Author: Kathryn Atkins

Ariadne Publicizes the Deathlist on the Internet

Hi. I’d like you to meet Ariadne. She’s the one on the lower left of the book cover. Curly red hair. Yup. And a little surprised. She’s the only character who is not a heavenly being. Or at least she’s the only non-human because the devil is not heavenly. He’s a jerk and hasn’t been in heaven in a long, long, long time. The story was that he was one of the angels but he did something so bad that he was banished from heaven. Don’t you like that word? Banished. It’s so final!

Anyway. Ariadne in the book was named after the mythological character famous for having helped Theseus escape the Minotaur by getting through the labyrinth where Theseus was being held captive. In this 21st-century story, Aridane is a website designer who helps Death with the Deathlist, and at one point actually has lunch at a very expensive restaurant with God. That was a hoot!


Ariadne has her faults. (Don’t we all?) She’s on a court order for AA, and she makes some mistakes along the way.  We wonder if we should trust her. But we aren’t sure if there’s anyone we can trust. Not even God, it seems.

I’d like to tell you more, but Death has set up an interview for me. Gotta run. I’ll share some Ariadne stories after I give you the whassup with the Holy Spirit. He’s the one on the right on the cover up there. Yes, he smokes. And plays golf.

They all do. And that’s part of the problem. See ya.

Deathlist FAQs

The novel Deathlist is on its way to an early 2022 launch. It’s a visionary & metaphysical book written as a satire with some pretty irreverent and funny depictions of the Holy Trinity. That said, it is not a lightweight book by any means. We caught up with author Kathryn Atkins and have transcribed our interview here to get you as excited about her book as we are.

1. What was the inspiration for this novel?

ANSWER: Every time I saw someone in the news or heard of a person dying that seemed especially odd (like a child, or someone sitting on a bench, maybe) I began to form a theory that everyone had a specified death date. Our deaths are not chance because God has it planned out, as he does our birth! He has to keep track of it all and I think it’s in a huge database that the characters in the book and I dubbed the Deathlist. I still believe there might be one somewhere. Next, I began to imagine that humans were somehow allowed to know what their death date was. How would knowing it change how we live? That was the germ of the book.

2. How long did it take you to write the book?

ANSWER: Eighteen years on and off. I found an early draft of this book in a drawer dating back to 2003. It came in and out of the drawer and many times the characters changed, but the Deathlist was always the driving force behind the plot.

 3. Who are your favorite authors and why?

ANSWER: I love Neil Gaiman. Terry Pratchett, who’s gone now. I like their quirky style, but with thoughtful, multidimensional characters, even if they’re not human, which comes through, I hope, in the Deathlist. I also like Christopher Moore, a satirist. I think the Deathlist stands up as a satire. But also, Amor Towles is a favorite because of his writing style. Rich. Deep. Experimental. There are so many it’s hard to pick!

4. You have published two collections of shorter works – stories, poems, and essays. What made you want to write a novel this time?

ANSWER: I wrote a novel this time because I couldn’t fit all the themes of it into a short story. Good and evil. Trust. Hope. Friendship. Life and death. Free will. It needed a longer character arc, and the scenes just kept coming. Plus, I feel very strongly that there is a Deathlist of a sort somewhere, and I had to write and finish this novel before my name popped up on the list.

5. In the story, Death (a female who loves designer clothes) is the main character. We learn right away that she hates her job and is not very fond of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. Why did you make her the main character?

 ANSWER: The main character at one time was a young man, not a woman, and not a celestial being. At one of my many rewrites, a novel coach whom I respect very much said Death was stealing every scene. That’s how she became the MC.

6. We also find out that the Deathlist was meant as a memory crutch for God. Why did you make this somewhat of a satire of some important beings? And how does God not know all this?

ANSWER: The book is fiction. But on the other hand, there might just be a limit to what God wants to remember. Or, he might have other things he’d rather be thinking about. Like playing golf or something. And about making this a satire, Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too important to be taken seriously.” I felt the themes would more accessible and be easier to swallow if the book wasn’t too heavy-duty and preachy.

7. There are some odd things about Death. For one, she loves beautiful designer clothes, but for another, she has this horrible stench around her. Besides the fact that she has few friends, she also doesn’t know how she got the job of being Death or who her parents were. How did these come about? And why are these points so important to the story or the character?

ANSWER: Death dresses in expensive clothes to keep her from feeling so horrible about her job, which is depressing enough, but she rarely gets a vacation. She loves art, too. It’s another way to have nice things to offset her gloomy job. As for the smell, it has always been with her. It’s the stench of death and it drives her nuts. It’s a metaphor for a flaw that she sometimes has control over, but most times not. It’s part of her character arc, as is her quest to find out who her parents were and why she had been assigned such a thankless job.

