Noticing Magic Everywhere

Kate Comings' journal


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DELIVER US FROM EVIL Cover!

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I bought a license to use the Silas Manhood cover image I mentioned in my last post and hired the CreateSpace custom cover service to do the actual cover. When I got the email notifying me that the cover proof was ready, I was afraid to open it. What if I didn’t like it? I have invested so much of myself in my characters and their story that a disappointing cover would be so much more than, well, a disappointing cover. I needn’t have worried. I’m so excited. Thrilled. Happy. It has continuity with the two previous covers, but is also a bit more ominous, as this novel is darker than the others.

Book Three in the Divine Presents series, Deliver Us From Evil continues the story begun in A Shack on the Outskirts of Heaven and Stolen Son.

Kidnapped during an assignment in Afghanistan, Irish photographer Niall O’Sullivan and American journalist Philip Korda are hostages in a remote underground bunker outside war-torn Kandahar. Will they be ransomed before their captors run out of patience? Starved and beaten, they despair of ever seeing their loved ones again.

As if that weren’t enough, Niall’s ex-brother-in-law, Conor, wants him dead and will stop at nothing to make sure that happens.

I’m waiting to receive a proof copy of the paperback book, and after I approve that, it will be available on Amazon. There will also be a Kindle version.

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Ruby is a real dog.

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She belongs to my daughter, Eithne, and she just showed up in my latest work in progress, “Zen Flowers,” as I pants my way through. Dogs have a way of doing that. Elizabeth is seven, old enough now to tell part of the story.

“When Mom’s not looking, John sneaks a piece of sausage under the table and gives it to Ruby, our dog. We have a dog now. Me and John wanted one so bad, but the house we lived in was No Pets. Now we live in a different house, and we get to have a dog at last. We got her at the humane society. Mom says she’s probably half basset hound and half German shepherd. You should see her. She has short, crookedy legs and a tan body with a black back, and her ears are really huge and stick up but the tips flop over. She makes you want to laugh and hug her at the same time. She poops a LOT. The only thing I don’t like about having a dog is having to pick up smelly poop when we go on a walk.”


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4000 Questions? The ultimate writing prompt

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I couldn’t resist this book. I was grocery shopping at New Seasons this morning, and it was on a table along with notepads, coasters, books, and ornaments. “4000 Questions for Getting To Know anyone and Everyone,” by Barbara Ann Kipfer. What on earth? I leafed through it–being asked a bunch of arbitrary questions makes me feel like a bug under a magnifying glass, but whoa–these are wonderful writing prompts!

When I’m writing a character, I’ll grab a notebook and my trusty fountain pen and plop him or her in a chair and ask questions. It’s a tried-and-true method of finding out things you never knew about the person. This book has all the questions I never thought to ask. A few examples…

Childhood: What has changed most about the neighborhood where you grew up? What activities besides eating went on at the kitchen table in the home you grew up in? What did you do when you came home from school? What are the stupidest rules your parents had?

Friends: Would you lie to keep a friend out of trouble? What do you find interesting about people? What traits do you not like in other people?

Romance: Define “commitment.” What is the scariest thing and the most rewarding thing about commitment? What is something someone said or did that you found extremely attractive? What words would you love to have whispered in your ear?

Outlook: Are you jealous of other people’s success? How do you deal with things you cannot change? Do you like snow? What do you hate most?

… and thousands more questions. I can’t wait to see how my characters respond to some of these.


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I decluttered my office

It took almost a week of sorting through drawers and heaped-up piles of junk and shredding reams of papers. When I started, it looked like this. Here’s the same room today.

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Tidied up

Amidst the clutter, I found this “Groovy Girl,” Natalie. As a child, my granddaughter Bridghid used to collect Groovy Girls. I bought one for her and couldn’t resist buying this one for myself because she reminded me of the writer, Natalie Goldberg, who wrote some cool books about combining writing with Zen practice.

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I dedicated a couple of shelves to my two favorite authors, Charles de Lint and Margaret Atwood. Both have overflowed their allotted space, but, oh well.

