Aenya News Update: 11/29/16

A few months ago, I put out a request for artists for the upcoming 2017 edition of Ages of Aenya. After a bit of vetting, by which we produced the Avian and Horde (below), I settled on the talented Zhengyi Yu.

I chose Zhengyi for his painterly style, which better suits a novel, I feel, than the more cartoony styles of my other, albeit equally talented artists. Mr. Yu also impressed me with his landscapes. When I see a book with some impossible, otherworldly terrain, it draws me in, igniting my imagination, and I hope to capture readers in the same way. More importantly, Zhengyi has been wonderful to work with, being attentive to my needs and more than willing to brainstorm and make changes. If you’re looking for a talented illustrator, look no further! Also, be sure to check out his awesome gallery at Zhengyi Yu


Thelana overlooking Hedonia

Here we find Thelana overlooking Hedonia. The massive pyramid temple of Sargonus eclipses the background. Depicting our heroine in her natural state, without triggering any censors, was a challenge. I wanted her in a normal looking pose, not too sexy or bashful, and without any comically placed leaves in the way. And she had to be dynamic, to show her power and fearlessness. She’s naked in a city of thousands and yet she does not feel vulnerable! That being said, Zhengyi and I are working on an alternate cover, with Thelana draped in her trademark jade cloak (hey, she gets cold sometimes). That way, you can read about the Ilmar on the subway without getting any weird looks!

OK, you may be thinking, all this is fine and good, but when can I read it? Glad you asked! As the old adage says, you can’t judge a book by its cover, and while I don’t believe this to be 100% true, story remains the most important thing, seconded only by the quality of the writing. Without those things in place, you can’t hope to sell a million copies, unless of course you’re writing bondage porn.

I’ve spent more than a decade building this world, its history and geography; fleshing out its races and its characters. Nine years alone I spent editing, as I ran a restaurant and helped my wife raise our two kids, but even the best of us need another set of eyes. If I could give myself amnesia, I could do it all myself. But it’s impossible to judge yourself objectively, to judge any story really in a non-biased way. Nobody can. But finding an editor you can trust isn’t easy. An author’s story is their baby. Giving it up, I am forced to wonder, will the editor tear it up for the sake of tearing it up? Will they maintain my voice? Avoid their own biases? This is a legitimate concern for me, as I’ve had professors try to “correct” my work in the most inane ways. One of my teachers actually suggested that the nun in my short story, Anna and the Devil, masturbate. After all, Satan can’t touch you so long as you abstain from carnal thoughts. His PHd, not surprisingly, was in religious studies.

Then I met Ava Coibion. Ava offered me a free sample edit, of my prologue, and we talked over the phone about our favorite writers, literary styles, and the best way to edit without encroaching on the author’s art. I found her to be intelligent and sensitive. And also, she had this to say,



There are a thousand praises I could sing here, and with your permission, I’d love to at least give my friend Frank Beddor a sample of your novel to review, or perhaps put you in touch directly with him. But for now, here is the edit for Book One. I was determined to complete the work before Thanksgiving, in hope that you might have a little down time to review my suggested changes. In truth, I devoted this last week and a half solely to the completion of the edit, not because we are on a deadline, as I know you aren’t concerned with a timeline on this, but because I simply couldn’t stop! The prose is intelligent, poetic but often nicely spare/concise, and full of emotion. A true pleasure, and even if you don’t take me on for Books 2 and 3, I will read forward on my own because I simply must know what happens next . . .

Let me know what you think of my comments. I do think the final chapter could be split up into 2 or even 3 separate chapters.

All best,



I know I know, mere flattery. And I might be thinking the same thing, if it weren’t for the fact that, all of my beta readers have given me a similar response. Still, it’s great to get this from a professional, who no doubt has to trudge through literary swamps of poor storytelling.

So now, dear reader, you may be itching to get your hands on this bad boy. Well, the next step is working with Ava through the 170+k words, about 500 pages, until every “T” is crossed and “i” is dotted. Then I get to slap Zhengyi’s contribution over top of it, and last but not least, skedaddle on to the printers.

