HIRING ARTIST TESS FOWLER: GOOD IDEA OR BAD?

Tess Fowler, Artist

Hmm. Interesting.

For those who have been following the unfortunate tale of my wasting a thousand bucks on artist Tess Fowler and getting absolutely nothing but grief in return, there is some new information. This may be of particular interest to anyone who may consider hiring Tess for similar work.

I have been very open about my experience with Tess, how Ms. Fowler and I had a falling out and I lost a lot of cash. But I’d assumed that I was at least partially at fault, that even with her reactions to my criticisms and her hostility and refusal to negotiate and get back to work (or refund any of the money), that if I had somehow found the right words, perhaps we would have reconciled, and perhaps Tess Fowler would have then finished the job like a professional.

However, since posting my fully documented account of that experience, I have heard from not one, not two, but several others who have all started their messages with essentially the same statement:

It’s not you, it’s her.

Apparently, Tess Fowler is starting to be known for this sort of thing. While she promotes herself as a professional artist who is too cool for school to work for big companies, she is apparently leaving a chain of broken promises and unearned payments in her wake. It’s not my place to make public the specifics of what I’ve been told by the folks who’ve contacted me (though I wish they’d go public as I have, for the benefit of all the folks who may yet suffer as we have), but apparently Tess has a tendency to make big promises then react very, very badly at the first sign of disagreement or tough critique. She disavows even the tiniest bit of responsibility and turns very nasty very quickly, accusing her former collaborators of being horrible people of some sort (in my case, I was mentally unbalanced and potentially dangerous), and refusing to deal with them at all thereafter.

(Tess also publicly accused me of “stalking” her when I posted my full account of our disastrous collaboration. Apparently, if you hire someone, pay them a lot of money, then send them a few messages and try to call them to see if they’re going to do the job they hired on to do, that’s stalking.)

As I said, I have heard this from several independent sources over the past few weeks, and I’ve even been privy to the exact communications that passed between some of these folks and Tess. I am naturally interested in hearing from any others; I’ll keep your secrets, though I do encourage you to post a public, objective account of what happened. And my blog is available as a forum for all of you: feel free to comment below any of my posts on the matter, and if you need a place to post your full account, you can do it here with my blessing.

For the record: I am only passing on what I have been told here, and in some cases what I have seen in shared documentation. But that documentation was very convincing, and having been through what I went through hiring Tess Fowler as an artist, I’m convinced that it’s true.

UPDATE: Another victim has come forward and agreed to share his story. You can read about it here.

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

10(ish) Books

It’s one of those memes spreading across Facebook, but one that actually has some merit (to my mind) in that it is designed to engage folks in conversations about books they love:

Rules: In your status line, list 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and don’t think too hard – they don’t have to be the “right” or “great” works, just the ones that have touched you.

I like that. I like that it specifies “books that have stayed with you in some way” rather than your all-time favorites. “Ones that have touched you.” I wouldn’t even start trying to list my favorite ten books of all time, but I’m happy to list a few favorites that moved me and now come to mind.

I also like the exercise well enough to share it here, for posterity, rather than as just a mote of data washing by in the social media stream. And I won’t simply list the books, I’ll tell you something about them, and about what they mean to me. (This also fits in with my recent pledge to get back to regularly reviewing books I read).

And I’ll do it now. Here they are, in no particular order:

Something_wicked_this_way_comes

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury This one would be on my list of all-time favorites if I ever made it. A tale of two small town boys, friends, born on opposite sides of midnight Halloween night, facing the surreal and terrifying threats of a dark circus that comes to town one chill night. This is a book about childhood and magic and dreams and libraries and laughter and books. Ray Bradbury was the writer who inspired me to officially decide I was going to be a writer, and this is his very best. It also makes me think of my best friend of many years, Rusty, the Will Halloway to my Jim Nightshade in the dyad of our youth.

WintersTale

Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin Another wonderful book, an epic tale of fantasy and magic realism which explores New York City and life from all sorts of whimsical and tragic directions. I don’t know much about Mark Helprin as a person (I do know he supported and wrote speeches for Bob Dole, which deeply disappointed me at the time but seems a nearly insignificant fault in light of the monstrous Republicans who replaced Dole on the national scene), but he’s a brilliant writer. This book made me laugh out loud (there’s a brilliantly cartoonish gang of ne’er-do-wells in its pages), fall in love, and cry. It’s an overflowing treasure chest of literary wonder. (Apparently it’s now a movie, but I guarantee you should read the book before, or instead of, seeing it.)

LookingForRachelWallace

Looking For Rachel Wallace by Robert B. Parker Many of you will know the private detective Spenser from the old Robert Urich TV show Spenser: For Hire, which, as such adaptations go, was pretty good; Urich was personable, growing into the character over time, and his costar Avery Brooks was the definitive Hawk. I wanted to have a Spenser book here because Spenser — and his creator — have been great personal and professional influences on me for years. But there are a lot of Spenser novels, so the question was, which to feature? I decided to go with the very first I read, in which Spenser, manly man with a poet’s soul, is hired to bodyguard a rabidly feminist lesbian writer who most definitely doesn’t like having a seeming brute like him around. The interplay between the two as they intelligently argue sexual politics, along with Spenser’s relationship with his beloved Susan Silverman and the easy action of the tale, hooked me for life. Spenser is the thinking man’s gumshoe, big and brawny but just as quick with a Yeats quote as he is with his fists, and Parker rarely fails to deliver the goods. Continue reading

I’m Batman (ABC Wednesday, 1/22/14)

I'm Batman

I’m Batman.

