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Wow, a lot has happened this month. Some good, some less than stellar. So let's get to it. 

First off, the good. My agent Jennie Goloboy has left Red Sofa Literary and now works for Donald Maass Literary Agency. I'm thrilled beyond words for her, and look forward to working with her and the DMLA team in the future. 

Second.. as some of you are aware, I freelance for Cracked. Recently, they fired their core writing and editorial staff. Their finest writers--people like DOB, Cody Johnston, Carmen Angelica, Katie Willert, Josh Sargeant and Katie Stohl--have been let go. If you've enjoyed any of the video content for the past 5 years, you've enjoyed the work of the above people. After Hours, Obsessive Pop Culture Disorder, editorial commentary and the more recent Some News (which offered scathing deep dives into the current political administration) were all spearheaded by the above people. And now they're gone. While Cracked insists that freelancers are "safe" and should continue to submit, it's become a less-viable option for me over the past few months. 

Also, I will not be a guest at Phoenix Comicon this year. The less said about that, the better. 

There have also been a lot of other upheavals in the publishing community. Ebook service Pronoun has gone the way of 8-track tapes, thus leaving several self-publishers and indie houses utterly screwed. Avenues I used for my editorial income have dried up because of this, or will in the very near future. Createspace is changing how it does business, which will affect how readers can get my print books. There's talk that Createspace might not be here at all this time next year. 

And the big one: Patreon. So for those who don't know, last week the crowd-funding/internet tip jar Patreon changed their payment fee structure. Up to this point, a subscriber pays their flat amount, and any fees come off that amount before going to the creator. Patreon has no decided to add additional fees to the subscriber. While they say this is to make sure more of the money goes to the creator, number crunching and other communications from Patreon say this is not the case. 

I feel this is a bait-and-switch on my patrons. Those who've supported me there for the past couple of years have done so knowing that a certain amount of money will come out of their account once per month and some of that will go to me. This new structure is not what they signed on for. Furthermore, the new model will have a huge affect on patrons who pledge small amounts, which is a huge portion of not only my income, but the incomes of several of the creators using Patreon. 

It is becoming apparent that their new model seeks to starve out the low-performing creators and those with smaller donations. The taxes take more out of a $1 donation, for example, than a $10 pledge. And Patreon even said flat out that this model will "weed out" those who are making nickel and dime amounts, favoring those who have "life-changing" success on this site. They feel that pages like mine are "uninspiring" and thus not good for the overall model of business.

I will not stay where I'm not wanted and I will not let them fuck with my people.

I'm not happy about this. Patreon has allowed me to pay for medications and doctors' visits out of my own pocket rather than taking from my family's funds. It has given me a small amount of independence in that regard, and I'm so grateful to those who've supported me there. However, I will not be part of this fuckery. 

So, this page will be closed down and I will cancel my dealings with this "service".

If you still want to support me, I have set up a Ko-Fi account. It does not have the monthly subscription feel/ease of Patreon, however, it is  the best substitute I've found thus far. I would like to eventually use Kickstarter Drip, but that is not now, and if I update the service I use, I will post it here and to Ko-Fi.

Because I also want you to have options, if you're not interested in another password or website, but you still want to support my work, you can PayPal me: jamie.l.wyman at gmail dot com.

I will be closing my Patreon account Friday December 15.

I'll be honest. With everything going on in the world, with the changing circumstances in publishing and my immediate sphere... I'm scared. I know we'll figure it out, but damn, it cranks up the anxiety.

Anyway, I love you guys. Thank you for everything you've done. It means the world to me.

Patronus Question: Creation

tumblr_ma9bt5LDYz1rvd7mmSo this week I'm going to do something a little different. Patreon Patron (AKA Patronus*) Brian suggested the following topics for flash fiction: "Non-binary decision, free fall, what does it mean to create?" And while I love the idea of using these in fiction, I wanted to write about at least two of them in essay format. So this week, in lieu of 1000 words of flash fiction, I'm going to be taking on the topic of what it means to create.

