The Longest Day...

"Where have you been?" someone famous once asked of a servant gone overly long. The reply was, "Going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down in it."

So, we come to the fourteenth day – the decisive one – and the longest since the beginning of this experiment. Has it been worthwhile? Can any value be found in it? Or is it merely a wily distraction, meant to occupy the precious little time we have left to accomplish something of value. Let us weigh the odds…

It began first and foremost as a working tool: a literary blog, in which contemplations of plot, structure, research, and character might be mulled over and learned from. As such, it has also been a form of practice: to make a point or express a single thought in the most direct and connecting way. It has – above all else -- been a disciplinary tool: more than the mere physical exercise of showing up on a regular basis – the value here has been in the honing of an ability to organize the myriad of creative thoughts not only into some worthwhile order, but for a specific purpose.

Exactly what purpose?
  • To create characters well enough for them to become real.
  • To present thought-provoking scenarios which inspire others.
  • To establish a thoughtful place that is as real and productive as the physical home.
  • To become so skilled in the practice of these things that none of them show.
All worthwhile. The question put to the vote, then, is not whether we should or shouldn’t carry on, but rather if the outcome of all this is worth the opposition. Because there is always opposition to anything worthwhile. That said let us look at the dangers…

  • It has a tendency to use up one’s life forces in such consistent minute quantities, that it is possible to come up short when an all-out effort is needed for the big stuff.

  • Too much gazing at one’s own reflection tends toward Narcissism.

  • Enough input from small circles dulls the ability to maintain balanced judgments by impairing our view of the bigger picture: not only of what is going on around us, but what most people think of our work, and not just the selected few.

Yet, the enticements are still there to continue the adventure, if for no other reason than to see how close one can come to achieving the ultimate goals. Based on the foregoing fourteen days, we have not. The ship is on a lee shore, the tacklings are loose, and we have thrown some valuable cargo over the side in moments of haste. Nothing large is lost, but there has been no great gain, either. So – as is said in gambling circles – the winners all grin and the losers say, "Deal the cards, again."

All right. But it must be understood that the pull will be greater simply because we’ve been at it longer. The dangers will be increased, as well. Because should the one who "goes to and fro over the earth, and walks up and down in it" catch us not knowing the true value of things… the battles could get bloody this time. Thus we must also continue to do a bit of going to and fro, ourselves, and walking up and down, too – just to keep a safe enough perspective on things.

One more round, then.

And we’ll see what the new year brings.

What’s happening on the farm today: Warm winds coming up from the south preparing to do battle with the northern cold. So far the sky is only dark and blustery. But the animals are uneasy and the children running wild… the Peabody family seems to have decided conditions are entirely too dangerous to venture more than a few steps outside their door.

Habit status: Hooked. (But it will take one more round to determine whether it is a good thing or a bad one.)


Patriot Coffee…

"What’s the flag for, ladies?"

"It’s to remind D. Ann Graham to vote today. You know how she forgets everything when she’s working. We’ve even put a red, white, and blue ribbon around her coffee mug – that was Lilly’s idea -- so she can be reminded every time she reaches for it. Patriot Coffee, she calls it."

"Well, we all know the best way to catch D. Ann Graham’s attention is with words, so we had to have a snappy name. The only reason she makes it to presidential elections is because some member of the family remembers to pick her up and drag her there. But in these trying times there are much more than presidents at stake, and every election is important."

"I agree. But I don’t think you’ll have to resort to sign language anymore, in that respect, because she’s recently had an experience that will never let her forget to vote, again."

"What was that?’

"As I recall, the subject came up in a conversation she was having with one of the cousins."

"A young person?"

"My dear Lilly, just because a person is under voting age doesn’t mean they don’t have brains. A lot of them are smarter than most adults."

"Do you know what was said that impressed her?"

"Of course I do. I was impressed myself. He said voting was how we could change the future, and while that might not be important to her from one moment to the next, it was important to him because it was HIS future she was messing with."

"That is insightful, but not something D. Ann Graham hasn’t already heard before. A lot of us have heard that before. Why, all I have to do is flip back through my agenda, here, to where we were discussing that very topic during the presidential –"

"You didn’t let me finish, Ann."


"The young man went on to say that – while he hated to resort to name calling – anyone who doesn’t take the time to vote when they are of age is nothing but a fat-head lazy poop."

"Good lord!"