Ages of Aenya should be available sometime in 2017. In the meantime, my wife will be querying my latest effort, The Princess of Aenya, and I will be dutifully pursuing The Children of Aenya, the third book in the Aenya series, partly based on the Dungeons & Dragons campaign I have been playing with my friends and family these past two years. If you’d like to learn more about The Children of Aenya, and the game we are playing, feel free to join us on Facebook at The Hub of All Worlds.




The Princess of Aenya


Radia by Selene Regener

Once, not long ago, there lived a king in the land of Tyrnael, who had but one daughter. This daughter he loved with his whole heart, but upon her eleventh year she fell ill, her cheeks paling like the petals of a dying ilm. Never leaving her bedside, the king called for every physician in his kingdom, but all were at a loss, for her ailment was unlike any they had seen. With enduring hope, the king sent emissaries to lands near and abroad, and learned men did arrive from as far south as the One Sea and from as far east as Shemselinihar, yet all were utterly mystified by her sickness. Beset by grief and desperation, the king offered all that he had, his very kingdom in recompense, to save his little girl from doom. 

And it so happened, that upon this decree, a wizened sage appeared at the gates of the Compass Tower. Examining the girl with care, he declared with confidence that he could make the girl whole again, brewing an elixir so that she might drink of it and become well. And shortly thereafter, the rosy hue returned to the little girl’s cheeks. Overjoyed, the king asked what the stranger wished from him in return, reminding him of his vow. 

“So long as you know,” the sage said to him, “I can stay the hand of the Taker, but only for a time. At the close of three days, before the moon eclipses on the third night, if she does not drink of my elixir, Death shall surely claim her.” 

Hearing this dreadful prophecy, the king turned ashen, but the sage comforted him, saying, “Be not dismayed, for it is not beyond my power to procure this remedy, enough to keep your daughter in good stead for her remaining days. Yet it is not without its price.” 

The king readily agreed, preparing to surrender his great wealth, his kingdom if need be, but the sage asked for one small thing, and one thing only, in return for his ministrations, that the king take as his own a young boy to be adopted. The sage’s own son.


Chapter 1: Radia: Upon her father’s death, Radia inherits the throne of Tyrnael, ancient capital of Aenya. Though she is only 15, Radia finds the courage to refute her brother in court, only to be betrayed by the people she trusted to protect her. Her only hope is Demacharon, an aging soldier from the distant land of Hedonia. But why should a stranger risk certain death, for a girl he hardly knows, when all the military might of Tyrnael is bent on destroying her?

Chapter 2: Demacharon: He has no memory of who he is or how he came to be. He walks through a nightmarish wasteland and his dread is palpable. Is it a dream? The afterlife? Or merely a glimpse of things to come?

Chapter 3: Eros: Like his mother, Eros is branded, invisible to society. It makes him the ideal assassin, the only man capable of hunting down and cutting out the heart of the princess. But can even the self-appointed king of Tyrnael deliver his fee?

Songs and Poetry: Noora’s SongThe Procession

Zaibos Facing You

Zaibos by David Pasco


Races of Aenya: Avian – Bogren – Horg

Eldin’s Brief Timeline

Cosmology of Aenya: The Hayden Planetarium Answers Questions about Aenya: Aenya is uncommon in the fantasy genre in that it follows real world physics. Specifically, it is a moon of the gas giant Infinity. Close proximity to this large planet accounts for the turquoise “moon” Radia and Demacharon can see in the sky. Since one side of their world perpetually faces Infinity, life can be harsh on Aenya. I would like to thank Alejandro Nunez, at the Hayden Planetarium, for helping me add credibility to this fictional world, by answering my questions about an Aenya-type planet.

About the Author: I wrote my first story when I was six, and by age nine, convinced my father to take me to DC Comics Headquarters, in New York City, to solicit my own comic book series. I later attended the University of South Florida, where I graduated with my BA in English Fiction, helped as a tutor, ran a fan-fiction site, and worked as a freelance editor. My short story, The Gorgon’s Lover, was chosen a semi-finalist for the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley Award. For more about my life, please visit my bio page.


