. The picture atop this post is one of his.

When they bought Frogs of Doom, Putnam disregarded all the work Gary had already done and my aspiration for nicely illustrated volumes. The book they put out replaced illustrations with goofy typographical effects in the text which made it look expressly aimed only at younger readers, and while the painted cover was nice, it did not capture my characters as I saw them and I never got so much as an email consultation with the artist.

Doc Wilde, 1st edition

Now, that’s not unusual, not many authors actually have much say in the covers that get stuck on their books. But since I’d been through months of collaborative effort with my artist of choice, who had labored meticulously to honor my vision, I was naturally even more dissatisfied by the outcome.

So, inspired by the independent publishing revolution, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I managed to work some loophole sorcery and not only wriggled out of the contract for the next two books but regained full rights to Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. I brought Gary back on board and we set out to create the books I’d wanted all along. After lots of work and some delays, in 2013 we rereleased the first book in a gorgeous new edition that was not only packed with great Chaloner artwork but also featured my preferred, extended “Author’s Cut” of the story.

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOM

Working with Gary on this book was the most enjoyable creative collaboration I’ve ever had, and the resulting volume is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, just after its publication, Gary was forced to resign from the series due to scheduling concerns. This was a crushing blow, but I rallied and hired a new artist, Tess Fowler, which was a terrible mistake. She took my money and dragged ass for months without producing anything but a few rough sketches then, as we approached the originally agreed upon release window, threw a neurotic fit and ceased all communications. She kept the cash. I later found out that I’m not the only victim of this sort of behavior on her part.

Being ripped off by Tess Fowler didn’t just cost me money, it cost me all the months she was allegedly working on the next book. And it triggered my depression, which I’ve battled for years, making further progress impossible for many months more. All the creative and logistical issues of creating these books were further exacerbated by the anxiety of my trust betrayed and depression’s leaden shroud. I entered a period of convalescence, realizing I needed to get a handle on my daily life again before I could even begin to think about getting back to work on the Wilde books.

Well, the time has come to get back on that buckin’ bronco. The Doc Wilde series is finally continuing. And the really big news is: Gary Chaloner is back as the official Wilde artist!

HURRAY!

Gary is still very busy, so we’re taking it at a slower pace than originally intended, but it’s worth it to do these books right. The new release schedule will be a new Doc Wilde book every year. This will allow him to fit Wilde work into his schedule without overwhelming him, and it will allow me to alternate Doc Wilde books with other writing projects.

We plan to release the second book, Doc Wilde and The Mad Skull, by Christmas 2016, with a yearly release around the same time each year thereafter. And we hope you’ll join us on all our adventures for years to come…

ADVENTURE!

GREED: The Fine Art of Sticking It To Your Readers

As a writer, there is nothing more sacred to me than the connection between the teller of tales and those he tells them to. I write because I want to be read, and read by as many people as possible. There is, of course, a practical aspect to all of this, because to make a living at this craft requires a lot of readers. But there are far easier jobs to do which are generally a lot more lucrative, and the sharing of stories and ideas is the primary currency I crave.

Not everyone shares this philosophy. Samuel Johnson said “No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money,” and to a degree that’s solid advice, especially in a time when so many folks try to wrangle writers into writing for free in order to get “exposure.” But if cash itself is a writer’s raison d’être, their muse is a whore and there’s a good chance they’re a hack.

As a reader, I’ve always despised publishing tricks that create scarcity in order to squeeze more money out of some readers while keeping material out of most readers’ hands. For example, an expensive “exclusive limited edition” of an author’s book which includes a story that’s not in the generally available edition and won’t be available anywhere else. It’s true that this rewards devoted fans willing to spring for something special, but it also punishes devoted fans who may not be able to afford the book. “If you love me and want to read everything I write, o wonderful reader, you will buy this exclusive collectible. Otherwise, screw you.”

