Author: Kathryn Atkins

Death’s Breakdown at the Edge of the Universe

For the first time, Death realized she was done. Really. Out of work. No place to go. Nothing to do.

She called the Holy Spirit.

“Thank you for coming,” she told the Holy Spirit. “I’m not sure why I’m so sad. I hated my job of collecting souls.”

“Yeah. I’m sorry,” the Holy Spirit said as the universe spun around them and the nearest star blinked to remove an eyelash.

They stood quietly, with only the pulse of a long-lost Hubble Space Station struggling to find itself and sighing in the darkness. Death sat down and broke down. She hated to show her soft spots, even though the Holy Spirit knew her almost as well as she knew herself. He waited respectfully while she tried to get control again.

“What can I do?” the Holy Spirit asked, offering a handkerchief that appeared magically. He dabbed at Death’s beautiful eyes and noted that her makeup did not smear a smidge. Of course not because Death is a celestial being with all the powers, but no authority, and now, no job.

She said, “I don’t know if you can do anything. I think I’m on my own, as usual. I’ll figure out something.”

Indeed she does. Check out Kathryn Atkins’s novel Deathlist to find out what Death does. Here’s the Deathlist book trailer.

Ms. Death Wears Chanel

The woman on the Paris runway during Fashion Week does not wear a black hood nor does she carry a scythe. She is not bent over in the crone position and does not have a warted, hooked nose. If you saw that kind of woman,  she might be selling poisoned apples to a hapless Snow White character, soon to be part of a group of weird short men with names like Sleepy, Dopey, Grumpy, and the rest.  (Can you name them?)

No. This woman is Death. A female princess of darkness as it were. She’s in Paris to strut her beauty and clear her name. Of the former, she might succeed. As to the latter, the chances of clearing her name are remote. But she will try in the novel Deathlist, by Kathryn Atkins.

“Hey, Coco,” the woman behind her in the lineup says as they begin their exit off the stage. Death’s name to the mortals around her is Coco. The woman continues, “Do you smell that?”

“What?” Oh. No. Death thinks to herself. My odor is seeping out. I forgot to hold it at bay and it is not Chanel No. 5!

You see, Death has a terrible smell (think rotting flesh) that always surrounds her unless she expends enough energy to suppress it. Sometimes she fails at it, especially when she’s concentrating on something else. Sometimes she’s just too sad. The odor seeps out of sad tears. Other times she’s happy, and the stench (incredibly enough) squeezes out through the tears of laughter. Nah. Doesn’t make much sense, except to say Death loves clothes. Loves to be beautiful, and really does like humans.

You’ll see. Read Deathlist to find out. And besides, you might like to know when you’re going to die. That is if you believe that there is a Deathlist. I think there is or I wouldn’t have written the book.

~ Kathryn Atkins,  Deathlist Author

 

 

Riding the Day Away

Riding the Day Away

“What would you do if you took a day off?”

Off-off. Off the computer. Off the phone. Off responsibilities. Off the hook to play hooky. Here’s what I’d do. I’d go to the train station. Take the next train out. Doesn’t matter where.

*

I buy a ticket, not checking the destination closely. In fact, I tell the cashier, “Don’t tell me where it’s going.” He nods knowingly as if this is quite common. He smiles into my eyes to keep me from looking at the ticket. He puts it in an envelope even, so I won’t see it!

“Have a good trip.”

I’m standing on the platform and feel the vibration as the train nears. I close my eyes and listen. The hugeness of the train pushes the air as it nears. I am forced to open my eyes so I do not fall, my stability threatened by the rush as the train rumbles into the station. Plus I don’t want to miss its lovely massiveness.

The train looks like the Hogwarts train! Steam pulses from the stack. An impressive grate probes the tracks in the front. And the gigantic wheels squeal and hiss as they roll to a stop in front of me.

“ALL ABOARD”

I pull my eyes from the time-stricken train to look for my ticket, and as I straighten, I realize the smells have changed, and that other travelers are wearing clothes from two centuries ago. Me too!

“ALL ABOARD”

I pick up my skirt and my carpetbag and walk toward the train. As I lift a dainty shoe up to the lowest step, my fluffy white petticoats peek out from under the rich blue satin skirt of my dress, tightly cinched at the waist. I catch a glimpse of myself in the train’s large window as I make my way back to my seat. My hair is bundled on my head, curls frame my face, and a matching blue satin hat accented with feathers perches atop my coiffure.

“TICKET?”

The conductor smiles down at me. He looks like Tom Hanks in “The Polar Express,” which doesn’t surprise me in the least. “Ticket?” he repeats kindly.

“Yes.” I pull the ticket from its little envelope, look down and see that we’re headed to someplace I’ve never heard of. Luckily, that’s exactly where I want to go. I sit back. Close my eyes. And I smile.

