Noticing Magic Everywhere

Kate Comings' journal

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It felt like forever…

Apocalypse Book Cover

The wait is over! Playing in the Apocalypse is out in ebook form at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, as an iBook, and directly from BookBaby, the publisher. I have put the links on one convenient page, here. I’m looking into getting paper copies made; that’ll be next.

Thanks so much, everyone, for your interest, help, and support in getting this book out into the world.

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Working While I Wait

While I wait for the final ebook proof of “Playing in the Apocalypse,” I’m editing the latest draft of my novel, “A Shack on the Outskirts of Heaven.” That book is turning out to be almost as full of song lyrics as “Apocalypse” was before I took them out, having recently learned that Fair Use does not apply to songs. All my writing is peppered with song lyrics, requiring a careful going over. It’s amazing the way songs have worked themselves into my brain and become part of me, but they’re a part I can’t use because they were part of someone else first.

After what felt like weeks of cold rain, we had three warm days in the 70s and 80s. Irises, roses, and rhododendrons noticed. Petals unfurled. Showers are back today, and it smells wonderful outside. 







Oil Platform Holly


Oil platforms dot the Santa Barbara channel—ugly, metal structures that look like erector sets looming up out of the ocean, but at night, when they’re lit up, they become palaces. The oil company gave them names like Henry, Grace, and Gilda. The one standing sentinel in the water off Isla Vista is named Holly, but we call it the Crystal Ship.
From Playing in the Apocalypse



Moving toward publication


Yesterday morning, I received the epub file proof of my upcoming book, Playing in the Apocalypse. I side-loaded it onto my Nook reader and am reading the whole thing, inspecting for formatting errors. So far, it looks fantastic except for the title page… ugh. The title is so small I can barely read it, and it doesn’t match the much larger font in the rest of the book. I really hope they can fix that before it goes out to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the other booksellers I didn’t know about.

Everything about self-publishing is new to me. It’s not just all the formatting headaches—and there were a lot as I had to paste 14 separate chapters into a single Word document and do a lot of reformatting. I read Brooke Warner’s What’s Your Book? about the different publishing options and signed up for a webinar about social media. I’m on Twitter now, and I have a brand-new author page on Facebook, here

It’s a lot of fun reading all my favorite authors’ tweets and finding new authors on Twitter. I have downloaded five intriguing, self-published ebooks written by my new friends—I have to stop now until I’ve finished reading them all… then I’ll buy a bunch more.

I have about 100 more pages of proofreading to go, so I’d better get back at it.

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Platform: Dipping a Toe in Twitter’s Shark-infested Waters

Don’t you love industry buzzwords? “Solution,” “brand,” “grow the company,” “face time,” and “leverage” as a verb. Twitter has a really good buzzword: “Favorite” as a  verb. “@Severusnape favorited your tweet.”

“Tweeting” and “favoriting” are new to me. I have a memoir about my experiences during the 1970 Isla Vista riots and have written three novels. One of my novels is with an editor and will be ready soon. I signed up for a webinar and have been reading about different publication options. I’ve been to talks given by literary agents that made me want to stop at the liquor store on my way home. Everything I read and heard was the same. You can wow them with an awesome pitch, but no agent or publishing house will consider you without a platform. “Platform”–the publishing industry buzzword.

So I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with that novel, the first of a series of at least four. The books and webinar suggested starting with Twitter and Facebook. I’m familiar with Facebook already, so I dove into Twitter for the first time. I am supposed to look up all my friends on Twitter and follow them… only, I do not know any people on Twitter. I’m the pioneer of my group. I like being the first to test out new stuff, especially tech stuff. Still a bit of a nerd. But how to get people to follow me when I don’t know anyone? I haven’t a clue. All the same, someone in Ireland did follow me, and I downloaded his epic fantasy at once, read it, and was not disappointed.

Twitter is a HUGE info dump. I discovered that all but one of my favorite authors are using Twitter, so I must be in the right place. And here and there in the avalanche of tweets, I have found some wonderful writing advice. I have been prowling the feed, “favoriting” other writers’ posts like a madwoman.


My last post was about deciding to self publish the Isla Vista story when I realized how the whole university landscape has changed radically from the way things were. Now I realize that in addition to having a book out, what I learn from the whole experience will be more than worth the cost of having the ebook distributed and having a great cover design.


Soon I’ll be getting the book proof to review, and if all goes well, it will go out to Amazon,  Barnes and Noble, and a bunch of other booksellers I haven’t heard of. And then, who knows? 


Upcoming Book: “Playing in the Apocalypse”