To be clear, I have no problem with cool collectibles. I love beautiful limited editions, all autographed and bound-in-cloth (like a real goddamned hardback) and illustrated and such. It’s the exclusivity of content that I take issue with. That’s disrespectful to your fans, the most important people in the world to a writer, the people who most want to read your work. Why cheat them of the chance?

This applies to pricing, too. While “what the market will bear” is a fine principle for corporate mercenaries, it can be a harsh metric when applied to the dynamic between writer and reader. A writer I know is writing a series of adventure novels about a popular character that I would love to have on my shelf, and support this author’s work, but the publisher prices the paperbacks at $25 and the hardbacks at $40 and I just can’t afford them. Such pricing is unnecessary; Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom is fully illustrated and I published it at $12. Even allowing for licensing costs, the prices for my friend’s books err dramatically toward favoring the publisher over the reader.

The worst case of this sort of thing I have ever seen is a new book featuring a crowd of classic pulp heroes in a shared adventure, a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen kind of thing. As you all know, I love pulp and I’m innately interested in this sort of thing. The book looks to be huge and extravagant and loaded with illustrations, a gorgeous artifact for any library. But the lowest price for one of these volumes is $200. And the highest price?

$15,000.

How fucking ludicrous can you get?

I don’t begrudge the writer or publishers the extravagance of their book. If they want to sell an elite edition of it for fifteen grand, and someone wants to buy it, that’s awesome. And even the version at $200 may be worth the price for collectors if the book is beautifully (and expensively) made. But publishing it without a less expensive point of entry for the vast majority of possible readers, especially the very pulp fans this was presumably written for, is unfortunate. It also limits the potential size of the author’s fanbase to a small pool of folks willing and able to fork over a lot of cash.

When he wrote this book, did the writer do it because he loved the art of telling stories, and wanted to reach readers? Or did he just see an opportunity to squeeze money from the collectibles market? Because it really looks like the latter.

Me, I want to reach all the people I can. I want to treat my readers, and potential readers, with the sort of respect I hope to receive as a reader myself. I’d rather sell two thousand books at $12 each than a thousand at $25. I’d rather be read by a thousand people than a hundred. And I’d never participate in a stunt that kept my work from being accessible to most of the folks who might want to read it.

If your favorite book is a checkbook you may disagree.

TESS FOWLER Rips Off Another Fan

Soul Eater

Artist Tess Fowler’s dishonesty and lack of integrity are no secret to those who follow my blog, or to those who were looking forward to the book she took a lot of my money to do art for and then did not deliver. And I’m not the only poor, unfortunate soul who has fallen victim to her; as I’ve reported before, I’ve heard from several others whom she’s ripped off. Those folks chose not to go public with their accounts, for which they have their reasons, but it’s unfortunate because it contributes to the vulnerability of others who may hire her and be likewise victimized.

But another of her marks has finally come forward, eager to share his story.

I don’t know Wayne Bertrand, Jr. He lives in Texas, and is apparently into tattoos and motorcycles. He is also an avid activist for child welfare, and a member of BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse.

Wayne was a big fan of Tess Fowler’s art, which is why he commissioned her to do a special painting for him, for which he paid her $300. Months passed and no painting was forthcoming. When Wayne contacted her, she deflected his queries saying she was working on it.

Ultimately, Wayne complained to PayPal to try to get his money back, but a lot of time had passed, and Tess promised the service she would honor the deal and throw in a couple of extra pieces for Wayne’s trouble.

Then she blocked Wayne on social media and ignored all further attempts at communication.

That was over two years ago. Wayne has never received any artwork, nor any of his money back.

Toward the end of his message to me, Wayne summed Tess up as well as anyone ever could:

She is a crook. Sad thing is I like her artwork.

It’s a shame that someone with Tess’s gifts chooses to use them as bait to steal money from her fans.

UPDATE: Tess victimizes the creator of the comic Rat Queens and his wife. Read it here.

TESS FOWLER: I Let The Artist Have Her Say

As many visitors to my blog are aware, last year I had the misfortune of hiring artist Tess Fowler for art duties on my second Doc Wilde book. I paid her a thousand dollars and received nothing but a handful of rough character sketches, and I don’t even have the originals of those.

