The Gypsy Curse Part 3

One week later, Amelia and her sisters were in the fields near the forest playing hide and seek, and she had been it for the last quarter of an hour. She hated being it because she could never find anyone. Five minutes of half-hearted searching later, she gave up, too bored to continue.  With an unladylike plop, she slumped to the ground and leaned  on a fallen log, grateful the sun was shining. The gentle rays helped chase away the nagging fear  plaguing her all week. Flinging an arm over her eyes, she slipped into drowsy relaxation.

The warmth disappeared, and the field darkened. A shiver stole up her spine, and she rolled over, curling  on her side to continue her rest. “Oh, bother. Go away clouds. I am trying to sleep,” she muttered. The clouds, alas, were immovable.  She cracked open an eye to investigate but a looming shadow obscured her vision. It blocked the sun and inspired a grim sort of dread which beat a steady rhythm in her head. The shadow advanced, and two gnarled, weathered talons outstretched to grab her.  She opened her mouth and screamed.

The figure moved and her eyes, now accustomed to the unnatural twilight, discerned an old woman dressed in a faded blue dress with a wide purple velvet sash tied in the middle. A colorful shawl draped over her stooped shoulders and a scarf wrapped round her head, neatly framing her wild mane of silvering hair.

“Are you one of my little liars?” she asked, her thick accent clipping each syllable until the words were nothing more than a litany of jagged consonants firing in her mind.

“You’re supposed to be gone! My papa told you to leave a week ago.”

The old woman cackled and rubbed her hands together. “You know who I am. Good.”

She shrank against the log and wrapped her arms about her knees.

“I see you are afraid. That is also good.”

“What do you want with me?” she whispered.

“Not just you, little girl. I also want your sisters, too.” A delighted smile cracked her tanned, wizened  visage, but her gap-toothed smile did nothing to ease her fear.

“They’re not here.”

“They’ll come. I saw them hiding not too far away from here.”

From the forest  came a loud cracking of branches alerting her to the truth of the old woman’s statement. Her two sisters emerged from the forest and ran to her, Beatrice yelling at the top of her lungs, “Amelia! We’re coming!”

Spying the old woman, they skidded to a halt and in wary apprehension, looked at her and the old woman. Evie whimpered and ran to huddle beside Amelia while Beatrice, ever the eldest, stood  in front of her sisters. Drawing herself up to her full height, she demanded,“Who are you and what do you want with my sister?”

Amelia admired her sister’s bravado, for she saw what it cost her. Small hands clutched her skirts in a white-knuckled death grip and the usual rosy sheen which graced her young face  had been leeched of color.

“I am just an old woman passing through the forest.”

Beatrice assessed the old woman, taking in her faded garments and weathered face. “You’re a gypsy!” With her chin held high, she waved her hand in the air in a blatant act of dismissal. “Be gone!  My father has evicted  your kind for your treachery against his hospitality!”

“Our treachery, Lady Beatrice?” The old woman whispered, venom lacing each word. She advanced on the girls, pinning them against the fallen log. Soon, her wrinkled face was looming over Beatrice’s, her eyes dark and angry. “Don’t you mean yours?”

“How do you know my name?” Beatrice stammered, her eyes darting  from the old woman to her sisters behind her. Having reached the end of her courage, she held out her hand to Amelia and grasped it in her own. She pulled Beatrice down with a plunk to sit beside her.

“I knew we wouldn’t get away with it, Bea.”

The old woman had heard, and she nodded.”I know all about you three and what you did last week.”

Amelia’s lower lip trembled and she asked, “What are you going to do to us?” Because there had to be a consequence. There was always a consequence.

“I intend to make it right.” The old woman raised her arms and the clearing stilled. The bird song quieted and the gentle wind which had been rustling the leaves and feathering the grass ceased.  A terrible light gleamed from the gypsy woman’s aged eyes.

