America the “Beautiful”

We are a culture

of Wastrels,


who don’t eat

what we kill.

We treat other countries

like paper plates

and crumpled napkins;

plastic cups

and broken forks.

We throw everything we’ve used

into a big can

and call it


We haul refuse

to the dump.

A Dump

is taking a shit.

We shit on other nations.

We call ourselves


proud to be American.

We can’t keep

our own backyard


cellophane wrappers,

cigarette butts,

coffee cups;

“illegal” immigrants,

welfare recipients,


We shit

on each other.

America the “Beautiful,”

my ass.

2016 © “America the ‘Beautiful.’” All rights reserved.

Life + Death = A Bottle of Pills?


I want to die.

Notice I didn’t say, “I want to kill myself.”

The desire is a passive thing, cunning in its perfidy. It swallows me up so slowly that I can’t see I’m at the center of its crazy labyrinth until it’s too late. I can’t see that there is a state of mind beyond this.

It can happen several times a day. I will switch back and forth between a confident optimism and the sudden, overwhelming knowledge that I am insignificant and impotent. At times I wonder if some part of me hasn’t died already, perhaps the heart on my sleeve.

Each time I catch myself thinking this way – feeling is a given – I’m horrified. I frantically whisper “cancel, cancel, cancel.” I want to negate the impulse so that the universe doesn’t pick up on it and make it so.

There are days when I waltz with terror, when the desire murmurs in my ear like an insistent and unwanted suitor. Then I whisper the “cancel’’ mantra until the pressure eases.

The Buddists say that this impulse to die is a symptom of loving life too much, that wanting to die requires a counterbalance of wanting to live with the same passion. I used to disagree, but lately, I’ve embraced the idea. Life is good now, but I can’t shake the bad feeling. It stalks me in my brightest moments.


The alchemists instruct me to conquer this “demon” I know as depression. If I want to evolve, I can’t medicate. I must push through the feelings and the thoughts until I reach the other side.

I do, but it is exhausting work. The feelings and thoughts twist up inside of me. Sometimes the demon is silent and then other days it snarls and rakes its claws along the front of my brain while it gnaws at my tender underbelly.

The silence and the snarls are at war inside of me. Medicate. Don’t medicate. Feel everything or feel “normal.” Live or die. This twisted caduceus is what drives me forward, creatively, emotionally and physically, a seriously demented metaphysical turbine.

Thesis + antithesis = synthesis, right? Life + death = a bottle of pills? I haven’t figured it out yet., Perhaps the urge to die and the urge to live is the truth of the human condition.

©2015 “Life + Death = A Bottle of Pills?” All rights reserved.

In bsavedpicture-33.jpgetween bouts of writing for, blogging, and banging her head, I.O. Kirkwood is the author of The Needless series, a YA fantasy that even adults will enjoy.

Album Review Rationale for Annoyed Artists

I know the pen is mightier than the sword. If you are an artist, do not take my ratings as a personal attack on you as an individual. I know it’s hard to not do so. Artists are some of the bravest people I know because they consistently put their guts out on display for complete strangers to poke over and discuss. This is not an industry for cowards but yes, I acknowledge that if I give you anything less than a 4.0, you’re probably going to feel a little butt hurt. Just realize that my review is one of many, probably won’t affect your bottom line, and I don’t know you personally so it isn’t personal. If we are friendly and on a first name basis, realize that I agonized over giving you anything less than a 4.0.

That said, I’m going to explain the mechanics of my rating system:

Anything below a 3.5 needs to be rethought because this signifies a serious craft-fail. If I take the time to review a work in this category, it isn’t to bash the artist with how bad it is but to provide constructive criticism on what needs improvement and why. The fail could be in production. In these instances, I find that the live performance deserves a much higher rating and also gives the work a higher rating post-review. If it is a production fail, I will say so. It’s still a craft fail but it may be outside the artist’s control (or budget).

A 3.5 to 3.9 is an endorsement of solid craft but there are underdeveloped elements that I would like the artist to address and lavish with attention in the next recording or redevelop in the live performance. Oft times this rating is based on a comparison with previous recordings. I also find that artists with line-up changes and “super groups” have this rating on their first release with the new personnel. It is very rare that people who have just started working together put out an opus. Sometimes I do go a little hard on the artist here, especially if I am a fan of individuals in the group. I personally want these bands to grow artistically and succeed. Often the live performance is so much more than the recording. As an artist, if your album received this rating, your live performance rating most likely will jump up to one of the next two categories.

A 4.0 to 4.4 indicates that the artist has exceeded expectations. The work is not only well-developed but there are elements that surprise and excite my senses. I’ll point out a few things that need attention, but overall, the work is worthy of critical acclaim and the artist is deserved of hearty slaps on the back, thumbs-up, and at least a six-pack of good craft beer or a fifth of preferred poison.

A 4.5 to 5.0 means that I had a visceral, ecstatic response to the work. Endorphins were released in large quantities. The craft is superlative and sets the bar for all other works in the (sub) genre. This is where I want every artist to be. I know it won’t happen on every album, and the artist should know this too. This kind of work deserves a gala with lots of champagne. If there is criticism, it’s with a light touch because having one song on an album that doesn’t make me cream my pants isn’t a bad thing. Everyone needs a breather between orgasms.

