Where Angels Can’t Follow: Blog Tour Day 1

I’m excited to announce the first day of the blog tour for Where Angels Can’t Follow. My latest novel will be available on September 22, 2020. (In a little over a week!) I did an interview with Two Chicks on Books. You can read all of the gory details and sign up for the giveaway of my first novel Iron Shards here. http://www.twochicksonbooks.com/2020/09/blog-tour-where-angels-cant-follow-by.html

A second interview is also available on BookHounds. I really liked some of those questions, though I should have added listing the contents of my nightstand makes me cringe, too. And this site loves to know about authors’ pets, too, so you know Odin had to make an appearance. You can also sign up for the Iron Shards giveaway here. https://www.bookhoundsya.net/2020/09/giveaway-interview-where-angels-cant-follow-by-jessi-kallison-jessikallison-rockstarbktours-ends-9-20.html

Poetry: Paradise

I recently bought last-minute tickets to hike at Mount Rainier National Park. I had never been to the Pacific Northwest, and after I decided that I was done depriving myself of beauty and the things I love, no one could stop me. So, I hopped on a plane to Seattle and was not disappointed.

There’s a section of Mount Rainier National Park called Paradise. I was there, hiking the Skyline loop surrounded by flabbergasting waterfalls, wildflowers, and Mount Rainier when a woman stomped past me on the trail.

Paradise

Have you ever been to dismal towns called Paradise

and thought the founders lacked imagination?

I have.

But this time, the name fit.

The sleeping volcano dominated the landscape.

The wildflowers filled every spot that no one stepped.

Waterfalls fell with such abundance that no one names them all.

And a woman stomped down the trail,

unflabbergasted by the embarrassment of riches.

Some people are angry even in Paradise.

Poetry: False Beliefs

When you begin trauma therapy, one of the first things you tackle is false beliefs–the ideas that somehow everything is your fault or that you deserve anything terrible that happened. (Survivor’s guilt, years of an abuser telling you that you deserve abuse: there are many kinds of trauma that instill those lies in us.) And as the false beliefs and guilt slide away, you learn to be happy again. To me, that alone was anxiety inducing–where is all of the pain I am used to drowning in? The terror I carry with me?

I was creating some of my own misery by not pursuing things I loved, like I was an afterthought who didn’t deserve consideration. I took on everything everyone else wanted and didn’t know how to say no for a long time. And as you can imagine, people don’t like it when you stop yielding. But no one else will say no for you.

Things have clicked into place for me during the isolation of the pandemic. And I’ve reclaimed my time to journal, my time to read, and time to travel and drink in beauty. Of course, that comes at the price of not doing everything everyone else in my life wanted–not doing laundry for my entire family all of the time, not having an immaculate house, not giving a damn what the neighborhood thinks of my yard, and not volunteering with every organization my kids want to be a part of. The pandemic shut everything down so that I got to see what I was adding back, and the answer is almost nothing that I had before. And I like it.

False Beliefs

I believed The Devil over time.

I believed the terrible things he said about me.

And I began to wonder how anyone wanted me.

I believed no one else would.

And if I was so awful,

then maybe I deserved him.

He punched the wall.

I deserved that.

He broke my lamps, doors, dishes.

I deserved that.

He broke me.

I deserved that.

I’ve served my penance in a hundred miserable ways.

I kept words trapped inside of me, un-writing.

I didn’t allow my eyes to roam over the beautiful words

that other broken wordsmiths wrote.

I didn’t let myself venture underground.

No sparkling speleothems to soak in.

I starved myself of beauty.

I deserved that.

And then the angel came along and wanted what’s best for me.

In every way.

He loves my freckles, my scars,

my hellbent-on-success, impossible goal lists,  

my damn-the-torpedoes approach to life.

And I get to put on a sequined shirt, a leather skirt, a hot pink jacket.

To open the books I’d hoarded for when I was good enough.

To write each day like it’s my last, and the ink is endless.

To linger at waterfalls, wildflowers, and gypsum.

To be happy.


I deserve that.

Where Angels Can’t Follow: The Playlist

I listen to music when I write novels; I need it to tune out the rest of the world. I began Where Angels Can’t Follow a few years ago, but didn’t complete it and get through the editing until this year. So, this playlist is a bit more scattered than usual, but here are the songs that remind me of the world I wrote and the characters in it.

  1. “Mercy” by Muse. (I absolutely could not have finished this book without this song. My local coffee shop had a gaggle of women in it one day, and they were deafening when I’d planned to knock out a chapter. I bought this song, and it became my tune-people-out song for the novel.)
  2. “Little Monster” by Royal Blood.
  3. “I’ll Follow You” by Shinedown.
  4. “Saint Cecilia” by Foo Fighters.
  5. “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors.
  6. “Hurricane” by The Band of Heathens. (This song felt so New Orleans to me.)
  7. “God’s Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash.
  8. “Viva la Vida” by Coldplay.
  9. “Save Me” by Remy Zero.
  10. “Praying” by Kesha. (This one reminded me of Medusa. That’s all I’m saying.)
  11. “Only Happy When It Rains” by Garbage.
  12. “Trip Switch” by Nothing But Thieves.
  13. “Hallowed Ground” by Bishop Briggs.
  14. “Way Down We Go” by Kaleo.
  15. “My Church” by Maren Morris.  (I could hear Kiah singing this to annoy Grace.)
  16. “Anthem of the Angels” by Breaking Benjamin.

