Horg by Heather Zanitsche

HORG (singular or plural), the very mention of the names sends shivers down the spines of both children and seasoned adventurers alike, and with good reason.

EVOLUTION: The horg may be classified as a human subspecies, having originated from human ancestors prior to the Great Cataclysm (c. 0 AGM). It is believed that post-cataclysm humans from the eastern steppes were forced to seek drastic measures to survive, and after generations of bitter cold, under the greater moon and with a scarcity of vegetation, two distinct subspecies developed: the diminutive bogren and the horg.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: In the horg, evolution favored many inhuman attributes. The endless night of the dark hemisphere resulted in a dearth of plant life, forcing the horg to becoming exclusively carnivorous. Standing between ten and thirteen feet tall and weighing nearly 500 kg at maturity, the horg towers over humans and half-men alike. A drastic increase in size helped the horg to efficiently hunt and kill large prey, and a frightening set of tusks fend off other aggressors. Due to the horg’s fearsome nature, most of Aenya’s predators do not consider the horg prey, regardless of numbers. Its large size and a coat of fur also protect against the unceasing winter of the dark hemisphere. Large green eyes illuminate for low light vision, a common trait among dark hemisphere dwellers, and brighten with phosphorous whenever the beast is enraged, discouraging even intelligent hunters. Fortunately, most of the horg’s human-like intelligence has been lost to the ages. They retain the ability to use crude weapons, like clubs and throwing rocks, but the ability to make fire or anything more sophisticated is beyond them. There have been a number of scattered reports of horg possessing horns, wrapped around the sides of their head like a crown. However, the lack of any such specimen having been captured or killed makes these claims dubious, relegating them to the realm of myth, like the tale of how the Dark God Skullgrin transformed the worst and most savage of humans into horg so that they might revel in the slaughter of their kin; in retrospect, this may not be so far from the truth, considering the role evolution can play in transforming one species into another.

BEHAVIOR: Horg are solitary creatures by nature. This makes mating between them a rare occurrence. The species can go between 30 and 50 years between mating, and in their brief adolescence, the beasts have been known to be targeted by more intelligent enemies. Despite the rarity of offspring reaching maturity, their numbers are maintained due to long lifespans of up to 250 years and an accelerated healing and immune system. In an ironic twist of fate, the horg’s smaller, much less physically imposing cousins, the bogren, have managed to use this enhanced healing to their benefit. Using a crude form of surgery, bogrens manipulate horg like marionettes from strings attached to the horg’s exposed brain, allowing bogrens to use horg as weapons of war.

HISTORY: In recent history, horg have been used as siege engines on the tundra under the Pewter Mountains during the annual invasion of Northendell. Many men-at-arms have perished at the hands of the horg. On the Plains of Narth, an entire Krat’ battalion, led by the brilliant tactician Captain Dantes, was decimated by bogren armies, due, in part, to the bogren’s use of the horg.


Thelana kills a horg on the Plains of Narth



It is believed the name half man or halfman originated with the Zo, who considered the halfman to be, in evolutionary terms, between beast and man. The nomenclature is in no way scientific, however, as the halfman shares 98% DNA with humans. Being a fearsome predator and omnivorous, the halfman is well suited to survival. Barring any cataclysm that might alter its habitat, the halfman is unlikely to evolve into a more human like state.

HISTORY: Halfmen did not evolve from humans, like the bogren and the horg, but share a common ancestor. They thrive primarily in tropical rain forests. After the Great Cataclysm, mass deforestation and loss of prey reduced their numbers to near extinction levels, as with 99% of all other species. No more than a thousand are thought to remain in the wildwood near Kratos, but since the wildwood is too vast and dangerous to be charted, precise numbers are impossible to ascertain.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Halfmen are truly terrifying to encounter. Adult males have been weighed at between 350 to 400 lbs. Their spines are curved so that they appear to be stooping, and they walk partly on their knuckles, supporting their weight on massive arms the length and breadth of which equal their thighs. In its natural position, the halfman stands between 6′ and 6 1/2′ tall, but a fully stretched corpse has been measured at more than 7′  from head to toe. A halfman skull is characterized by deep set eye sockets, a wide nostril ridge, and extremely long, jagged teeth of about 3″ to 4″. Like human fingernails, halfman teeth grow continuously, often pushing out older teeth. Its claws possess similar qualities. The halfman’s most striking feature is its shaggy fur, which reddens with age from yellow (at birth) to orange (children) to red (young adult) to crimson (aged).

BEHAVIOR: Halfmen are solitary hunters rarely seen with others of its kind. Adult males have been known to kill each other over a kill, which might explain their preference for seclusion. They prefer ambush tactics to direct chases, hiding high in the treetops under cover of foliage. The halfman kills in a variety of ways, including breaking the spines of smaller prey, bashing skulls in with rocks, even using pointed weapons against larger prey. Its claws, though lethal, are used primarily for wounding. Should the halfman’s quarry escape the initial ambush, the halfman is not averse to giving chase. With remarkable speed and agility, a combination of bipedal movement and swinging from branches, they can outrun most creatures of the forest.

SOCIETY: Being that its resemblance to humans is minimal, the name half man may refer, instead, to the species’ human like intelligence. Halfmen use language (but cannot write), bury their dead, and can make fire and simple tools. These tools consist of clubs, crude obsidian tipped spears, daggers with obsidian shafts, and hammers made with stones and sticks fastened by twine. They will adorn themselves in the blood of their kill, to darken their fur and grow their social standing, and may also wear trophies of bone and sinew. Despite their intellect, they are utterly lacking in curiosity, prone to superstition, and easily fearful. They have even been known to hide from a thunderstorm. When it comes to foreign species, halfmen are shy and reclusive, just as likely to hide from a human as to attack one. But they are quite social among their own kind. Villages consist of a central fire pit, used for cooking and heating, and crudely thatched huts made of mud, straw and sticks. Except for hunting or to look for water, halfmen rarely wander far from their tribe, and even then, it is only the adult males who do so. Females and children have never been seen in the wild. For this reason, it is believed that they are extremely protective of their families. Halfmen rarely migrate, but if forced to abandon their homes, they make certain to hide any evidence of habitation.

The eldest and most revered of the species is the shaman. Though never proven to exist, Kratan rangers describe the shaman as a blood-red creature with loose fur, bone piercings, and bone trinkets. Shamans are said to carry small carved objects called totems. Through use of the totem, the shaman is thought to curry favor from the gods.

Guns vs. Nudity: What is Truly Offensive?

Again I feel compelled to alienate potential readers with my stance on gun control. Both my brother and my best friend are card carrying members of the NRA, and yet I feel morally obligated to champion this cause, and the view held by more than half of all Americans. We are morally obligated to make it harder for criminals and terrorists to obtain guns. We are morally obligated to shut down the gun show / online store loophole. And we must ban semi-automatic weapons, and oversized magazine clips which can serve no purpose but for the zombie apocalypse. We should also be encouraging, not prohibiting, organizations like the CDC to do the proper research with regards to gun safety. If the NRA is truly confident in its position, why not allow a third party to prove it?

I happened to be vacationing with my family in Orlando when the terrible shooting that claimed 49 lives took place. Of course, with a wife and two kids, I was nowhere near any gay bars, but it’s frightening just the same, because in the theme park capital of the world, crowds are always plentiful and security is often lax. With millions of impatient visitors eager to jump on the latest rollercoaster, and parks eager to accommodate those visitors, we go through the motions of what can only be described as ‘security theater.’ Someone determined to get beyond the underpaid staff poking around your backpack is going to succeed. Even if security were to be beefed up, there are enough potential victims waiting in line to make the recent shooting seem tame by comparison.

Here’s the sad truth: this is going to happen again. It’s only a matter of time. And when it does, the same rhetoric will get bandied back and forth. What we are not seeing is change, change to help lessen these occurrences, or, when they are likely to happen, change to ensure less people suffer.

Every time a mass shooting takes place, gun advocates refer to their talking points, framing the conversation as to divert from gun legislation. It can’t be the guns. Blame anything and everything but the guns. After Newtown, the NRA insisted mental health was the core issue. If we could rein in every troubled teen, they argued, we could solve the problem of gun violence. This, of course, seems a more reasonable position to a gun lover: legislating people instead of things. But the massacre in Orlando had everything to do with religion and homophobia. Had we listened to the NRA and focused our efforts on the mentally ill, we’d still be mourning the loss of 49 innocent people. Now Donald Trump proposes we lay the blame on Muslims. Again, we are presented with the solution of regulating people rather than things, which is somehow constitutional, whereas gun control remains a violation of civil liberties. So lock up anyone with a history of mental disorder, lock up anyone who is Muslim, and lock up anyone who doesn’t like gays. This might work, until another shooting happens under a different motive. Perhaps a fundamentalist pro-lifer will gun down an abortion clinic. Eventually, we will run out of scape goats, and our capacity to lay blame on people with grievances, because reasons for mass murder might as well be infinite. And when all is said and done, when hundreds, maybe thousands more are killed, we will be left with the problem of guns.

