(Edited July 13, 2021 to add photos of Doug’s greenhouse that I took while watering it for grandma a few days ago. He used to have two full greenhouse of orchids, but donated many of them to the orchid society a few years back as he started to downsize.)
I write stories like a male bower bird builds its nest: by picking up whatever shiny object attracts my eye, and placing it just so.
A twig of memory here, and overheard fragment of conversation there, a dash of a scent that reminds me of a favorite location, a half-remembered line from a poem.
Most times, I don’t remember where those bits and bobs came from by the time they make it into the fabric of the story. Other times, I remember exactly what inspired me.
Today I want to talk about the hobby of one of my favorite Bulari Saga characters, because I want to talk about my grandma’s husband, Doug Corpron.
Julieta Yang, my main character’s mentor, is an avid gardener and lover of orchids. Why? Well, because in the first chapter of Double Edged, I needed her to deliver some troubling news to my main character, and I wanted her to do it in an interesting setting.
When I sat down to write that scene, I had just come from a tour of Doug’s incredible greenhouses. The experience was so vivid in my mind that I decided to give Julieta a greenhouse of her own.
It became the perfect setting for the opening scene.
Julieta could keep her hands busy pruning, while Jaantzen, a desert city creature, would feel hemmed in by the plants and uncomfortable in the humidity. It was the canvas for tiny details to put the reader subtly on edge: Julieta snipping off a jadau clipping the length of a thumb, the constant drip of the sprinkler system, the cloying perfume of the flowers.
My grandma married Doug — a doctor, traveler, and avid orchidist — less than 10 years ago. In her eighties, she’d found someone who could keep up with her, and more. Together they travel to Germany and to China. They flew all over the US to visit scattered family members. They took road trips up and down the west coast.
Doug was always joking, and always keen to understand how other people saw the world. You never walked away from a conversation with Doug without a long reading list of fascinating books and articles.
But my favorite thing about Doug was the way he made my grandma light up whenever he walked into the room.
Doug went home to his creator yesterday, at a ripe old age and surrounded by loved ones.
I honestly don’t know how to end this post, except to say that I’ll miss Doug, I’m glad I got a chance to know him, and some little piece of him will always live on in a greenhouse on a desert planet in a faraway star system. <3