Song of the Sisters, Book One

About four years ago, in May of 2012, I made the last modification to an Epic Poem I was developing.  Because of an imminent shoulder surgery and other obligations, I never returned to work on it.  Today, I’m releasing the first chapter of it just as sort of a, “how does this sound to you, dear reader?” type of thing.

It’s very different than any of my previous work, or any of my work since for that matter, so check it out and let me know what you think!

Book One
Wherein the Sisters escape from the Tower. They are pursued,
but are unsure whether it is by friend or foe. They determine
how compromised the Tower they built is, and must decide
who they can trust with their vow to reclaim it.

      Flight.

The shouts of treason and the
Trumpets of war echoed against the endless night.
Swords were brandished and bandied,
Spears were readied and raised ,
Arrows, freshly loosed, flew into
The impenetrably dark sky.
Acrimonious roars accompanied the cocking
Of rifles and shotguns, weapons from the World Before,
Lost to the Torrents of Fire which shaped our world anew.

Oh, Muse! Grant me the illustrious wisdom,
The powers of description and visualization,
Needed to describe the Two Sisters descending from
That most hallowed of Towers; their true names lost
Forever to the flow of history, forgotten and fully
Replaced by the justice they forged.

“Sister,” spake the First, her feet gracefully
Brushing over the broken concrete floor surrounding
The Tower they had raised. Their great descent was
Without speed, however, as they landed this figure,
Short and slender, clad in the darkest of robes and
With fibrous obsidian replacing hair, dropped to
Her pale knee. A hand, delicately running along
The shadowy fabric, found a hole over her shoulder
And felt the moist crimson of her lifeblood draining
From a seemingly mild wound. “I must rest,” she
Stated, as teeth gnashed her bottom lip. “I have
Been marked – I do not know by who.”

The second figure, a contrasting visage of
Platinum-colored hair and the brightest of blue
Eyes, folded her arms across her chest. Tall and
Consumed, it seemed, by flowing white cloth, she
Could not resist a frown. “Please, Sister,” implored
The Bright One, “We are far too near the Tower to sit
Idle. Our flight must be now!”

A nod of acceptance adorned the figure of
Night, as her eyes matched her Sisters’ brightness
With an unsatisfiable, dark void. She brushed
Fingertips over that cruel wound, probing its
Depth. The deceit of the one who dealt it was
Deeper than the injury itself. But was it
Poisoned? She could not know.

“We move on,” the Sister of Night proclaimed,
Rising to her feet and standing close to the one of Light.

The white-robed woman made no motion, no
Gesture, yet the winds lifted the graceful pair high
Above the un-reclaimed courtyard of the Tower, and
Carried them well over its tremendous walls, unseen,
Due to a swiftly summoned sphere of shadow formed
From but a whim of the wounded one. They drifted
Passing over their city and resting only upon rooftops,
Only for the most meager of moments. The winds
Carried the Sisters across the boroughs they build
And led them toward the final, exterior walls of
Their home. The gusts scaled them effortlessly, and
Not one guardsman saw them through their shadows.

The surrounding countryside consisted of
Farms, with tiny hovels hosting peasant families
Who loyally worked the lands and fed the city. Under
The Sisters, they had earned a fair wage in return for
Their foodstuffs; a share of their meals and of the
Material wealth of the City. Most of all, they had
Received the protection of the Tower itself, and
Of the residents within. The Sisters themselves
Had made this bargain, yet now they fled across
The lands they had sworn to protect.

Beyond the farms and fields, and far distant
From the wilder lands and rivers that bordered the
Kingdom of the Sisters’ Tower, the concrete remains
Of the World Before, after the Fire Torrent, greeted them.
With Nature’s own green reclaimers creeping cunningly
Up the dull gray slabs, crushing stone into sand
And returning ruins to wilderness, the Sisters
Sought solace from their surprisers. They at
Once found a sturdy enough looking structure,
One which would enclose them on three sides
With stable shelter, and would conceal them from
Passers-By.

The pale, dark one promptly sat down in
A rough manner, resting her legs and examining her
Shoulder as best as she might in the dark of night.
She sustained the cloak of shadows which had
Permitted their egress. Her Sister, gracefully,
Advanced to assist her opposite; her white gown
Descended nearly to the dirty floor, yet abstained
From being stained.

