Category: CREATIVE WRITING

BIG Dreams for LITTLE People

THE TRANSCONTINENTAL RAILROAD
An engineer’s brain saw a cross-country train
Feeding greedy men’s dreams of riches
But to build the train across fields of grain
Is hard — don’t they know them sons of bitches?
 
And yet the crazy thought 
Of just one-week travel
Makes our own sweaty juices flow.
It almost seems funny that
We work for money,
But that’s not all, 
We know.
 
The railroad’s BIG in every way. 
A huge, gutsy step from our past
It’s scary,  it’s hairy.
And dirty? Very.
We work it and hope we last!
 
But while it’s BIG. We’re just a tie
A spike on the railroad’s tracks
We want a piece, of the riches, ‘fer sure
In return for breaking our backs.
 
“Whatchya gonna do
With the money you make?”
I’m gonna start a store, how ‘bout you?
“I’m gonna buy some land,
Have kids, like I planned.
And run a farm
Just like my old man.”
 
The railroad’s BIG in every way. 
A huge gutsy step from our past
It’s scary,  it’s hairy.
And dirty? Very.
We work it and hope we last!
 
This cross-country train is BIG; we know it. 
It’s why we keep on toiling.
It’s bigger than BIG, a crushing task
Through ice and rain and boiling.
Cuz here’s the thing we cannot do.
We simply cannot blow it.
And cuz it’s BIG, we continue to try.
It’s bigger than BIG; we work or die.
 
It’s BIG
We know it in our gut 
It’s BIG
We want a piece, a cut
It’s BIG, no lie.
We work and cry
It’s BIG
It’s BIG
It’s BIG
 Let’s not die.
This piece will be set to music and will be a part of my next historical fiction production, The Woman Who Saved the Transcontinental Railroad.

The Little Girl “Ho” 

I didn’t know 

I’d be a “ho”

When I was a little girl.

 

I didn’t plan

On being with a man

When I was a little girl.

I didn’t understand

When they put their hands 

On my ‘woo-woo’ when I was a girl.

But then it began

The man paid for his hand 

And I was no longer a girl, but a ho.

 

Mama always said 

I was not being wise.

Mama tried to tell me

I was smarter than them guys. 

That all I had to say was, “No.” No! NO!!

But you know how it goes.

They were deaf, don’t you know. 

So, by then, I was below.

I had nowhere else to go

And I knew it was so,

I was a ho.

 

Mama tried to lock the gate.

But she knew it was my fate. 

She tried to find me a mate.

She tried to anticipate.

But it was too late.

Her dream would have to wait.

Because for me I hate

That I’m a ho…

 

I didn’t know 

I’d be a “ho”

When I was a little girl

I didn’t plan

On being with a man

When I was a little girl

I didn’t understand

When they put their hands 

On my ‘woo-woo’ when I was a girl

But then it began

The man paid for his hand 

And I was no longer a girl, but a ho.

 

When the train came through

Looking for cooks,

I said I could cook

And I showed ‘em my books.

Sad for me, my looks 

Made the men that were crooks

Suffer me my fate, you know…

You’re not a cook!

Not the way you look!

And so,

I was no longer a girl, I was a ho.

Fend Off the Collapse of the Biospheres

This post doesn’t have to do with the Deathlist, My Piano Hands, OR Giving My Self to the Wind. NOPE. It’s about climate change. It just happens that Margaret Atwood is one of my favorite authors, and she gets it.

We must all work together to do this thing… Keep our planet from imploding on itself because of our neglect. But “It’s Not Too Late!” YAY

Okay. That’s it. Be the change. Thanks, Margaret, for supporting our cause.

Lessons from a Poop Bag — Chasing Empty

I assumed the misbehaving “poop” bag hitched a ride from the wind, gratefully escaping my pocket to evade its sure fate. As in, who wants to be a poop receptacle? In a former life, this spunky bag lived on a squished roll at the supermarket, on its way to having something yummy and edible stuffed inside like broccoli or red lettuce or maybe even artichokes! Being a produce bag is not fantastic, but It’s a J.O.B. and carries with it a utilitarian kind of respect.

