Open Letter to Jeff Bezos Concerning Rape Culture on Amazon

Jeff,

I recently tried to publish my story on Amazon. I have other books and stories on there and have never had a problem. However, this horror story was put into the erotic category. I can only assume that it was because I put a content/trigger warning on the story about a non-graphic rape of a 13 year old girl. I called and talked to someone to explain that I was uncomfortable with the idea of a 13 year old being raped and having to endure the demons that come with that being put into the “erotic” category. The part of the story deals with her friend trying to save her and then being forced to comfort her afterward and how that changes their relationship. However, I was informed that there was NOTHING I could do to have the book placed in an appropriate category. Once it was labeled as “Erotica” it had to stay there.

Since I am DEEPLY uncomfortable with the idea of someone calling that scenario erotic and continuing the disturbing trend of “rape culture” in America I unpublished the book. I seriously think Amazon.com needs to reevaluate what constitutes being placed into the erotic section. You are doing nothing but feeding into the idea that women and young girls enjoy being raped and that it is considered sexual. One in four women have been the victim of rape or molestation. We need to be able to have books and stories that deal with this in a serious manner without being inappropriately labeled (sexualized/fetishized).
I also have to wonder if this would have happened to a larger publishing house. If someone had contacted me and asked about the content warning I would have explained. We could have had a conversation and tried to work this out. Instead I only found out when I checked the Amazon page to see how everything looked before launch. I am all around disgusted by this.

Your company needs to change its policies and the way it deals with the labeling of erotica material immediately. The longer this goes on, the harder it is for the 25% of women who are victims to find closure and move on in their lives. If someone in your department considers the discussion of a 13 year old enduring a rape to be erotic material then that indicates a problem on your company’s part that needs to be rectified.

Kristi Brooks

Things I Want my Daughter to Know

Things I want my daughter to know:

  1. It is okay to be weird. Truly.
  2. Love yourself, because waiting for someone else to do it is exhausting work.
  3. Don’t waste one moment. Not one, because life hits freaking warp speed sometime around 25 and living with regrets can weigh you down.
  4. Give one random compliment to a stranger every day. Seeing other people smile will make you happier. I promise.
  5. Talk to people for the hell of it. You’ll learn a lot more about life this way than you will in a book.
  6. Learn to take a compliment without feeling guilty. If someone says you’re beautiful or how you have a good smile tell them “Thank You” and smile. But don’t make up an excuse about how you could look or be better. Go with it.
  7. Also, know that you don’t owe them anything for the compliment. It is what it is.
  8. On that note, you also don’t owe them anything if they buy you dinner, or drinks, or even a house. LITERALLY YOU OWE THEM NOTHING IF THEY DECIDE TO GIVE YOU STUFF. That’s not how life works.
  9. If you love something don’t let anyone tell you that it is silly or stupid. Shut them down.
  10. Likewise, don’t tell someone that something they like is silly or stupid because it is different from you.
  11. Embrace your differences in your friends. You will grow into different things, but that does not mean you have to grow apart. Hanging around with people the same as you every single day would get boring.
  12. Don’t forget to be nice to the lonely/shy kids. Sometimes they just have trouble reaching out.
  13. Don’t let the world harden you. Smile whenever you get the chance. Laugh and feel it deep down in your belly. Know that there is still a tomorrow coming over the horizon and you can control more of it than you realize.
  14. Never lose your imagination.
  15. It’s okay to be angry and sad and happy all at once. I do this. I laugh when I’m not supposed to, cry at commercials, and smile when I’m tired. Try not to question it because….
  16. …thinking too much about things you can’t decipher will make you fall down the rabbit hole.
  17. Never stop expanding your horizons. Knowledge is not something to be ashamed of or to back away from.
  18. Please don’t use slang just because everyone else is doing it.
  19. For that matter, don’t do what everyone else is doing. Usually that way gets you in more trouble than it’s worth.
  20. Plus, every time you do it you sacrifice a little piece of who you are inside. The cost is too high to follow the crowd.
  21. I love you. I love every single moment of you. I miss your baby coos and your sweet bubbly giggles, and I love your jokes that make no sense and the way you crawl on me when you want snuggles now.
  22. No matter how mad I get or how frustrated I become when you get older, know that I still love you. Always.

IMPORTANT!

IMPORTANT!!! For anyone who preordered my newest book, I’m sorry. I had to cancel the preorder and unpublished it. Because I put a content warning on it about a rape (The rape is not graphically described. It is something that happens to one of the main characters) Amazon decided to classify it as erotica and they have refused to allow me to appeal the decision. The story is not erotic and I WILL NOT allow someone to place a rape (especially of a minor as the girl in the story is 13) into that category. This is something that happens to one in four women, we should be able to have discussion of it in stories and books without it being sexualized/fetishized. I will try again in the near future to get the book up without being labeled “erotic.” Thank you for your understanding.