“For your lie, an innocent man was tried and found guilty of a crime he did not commit.” The once dormant wind rose and whipped through the clearing, slashing her silvered hair against her face and howling its outrage as it tore across the grass and through the tree grove. Clouds rolled up and over each other, ripping apart the sky with its upheaval.

“It was you who were too weak to tell the truth, and have forever condemned an innocent to life far from his family!” She pointed a gnarled finger at the three sisters. “And so, I curse you.”

When the last of the three had been cursed, the old woman’s arms dropped. Revenge faded from her eyes only to be replaced with sad resignation. The winds died and the clouds sped across the sky. Light flooded the clearing, but the girls could not see. Fear clouded their vision and possessed their minds.

The old woman raised her right hand and made the sign of the cross, a sad smile on her face. “Te aves yertime mander tai te yertil tut o Del.”* With a final look at the three sisters, the old gypsy woman walked to  the woods and vanished.

 

*I forgive you and may God forgive you as I do.

© Sara Ackerman 2016

The Gypsy Curse Part 2

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A half hour later,  the girls ran  back to the house and found their father working in his study. “Papa,  Thunder got out!”

Their father set aside the papers he’d been studying. “Slow down girls. What happened?” He moved out from behind his desk to stand in front of them, his hands clasped behind his back.

“We were playing out by the barn and we say a gypsy by the doors of the barn. And then Thunder neighed really loud. And then we saw him running across the field. And we thought we saw someone riding him. Probably the gypsy we saw.”

Her father arched an eyebrow and pursed his lips. “These are very serious allegations, Beatrice.”  He placed his hands on his hips and paced. “You say that all three of you saw this?” He bent down and studied his girls.

Amelia gulped, for her father’s assessing eyes saw inside to the truth of what she and her sisters had done, but she pushed down the rising panic, swallowed and forced her gaze to her father’s. “Yes, father,” she whispered before cowardice forced her to look away.

Evie stuffed her thumb into her mouth and nodded.

“If what you say is the truth, then this is a very serious problem indeed.” Walking back to his desk, he  sat down. “Thank you, ladies, for telling the truth. I will see that this is taken care of.” He waved his hands and shooed them from his study.

The girls hurried upstairs to the nursery, grateful to have escaped unscathed.  Once inside, nurse took Evie to her cot for a nap. Amelia was tired, too, from the day’s events and crawled into her bed, pulled her covers up to her chin, and  curled up onto her side. Beatrice  plopped down on the bed next to Amelia.

“I told you papa would believe us.” Amelia, sick with guilt  scrunched her eyes shut and pretended to sleep. Beatrice yawned  and snuggled  behind her sister. She threw her arm around her  body and hugged her close. “There’s nothing to worry about, Mimi. Everything is going to be fine. You’ll see.”

Nestled against her sister safe in her bed, Amelia shuddered when icy cold fingers licked up her spine. She pulled her covers higher around her ears. Despite Beatrice’s reassuring words, somehow she knew everything wasn’t going to be fine.

© Sara Ackerman 2016

To the Unknown *Cough Troll* Reviewer

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As someone who is just beginning to write and publish, your input is important, and I want to take the time to address the concerns you so eloquently mentioned in your review, specifically the capitalization of first words in the chapter, the typos you claim to have seen and the overall weird formatting.

To begin with you wanted to know, “WHAT is this capitalizing the beginnings of sentences sometimes but the entire first word of chapters.” (Incidentally, you really should have ended your sentence with a question mark since you were asking a question, weren’t you?). Here we really have two separate issues. One is the capitalization of first words of chapters, and the other is the capitalization of the beginnings of some sentences. I’ll be honest. I was trying something. Many authors use capitalization at the beginning of their chapters to signal the start of a new chapter, which is why my chapter titles were not larger or bold (another one of your concerns). Unfortunately, as a self-published e-pub author the programs that I use to convert my manuscript into different e-pub formats did not transfer the capitalization of first sentences well, and it looked like I was shouting. Your comment was welcome, if poorly worded, and I have changed that and re-uploaded a shout-free version to Amazon and other platforms that carry my book.