Creation is... well, for one thing it's weird. It's fucked up. There's this thing that doesn't exist and it's in your mind. And the mind is that part of your being that can't be seen. You can't point to it on an MRI or an x-ray. Yet you keep all your stuff there. Your ideas, your beliefs, your memories, hopes, dreams (literal and figurative), movie quotes and 8th grade horror stories. They're all there in your mind. It's where you keep YOU. And no two minds are alike. Mine, for example, is best visualized as a Suessian high rise condo. My characters live there, my friends stop by to visit, and all the various Vox Crania run the place. The security team has its place up in the penthouse (under the watchful gaze of the Jagrafess and Simon Pegg's portrayal of The Editor, of course) and Heart & Brain hang out at the bar most of the time.

Yes, there's a bar.

Moving on.

My mind is a strange and spectacular place like unto that one awesome room in the Wonka Factory spliced with Avenger's Tower. Occasionally, with the twisted alchemy that is life, something will come in through the revolving doors of said condo, and mix up with the primordial sludge from which it is made, and bam!

gru-bulb

There's an IDEA! It's something that is a non-existent seed that lives in that place we've already established can't be proven to exist except that you believe it does. (And you've just realized that you invented your own Matrix.)

Creation, for me, is taking that seed and putting it in the window box in my brain condo.

tumblr_m1xlwksnWD1qfqncq

Brain condo.

So, this seed...

It goes into the soil, such as it is, where I water it and give it sunlight and such. From there? Well the metaphor can stay the same...the seed will either grow or it won't and when it pops up from the soil we see what it is. And it might bloom or it might not. It might be an orchid--something delicately beautiful and difficult to maintain. It might be the dandelion--commonly thought to be a weed but appreciated by small children and whimsical adults. It might end up being a beanstalk or something else huge that grows from a seed. I don't know when that seed goes into the ground what it's going to amount to.

That's one of the risky bits of creation. You don't know if it's going to "work". You aren't sure that the efforts you're spending, the resources and hours you're putting into nurturing that seed will actually pay off. When you break out the Play-Doh and start squishing it around, your mind says "This is going to be as beautiful as Michaelangelo's Pieta" and it turns out being an amorphous pink glitter blob. Creation is not a sure thing. You might think you know what you're trying to say in a story but a group of readers glean the exact opposite.

It's maddening! It's terrifying! It's exhilarating!

Creation is totally amazeballs and also wiggity wiggity whack! (--the great poets Kriss and Kross.) You're consumed by this noncorporeal thing. Your thoughts wander to it while you're talking with friends, driving, operating heavy machinery. Everything in your physical existence comes back to this thing that only you can see or hear. You're laughing about jokes made by figments of your imagination. You're shipping people who don't actually exist and wondering how you can orchestrate events in a world in which normal physics do not apply. The THING takes over all of your background processes!

There are days where you're blazing through the word count and you have that moment where you realize you've got this. You own this world and everything in it. dull creature

And then someone who can barely count his nipples ragdolls you around your brain condo with helpful feedback that completely makes you question your work, your life choices and the parachute pants you got for your 8th birthday. (So I'm told.)

That is creation.

Re-creation, revision and reshaping all happen later, and they're part of the process, but actual creation is this strange thing where something that didn't exist previously lives in a place that only you can get into. It's messed up! Like actual pregnancy. You can't see what's going on in there and the creation is completely changing everything in your life.

In movies (and sometimes in life) creation is treated like this holy event. It's not unlike a religious Mystery, like transubstantiation or the Virgin Birth.

1424640572724Remember that scene in Dogma where God/Alanis comes along with her silver clothes? She looks around the devastation and as the camera pans around only Her face, the world is restored. And when She saves Bethany from death? She places her hands on Bethany's mortal wound, the shot cuts away to the awe-stricken faces of our erstwhile prophets--Jay & Silent Bob--and other than a golden glow and some dramatic vocalizing from the choirs of Heaven, we don't come back to Bethany until she's shooting up from the ground taking her first breath.

I get that this was a conscious choice about God's ways being mysterious, but it applies to artistic creation as well. We don't see creation. Sure, with visual artists like painters and sculptors, a movie will show a montage of said artist working their mojo. But it's a series of frenzied cuts and sweat and silent grunting. The labor pains. You can't watch the whole thing (because it's lengthy, toilsome and lonely work in the real world).

