Noticing Magic Everywhere

Kate Comings' journal


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Winter is a time for waiting…

Portland is blanketed with snow, with some icy, slippery spots. Winter doesn’t officially begin for almost a week, but you’d never know. The way I see it, winter arrived with last week’s ice storm and gale winds and a power outage that made me despair of ever getting my iMac back up afterwards. We had lots of tree damage, including my poor pine tree. The ice was beautiful though, and I did get outside with my camera before it melted.

Hawthorne berries

Hawthorne berries

Frozen pine needles

Frozen pine needles

Rose hips

Rose hips

Because the streets are slippery, I won’t be driving until the temperatures get above freezing, which they have not. It’s a good time to settle in and wait it out while I revise my next book, Zen Flowers.

I’m waiting to receive the final proof copy of Deliver Us From Evil, which needs approval before the book will be available on Amazon. I can’t wait to hold the book in my hands after so many edits and revisions. I’m like a kid the night before Christmas. For me, the hardest waiting is right before the end.


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Writing Fiction: “Pantsing” my way through

Not knowing what’s going to happen when I sit down to write is a lot more fun than outlining a plot beforehand. For me, already knowing the whole story turns the writing of it into “work.” The downside, though, is that not planning sometimes results in a chaotic mess, like Zen Flowers, the book I’m writing now. It’s the fourth in a series, and I’m winding up Part One. I’m worried about whether it will end up a story or just a bunch of episodes that go nowhere. Lots of things are happening; but do they make a story? I don’t know yet, but since my characters still have such a grip on me, I decided to go ahead and finish the first draft. I can decide later whether it needs massive editing and restructuring, or whether it’s something I wrote just for my own entertainment.

My characters, Niall and Celeste, have been through a lot. They’ve been together five years now, and Celeste misses the romance they once had. I want to convey how romantic they still feel toward each other underneath all the stuff that gets in the way: their work, children who demand all their attention, financial problems, and the disagreements that make each one afraid the other would be relieved if they separated. I want something different from drinking at the pub or gazing at each other across a restaurant table; they’ve done plenty of that. I decided to take them to the beach, which meant I had to go to the beach. It’s 90 miles, and it was my birthday. So, last Monday morning, I packed up my camera and drove west to Astoria, then south to Seaside, a “fisherman’s wharf” type of place with arcades and shops and saltwater taffy and a carrousel. The beach is wide and flat and has a quality of light that makes me feel like I’m dreaming, and that I knew Niall, a photographer, would appreciate. It was sunny when I left Portland; we’ve had a bout of temperatures in the 90s. It was heavily overcast and about 20 degrees cooler on the coast, with heavy, low clouds. A lot of people were on the beach in spite of the cold weather, or maybe because of it.

Beach at Seaside, Oregon

Beach at Seaside, Oregon

Seaside has lots of seafood restaurants, and I headed over to Norma’s for their delicious clam chowder, packed with so many clams that I was full before I got to the bottom of the bowl, but I ate the whole thing–yum!

I headed south to Cannon Beach. I knew Niall would want to photograph Haystack Rock, a giant, iconic boulder rising out of the surf and hosting several bird populations. The light, however, was terrible for photography. My camera has a viewfinder, so I could at least frame my shots, but the glare was so bad, I couldn’t see the light meter or any of my settings. A girl asked me to take a picture of her with her cell phone, and I could barely make her out on its screen. I was, I think, the wrong time of day. Early morning or evening would probably be better.

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach

Haystack Rock

Haystack Rock

People were flying kites. A long time ago, a guy said he wanted to fly a kite with me. I thought that was soooo romantic. Nothing ever came of it, but… I had my idea!

Kites at Cannon Beach

Kites at Cannon Beach

There’s nothing better than a long car drive for getting the ideas bubbling. When I drove from Portland to my old university at Santa Barbara, Calif., I planned to go over the manuscript of “Playing in the Apocalypse” at the place where it happened, but so many ideas for a new book downloaded into my head on the way that I couldn’t wait to start writing “Hostages” (working title). I wandered around Isla Vista and took lots of photos, but half my attention was on my new book. Funny how that works.


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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.

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Limbo

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.

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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.

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


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Autumn

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.

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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.

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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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Starting Over

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A dark, cloudy day at Mt. Tabor Park. It’s about to rain.

It’s a blustery first day of autumn; time to start a new blog. My last post on my old blog was about my trip south in the dead of winter for what turned out to be my ailing, elderly mother’s last days. I went down again to help my sister go through our parents’ things and clear out the house–so much stuff! 

I wrote a lot; just not my blog. I finished another novel, tentatively called Hostages. Before my mom’s death, I was busy sending stuff out and working on my “platform,” but in the past months, getting my work out into the world wasn’t important to me. I only cared about the writing itself. Now I have to decide what to do with these books I’ve written; whether to self-publish or go the traditional route and query agents… Meanwhile, I’m revising and editing to make it my best work.

When I wasn’t writing, I took lots and lots of photographs. During the sad times, wandering around with a camera seemed to help more than anything else, even though I didn’t know anything about photography. It got me to notice things and kept me in the present moment. I just aimed the camera and pushed the shutter button. Doing it was what counted.

My sister, Carolyn, and I are in the middle of an online photography class at Flying Photo School, and for the first time, I’m learning about ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and a lot more about what goes into taking a photo–there’s so much new stuff to remember and take into account. Now, I have about the same percentage of photos that come out well, but I’ll keep practicing until the settings are as natural to me as breathing. It’s math, really–like learning long division, but unlike division, it’s fun!

In the woods, wooly bear caterpillars are all over the place, predicting a harsh winter. 

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It was a steamy, muggy summer. Today I revel in the sound of wind in the trees and falling rain. The air smells of rain and chimney smoke. I’m looking forward to the fall colors.