So, maybe you want to know why we use plastic bags in the face of climate change? Seriously. Reusable produce bags are a carbon-reducing option. My friend Marilee uses them, as does Alexandra. That said, we justify plastic vegetable bags at the grocery store by repurposing them for doggy poop bags. Maybe we should use leaves, but the park doesn’t approve of leafed poop in the trash cans. I must remember to send them a copy of The Carbon Almanac.

So, this bag seemed determined to attain a better life: Freedom. Liberty. Happiness. Smart bag.

Okay! Game on!

As I chased it, the wind picked it up just before I reached it and scuttled it a few feet beyond my reach. “Almost got it!” I said to my dog (after all, it was her bag, albeit empty so far). The bag laughed as it scooted forward again. Did it look over its flappy shoulder taunting me, or was that my imagination?

I followed the gleeful little bugger for almost a whole block until I snatched it from out of the gutter. “Gotchya!”

The wind stopped, and the Universe smiled, knowing She had gently yet firmly guided me to a metaphor moment.

Huh?

I was chasing empty.

Because that’s what chasing empty does—it lands you in life’s gutter. That’s good to know, right? Well, but now… what do I do? Is the opposite of empty “full,” and how is that defined? Does not empty require living a life with Meaning (capital M)? What is and how do I find my Meaning and my life’s Purpose?

Next time I see an escaped, empty poop bag. I will pay attention. Or I may let it go. It’s too much work.

Deathlist Press Release!!

Deathlist Book Cover

 

Would you want to know when you’re going to die?

This is not a trick question. Think about your answer and let us know, please. Perhaps it would depend on the circumstances. Maybe it depends on if you’re old or young. Sick or well. Rich or poor. Death herself doesn’t care EXCEPT she cares about humans, despite herself and how they treat her.

The only way to know what Death really thinks is to read Kathryn Atkins’s book, Deathlist.

AND then you’ll know more about your fellow humans but also how sucky it is to be Death. She hates her job.

Death Has a Therapist?

If you’re old enough, you remember Kermit the Frog’s song, “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” If you’re not old enough, you might look it up, but suffice it to say, it’s not easy being Death! It’s almost as bad as being a dentist. No one wants to see Death or the dentist, and people are afraid of both of them when they shouldn’t be afraid of either one.

Death, who also likes to be called Coco for Coco Chanel, is very tired of being feared and of her job of collecting souls. Here’s the thing. She doesn’t CAUSE death. She only collects souls and helps smooth the path between living and the here-after.  PLUS — Death doesn’t send people to their eternities, Heaven or Hell, or wherever they are going to go. But people don’t get that about Death. They think she’s the one doing all the dirty work.

So, that’s why Death has a therapist named Nancy. And when Nancy isn’t available, Death uses retail therapy to get through the roughest days on the job.

She wonders if her therapist is real. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. But then she REALLY wonders if she needs therapy!

How about you? What do you do when you’re feeling blue? Bubble baths? Dancing? TV? What’s your secret escape? Let us know! 

Maybe check out the Deathlist book trailer to see more about Death and why she’s tired of her job. AND why she buys so many clothes. No, she won’t bite! If you read the book Deathlist, which is a satire (and pretty heavy on philosophy), you’ll get to meet a pretty goofy God, a bike riding Jesus, and a fashionista Holy Spirit.  They’re funny, although sometimes Death questions their idea of funny because they all drive her nuts!

Death plays golf with the Trinity when they’re talking to one another, that is.

 

 

The book asks: “WOULD YOU WANT TO KNOW WHEN YOU’RE GOING TO DIE?” Because that’s what the Deathlist will tell you. Take the survey here.

Inspiration for the Novel “Deathlist”

I’m often asked, “What was the inspiration for this novel?”

Well, pretty often.  Um, so. Hmmm. Okay. I’m telling you now that you’ve asked. Thanks! 🙂

Here’s my ANSWER: Every time I saw someone on the news or heard of a person dying that seemed especially odd (like a child, for gosh sakes, or someone sitting on a bench eating a sandwich and a tree fell on them, maybe), I began to form a theory that everyone had a specified death date. Death was not by chance, happenstance, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time. God had it planned out. He kept track of it in a big database, which someone or other dubbed the Deathlist.