We don't see the actual moment of magical conception. Because you can't. That moment always happens behind the closed doors of your brain condo (or mind palace if you're nasty, nooch). So in movies it's either a montage or it's represented as a literal flash of inspiration--literal light bulb moment--that undoubtedly leads to a montage with a gripping Hans Zimmer soundtrack. (I'm looking at you A Beautiful Mind.)

To wax poetic, the transformations of moths and butterflies happen inside a chrysalis, away from prying eyes. Back to our vegetation analogy, the seed does its biggest work beneath the soil. The edits and changes (blooming) happen above ground.

So what I'm saying is that all artists are cave-dwelling gods and you should shower us with chai, chocolate and money. Or we might be weeping angels who, when you blink, syphon your life force to create masterpieces. Take your pick.

Weeping_angels_by_BugsyXoX

 

download*Like what you read? Want to suggest something for me to write, be it fiction or non? Want early and exclusive access to new work? Want to shower me with chai, chocolate and money? Consider becoming a Patronus!

Friday Flash - "A Touch of Flame"

candle_flameThis week's prompt is three-fold. The title was randomly generated as per Chuck Wendig's Flash Challenge from last Friday; I used Patreon Patron Brian's suggestions of "forgiveness" and "iron ingot" as loose inspiration; AND I drew inspiration from a writing prompt that I saw on Pinterest about what life would be like for a genie living outside the lamp. Just shy of 1100 words, here is this week's piece, "A Touch of Flame". I hope you enjoy it. 

A Touch of Flame by Jamie Wyman

Wishes are like candles. They come in all manner of shape, size and color. They range from the utilitarian to the frivolous. And while most of them smell like bad soap kept in your granny's attic, some wishes carry with them a certain spark that can fill the world around them with the fiery light of change.

Those are my favorites, honestly. The wishes that are so fervent that they soar through the ether like a comet. I can't help but hear them and take notice.

One of those has drawn me to this coffee shop today, in fact. It's a favorite haunt of mine. People's thoughts do something lovely when they mingle with the scents of hazelnut and roasting coffee beans. Their minds drift on possibility, and spin on desires. I come here to people watch, to listen to their thoughts and, if someone comes my way with a touch of the flame about them, well, I do what I can to make their day a little more wondrous.

“Gene!” the barista calls.

I step up to the counter and see the twinkling of her wishes. They dance in her young eyes and whisper to me.

I wish I could see her this weekend, but I'm a hundred bucks short of a ticket.

I smile at her.

“Good morning, Lily,” I say.

“Hey, Gene. Haven't seen you lately. Almost thought you'd forgotten about us.”

“Allow me to make up for my absence.” I produce two bills from my pocket. To me they are singles, but once they are in her hand, well. The magic is done.

I turn around and enjoy the sound of her gasp behind me.

“Gene! I think you...um...”

“Problem, Lily?”

“I think you made a mistake.”

I call over my shoulder, “I don't make mistakes.”

I'm pushing out the door so I can take my coffee on the patio when she shouts her gratitude. My smile only widens, and deep in my chest my heart swells. Given my druthers I could spend every day for a year doling out these little treasures that enrich lives. There are limits, though, even outside the confines of a lamp.

The light of love was indeed bright in Lily, and that ember no doubt fanned her desire to travel, but that's not the flame that has drawn me to the shop today. No. This fire burns hotter and whiter than love.

I wish....oh, God Almighty, do I wish...

The voice blares in my mind, pulling me toward it, but the words break apart, crackling like an old radio signal. I crave those lost syllables. I need them.

She's sitting alone on the curb, her back to a parking meter. Her gleaming obsidian eyes are dry, but tear stains cut clean lines through the layer of dirt on her face. She stares out into the street, her jaw tight and her gaze severe. Something, though, alerts her to my attention, and she snaps her head to me.

“What?” Her voice is raw. “You got something to say? Why are you staring at me?”

This one isn't a candle. She is a roiling magma chamber, churning with molten fury, passion.