That may seem a cocky statement. I am not the world’s greatest detective. I am not the most accomplished hand-to-hand combatant on the planet. I am not a scientist/inventor with an unending inventory of cool gadgetry to rival that of Doc Savage. I don’t battle the forces of evil night after night wearing an incredibly cool batsuit.

But there’s a deeper truth here. It’s not that I’m projecting some Mary Sue wish onto this comic book character, or that I’m patterning my life in any way after the life of Bruce Wayne (though his money would certainly be welcome). Rather, there are a set of resonances in the character of Batman which, you might say, send me a signal. This has been so since I was a little kid, watching Adam West on television, even though I despised that show, just because nothing else was on. I wanted Batman like he was in the comics. Dark, agile, clever. Drawn by Neal Adams with no laugh track. Not cheesy as hell. And haunted…as I was haunted.

I didn’t consciously realize that last bit then, and not for many years. But Batman and I share something besides blue eyes and square jaws: loss. Terrible, heart-rupturing loss.

Everyone knows about Bruce Wayne’s loss: the gunshots in the alley, the clatter of falling pearls, the bodies on the ground. Fewer know the less operatic tale of my loss: a teenaged mother, riding home from her restaurant job to see her baby, her life crushed out in a high velocity encounter with a careless driver.

Loss drives us like a poisonous fuel.

For years, I thought I’d recovered from whatever trauma I’d suffered when my mother died. I had been so young, I couldn’t remember her. She was just an ancestor, if a recent one, no more a part of my life, of me, than a great grandmother I’d never known. But that was naive. Over the years, as depression kept me from the life I wanted, I realized that many of the traumas I brought into my life were refractions of the loss. Somewhere deep inside me was that small child, screaming over my mother’s body. Is it any wonder I found it easy to identify with Batman?

I had no Alfred in my life to raise me, to look after me. My father was a half-step away from cotton mill white trash, and a mean ass drunk. Over the years, he brought in two stepmothers, both cruel. He and they weren’t my family, they were my rogues gallery, the sideshow villains who plotted my destruction in nefariously neurotic ways. Batman’s villains are archetypal, each reflecting something within. The Joker is his mania, his enjoyment of the pain he brings to bear. The Riddler is his compulsion for mental challenge, Bane and Killer Croc his drive for physical dominance. The Scarecrow is his fear and despair. And Catwoman is his playfulness and his libido, trying to break into (or, rather, out of) the adamantine safe that is his heart.

Batman — Bruce Wayne — is the sort of man I strive to be: a successful man, a productive man, a noble man. A man who helps. A man who uses his anger and pain and loss not to hide or lash out at the world, but to fight the darkness (within and without) and keep it at bay. You may really love the Dark Knight, and thrill to his adventures, as millions do. But I’ve lived his dark night, I’ve fought its overwhelming darkness.

Because I’m Batman.

Mourning

B

I’ll return next Wednesday with the letter C. I hope you’ll stop by. I’m a writer and I post about a wide variety of non-alphabet-specific topics. Feel free to comment under my posts. If you want to subscribe to the blog, there’s a button in the sidebar.

For another fun ABC Wednesday post, visit the Carioca Witch here: Bringing Up Salamanders.

Find many more posts by others, and more info on ABC Wednesday, here: ABC Wednesday

I Love Bookstores. But Do They Love Me?

Your book, here? HAHAHAHAHA

We hear a lot about how authors, and everyone else, should favor local, indie bookstores over Amazon and big chains. I love bookstores, especially cool little ones, and I even link to IndieBound on my site above Amazon, B&N, Smashwords, and other larger vendors.

Well, I recently tested the waters at the two most prominent indies in my town to see if they’d sell my book, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom. (I should have done this months ago, but what with the crushing depression and electroshock therapy I just didn’t get around to it.)

The first I won’t name because I’m not looking to be personally contentious with them as they are very nice folks who run a great shop. It happens to be the very store where I debuted the novel in 2009, when I was with Putnam. I had a very successful signing with them, came in to sign books when they needed me to, and had what seemed to be a friendly relationship with the main folks there. I love this store. I showed it off to Nydia when she was visiting in the summer. I recommend it to folks all the time. I even used to link to their website from the Doc Wilde site, until I left Putnam and my book was temporarily out of print.

I walked in their door, an author who already ran the gantlet of traditional publishing, landing a multi-book contract with one of the largest publishers in the world, now carrying an improved, new, beautifully illustrated edition of my first book. A book with three pages of raves in the front from sources like Daniel Pinkwater, Kirkus Reviews, Publisher’s Weekly, and the screenwriter of Thor and X-Men First Class. A book, incidentally, with a 4.5 star rating from readers on Amazon. While I was waiting to speak to someone, I even helped a customer, selling her Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men (which is awesome and hilarious). Continue reading

Action! Horror! Kung Fu! Intrigue! Gunslingers! Fantasy! -14 Books By Noted Writers, Choose Your Price, Support Charities

Choose your price! Support charities!