 8. The story takes place in Heaven, Hell, the Garden of Eden, and New York City. And it’s in the future. What made you choose these unusual settings for your novel?

 ANSWER: The story starts in Heaven. Death and the Trinity are there as is the Deathlist. When the devil enters the scene later in the book, another POV character, Ariadne finds herself in hell as the result of her actions. The Garden of Eden is where Death goes to make some huge plot-driving decisions. New York City is where Death meets Ariadne, a website designer and the other POV character in the book. NYC is also the location of the book’s climax. It had to be New York. Everything happens there. The book is set in the future because, well, it could still happen, but also, it gives a slight authenticity to a dystopia that we could face if science progresses as it’s heading now. 

9. The devil is pivotal to the story. Hasn’t the idea of God and the devil, good and evil been done too many times?

ANSWER: It’s been done a lot because the battle between good and evil has taken place since time began. The tension between the two at the edges of life and death and within and among literature and the arts, sports, and politics, war and peace cannot be overdone. It’s life. As a religious person, God and the devil exist. For other people, God and the devil are convenient personifications of good and evil. Each has the letters of the words in each name. Go_d and the _evil.

10. Do you have a favorite character?

ANSWER: I love them all. Death is me and she’s not. The Holy Spirit is another favorite. He’s a clotheshorse and cares for Death and Ariadne both. I like Ariadne because she’s got attitude. I do not like the devil. I do like Forceps, a nerdy tech angel in Heaven with a lopsided wing who is scared of Death, but he ends up being a good guy and helping her.

BONUS QUESTION: What are you working on next? 

ANSWER: I’d like to write a non-fiction full-length work the next time. I’m thinking of a biography of a woman who is a role model for me. On the other hand, I would also like to write a musical. I don’t know—something on the order of “West Side Story.” Or a book about coffee! 

Large Life Lessons from a Small Stupid Splinter

When was the last time you got a splinter? I can’t remember mine, but having spent the better part of the last precious hour I didn’t think I had in trying to remove one, I was blessed with seeing the life messages it presented me.

I used to get splinters all the time when I was little and my dad called them a splinter in your “finner.” I remember mom and I would bend over the dumb thing, almost drooling with concentration.

We were both younger. I could see what I was doing without magnification. Mom celebrated these intimate moments, I think, almost as much as squeezing my blackheads. Funny what you remember.

Mom and I were both determined to remove the splinter. And we fought to wield our weapon of choice. She liked tweezers. I chose a sewing needle. Not a pin. Heavens, no. We used to burn the needle and tweezers to sterilize them back then. I wonder if they had peroxide in those days…?

So many thoughts poured through me and the parallels to our lives kept shoving through my consciousness as I pretty much bullied the thing out of my finger. Blood flooded the gouge. My glasses got fogged over with my hot breath urging the thing out but to no avail. Could I ignore it? Not a chance. It was a battle of wits. A fight to the finish. Good versus evil. My honor was at stake. I was a splinter remover of note, having removed dozens over my young, reckless childhood. Yay for reckless childhoods. Do we even allow those now?

A splinter is a metaphor for life’s challenges. Some people take them head-on, and won’t give up until they’re overcome or removed. Some people put up with them. Letting them fester and get infected. Others don’t want to take on the excruciating pain (you know it’s still in there because it hurts like hell when you touch it) of digging underneath and pushing, pulling, or sucking it out. (I was never successful at that last one). Softening. the skin by soaking.

  • Perseverance
  • Lots of light
  • Magnification
  • Focus
  • Patience
  • Correct tools
  • Eating (I’d skipped breakfast)
  • Managing Pain
  • Relief
  • Satisfaction (I got it, finally)
  • Removal of an offending problem
  • Hurry is a hazard
  • Memories of Mom and Dad
  • Carving time
  • Softening by soaking

I’m not a soften-by-soaking person. nor am I patient. I don’t usually give into little things, but alas, I was felled like Goliath by a tiny David of a sliver.  The episode is over, but its teachings helped me understand more about myself.

Let me know about your last “sliver” and what you did. OR, let me know if you’re David or Goliath. Which one do you want to be?

Love to hear from you.

When Death Walked the Earth …

… no one recognized her.

Some people thought they saw Death walking the hallways of hospitals during the COVID 19 pandemic. No. She didn’t let people see her, number one. But also, you wouldn’t recognize her. At least, not based on what you think she would look like. She is not a hag or a snaggle tooth with witch-y hair. She’s not a skeleton in a hard hat. No. Death is drop-dead gorgeous, wears designer clothes, always, and likes to work behind the scenes. Or in front of the scenes in plain sight with complete anonymity.