I distinctly recall my first visit to Barnes & Nobles, circa 20 years ago. The magazine section was extensive. Of particular interest to me was N Magazine, which featured naturism, but after two weeks the publication was pulled from the shelves. But what remains to this day are High Times and Guns & Ammo, because apparently, nudity is more offensive than drugs or killing.


Advocates like to paint the gun debate in terms of freedom vs. tyranny, but this is not the reality. Absolute freedom is an American myth. Historically, what people can and cannot do has always been curtailed by common sense restrictions. You cannot legally drink and drive a car because it’s dangerous. You cannot smoke at a gas station or use your cell phone on an airplane for the same reasons. We all abide by these rules without a qualm, but when it comes to guns, we are beholden to the notion that freedom trumps safety. Why? It boils down to one simple word: MONEY. There is a lot of money to be made in the sale of bullets and pistols and semi-automatic rifles, and this money pays for lobby groups like the NRA, who pay off our politicians. Innocent civilians are dying for profit.

I can think of no other, more personal decision than what I choose to wear, if anything at all. Last time I checked, no one has ever been killed by the sight of a nipple or a penis. And if you really think about it, a penis is a kind of reverse-gun, creating life instead of taking it away, but should I decide to visit even a remote part of the beach in nothing but my skin, I’d get arrested, and possibly be put on the Sex Offender Registry List, to forever be associated with rapists and child molesters. If, on the other hand, I were to show up at a Starbucks armed to the teeth, I’d be heralded, by about half of all Americans, as a patriot. Again this begs the question of why. Why is the sight of the human body, something that has never harmed anyone, deemed illegal and offensive, while owning a device that exists for no other purpose but to kill regarded an inalienable right? I have no doubt aliens would find this dichotomy, between what is “modest” and what constitutes “freedom” utterly absurd, which is perhaps why they have yet to visit us. But again, I have the answer: there is no money to be made in public nudity. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Imagine how much revenue the clothing industry will lose when people realize the uselessness of bathing suits?

Open Carry March on March 12, 2014

This is legal.


This is not.







If we truly wish to lessen the frequency of mass shootings, not to stop, mind you, but to lessen, we need the political will to pass new safety legislation. The will must come from the people. Celebrities like Seth McFarlane, Samantha Bee, and Stephen Colbert have all come out for sensible legislation. Even Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly admitted “you can’t have a bazooka.” It’s only a matter of time before we’ll look back at this gruesome era of gun violence and wonder how we could have waited so long. How many more needless deaths before common sense prevails?


Now before you start sending me your comments, consider that I’ve read all of the arguments, and have fully addressed them here in an earlier post: One Dead Child is One Too Many









Merquid (singular or plural), otherwise known as gill, or waterlings to the avian people, are relatively benign, reclusive creatures. It is thought they are the oldest intelligent species on Aenya. Tales of sailors encountering merquid can be found among the most ancient of Hedonian and Shemseliniharan texts, featuring prominently in the Ages of Aenya and among the myths and lore of coastal cities and villages. Before the Great Cataclysm, merquid dominated the planet, living in ocean-vast cities that have since become desert. What remains of their species is now concentrated along the coasts and depths of the One Sea.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Merquid are amphibious anthropoids, but despite their humanoid like appearance, differ biologically in significant ways, and having evolved independently, are of no relation to humans or other humanoid species. Their hide consists of a waxy membrane not dissimilar to a jellyfish, reinforced by chitinous, fish like scales. The torso narrows much more than a human, so that a fully grown adult, at 5′ in height, measures from shoulder to shoulder like a ten year old boy, tapering to a waist half that width. This shape allows the merquid to glide effortlessly through the water, but on land serves as a disadvantage; being top heavy and unaccustomed to bipedal movement, merquid move slowly and awkwardly on land. While merquid possess both gills and mammalian-type lungs, allowing them to breathe in and out of water, their tender membranes dry quickly. A merquid can die of bodily “thirst” after a single day without moisture. While benign in appearance, merquid can become terrifying when threatened or hunting prey. With a set of retractable teeth, much like an angler fish in appearance, and barbed claws and wide glossy eyes the size of teacups, a distressed merquid can give any sailor pause. Depending on the region of the Sea from which they spawn, merquid may differ in size, color and with regards to the shape and location of their fins, as might types of shark. While these other groups, or schools, are thought to be of another species, this is a misconception, owing to the fact that a majority of merquid are encountered by fishermen in and around the coast of Sarnath, and little to nothing is known of their kind from lesser explored parts of the Sea.

HISTORY: While next to nothing is known of their history, merquid once congregated along the coasts of the One Sea, building strange monuments of coral. But with the rise of human settlements, violence against the species became common. At Sarnath, upon which the city of Hedonia was founded, merquid were hunted down and burned, and as the species is relatively peaceful and soft bodied, they had no recourse but to return to the depths. For this reason, it is believed, merquid avoid confrontations with humans to this day.


Xandr vs. the Merquid by Tazio Bettin

CULTURE: Owing to their alien minds, comprehension of merquid culture may be nigh impossible, which might explain the many misunderstandings and resentments between human and merquid over the ages. Among their many oddities, there is no concept of action or use of any verbs in the merquid language. Everything in their society can be described as simply a state of “being.” Their perception of time may also differ. Vocal sounds are made through a number of water-filled cavities in their skulls, making their language impossible for others to learn or speak, but varies enough so that merquid can mimic any sound to communicate with any species. Females lay spherical eggs the size of melons, which are often mistaken for giant pearls due to their color and texture. Every year, tens of thousands of eggs are produced. Males move them into protective coral houses, known as pods, while fending off predators. After only thirty days, eggs from the same pod hatch simultaneously. Newborns swarm among the females without any affinity for the biological parent. Merquid exist solely for the community, without any concept of marriage or family. In defense of their offspring, however, they are aggressive and violent, and will not think twice before giving their lives to preserve the species as a whole. Though rare, merquid may go rogue, separating themselves from their schools to travel the Sea. Encounters with humans have resulted in limited trade and emulation of human habits. While land fabrics typically disintegrate in salt water after time, merquid have developed aquatic alternatives, using shell, pearl and seaweeds with which to adorn themselves.

TECHNOLOGY: Merquid use primitive tools made of shell, coral and barbs from urchins and mollusks. Much of their technology is based on a type of symbiosis with other aquatic species. While their relationship with other living organisms remains a mystery, merquid have been known to manipulate massive crustacean and cephalopods to their purposes.

RELIGION: Even less is known of merquid religion, if one exists as humans perceive it. According to the High Priests of Hedonia, merquid worship an enormous squid known as Gulgola, which may or may not refer to Tsunamis, a monster described by Omeos, a Hedonian poet.  

I looked out across the waters

and there came Tsunamis

mightiest of the depth’s demons

that with flailing arms,

shook the seas,

and split beams of ships,

and made cities fall

—Omeos, Hedonian poet



Xandr vs. Purple Death Adder by Alexey Lipatov

Septhera (plural), otherwise known as snake men, reptile-kin or lizardfolk, are a long extinct race that ruled over Aenya approximately twenty thousand years ago, or 10,000—9000 BGM (Before the Greater Moon). They are infamous for having enslaved the early race of man or protohuman. Traces of their civilization have been mostly lost beneath the sands of the Dead Zones. However, Shess, a prominent city now in ruins, can be found far to the west of the Great White Flat. Descendants of the Septhera are rumored to exist. Remarkably adaptable, these “snake spawn” alter their skin, much like a chameleon, to take on a more human appearance. Despised by the native races of Aenya, these progeny of the Septhera live in hiding as nomadic merchant traders, though some are hired as assassins due to their stealth and face changing ability.

HISTORY: With little material evidence, what is known of Septheran history is conjecture, pieced together by pictographs found on ruin walls and fragments from the Ages of Aenya, the lost tome of Zo historian, Eldin. Despite the lack of knowledge, Septheran history is of crucial importance, as their past is inseparable from that of early man. The history of the Septhera is, in essence, the history of Aenya.