As for your second concern regarding capitalization of first words of some sentences, I was signalling a change of scenes. Some authors use extra space while others use hashtags to specify a change of scene or change of point of view; I used capitalization. Again, the e-pub platform I use to convert my manuscript frowns on extra spacing. I suppose I could have used hashtags, but then again that would cause problems with extra spacing. I don’t know that I feel using caps in this case was unwarranted; however if enough people complain, I will consider using hashtags.

Another concern of yours was that, and I quote, “Also, the last sentence, when ended, the next chapter number was directly below it, and directly below it, a new sentence began with all capitals.” I believe I just mentioned why there was not a lot of spacing in the text, why first words, and not the entire sentence as you have just claimed, were capitalized, so I will refrain from being repetitive, although you should be congratulated for doing such a stellar job with it.

On to your last concern. “AND there were a lot of typos.” Really, now. If you are kind enough to mention the number of typos in my manuscript, it is only fair that I point out to you that sentences in English do not start with and, especially not one in all caps (BTW, nice irony). Perhaps you might argue that I started many sentences with and in my manuscript (see how I used italics here instead of caps?); however I would point out that in the context of creative writing, the rules of grammar can be bent, while you, a reviewer, should be conscious of how you appear to those reading your words.

And now on to your concern about typos. I went through my manuscript again and checked for spelling and other grammatical errors. Just to be clear, the main character’s name is Tavis, not Travis, so if you were concerned I had misspelled my main character’s name throughout the book, never fear. Also, there were times when I used many rrrrs in a row to show Tavis’s Scots burr. That was purrrrposefully done. Additionally, I used several Gaelic words and used spellings I found on the Internet. Now, I am only fluent in four languages, Gaelic not being one of them, so I very well could have misspelled any one of  those Gaelic endearments Tavis used towards Amelia. If I did and you speak Gaelic, please let me know. I did find one instance where I used a homophone incorrectly (that’s where two words sound the same but are spelled differently). When I should have used too, I accidentally used to. My bad. I may have missed a comma or to (oops!, I meant two!), or have even inserted won when one wasn’t needed (the horror!); however, I ask because did those mistakes truly impede your enjoyment of the story?

“I enjoyed the story line and the two characters, Amelia and Tavis. The supporting characters were not bad either.”

Those are your words, not mine, which begs the question, if you enjoyed the story and the characters why did you give me a 2? Was it truly because of some formatting issues and some misplaced commas? Really? Because based on that criteria your own review–replete with incomplete sentences, poor punctuation and awkwardly worded phrases–would by your own standards earn less than a 2, which is what I am going to give your review.

And at least, unlike you, I have the balls to put my name on my work.

Sincerely,

S. Ackerman

**I do welcome reviews and critiques. I just think the practice of ripping apart someone’s work because of the safety and anonymity of the Internet is reprehensible. If you have constructive feedback that you would like to provide, I would love to hear it! TRULY! Even from this reviewer’s poorly written example, I was able to take away something and change my manuscript for the better. Please! Review! Let’s discuss! We can only ever become better _______ (fill in the blank) if we are willing to engage in open dialogues of mutual respect!–S.E.A

If my characters were actors…

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It’s been almost a month since I’ve sat down to write anything of particular note. With the holiday season and inevitable stress that accompanies “the most wonderful time of the year,” there just hasn’t been time. That, and I have come down with the worst head cold I’ve had in a long time. Not only does my head feel like it has been stuffed with cotton, but I’m pretty sure that my brains have oozed out of my ears somewhere along the way. Most wonderful time of year indeed! Try most infectious time of the year, though I highly doubt Andy Williams would have sold many records had he sung that.