"My sentiments exactly. Which is why I propose that we should all go on strike until D. Ann Graham does her duty."

"But whatever does it have to do with any of us? We don’t have the right to cast a ballot any more than the cousins have."

"Just because we don’t operate in the so-called real world, doesn’t mean we can’t have an influence over it."

"Is that what you came over here for, Professor? To join our forces together to influence D. Ann Graham?"

"I’m not worried about D. Ann Graham. She’ll do what she has to, even if it’s five minutes before the polls close."

"Why should we bother to go on strike, then? I hardly see the point when we have all this work to do."

"Because – of all of us here – I am the only one who has to work with these blasted cousins day in and day out."

"Are you saying you’d like more help with them?"

"Certainly not. I simply don’t want to be called a fat-head lazy poop any more than the next person."

"I move for an official strike then. And leave the window open today, Ann – with the flag in it."

"Good idea. It might influence some of the lurkers."

What’s happening on the farm today: It is a sad day for the Peabody family… one of the hens is missing. Isn’t it odd that the size of one’s brain makes so little difference as to how much they can be cared about? I’m really quite distraught over it.

Habit status: Day 13 (unless voting day is like bankers holidays)


The Sum of All Peers…

Is everybody finally here? This is the longest we’ve been gone, but for good reason. And coming just in time to have maximum impact on our decision. Would anyone like to go first? Lilly, I understand you’ve been somewhat disillusioned with it all.

“I was at first, but now I’ve changed my mind. That’s because I discovered that even though one has to wade through an incredible amount of junk to begin with, you can eventually find someone out there you have something in common with.”

“You mean you finally interacted with someone?”

“Several actually. It seems once a person does find a subject they’re interested in, something like the ripple effect occurs. I practically lost myself in all the fascinating links. It could have gone on indefinitely, as far as I could see. One has to drag themselves away from it by sheer willpower or nothing would ever get done.”

“I’ll make a note of that. Does this mean – up to this point, of course – you’re giving the blog a positive vote?”

“Most definitely.”

“How about you, Professor? I realize you’re not the chatty type, but how did you do in your travels?”

“On the contrary, the places I visited ended up being vital to my future research. Do you know the kind of impact this sort of rapid communication can have on science? The sharing of information, the interaction with superior brains… I even discovered an unlimited supply of volunteers willing to participate in my experiments.”

“Good lord – are you sure that’s prudent?”

“My dears, prudence is not always conducive to pushing the envelope of the universe in order to discover eternal secrets. Look at Tesla, practicing on his own brain with his x-ray machine. Look at Mark Twain’s eagerness to set himself down in the hot-seat and let the scientist take a picture of his.”

“Is that a yes, then?”

“It is.”

“Then that settles it. According to the consensus, we will at least finish out the trial period. Did anyone bring hot chocolate? I’m having a bit of difficulty concentrating at the moment.”

“A pity you can’t send that through cyberspace. Although I did stop in at one pleasant place that was referred to as the kitchen. So, I suppose if everyone brought their own refreshments and the conversation proved stimulating enough, it could almost be the same. Wouldn’t you say so, Ann?”

“The benefits quite outweigh the setbacks, I’d say. Look how much gas money you can save – or airfare, for that matter. Yesterday, I had quite a decent conversation with somebody in Australia, without ever having to leave America. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even get out of my pajamas.”

“Looks like you still haven’t.”

“What? Oh, good grief – somebody close the window.”

What’s happening on the farm today: We are installing another wood stove, getting in the last of our wood, and gearing up for the first cold-snap of winter. And we have decided to give the chickens a last name: they are the Peabodys. That’s because we have never seen such pea-sized brain behavior in all our years of animal observation. Their recall capacity is so short-term that, unless information is dumped immediately into reaction mode, any moment can become a life-or-death situation. For the most part, they have no idea who they are, where they live, or where in the world they were headed when they first started out. Add to this the fact that their only instinct is to squawk and run… and you have one of the most hilarious forms of entertainment on the place.

Habit status: Day 12 (saved by a narrow margin)


No Comment…

So, where is Lilly?

“Off making house calls, I think. She’s on a binge.”

Oh, no. What kind this time?

“She’s returning visitation cards, or something. Trying to make contact with people who have stopped by. From what she says, most of them were just solicitors – they don’t even have a place to return cards to. The others were amusing, but they simply described a mood or an incident and left absolutely no room for discussion. Still others had interesting information, but then it only served to send her bounding off to some different location altogether, and she forgot where she started from in the first place. I think she’s a bit discouraged.”