If I could only....if I could just...I wish!

Her chaotic, cataclysmic beauty astounds me, and I forget myself. The words come out of my mouth, a slave to my awe. “You want something.”

“Don't we all?” she snorts.

“But it's different with you.”

I take a seat on the curb next to her, and offer her the coffee. She reads my name, the heiroglyph-like codes on the cup and, when she sees the contents are to her liking, takes a drink.

“Just like I order it,” she says. “Thanks, Gene.”

“What is your name?”

Her shoulders curl inward, and for a moment she looks like a great black vulture folding her dark wings around a most coveted find. From over the cup she murmurs, “Claire.”

I wish that I could....

It's so close to the surface, now. Her need—for that is what lies beneath her anger, not a run-of-the-mill wish but a pure ingot of need melting in the pit of her—gives off a metallic scent like blood or freshly-quenched steel.

I ache for her to give it to me, to let me slake this fury.

“Claire,” I whisper, “it is so good to meet you.”

“Is it?”

“What is it you want, Claire?”

She eyes me sidelong and I stare right back, my question seeking to hear the rest of that elusive sentence.

“Old man, I think you've got to keep walking.”

She puts the coffee in my hand and rises to her feet. I stand, too, and find that for all of her potency she is a wisp of a thing. Too skinny limbs and bones that a stiff wind could break. But that soul of hers is a raging fire and I'm drawn to it like the weakest of moths.

“Please,” I beg, “just an answer.”

“It doesn't matter.”

“Of course it does.”

“It won't happen.”

“I can make it happen.”

“Damn fool, what you think you are? Santa Claus?”

“More. Try me. One wish.”

“I wish you would go away?”

“Not the one I'm after. There is one, though, a wish that sings in your blood. It burns in you. Tell me that one. Tell me, Claire, and I'll grant it.”

She gapes at me, those dark eyes filling with anguish. “I wish....”

“Yes?”

“I wish I could...this is stupid. Who are you?”

“Say it, Claire! Say it now!”

“I wish I could forgive him!”

The surge of power from those words breaks over me like an ocean wave, dousing that flame in me that burns in sympathy with her. I am cold stone, the ingot dropped into water.

Claire's gaze remains hot. “What is it, Gene? Can't give me that?”

I shake my head, defeated and forlorn. I can't stand the heat of her her stare, so I drop my eyes to the ground. How often had I given that speech to those who took up my lamp? How many times had I told them that though I could conjure gold from the ether, I could not change a heart or mind?

There are limits, even for those like me.

“No. No, I can't.”

Claire takes the coffee from my loose grip. “Cheers, then.”

She turns and walks away, the fire of her still calling out to me, a song that can never be answered.

Wishes are like candles. And some of them will burn forever.

 

downloadIf you like what you've read here, please consider becoming a Patreon patron and joining in the fun of helping me create stories. 

Friday Flash: "Abandoned Places"

It's Flash Friday. Today I've written 985 based on Patreon Patron Brian's image prompt as well as a prompt I found on Instagram. Courtesy of "ItsAbandoned" on Instagram.

Actress Jean Harlowe

At first, when Brian suggested this picture, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it. When I saw the other photo pop up in my Instagram feed, I got goosebumps and knew I had to use it as a prompt. Not long after I looked back at the gown Harlowe is wearing, and the two pictures merged in my head. The story started talking and I got to writing.

So, two pictures. One story. For your consideration, here's "Abandoned Places".

Abandoned Places by Jamie Wyman

The family were all abuzz with something. A football match, the announcement of a baby on the way, politics or something equally droll. I stood outside, positively gasping and completely out of cigarettes. Nevermind the news. Fuck the footballers and who gives a damn about my cousin's third spawn. Or was it her fourth? Never could keep the little sprogs' names straight anyway.

