Disaggregation

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the neighbor lady
pressure washes her driveway
into losing weight

My neighbor is a frequent user of her very loud power washing device. Every imagined particle of dust must be blasted out of existence.

“But look at all the dirt that comes off!”

That’s your driveway.

My Fancy Color Didn’t Work Out

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Never ask a creative
What color you should paint.
The answer will always be
Some color that it ain’t.

You should ask a farm kid.
They’ll say, “Get the leftover stain.”
They’ll get a roller and use it up
And the rail looks nice again.

I’m working on getting that second-story deck rail finished, a year after I started it. I could blame it on the rain, but you’d probably cry fake–mostly the problem is that it’s way more work to “frame my vista in a buttery vanilla color” than it would have been to “slap some stain on the fence that keeps the kids from falling off the deck.” Regrets, I have them. I also have an ugly half-finished deck rail. Not what I had imagined.

I’m Bringing Pumpkin SpicyBack

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I have decided now it’s Fall.
I’m tired of this hot Summer.
What? Another month, you say?
You better check your number.

I dress us all in cardigans,
We sweat so much, we float.
If I don’t relent soon,
The kids will ruin their coats.

I’m making pumpkin pies,
Enough to feed a horde.
Never mind that no one here
Likes pies made out of gourd.

I took a heat gun to my trees.
The leaves have that autumny crunch.
Thankgiving is next weekend, folks.
We’re gonna thanks a bunch.

When September rolls around,
And the weather actually turns,
I’ll send the kids sledding down the hill!
No snow? Not my concern!

 

The Truth: I do wish it was Fall, because I love Fall. I do not love Pumpkin Spice, in fact, I hate it. The only redeeming thing about it is that it heralds cooler weather and all of the other delicious things about the holidays. I also think that song I referenced in the title is terrible. So, I used two things I dislike to name my own work. Bad.

Wrapping Up a Novel Is Like Urgent Macrame

I’m in the home stretch of rewriting The Tiny Giant. I am deleting whole paragraphs in favor of the better writing I’m capable of after 150,000 words of practice. I am crying, sometimes, when the clever bits turn out to be irrelevant, or a sweet moment slows down the action, and they have to go.  I am fist-pumping at the ceiling when the new section is funnier, more adventurous, or just actually makes sense.

In these last few chapters, the whole of the story has to come together in a way that is both interesting (complex) and organic (not distractingly complex).  It makes me tense.  I’m preoccupied with it.  A bit obsessed.  This is where I run into issues.

See…I’m at home all day with the Two Things.  My kids are 4 (almost 5) and 7 (almost 82, he’s wonderfully odd).  I get up and write for a couple of hours if I can manage it before they get up.  Once they stir, there is no more writing.  This doesn’t happen at a nice stopping point.  Right now, at the climax, I’m juggling all the cords of this macramé masterpiece, trying to get the knots connected so the plot doesn’t just crash to the floor.  When I “stop” for the day, I still have these mental threads precariously wound through my imaginary intellectual fingers.  All day.  All I can think about is NOT LOSING MY PLACE.

I take notes, and I leave markers for myself.  I know what’s going to happen (thanks, outline!), and I know what I need to do to get there.  It doesn’t stop me from worrying that somewhere along the way, I’m going to leave a cord out, or tie the wrong knot, and this big piece of mental macramé is going to end up looking like the actual macramé I made in the 7th grade.  I urgently need it not to be as amateurish as my 7th grade plant hanger.  I urgently need to be done.

I will not rush through this last bit just to be done.  There are still 7 chapters left, and they deserve the same attention as all the others, if not more.  I’ll spend the next two weeks tying knots and balancing strings and probably snapping at my family (sorry, family) to see it through to what I hope it can be.  If I seem a little preoccupied, well, it’s just that I’m trying to remember if the blue cord is an over or under cord…

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Now….what was I thinking with this one?