Picking Apart a Scene

I’ve been working on the new story now and it’s getting to the point where I need to pull apart and completely revamp a scene. Long story short, I added in another character long after the beginning and I need to find a way to get her fully integrated in the front half of the book. I don’t know why I work this way, but that is often my process.

Right now I keep going back and forth between what I need to do and what I want to do. I need to completely gut this scene and only take away the vital elements. The problem is over the last year or so I’ve grown attached to it and I don’t want to change it. It’s hard to create something from scratch and then tear it to pieces and rebuild it.

Think about how attached some people get to Lego sets they build. Now magnify that. Yep, that is what I’m going through right now. I need all of the luck you can toss at me.

The good news is that the new character, Orele, is pretty bad ass. I like her, and that lessens the horrible feeling that I have in the pit of my stomach when I sit down to write.

The Universe is Waiting

At birth we are given a roadmap:
goals and dreams to add to as we age,
each step changing the landscape into
something we might not recognize later.

Obstacles rise to greet us, what we become tied to our
ability to navigate the wilderness of our destinies, even the
branches that build new maps in unknown territories,
to recognize different dimensions in the lands
of what could have been and what must never be.

Passionate volcanos burn bright and hot,
lava-filled and waiting to erupt before fading
into the background of what was and falling into the
event horizon so new ones can rise up from the bones of nothing.

And still, the Universe is patient.

She waits for each of us to reach our treasure, never bothering
to ask if that is what we need. Assuming, instead, that the brightly held “X”
is the inevitable conclusion to each breath that passes through
our lungs.

 

She is Four

She is four, she leans back in the swing kicking her legs out and then pulling them back as fast as she can pump her muscles. The movement rocks her whole body until the swing begins to shakily fly through the air. The higher it moves, the better she gets it under control until she is gliding through time and space, her eyes narrowed against the rush of wind on her face. She continues climbing until her toes are pointed skyward at the apex of the swing’s curve; her hair flying behind her in soft golden tendrils.

I wonder if she will ever know how deeply I love her. I’m watching her from the corner of the window right now, carful to not let her see. As much as I want to run out there and make sure she is okay, I can’t. She needs to know that I trust her, she needs to learn how to play and explore on her own. After a few minutes she stops swinging and convinces the dog to play tag.

I’m still watching, and my heart is breaking a little. She is so happy, she is having so much fun, and one day this will pass. Time is a cruel mistress: unstoppable and relentless. Through my daughter’s antics in the backyard I can remember the past as vividly as if it were the here and now, and I can see the future as it unrolls before us.

She is my heart living outside my chest, my living time capsule, my world. I have to walk the careful line between being her friend and her mother, between guiding her on her way and setting down rules.

It is night now, and she’s sound asleep on her pillow, one hand wrapped around her stuffed Pete the Cat and the other arm thrown off across the bed. I run my hand along her cheek and brush the hair back from her sleeping face. She looks so peaceful, her face reminding me of when she was a baby. My arms ache to hold her like that again, to bundle her up and press her skin to me. I kiss her forehead and leave the room, and for a moment I swear I can feel the time slipping by: seconds, days, weeks, years.

An eternity of stolen moments, her body gliding back and forth through the air, her soft laughter, her eyes.

Ninja Turtle

She twirls through the air, staff ready
body tense, she sees all of the things
that might go wrong, both real and imagined.
Her tiny form swoops with a perfected balance
of grace and chaos. In her mind she is fighting
villians and eating pizzas in the sewers of
New York City, living a great life as a Ninja
Turtle. She is not interested in princesses or
tea parties, but instead wants to fight the bad guys,
team up with mutants, and ride dragons.

Right now she is only in love with
the idea of being more than herself, of
being a hero that can do anything, and I
do not plan on telling her otherwise. Instead,
I watch as her body slices through the air.
One turn, then another.

April A to Z Blogging Challenge

I’m gearing up for the A to Z blogging challenge that is starting in a day or two. The idea is daunting for me, so wish me luck.  Starting with the letter A on April Fool’s day each post will be either a piece of flash fiction, non-fiction, or a poem. Help me out by leaving comments for the things you like and whatever other encouraging news you can along the way!  Thanks.

For more info on the A to Z Challenge check this link out.

 

Surviving With Zombies

Hordes of the undead
parade across the screen –
some fast, some ploddingly slow,
all recently revived from the tomb.

They are mute except for
scuttling footsteps and occasional
attempts at vocalization –
their existence one of base
needs.  I wonder if they can still feel
their humanity – if it haunts
them in flickers and memories.

I know you are still there, always in the
background.  Where would
you go? After all, there are machines to
help you breathe and implements to give
you food, because you can no longer
do even this on your own.

It is too easy for the world to
forget that being trapped by a body which
no longer responds does not lessen who you are.

If zombies can remember their lives
before that disorientating moment when they
re-emerged into the world craving human flesh,
then I have to pause and consider that each
moan is a plea for someone to put an end
to it.

And you are still there…