“It does not appear deep,” the tanned one
Of light whispered, observing the severity of the
Sliced shoulder.

The Sister of Darkness sighed. “You
Are correct, Zephyr,” she answered, finally
Speaking the name of her most Beloved
Sister. Oh, Muse, they could only have used
Their chosen names, donned as a depiction
Of their destinies. They could Never have
Used the names they were once known as,
From before they became our Great Heroes.
For we could certainly never have heard them.
“It is a most ordinary wound, and it poses
No great danger to me.”

“Delivered,” answered the Sister of
Light, “with the most unbelievable scorn and
Deceit.” Zephyr could not help but lower her
Eyes, those pale, gray-blue orbs, in dismay.
“To think that our Tower would be taken from
Us, after all we have done for its denizens.”

Zephyr’s Sister gazed upon her injury,
Observing as striking crimson slid from the slit
And descended down her supple arm in an
Inconsistent, wavy line. “They will come for
Us, if they are partners in this crime.”

The lips of Zephyr were a dark red,
And they turned toward the most dour of
Frowns that man had ever seen. Her beauty,
Great Muse, could only have been diminished
By this self-inflicted, sorrow-spawned sight. “Yes,
Crash,” she answered her Sister, using the donned
Name of the Dark One. “Or if they are compelled,
As our most loyal, yet mortal subjects were.”

“So you believe it to have been the work of
William, Zephyr?” asked Crash, invoking the known,
Formal name of that Great Betrayer of the Sisters.
“Has Will, taking advantage of his capability to
Corrupt those of others’, destroyed our Tower?”

“William broke the wills of many of our men,”
Zephyr answered cautiously. “Some may have conspired,
But I could not bring myself to end them with so little
Discrimination between the enslaved and the evil.”

Crash exhaled, staring at the blood trailing down
Her arm. “Generous of you, Sister, but it nearly led to
Our unexpected demise. We might not be able to afford
The price of our subjects’ lives should they come for us
Again, their minds conquered, or not.”

Zephyr sat down next to her Sister, tearing a tiny
Piece from her robe as if it were a crystal from a gown
Made of snow. She applied it to the injury that Crash
Had suffered, stymieing the bleeding even as it stained
The white cloth red. “It is more a concern for our
Fellow Endowed to bear. Without the benefit of their
Cruel surprise, our lesser subjects will not have
The tools to harm us at their disposal. They are
Simply not capable of it, anymore.”

Zephyr’s words were calming, and were
Meant to alleviate the worries of her beloved
Sister. Crash, as she listened, did not seem to be
Convinced that they were so impervious to the
Harm that a normal man could inflict. The Dark
Sister set aside her concerns. “We must extend
Due vigilance toward our brethren, then. If they
Were found unable to defend against William’s
Sinister influence, they will be a danger. If they
Cooperated, even more-so. It is worst to imagine
How the threats may arrange themselves. If the
Old Man assails us, even, we must be strong.”

The Sister of Light allowed her slender
Shoulders to rise and fall, softly. She looked
Upon her Sister’s torn sinew once more, and
Felt for a moment a pang of anger that reminded
Her of the past, long ago – and of their uprising.
She quickly suppressed this emotion, and in cold
Logic considered the circumstances. “Well, we
May safely know that Retro and Wisher would not
Fall under his influence. They are our greatest
Friends and assets – but they may be forced, in
The cruelest manner, to serve William’s sinful,
Treasonous interest.”

Crash concurred quietly, her eyes
Remaining open as their pupils devolved into
Dark pools of obsidian. “There are many of our
Apprentices who, loyal or no, will be facing us
Shortly. If Retro and Wisher remain free, than we
Have hope of reuniting our broken kingdom. Now,
However, we have more pressing matters.”

All the wisdom of you Muses must have flowed
Toward the Sister of Darkness in that moment, for
She could not have predicted with greater accuracy
The true nature of the situation. Without warning,
A dark duo appeared at the entryway to the cavern
Within which Zephyr and Chaos, those who Liberated
Us from our weaknesses, dwelled. The Dark One
Knew of Their intrusion immediately, for the shadows which
Concealed the two ladies were reporting the nearby
Violators of that shoddy cement sanctuary.