The Princess of Aenya is the second book set in the world of Aenya.



Bogren by David Pasco

HISTORY: After the Great Cataclysm, over ten millennia ago, Aenya was forever altered. Tidally locked, the planet remained with one side perpetually facing the sun, becoming the desert, Ocean, while the opposite end became forever shrouded in moonlight, The Dark Hemisphere. Only the narrow region between the two hemispheres, The Midlands, continued to be suitable for human habitation. As a direct result, wars broke out over limited resources. The strongest, wealthiest, and most clever managed to find a place in this new median, whereas the weak and the poor lost their lands to become vagabonds.

Over less than a decade, these displaced peoples found themselves as migrants to the dark hemisphere, joining other fallen civilizations. Together, they managed to eke out an existence under a sunless sky. Forever in search of sustenance, those living by the twilight bore witness to the worst of humanity, routinely denied admittance to settlements whose resources were stretched too thin, picked off by beasts who hunted in the dark, or slain by members of their own as desperation took its toll. By 40 AGM, nomadic groups settled in underground caverns created by the Zo that, in places, reach to the core of the planet. Adapting to this new environment, these cave delvers carved out an ever expanding network of tunnels to house their burgeoning population. Never forgetting the cruelty inflicted upon them by their human kin, they evolved into an altogether new species, bogren, and as the centuries passed, their hatred for humanity only intensified.

PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES: Ironically, the small stature of their ancestors aided in adapting to life below ground. Less body mass necessitated fewer calories. It also helped in hiding from predators. Natural selection continued to favor this attribute so that adult bogren are scarcely taller than a human child. With the only light available from fire, volcanic vents, or from Aenya’s twin moons, the bogren developed larger eyes. Ear size also increased to detect predators and prey, and for navigating pitch black tunnels through a weak form of sonar. Due to sun deprivation and a drastic drop in temperatures, bogren skin adapted to both manage the cold and synthesize Vitamin-D, a dull gray fish-like hue.

Each bogren is distinct, and can vary in appearance to a greater degree than a human. Some possess more human-like features, while others have more exaggerated ears, ridges above the eyes, or a bat like facial structure. Body types range from muscular torsos to bulbous stomachs to lithe skeletal frames. Variation may be indicative of caste or subspecies. Differences in subspecies correlate to different depths and geographic regions of the dark hemisphere.

SOCIETY: Bogren society can be divided into three separate castes: workers, warriors, and foremen:

Physically smaller and weaker than their kin, the worker is the lowest in the bogren caste system. Females birthing workers rarely survive, due to the crude way in which infants are delivered. The sounds the mother makes during labor becomes the worker’s name. There is no upward mobility for a worker. A worker is born, lives, and dies a worker. Among them, the worker caste can be subdivided into smiths, wranglers, and diggers. Least of the least are the diggers, who work in the mines with pick and ax, cutting an eternally expanding network of tunnels and hovels, called warrens. Diggers receive the least food, often the scraps left by others. Their lives consist of equal parts misery and monotony, though they delight in the suffering of their own, whenever a digger falls into the magma. Rarely does a digger know anything but digging, coming to their deaths without ever seeing the light of the moons. Smiths works in the Forge, a crude network of bridges, winches, pulleys and cauldrons. They work with molten metals, hammering tin, copper and iron into crude armor and weapons. Highest among the worker caste is the wrangler. The wrangler domesticates beasts for war and for labor. These include saurians like the bandersnout, and the dreaded horg. Among bogren kind, the wrangler is the most intelligent, but intellect is of little value where everything is measured by brute strength.

Selected for their size and strength, the warrior stands at the top of the bogren hierarchy. They are given armor and weapons and are trained to fight. These weapons are crude and misshapen, rarely following any design. Cutting edges and bludgeoning surfaces are merged without distinction to form sword-hammers, ax-shields, mace-spears and other deadly perversities. A warrior seeks always to rise in rank, and rank can only be won by killing another of higher status. Chieftains are usually found among the warrior caste. Others may challenge them at any time. For this reason, bogren leaders rarely live to old age. Warrior names reflect physical attributes, but can change as those attributes change. Such names include: grumblestump, meatface, and bloodsnot.