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So… will ideas flow more freely in an uncluttered space? I keep reading that this is the case, and I already have new ideas for ratcheting up the conflict in my latest first draft.


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Manzanita

First off, I want this little house by the beach in Manzanita. Isn’t it cute?

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We’ve been having days and days and days of humid, ninety-plus temperatures in Portland, and I discovered that when it’s sweltering, my brain doesn’t work. I can’t concentrate, can’t focus… can’t write. I’m almost finished with the first draft of Zen Flowers, the fourth book in my series. It’s in two parts and has gotten up to a whopping 158,000 words and will be well over 160,000 when I get to the end. Big editing job ahead, but that’s in the future. Endings are excruciatingly difficult for me to write. Everything slows down to a crawl. I hate everything I write and keep deleting and starting the last chapter over again and again. That’s where I am now.

Yesterday, I couldn’t face going out for my daily walk and on impulse, drove to the Oregon coast where it was in the 60s, thirty degrees cooler than in Portland. I went to Manzanita for the day this time. People come here for writing retreats. I’d like to have one in the little house above (Yes! I could write here!) but one of the motels would be just fine, too. I will do it someday. Even before I got to Manzanita, ideas began to percolate. I brought my iPad for that just in case.

The beach is long; it goes on forever. First, I walked north to the end of the beach.

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Then I turned around and walked south for a couple of miles. As I walked, I told myself the story I’m writing in between gazing at the gorgeousness of it all and taking photos like the main character of the book.

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Looking east over the dunes, in the direction of Portland, the sky was an astonishing blue.

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There were lots of sand castles all along the beach. This one was my favorite.

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Whenever I go to the coast, I get hungry for clam chowder. I planned to sit at the restaurant table, write, and savor a bowl of chowder, but I couldn’t find a seafood place. Google said the one there was permanently closed. I wandered around the town for a bit, then stopped in Cannon Beach on my way home. By then, I was famished, and the bowl of chowder at The Wayfarer was wonderful, packed with clams. Between bites, I wrote down the ideas that came to me driving and on the beach. I can’t wait to get started again.


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Writing

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Thought I’d share a bit about my own creative process since I spend so much time parked in front of a computer. The great thing about writing is that you can do it anywhere. Sometimes I’ll take my laptop to a coffee house or to the library, as a change of scene stirs things up and lets new ideas download into my fingertips. I often don’t know what’s going to happen until my fingers type it. My friend Kelly and I sometimes get together and write for a couple of hours at one of the Burgerville hamburger joints here in Portland.

Mostly, though, I write at my desk. I honor my writer self—put flowers on my desk, and sometimes I light a scented candle. While I’m having my morning coffee infusion (which I can’t function without), I read over yesterday’s writing to get a run on where I am and what I want to do next. I use Scrivener. It’s a scene-based application for authors. I write from multiple points of view and it’s perfect for me. Because I’m a “pantser” instead of a “plotter,” my chapters and scenes end up needing to be rearranged, and it’s a lot easier in Scrivener than it was in Word. I keep two documents open, side by side. On the left is my main/real manuscript; the one on the right is for notes, where I type in new ideas for something several chapters ahead so I won’t lose them. I also use that “notes” document for rewording something I’m not happy with, which happens quite a bit. Then when I finally get it right, I paste it in. Having the two documents open at the same time somehow makes it less scary, because I have to admit, writing can be a very scary business.

Sometimes I have no idea what to write or what comes next. When that happens, I grab a spiral notebook—I buy about 10 a year during the back-to-school sales. With notebook in hand along with my Waterman fountain pen, I sprawl on the sofa, music pounding in my ears, and free-write anything that comes to mind. Peeves I have, what the dogs are doing, what I want for my fictional characters, who by now don’t feel fictional at all and are as real as my friends. What I end up with is always a surprise—but that’s what makes writing fiction so much fun.

Music drives my pen, or my fingers on the keyboard. I have iTunes playlists for every imaginable mood: Laibach for the dump trucks full of gun-toting cops in Isla Vista; Crosby, Stills, and Nash for Joel and me, the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” for my whole philosophy at the time… music puts me in whatever place I need to write about.

How about you? I’d love to hear about how you write.