Aeons ago, before history was recorded, when humans and halfmen shared many characteristics, there existed a civilization beyond this world, that shone among the stars like a pale dot against the sun. This world was wet, warm and tropical. Massive reptilian creatures, called saurians, dominated its landscape, and of these, two became self-aware. The first were the Xexaz, but so little is known of them that they are referred by Eldin as the Forgotten. Xexaz were large, slow moving, and deeply curious about the nature of existence. But as they focused their acumen on their ever expanding understanding of the universe, their bodies deteriorated, and the lesser race, which valued strength, came to wage war against the elder. Stealing technologies they could not replicate or comprehend, the Septhera soon dominated the planet, and in doing so, doomed themselves to extinction. What they did not know was that their sun was expanding, and had been expanding for untold aeons. Only the Xexaz knew to keep the sun from scorching their world, but as the Septhera had slaughtered them to the last, intent on driving the elder race to extinction, their only recourse was escape. In a massive ship, called the Ark, the Septhera gathered those of royal blood and their servants, along with the giant saurians they most valued for meat and labor, and set to the stars in search of a new home.

When the Ark landed upon Aenya c. twenty millenniums ago, the Septhera found a primitive world, far different than what is known today. Only the merquid, who dwelt in vast coral cities spanning planet-wide bodies of water called oceans, could contest them, but being elusive creatures, the merquid paid the newcomers little mind. The protohumans on the land, however, were simple hunters and gatherers. They did not wear clothes or build shelters, but knew to make fire and bury their dead, and use farming tools like the spade and the hoe, and weapons like the spear and the atlatl. Primitive and scattered, the protohumans were no match for the Septhera, who were physically stronger and faster, and armed with steel. For centuries, men and women were herded like livestock, forced to do labor, fight for entertainment, and at times, used as food. It was not until a man known as Batal, who was made to battle a Septheran prince, did the protohuman revolt en masse. Martyring himself to defeat the greatest of their race, Batal proved humans capable of overthrowing their masters. Once organized, the Septhera were overwhelmed by superior numbers, and when the last of their kind, their Pharaoh, was slain, the newly united race declared that they were, “free from slavery and death,” calling the new age, The Age of Life, and themselves the Zo, a word meaning “Life.”


Septhera by David Pasco

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: The Septhera vary in appearance greatly, but all have scales, elongated and flexible necks that can turn in a complete circle and move independently from the torso, and tails between half and double the length of the body. Females stand between 5′ and 6′, while males can grow up to 8′ with neck extended. In hue, Septhera can be utterly black, green, red, purple or multicolored. Fangs can grow from 3″ to 9″. Stripes, ovals and diamond patterns along the arms, legs and tail are common among females, the more colorful, the more attractive to a male. Though smaller, females are just as agile and deadly. Septheran royals can be identified by their hoods, a membrane that expands from the head and neck, and are the only of their kin to produce natural venom. Death by venom, which is known as the “purple death,” is quick and painful. Bony ridges and hard scaly protrusions define the lesser castes. While clothing is unknown to the species, Septhera adorn themselves in elaborate ornaments of gold, whether bangles, necklaces, or tattoo like plating implanted directly onto their scales. Their weapons are finely wrought and deadly works of steel, curved like their teeth, which include daggers, scythes, sickles, khopeshes, and the moon blade, named for the waning crescent of the moon. Physically, Septhera are stronger and faster than humans; they are also ambidextrous and can jump from a standing position up to 15′. Despite these advantages, their lack of imagination and inability to organize served their downfall.

CULTURE: Females abandon their eggs in sand. A Septheran comes into the world alone and fights for survival from birth. For this reason, they are physiologically incapable of compassion or mercy, or of even understanding the suffering of others. Mating between Septhera is a brief and often violent affair, and it is not uncommon for males to be killed in the process. Their only respect is for power and so their society revolves around a power hierarchy. The lowest caste are workers and slavers, followed by warriors, with royals at the top. Status is attained by killing someone of equal or higher status, which is why those of the royal caste must continually prove themselves worthy in battle. This is why, it is thought, when a lowly human (Batal) managed to slay a royal and prince in battle, the social hierarchy was thrown into chaos.

First came the Xexaz
And the Quid bowed to them
And the Ilman bowed to them
And the Seps bowed to them
But with Time the Seps envied
And stole the fire of the stars
And stole the words from the minds
And the Life from the Xexaz
Now the Quid hid in the waters
And the Ilman of the mountains in the clouds
And the Ilman of the woods in the woods
But the Ilman of the land hid in himself
and became Man
Then was the Seps
And Man bowed to them.

A Poor Work Ethic Leads to Disaster: My Fight with an Illustrator

Updated 01/21/18

I am not the type of person to hold a grudge. If I feel that someone has wronged me, I try to settle the issue in as civilized a manner as possible. No good comes from harboring hatred in your heart.

Two years ago, I got into a dispute with an illustrator. I had asked him to paint an avian for me, a humanoid bird species from Ages of Aenya, but what he gave me was deeply unsatisfying. It looked very little like what I had envisioned, and the artist never sent me a proof so that I could approve it.

Despite my disappointment, I paid the artist what we agreed upon, because I am a man of my word. From the onset, it was clear that he only cared about getting paid, and not in making his client happy. But what he ended up sending me was a low-res, 1 MB file, too small for a book, or any kind of print marketing. I had basically spent $250 on an image I could hardly use. All I asked of him, at this point, was for a higher res image. If he did not have it (and I cannot imagine how or why this could be possible) he could always have gone back to the drawing board. But he made no such offer. At this point, I felt I had no recourse but to ask Paypal to intervene. I had already paid him in full, but I really did not want my money back, just a picture of an avian that looked something like the one in my book, one that I could actually use in my book. Instead of doing what we agreed upon, he tried to discredit me on DeviantArt, telling people how I had cheated him. This was certain to hurt my reputation. Other artists might be afraid to work with me if they thought I would not pay them. Fortunately, and despite this person’s sincerest efforts, I have had zero problems with commissions. Over a decade and a half—since 1999—I have worked with numerous talented people, building relationships along the way, some of whom have become my friends. People who have collaborated with me do not ask about getting paid. We never discuss contracts or dollar amounts, because they know I can be trusted. My latest piece, Thelana and the Nereid, was completed by Mr. Alexey Lipatov before I sent him a dime. You can see the gallery Mr. Lipatov and I made together here, which might make you wonder how what Mr. Troll says about me is true.

But like I said, I don’t do grudges. I never once acted to hurt Mr. Troll in any way. I never once visited his page to badmouth him. I have never once spread lies about him, or made attempts to hurt his reputation. Have you noticed how, even as I write this, Mr. Troll remains anonymous?

So why am I going about this after two years? Well, as I was reminded earlier today, the trolling behavior just, isn’t, letting, up. Believe it or not, Mr. Troll continues to find ways to harass me. After blocking him and his pseudonyms from this blog, he started spewing his hateful rhetoric on my DeviantArt page. When I blocked him there, he made fake accounts (two so far), which he promptly deleted as soon as he had his say. His comments involve my having written a boring, badly-written, uninteresting and unoriginal novel, and telling me straight-out how I am going to die a failure. He has even gone so far as to insult my “crappy” restaurant! This is stalkerish behavior, as you can tell, because I almost never discuss my other business online. I assume he combed through my biography, looking for content to throw back at me. I won’t be surprised if I find him digging through my trash one day. The ironic thing is, if I do nothing in my life but stay in the restaurant, I can say I have been successful, because we are doing very well thankyouverymuch. If anything has made me unhappy, it is my own ambition.

What is perhaps most egregious, Mr. Troll was the first person on Amazon to notice that my book was on sale. Honest to God, I did not even know it was out before he did. This, really makes me wonder, does Mr. Troll seriously have nothing better to do?

Here’s the thing Mr. Troll probably doesn’t know. I have two kids, and one of them is seriously pursuing a career in art. What she has managed to do at her age astounds me, and I have no doubt she will someday be making commissions through some online platform like DeviantArt. First, I will teach her to have a good work ethic, and secondly, I will tell her to always carefully consider what the client is asking for. Of course, I hope nobody ever cheats her, but even if it happens, I won’t be turning into Mr. Troll, and I know that she won’t either. Keeping vendettas hurts mostly the people who hold them.    

The following is my 70+ e-mail exchange, between myself and Mr. Troll. This stands as my defense, should anyone believe the stories Mr. Troll continues to tell. I feel that the record speaks for itself.


I am using this platform to set the record straight. Some of my friends have told me I am being petty, but is it petty to defend yourself from a lie? Especially when that lie can be used to hurt your professional career?