Poetry: Closet Chair

For eleven months now, I’ve had PTSD, following a violent attack, and my panic attacks are not really going away. It’s not a pretty thing that people want to know about or discuss. We’d all really rather I were normal–whatever that word means.

I really like hiding away in my closet when anxiety creeps in. It’s the quietest place in the house, it’s not so bright there either, and I feel safe in the smaller space. I know it’s odd. Just try to explain your habit of freaking out in your closet next to the impractical shoes to someone you might want to date. It makes you really popular, in case you’re wondering. It’s more of a fifth date confession.

My boyfriend really sees who I am in this closet, the good and the bad. And recently he did a beautiful thing; he put a giant beanbag in there for me.

Closet Chair

The beanbag’s overstuffed and too big for its spot–

a chair for you and a bed for me.

Beige microfiber, in full fluff just below the lowest hanger racks.

It cradles my whole body, hugging me when no one else will.

It’s one of the nicest things anyone’s done for me.

You didn’t try to drag me into the light, puffy-eyed and sniffling,

where you could pretend this isn’t happening.

You didn’t impose a timeline on my recovery,

never treating my panic like it’s fleeting.

You pulled up a chair and invited me to be comfortable

while in pain.

Like a spouse settling into a hospital chair to wait out the night,

you settled in like you’d stay.

In the beanbag for two in my closet.

Poetry: Some People Are Worth Melting For

I gave the context for this poem in yesterday’s blog post.

Some People Are Worth Melting For

Little eyes are pouring salty waterfalls at us.

“Olaf can’t talk to me anymore!” she wails.

I didn’t know that she even cared about Olaf, or his battery-powered repertoire.

His prognosis is grim to her.

His vocal cords have cancer, and his remaining time is a few crossed-off calendar days.

I propose a thorough surgery to restore function.

He didn’t get this way from chainsmoking, and we can fix it.

She questions the consequences, the scarring, the methodology.

“There’s no seam near the button! Don’t you think this is a delicate procedure requiring laparoscopy?”

We hash out an entire exploratory surgical plan,

yet no one can turn off her lacrimal glands.

“Lilly? What else happened today?”

Her lip quivers. And I also perform heart surgery.

Author Life: It’s Not What You Think

I video chatted with my daughter last night, and she was teary-eyed, seeming so much smaller than I know she is with her eyes wide and upset, taking up half the screen. She was blubbering because the battery was dying on a beloved Olaf stuffed animal. (Olaf is the snowman from Frozen.) That piqued my motherly intuition the moment I heard it. I didn’t even know she had an obsession with Olaf. And if I don’t even know about this stuffed animal, then it can’t be worth crying over.

I was already tired and had summoned every ounce of patience I had left. My bathtub pipe was leaking catastrophically after it was “fixed”. It had flooded through the ceiling over my kitchen table, making my kitchen a slosh-zone. My significant other and I’d had a disagreement. (I hate those.) My co-parent had already called me over because he didn’t know what to do with the diminishing morale about virtual school, and I’d brought donuts to get a few smiles. I didn’t get a job that I knew I’d nailed the interview for. (Authors need insurance, too.) And I had been afflicted with stomach cramps all evening. So, for context, I was done with the day.

I reassured my daughter that we would fix the stuffed animal. Then, she started wailing that it didn’t have a seam near the button for the sound. I asked her where the seams were, and she told me there was one in its head and one on its bottom. Before I knew it, I was agreeing to give a colonoscopy to a stuffed snowman to replace batteries that are probably non-standard and need to be ordered.

But I still knew that wouldn’t normally upset my cheerful girl. My daughter is a force of optimism and confidence. So, I asked her, “What else happened today? Was it a good day?” And then she launched into the real problems. My children were issued school laptops long after their peers and were behind in virtual school at a new school, and she was positively petrified about French and the “jibber-jabber” she couldn’t interpret. Launching into a new language three weeks behind everyone else would be enough to shake anyone, so we talked it through and made a plan. I had the perfect anecdote about a time that I thought I would fail Latin, and the tears abated.

I find myself upset sometimes, too, with seemingly minor triggers. But those are often only the last thing added to the mountain of stressors upsetting me. After I disconnected our chat, I was mulling over the hellish weeks I thought I would fail Latin when I was fifteen. And then I thought about the anxiety and PTSD that let me see she wasn’t crying over Olaf. Both the anxiety and the Latin class seemed impossible to me and without meaning or purpose when I endured them. As my tiny daughter asked me last night, “Why is life so hard?” I thought back to myself, panicking in the closet earlier in the day, asking my significant other, “What did I do to deserve this?”