She does not walk anywhere. She is a being, but not. Maybe, you might have seen a well-dressed woman in a waiting room. Or you could have seen her like a shadow in an haute couture magazine. But probably not. Most people wouldn’t know that it was she. Most people think Death looks like a skeleton or some ugly dude. Isn’t it cool to know that’s not the case?

So, not only is Death beautiful, but she’s also actually on our side.  It’s probably hard to believe but Death is really trying to help us.

You’ll learn about her in The Deathlist, my speculative fiction novel coming out soon. I am excited for you to meet her.

“…I Lie Awake at Night and Ask Why Me?”

Then a voice answers, “Nothing personal, your name just happened to come up.”

These TWO lines are a quote from Charles M. Schulz, creator of the Peanuts comic strips. 


I had not seen this quote. It stopped me cold because it’s my question too! In the case of Charles Schulz and me, ours were, I think, questions of the things that we had received (his gift for penning and illustrating comic strips, and mine for playing the piano by ear). Or not! Because . . .


Not-good stuff happens to us that yields the same question— and the reasons for the query change over the decades, years, and months. Heck. “Why Me?” pops into our heads as one freakin’ instant changes the positive to the negative and back again. Whiplash? Yaasss!


The answer does not change.

The voice of, I don’t know, someone, says our name just happened to come up. We can look for all kinds of philosophical hoo-haw to explain the unexplainable. But, I think it saves a lot of time to relax into the idea of chance, luck, Karma, or serendipity. Call it what you will, each can be skewed to the positive or negative. And luck, change, or Karma can change on a dime.

Life just is. We don’t know why. It. Just. Is.

Let’s keep going. Let’s see what our name comes up for today.

My Mom Confesses

My Mom Confesses

If you’re a Catholic of a certain age, you remember that in the old days, we had to confess our sins. You might have seen it in the movies, but it was what we really did. You’d go into the church and on one side there was a place where you went in a little door, knelt down in a dark room, and waited for the priest to slide the little door that separated him from you. You confessed your heinous sins to the gauzy outline of a man who looked like the pope or something. It was weird and sometimes you wondered what he had for lunch.

So what did I confess? I like, might have said a bad word. Like shoot. (I was little.) Or had a “bad” thought (like wanting to stay home from church). Or if you ate meat on Friday. Or you forgot to say your prayers one night, those were sins. For me, I didn’t have a lot to confess, but we were supposed to go at least once a month. I think more devout Catholics were supposed to go once a week. I’m not sure. Did the nuns go every day?

ANYWAY, my mom was a “convenient” Catholic. Her strategy was to find the priests that gave her the least number of Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s to say as penance and go on their day in the confessional box. She especially liked the priests who said, “Oh, that’s not a big sin, really. In fact, let’s not call it a sin this time. Try to do better next time.” Like a speeding ticket warning or something.

Sometimes, there was a substitute in the confessional, and she’d get a hard priest. “That’s terrible. Say 50 Our Father’s and 50 Hail Mary’s.” My mom felt horrible. Then he’d say, “Now, go in peace, my child.”

“Go in peace?” she might have said. “I might just go to hell if I don’t say these in time!” My mother would be a wreck. But then she didn’t have a lot to confess anyway. Just yelling at us kids for something or other. And that was okay. We probably deserved it.

It was fun seeing how my mom “interpreted” Catholicism. She was pretty practical. And I’m sure she’s in heaven now. She was a great mom, even if she thought confessing would get her into heaven. I don’t know. I’ll have to ask her if I ever get there. It will be great to see her again.

Thirty-Four Weeks

Life Balloons

We are early by six weeks. S/he (because they chose not to find out) and I are together in this. S/he and my son and his wife. We are all together, beating hearts to give strength to this new soul. To the four souls, six souls, eight, twelve, billions of souls that contributed to make this little life a life.

Birth. It must be soon. And the struggle to live begins.

We are waiting to hear. My heart beats with the baby’s. My heart murmurs, yes! Yes. YES. You can do this.

It will be stronger, we’d like to say. We will be stronger, ‘they’ say.

But dang!

Just yesterday, we did not know of this. Today we do. Today, we have a new reality. Thinks change. Then, they change again. We never know when we wake up in the morning what the day has for us. Today, it wants prayer. Beating heart prayer.

Be strong, little one.
Bring in your best self,
New as you are,
For your mom and dad.
We’re all here to help you
Be well.

The Old-Fashioned Way

The Old-Fashioned Way


I envied her.

