Friday, August 29, 2008

When I'm asked to recommend science-fiction or list favorite books, C. J. Cherryh's Chanur series generally comes up pretty quickly. They were my transition books from talking animals to science-fiction. (I still love talking animals, but there's a lot more science-fiction out there.) And, I always describe them as having interesting, complicated, inter-alien politics. I remember the alien interaction being intricate and subtle. However, I was fourteen when I read them, and I don't re-read most books. So, I haven't read them since.

I was talking to one of the people I recommended Chanur's Legacy to recently. He didn't find it nearly as complex as I remember them being. In fact, our discussion leads me to wonder if my utter fascination with the Chanur series (besides having to do with my love of talking animals) might partly be an artifact of my age when I read them. At fourteen, I wasn't very good at understanding people. (A large part of why I preferred talking animals.) So, a lot of the books I enjoyed back then had somewhat cardboard characters, and I failed to read a number of books with truly developed and subtle characters. (Two examples: The Left Hand of Darkness and Pride and Prejudice.)

So, I find it completely believable that the Chanur books are less complex than I thought. In fact, it sounds like I may have liked them for exactly the reason that I didn't like Ursula K. LeGuin and Jane Austen. I wasn't good at understanding people, and C. J. Cherryh lays out a very simple, detailed road-map of what's going on in her characters' minds. She explains exactly why each character behaves as she does and how all the different characters' choices add up. Authors like LeGuin and Austen assume a basic understanding of human nature; C. J. Cherryh teaches it.

Of course, this is all conjecture based on someone else's opinions about Chanur's Legacy. I won't know how well my theories hold up unless I revisit some of Cherryh's books myself. And, as I said, I'm not good at re-reading.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The strangest thing happened. We've been getting lightning storms this week, so, at first, I didn't think anything of the flashes. Of course, it was odd that they were coming from the nursery. Anyway, Elaine wanted to go play in her room -- she's working on training the butterflies to perform this aerial ballet she's composing -- and I thought I might watch. You know, see how the performance is coming along. But, as we headed into the hall, the flashing intensified. When I opened the door to her room, we could see the grape vine... It was sizzling -- like the sound of water hitting a hot frying pan. And the new grapes were lit up like X-mas lights. The whole room flashed several times, blinding us, and before we could see again the whole vine was gone!

Friday, August 15, 2008

The vines in Elaine's arbor have been growing at a fantastic rate. They've wound themselves entirely around the crib railing -- as I hoped they would -- but, then they took off, creeping along the ceiling and floor. In fact, they're threatening to take over and decorate the entire house. I can think of worse things than a house completely clothed in grape vines, but it's still kind of surreal.

Anyway, I figure I must have picked out some kind of unusual variety of grape, since grapes don't usually act like this. I've been trying to do some research into what kind of plants usually behave in this surreal fashion, and I happened upon this great book: A Field Guide to Surreal Botany. It hasn't helped me figure out what's going on with this grape vine at all, but there are some other fascinating plants in there that I might want to check out and add to my green menagerie.

The Thuringian Shade-tree and Time Cactus are two of my favorites, but I think they'd both be a little dangerous with a young 'un around. The Kitty Willow and Avian Trumpetflower, however, would make beautiful and highly entertaining additions to anyone's garden.

And those are just a few of the amazing plants I learned about from this great book!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Today I am toothstrong!
Elaine's room is certainly very peaceful with little white butterflies flying about, perching on the grape vines. Let's hope the vine starts producing grapes soon, so the arbor can serve its purpose.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Elaine can walk with only one adult hand to help her balance now. As a reward, we thawed out the packages of lady bugs and butterflies -- yellow lady bugs and cabbage white butterflies. The grape vine is growing pretty quickly, despite the heat, so I figure it'll support the little critters okay. I'm not handling the heat quite as well as the grapes...

It's amazing the difference three degrees can make. I'll be fine while the house is 80, but, once it hits 83, I feel like my brains are made of ice cream and they're melting. Fortunately, we keep a lot of ice cream in the freezer, so I was able to replenish my cranial supplies. Today my brains are french silk and raspberry cheesecake. Tomorrow they may be cookie dough and banana.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Trudy's a deadbeat. She had the whole weekend to get the grape shoots planted, and she never lifted a paw in their direction. The leaves were starting to look wilty this morning, so I just went ahead and planted them myself. I coiled the vines around the crib as far as they would go, but they're not very long yet. So, it doesn't look like much. But it will.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Elaine and I picked up the supplies for her grape arbor today. We got shoots of the standard seedless green variety of grape; Elaine liked some of the wine grapes, but I wasn't sure they were appropriate for a nursery arbor. Besides, they were a lot more expensive. I also sprang for a few optional packages of lady bugs and butterflies. Elaine wants to break into them right away, but the packages say the little critters fare best if kept frozen until their new environment is ready. Trudy's going to help plant the shoots and tie the vines; she says she feels bad about not having her shave ice stand in gear yet and wants to make up for it. We'll see.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The child likes eating grapes at 2am. While I can sympathize with this proclivity, her preference is proving inconvenient from a parental perspective. So, I'm thinking of growing a grapevine along the railing of her crib. I think it would prove a perfect grape arbor.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The last few days have been really exciting for me with regard to my writing. On Thursday, two of my pending publications suddenly became available: an audio version of "Forget Me Not" in Clonepod and A Field Guide to Surreal Botany, the anthology containing my piece about "The Kitty Willow." The authors for the field guide have been following its progress in a bunch of emails from the editors over the last few months, so I've been able to see how gorgeous it is for a while now. It's exciting that other people can finally see it too.

While "The Kitty Willow" isn't a normal story -- (the field guide entries all had to fit a specific structure, but I tried to make as much story-like as possible) -- it is an idea I've been playing with since I was ten. So, it's really nice to see it illustrated by a professional artist and be able to look at what I've been imagining for all those years.

The other exciting progress with my writing is that I finally broke my main character out of the bar she's been stuck in for months in "Otters In Space." The editing process should speed up now since the missing sister I've been editing in doesn't actually appear on stage again until the end of the book.