Wednesday, June 12, 2019

#WEP: A Gilded Cage

Note that the rules have changed a little. Since we now have a posting window that ends on the 3rd Wednesday and we don't sign up on the list until the post is live, I'm aiming for the 2nd Wednesday, which I didn't make, but I'm close.

1. CREATE your entry for the JUNE challenge – CAGED BIRD.
2. EDIT your entry, making sure 'WEP' is in the TITLE
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4. SUBMIT your name to the list below when your entry is live
5. READ other entries, giving feedback as requested
6. SHARE THE CHALLENGE on social media.
ALL GENRES WELCOME except erotica - 1,000 words maximum
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I had a little fun with this one. When I started putting the story together in my mind I was driving, and couldn't check the prompt, so what I remembered was the old (very old--1899) song about a bird in a gilded cage. I looked up the lyrics and they pretty much matched what I remembered of them, and my story went on from there.

 735 words
Full Critique is fine

A Bird in a Gilded Cage

Clara ran a hand over the edge of the grand piano, paused a moment, and crossed to the Victrola. She put on the record, an antique disc from her girlhood. She’s only a bird in a gilded cage,” the singer crooned.

She remembered how they’d laughed at the song, she and her friends in that giddy year when they all “came out” together and took the social scene by storm. Every one of them knew her duty, and no poor boys need apply. Anyway, they didn’t want to be poor, so they’d laughed at the pathetic song of the misguided girl who’d married for money, and set about corralling the richest men they could find, young men preferred, but old men had more money.

A decade later Phoebe, Sarah, and Fannie hadn’t been laughing. They had married rich men and lived to learn that riches didn’t last, but marriage did. Or, in Fannie’s case, just like in the song, that a man could make his wife’s life a misery and it was perfectly legal.

“You’re so lucky,” Phoebe had sighed each time they met, at Clara’s beautiful home, or in a fancy restaurant at her expense. Pheebs and Sadie weren’t unhappy, though. Riches passed, the marriages remained, and each seemed to have found a kind of peace with her man.

Old and grey as she was, Clara still carried much of the beauty of her youth. Where Phoebe and Sarah had aged poorly, forced as they were after their husbands failed and decided to try farming to work too hard, too often outdoors, Clara stood straight and elegant. She protected her skin from sun and wind and hid her wrinkles well.

For all that, Clara knew more than any of them about what could go wrong with a marriage, but she had continued to laugh off the song, to insist that the money was the thing.

Fannie... Fannie had stopped them all laughing for a long time. After her brute of a husband had finally gone beyond cruel words and hit her, Fannie had made sure he would never hurt her, or her children, again.

Fannie hadn’t been subtle. In those days, there was no mercy for a wife who stabbed her husband with his own sword cane, not even when she appeared in court still bearing the scars of his beatings.

She spent the rest of her life in prison, though she might eventually have been pardoned if she hadn’t died of influenza instead. Phoebe and her husband took Fanny’s children. Clara had paid off their father, who didn’t really want them anyway.

Meanwhile, Clara made her own plans. Her husband might have lost his money had she not canceled his orders to pursue some very shaky investments. And when he grew angry at her “interference,” never mind that she’d saved him from a very sharp operator indeed, she had given him only the one chance. One raised hand.

It had been the society story of the year: rich financier dies of heart attack at the peak of his success. Beautiful young widow left mourning. That sort of thing.

Clara’s father hadn’t believed in educating girls, but he hadn’t been able to stop her reading. Clara read everything. When her brother went to medical school, she even read his texts.

And she remembered everything.

No, it hadn’t been so hard to keep the door of her gilded cage open. Clara had found it comfortable, especially as a rich widow. She hadn’t been foolish enough to marry a second time. Why should she? She had all the money she needed, and the skills to make it grow. She remained a leading light in upper-class society, and her entertainments were the most sought-after honor of the town.

She let the Victrola wind down. Her gaze traveled around the elegantly appointed room where she received visitors, on to the room where she conducted business. She thought of the closets full of clothes, carefully selected for every occasion, and not a one of them comfortable.

An ironic smile twisted her lips as she set the record to playing again.

It didn’t take a man to make a cage. How had she failed to realize what a trap she’d made for herself, following all the rules?

All the rules but the one, the powder in his coffee.

At least it had been her own cage all these years.


©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Photo Friday: Nelson Lakes National Park

Somehow the computer is trying to tell me that this is Saturday already. I guess it may take a while for me to get back to knowing what day of the week it is! I also found that I never edited these photos, so it was more work than expected to put together even this quick and dirty photo post. Hope you enjoy it anyway!

Our trip to Nelson Lakes National Park was a 2-night, 3-day outing pulled together somewhat at random as we needed to get out of our Christchurch rental (it was a long-term AirB&B rental, but at the time we booked someone else already had those days). We found a description of the Angelus Hut hike somewhere, it looked good, and we were able to book it, so off we went.