I still believe there might be one somewhere. How do you explain those little times when you were two seconds behind that huge traffic accident? Or, okay, on a morbid but equally mysterious level, why do some suicide attempts not work? Without bogging down my explanation with statistics, we can all report anecdotal evidence of failed suicides.

Then imagine that humans were somehow allowed to know what their death date was. That was the germ of the book.

Would you want to know when you’re going to die? 

I could know how much time I had to finish and publish the Deathlist. Write a how-to book about anything. (I’m not sure, but I buy a lot of those fix-me-please books, so I think I should write one!)

 

LOVE to have you take the survey and… oh yes, buy the book. 🙂

Golly! Is This the End?

When is death? I would like to tell my fanbase that I am able to answer this question for you. It’s THE question, and I AM DEATH. I should know.

On my side, when I pick up a soul, that usually means a person’s sentient mind and corporeal body are no longer connected. More importantly, the “spirit” has been separated, and that essence is what flows to its next existence. Your IS and your IS NOT co-exist in a non-existent in-betweenness that some people call Heaven, some call Hell, and some call Limbo.

Some people don’t call it anything. And some people say those places exist not after life but during life. They think that the really terrible stuff that happens to them is “Hell” and that the sweet, happy stuff is Heaven.

Let me tell you this: In Heaven, we have several beautiful golf courses, a free gym with lots of machines, jacuzzis, and lovely fluffy towels. And the best part is that you get to meet a lot of the people you’ve admired over your lifetime. Sorry to say that the people you admired most, however, may not have made it to Heaven. We do have standards. You know. Too many sins and you go to the other place.

I’m going to say this about death. It’s not the end. You can quote me. Because you won’t know if I’m telling the truth until, well, until, you’re gone. In the meantime, read DEATHLIST. You’ll get to hear more about Heaven, Hell, death, and me, Death, a.k.a. “Coco.”

What Is Satire, Exactly?

Here’s the thing. The novel Deathlist is a satire, in the same way, that George Orwell’s Animal Farm was a satire. Satire is “penetrating wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly. Orwell’s satire took the form of his effort, “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.” [Wikipedia] In the case of Deathlist, I tried to fuse life’s purpose and artistic purpose into one whole.

The Deathlist is God’s way to keep his mind free to do other things. Keeping track of everyone’s birth and death dates is a huge chore that not even God likes to do. When the Deathlist gets released to the people of Earth, humans have a chance at achieving their life’s purpose with more urgency if they know when they will die. That was my original idea for writing the book.wanted that urgency in my life.

The book started out with an entirely different main character, and he (a young man) was a mortal and found the Deathlist, and at the same time,  there was another older man and his wife who also knew the Deathlist existed. Alas, that story (I really liked it) was taken over by the vain and gorgeous Death, so much so that the entire book changed from science fiction/fantasy to visionary & metaphysical/satire.

In some ways, the final scenes of Deathlist mimic the end of Animal Farm in that our main character Death is betrayed by the Trinity. However, unlike Animal Farm, the novel Deathlist is not as depressing an ending. Death learns quite a bit about herself during the course of the action, while the reader will have some pretty important questions to ask of themselves as well. Most importantly, it’s this one:

“Would you want to know when you’re going to die?” 

You can answer the question in our survey here.

As a literary device or artistic form, an “allegory is a narrative or visual representation in which a character, place, or event can be interpreted to represent a hidden meaning with moral or political significance. Authors have used allegory throughout history in all forms of art to illustrate or convey complex ideas.” [Wikipedia]

The character Death conveys vanity, selfishness, and a host of other “deadly sins” (Did I say that? Yes, I guess I did.) But her character represents some aspects of hope, love, trust, and loyalty, too. SO. I hope you read Deathlist, take the survey, and let me know what you think of it!

Also, Deathlist is funny, but its messages are not. That’s kind of what satire is all about, I think.

Well, the Trinity is off playing golf while you and I are working. So let’s go back to work.