“Returning visitation cards went out with the Victorian Era.”

“I understand that, Professor. But we all know how Lilly is: whatever trappings appeal to her from her travels, she drags around with her. Doesn’t think twice about what century she’s in. It’s part of what makes her endearing.”

“Endearing. Of course she’s endearing – that’s not the point. The point is, one simply cannot inflict their own idiosyncratic perspectives on others. Would you do a critique on someone’s diary you peeked into? Certainly not. What Lilly doesn’t realize, is that there is a certain form of etiquette practiced in these circles. One can make comments, but not serious ones. They can be encouraging, supportive, or even mildly argumentative. Anything more substantial is strictly reserved for the inner circles.”

“The inner circles?”

“The mere handful of faithful followers who have established an actual relationship with the author. The clicks, if you will.”

“That sounds awful. I thought this was the new age. Bold public forums and all that.”

“My dear Ann, you know there really are no new ages. Life is just one great circle coming back around onto itself. As for boldness… hmpf… bold is bold no matter what century you find it in.”

“So what are we doing here then? It all seems quite pointless, doesn’t it. The ultimate distraction to keep people from doing any real work. Narcissus looking into the water, if you ask me. I’m afraid at this point, I’m ready to throw in my towel with Lilly, and vote no on the continuation of the thing.”

“And just what is your definition of real work?”

“Don’t get philosophical, Professor, I’m perfectly in earnest.”

“Then follow Lilly’s example and look into it a little further before you make your final judgment. There’s still three days left of the experiment, you know.”

“I can’t see much of anything else to look at. We’d all still meet for agenda meetings – I’m not saying that. The only change would be that it’s private. We wouldn’t have to deal with solicitors. I’d hardly call that a loss.”

“But you’ve left out the lurkers.”

“The lurkers – good grief, they sound worse than solicitors – how could anything good come from them?”

“Not all lurkers are sinister in the blogosphere, Ann. They are the silent ones. The masses, actually. Many of them log on and read faithfully every day. They are inspired, bored, or incensed with what you write. They might even remember it sometime during the day, but they rarely – if ever – make a comment. Then again, there are the time travelers.”

“Really, Professor! I thought we were having a realistic discussion here.”

“I’m being perfectly realistic. The nature of cyberspace is that nothing gets thrown away. Add to that the fact that things are written and displayed with the utmost immediacy, so that the passer by – even if he passes by ten years from now – feels as if it’s happened only moments before. Almost an encapsulazation process of thought. Rather like a photograph.”

“What an extremely fascinating idea.”


“I should probably do like Lilly, then, and make a foray out into the realms before I cast my ultimate vote.”

“We all should.”

“Suppose I can’t think of anything pertinent to say? They seem to change subjects faster than I can think about things, much less form a decent opinion.”

“Then you do what the majority of readers do. You simply lurk.”

“I don’t think I like that suggestion at all.”

“No comment. And don’t forget to turn off the blog.”

What’s happening on the farm today: Ah, we have had the first fire of the year in our little stove, and it seems an official affirmation of fall. That warm dry heat that chases any damp chill away and makes homemade bread rise to perfection. Outside the leaves are turning lovely colors and there are pumpkins on the porch. I think fall is my favorite season.

Habit status: Day 11 (and slipping)


A Problem of Spiders…

Close the curtains a bit, Ann, the solicitors have found us.

“Already? But we haven’t even been here two weeks. How on earth could anyone find something this obscure in two weeks?”

“In real time it’s been much longer, ladies. I doubt it was a person, anyway -- it was probably a spider.”

“Good lord! You mean there’s no cleaning service either?”

“Of course not, Lilly. Only the design and forum are guaranteed. We have to take care of everything else ourselves. I’ll make a note here on the bottom of the agenda to put one of those ‘no soliciting’ signs out. That’s not what they call them, though, so it will take a bit of research to figure out just how to do it. Professor, do you think you could find time to help with that?”

“One can always find time, Ann. People like us have an unlimited amount at our disposal. I hardly think it will take much. You see, this kind of spider you’re talking about isn’t a bug it’s a machine. Thousands upon thousands of them, in fact. However, they operate on the same principle. Some little parasite looking for any possible opening into someone else’s living space. I believe all you have to do is turn the button on for an automatic human test, and that should eliminate ninety percent of them. See me after the meeting and I’ll help you with it.”

“Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it.”

“I don’t know about anyone else, but this will definitely have an effect on my decision when it comes to the vote on the fourteenth day. I don’t like living with spiders. Not even ten percent of them.”

“My dear Lilly, you – more than anyone – should know that no matter what territory one ventures into, there will always be some manner of spiders to contend with. Hardly a reason to stop explorations altogether.”

“Bit of a difference between traveling through public territories, Professor, and having these bug things come plowing through mine.”

“This is hardly your territory, my dear. You can’t pitch your tent smack in the middle of an elephant walk and then complain when it gets bumped by elephants. If you don’t like it, make some adjustments. Either move out of the way, or set up a bigger tent.”

“I suppose you’re right. But I still don’t like spiders.”

“Not many people do.”

“And I especially don’t like not knowing when they’re around. I don’t like this blog very much today, either.”

“Somebody turn it off, then, so we can make some readjustments.”

What’s happening on the farm today: Two days of good steady rain and the dried up red earth is finally starting to come to life, again. Everyone has startled awake from their summer lethargies with the shocking realization that there’s work to do. The squirrels are scampering to pack away their stashes of nuts, rocks, and horse manure in the shop drawers(whatever do they do with the rocks and manure?); the house wrens are lowering their standards in their choice of appropriate wintering nest locations; and Pops and I have decided it’s past time to get in the firewood.

Habit status: Day 10 (and on shaky ground)


Survival Instincts…

“What’s the good of light fiction when there are so many serious things going on in the world today? It’s too trite. It comes from another era and nobody’s looking back.”

“On the contrary, Lilly. I should think that light fiction would be even more important in times like these. It gives people a break. A smile, or a laugh… don’t you think living in times like these make people appreciate pleasant things all the more?”

“Not unless there’s something worthwhile in it. Why should anyone care about Stella’s misadventures with the Fat Man, without some secret revealed as to how she comes through it all? There’s no take-away value in a smile or a laugh, Ann.”

“Of course there is. Especially for all the Stellas and Fat Men of the world. Wouldn’t you agree, Professor?”

“I try to avoid those types, myself.”

“You see? That’s exactly what I mean! I say if my scribblings don’t start to contain anything useful, I shall have to give up the pen altogether.”

“Why, Lilly – you’d be dead. You know the only reason any of us have any life at all is because of the stories. Without words we wouldn’t exist!”

“What’s the point of being alive if you can’t contribute something?”

“My thoughts exactly. And being a man of science, I can tell you right now, that in order to be a contributor, a person must first have something to contribute. I told you, you should have finished college.”

“Not that, again. How could I possibly have done all my travels if I’d stayed home trying to finish college? But you do have a point, Professor. I must search through my resources for something of value for Stella and the Fat Man to contribute. It’s the only way to continue on.”

“It’s the only way for anyone to continue on, if you’re looking for secrets.”

“Good lord – I just saw somebody at the window! Who turned the blog on?”

“I thought it might help us regain some semblance of order around here. Why, we haven’t come up with any decent creativity since--”

“But Ann, you know we have to all agree. What’s D. Ann Graham going to say?”

“She’s too wrapped up in the magazine right now to even notice. Heavens, she hasn’t listened to us for days, and you know how that has the worst kind of effects on us. In fact, I’d be willing to go so far as--”

“You mean this isn’t an official agenda meeting? Blast it all, ladies – I’ve got things going back at the lab that shouldn’t be left unsupervised! Now, you’ve --”


“What was that?”

“Quick, Ann – turn off the blog!”

What’s happening on the farm today: It is the day the calves on the adjoining ranch are taken away from their mothers. Horrible moaning and bellowings of anguish that will go on for hours. For some even days. It seems language is no prerequisite to strong emotion. For me, it’s the longest day of the year.

Habit status: Day 9 (unofficially, that is)

About the Peanut Gallery…

“Do all these blog things come with peanut galleries?”

“I believe so, Lilly. Is that a problem?”

“It’s just that I am beginning to like the view from this window. I like the study, here, and the way we all sit around so comfortably and discuss things. Like sort of a family den, you might say. The kind where it’s perfectly alright to say anything that’s on your mind because it’s your own family and your own den.”