Whenever you hire someone from the web, you run the risk of getting scammed. This is especially problematic when it comes to commissions, because no matter how carefully you describe the image in your mind, there is always going to be some interpretation. The beauty of literature, however, is that the reader can imagine things in his own way, so I have come to accept, and even to prefer, a level of interpretation. That being said, as a writer you expect a modicum of accuracy. If you were to draw Thelana in a bikini, for instance, it would not be Thelana. This is why it is so important for a writer and an illustrator to properly communicate. I know so many talented artists who simply do not know how to listen. Because of this, I am forced to vet my illustrators before I hire them for anything major, like a book cover, which can cost up to $4000. Would you hand someone you’ve never met four grand? I think not. There needs to be a way to determine whether the person you’re hiring is right for the job, and so I asked Mr. Troll to first illustrate my avian species.

Seventy-five e-mails later, I ended up with a picture I am unsatisfied with, $250 less money, and an artist telling people I am a liar and a cheat. Despite paying him every penny we agreed upon, he claims I defrauded him, because I did not hire him for the book cover job (that job went to the wonderfully talented and great to work with Zhengyi Yu).

Getting to the truth of these he-said/she-said arguments can be tricky, but I have the whole story here, our entire e-mail exchange. You’ll notice we were very cordial to each other at first, but at some point everything went off the rails.

I point out the relevant bits in red.


Hi there! I saw your job topic in the deviant art forum I don’t know if its over yet or you found somebody. I’m interested in doing book covers and do the best I can on whatever I get my hands on. you can check that out in my portfolio and my experience on my linkedin. Is this a book you’re making? What’s the book about? Best regards ________________________________________

Greetings, Felipe, I wanted to let you know that I received an unusual number of portfolios from a great many talented artists. Currently, I am in the process of making the final decision as to the person best suited for the cover. But after looking over your gallery, I think you may be better suited for some other projects I had in mind, if that is OK with you. [Felipe claims I offered him $1000 for a cover, but here is proof to the contrary.]  The Aenya setting has been a passion project of mine for over 15 years. I have dedicated countless hours to writing about it (two books and counting) and have been commissioning and producing art for it since 1999. If you want to know more, I suggest a visit to my blog and gallery. I use this art for promotional reasons, and also, to more fully realize the world I am building. There is a race in my book, the avian, which can be imagined as a cross between a bird and a human. Nobody has been able to figure them out visually, but with your penchant for creature design, I think you may be up to the task. Secondly, I noticed you have an equipment section on your page. This is very unusual. None of the artists who’ve queried me have such a thing. The heroine in my novel, Thelana, uses a combination bow and sword. It is neither magical nor highly technological, but mechanical in design. Basically, the sword comes apart and, using a series of gears and pulleys, produces adequate tension for an arrow to fire (much like a modern bow). Again, after going over your gallery, I think you may be uniquely qualified to figure this out. As for the cover, I am still undecided. Right now, you’re the runner up, behind two others. But it has been my experience that the value of an artist goes beyond his portfolio. Much depends on how well we can communicate and work together. So, if you’d be interested in these other projects, please let me know. In this field, fostering good relations with talented people is invaluable. Sincerely, Nick A. ________________________________________

Hey Nick Well, first of all. Thank you for the contact. And thanks for the compliments on my work. I’ve been doing this professionaly since 2012 now since I finished my studies in Industrial design. Right now I don’t have much work in my portfolio because I’ve arrived to a new step on my level of illustration so you might not see much of it right now. But I’ve worked for Paizo Publishing and some others in the topic of “items”, “creature illustration” and “character illustration”. I’m shifting slowly into becoming a book cover illustrator and for that I took a course with Donato Giancola last year. It was an amazing experience and it’s pretty much what made me realize that book cover is for me the way I want to take things. By other hand, I’m really comfy working on items and the creature design aspect. That would be really easy for me to do and fun. So I’m more than open to fill that part. [Here, Felipe accepts my offer to do a ‘creature design,’ not a cover]. Let me know whe you’ll be requiring these things so I can build up a legal document that gets us into a nice business agreement. Best regards! ________________________________________

Felipe, We can start any time you are ready. As for the contract, I typically do half down and half at completion. Also, I like to see some rough sketches before the line art, and then the line art before the coloring and shading. That way, we both end up happy. Which would you like to tackle first, the avian or the bow-sword? Let me know so I can send you a detailed description. ________________________________________

Oh. I don’t really do lineart. But I’ll send sketches and such. I’ll send you the document tomorrow. ________________________________________

Oh! I’m very sorry about not sending the document yet. I’ve been swarmed with work and have to take care of some business to get back to Colombia to my girlfriend in bit more than a week. I realized that we never discussed prices. How much would you value my work for those 2 assets. Regards.


Felipe, Price is usually determined by the artist and by the work to be done. If you don’t already have standard rates, I suggest posting them somewhere on your page. Depending on the complexity of the piece, the number of characters, and experience of the artist, I have paid between $150 to $300. Covers typically go for a lot more. Let me know if this sounds reasonable. If not, we can set up a chat over gmail. Thanks, Nick


hey Nick Yeah that sounds fare. I would charge you $200 for the sword/bow design and same for the character since it’s an easy one. Let me know and I’ll set up the document with specifications. regards and thanks for the patience. ________________________________________

Last thing Nick! Sorry for it. Do you have any delivery dates in mind? I think I could be able to do all of this in a couple of weeks since I have some previous works first to be delivered. thanks


I am not in a hurry, but I cannot wait forever, either. A few weeks should be fine. Let me know when you’re ready to work and I can send the details. Welcome, Nick ________________________________________

Felipe, I read over the contract but found a few problems. No. #1, The contract stipulates that I will be commissioning you for both the avian and the bow/sword, however, I cannot be sure of this until after I am satisfied with the first piece. I have no qualms signing a second contract after the first piece is complete, but this contract should be for one piece only, at $200. No. #2, This contract offers me no protections. It states that I must pay half before the work begins and then the other half before the work is complete. Usually, when it comes to commissions, the risk is split 50/50. I take on the initial risk, paying $100 up front for a rough sketch, and you take on the lesser secondary risk, receiving the second half of the payment (of $100) after the work is complete. I hope this is satisfactory and that you can make the changes so we can get to work! Thanks, Nick

[This is the point at which I should have known not to hire this guy. He asks that I pay him up front, before starting any work, and that I pay the second half BEFORE he finishes the final piece. The contract offers me no concessions, and favors him in every way.]  


Hey Nick. I’ve always worked with final payment BEFORE any final work is delivered. I always send a sample of the final product in a reduced format and if the client is satisfied, will proceed to pay. If not.. the client would be able to refuse payment and I would stay with the image. I see no threat in there. Plus, if I happened to be “scamming”you it would be my professional career in the line. Either way, my apologies, makes no sense. It’s not that I don’t trust you, Nick. But this is the way our professional community of illustrators, even so, graphic designers, make their approach to work and has ever taught us to handle legal terms. By that I mean big illustration figures, like Donato Giancola, former professor of mine. I can change the document to only 1 commission, that is not a problem. I hope you understand and we could get to an agreement. Thank you for understanding, Felipe ________________________________________

Felipe, Please keep in mind that I have been doing this a long time. If you peruse my gallery, you will see that my first commission was made in 1999. That was 17 years ago! As for “scamming” me, I am not worried that I will pay you and that you will give me nothing in return; rather, I am worried about the kinds of things that have happened to me before, with many “professional” artists, who I will (naturally) never work with again. For example, I worked with an artist on a Thelana portrait, but thought he’d made her breasts too big. I asked him to make them smaller, and he told me “I don’t do corrections,” and I was stuck with something I could not use and was unhappy with. Another time, after paying the artist in full, he decided he didn’t want to do a background (though we had decided this beforehand) and again, I was stuck doing it myself in Photoshop. Most artists that know me don’t even send me a contract, because after so many years, they know I can be trusted. As for your professional reputation being at stake, it isn’t as easy as you think for someone like me to ruin it. I really could do nothing about the artists who (I feel) ripped me off. But we can do this. We can stipulate in the contract that you will send me a lower res final before the second payment is made. If I am satisfied with the lower res final, I will send you the rest of the payment and you will in turn send me the hi res file. Deal?

[Right here, you can see that I specifically asked for a hi res file to complete our deal. He sent me a 1 MB file instead and claimed it was “hi-res”].


Of course Nick. You don’t need my word on it. It’s a must. And I’m very sorry you had to deal with people like that. In terms of corrections I do take care of not going to far away. My process goes usually to: 1) sending sketches and thumbnails – corrections and opinions 2) sending color comp over that – corrections and opinions over the advancement or any detail left behind 3) Moving to final – in this final stage I don’t generally do corrections because they’re not needed, but if it’s something minimal like … “breast reduction” (._.) it can be arranged no problem. But what I say “no” to is generally corrections or changes towards composition or adding more characters out of thin air. Because generally it wastes more time… and time is money, not meaning that I’m a greedy man, but that in that time for the same kind of money (zero money) I could be doing personal stuff for my portfolio. But as you told me the story of the guy that said “I don’t do corrections”… well that’s a bit too rude. I will rewrite the document and send it to you. I will go only for the avian character if that’s not much of a problem. Regards and thank you for your patience. Very sorry for all the time wasted.