The foreman is a fallen warrior, having been severely injured to the point of being ineffectual in battle. Typically, they are missing eyes, hands, feet, or some combination of the three. Very few are retired warriors, having grown old and infirm. The duty of the foreman is to enforce labor. Embittered by their fallen station, foremen can be unusually cruel, seeking any and all reasons to punish their workers. This includes being thrown into the magma.

Dark Side Beasts: To supplement what they lack in physical power, bogren have domesticated a number of beasts, including small saurians, like the mild-mannered bandersnout. Familiar with animal taming, and beasts of war, from before the Great Cataclysm, the bogren also set their sights upon more fearsome companions, like the horg. Dominating such monsters highlights not only their cunning, but the depths of their cruelty. Young female horg are baited with icksak fruit, rendering them numb and unconscious. A wrangler then scalps the head, and through gruesome needlework, attaches strings to the horg’s brain. The invasive process drives the creature insane, further feeding into its ferocity. The end result is a living marionette, a near unstoppable siege engine controlled by the wrangler. Should the wrangler companions be killed, however, the disowned horg body will fly into a violent frenzy, before ending its own life.

Wrangler Chiefs: On rare occasion, a wrangler may ascend to chieftain, having learned to control their horg mounts with enough proficiency to act as a single creature, with the wrangler acting as the brain and the horg the body. Despite overpowering any challenger, wrangler chiefs are often despised, their rule typically ending in murder, whenever the chief is separated from its horg or sleeping.

6296 to 6300 AGM marks the rule of Zogbak the Wrangler Chief, one of the bloodiest periods in Aenya’s history. Using sophisticated military strategy uncharacteristic to bogren kind, Zogbak’s armies swept across Aenya, from the Dark Hemisphere to the Potamis River. Over a hundred villages were lost, including the fabled city-state of Kormingar. Zogbak’s rule came to an end when a rival party of bogrens joined into an uneasy truce with a legion of displaced troops from Kormingar. A man-at-arms named Jennick is said to have struck the killing blow, and for this history grants him the honorific of Batal, though he and the other human conspirators were slaughtered moments later by their bogren allies. A new chief was elected for his size and strength, but failing to understand basic military tactics, the bogren force fell into disarray and were quickly routed.


Bandersnout by David Pasco.


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.

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.

Character Bio: Demacharon


Art by David Pasco

Like all eight year old boys of Hedonian citizenry, Demacharon is taken from his mother’s arms to train in the navy, and for the next ten years he is taught discipline, and ways in which to kill more efficiently. He later moves up in rank, from a lowly oarsman to captain of his own vessel. After a number of decisive naval victories against rebelling coastal city states, Demacharon is promoted to Regent Commander of the North, at which point he is charged with the subjugation of tribal lands in the northwest. After two decades campaigning, Demacharon is permitted to take a wife, a chambermaid named Niobe. The honeymoon is short lived, however, as he is sent out again and again, either to defend a border, quell a rebellion, or expand the territories. Never in all that time does he question the rightness of his duties, for he has been taught since childhood that the glory of the empire is an absolute good, and the superiority of their way of life is to be defended at any cost. And yet, far from the One Sea, in the wild, unmapped territories, his legions meet with increased resistance. Many barbarian peoples choose death to paying tribute, fighting to the last man, woman and child. The terrible cost of victory will haunt him for the remainder of his days. Despite heavy losses, his men are unwavering in their loyalty. This may be attributed to his courage on the vanguard, and that he never accepts any comforts that the lowest in rank do not also receive. Once, as throats run dry crossing through the Great White Flat, Demacharon is forced by his men to drink at the point of a spear.