I Stopped Fooling Myself, Since I Wasn’t Fooling You

I updated my About page recently to include my name.  After three years, I was still reluctant to do that.  I realized a couple of things, though…

I’m going to need to connect with my real name in preparation for releasing a book, whether it’s traditionally published or self-published.  This means that any distance I thought I was keeping between myself and my online persona is probably counter-productive.

Also…there really isn’t any such thing as privacy when you decide to have a presence on the internet.

You Should Be Happy is now going to include the humor that I’ve been posting, and my author’s blog.  I won’t bore you to death with daily updates about The Tiny Giant, but I will be talking about the process and teasing some of what the book is about.

Major milestones, too.  I’m getting close to the end of the big heart-rending rewrite.  More to come on that soon.

So…hello.  My name is Rebecka Ratcliffe, and I’m a writer.  Nice to meet you.

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Rewritin’

Well, I spent a couple years,
Pilin’ up a mess of words,
But when I read ’em back,
I didn’t like what I heard.

Those words were too simple,
Those too flowery.
These sound like I made ’em up,
And those don’t sound like me.

I grabbed my inky editor
And marked them pages up.
I bled all over those suckers,
Man, I really changed some stuff.

I beavered away at the pages,
Started feelin’ like a pro,
Until I read the new version
And saw how far I had to go.

Well, I sucked it up, my friend.
I wrote the whole thing over.
I worried about the “central conflict”
And what “motivation” drove her.

At the end, I could see
My mess of words was clearer.
So, promise me, you’ll buy my book
When I finish it…late next year.

A Note From Me:  I know some of you have been through the process of writing and rewriting novels, and let me tell you, it’s quite a process.  The good news?  Two-ish years after I started using my 3 hours a week on The Tiny Giant, I finally know what the finished product looks and feels like.  This 4th Draft is the last draft before I edit and send the manuscript out.  It has come a LONG way in that time, and I have a mess of work left, but I can see and feel the main arc of the story, and I know the characters as well as I know anyone.  I’m excited to get there, and honestly a little tired of looking at it.  I’ll be happy to see it out the door, then turn to some stories aimed at adults while I wait for responses.

What do I expect?  Nothing.  Hope for everything.  The young adult fantasy market is more open than ever before, I think, and more crammed with competition as a result.  But…back to the work, which I need to get done before I do any dreaming…

(Bonus points to you if you heard Baxter Black in your mind as you read the poem.)

Everyone Will Have Reservations at Your Holiday Party

Sometimes I like to be topical and trendy.  Right now, it seems like everyone is talking about holiday this, party that, oh, I’m gonna make these cheese balls with quinoa all over them and not eat them because I’m lactose intolerant, but you go ahead.  Since I don’t really have “parties,” because that would involve a lot of “people,” I thought it might be fun to help you plan your party.  

 I spent some time thinking about a theme, because no one wants to have the same party as everyone else, right?  I spent some time focusing on the word “hospitality.”  I laid down in the middle of my floor and chanted that word for an hour using the voice of my ancestors.  The long line of introverts behind me declined to help.  “Hospitality,” I whispered.  Inspiration struck.  Hotels!  A hotel themed party would be the very essence of hospitality.  Looking around my suburban home, however, I couldn’t make it work.  I just didn’t have enough rooms to give everyone their own room and still call it a party.  Plus, some people might not be entirely charmed by spending their evening in the bathroom or the basement crawlspace.  If you have a 40 room mansion, this might not be a problem you have, but you wouldn’t be talking to me either, so whatever.

 How could I get more people in a small space?  I still wanted the hospitality feeling, but I needed efficiency.  I scrunched my knees up, covering my ears so I could think, and lightning struck!  I could take my inspiration from the airlines!  Read on to see how you could throw your own party just like a major airline. 

Invitations

First, you have to invite all your friends to the party, of course.  You’ll want to make sure you set your groundwork here.  Make a list of all your friends.  Then, divide up the list between your Best Friends and your Other Friends.  For maximum efficiency, I suggest something like the example below. 

Be sure to check the appropriate box before sending to prevent confusion.

Be sure to check the appropriate box before sending to prevent confusion.

