Monday, April 18, 2011

Of Human Plants and Horse Manure

For sound sturdy human plants
the unfriendliest soil is the friendliest.
Only feebleness dies of privation:
it takes prosperity to kill strength.

David Graham Phillips

Looking out at my growing yard I just realized I’ll be mowing in another week. There’ll be no more firewood cutting! Good, I’ll have something new to complain about. But right now I have this enormous decision of whether to plant or not to plant.

Last year I planted tomatoes about this time. I built a deep flower bed against my house and since there’s more horse manure than dirt on our hilltop, that’s what I used to fill the bed. It was much easier to dig and transport than dirt would have been.

My seeds sprouted beautifully, and the plants were soooo green. With all that manure for fertilizer, and plenty of water from the roof’s edge, the plants just grew and grew, and grew, and grew, and ... Anyway, after they’d filled the entire flowerbed they reached out to take over the yard. They were big and ... and ... and that was about it. Maybe if they’d ever gotten any tomatoes on them they’d have been beautiful, but they were too busy adding to their plumage to accomplish anything useful. By summers end I’d had enough and moved them from their manure feast to the mulch pile in the back yard.

Such is my saga of the tomato plants that went crazy because of too rich a life. Did it teach me anything?

Regarding life:

We don’t have to have perfect, luxurious circumstances to do something difficult or to accomplish something great. The more barren the road ahead, the more obstacles that present themselves, the more pleased we should be. They’re only goads to bring out the best in us. If everything went too well we might be lulled into a false complacency and never utilize our full strength. We might end up accomplishing nothing – like my tomato plants.

Regarding writing:

There are so many things here that relate to writing, but I’ll limit myself so I don’t spread out like those tomato plants. While our manuscript is in the growing stage we should go easy on the fertilizer. That beautiful, unusual new word or idea we found to add a little sparkle to our manuscript might look great to us, but will it feel unnatural to the reader? Will it stop the flow of our story for a brief second? That’s not good, not even if it takes them out of the story to admire our writing genius. The reason for writing is the story. We want them turning the pages, going with the flow, even forgetting to fill their coffee cup or get a new box of chocolates. If we can’t get them to the fruitful end of the book, we’ve just produced a pile of foliage, beautiful possibly, but still just foliage.

It’s always best, when we add or change anything, to go back at least half a page and read all the way through to our new addition, and beyond. Read as the reader, not the writer, and that will usually tell us if it has a natural feel. And while we’re at it, we can search for and trim out all the superfluous foliage that’s not producing any fruit.

Regarding gardens:

Maybe I’ll plant flowers this year :)


With our new book’s release set for September it’s almost book trailer time. We’re going to have fun with this and make a live action video. We experimented with this type media awhile back when we were just becoming acquainted with videos and their possibilities. My daughter/co-author (who’s also a musician – Mean Mary) and I first tried some music videos. I remember how ecstatic we were when their popularity climbed to 100 clicks a day on YouTube. Little did we know they’d shortly climb to between 2000 and 3000 visits a day and continue to rise.

Our next experimentation was with a live action book trailer on one of our books that’s not due for publication anytime soon. We uploaded it to YouTube but left it public for only a short while. At this time it can only be viewed here:

Or at this link:
(if an error message appears on the video screen, just refresh the page)

That video will be a guideline for us in the production of our new book trailer, and in our next blog here (May 16) when we’ll use it to explain the simplicity and some of the advantages of this type media. Here are just a few guidelines to get you started:

Choose your scenes.
Go through your book, or whatever material you wish to present, and start visualizing scenes. Don’t worry much about what the scenes might say. You’re not looking for boring information to feed your potential viewer. Search for all the colorful, interesting scenes you can find. You can’t have too many. Let your imagination run free.

Mary and I have only begun listing scenes for our upcoming novel and right now have over 20 possibilities. Many will be totally undoable and some won’t come out like we pictured them, but that’s okay. At least we’ll have plenty to work with.

Next month we’ll go deeper into all of this, and we hope to have a live action video trailer for our new novel ready by June’s blog. Whatever your business, be it writer, illustrator, speaker, or any other line, it’s worth investigating this type of media if you haven’t already.

 Vivian Zabel, publisher of 4RV Publishing, will be giving us valuable information on making a standard book trailer. That would be this Thursday at this blog (and is a MUST for anyone making any style of book trailer). 

Jean James & Mary James


  1. Love the video. Now that's something one of our authors wants to prepare, having someone read the first chapter of her book while a few illustrations or some visual material is shown. Of course hers wouldn't be as long, perhaps, as yours.

    Your video is eye and ear - catching. It's interesting, not dull.

    Anyway, I want that book after watching the video. It sounds interesting, even if I don't like reptiles at all, especially don't like snakes.

  2. Thank you so much for such a nice comment! We're excited to start work on the video for Sparrow Alone on the Housetop.

    Jean & Mary

  3. LOL. I can picture your tomatoes now, taking over the world.

    Great trailer. I need to learn how to do that. Congratulations on your book(s).

  4. Thanks Beverly. No tomatoes this year!


  5. Jean and Mary, since Jacque apparently will not be able to post an article, this one will be "on top" until tomorrow.

    It is an interesting article, thank you.

  6. I had a funny email from one lady who watched the book video, Vivian. She said her little girl watched it with her and wanted to know where she could get a purse like that!


  7. How funny. I can see a child wanting one, though, but not me. Nope, nope, nope. *laugh*