Standard of the Hedonian navy

Less than half his men, a mere nine thousand of the thirty sent out, return to Hedonia after a year-long campaign to circumnavigate the globe. Half are buried along the road, having succumbed to infection, disease and hunger. In the city, however, Demacharon is heralded a hero, given a parade, lands and titles, including that of Supreme Commander. Only one man, the High Priest Urukjinn, stands above him. But the ghosts of his friends and enemies continue to haunt his dreams, and with the birth of his only child, Astor, he begins to doubt. Does he desire such a life for his son? And how can he justify the murder of barbarian children, knowing what it means to be a father? Soon after his return, five-year old Astor is killed on the beach by merquid, after which his wife, Niobe, recedes into herself, overcome by despair. Having lost the only two things that mean anything to him, Demacharon becomes disillusioned, a broken man in search of redemption.


Art by David Pasco

Appearances: Ages of Aenya, The Princess of Aenya

The Nomad: A Love Story DLC

The Nomad is a love story, a mythical tale of heroism and enduring faith, parts Odyssey, parts The Arabian Nights

Like the Greek hero, Odysseus, Dynotus is twenty years from his homeland, searching the desert for Sali—the woman he loves—who has been taken as a slave. It is rife with fantastic locales, mythical monsters, and epic bloodshed, all set against the endless sands of the Sahara.

The Nomad is my first novel, that I wrote when I was in high school. It is presented here for the first time in its entirety in PDF.


[The Nomad: A Love Story]


The Lightning Thief

So, I’ve been having this problem with fiction lately. The last eight books I’ve read have been about philosophy, religion and physics. It’s gotten to the point that my wife told me last night I should have been a physicist (really, I’d be clueless). But whenever I pick up a novel, I can’t get into the story, because I am distracted by my ambitions. I cannot help but compare it to my own books, and if the story is weak, I’ll rework it in my head, coming up with ways it can be improved. But eventually, I knew I’d have to get back to the business of reading, so that the literary neurons in my brain start to fire, forming the raw materials I need to build worlds. More importantly, I had to remind myself why I love story, and of the reasons people like to read.

My nephew, Arthur, told me about The Lightning Thief many years ago, which he enjoyed better than Harry Potter. This is coming from a kid who can talk to me about video games forever. The fact that he could enjoy any book came as a surprise to me, but I’ve long hesitated picking it up to find out why.

As someone of Greek descent who has written his own mythology—The Nomad—I am a bit sensitive, especially when the author, Rick Riordan, doesn’t even share my heritage. Now, I’m not saying that a writer can’t or shouldn’t write about a culture other than his own, but it still stings a little, knowing very few Greeks who know or care as much about these stories. There probably isn’t a soul on the planet who hasn’t heard of Hercules or Zeus. Historically speaking, our mythology defines who we are as a people. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we are all influenced by it in some way. When Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings, he did so, in part, because he lamented the British not having a mythology of their own. The legends of King Arthur and his knights came long after most of the world’s folktales were established, in 1485, after Sir Thomas Malory’s La Morte d’ Arthur. By contrast, Homer’s The Iliad dates to between 1200-1100 BC. These stories were memorized by my great ancestors, passed down through oration long before writing fiction was invented. So I cannot help but be bothered by the fact that an entire generation will be learning these stories exclusively from a non-Greek.

Another thing I find irksome, writing in an established canon, with its own brilliantly realized backstory and characters and plot lines, feels a lot like cheating. Fantasy writers are particularly burdened with having to invent worlds from scratch, but by choosing to write Greek mythology, Riordan has most of his work cut out for him. He didn’t have to make up Zeus or Hades or Ares, all of whom appear in the story, nor did he have to create the monsters his heroes would be fighting, like the furies and the minotaur and the chimera. He also didn’t have to come up with any fantastic locations, like Hades or Mount Olympus. While it is true that all writers borrow, Riordan tends to borrow more than most. Tolkien did not invent elves or dwarves or trolls or dragons, but his interpretations were expansive to the point of reinvention, and The Hobbit is its own story. The same can be said of JK Rowling. She appropriates liberally from modern myth, with wands and witches and flying broomsticks, but adds enough originality to make the wizarding world hers. Compare that to The Lightning Thief, where the heroes encounter a bedmaker who stretches people to fit his mattresses, or cuts off their feet if they’re too tall. The tale is derived, almost verbatim, from the Greek.