I’ve never used this service to sign a document before. Usually it’s printed and faxed. I feel it is important to note that I am hoping to foster a good working relationship for any and all future projects. That’s the sort of thing you can’t legally manufacture. So, here’s hoping for the best outcome!


thank you Nick. If you may send me the briefing of the character so I can provide you with sketches. regards


Felipe, OK, I think the better you understand the character, the better job you’ll do. So here’s a brief history: About 20k years ago, Aenya was invaded by a reptilian race. Humanity was very primitive at the time, and so most were were enslaved. But a few escaped to the mountains. Those early mountain dwellers idolized all things that could fly. It became a religion to them. Gradually, they developed techniques for drifting on air, managing further and further distances. With the coming of new bio-technology, they started to tinker with their essences (their DNA) to produce feathered infants. After millennia of controlled evolution, these humans managed to become a new species: the avian. Appearance: Body: Avians are far more slender than humans; with willowy arms and legs (think of a bat); though their torsos are pretty well developed. From head to toe, they are covered in feathers. Extending from their arms, from between the edge of the hand (pinkie side) to the heel, they have a membrane of feathers by which they glide. The feathers extend beyond the arms for upward flight, and can be made to retract so they can make use of their hands. Their feet are five-toed, long and taloned, a cross between a monkey and a bird. Face: Avians have enormous, glassy eyes, about the size of lemons, that wrap partly about their faces. The nose and lips is more human like, although they like to wear abstract masks resembling various bird species. Clothing: Avians are very proud and like to show off. They wear ornamentation mostly for show. They are fond of bands with intricate patterns about the wrists, neck and ankles, gold inlaid with semi-precious stones. Krow: Specifically, the avian you are drawing is named Krow. I mention this because, while avians vary in plumage, his is entirely black, like a crow. Nick PS: Any questions, please let me know. PPS: The closer you follow the description, the less redesigns we will need! ________________________________________

Greetings Felipe, I have not heard from you in 5 days. How is our project coming along? Keep me posted. Nick A.


Hi Nick ! Sorry for the late response man. I’m gonna be honest with you. I’ve been looking for some toher clients and my VISA because on Wednesday I’m moving to Colombia to live. So I’m in a bit of a tight schedule right now and I’m really sorry for the delay. I’ll get you some sketches in a bit and I’ll get back to you again once I’m in Colombia all settled. that would be this Thursday. Awfuly sorry for this again. regards ________________________________________

Hey Nick! Here’s the sketch I did some face tests. Since I kinda have difficulties picturing the face of the character. The body I imagine that he’s crouching over a rock and you can see fully it’s anatomy. let me know your thoughts so I can take it a step more towars the full presentation and such. Also! If you have some picture references that come close to this, send em in. So we have a nice flow on this cheers! ________________________________________

Felipe, I am really liking the face in the top right corner. The glimmer in the eyes is great. If you could expand on that, that’d be even better. I also like the beak mask (I am assuming it is a mask) on the bottom right, but I imagined something fuller, one that encompasses the whole face. As for the body sketch, it’s a bit too vague for me to tell whether it works [Here I specifically state that the body sketch is too vague, but he never sends me another sketch for approval], but I can say that the wings are too big. Keep in mind they are extending out from the arms. I do have a pic I can show you. BTW: I like what you’ve done here, showing the face next to the full body pic. I’d like to do the same thing with the completed piece, showing face and body beside one another. Nick PS: Per our contract, I am to pay 50% down before you make any sketches, but I have not paid you yet. Do you prefer Paypal? ________________________________________


This is the one and only sketch I received. I never approved the body.

Hi Nick! Sorry for the late response again. I’m currently settled in Colombia now so I’m getting back to all my clients with advancements and news on everything just now. I made the color comp and followed a little bit on the sketch you put there. I’m maintaining a sort of …bigger wing span because it’s kind of improbable that something actually flies without a big wing dimension on that torso size. Otherwise you’ll be seeing more of a feathery decoration as the example you put there. I hope you can understand that point of view on the design that I’m doing for you. If you still want them short and less “bird like” I can do it in the last arrangements. I’m also putting a bit more decoration on the character since you said they have that. So I’m adding rings and golden chains and such. I must have forgotten to put my Paypal account for the first part of the payment. I’ll be waiting for the half of the payment. Regards ________________________________________

Hi Nick! Delivery is today! And I haven0t got an answer over the character. Let me know so I can finish it. regards! [This is the exact moment when everything went to shit. I was quite shocked to see a fully colored, completed avian in my in-box, because I never approved of anything but the face, and unfortunately, there were many, many things that were inaccurate about the illustration. In the following e-mail, I try to be gentle with my critique.]  


Felipe, Sorry, I didn’t realize “delivery” was today. I was never concerned with the date of completion, only that the completed product is done correctly. If it does not look like the character in the book, it is of zero use to me. The reason I sent you the little history of the avian race was to help you from a design perspective. These are not birds that turned into men; these are men that turned into birds. I appreciate that you were looking at things from an aerodynamic viewpoint, but keep in mind this is a different planet, so the gravity and the atmosphere are entirely different and may provide greater buoyancy. I am more concerned with things making sense from an evolutionary perspective (something most Sci-Fi gets wrong); it has to look like wings developed as a natural extension of the human arm. Also, the arm still has to work like an arm, because these are intelligent beings that do all the things humans do (use weapons, build stuff, etc.). As for the funds, I’ll drop $100 in your account today. Thanks, Nick ________________________________________

Ok Nick! I’ll try do the last fixing on the wings towards being more… arm like. I will count this as the entire correction you need on the character [What!? See, this is the problem right here, he takes it upon himself to ‘count this’ as the only correction needed. Keep in mind, he still never got an OK from me for the body.] so I’m gonna think that everything else (color, presentation, posture and jewelry) is alright. [Again … What? Why?!?] Oh! And is not necessary that you pay me right away. I really want you to be satisfied with the product, so I’ll send you the definitive image today and if you think if it is of no use, you can feel free to not use it and not pay me the rest of the money. I wouldn’t take it personal at all. regards and thanks for the prompt response! ________________________________________

Felipe, For whatever reason, I had trouble downloading the full body pic until now. I have to say, I really, really love what you’ve done with the mask. The colors / feathers / textures are all good. But it needs more human elements. I think you could touch up the body a bit to make it seem more like a human torso. Also, the ankles should be more human / apelike, and the arms. [He never makes any of these corrections.] Aside from that, I would really like to see what you did before, a close up of the face without the mask (if this is extra, that is fine) — just to let the viewer know what the character looks like without it. So far so good. Nick PS: If all goes well, I should have more work for you.


Hey Nick! This is the final! [He sends the final without making any of the changes I asked for. The final looks virtually the same as the very first pic he sent!] I hope you like it cheers!


and I just read the email you sent and doing the face without the mask would kind of be out of the deal. I don’t have problems on making a close up on the face with the mask though. But if you want me to repaint the inside and go for the face without the mask you can deposit me $50usd more and that would do it. no problem. Just add it to the final payment and I’ll send you the final tomorrow. regards! ________________________________________

Felipe, You sent me one very loose sketch, that I could barely make out, and which I told needed to look more human, and then you send me the finished piece. You never gave me the opportunity to approve a revised sketch. If you had, I could have told you the feet were all wrong. Now, I know you said that I could reject this piece and not pay you. But I really like what you did, and I always pay my artists. I realize there are always going to be differing interpretations on any character. Very few of my commissions turn out 100%, but I am finding it impossible to accept this as is. There is simply no way human feet could have evolved to look like that. How did the ankle become inverted? What happened to the fifth toe? How did the other toes become so long and scaly? You see, this is the reason the avian people wear bird masks, and do not have bird faces. If their feet could have evolved into talons, why not their noses into beaks? You see the inconsistency here? Please keep in mind, Aenya is a serious enterprise for me. I have put 15 years of thought into this, about as much time as Tolkien spent creating Middle Earth. So, it matters that we get this right. I am going to send $125 to your Paypal account (the extra $25 is for the facial portrait) but I cannot use this without more human-like feet (not human exactly, but closer to human). ________________________________________

Oh! My apologies Nick. I must have passed that little detail in the initial briefing, because you do talk about it. I’ll do the changes ASAP and I’ll send to you the image with the close up detail of the face… You do could have told me something in the last color composition though. And I do imagine that your project is serious. Otherwise you wouldn’t be spending money in it. Saludos.


