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.

Iron Spirits: Silver Linings

I’ve begun writing Iron Spirits, the book following my debut novel, Iron Shards. I’m a little bit exhausted today and not sure I will meet my daily writing goal. (The photo is my half-filled coffee mug from my alma mater. Iced lattes are fueling these pages.) I’ve set a breakneck pace–3,000 words a day–to get the latest book out to you guys this fall. You’ve certainly waited long enough. Thanks for hanging in here with me.

Insomnia has not been kind to me these last ten months, and authors don’t actually live charmed lives. (Even if that’s the picture we’d like to paint.) If you’ve looked at my poetry or my posts regarding PTSD, then you’ll know that my struggle persists. Insomnia is a common PTSD symptom; my body thinks it’s always under attack, and that doesn’t do wonders for sleep. I also need a second surgery because my nasal passages are still partially blocked after my nose was broken. And for quite a few reasons, it’s currently on hold.

The silver lining to all of this is that I write amazing traumatized characters. I know the things people do when they’ve seen death, been attacked, gone through an accident. I know what they’ll do immediately after and a month later. So, I’m penning an authentic moody, traumatized teen. But, at times, I don’t even like him much, even if I am certain he’s behaving exactly like he should be. (Think Harry Potter Book 5.)

But he’s on a journey, too, and I’m looking forward to sharing bits of his story in Iron Spirits soon.

Poetry: Worth It

Sometimes I think about how all of the circumstances align for us to meet someone at the right time. I’m grateful for my current set of unlikely occurrences. I live with PTSD, so I’ve been deeply skeptical that happy endings are possible and yet stubborn enough to look for them anyway.

Worth It

Did I have to feel the chasm spreading in my bed?

Did I need to struggle raising three oh-so-close-together nerdlings alone?

Did I have to learn not to flinch when a fist went through the wall inches from my face?

Did I need to watch retreating backs

as I hyperventilated my way through panic attacks?

Did I have to go on so many blah, how-do-I-leave first dates?

Was that really the shortest path to you?

If so,

it was worth it.

Poetry: Challenge Accepted

One of my friends recently quipped that I’d have to go back to some of my hellish previous circumstances to keep writing beautiful poetry. (Of course, I said, “Hell no. I’ll just keep writing novels.”) And then he suggested that I stop writing poetry if I started writing about lint. Well, you know, my brain wouldn’t let it go. And I was sure I could make even lint interesting. 😀 Here’s the product of that brief poetry exercise. And I don’t think it’s my best work, but I was constrained to the topic of lint.

Zoom In

Nothing is the same

now that you’re here.

Even my lint screen yields tiny clues.

Darker than before.

More sand. More dust.

And dog hair–Sighs–

Layers of dog hair.

And it’s cleaned more often,

you know, before it’s a fire hazard.

If you change something so small as a lint screen,

I wonder what the rest of the world sees.

Where Angels Can’t Follow: The Origin

There’s a slightly creepy and definitely weird piece of art on my wall. The print caught my eye at a local festival a few years back, and I bought it because it intrigued me.

IMG_20200723_144419738
Angel photo by Kathy Hagood at Angel Finger Photography. It’s now displayed on Jessi Kallison’s Wall of Weird.

My kids hated it when I hung it on the wall, but my tastes haven’t gotten less eclectic since. (Sorry, not sorry, nerdlings.)

I obsessed over the details. I wondered why the angel woman was headless and whose much larger hand was on her stomach? Was he human? Another angel? Why was he touching her at all? Was the owner of that hand a good guy? Why would she be a statue? And why would she be a headless statue after that?

I don’t know the real story. But my brain wouldn’t let go of the image and decided to start making up its own story that began with an angel statue. And Where Angels Can’t Follow was born.

He Doesn’t Get a Book

I am so damned proud of this stack of paper. You might be thinking, “C’mon, Jessi. You write novels, and it’s a novel. Why is this one standing out?” This one is standing out first because it’s poignant. It’s got a mix of mythologies, generation gaps, Southern flavor, fights to embrace sexual and racial identities—all while packed with laugh-until-you-hurt moments.

It's real when it's all printed in front of me!

But I’m also damned proud because I had so much trouble getting back to this novel to edit it after I wrote it. I worked on it while I was in a very abusive relationship, one that culminated in nightmarish domestic violence. It’s not an autobiographical novel at all, but I wrote it in spite of my circumstances. And everything created in that time felt touched by it. I remembered what I was going through when I penned different scenes, when I tried to edit and stopped.

I am proudest because I have taken my novel back. You can’t see it, but I know I not only had to write it, I had to wrest it from an abyss of panic, anxiety, and doubt. My abuser does not get a book, much less the best one I’ve written so far. I want to share it with you all far too much. I’m living with this stack of paper for now, putting on finishing touches and recording audio soon. You’ll get a native Southerner for the drawl of New Orleans! And I am excited to share both the drawl and the story.