Mythology aside, much of the story is cliche, copying heavily from Harry Potter. Just like Harry, Percy starts off as a normal kid with a miserable life. His stepfather is an abusive jerk, he has few friends, and he is having trouble at school due to his dyslexia and ADHD. Unbeknownst to him, however, Percy is special, in that he is a wiz—I mean, demi-god. It’s all explained to him by his half-human protector, Chiron, and not soon after, Percy leaves his normal life and home to live in a special school. Despite these blatant similarities, I have no doubt publishers were thrilled by Riordan’s manuscript, having found a somewhat original way to ape the success of Potter. They’re not wizards, they’re demi-gods! As if that weren’t enough, Percy must embark on a quest with his two closest friends, Annabeth and Grover (one boy, one girl). Of course, in a Snape-Quirrell-like twist, the real villain turns out to be someone unexpected.

Now, you could argue that, with the 19 million he earned last year, and all of the R’s in his name, that I’m simply jealous, and I’d be lying to deny it. Either way, why should I bother reading it? I never thought I would, until something happened to change my outlook. My 11 year old daughter got the book and loved it. And why wouldn’t she? She isn’t a jaded writer like myself, and she does not know, nor care, about the stuff I do. Having never read Greek mythology, The Lightning Thief is a great introduction, and having only read the first Potter book, its cliched elements are less tiresome. More importantly, heroes like Percy and Harry resonate deeply with children, because they speak to the deep seated concerns children have. What if my parents don’t love me? What if I am not special? 

With this mind, I decided to sit down with my daughter to get a kid’s perspective on The Lightning Thief, because, after all, Riordan didn’t write it with me in mind …


Nick: So, Jasmine, what did you like about The Lightning Thief?

Jasmine: I like his [Percy’s] sword, how it becomes a pen. I also like how the demi-gods and other mythological creatures were disguised in the real world.

Nick: Yes, I remember when they were in Hades, and a TV evangelist who had stolen some money was being taken away to be punished. Percy asked about the evangelist’s Christian faith, and Grover remarked how people tend to see things based on their beliefs. I found that very interesting, a clever way of dealing with ancient myths in a modern setting.

Aside from that, what were your favorite parts?

Jasmine: I really liked when Percy and his friends went to this hotel in Las Vegas. It was a really nice place, with arcade games and free food and everything a kid could want, but it turned out to be a trap. The heroes were really enjoying it, until Percy noticed how one kid talked and dressed funny, like in the 70’s. Turns out, the kid had been there for 40 years! Percy was smart enough to figure out what was happening, although he’d been there five days without realizing it.

Nick: Yes, that was one of my favorite parts too. It reminded me a bit of Odysseus and the sirens, how their beautiful singing lured sailors to a rocky shore, where their ships would sink.

OK, so what was your least favorite part?

Jasmine: I didn’t like the beginning, when they’re driving and they are attacked by the Minotaur, and the Minotaur “kills” Percy’s mom.

Nick: What about that didn’t work for you?

Jasmine: I just thought it was sad.

Nick: Don’t you think that makes you care about the characters more?

Jasmine: Yes.

Nick: So, isn’t that a good thing, in a way?

Jasmine: For the reader, maybe. Not for Percy!

Nick: Would you recommend The Lightning Thief to a friend?

Jasmine: Yes, it was very interesting, and great for kids starting to learn Greek mythology.

Nick: Hey Arthur [really] what a surprise seeing you here! How old were you when you read the book and what did you think of it?

Arthur: Oh, hey Nick. Yeah, I’m here. I read it in 2006, when I was 11 [just like Jasmine!]. I thought the story was very interesting because it took old myths and put them in a modern context. It’s how I imagine the ancient stories would have been told if they’d been written during our time.

Nick: Looking back at it, do you think it would be as interesting now that you’re older?