Ok Nick Here’s the final finished piece! It’s a reduced format but you’ll get you the final once the rest of the payment is done. I did the change on the feet which was no trouble for me and the close up of the face without mask. [The only change he makes is adding another toe. He does not shorten or make the feet less scaly. He does not fix the inverted ankles. And, as I asked him in the previous e-mail, he does not make the body more human-like.] I really hope it satisfies your needs, if not you can keep on letting me know corrections and I’ll give you a figure for the updates. regards!


Hey nick! Did you receive the image? Just checking in. Sent from my iPhone ________________________________________

Yes, I got it! It looks fine. [Notice what I say here. I say it looks ‘fine.’ But I am not very happy. At this point, I am tired of dealing with this guy, and I decide to pay him and have done with it.] Did you get the first half of the money? Let me know and I will send you the rest.


Hey Nick If you could please pay me as soon as you can I hate chasing clients for money. Cheers and I hope you’re not too busy or caught you at a bad time. Sent from my iPhone ________________________________________

Hey Felipe, it has only been 2 days since we last spoke. I don’t use Paypal often, and I needed time to transfer the money. It should be in your account by the end of the day. [I was a little annoyed that, after rushing me with a drawing I was quite unhappy with, he is now rushing me for money.] Here is a truism I live by: Don’t worry about the money you’ll be making today, worry about the money you’ll be making tomorrow. Assuming you get this payment right away, what then? You should concern yourself with fostering a good working relationship with your clients. I have more projects in mind for you, but your heart needs to be on making great art. After all, isn’t this why we do what we do? ________________________________________

Nick, If you talk about fostering a good relationship with the people that work for you I wouldn’t go along just preaching about your idea on how to take on with my business here. I do take my job seriously enough and I respect you enough to avoid telling you any idea I have on how you should take on with your writing or your own business. I would ask you to do the same with me here. I have many other clients and things to worry about and I really don’t want to worry about money issues. I find insulting the fact that you remind me every 2 or 3 emails that I should “foster a good relationship with you” just because, which is kind of awkward and obnoxious and is quite the opposite of what many of my clients do. This is not personal and I wish you don’t take it that way, but I really want to stop working with you and dedicate to clients that actually treat me with a fair amount of respect. I hope you have a lot of success in you career and finish your book. Just prioritize paying me for my work and let’s be done with this. Good bye ________________________________________

Felipe, There are a few things you should know, Felipe. This bird-man project was an audition. The real goal was a book cover. A professional book cover, made by a big publisher, runs between $1000 to $4000. This is a large investment, but one I am prepared to pay, if I can find the right person for the job. The problem I have choosing an artist has less to do with talent and more to do with attitude. Too many artists have a big head these days. But this is business, and I am not some stranger critiquing your work, I am a client with a lot of money to invest, who needs to know whether this person I’ve never worked with before is willing and able to put in the effort to product the product I need. Take this bird man character, for instance. From the onset, you seemed more interested discussing contracts and payments than you did design. Don’t get me wrong, what you sent me is fairly accurate, but not what I had envisioned. The avian you made is still too bird-like. But you rushed it, never giving me the chance to approve of even a SINGLE sketch. With other artists, I get three or four sketches before we agree upon one. Listen, you’ve got talent, a lot of it, but it takes far more than that to make it in this world. Trust me. I’ve had to learn this the hard way. I’ve been a writer for 30 years and I still ask readers for advice. If I am working with a publisher or an agent, I do everything I can to listen and improve. For nearly 20 years, I’ve worked with artists, many of them are friends. That’s long enough to see who makes it and who doesn’t, and the artists I know who became successful all have the right attitude. I tell you this only because I hate to see talented people make the same mistakes I did. I have a lifetime of regret because of my big fat ego. At the very least, I should never, EVER have cut off relations with anybody in the business, because you never know where those relationships may lead. This was an audition and you failed it. You may not get it now, but someday you’ll get what I am talking about. Until then, good luck, Nick ________________________________________

Asking for respect is not ego Nick. You’re mistaken. I received your payment and you won’t have to deal with me again. The image is yours to do whatever you want…. for 250 dollars… forever. Consider the things illustrators do for you. Finally, doing corrections and knowing what you want is YOUR WORK not mine. I gave you chances to do corrections at every step I even did final corrections on my expenses for my mistakes and I accepted that, I don’t consider that being too egocentric. I provided a service and did as you wanted. Want something else? Pay more. Because more time is more work hence more moeny. Luckily I charged, made you sign a document and put an amount of fair hours of work over the payment, so I don’t have to consider this a complete waste of my time. Good bye ________________________________________

Offering advice is not disrespect, it is a courtesy. I have been doing this for three decades, Felipe. I was once in your shoes, too proud to listen to anyone. It took me a very long time to realize the error of my ways. As for what you did for me, YOU never gave me a chance to make any changes. You sent me ONE sketch and I didn’t even approve it. You were too eager to finish the piece and get your money. I am telling you, this is very unprofessional, and it is going to hurt you in the long run. Please consider what I am saying, because you’re the only one losing out here. I don’t need an artist to be a paid writer, but you need clients to get paid.


When are you going to send the hi-res file? I need something that can be printed in at least 8 x 11, 300 dpi, without any noticeable pixelation. I accept .jpg and .psd files. ________________________________________

Last image I sent is 3125x2500x300dpi… that makes enough for whatever impression you need.


At less than 1 meg, it gets pretty pixelated when I blow it up. This is the size I use for online purposes only, like posting to DeviantArt. Please send me the complete file, the one you worked on when designing the image. ________________________________________

uhm… that’s the file I worked on. And if you notice… you can put it in Photoshop and it’s almost the size in inches you need. It’s not gonna be a “poster” nick, but if you need it for posting in deviantart you can see I already did and it doesn’t look bad. so i really don’t know what you need.


I don’t think you specified this at any time. I read through the whole chain of emails and… yeah, pretty much nothing. Please don’t contact me again. ________________________________________

I specified a hi-res file. A 1 megabyte file is NOT a hi-res file. I typically receive files over 30 megs from reputable artists. I typically sell and buy prints from deviantArt and this would not pass for printing. This is not an unusual request. I paid $250 for a hi-res file. If you do not send it, I will consider this a breech in our agreement. I do not think you want to risk your reputation on something so trivial as sending over a file. ________________________________________

Excuse me? Oh so you wanted this little something concept art in a cover? Well Nick… I got to say that you never specified this as a cover since you never contracted me for a cover. And 250 for a cover is an insult. If you think you can make me nervous with this you’re wrong. You could have specified the size man. I would have had no problem in doing that. But regretfully this is the size I worked on. I am sorry if I didn’t read your mind dude. But this is a high res file enough to print into a book as a 1/3 page. I don’t even know why am I getting into this discussion. and I’m giving myself the trouble to get into photoshop and confirm that. What is wrong with you. ________________________________________

It does not matter what I wanted it for! I paid for it. I could use it for a poster or a cover or anything. I specified this was for ‘promotional reasons’—this could literally mean anything. As for this notion that it’s too little money for a cover, you really don’t know what you are talking about. There are no standard fees for covers. I know writers who have paid as little as $25 and others up to 10K. The point is, you do not have to read my mind: I cut and pasted the agreement that you violated. And NO, a 1 meg file is NOT a hi-res file. Any professional printer can tell you this. My god, of all the artists I’ve worked with over the past 17 years, this is by far the worst experience I’ve ever had. If you do not send me the proper file, I am going to dispute this with Paypal. I am also going to make certain everyone knows the kind of person you are, so nobody else gets ripped off like I did. OR, you could just send me the damn file. The choice is yours. ________________________________________

Nick… I don’t have a bigger file… this is what I worked on. You never specified anything like numbers and such… this really makes me sad. But please… stop it. I won’t deal with you any longer and if you read the contract agreement which you signed and the whole chain of emails i don’t think there was anything wrong. I don’t care anymore about your ethics… do what you want. Do what you will. I have an email and a contract backing me up. good luck in your career. PS: you might use this if you want to resize images…