She didn’t own a computer. She had a cell phone for three months but never used it. She told her kids to take it back. She had time to read and do crafts, take long walks, and lunch with friends. She attended live lectures, went to the library, enjoyed museums, picnics at the park, and face-to-face conversations with her grandchildren, who squirmed much of the time, unused to talking without a keyboard and a computer screen as part of the interaction. And she could see the kids’ expressions, touch their knees or hands, and help them understand social interplay the old-fashioned way.

Mrs. Manfred writes notes to people, does her banking inside the bank, visits friends, and has the bridge club at her house once a month. The book club is on the third Thursday of the month, bridge club on the second Tuesday, and baby quilters on the fourth Friday. Mrs.M. volunteers at the local hospital, stuffing envelopes and helping the cooks put little white cups on the trays for the patients. She wears a hairnet, gloves, and an apron for this job. The apron comes down to the floor, and the extra small gloves hang off her tiny hands like a four-year-old dressing up in her mom’s clothes. The hairnet is a big blue surgical hat of which the hospital purchased at a huge discount in the tens of thousands, making Mrs. M. look like a cross between a blue mushroom and a midget chef. Her hair pokes out from under the blue hat, clown style.

She laughed easily. She had a razor-sharp mind and a heart of expanding elasticity, especially for children. Her favorite volunteer work was reading to kids in hospitals, schools, churches, and libraries.

However, it was not only becoming a lost art, but the ‘safety laws required that she wear a badge, get fingerprinted, TB tested, and background checked all so she could have an “aide” in the room while she read to the kids. Mrs. M. cried at the thought of it.

“All I want to do is entertain and teach the children,” she said. The laws had changed, the world had changed, the people had changed. It became too much of a hassle for her, and eventually, she had to cut back because they couldn’t find the “aide” person. In fact, when she gave up driving for Lent one year, her daughter couldn’t get her to the hospitals, and she had to stop forever.

She was forced into a retirement home—what a loss for everyone — for the kids and Mrs. M.’s wonderfully abundant heart.

One day, when cell phones stopped working, the internet coughed and passed out for a 24-hour period. Mrs. Manfred’s life did not change at all, except the people in the retirement home came down to the central meeting room in a trickle at first and then in a steady stream. Finally, they arrived in a torrent, and the room was awash in blue hairs so that the chattering and laughing brought life back into the home that usually served as the waiting area for an appointment with Death.

New acquaintances became fast friends.

Alas, the internet came back on the next dayand Death and her friend Depression resumed their march. The spell was broken, and Mrs. M. cried until she decided to read to her friends in the old folks’ home –knee to knee, the old-fashioned way.

Smiles all around. Life was good.

If I’m Being Honest

If I’m being honest, I’m checking my authentic truth for falsehoods.

“Really? Is that REALLY true?”

Women Who Run With the Wolves author Clarissa Pinkola Estés says we must turn to art to find our true selves. Find silence. Be somehow willing to acknowledge a higher power.

If I’m being honest, I don’t know what to call the higher power. I think there’s one. I pray to them sometimes. But I’m still on the fence about “God” with that name. It could be anything. Here’s what. I believe we humans are more than an evolutionary fluke. A Charles Darwin leap from an ape to a person. Nope. There’s something or someone. I believe that.

If I’m being honest, I am absolutely sure I have been specially blessed with more than my fair share of REALLY cool stuff. I am grateful for all of it. I wonder when the “shoe” is going to fall. But then maybe I’ll not bring it on by asking too many questions.

If I’m being honest, I absolutely know that there are few accidents. It’s all pretty much planned. All of it. The good, the bad, and the ugly. I am often good, sometimes bad, and unfortunately, plain ugly from time to time. And yet, if I’m being honest, I try to catch myself and get better. That’s all we can ask for, because, well, we’re lucky to be here, maybe being ugly, and still having people who love us even so.

If I’m being honest, I’m trying to be objective about the things I say and do. It takes stillness. And the willingness to work hard to change the things you see that, if you’re being REALLY honest, are REALLY bad. Those are hard times.

Evolving Language Speechless


Out of the thoughtless earth, Words struggle to grow through the sludge-mud to where Pooled Rain Water is shoved sideways by Wind. Teenage frogs wink at each other as their tadpole brothers and sisters look up hoping to see their older selves with legs if all goes well and a smarmy hungry Snake Snot doesn’t eat them in one gulp. Mom and Dad Frog do not croak a warning. They are too tired.

Besides, Words stuck in muck behind a root truck never exit Mom and Dad’s Froggie Mouths. Señor snake licks his lips, wishing for arms to rub his bulging tadpole-bump tummy.

I hope to keep my Mom and Dad self from warning me. For if I am swallowed whole, I will see darkness and know that I can escape and make new words. Evolved language. Or at least overreach my croakings in new ways.


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