Category: Creativity

An Interview with Death

Hello and welcome. I’m Ana Cortez from ACME NEWS. Today, we’re sitting with Death in her penthouse living room in New York City where she often stays between gigs. If you’ve not met Death, you are in for a treat. Death has a history of being misunderstood for much of her life. In fact, she didn’t understand a lot about her own existence until the Deathlist was published and now, she’s much more relaxed and has time for interviews. Like today’s.

By the way, for you radio listeners, Death is wearing a très chic just-last-week’s Paris collection torn jean look with gold spike heels, a Vera Wang backless top, a John Hardy necklace and bracelet, and a Chanel scarf. Her hair is pinned up in an elegant chignon with not-so-tiny diamonds nestled throughout, sparkling against the camera lights.

Ana: How are you today, Death? You look amazing. As usual.

Death: Thank you so much, I’m fine. And I’m glad to have a few days off.

Ana: Days off? What happens to the souls you’re supposed to pick up today?

Death: I have assistants that help out. We’ve always had a team, of course, but I have to say some of the younger collectors are in too much of a hurry.

Ana: What do you mean?

Death: I try to help people at the end of their lives. I like to give them a chance to ponder their existence, revisit their purpose, and hopefully forgive themselves.

Ana: Who knew? You don’t take people’s lives then.

Death: No. I don’t. They’re already out of the earthly, mortal plane when I arrive. I’m the go-between.

Ana: So, who sends them to their eternity?

Death: That’s another department entirely. And people’s sins are tallied in the Sin Almagamator Department for that.

Ana: Um… Oh. Gee.

Death: Don’t worry. I’m sure you’re fine.

Ana: Uh…  Well. Let’s talk about the Deathlist. What was that exactly?

Death: Everyone on the Earth has a designated time when they’re born. God makes sure they’re here when they’re supposed to be. [Death sweeps her arms around the apartment and out to the amazing view of New York.] Then, they have to have a time when they die, of course. The Deathlist is a big database where all that is recorded. We decided people shouldn’t know when they’ll die ahead of time. Although we’re still open to opinions.

Ana: Huh?

Death: Yes. If you’d like to take the survey, it’s here.

Ana: Oh. Great. I’ll do that. And our listeners can too! But I’m not sure if I want to know.

Death: Yes. Yes.  Everyone has a different thought on that. It’s very personal. We get that. But, I’m afraid I have to go.

Ana: So soon?

Death: Yes. I’m very sorry. But I have to collect some souls now. There’s a terrible war going on in Ukraine, and we just didn’t put enough collectors on for today. Thanks so much for putting me on the air.

Ana: We’ll do this again!  Thanks for coming on our show, Death. And listeners, would you like to know when you’re going to die? Take the survey and be sure to read Deathlist. Until then, signing off from ACME NEWS.

Ana: That’s a wrap.

Ana to self: I probably better scoot to confession. 

The Last Walk for A Man and His Best Friend

It was a sunny day. Beautiful. When George stepped out of the house with his dog that day, he didn’t know it was the last walk he’d ever take. The Amtrak train came out of nowhere.

He didn’t know, but I did.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know I’m Death. And I pick up people’s souls. I don’t kill anyone. That’s another department. I just collect souls. This guy was a doozy because if the DEATHLIST were still active, he could have consulted it before he started out that day, and he may have decided not to “chance” the run across the tracks. Right? But it’s not. In Kathryn’s book, DEATHLIST, we know humans could see when they were going to die. But it’s gone now, so this person was taken quite by surprise. I know it because when I picked him up, he was, like, “Did that train hit me?” He looked at me very confused. “Are you the grim reaper? You’re beautiful!”

“Yes. I am she. And yes, thank you for the compliment. But I’m not that grim. At least I try not to be.”
“What about my dog?”

“I’m sorry. It was hit, too. I don’t know you, but you might see your dog again.”

He was going to ask me about it, but I knew I had to comfort him and tell him how lucky he was that I could be here with him. “Uh. Okay,” he said.

Just for the record for you animal lovers, the DEATHLIST was not for animals. Good question, though. The DEATHLIST was only for people. However, heaven lets good people have their animals with them. It’s one of the perks. I’m not sure this person walking their dog will have their pup with them. It’s not my job. See. As Death, I don’t make those calls. I just answer the call to pick up the person’s soul and then we turn them over to the Sin Amalgamators to tell them to check their credentials.

Our last-walk guy has gone on his way. And now, I have to take care of a few other people. The poor conductor who killed our dog walker was a basket case after the accident, but he didn’t die. His wife had a heart attack when she heard the news.  I had to collect her soul later that night because truth be told, the conductor had a teeny drinking problem, and was on his last chance to straighten out or lose his job. Of course, he did lose his job, and his wife was sure they’d lose their home and their beat-up car. She probably brought on her heart attack, at least she may have thought so. But God had her on his list for that day.

On a happier note. It turns out the dog got into heaven with his owner. They were both on God’s good list. I like happy endings. Don’t you?

HAVE A GREAT LIFE!

Signed,

Death

P.S. Would you want to know when you’re going to die?  Drop us a line here. We’ll be including the results in a post on social media near when Deathlist launches.

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.

I Had to Give God a Turn

Yikes! I’m in trouble again! God hasn’t been on the blog yet!

Here’s what he said,

Yes, Death… it’s about time!

So, I thought we had made a mistake, letting Death go to Earth. She had her work cut out for her. But we hoped she could save the people on the Earth. We enjoy humans a lot. They’re so entertaining! They mess up. But We gave people Free Will, and it’s fun to see what they do. Humans make wonderful things… like music and spaceships and all kinds of stuff. I sort of plan it, but it doesn’t always work.

The Deathlist was a big help to me. I didn’t have to keep everyone’s dates in my head. Births, deaths, and all the Smiths were difficult to keep apart. It’s hard to concentrate on my golf game with all the going on in my head. We thought Death would want her job back but she is pretty stubborn. I had a good time after all. It scared me when Death quit. Who would we get to do her job? Anyway, I’m glad Kathryn Atkins wrote the novel the Deathlist. As the Holy Spirit said, it gets boring up here in Heaven. We had a good time hanging out together in Kathryn’s book. 

See ya,

Signed GOD

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?”

The Holy Spirit?

Hey guys–

The Holy Spirit asked if He could get on our blog. Why would I say no?? He was such a big help to me in fighting the devil.

Here’s what he says:

“I’m not sure how I got drug into this novel, but it’s been a hoot! I’ve gotten to wear some hip clothes, play lots of golf, and drink and smoke. On the other hand, I also had an opportunity to help an Earthling, Ariadne, and help Death as she tried to save humans from the stupid devil. I’m not sure how We let someone like him survive all these years, but We did. 

What’s been the most fun? Being able to go back and forth between Heaven and Earth, and in all honesty, not being so bored. We don’t have much going on up here in Heaven. When Arnold Palmer’s spirit gets a hole in one, we all cheer and get extra drinks. Sometimes, God gets a bee in his bonnet and starts a new hobby. We just have to grit our teeth and live through it. Jesus changes his shoes a lot. One day, he’s riding his mountain bike, the next he’s at the bowling alley. We all play golf, so that’s another pair of shoes for Him, of course.

The cool thing: we all have Free Will. You, me, Death, Ariadne, and the devil, unfortunately. But without Free Will, we’d be REALLY bored. Anyway, as I said, I’ve had a good time and I hope you read Kathryn’s book, Deathlist. 

Over and out…

Signed,

H.S.

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!