“Whatever does that have to do with peanut galleries?”

“Well, don’t you find it’s an odd feeling, Ann, to have someone looking back at you through the window… people from the other side?”

“I tend to forget it’s even open. What about you, Professor?”

“Considering the multi-million vastness of the Internet menu, it would be a rare occurrence if anyone ever dropped by, much less piped up with a comment. Personally, I find it much more incriminating to have to be careful not to use any forbidden phrases. There's machine police out looking for them, and they can go through millions in minutes. New regulations and all that. As specific as one has to be in the field of science, it’s practically impossible for me to beat around the bush or exchange one phrase for another when it doesn't have the same emphasis. I’m more comfortable back at the lab.”

“Speaking of the lab, have the cousins come back, yet? They’re up next on the agenda, as soon as we finish the magazine updates.”

“I haven’t seen them around in ages.”

“I certainly hope they haven’t gone and wandered into one of your experiments. That lab is too full of dangerous things to be letting them flit in and out of it as freely as you do.”

“Experience is the best teacher, and children need lots of experiences. What I have in there is a lot better for them than too many mind-numbing video games. Besides, it keeps them occupied so I can at least get some work done once in awhile. Which is what I should be doing right now, instead of enjoying leisurely conversation and refreshments with all of you.”

“We should all get back to work. The truth is, we’ve done entirely too much of this lately. Blame it on the pleasant atmosphere, or whatever. But at this point in the blog experiment, I would have to say that – considering the amount of work we haven’t got done while we were writing it, it doesn’t make a good argument for continuation of the thing.”

“Nonsense, Ann – do you always have to throw cold water on things? We agreed to two weeks. I don’t think we should take any votes on whether it’s good or bad for us until then.”

“Our weeks, or the rest of the world’s?”

“Ours, of course. And you know very well what day we’re on because you keep track of it on that little calculator thing at the end. You’ll keep us in line, the way you always do. Meanwhile, would anyone like to use what time we have left as a bit of a vacation?”

“Certainly not!”

“I move we consult the peanut gallery.”

“It’s time to turn off the blog.”

What’s happening on the farm today: First week back in my winter office and I can see it has been taken over by wild things. Sitting as it does at the very edge of the woods, the regular occupants of the area were quite disturbed at having me invade their space by being visible through the large windows, again. So far this morning, I have been ranted at by the blue jay family, scolded at by squirrels, spied upon by a dark-eyed thing I couldn’t quite identify that kept peeping through the window, and plagued by a myriad of bugs. I guess it wasn’t such a good idea to grow vegetables under the windowsill, after all.

Habit status: Day 8 (with objections)



First of all, let’s make one thing perfectly clear. We are not here to discuss the process of making liquor, or even getting Lilly’s characters out of the wine cellar. We are talking about a different type of distillation altogether. Although the general meaning is the same because the goal is to distill information down to its purest and most potent form.

“I hardly see what that has to do with my light fiction, may I be excused? The Professor says he’s on the verge of an important discovery, and promises a great deal of excitement if we will all meet him in his laboratory at ten-thirty.”

“I hope it has to do with the project he’s supposed to be working on, and not another one of his tangents. I don’t mind saying that this subject – in my opinion – has to do with all of our work. It’s much more than just finding the right word or turn of phrase to get a point across.”

“How do you mean, Ann?”

“I mean that in order to accomplish what one would like – in any profession, not just writing – one is driven to scale down on outside activities until optimum energies are directed mostly toward the goal. Rather like distillation, wouldn’t you say?”

“To a degree, yes. And I think you could also say that to do so not only allows one to accomplish what they set out to, but it even empowers them to do it. Thus, the potency aspect. In fact, that’s rather what the Professor’s demonstration is going to be about, although I’m sure his perspective will be much more concrete than ours. I think we should adjourn early and continue this discussion after we get over there.”

“Can we do that?”

“Of course we can do that. It’s our blog, isn’t it? Where’s D. Ann Graham?”

“I think she left already.”

“Then what the devil are we still doing here all by ourselves? “Turn off the blog and let’s go.”

What’s happening on the farm today: The hot weather is back – in October no less! Just when we put all the summer things away and started getting ready for winter. I think the animals are disgusted at the prospect, too. The big dog opened the back door all on his own and marched right into the cool air-conditioning without even being invited. I wouldn’t mind so much except that he never closes it again after he gets in.