Just about the time the my aunts' voices reached a supersonic squeal of delight, I launched off my ass, left the small garden behind and made my way into the copse of trees. A mass of clouds had descended on my hometown, cloaking everything with mist. If it were spring, we'd have called it cool and clean, but in the late autumn such as it was, the result of an overcast sky and threat of rain elicited words like “damp” and “dreary.” I, for one, enjoyed it. Not that there was anyone to ask my opinion. I'd wandered deep into the woods, my only company a few squawking rooks and the gentle shuffle of my feet through the wet carpet of fallen leaves. The smells of petrichor and decay mingled with the scents of moss and moist tree bark to create a unique perfume.

I'd gotten comfortable in my solitude, relaxed into a zen-like trance of steps and silence, when a black mass flew past me in a cawing flurry of feathers and beaks. The crows drew my attention to a curious landmark, one I'd never noticed in the years I'd lived nearby.

The church was old, its once-white stone gone gray from years in the elements and little care. Through jagged glass teeth, the windows revealed a shadowy interior suitable only for cobwebs and regret. As I came around to the rear of the abandoned edifice, I found the graveyard. Some of the stones jutted out of the earth at odd angles, knocked askew by the ever-growing roots of the bare trees. Others crumbled, the names and dates obscured by time.

One gravemarker, however, remained pristine. The marble cross shone white as a chess piece in the monochrome day. As I approached it, I could see that it had been care for religiously, almost obscenely. The soil beneath it was near black, and empty of leaves or the detritus of the woods. Not so much as a strand of spider silk sullied the single name and solitary date carved into the stone.

Williams

1907

Bramble and twig snapped under my feet as I took curious steps toward this beacon gleaming in the cemetery. Those steps were halted, however, when I heard a voice. From the thicket of skeletal trees came a figure as radiant as daylight in the murky wood. She was slim with skin of alabaster and hair like starlight. Not a wrinkle or blemish on her sylvan face. Her petal-pink lips parted as she sang breathily.

“Lully, lullay. Thou little tiny child. By, by, lully, lullay....”

The woman wore a diaphanous gown, the goassamer fabric clinging to her breasts and hips, but trailing out behind her in wisps. It was as if she was clothed in the low-laying fog that blanketed the woods. The woman's arms were naked, but the chill day didn't seem to bother her with even so much as a goosebump.

“O sisters, too, how may we do for to preserve this day? This poor youngling for whom we sing by, by, lully, lullay.”

Her gait matched the somber, minor key of her song. With bare feet she stepped among the graves slowly and reverently, until at last she stopped before the white cross and went to her knees. As she continued her song, she moved her hands in swirls above the soil. Small paperwhites burst from the earth, the flowers swaying like tolling bells. And a single red rose bloomed at the foot of the cross.

I watched in amazement as her gestures accelerated. Rising from the ground, she appeared to be pulling strands of fabric not unlike that which she wore. The mist flowing from her fingers—tinged with the slightest of green lights—swaddled itself, churning in a tight and small bundle between her hands.

“That woe is me,” she sang, “poor child for thee. And ever mourn and say...”

Standing at full height, the woman brought her arms around the bundle. I could see, now, the ethereal form of a child, its face chubby in the cheeks with a pouty mouth. The woman cradled the baby with equal parts devotion and grief, nuzzling her cheek against it.

Neither she nor her child paid me any notice. And though my mind raced with questions about what I'd just seen, I held my peace and chose instead to bear silent witness to this moment of a mother and her child. The woman took the same solemn steps over the leaves and into the fog-shrouded trees. Her song carried on the wind.

“For thy parting never say nor sing. By, by, lully, lullay.”

I waited for long minutes after she disappeared into the mists, pondering the mysteries of her and her baby, but they never returned. The rose at the grave dropped a crimson petal to the ground, and, like a stone falling into a still pond, the moment was disturbed with confusing ripples. I woke from my thoughts to find the gray sky had grown darker. Thunder rumbled in the distance and I decided it was time to get my bearings and shuffle back to the family home.

In the years since that chill day, I've returned to the graveyard a number of times. In the rain, in the thrall of spring and the cloying days of summer. Never again have I seen the woman with her child. And even as the rest of the church falls into disrepair and decay, the white stone remains perfect, clear of debris and adorned with a single red rose.

As always, if you like what you read below please check out the Free Stories tab for more flash, take a look at my books, and consider backing me on Patreon