Noticing Magic Everywhere

Kate Comings' journal


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A New Kitchen, and Book Cover Woes

After a summer of home repairs and a drastic kitchen remodel, the final draft of the third book in my series, Deliver Us From Evil, is done, a lot later than I planned. This one’s darker than the others:

Kidnapped during an assignment in Afghanistan, photographer Niall O’Sullivan and 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 had a rather grim cover in mind, showing a prisoner locked in an underground cell, the title in stark, gritty-looking manual Smith Corona type. I had a very specific picture in mind, and it wasn’t something I could order from the Amazon cover service that did my last two covers. I couldn’t find any stock photos that would fit, either.

Next, I thought of a night image with a silhouetted man on a gritty city street gazing up at the stars. I started taking photos of alleys and stuff.

Then I got interrupted (I’m not complaining) — I had put in for a kitchen remodel back in January. I had fought with a dilapidated kitchen for 15 years and it was way beyond time. The contractor was ready to start. I learned about cabinets, countertops, subway tiles, sinks, and faucets, and it was glorious.

Crowded and shabby

Crowded and shabby

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Finished

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Open and airy

I took a few days off from kitchen decisions to go to the Willamette Writers Conference. I cannot recommend this enough. To be in a big hotel where everyone you meet is a writer… writing is a solitary, sometimes lonely business and it’s like a gigantic gathering of your own tribe. Not to mention how much I learned this time around. Full of new ideas, I rewrote Deliver Us From Evil all over again after the conference.

Lee Moyer, a book cover artist, was there providing free advice. I brought photos of the first two books in my series. He said Amazon did a great job and that my next cover needs to have the same elements so people will recognize it as belonging to the series; namely the title font, a glowing background, and a darker foreground. Oh. Time to start over.

I found stock photos of Afghan children like the kids in Niall’s photographs that could be adapted, but when I was about to buy them, I found that they can’t be used for fictional book covers. In despair, I googled stock photos for book covers and found the most generic stuff you could imagine, the same photos we had to pick from when I wrote online for Demand Media.

Hours later, I happened on a site with images to die, or in my case, sign your life away for because they have only a three-year license. I’m trying to find out whether I can change the cover later on without having to change the whole book and ISBN numbers, or whether I will have to keep renewing that not-cheap license every three years.

Happily, the cover for my next book, Zen Flowers, will be a lot easier.


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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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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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Time to declutter

My office, "before" photo

My office, “before” photo

I have way too much stuff. How I manage to work, or even think in here, I have no idea. So, I’m gonna clean it up, and I’ll post again when the job is done. It’s the perfect time to do it: wintry weather makes it tempting to stay inside, and I just finished the first round of revisions to my next novel. Now I need to take a break and let it sit for a while so I can see it with fresh eyes when it’s time for the next rewrite. I have been writing and revising for a long time. That was my focus instead of tidying, and I let everything pile up. In stacks, and more stacks.

Reams of recycling

Reams of recycling

This is a stack of printed-out, revised manuscripts of my three books now in print. They need to be shredded and recycled. They represent years of work, and I’m sort of attached to them, and shredding takes a long time. The rubber bands holding each version rotted while I procrastinated, and I finally got started. I had actually shredded a bunch before I took the photo. It wasn’t as hard as I thought; having the books in front of me reminded me that these stacks were only the means to an end and it’s time to say goodbye.

 My three books

My three books

Saying goodbye to some of the books on my overloaded bookshelves is going to be a lot harder.


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New Book

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A Shack On the Outskirts of Heaven is finally done, available here. Getting a book out had a steep learning curve, I found, and I messed up along the way. I had gone over the novel through multiple drafts in Scrivener and reread the converted manuscript again in Microsoft Word. I was confident there were no more typos when I uploaded the book to Amazon.

The book proof looked very different from the Word document. Beautifully formatted, it looked like a real book. I was thrilled… until I read it once again and found yet more mistakes. The biggest one was misspelling one of my main character’s names! “No way I did that!” I yelled at the computer screen. I found the original page in Scrivener, and there it was. How I managed to miss it is beyond me, but getting it fixed delayed the whole process.

I also messed up when it came to uploading an author photo. I have to say, the Amazon CreateSpace people were incredibly kind and helpful.

I’m working on the sequel to Shack.


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New book available soon!

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I was overwhelmed. There’s a lot involved in getting a book out, but it’s all coming together. I just received the cover image for my new book. I’m thrilled with the way it came out, and now I can finally talk about it. I’ve spent the last couple of years writing a series of four books. The series begins with Eileen…

Sculptor Eileen Gordon is at the breaking point. Her mind-numbing day job is crushing her, and her loneliness feels overwhelming. Then there’s her fiercely independent daughter, Celeste, who returns from travels in Ireland to discover she is pregnant. Mother and daughter decide to team up, take life by the horns, and rescue themselves by opening an art gallery. But their plan to “take life in big bites” threatens to backfire when past relationships resurface and present seemingly endless complications.

It’ll be available soon.


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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.