Habit status: Day 7 (halfway there)


In Search of the Essential …

It started with Stella. Oddly enough, I had considered her one of our least serious characters, created mostly to give the mid-life crisis people a good look and a laugh at themselves. But I see, now, that she’s gone quite beyond that. Yes, Ann?

“If you don’t mind my saying so, what happened to her is what always happens when you try to keep things purely entertaining: you go off on some serious tangent. Is it a comedy or drama? That’s what sinks the ship before it even leaves the dock. Always the same old problem.”

“I disagree entirely. Is anyone just one thing? How can we keep the characters true to life if we can’t let them be true to life?”

“True to life, Lilly – if you want to be dogmatic about it – would be a hodge-podge of so many things thrown in together that nothing would make sense. At least not in the brief time-span of a novel. The literary world must be a disciplined world. Going off in some direction that takes you away from the ultimate goal only muddies up the waters. No matter how good or entertaining it is. It’s a lack of discipline, if you ask me. One must stick with the essential element.”

“Ah, yes, the essential element.”

“By the way, how are you and the Professor coming with that?”

“It started off well, but then you know how he is. The minute you spark his interest he starts experimenting. Now he’s setting up some contraption for distilling elements, and I’m to make his amends for not showing up this morning.”

“Oh, for heaven sake – I thought he was hard at work on the Tesla notes.”

“He says everything’s relative.”

“That was Einstein, not Tesla. At least you can give us your own conclusions. Especially if you think they might be beneficial to our work today.”

“Me? I didn’t come to any conclusions. You know how that lab of his gets to me. One has to have a steady nerve to stay in there for very long. What with all those strange –“

“But, Lilly – it was you who brought the concept up in the first place.”

“Yes, but I see now that it was premature. So, I propose that we postpone any further discussion on it until I can further collect my thoughts. And I also propose that we adjourn so that I can get to it. Will somebody second the motion?”

“It hardly seems necessary to use Robert’s Rules of Order, when we are the only ones here. Just turn off the blog, please.”

What’s happening on the farm today: A rare sighting! (for me, anyway) A two-foot roadrunner with that distinctive stride, just marched beneath the window and out through the field. I suppose the overgrown dandelions provide a bit more security for venturing onto the property with so many dogs. I am thrilled. Not only do I love those birds, but they also keep the snake population at bay… and we have had way too many copperheads this year.

Habit status: Day 6 (and still here)


Anything’s possible…

Another morning of which the rest of the world has had several, while all we have had is one. Be that as it may, let’s get on with things and not be bogged down on why such oddities happen to us, because they do. Simple as that. How’s the agenda coming, Ann?

“I believe we are still in the middle of discussing Lilly’s project.”

“Oh, yes. As I recall, I was about to share something wonderful that happened just as I was trying to get these two women out of the wine cellar.”

“So, you’ve managed to get them out, Lilly – that’s wonderful. At least we’re starting to make progress somewhere.”

“Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that. What I came up with was not how to get them out, but rather an entire philosophy on how they got in there in the first place.”

“I don’t have time for philosophical discussions on why women lock themselves into wine cellars! I am trying to wade through mountains of material, myself, just to figure out whether the FBI did – or didn’t – confiscate Tesla’s material on a nation-wide defense system. I don’t suppose any of you realize that half that man’s ideas were trash and the other half pure genius? Why, it’s almost impossible to –“

“Professor, would you kindly remember that even though we are alone here, it is still a public forum. With the new regulations in place, we simply cannot be throwing around phrases like FBI or defense systems.”

“Oh, I beg your pardon.”

“But – really, Professor -- I think you’d like this. What I was going to share is exactly the sort of thing you’re always explaining to us. It’s the fact that everything -- and I mean everything – can be broken down into one basic element. Not just physical things, but thoughts, feelings, and even our interactions with one another. An essential element, if you will.”

“My dear Lilly… just when I think you haven’t a reasoning fiber in your being, you astound me with something like this. An essential element – my own thoughts exactly! Can you explain how it is that you came to such a conclusion?”

“She certainly can’t explain it here, this is an agenda meeting, not a dissertation committee. Look at all the space we’ve taken up already, and not a thing to show for it, yet.”

“I’m sure I’m very sorry.”

“Well, at least we didn’t have any catastrophes, this time. Could it be we’re actually adjusting to this thing?”

“Still too early to tell, I should think.”