Joy seeps into my consciousness. “Hello there,” I say.

“Hello,” she replies. “It’s been too long.”

 

 

 

What Would You Do if You Knew?

I sometimes wish I knew when I was going to die. I’d make different plans. Maybe I’d travel more, worry less. Why worry? What’s to worry about if something can’t kill you? Well, I have thought about that. Living in a mangled body would suck.

Severing one’s fear of death would take one thing off the list. Ha! I don’t worry about dying. I know that I will. Now I can know when. Ah, but the biggie is knowing how. Don’t know that yet. Maybe that’s for later science… hacking the “HOW” code, now that we’ve cracked the “WHEN” code. But does taking that ‘when’ question out of the equation help?

I wonder what a doctor would do for me if he or she knew I was going to die in two days? They certainly wouldn’t need to go to extremes to save my life. If saving my life wasn’t the goal, think of how much money I could save! The doctors would be much better off concentrating on making my last two days fun and restful rather than splitting me open and taking stuff out, to no avail. I’d prefer to be comfortable, thanks.

Meanwhile, what would I do if I knew I were going to die FOR SURE next Thursday? Hop a plane to Paris for three days. Then Venice. Yes. Venice. Florence? Why not? If I could squeeze it in.

That’s it for now. If my date to check out is not next Thursday, then I’ll stick around here for a while.

What about you? Where would YOU go?

What would you do if you knew?

Writer, Author, Published Author

As mere writers, the word “author”  puts fear in our hearts. As mere people, the word “writer” can put fear in our hearts, too.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~ Walt Kelly

While the quote was taken from the comic strip “Pogo” and was designed to help promote environmental awareness on the first “Earth Day” in 1970, the quote is applicable to writers and, dare I say, any creative person. We are afraid of publishing our work. Publishing as in making it public. It’s scary! But why? Because. We. Can. Be. Rejected. We can fail! So of course, we are our own worst enemies. However, it is quintessentially for that reason that we must publish.

Learning is failing better. ~ Kathryn Atkins 🙂

I didn’t know how to author a book, so I wrote and published (10 Reasons to Hire a Professional Writer). Yes, I made a few tactical errors, but I learned so much! We are luImage_008cky to live in an age when we can publish our work without censor from a publishing industry that, while wonderful in its own way (thank you, publishing industry), has made the “author” word fearful. They also made publishing itself nearly impossible. Not so much now. We can author all sorts of stuff. But the coolest part is that we get to practice our art form (our writing) and eventually we can be a golly gosh darn gee published author! We learn every time we try and fail. If we don’t try, we don’t fail, and if we don’t fail, we don’t learn.

I like learning, failing, failing better, and learning more. It makes me better. Not perfect, but better. So, as Martha Stewart says, “And that’s a good thing.”

I love being a writer and love more being an author of two books now. (My second, big-girl book is Giving My Self to the Wind.) I hope you give your self [two words!] to the wind and publish something. Put on your big person panties, and author up. It’s worth it. Oh. . .  and let me know when you publish! Please.

Hope for Christmas 2021

‘Twas three weeks before Christmas and all through the towns.

People wore masks that covered their frowns.

The frowns had begun back in 2020 Spring,

When a global pandemic changed everything.

They called it Corona but unlike the beer,

It didn’t bring good times; it didn’t bring cheer.

 

Airplanes were grounded, travel was banned.

Borders were closed across air, sea, and land.

As the world entered lockdown, flattening Covid’s curve,

The economy caved, and folks lost their nerve.

Through spring 2020, we rode the first wave.

People stayed home and tried to behave.

When summer emerged, the lockdown was lifted.

But away from sanity, many folks had drifted.

Now it’s December 2021, and cases are spiking.

Omicron has arrived, much to our disliking.

The last two years have brought sadness aplenty.

We’ll never forget the year 2020.

 

Now we’re nearing another holiday season.

But why be merry? Is there even one reason?

To decorate the house and put up the tree?

Who will see it?  Maybe no one but me.

But outside our window, the rain gently falls

And I think to myself, “Let’s deck the halls!”

So, I gather red ribbons, garlands, and bows.

As I play those old carols, my happiness grows,

Christmas is not canceled and neither is hope,

If we lean on each other, I know we can cope!

Death on Earth

Death wakes up. Disoriented.

“Where am I?” she whispers to the cracked dingy walls.

From the open window, the aroma of freshly baked bread wafts in from the nearby bakeshop, followed immediately by stale urine odors rising from the alley three floors below. She stretches and then remembers. She’s no longer a female. She’s no longer a powerful part of the team in Heaven. And she is no longer Death. She’s a human on Earth, her body reeks of New York summer humid, and her mouth tastes the bitterness of her predicament.

Sitting up and running her palm across the scratchy morning chin stubble, she says for the millionth time, “Why did I ever let the Trinity talk me into this?”

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.