The drive up from Christchurch was fairly long, so we didn't try to hike that  day. Instead, we booked into a site at the DOC (Dept. of Conservation--kind of like the US Forest Service) campground at St. Arnaud on Lake Rotoriti. Weather and sand flies were both mild enough to allow for outdoor cooking and relaxing, which was nice.
Typical camp set-up, using backpacking gear.
There was a large fire burning only a short way north, near Nelson, so the view over the lake was hazy.

It was a little clearer in the morning, but you can still see smoke. Happily, the ridgetops seemed to be out of it.
Our route ran up the right-hand ridge of the mountain above.
We packed up quickly in the morning to try to beat the heat on the long climb up from the trailhead to the ridge (happily, the TH proved to be farther up the mountain than we feared). The route began in the welcome shade of a typical South Island beech forest.
The unusually smooth and wide track told us that this is a very popular tramp.

Soon we broke out above the trees (above bushline), which made it hotter, but gave us a hint of the view-fest the hike would be.
Looking back toward Lake Rototiti, still hazy with smoke.
Once we topped the ridge, the track had its ups and downs, but the climb was basically over and the vistas alpine and stunning.
The substantial poles marked a track that must be very hard to follow--and bad to lose--in foul weather.
Looking deeper into the wilderness. There is more to explore there!
The alpine landscape looks bare at times, but a closer look reveals plenty of vegetation. This mound plant is known as "vegetable sheep" for reasons that may be obvious. (In the photo above, you can see some lounging on the rocks to my husband's right). (Is "vegetable sheep" redundant? Sheep aren't much more than vegetables, as far as I can tell).
Vegetable sheep
After about 7 miles, we finally saw the hut below us. The spectacular setting is why this hut requires reservations all summer and fall, though we were able to get 3 bunks on fairly short notice, so it's not as impacted as the "Great Walks," which must be booked months in advance.
Spot the hut on the spit of land on the left? The smaller building just visible below is the long drop--the outhouses.
The day and the water were warm enough for a refreshing dip in the smaller pond (in foreground above). After that, we did what you do in a hut: relaxed. For some of us, that included locating and assembling the hut jigsaw puzzle. This one was in better shape than most, having a box with photo that matched and missing only 3 or 4 pieces. The view from the window was distracting, but we persisted.
We could see some weather developing.
Next morning the threatened weather had arrived.
Same window. Hey, where's the lake? And the mountain?
The wet and windy (very windy) conditions made the ridge route unappealing, especially as with the clouds down you'd get no views. Fortunately, there was an alternative route, about the same length and down in a valley so more sheltered.
Chilly, wet and windy to start out.
When we started, it was windy and wet enough for jackets, and the visibility was poor enough to make us glad to see the frequent bright orange track markers. Once over the ridge, however, it was warmer and drier, though the trail was rugged.
This track was actually rougher than the ridge track, but more sheltered. I know it was warm because my husband isn't wearing a hat.
Wet weather allows you to see things you might not when it's dry. In this case, a slug (which apparently is common enough, at least in that part of the island, but was the only one we saw).
Serious camouflage.
By elevenses it was almost dry, if you squinted just right. We were glad to be able to sit on the covered porch of the Speargrass Hut.
Looking back where we came from.
The rough descent gave me some serious knee pain, but we survived, and were interested to see evidence along the way that the predator removal program is working (NZ's predators are introduced and invasive; the goal of eradication by 2050 is a desperate effort to preserve what's left of the vulnerable bird populations). I'll spare you the photos.

Back in St. Arnaud, we found a cafe to serve us lunch #2, and I was excited to see the largest Little Free Library I've spotted so far. I'm not sure if it was specially built or a repurposed phone box (which is what it looks like), but in any case, it's good to see books alive and well!

More info for trip planning here.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2019
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

IWSG: What's your favorite genre?

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to the IWSG page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

The awesome co-hosts for the June 5 posting of the IWSG are Diane Burton, Kim Lajevardi, Sylvia Ney, Sarah Foster, Jennifer Hawes, and Madeline Mora-Summonte. Be sure to stop in and visit them!

June 5 question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

As usual when I don't have much to share about my writing, I love to answer the optional IWSG question! Except, wait. I don't think I KNOW which genre I most like to read and write. I seem to do a lot of mysteries, and that might be my favorite to read, except for historical children's fiction and science fiction and fantasy and...

But as for writing? I've been doing more mystery writing than anything lately, but I'm feeling the itchy pull toward fantasy again. Perfect: the 2019 IWSG Anthology will be Middle Grade fantasy/adventure! My mind is starting to curl around the ideas, and I'm hoping to come up with a strong entry. Once we are settled.

 At the moment, though we have finally reached what will be home, it is chaos. My in-laws are moving out, leaving most of their stuff behind at this stage, and our things remain in storage. So basically I'm still living out of a couple of duffel bags, and still beat to the socks. My mantra is "it will get better." My brain will return. I will find a quiet corner and set up my computer and get back to work. I must!

Because not only do I need to prove to myself that I still am a writer, but edits for Death By Library have come back from 3 beta readers so far, and I need to get to work on them!

So put me down for SF/Fantasy and Mystery as my favorite genres, reading or writing. What about you?