Handling RSVPs

When your friends RSVP, you’ll want to make sure you exchange some important information.  Absolutely confirm if they are bringing a date or any other baggage.  This is the perfect time to let them know they need to arrive at least two hours early. 

Greeting Your Guests

Your guests should start arriving long before the actual party is to start.  Have them form an orderly line outside the front door.  You will want to put the Best Friends closest to the house to ensure they get inside before anyone else.  This is a good time to make sure no one has brought an unexpected guest.  If anyone in line is not covered by a confirmed RSVP, inform them they are on Party Standby.  If there is any room after all confirmed guests have entered the party, these unexpected guests can enter on a first-come/first-served basis. 

Walk down the line and observe what people are carrying.  Anyone with a hostess gift should be pulled out of line and searched for other contraband.  Since most people don’t have metal detectors at home, you’ll have to improvise here.  If you’re curious about what your coworker has in that stupid designer purse, or you want to see if Bill from high school is still carrying joints in his pocket, make a high-pitched whining noise as you “wand” them and insist they dump out their purse or pockets.

 

Weeeoooooweeeeooooweeeoooo. Sorry, I'm going to have to search that.

Weeeoooooweeeeooooweeeoooo. Sorry, I’m going to have to search that.

No matter how clear you are on the invitation, there are always latecomers.  At the time the party is scheduled to start, lock the door and don’t let anyone else in.  That’s the price of being a Rude Roscoe, my friend, see you next year.

 Party Down

The key to a party that everyone enjoys?  The atmosphere and the refreshments!  First, you’ll want to make sure everyone’s comfortable.  Because we’re trying to get as many guests in as efficiently as possible, I’ve done a model layout for you.   

You may want to have a special area with larger squares for your Best Friends.

You may want to have a special area with larger squares for your Best Friends.

 The refreshments are another area requiring careful planning.  It’s important to have enough for everyone, but not necessarily the same things for everyone.  I suggest creating multiple areas for drinks and food.  Find your Best Friends and quietly suggest that they might want to check out the refreshments on the linen tablecloth, behind the curtain. 

Please enjoy all this, my Best Friend, and let me know when you need a refill

Please enjoy all this, my Best Friend, and let me know when you need a refill.

Holler “Grub’s on!” loudly to the Other Friends and gesture to the folding card table where you’ve set up the cheap stuff.

One per guest, please, if I have extras you may ask for another

One per guest, please, if I have extras you may ask for another.

Entertainment

Let’s face it, people are not coming to your party for the entertainment.  Go to a Redbox, close your eyes, and point to the display of movies at random.  Rent this movie.  Play it with the sound completely off in your living room.  If someone cares about what Vin Diesel is saying, they can stand very close to the screen and read his lips.

 Winding Down

If you’re following along, you should be having a really adequate party at this point.  People will be awkwardly mingling with the person in the assigned seat next to them.  Your Best Friends will be drunk and joining the Mistletoe Club elsewhere in the house.  It’s important to end the party with the same tasteful efficiency as you began it.  Put on a pair of blue nitrile gloves and carry a small wastebasket liner to each party guest.  Grab their cups out of their hands and throw them away regardless of contents.  Once you’ve done this, announce to everyone that the party is over, thank them for coming, and wish them an enjoyable holiday season at their own homes. 

 Important Last Note

Once you’ve signaled that party is over, make it clear that everyone is to leave as quickly as possible by standing at the open front door with a basket of party favors.  Hand one to each guest as they leave, counting as they depart.  It wouldn’t do to have a party guest stranded in your house overnight!

 This may sound like a lot of work for a couple of hours of party time.  While I’m sure you’re sold on the money-saving refreshment tiers, you might wonder if it’s worth going the extra mile for your guests.  Yes.  You have to stop focusing on the journey, and look toward the destination.  You’ll avoid the “same old holiday party” trap.  People will be talking about your party for years to come.  Bonne fête! 

Thanks for choosing our party. Please come again.

Thank you for choosing our party. Please come again.