I detailed the disintegration of the deal and both my and Tess’s behavior in extreme detail, using our actual correspondence,  in this post.  It tells everything you need to know about our entire working relationship, and about Tess’s choices at the end.

As someone commented on the one followup post I wrote, there are two sides to every story. I agreed and stated, “Tess is completely welcome to share her side here.” Of course, she never took me up on the offer.

She did, however, post a lengthy diatribe on Facebook. I didn’t see it on her page because Tess has me blocked (and I have better things to do than monitor her behavior), but several of her friends sent me the information pretty much immediately. A couple even provided actual screenshots of the post and its resultant discussion.

I’m going to share those screenshots with you. This is the closest thing to Tess’s side of the story that she has provided, and I feel no compunction about showing it to you because it was posted publicly. I’ll offer commentary as we read it together.

1

First, everything I have ever posted on this matter is demonstrably true. There’s a reason I used our actual emails and was so thorough in my account; I wanted folks to have all the information they needed to come to their own conclusions about what happened. There are no emails I refuse to show publicly, and you may notice that she says there are but never shows them to anyone.

And yeah, based on my experiences, I’d definitely recommend nobody else hire her. I’m not running a smear campaign, but I damn sure can’t give her a good reference.

2

Bullshit. I stand by the post I linked to at the start of this one as a rebuttal of what she says here. I in no way abused Tess, and since my feeble attempts to contact her to ask that she resume work (attempts she completely ignored), I have made no other attempts to contact her. It’s easy for her to claim that I am “stalking” her, but I challenge her to prove that very libelous charge.

Further, since shutting me out as described in the original post, she has neither tried to discuss matters with me nor in any way offered in any way to continue the work. She blew me off entirely, kept my money, and I’ve had no contact with her of any sort since she did, not even these mythical emails she references yet again without producing them, except that the day I first saw these screenshots I emailed her, offering to get back to work whenever she was ready. She never replied.

I, however, was very public about the fact that I was willing to get back to work with her. She is a talented artist, I liked her take on my characters, and I was already out a thousand dollars so it was fully in my interest to try to get my money’s worth, even after the trauma I’d already suffered.

For the record, that offer no longer holds. I’ve accepted the loss of my money and the lessons learned and there’s no way in hell I’d work with her again.

3

Again, the emails she could produce, but doesn’t. Ever. Whereas I shared damn near every meaningful correspondence we ever had.

And again, bullshit that she ever offered to continue work after communications broke down.

And note here that I am “a madman.” What she means is that I suffer from depression, and she’s trying to use that against me. In a very libelous way.

4

I’d really like to see those emails. If called on it by someone, at most she could produce (and possibly misrepresent) emails I already quoted in my original post, because there has been nothing since. Again, I tried to sweet-talk her back to work after the communications breakdown, and then I’d have jumped on the chance to get back to work on the book because I had, after all, already paid her.

Now, the discussions began:

5

Again, portraying me as crazy because I’m depressed, and the continued insinuation that I’m stalking her via email and phone.

6

You know what? I do know exactly what I can get away with, because I’ve talked to a lawyer too. For something to be considered libel, it has certain criteria it needs to meet, chief among them the stated information has to be untrue. I’m not worried about her lawyers because I have no reason to be worried about her lawyers. And I’m pretty sure that the three different lawyers she spoke to all pretty much told her that.

7

I think that may be my favorite bit.

8

Ironically, the message I received from Tess blocking me and not responding to my emails or calls was very much “Sit down and shut up.”

9

Tess knew I suffered from depression the entirety of our working relationship. I’m very open about it, and about my battles with it. It’s even all over this blog.