Choose your price! Support charities!

Allen Varney is a really smart man who has put together a cool system in which he sells “bundles” of books and games to folks at the price they choose to pay (with a small minimum price established for a smaller set of the books offered)), the proceeds going not only to the authors involved but to specified charities. You may have seen other such bundles, and they’re a great idea.  Last summer, I participated in one of his earlier fiction-oriented bundles and it was a great experience. Allen has since honed his system by running many more bundles, and more folks have gotten interested in them, so he is temporarily resurrecting some of the earlier ones to satisfy the requests of those who missed them. The one I was part of is one of them, but will only be available for a very short time (just 48 hours, and the countdown has already begun!).

The charities to benefit from this bundle are fighting for literacy and freedom of expression all over the planet:

PEN International and The Electronic Frontier Foundation

Just think, you can get my own very well-reviewed, fully-illustrated adventure for all ages, Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom, along with a bunch of other high quality genre tales for just $4.95 or a bit more (Frogs of Doom is retail price $6.99 all by itself), and you’ll be contributing to the literary well-being of all of human kind.

Wilde Adventure!

Below are the details from the Bundle of Holding site; grab this adventurous deal while you can (as I type this line, the countdown is at 1 DAY, 22 HOURS, 49 MINUTES, 56 SECONDS!) Continue reading

Counting The Clock That Tells The Time

Clockwise

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night…

As far as I’m concerned, that’s William Shakespeare describing my 2013. For me, the year was a dark shawl of despair, laced with tiny threads of joy.

On the bright side of the equation, Gary Chaloner and I finally managed to release our deluxe, expanded, fully-illustrated edition of my adventure novel Doc Wilde and The Frogs of DoomIf you’re new to our tale, I was originally contracted for three Doc Wilde books by Penguin/Putnam, with plans for the series to continue after those. They published Frogs in hardback in 2009, but I was disappointed  in various ways with the book and the publication process which produced it. During that time, I was watching the developments in self publishing with great interest, and I decided to regain the rights to my books and go indie. With the much appreciated help of a company of Kickstarter heroes, Gary and I started a process that was tougher and took more time than anticipated, but finally paid off with a gorgeous new book (written for all ages, available in both trade paperback and ebook; the hardback edition is still out there, mostly in used copies, but remember it’s nowhere near as nice a book as the new version).

Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom

Finally holding the deluxe Frogs of Doom was a relief and a delight. But dark times were coming for Doc Wilde, much more harrowing than any fight with world-threatening amphibians could ever be.

First, Gary Chaloner made the tough decision to resign as artist for the series. Working on Frogs had proved a hardship for him schedule-wise and he recognized that things were only going to get worse as he tried to balance his workload of other projects. To his incredible credit, and my even greater appreciation as both a fellow professional and a friend, he had finished the first book as he’d promised and, you might say, sort of spoiled me. As I hired a new artist for the second book, I expected a similar level of professionalism, and I paid what is for me some big bucks in advance to get it. Alas, I did not.

Hiring artist Tess Fowler was an enormous mistake. (The full craptastic tale can be read at this blog post).

Waiting for art that was just delayed and delayed and delayed only contributed to the weight of the depression I suffer, which was already rolling in like a tsunami on a night without stars, and the ultimate conflict with Tess Fowler when she produced nothing for the money she’d taken as a professional artist deepened my despair. I made repeated attempts to allow Tess to get back to work and live up to her promises, and she ignored every one of them. Continue reading

Buy DOC WILDE In Paperback, Get The Ebook For 72% Off!!!

DOC WILDE AND THE FROGS OF DOOMFor intrepid adventure readers who straddle literary realms both past and present, traditional and technological, I am pleased to announce that I am participating in Amazon’s new MatchBook program (and will happily do the same with other vendors if and when they initiate similar programs; I’m not an Amazon partisan).

What this means is that folks who buy (or have bought) the paper version of Doc Wilde and The Frogs of Doom from Amazon can now also buy a digital copy for only $1.99 (that’s 72% off!).

So if you’d like a copy for your bookshelf but would also like to read on your tablet or phone or other gadget, you’re golden. Likewise, if you want to read it on your device and get a hard copy as a gift for someone, you’re all set.

The deal even applies for those of you who bought the book in hardback when it was first published by Putnam. The new version is a lot better, with my “Author’s Cut” expanded text as well as dozens of gorgeous interior illustrations by comics wizard Gary Chaloner. If you bought the original from Amazon, but would like to see the story in its full glory, you can check out the new version for only $1.99.

Also, and this is important, you don’t need a Kindle to read the digital copy (or any Kindle book, for that matter). There are free apps available for PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets, so if you have a device on which you can read at all, you can likely read this book. The apps can be found here.

I’m thrilled that Amazon has made this possible. As a reader myself, I jump back and forth between page and screen, and I’ve wanted to be able to do something like this since I was first published.