Arthur: Not really. When the fifth book came out, The Last Olympian, I’d lost interest. I was in high school at the time, and the writing felt as though it hadn’t matured, not in the way Harry Potter did.

Nick: So it seems like he [Riordan] focuses on the youth demographic.

Arthur: Yeah.

Nick: I agree. Rowling is a more accomplished author, and her work holds up, even today.

OK, guys, how do you rate it, from one to four stars?

Jasmine: *** 1/2

Arthur: *** 1/2

Nick: ** 1/2






Devil’s Advocate #4: You *Can* Judge a Book by its Cover

The old adage, “You can’t judge a book by its cover” is somewhat inaccurate, IMO. A better saying would be, “You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” Either way, people will judge things by appearances, at least at first. We do it all the time, though most people are ashamed to admit it, so as not to seem shallow. The guy covered in tattoos and piercings may turn out to be a caring father, while the clean cut choir boy often ends up a serial killer. You really can’t know the value of something until you spend some time with it. Unfortunately, time is becoming an increasingly precious commodity. If you’re in the business of entertainment, you are constantly battling for eyeballs. One problem in my life (albeit minor) is deciding what to do. What TV show should I watch? What game should I play? What book should I read? Between cable, Netflix, HBO NOW, Amazon Prime, Hulu, etc., the choices might as well be infinite. And that’s just television. What about the web? Which of the million+ YouTube videos will be earning your attention tonight? For that matter, why are you even reading this post? Don’t you have better things to do? Walking into Barnes & Nobles is no better. There are literally over a million books in print. Sometimes, I just walk out of the store in a daze, having purchased nothing. On the other hand, if Ancient Athens had a B&N, you can be certain everyone who knew to read would have copies of The Iliad and The Odyssey, whether fans of fantasy or not.

This is why we end up judging books by their covers. What choice do we have? I could pick novels at random, or look at titles, the synopses on jackets or the praise from reviewers, but these are all still part of the cover, and are no more indicative of great storytelling than the picture. When I chose Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, because the title moved me, I was pleasantly surprised by the power of his story. With other books, like The Maze Runner and A Wrinkle in Time, I was not so fortunate. This is not to say that you might not have the opposite experience. My younger self would probably find Ishiguro a snooze-fest. Now, you might purchase an early edition of A Game of Thrones because you’ve seen the TV show and could care less about the clip art wolf on the front. This is where not judging a book by its cover makes sense. But for those of us without TV shows, struggling to make it in the literary world, we do not have such a luxury.


Seriously, is this clip art?


This brings me to the e-book wasteland. Typically, I can immediately tell when a book is self-published, and admit it, you can too. If you’re a newbie writer, and your undiscovered masterpiece is lurking behind a Photoshopped image of your backyard, don’t expect me to be reading it. To the author whose name isn’t a marketing draw, the cover is everything. A good cover communicates many things about your work: a cartoon drawing is usually kids’ fare, a dragon indicates fantasy, a spaceship Sci-Fi, and a brooding, hooded rogue means big-name publishers have no imagination. But more than anything else, a good cover conveys professionalism. If you cannot be bothered to waste time or money on a cover, it’s doubtful you’ve spent enough time on the writing.

For the past three years, I have labored over The Princess of Aenya. The book represents hundreds of hours of writing, editing and rewriting, not to mention a lifetime of practice. For me, every character has to be engaging, every chapter intriguing, and every line has to sing. If the reader is not moved in some way by the last page, I know I’ve failed my job. Why should the face of the book, the very thing that might encourage someone to discover your story, be of any less concern?

The image below is a proof-of-concept. While some of the elements are copyrighted, I was lucky enough to attain the rights to this portrait, by Selene Regener, originally titled “Awakening.” Now this might make for a decent cover as is, but I will be using it primarily to give direction to my artists. If I am the one to do it, and not some big name publisher (who’ll likely put a hooded rogue on the front), I might come up with a better idea. Who knows? Either way, the art should reflect the writing, and vice versa, because, like it or not, everyone judges a book first by its cover, and second by its contents.