A friend and fellow alumnus of UC Santa Barbara sent me this LA Times editorial. It seems that UCSB students can now opt out of any class material that might upset them. In the words of my student days, it just blew my mind. Totally weird, man—WTF?? University is supposed to be about expanding one’s viewpoint, learning about people from other cultures, races, and economic backgrounds. I know I learned about things I had never thought of before, and my friends and I had long discussions far into the night, throwing ideas back and forth. Things were a bit more dire in my day; my boyfriend got a seriously unlucky draft lottery number during the Vietnam War, a war we didn’t believe in–right after he flunked out. Not to mention Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy being assassinated one right after another, not that long after JFK. Those were some scary times, plus the fact that we faced major police brutality and had our town placed under martial law. So, excuse me if students opting out of potentially upsetting classroom material in an institution of education threw me into a tizzy. Talk about cognitive dissonance. It also galvanized me. 
About three years ago, I wrote a short book about my senior year at UCSB, 1969-1970. I participated in the Vietnam War Moratorium, when millions marched in San Francisco and Washington DC. I was tear-gassed during the Isla Vista riots, harassed by police, and I saw the Bank of America burn. After reading the latest news about my alma mater, I hauled that manuscript out of its drawer and decided to self-publish it as an ebook. 
It’s titled “Playing in the Apocalypse.” That’s what my boyfriend called those times, and it has stuck with me ever since.
I uploaded the manuscript late last night and am waiting to hear whether it needs more formatting before they can convert it for e-readers. I also ordered a cover design and am curious to see what they come up with. 
I will keep posting about the self-publication process—completely new to me. 
Here’s a preliminary description. 
It was 1970. Kate and Joel were lovers during the riots in Isla Vista, a once sleepy, palm-studed, beachfront student community next to the University of California, Santa Barbara campus. For Kate, raised by repressive fundamentalist Christian parents, Isla Vista was the first place in her life that felt like home. She loved to browse the bookstore and take long walks along the beach. There were concerts and street dances just about every weekend… and then her world came apart. Kate’s apartment was right on the police patrol loop, where armored trucks full of cops shot the tires of parked cars and lobbed tear gas canisters at the apartment buildings. She and her roommate barricaded the door and hid in their apartment until something happened that galvanized them into action.
In between the fires, the rage, and the night the bank went up in flames, a tender love story unfolded between Joel and Kate.
It was a terrifying and life-changing year. Packed with details and drawn from the author’s own experiences, “Playing in the Apocalypse” is a time capsule of a scary, but in many ways simpler, era.  
KCSB, the only radio station in the history of the United States to be shut down by police, April 17, 1970. 

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Hands down, spring is my favorite time of year.

All winter, I’ve been hunkered down, waiting for news regarding my late mother’s tax situation… and now it’s spring and I still have no idea how much money is owed. My sisters are in the same situation, lives on hold while nothing happens. We are all so tired of being in limbo. 

I have been busy writing during this long wait. I’m over 40,000 words into a new novel, and I revised the first book in the series one more time. Right now, I’m working on my “pitch” letter to send to agents and exploring different publishing options. One way or another, that book will soon be out in the world (yikes!). I submitted a story to “Voice Catcher” today. I plan to go to the Willamette Writers conference this summer, no matter what. I missed last summer because I didn’t know whether I could afford it. 

Outside my window, there’s an explosion of color in the neighborhood, and it’s so much fun to wander the streets, camera in hand.








Some unforeseen estate issues, mainly our mother’s gargantuan unpaid taxes that we didn’t know about and suddenly owe, have come up. I don’t know how much money I have; I only know that I owe money, not how much, so I’m sitting tight, not taking any trips, not going to any writer’s doings, and not buying anything other than necessities until I find out. I’m in limbo. I feel like I’m in stasis and there’s nothing I can do about it, so I need to get comfortable with that. At least I’m writing. A lot.

Being in limbo is an opportunity to learn to surrender and just wait. Cats are very good at this, by the way. I passed this one’s window on an afternoon walk.


I’m going to focus on the things I love that are free–writing, taking my dogs for long walks and noticing things on those walks like the cat in the window and cool reflections in street puddles.



Maybe I’ll even get around to decluttering my basement.

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My sister’s coming to visit in a week or so; I hope she’ll be here in time for the last splash of color before it all goes sodden and gray. I try to bring a camera on my daily walks with the dogs; even if I don’t take any photos, I notice so many more things when I have a camera.


When we were girls in elementary school, my friends and I would pick fuchsia flowers like these and pretend they were ballerinas.

Besides the huge splashes of scarlet and gold the trees make, I love the little things–tiny berries and twigs like little candlesticks.




This cool kitty watched me take photos; she seemed to know what I was doing. Maybe she belongs to a photographer?


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Wordstock 2013

I’m so glad I went. This is the last year Wordstock will be at the Oregon Convention Center, and the next Wordstock literary festival won’t be until Spring of 2015.

A few photos from around the book fair…





Saturday, my first stop was a panel discussion with thriller writers, “The Dark Side, Creating Suspense” with Adam Mansbach (The Dead Run), A.M. Homes (May We Be Forgiven), Mark Sullivan (Rogue), and Chelsea Cain (Let Me Go). These guys were having a ball talking about writing thrillers, and I will be reading their new books.


Jennie Shortridge reading from Love, Water, Memory, about Lucie, a Seattle woman in a dissociative fugue, who “wakes up” knee deep in the San Francisco Bay, remembering nothing. I’m halfway through that book right now; I can’t put it down.


Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, Boxes, and Saints, and Craig Thompson, author of Blankets and Habibiall graphic novels. Creating a graphic novel is hugely time-consuming. Yang said, “Comics have a way of eating your life.”


Alissa Nutting, Leni Zumas, Tom Barbush, and Benjamin Percy.


Sunday, I arrived early to catch this panel, “The Short Story vs. The Novel,”  because Benjamin Percy was on it. I had never heard of him before I heard him read from his book, The Wilding two years ago. His stuff is very dark, scary, and creepy, but his writing is gorgeous, maybe the best I’ve ever read. I’m not familiar with the other authors on the panel and will check them out. Alissa Nutting was hilarious– “The good in the world is, like, extinguished daily.”


Adam Mansbach read from his new book, The Dead Run, and Mark Sullivan read from Rogue. I can’t wait to read their books.


Tom Spanbauer read a whole chapter from his upcoming book, I Loved You More. It was So. Incredibly. Sad. Wow!


Benjamin Percy read from his latest book, Red Moon, a terrifying episode that kept building and left me wrung out and shaken even though I had read the book a couple of times. Listening to anyone else after that would be a let-down, so I called it a day. I don’t know when I’ll go to the Convention Center again since Wordstock is moving. I took a couple of farewell shots on my way out.