“It is as I expected, Sister,” quipped the
Dark One, “Sparrow is here. With another.”

“Sparrow?” Zephyr’s voice was tinted with
Concern. She assessed where she stood and drew a
Deep breath, preparing herself for what war the birdlike
One might bring to their doorstep.

A calm voice echoed into the charred hulk of
The building the Sisters sought refuge in. Oh, Muse, it
Was a nervous tone, one that was so far removed from
Violence that the Sisters almost felt it must be a trap.

“Sisters,” Sparrow called, boldness overcoming
Fear at what their wrath may bring, “Do not attack! We have
Come to aid you! It is Sparrow! I come with Sandy! We
Seek only to uphold your righteous rule, and defeat the one
Who deceived our fellow subjects!”

The two ladies, our Heroic Sisters, gazed upon one
Another with suspicion. The one who claimed to aid them
Was bold, to defy this devilish villain; yet they knew with
Full certainty that if they were tricked – if Sparrow was not
Acting of his own will, but of Will’s – that he might well
Know his doom to be impending, but unable to resist. The
Sisters decided his fate.

“Sparrow, you come with Sandy? You may enter,”
Offered the Sister of Darkness, Crash, as she withdrew that
Blanket of Night which protected them from Sparrow’s own
Capability. As the shroud fell backwards, two figures took
Their first steps into the Sisters’ hiding place.

The first was a male, short; with dark hair and eyes,
He looked very much like a bird. His chosen name, one
Selected for the speed it inferred, was represented by his
External presentation rather well.

The second was a woman with skin that seemed to
Be made of small granules of sand. Grainy flesh was
Accompanied by light, brown hair and adorned in a brown
Robe. She entered with her hands clearly visible, and
With no sign of hostility in her eyes.

“We have escaped,” this woman stated firmly,
A look of pain flashing across her rough face. She
Was older, perhaps, than the Sisters or the Sparrow, but
Carried herself with what looked much like health.

The Sister of Light nodded and exhaled, relief
Shining in her sapphire eyes. “It is good to know we
Have the aid of some of our fellows, even still. Our flight
From our city is not so lonely!”

Crash, of Darkness, added boldly; “And our return
Shall not be lonely, either.”

“I had hoped to hear such high dreams,” agreed the
Woman calling herself Sandy. “May I provide furnishings?”
Upon the consent of the Sisters, Sandy fell to her knees and
Touched her hand upon the cracked concrete. The damage
To the building, caused so long ago when the world was
Torn asunder, were quickly sealed back up as bits of dirt
Worked into the cracks and congealed, forming new
Stone. Then, without notice, a quartet of gently-sloped
Seats seemed to grow from the very floor. They were
As comfortable as crafted rock could be, with each
Refugee’s form taken into account by the one who
Sculpted it. Upon resting, the four were then
Separated by a summoned table.

“Does he know you have left?” the Dark
Sister asked the birdlike one.

Nodding twice, Sparrow spread his hands
In an open gesture. “It is impossible to hide the
Facts. Sandy and I claimed pursuit of you, and
He accepted. Either he is happy to be free of us,
Or he is convinced we are under his control.”

Crash’s eyes narrowed in disgust, but
Zephyr, the Sister of Light and wielder of the
Winds, frowned sorrowfully. “I am glad to hear
He might believe you to be lost to him in honorable
Chase. It will make this task much easier, the
Reclaimation of our great City and Tower.”

“We wonder how many others have left
Us for dead,” added the Sister of Darkness, eyes
Falling upon Sparrow and Sandy. “We must be
Willing to seize what we built. Our brothers
And sisters must join with us in number, for Will
Must have subdued our rank-and-file. We must
Prepare for the worst, even as we hope to resolve
This second horror without bloodshed.”

I pray, Muse, to properly tell this tale. I
Invoke upon these pages only what is needed to
Justly portray what these sacred Sisters experienced
In their second war against injustice and the
Exploitation of the Human spirit. It was after her
Gracious Sister expressed again her fears of
Violence that the Sister of Light finally could
Not control her sentiment.

“We failed!” Zephyr conceded with a
Brutal wail, her eyes closing tightly. “We,
Endowed with the hope of our kind, have let
Only the darkest parts of our blessing lay
Claim upon our Tower! We, by pride, did not stay
Vigilant; we did not remember our past, Sister,
And we have lost friends as a consequence!”