Your profile states you worked for Paizo and other big companies. Did you send them 1 meg files? I opened your 1 meg file in Photoshop, did nothing to it, and saved it as a .psd. Now it’s 11 megs. Of course, doing this does not truly upscale the image. It will still look blurry once printed. The only way you could NOT have a higher file is if: 1) You deleted the hi-res file or 2) You are using an extremely archaic drawing program, like Deluxe Paint from the 80’s. If the case is (2), I highly suggest taking the money I sent you to invest in Photoshop (or better yet, a newer program for drawing). I know you can buy an older version of PS Elements for less than $100. At any rate, now you know why I am so paranoid about working with new people. Look, I have no desire to ruin anyone’s career. I know how hard being an artist can be. Writers are artists too! And I am not a vindictive person. But after this ordeal, I won’t be promoting your name either. ________________________________________

i don’t care you promote my name or not… the legal document says that if you get asked about it you you don’t tell people “you did it” or somebody else cause it’s just not true… Listen Nick. Above from the whole insulting manner you’ve been with me… not only… lying with the whole cover thing… which you said this was a test and a random character design thing but now a cover… so we are facing something that we could call fraud. Plus! Threatening me? Are you serious? I wouldn’t play that card Nick, it’s much a double edged sword. And it could hurt you way more than me. Listen I just wanna ask you something. I think there’s a huge confusion in all this and you should be grateful I’m even putting time into deal with this little situation. But is the file, as I said before, the size that it is? I’m just wondering if you actually downloaded the file… 3125x2500x300 dpi if that’s the file you have in your hands then that’s the file I have here. I haven’t been lying to you that would be stupid and … why? just why though. and by the way… My friends and some of my colleagues told me about your little outburst in DeviantArt… on which I’m really not interested in taking part off. I haven’t really read it through but maybe you’re just taking this a bit too far. I wouldn’t take it a bit too far Nick, since you’re hurting a community of people. Not me… I’ll attach the same image again… Now… would you please move on. ________________________________________

oh and the other thing… sorry to keep on with this but I need to instruct you in this since you don’t know. The images I work with Paizo, Hex, and MonteCook and many other clients are on the same or even smaller canvas… I’m not gonna specify since that’s kind of private. If they would want a bigger canvas they would specify… that’s how it goes. The only mistake here Nick is that you didn’t specified the canvas… not inches, not pixels, you just said you wanted the high res… and that is quite relative… since I’ve been looking through the web for what means specifically high res… Oh and by the way. I don’t know if you downloaded the image correctly. Otherwise that’s all there is… if I happen to send you the psd… which I won’t. You’ll figure out by yourself that that’s all there is. And learn this. the size of the image is not necessarily related to how heavy it is… is the dimension in pixels. I hope you take this as a lesson more than a bad thing… because I’ve learned my bit here, to read people with bloated egos as yourself and to specify usage on an image in a legal document. Which I practically don’t care… use it for your advantage as you want. It might help. Maybe it won’t. If you’re a good writter with 30 years of experience (that’s… kinda a lot of time btw…haha) you’ll do just fine. Cheers. ________________________________________

Felipe, You keep talking to me as if I am new to this business; but like I have continually been saying, I have been doing this for 17 years. I have worked with dozens of artists, some of them good, some of them bad. But I have never, ever had such a poor experience as this one. First and foremost, you did not wait for me to approve of a sketch. I approved of the face, but the body was a vague mess of lines I could not make heads or tails of. This is simply unconscionable. By only a narrow margin did I even accept your pic as passable. I have shown it to my readers and they do not feel it accurately represents what I have been writing about for over a decade, not that you care… Secondly, I have never received an image of such low quality from ANYONE. I think you do not understand how resolution and printing works. I really don’t have time to get into it, but you can technically stretch any image to any dimension you want. I could take this avian pic and make it a million pixels wide, but that does not increase the resolution, because the information simply isn’t there. All you’re doing is replicating pixels, making copies of copies. This is not as noticeable on screen, but when you go to print it, you can see it. The first cover I ever did, back in 2003, had this problem. The illustrator I worked with did not understand this, and the center of the cover looked blurry. I had to pay a considerable amount to redo it. As for calling me a fraud—I’d say this is an example of the pot calling the kettle black. I gave you what I promised, $250. You, however, did not meet your end of the bargain, because you DID NOT send me a hi-res file. And if you keep insisting that a 1 meg file is hi-res, just try printing it and see how it turns out. Whether I want to use it as a cover or not is irrelevant. The only thing I am not allowed to do is to claim it as my own work, which I’d never care to do at any rate, because I am not a visual artist. As for what I wrote on deviantArt, I am happy that you and your friends saw that, because people like yourself need to realize I will not be tolerating being defrauded. I have lost over a thousand dollars. And to be honest, I’d like to throw this fucking avian pic in the trashbin, because I know it will forever remind me of this shitty ordeal. Still, if you notice I did not mention your name, because I an not that kind of person. Here’s the bottom line: I DO NOT NEED YOU, YOU NEED ME. I can be a successful writer and never bother dealing with artists again. Publishers don’t care about my art and neither do agents. Typically, they are the ones dealing direct with artists. I pay for this stuff because I enjoy it, and I like to have a picture of something for when I write a bio, which I will be writing for the avian, but again, this has nothing to do with my career as an author. I wish you could understand how badly your ego is hurting your career, and how differently things could have gone, if you’d bothered to not rush into things. As of today, another person I work with, Alexey Lipatov, just finished a piece for me. He made several sketches before we agreed upon a finished piece. He asked me for $250, but I am sending him $300, because I am that kind of guy. I respect people that respect me, and I treat kindness with even greater kindness. From now on, I think I’ll stick to the people I know can be trusted. Goodbye. ________________________________________

We don’t need each other nick… I don’t get the big fuss about it… Bye Sent from my iPhone


Look, I know I am dragging this out, but … I just read through every single e-mail exchange. Everything was going great at first. You were very cordial and polite, and I did everything in my power to express my concerns. Then suddenly, you send me an e-mail saying, “I am going to assume everything is fine and send you the final”. This is the exact point when everything went to shit. It was quite a shock to be honest. I was really disappointed at how quickly you rushed into things, and I felt bad to tell you to make changes. I cannot even imagine what I could have done or said differently. I am terribly upset by all of the time and money I’ve wasted on this project. I have two more artists I am working with, and I want to do everything in my power to avoid what happened here. Because of you, I feel I cannot trust them, or anyone. ________________________________________

good bye nicky


Mr Alimonos, I’m gonna make it short. I’m gonna ask you to decline your PayPal claim, because it’s a big waste of my time and it will not favor you. I’m asking you this out of consciousness and good faith, because I am providing all emails and the legal document and further information to PayPal in order to prove your allegation wrong. Plus getting in contact with family lawyers. All the information reads that you accepted the product until business was done. There is no record where you specify sizes or purposes of printing the image. And I don’t mind about you saying you wanted your “high res” that is an abstraction and it doesn’t make as any substantial claim. This is the last time I’ll contact you or bother you if you decline to my request, but I’ll appreciate the honesty if you desist on your claim. Nick, this will not go well for you. I believe you’re an older man than I am, therefor wiser. I wish you could understand that you’re making a huge fuss over a little thing (that doesn’t exist) against a random illustrator. I hope you can understand. Goodbye.


All I want is what you promised to give me. While there may be some debate as to what hi-res means, everyone agrees it is at the very least print quality, which is at least 3 megs. If I had not cared about printing, I wouldn’t have bothered paying the last $150, as I could have used the first file you sent me for online use. A 1 megabyte file is simply too small for printing: How Do I Know the Resolution of an Image? Without photo-editing software (or having shot the photo yourself), the easiest way to estimate the resolution of an image is to look at its file size. A 4″x3″ image at 300 ppi is roughly around 3MB (megabytes). The same 4″x3″ photo at 72 ppi is much smaller at about 182K (kilobytes). It’s safe to say that most photographs under 1MB are ill-suited for printing, unless they are to be used at a very small size. Certain file types (especially .GIFs) are also usually unsuitable for printing. They’re designed to be as small as possible for quick screen loading—typically with a major degradation in quality. You cheated me in two ways, actually: 1) You cheated me by drawing something I did not approve of. The only proof I gave you was for the face. But the body, I never liked it, and I said so repeatedly. However, I begrudgingly accepted it, because I didn’t want to hassle you about redoing it. 2) You cheated me by giving me an image I really cannot use, other than for online purposes. I specifically stated during our e-mail exchanges that I would use this for promotional purposes. This includes print. Photoshop saves files at a standard minimum of 10 megs. You can compress them for on-line use, but then you get a 1 meg file. How best to resolve this: Do as you promised. Send me the hi-res file. If you deleted it, I suggest you go back to the drawing board and send me an accurate avian pic (one that looks like he is supposed to). If you refuse to do this, then, per our agreement, you must relinquish the $150 for the hi-res file you failed to deliver. … [Message clipped] View entire message ________________________________________