And the challenges I overcame seemed to have meaning as I guided my daughter through her own fear and stress. If you do make it through hell, you’re a lot better at going back and guiding those you love out.

I’m raising a giant cup of coffee to all of you this morning. She’s going to conquer French, and I’m writing more on Iron Spirits. Let’s continue our march out of hell today.

Indie Publishing: How to Handle Inappropriate Messages

So, you did it. You published a book! Congratulations! And your author photo is on your site, and you look professional, well-kempt, maybe a little hot.  Good for you!

At least, good for you, until some random person finds your photo on your author page or your website. And you’re new to this, so there are not 200 messages sitting in your author inbox. In fact, that guy who just messaged asking to be your significant other (maybe a little more crudely) might even hurt the response rate on your Facebook page if you ignore the message. *beats head into desk*

You have a few options. You can respond politely thanking people for their interest and then direct them to your latest publications. It’s a response and can be a form one that you copy into those messages. Maybe you’ll get some sales, too? I’ve got my fingers crossed for you. Maybe that’s the end of the weirdness.

You can also just not engage. You’re an author. You’re probably a recluse who wants minimal social interaction. Why on Earth would you invite conversation with a cretin? People know authors are not going to respond to messages promptly. We’re tempestuous and creative and introverted. But it might not be the best decision for your business.

So, you decide to send the information about your book to the weird person. And now you’ve gotten a dozen messages you weren’t looking for. Somehow you’re this guy’s poetess and angel and who knows what else. Why can’t he even spell your name correctly?! I’ve heard about women in my writing community who had actual stalkers who found their address, about people who created new profiles to get around bans, and about unsolicited pictures messaged to authors.

And you might be thinking, This isn’t Tinder! It’s my professional page. Why?! First, you can always respond to those pictures with a microscope emoji. Just sayin’. And second, all jokes aside, it’s a good idea to just ban people who look like they are headed in that direction before they get the chance to continue. You don’t have time for that, and chances are good that someone who can’t spell your name probably isn’t going to appreciate the word “phoneme” in the first chapter of your book.

The goal is to sell books. So, keep that in the front of your mind when navigating messages. If the harassing messages don’t stop, then make them stop. Ban the sender. You have writing and marketing to do. Don’t engage if it isn’t helping you reach the goal. Good luck, and I wish you an inbox with raves about your book and no misspelled compliments about your hair.

 

Indie Publishing: Book Dedications

Let’s talk book dedications. They are a little bit like tattoos. Once they are out in the universe, that one moment is there forever, for all to see. I didn’t realize what an issue this was until I was newly divorced, and many of my would-be suitors thought they’d order a copy of my debut novel–dedicated to my ex-husband. Oh, the hell I was given and the blushing that ensued. *facepalm* I thought, at least his name isn’t on your arm. You didn’t tattoo your wedding band on, Jessi, so there’s that.

I got more cautious on round two, dedicating to my kids. I’m always going to love my kids. No one will give me hell for that dedication. Phew. 

Round three: After my attack, I was diagnosed with PTSD. The people who held my hands during panic attacks and talked to me when I was at my most unstable got the dedication. Crabb and Alexander are friends who didn’t leave my side. Their faith in me was unshakable when I wasn’t sure I would ever be better than I was at that moment after my attack.

So, how do I pick which people get the dedication when I have been surrounded by a bounty? I start thinking about which people fit with which book’s themes. It’s not a gratitude list put into emphatic order. For me, it’s about which person fits into a slice of my life that belongs with the book.

Do I have to dedicate books from here on out to every friend and family member I’ve got, skipping men like they’re faithless and ephemeral? No. I don’t.

Would I dedicate a book to a significant other again? Absolutely. I’d do that all over again. Those people are already tattooed on me whether anyone can see it or not and whether they choose to stay in my life. I don’t care what anyone thinks about that. 

Dedications are my arm sleeves; they’ve got a hell of a story, too. And I won’t erase a single one, though I easily could hide any from future readers. I hope if you write your own, you write it like it’s in stone and in you. One author to another, I’ll admire your tattoo.

 

Hell and High Water: Publication Day

IT’S HERE! Hell and High Water is now available as an ebook and in paperback! I am excited to share my lines with those who need them.

Ebook coverOne of my favorite quotes about art is from Cesar A. Cruz, “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.” And that’s what I’ve set out to do. Many of my lines will resonate with the abused and the disillusioned. And they might not be comfortable for anyone who hasn’t been through the hell of post traumatic stress disorder or its many symptoms. I published the volume anyway. Soothing those still navigating hell is more important than going along with unwritten social rules regarding mental health and trauma. I’m grinding taboos and mental health stigmas to dust, while utterly failing to hide the past plaguing me. Rather, I’ve opened my doors and invited the rest of the broken inside.

I’ve got the balm for abuse, heartbreak, recovering, and backsliding in verses, served with a pinch of what my Southern ancestors would’ve said. Thank you for joining me on the journey.

You can purchase your copy here.