Crash, for all of her beauty, appeared
To reflect ugliness in her thoughts. “We have
Fought oppression before, and we have slain
Those who sought to own us. I must remind
My beloved Sister, for I fear she has forgotten
That which first made us, each, of Light and Dark.”

Jesse Pohlman is an educator and author from Long Island, New York.  If you enjoyed this short sample, why not check out his latest novel, Protostar:  An Automatic Apocalypse, available exclusively on Amazon’s Kindle!  It’s a sci-fi space opera that both questions the nature of humanity and embraces space warfare!

Dealing with Project Sprawl – Writing Tips!

Hello, fellow creators!

While I was working on my Lego Comic, and debating on drawing some more cover art for a book I’m almost done with, I was networking and writing my local news blog and…

…And I realized I have a problem.  See, I have a lot of projects on my hands at any given time.  Sometimes I get commissioned to write an article, while other times I just end up in a pointless debate with someone on the internet.  Most of the time, though, I’m working on a book.  There are lots of them I’m working on, and lots more that I’ve de-facto abandoned.  That’s probably the greatest shame, because I’ve written them all in my head!  Just not on paper!  This always saddens me, because I always have another great idea, another new scheme.

Unfortunately, if I were to start on them, then I’d leave other projects un-done, and therein lies one of my greatest problems as a writer.

Focus On One Thing?  Hah!  …How?

Some people’s first bit of advice is to pick one thing to focus on at a time.  For many people, that works – and if you’re that lucky, hey, good for you!  Put that exceptionally rare talent to use!  Many others find themselves always waking up, each day, with a different “feeling.”  Maybe some day they feel like writing, while another day they feel like painting.  If they don’t write, their manuscript goes unfinished; but if they try to force themselves to write when they want to paint, well, nothing gets done except for the denial of their true desire!  They spend time staring at a blank computer screen, imagining they are in front of a blank canvas, instead.

In my case, I was inspired to write this article because I was working on the cover-art for my next novel, and I realized just how disparate my goals were.  There’s so much I want to get done, but so little I can.  It’s a problem!  Just creating a place-holder image for this article took some time.  Yes, I learned new techniques for a paint program, but it was still time spent doing something which distracted me from the sheer pleasure of writing.  Sometimes, the research or the image-collecting for an article simply steals the show.

So what’s my answer?  Well, one thing is to try to have a schedule.  “Day one, work on project one.  Day two, work on project two,” whatever works best for you!  Everyone has a different routine, after all.  Unfortunately, we also have daily obligations.  There are days when I only have 15-20 minutes of “Creative Time,” if that!  This forces me to pick something I can get done quickly, or at least something I can make a major contribution towards.  Being able to figure out where one left off, then continue, isn’t always so easy.

Then, sometimes I’m working on commissioned articles or promotional material, and my “Creative Time” becomes “Second Job.”  And sometimes, I’d rather write about knights and dragons than do content for some band’s website.  The same things can apply to painters, photographers, and even musicians.  Photographers might want to shoot macro-scale, exploring the nuances of a flower petal, but instead have to do bland portraits of an average family to pay the bills.  All of these things add to an already overloaded plate.

Truly, sprawl is a problem any creator has to face down.

The Answer Is Patience

Most of all, I feel like I’ll never get something done “in time,” whatever “in time” happens to be.  I feel that the book cover will take so long, I don’t want to even begin.  I feel like finishing a novel will take forever, and that it won’t get done.  Editing?  It feels like bashing my head against a brick as a little voice screams at me to work on something fun, not something old.  There’s just this overwhelming feeling that if I’m not creating new work, I’m not being productive, and the stories in my mind will never get out.  Ever.

And none of that is true.

See, I’m young.  I’m 29, now.  But even if I were 69, I’m probably not dying tomorrow.  I’m probably going to wake up tomorrow and have time to work on my next idea.  The biggest reason why other creators I’ve spoken to seem to collapse into working on dozens of projects at once is because they don’t know how to be patient.  They don’t understand how to put their ideas on paper until the ones they’re already executing are complete, and come back to it later.  That’s the bottom line – patience.