I think you’re a bit confused. 1) I never cheated on you, I did my job as you asked… I believe you saw the emails back and forth. 2) You approved the finals. I remember you saying something about the sketch… so I worked over that and you actually said it was all fine. You even payed me the final quote. The fact that you did that and I didn’t put a gun at your face saying that I wouldn’t accept any corrections makes it your responsibility. 3) It is also your responsibility to give me exact dimensions. You said you wanted this for promotional purposes, but you never once said you wanted this for printing, even more, for a cover. That is fully your responsibility and I cannot take care of that. So, I’m very sorry. 4) the fact that the image is so light is not because it’s little, it’s because it doesn’t have much information. It’s in JPEG format and in a blank canvas. Of course it’s gonna be light. The fact is that the image might not be of use for the dimensions you want because those are a bit bigger than what you have in your hands… which is not my responsibility since you never specified any dimensions. The whole deal is because you’re not willing to accept your error… And here are a couple examples attached that a couple of friends made for you. A blank image in a huge dimension and a colored image in the same one… the weight differently. I’m very sorry for your confusion and I wish you the best. ________________________________________

I read the e-mails thoroughly, to make sure there was no confusion. I will agree that I probably should have rejected the image outright, but I liked what you did with the face (the only sketch I approved of, and the only sketch where you even gave me options). I did not approve the body, and I said so. You said, and I quote, “I will assume it’s OK.” This was your mistake. You should never assume anything is OK unless the client specifically says so. You also said you wanted to keep half the money even if I did not like the final piece. That would have left me with nothing. Besides the fact that you failed to make the client (me) happy, you are still cheating me with this low-res file. I do not have to specify dimensions when it is common knowledge that a 1 meg file is NOT a hi-res file. I do not have to explain to you what it is for. I sent you a web-page stating that 1 meg is too poor quality for printing, but you fail to acknowledge this. What am I supposed to do with this image now? I did not pay $250 for something I cannot even print. Instead of owing up to your mistakes, you continue to argue and make excuses. Instead of trying to make your client happy, you try and cheat them. This is not the way to do business. This is not the way to become successful. Aside from writing, I run a million dollar business. I’ve been doing it for 25 years, and I know how to treat customers. Even if I do not think the mistake is mine, I still try and make the customer happy, because it’s the customer who pays the bills. You do not yet understand this. What have you gained by being a jerk? Nothing. If you continue to do business like this, I can promise you that you will fail. ________________________________________

I don’t need to have the knowledge of what a 1 meg file o a high res file is. I never knew that. And it’s your mistake to assume I did. because the real fact is that you never told me this was for printing. And when I said “I will assume it’s ok” it’s because you failed to give me more corrections. And at the end you said that you accepted the final. If you would have said, I want you to rework the body, in the stage that we were, which was what the discussion was about I would have done it. You just never mentioned anything to me. I think you just assume I need to know all that and you’re inventing and lying about me wanting to cheat you… by the way this is what you said towards my final piece, after the feet correction: “Yes, I got it! It looks fine. Did you get the first half of the money? Let me know and I will send you the rest.” That is accepting the final. Even there you could have told me to do changes and I would have done them. I would have charged for them maybe, unless you proved they were in the briefing. And! When I said that I will assume that everything was ok? Which is your whole argument here? I actualy said this: “Ok Nick! I’ll try do the last fixing on the wings towards being more… arm like. I will count this as the entire correction you need on the character so I’m gonna think that everything else (color, presentation, posture and jewelry) is alright.” That was related to the wings, and you only talked about the wings, so of course I assumed everything else was ok, since you didn’t said anything about the rest. And believe I did changed the sketch and turn it into something more finished so you can see the advance. I don’t know where did you get that I was against more corrections, we actually had a discussion about that at the beginning. Do you remember that? And actually, even after this you told me on the feet issue!: “You sent me one very loose sketch, that I could barely make out, and which I told needed to look more human, and then you send me the finished piece. You never gave me the opportunity to approve a revised sketch. If you had, I could have told you the feet were all wrong.” In here you were arguing about the sketch in terms of how that didn’t tell you anything about the feet detail. Which is CORRECT! and I did the changes didn’t I? I did. Di you said anything about the rest of the body? No. Did you said anything about the These are facts. You got no facts plus a random text that talks about high resolution in photography. Which I don’t mind if I didn’t know that. Is not my problem not know wether you wanted this for a bigger size than what I gave you, since this wasn’t for a cover originally. It’s your fault not to have said that. I don’t read your mind and I really don’t care much about your project. I care about my clients being satisfied with the product. Yes. But not when they committed the mistake to avoid more information. If you want me to do changes pay me more and I’ll do them. Pay me another 250 and I’ll do the avian as now you really want it. But back then it was your responsibility to direct your own creation. And you failed on a couple of things, so what. The real problem is that you wanted this for printing at a specific size and you didn’t tell me. You just assumed I was gonna know that. How… Tell me please how. Is it really common knowledge that thing that you say? I don’t think so since I’ve been having this discussion with several more artists and they all think this is not my fault, but yours to think that I am supposed to amend for your errors of thinking that I can actually read your mind. And believe me, I don’t mind about your business million dollar whatever, I don’t care about your book. That kind of bravado is just a waste of your time on me. “I use this art for promotional reasons, and also, to more fully realize the world I am building. There is a race in my book, the avian, which can be imagined as a cross between a bird and a human. Nobody has been able to figure them out visually, but with your penchant for creature design, I think you may be up to the task. ” Does it says that you’re gonna use it for printing… ? No. Do I care what kind of promotional purposes do you use it? Clearly not, since you didn’t care to tell me either. I don’t care what you say anymore Mr. Alimonos. At the end I have facts supporting everything I say, because I am actually right. And all you have is lies, you bend the truth to your advantage, and a deviant art gallery with commissions from other artists. Selenada? I’ve talked to her. She is an amazing person. But you still don’t have facts. Facts that I am cheating? Facts that I am lying? Facts of anything. The fact is that I did the job, you agreed on it, you paid me for it, and then you didn’t liked it. Because it didn’t fit the thing you wanted. That is not my problem. EXAMPLE: I’m a pizzeria. You order your pizza and in the middle you want it with extra cheese (extra zoom in to the head of the character). You get charged extra for it. You receive your pizza and you realize it doesn’t go with a coke. Oh my! But you always get a coke from these other pizzerias for free. “Where’s my coke?” you ask. “Well, you didn’t order any coke, sir” I say. “But I cannot eat my pizza without a coke!” Well that’s too bad. Do you want a coke? Yes? Ok… pay for it and I’ll go get it for you. That’s the story we got here. You assumed I was gonna give you a printing size for the cover YOU NEVER MENTIONED. Give me some answer in return. So I can see if you have something substantial to go against anything I say here. Please. Indulge me. Because I don’t think PayPal as any substantial information that supports your aligation here. I have emails, I have legal documents that you signed, I have the original format which is the same one you have. I have even the link were you offered job in DeviantArt saying you would pay $1000 for a cover. A cover you didn’t want me to do. So I don’t know where do I fall short. Do yourself a favor Mr. Alimonos and stop this nonsense otherwise I’m gonna force myself to publicly warn everyone about you in social media. Good bye and I hope you consider this. I really do. Since you don’t need the bad publicity right now. ________________________________________

In my e-mails, I stated a lot more was wrong than the feet. For instance, I told you that the ankles were inverted, and that there was no way an avian could have evolved this way. You didn’t fix this because it would have been difficult for you to do, so you just added another toe. I suppose I should have been a jerk and told you to do it all over again from scratch, but I guess I was being too nice by accepting your rushed drawing. All the problems started because you never gave me a sketch to approve. You rushed to get to the finished product. Any person who reads the e-mails will plainly see that. That being said, a hi-res file is a file that can be printed. I do not have to tell you this specifically, just as I shouldn’t have to tell you obvious things like, “I want it to be in color,” and “It should be bigger than a thumbnail.” In the 17 years I have been doing this, I have NEVER had a single person tell me he doesn’t know what a hi res file is. Every SINGLE PERSON I have worked with knew what I was talking about. I have never had to explain this to anyone, because this is common knowledge, especially if it is their job to know. And if you really don’t know what a hi-res file is, why are you even in this business? Or better yet, why the hell didn’t you just ask me? Am I supposed to read YOUR MIND to know that you do not know computer basics? Yes, Selenada is a great person. I paid her $200 for a painting, a much better painting, and you know what? When I asked her for a hi-res file, she sent it to me. Here’s a question: HOW DO I EVEN KNOW YOU PAINTED THIS? Most pics online are 1 meg. For all I know, you could have stolen a random bird pic and added some touches to it. If you really want to ‘warn’ people about me, go right ahead. I will warn people about you right back. But you can’t hurt me, because, like I said before, I don’t need you. I am the customer. I pay YOU for art. And the people that know me know I am not a cheat. BTW, let me show you something I got today from an actual professional. See that? THAT IS A HI-RES FILE! 110.7 MB.