And yes, Gary Chaloner, the original Doc Wilde artist, left the series (he didn’t think he could keep up with the workload), but he remains very much a part of the Wilde family, as well as a friend. Our working relationship was always professional, I was thrilled with the book we turned out together (Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom), and I have nothing but respect for him. We had delays and the book took longer to do than we’d planned, but Gary was never anything less than a trooper and I’d recommend him in a heartbeat to anyone who wants a talented, reliable artist. I invite anyone who thinks Gary left because of interpersonal dynamics to contact him directly and ask.

There was more discussion under Tess’s post, but the topics drifted away from me, so  there’s little point in sharing it. For the record, her post was made way back at the end of January, and there’s been no contact or any activity of any sort between Tess and me since. I intended to post this message ever since, but she’s no longer any sort of priority; the only reason I’m going ahead and posting now is because I want transparency for Doc Wilde supporters, so they know what happened and why the second book is delayed. This was also a way to let Tess tell her side of things.

I honestly wish things had gone differently, that Tess had actually been open to continuing the book. She’s a gifted draftswoman and I think the book we produced would have been beautiful.

Now, I wipe my hands of her.

UPDATE: Another of Tess’s victims has come forward and let me share his account. Read it here.

UPDATE: Tess victimizes the creator of the comic Rat Queens and his wife. Read it here.

In Praise of Authors and Readers and No Gatekeepers: Some Counterpoints to a Piece in Publishers Weekly

Readers and Writers

Chris Pavone, an editor turned novelist whose entire career has played itself out in the traditional publishing world, has a few things to say about indie publishing in a piece over at Publishers Weekly. Spoiler: he’s agin it.

 In a market of unlimited book options, how does an audience make choices? At the moment, most of that burden is carried by the book business. The publicity and marketing campaigns and cover designs and flap copy—the things that publishers do—are not just methods of selling books; they’re also readers’ main tools for discovering books. The same is true of the curating and merchandising in stores, and book coverage in the media. Without reviews, staff recommendations, and endcap displays, unlimited choices aren’t narrowed down—they’re overwhelming.

You know what? There are already hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of books in what Chuck Wendig calls the “shit volcano” of self publishing. And yet, my job as a reader has gotten no more difficult. I have no trouble at all finding the books I wish to read, and the task of sorting through the crap to find the gold is precisely the same as it has always been. There are a lot of self-published books I don’t want to read, but there are also a hell of a lot of traditionally published books I don’t want to read.

And “unlimited book options” is a bad thing? More choices for the reader, more books in the world, is a bad thing? Many more good writers able to get their books published, and to make money from them, is a bad thing? I don’t think so.

 Second, if all books become cheap or free to readers, then writers are unlikely to earn much (if anything). Who will want to write if writing doesn’t pay?

 Ooooh, scary. But you know what? Writing pays about 10% when traditionally published books sell for their standard prices. But it pays 70% when independently published books sell. That’s seven times the royalty. So a $10 book from one of the huge publishing corporations will pay a writer a buck per sale; an indie book only has to sell for $2 to beat that (a much more attractive price to a buyer), paying the writer $1.40. If the indie book sells for $3, it nets the writer more than a 10% royalty on a traditionally published book selling for $20. At $5, the writer is getting a royalty of $3.50, three and a half times what he’d get for a ten dollar book from the traditional gatekeepers.

Who will want to write if writing pays better?

Third, without the gatekeepers, those who do write will create books that are worse—and not just authors whose dormant genius must be drawn out by patient editors, but all authors. Every book that doesn’t first have to get past a gatekeeper or two, or 10, before being put in front of the public will be worse.

What balderdash. Every book? Really? Even those by writers who’ve already been published by the big corporations and know their way around a gerund and a character arc? Even those by writers who hire professional editors to help them polish their material exactly the same way editors at traditional houses do? Even those by writers willing to do the work because it’s work they care deeply about, and work that may finally earn them a reasonable living?

I get what he’s saying, though. He’s saying, “I work in traditional publishing. Traditional publishing pays my bills [though probably not all of them]. Therefore, traditional publishing must prevail, lest I have to fend for myself and become more responsible for the quality of my own books, which is really scary when you’re as entrenched and calcified and hidebound as I am.”