For me, it takes patience to believe that, yes, this cover-art will get done; yes, the book will be released; yes, I can edit and re-release old ones, and – finally – I can put out new material.  I can clear this massive plate I have in front of me, and I can think about new ideas and not feel like I have to immediately act on them in order for them to ever happen.  The key refrain I’ve discovered?  If they are strong enough ideas, they will be there when I’m finished with what’s got me busy.

For others, I’d recommend the same – or, at least, a genuine evaluation of which projects should take priority, and what the subject of the creator’s effort should be.  Immediate performance and financial income isn’t the only guideline, here; existential reward and personal satisfaction matter, too.  Each person will be different, and there’s always some creep, but sprawl should be kept to a minimum – before it gets out of hand, and nothing gets done.

This article is adapted from an original, less-refined version, posted on my old “Ramble About Writing” blog.  Enjoy!

Writing Dice To Help Writers Focus

Writers are addicted to writing, and that isn’t a bad thing. However, as any soap opera will tell you, one way or another, addictions inevitably spiral out of control. I can attest to this. My addiction to the written word is expressed by having far more ideas than I do time to focus on them! Whether it’s a novel series, a video series, article generation, or simply reading (damn you, Reddit) and discussing random nonsense on social networks (damn you, Facebook!) , I have a history of failing to focus on one goal at a time. All too often, I focus on no goals at a time! Intellectual paralysis by way of overwhelming abundance.

There are other symptoms of a writing addiction: Failing to edit one’s work or editing obsessively; refusing to practice basic techniques; failing to study the advice or art of others; or, what-have-you! All writers have flaws, and sometimes they have been ingrained into our creative rituals because they reflect the strengths we possess!

Last night, an idea hit me: Twelve-Step programs, as part of their overtly-religious guise, suggest giving yourself over to a “higher power” in order to combat your weakness before your drug-of-choice. If I can’t be trusted to control my creative impulses, maybe I can ensnare probability to help me be a more effective writer?

 

Writing Dice Can Be Nice!

Image courtesy of www.dungeonmasters.com

Image courtesy of www.dungeonmasters.com

First, select an implement of chaos, such as a coin, or a six-sided die; or four-sided, or ten-sided, or even the infamous D20!

Second, come up with a quick worksheet that tells you what you will do, based on whatever your result is. Perhaps, if you have a four-sided die on hand, you select #1 to be reading a book, #2 to be editing a finished story, #3 to be writing a new one, and #4 to be distributing query letters?

Third, you just roll the dice, flip the coin, or even click a button on a random number generating, dice simulating program! Away we go!

 

 Some Suggestions!

This is far from an alien idea, and presenting that alone would be almost pointless. Let’s up the ante!

You can maintain multiple sheets so that you can simply reach for one (perhaps at random, further handing your future over to a “higher power”), then roll your little heart out! You could use a four-sided die to select from four envelopes, each containing a further set of four options for a total of sixteen possible outcomes. This system lets you effectively select a project at random, followed by a particular aspect of it.  For a writing prompt, it can’t get much better!

You can express some control over your writing dice, adjusting the probability of landing any given assignment.  If you use a twenty-sided die, you may dedicate #1-#4 to promoting your latest novel, and may assign #5-#10 to editing. This gives you a 20% chance to spam social media (four possible results), but a 30% chance to spend the day editing something (six possible results), with the remaining 50% to be distributed. Divy them up however you’d like, and let fate be your guide!

Another option, if you’re looking for good practice at exploring different genres, is to assign a different writing prompt to each number.  Maybe your task will be to write a flash fiction of 1,000 words or less, and depending on the number you land, you’ll write a different style of story; #1 is science fiction, #2 is horror, and so-on!

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that, as it’s meant to combat our baser intellectual impulses, this technique works best when attempting to combat a bad habit. Maybe you just write new content, and never edit. Maybe you’re like me, and you get trapped in indecision about what to work on each day! As long as you’re actively combating a negative habit, leaving things up to your “higher power” is a wise choice. If, on the other hand, you’re already mixing things up a healthy amount? Do what you know is right!  Write!

Writing Dice

My prized six-sided die!

 

Jesse Pohlman is an author from Freeport, New York.  He’s written a number of books, all of which you can get information about here!