“We can pick it up again, tomorrow, and maybe we’ll find out then. In the meantime, you two see if you can agree on just exactly what that essential element is, and whether or not the rest of the world might give the slightest care about it.”

“Something universal, you mean?”

“It is, after all, what we writers strive for. Turn off the blog, somebody, and let’s get to work.”

What’s happening on the farm today: After raising two pigs this year, there is not a single sprig of anything growing in the garden area even after four months. The red, sandy soil seems to be terribly depleted of any nourishment whatsoever, even in the compost corner. I am now on a major campaign to enrich it. So far, I’ve managed to drag two wheelbarrows of horse manure over from the barn, but seeing as how I’m so terribly out of shape, it was all I could manage the first time out. Imagine my surprise this morning when it was all spread out evenly and beautifully, as if I had hired a team of professional gardeners. What a delight to find out chickens are good for more than just cholesterol-free eggs and keeping the bug population down!

Habit status: Day 5 (our days, that is)


Return of the Natives...

Well, we're back. Isn't it interesting how when one makes a commitment, all manner of opposition comes onto the scene to wrest it away from you? Even with the smallest things. First the long weekend. Then a family illness that involved an unexpected trip out of state. Then the magazine is uproariously behind schedule. I wouldn't be half surprised if I made a decision to drink two glasses of water every day at lunch; the well would blow up. Just the nature of things, I suppose. At any rate, where were we?

"We were trying to get more work accomplished by striving for a little more balance in our lives."

"Thank you, Ann, I believe you're right. Now that I recall, we were having some problems with the agenda. Deadlines, time of year, and all that."

"We were just about to put a priority on manuscripts before that little mishap occurred. I hope no one forgot the importance of first drafts, and the difficulties that can arise in continuity when you've left two characters locked in a wine cellar for two months, and you can't for the life of you recall why you put them there."

"Why, Lilly -- do you mean to say you haven't the slightest --"

"We can work that out by doing an edit of what we've got so far. That always stimulates the subconscious and gets the creative juices flowing again."

"It's scientifically impossible to stimulate something that isn't there."

"What is that supposed to mean, Professor? Of course there's something there. You know very well I've completed nearly a hundred and fifty pages of that manuscript already, and --"

"My dear, Lilly, must everything center around you? I'm referring to a person of my background and qualifications having to work with all these kids."

"Now, we're not going to start that again, are we. It's already been agreed that the cousins are very special kids. I'm sure they would never --"

"They're especially exasperating, that's what they are. While I was busy doing that bit of research on Tesla, they've gone and managed to misplace everything."

"Your notes on Tesla?"

"No, I'm talking about the blasted manuscript! They've lost it entirely."

"Oh, good lord! Have you --"

"I've looked everywhere."

"This is terrible -- somebody adjourn the meeting. We've got to take care of this."

"Turn off the blog, Ann."

What's happening on the farm today: We've finally fenced the horses out of the backyard. They are incredibly offended, since they can no longer get into things on the porch or stick their heads in through open windows. But it had to be done. With the new addition going up and so many other things for them to get into, it was just good insurance. And I rather like the fact that I can now grow something in a flower pot and it will not be eaten the instant it pops its head above ground.

Habit status: Day 4 (not really, but that's the nice thing about writing: you can turn back the time)

Who's on first...

So, here we are again. Considering the fact that we already --

"Yes, Ann, was there something you wanted to say?"

"I was just going to point out that adding this blog to our work schedule is creating time conflicts. Lord knows, we already have enough of those."

"Time is relative."

"I understand that, Professor. But the point is, a person would have to be a genius to manage all this. Which I am obviously not."

"Maybe we can come at it from a different angle. Would it help, Ann, if we brought the work schedule into this blog instead of the other way around?"


"Just forget we''re in a blog at the moment, and tell us what's on your mind the way you usually do."

"It's September 1, that's what's on my mind. It's the time of year books come to the forefront -- if you have any intentions of sticking to publishing schedules -- which leaves nobody to continue updating the web pages. Without updates, people lose interest and don't come back."

"True. We can't stop doing the updates. On the other hand, they shouldn't take half so long as they've been taking. Other people don't seem to have that trouble, they can handle their updates and two or three jobs besides. So what's the deal? Can anyone see any obvious places we could cut back?"