So that’s how I do it. It took me a while to get to this point. Just like every artist, I am honing my craft and trying to figure out where I fit in the big picture. I don’t get paid a salary for doing this either. I’m not rolling in dollars here so music is just as much a passion of mine as it is to the various artists that I critique.

I write. I listen to music. The two go together. It’s what I do. If there’s one thing you can count on from me, it is honesty. I’m not afraid to tell the people I admire the cold, hard truth. Will I be mean about it? No. There is a responsibility that comes with the mighty pen and I choose to use my powers for good.

©2014 “Album Review Rationale for Annoyed Artists.” All rights reserved.

savedpicture-33.jpgIn between bouts of writing for, blogging, and banging her head, I.O. Kirkwood is the author of The Needless series, “Subatomic Revolt” in Mike Lynch’s No Revolution Is Too Big series and the short story “The White Carpet,” a finalist in the Scribes Valley Publishing Fiction Contest in 2013.

Summer Blog Tour: The Needless Series

I was asked to participate in a Summer Blog Tour by my colleague Ruth L. Snyder. We were to write about our current work in progress and I decided to tell everyone about my main protagonist in the new series The Needless.

What is your name? My name is Verity Wilde. No nickname though some people try to get away with Veri. Just say the short name and my last name together and you’ll figure out why I’m not happy about it. What was my mother thinking?

What one word best describes you? Only one? Hmmm, gotta look at my thesaurus on that one. Don’t you dare tell anyone I have a thesaurus. People might begin to have expectations. Okay, here it is. The word to best describe me is diligent.

How did you first become involved in the story? When I moved to San Antonio, TX, Mom swore it was the last move so she wanted me to join a club at school. I joined the M.O.R.G., a gamer’s club, and that’s the lid off the coffin, so to speak. M.O.R.G. stands for Masters of Reality Guild, if you’re wondering.

What worries you? You got a few hours? My life was supposed to become normal after the move, not crazier. Mom’s talking about trouble finding me, my friends and enemies are getting killed or kidnapped, a really cute not-human (angel? demon?) turns up out of the blue telling me my father’s alive—oh, and something’s out to get me. Something nasty called Dybbuk.

What’s your favourite song? “Golden Slumbers” by The Beatles. Mom always sang it to me when I couldn’t sleep. She has a lovely voice and the song always worked. I have it on my iPod. Paul McCartney does an okay job.

What’s your favourite food? Cook at Hendrix’s house makes a guacamole so fresh, my taste buds explode when I eat it. I like trying new stuff. Snails are tasty if they’re cooked right but so much can go wrong.

What do you think of the other characters? I really like Alexi but she needs to grow a backbone when she’s outside the game. I would kill to be a beanpole like her and eat all I wanted without gaining a pound. Hendrix is a cool guy, almost a little too chill, but he’s easy on the eyes and he’s got superlative judgment when it comes to friends. Chad’s fat and soft, like a tower of marshmallow, and he’s quiet but I would trust him in a tight spot. He knows how to hold your back. Mike, well, he’s difficult, but he might be my favorite of the bunch. I don’t know, it’s complicated. He’s vertically challenged and he’s got a huge chip on his shoulder, but we’ve come to an understanding.

What do you think should happen? Dybbuk needs to eat it, permanently. I’m not the blood thirsty sort, but I won’t hesitate to protect what’s mine. That’s what I mean by diligent. I didn’t want to be the “chosen one” but it looks like I’m it. Even the people who irritate me are MINE.

Are you happy right now? I’ve got an unknown evil after me and it’s not going to let me alone. Happiness is a warm gun and I don’t have a carry permit. I’m hoping to change that in the near future.

What do you hope to do with your life? Survive high school? I’m starting to collect battle scars. My life expectancy rate has taken a nose dive. These are factors that shift a girl’s priorities.

Check out the other authors in the:

Summer Reading Tour

Monday, July 14 – Ruth L. Snyder

Tuesday, July 15 Cindy Noonan

Wednesday, July 16 Mishael Witty

Thursday, July 17 – Michele Huey

Friday, July 18 – Patti J. Smith

Saturday, July 19 – Amber Schamel

Sunday, July 20 – Mark Carver

Monday, July 21 – Marian Baay

Tuesday, July 22 – Jen Cudmore

Wednesday, July 23 – Tracy Krauss

Thursday, July 24 – Marcia Laycock

Friday, July 25 – Joy Davis

Saturday, July 26 – Travis Perry

Sunday, July 27 – Mark Venturini

©2014 “Summer Blog Tour: The Needless Series.” All rights reserved.

savedpicture-33.jpgIn between bouts of writing for, blogging, and banging her head, I.O. Kirkwood is the author of The Needless series, “Subatomic Revolt” in Mike Lynch’s No Revolution Is Too Big series and the short story “The White Carpet,” a finalist in the Scribes Valley Publishing Fiction Contest in 2013.