Rantings about holiday lyrics aside, I have been sick, and it was sometime this week in one of my fever riddled dreams that I suddenly became aware of a problem. I had left my characters in my second book in a rather uncomfortable situation. Though I hadn’t thought of them in weeks, I became instantly worried about them, knowing that both of my main characters are impatient and dislike being idle for large stretches of time. I so wanted to write and conclude the scene that I had left them in, but was too exhausted to even move from bed, let alone write my characters into neutral ground. I wrestled with this dilemma until a NyQuil and Sudafed induced hallucination came to me and whispered, Think of them as actors.

Grasping onto that thought like a sick woman to the last box of Kleenex in the house, I floated into a hazy slumber, comforted by the thought that my characters were merely actors awaiting a new script in their dressing room while I, the writer, took a much needed rest. I imagine their conversation went something like this…

Evie huffs loudly in her impatience and pulls on her wrapper. Twirling her long hair, which has been dry for ages at this point, into an expert bun, she approaches the door that Alfred had stumbled through so very long ago.

“Alfred,” she whispers pressing her cheek against the door. “Are you still there?”

Silence greets her whispered inquiry. Flinging the door open, she finds Alfred standing outside the door with a look of complete shock on his face, his arm slightly extended as if he were about to place his hand on the knob to reenter the room.

“What have you been doing?”

He remains motionless and silent.

Evie stomps her small foot. “Come on, Alfred!” she yells in exasperation. “It’s been ages since anything has happened, and I’m bored!”

“Unlike you, I’m staying in character,” he grits out through clenched teeth.

“What?” she asks incredulously. “You mean to tell me that you’ve been like that since She stopped writing?”

He nods his head slightly, but otherwise remains as he was.

“You have got to be exhausted, Alfred!” Closing the distance between them, Evie places a small hand on his extended arm, which, she notes, has begun to shake, and lowers it to his side.

“Damn it, Evie!” Alfred huffs, though he makes no move to resume his earlier position. Instead, he takes his other hand and massages his stiff arm. “I was ready to go for the next scene!”

She’s not going to be back for awhile, Alfred,” Evie pats his shoulder sympathetically. “I received a text message from Her apologizing for the delay because apparently, She’s been pretty sick.”

He whips his head around and pins her with a fierce glare. “How do you have a phone on set? This is a period piece, Evie. That means no phones or devices of any kind.”

“Look, Freddie,” she explains. “I know you’re this big shot method actor and have toured across the country doing Shakespearean theater, but I’m not. This is my first job, and I’ve been so bored this last month waiting for Her. You can be as authentic and disapproving as you want. I’m keeping my phone.”

Alfred sinks wearily onto the floor, his back supported by the wall of the room Evie had just left. “Did She say when we’d have new lines?”

“I think a couple of weeks at the most.”

“I could have been skiing in the Alps this holiday,” Alfred mutters under his breath.

Evie snorts highly doubting that Alfred could be coordinated enough to make it anywhere but down on his bottom, but quickly hides her amused smile at Alfred’s narrow-eyed gaze. Quickly changing the subject, Evie asks, “What do you think of the script?”

He shrugs. “Predictable at this point.”

Evie bristles at his dismissive tone. “I like it. Besides, you shouldn’t be so hard on Her. It’s only Her second novel.”

“I suppose, but you realize that we’re probably going to end up together by the end, don’t you?”

She rests her hand on his knee and squeezes lightly. Stifling a giggle at his startled jump, she asks innocently peering up at him from underneath her eyelashes, “Would that be so bad?”

Alfred coughs and flushes bright red. Drawing little circles on his leg above his knee, she can’t help asking impishly, “What did you think of that last scene?”

If possible, Alfred flushes even redder. Pulling his tie away from his throat, he manages to strangle out, “I did not realize that there was going to be nudity.”

His eyes skitter around, anywhere but to Evie’s face. “Why Alfred,” she laughs, “if I didn’t know any better, I’d say I made you uncomfortable! Here I thought method actors were prepared for anything.”

Gulping loudly, he pushes himself to his feet and strides stiffly away. “I’ll be in my dressing room. Fetch me whenever She gets back to work.”

Evie’s delighted laughter follows him down the hallway and is the only response he receives.