"I think the Professor should answer that, since he took up nearly an hour of everyone's time when he wasn't even on the agenda, yesterday. All that nonsense about atomic number 15, forbidden mechanisms and all that."

"Is that true, Professor?"

"I assure you there is no nonsense to the fact that we are going to run out of one of the most basic and essential elements necessary to all life by the year 2035. Maybe someone should put that on their agenda."

"Good God!"

"Now, you've gone and upset Lilly. Next thing you know, the cousins will be --"

"Somebody turn off this blog."

What's happening on the farm today: Pops just stepped on an egg one of the chickens laid in the middle of the driveway. There must be another varmint stalking around the chicken coop, again... which means there will be adventures afoot tonight...

Habit status: Day 3 (still too far off to make a judgment)



WORK IN PROGRESS. I have many of them. Which according to my current calculations should take me until the age of one hundred and fifty-three to complete. Considering the fact that I (like most people) will probably have an unavoidable "appointment with Destiny" by then, one can see why my mind split into so many factions. Sort of a defense mechanism. At any rate, I stumbled onto a viable plan, and it seems to be working for me.

It all began back in my early teaching days, when it was necessary to overcome a very small voice and a huge self-consciousness. How could one get an unruly class to listen when it was impossible to shout over their decibel level? And how could one live with the kind of scrutiny that never failed to notice EXACTLY where you gained a few pounds, or tried to cover something up with make-up, or that you really could use a new pair of shoes? Thus, a cadre of eccentric "visiting teachers" were born that might pop in at any time and totally disrupt working schedules with their own crazy curriculum. It worked for me. How was I to know the longer one leaves on a mask, the harder it is to take off?

These characters continued to follow me long after I left the classroom. They followed me right into my newspaper days and along through my magazine career. When I finally took to writing seriously, my study was entirely too crowded with them and things were getting out of hand. Something had to be done. So, I took a long calculating look at each one and... began delegating responsibilities. For the most part it seems to be working. There are occasions when someone doesn't do their job the precise way I delegated it, or even times when one of them fails to show up. But we deal with it.

Here's how it breaks down:

Ann handles the editing, the web pages, and all the "bread and butter" work it takes to keep the business rolling. Lilly handles the light stuff. Escape reads, humorous mysteries... things like that. Cousins Summer covers the children's and young adult crowd, and the Professor does all our research. The big historicals belong to D. Ann Graham, because there's no playing around with them. She has a habit of disappearing for months at a time, but we all cover for her the best we can. To tell you the truth, the success of the system depends entirely on the ability to keep communications open, which is absolutely vital when so many share the same mind. I admit there have been a few embarrassing mix-ups...

Lilly? Professor? Would any of you like to share? Ah, but I see we've run out of time. Maybe we can take up where we leave off tomorrow. After all, we have work to do.

What's happening on the farm today: A storm rolling in and all the animals are excited and skitterish. A flock of scissortails has descended on the pine berry tree and upset the local residents who live there year-round. But the terrible heat is finally gone and I might even venture outside...

Habit status: Day 2 (I hear it takes two weeks to create one)


Toto, I have a feeling we're not in...

Well, this is the first time I've looked through this window, and there's a lot of stuff out there. Some of it is inspiring. Some is obviously trash. There are also some things that I have absolutely no idea what they are. But I've always been a good observer, so I'll do my best to report exactly what I see.

Today I wanted to answer somebody, and to do so required a user name and password. I thought it was a "not a kook" test. Which I don't mind anymore than I mind being patted down to make sure I'm not carrying any contraband onto airplanes. Surprisingly, all that security doesn't always keep passengers from accidentally getting on the wrong plane. Which is how I ended up here.

Instead of being bounced back to the original blog discussion I wished to participate in, I am suddenly being asked such things as, "What would you like to name your blog?" and "What sort of template do you choose?" Good lord -- I am now a blog owner! And I always said I didn't have time for one of those. I've heard they're like children: you have to feed and care for them daily. You have to be careful what you put into them, too, or they could end up incredibly scrawny and malnutritioned. Which anyone with even half a brain will notice right off because these blog things run absolutely naked through the world. Another responsibility.

Another long item to be added to my writing schedule. I say long because -- from what I can see so far -- it looks like the thing could go on forever. It's not a work in progress, it's a habit. Standing here at this particular moment, it seems it could go in only one of two directions. It could be a good habit, or a bad one.

I think I'll try for good.