Publishing News: Into This Darkness Peering Now Available for Kindle Preorder

Into This Darkness Peering, written by me and illustrated by Marika Brousianou is now available for preorder on Amazon Kindle. The book, which will be released in print and Kindle Unlimited soon, features 32 full-illustrated gothic horror poems and flash fiction pieces.

You can preorder your copy now leading up to the official release on August 26th.

Preorder your copy by clicking any hyperlink or image in this post, or by clicking here.

Here is the official book description, along with some sample interior pages.

Peer into the darkness of midnight and the macabre with these 32 illustrated gothic horror poems and micro-fictions. From the dark, enchanted forest, to the furthest reaches of cosmic space; from the collective memory of myth and story, to monsters conjured from our own subconscious minds, these are the tales of the abyss. We invite you to gaze beyond the boundaries of reality and into the nightmare realms. Join us if you dare…

Interior page, Into This Darkness Peering
Interior page, Into This Darkness Peering
Interior page, Into This Darkness Peering

My Ultimate Fantasy Questing Party

Last week, I promised to reveal my ultimate fantasy questing party. The rules of the exercise were covered in that post, but to summarize the rules for this exercise briefly, the party must consist of nine members (like the fellowship in Lord of the Rings), be selected from fantasy literature (books, including comics, not movies, tv, or other mediums), and consist of only one member from each book or series (no doubling, Gandalf and Samwise could not both be included, for example). The party would go on a hypothetical high-fantasy quest, involving magic (rather than technology). It was a more difficult task than I thought, and it taught me a lot about the types of characters to which I gravitate. (Apparently, I am a big fan of talking animals. Who knew?) It was a fun exercise, and I encourage those of you who have not yet tried it to do so, and to post your traveling parties in the comments.

A few notes before I reveal the members of my questing team:

–There were some difficult decisions, some of which I explain in the comments. When unsure of which character to include, I often considered the role the character would play within the group: hero, mentor, muscle, friend, foil, etc. My team would have a better chance to succeed if all of these traditional roles were covered.

–I also considered team chemistry. How would the members interact with each other? Who might like or work well with whom? Who would, potentially, not get along? Who would improve the party’s moral in the tough times, etc. Ultimately, these questions are subjective, but then again, so is this entire exercise.

–I only included characters in series that are completed. Therefore, though I love many characters in Marlon James’ Dark Star trilogy, the series is not yet complete, and therefore I have not included any characters from either of the first two books. I do not know what will happen to those characters, so I cannot yet include them. Same for George RR Martin’s Song of Fire and Ice (remember we are dealing with books exclusively, not the TV program).

–I also did not include any characters from series with which I, personally, have not yet finished reading. For example, I came late to NK Jemisin, and am in the middle of her Broken Earth series. I loved the first book. It was one of the most literary fantasy novels I’ve read in a good long while, but I have not finished it, and therefore I do not know the fate or development of the characters. The fault is mine, but, alas. Maybe my list will change in a few years.

–I strongly considered both Sherlock Holmes and Abraham Van Helsing. Each of these characters would be brilliant on a quest, however, neither really comes from a fantasy novel, even though Van Helsing does come from a speculative novel.

–The most difficult omission for me was Dune. Though there are many fantasy elements in Dune, ultimately it is more of a scifi universe than a fantasy one. Thus, no Paul, no Gurney, no Lady Jessica, no Stillgar, etc.

–My final cut, so to speak, was Sir Tristan. Le Morte de Arthur is the godfather of the genre, but I decided to stick to more modern titles.

–It goes with out saying that these choices are based on the original, literary depictions, not any of the versions from various adaptations.

Without further ado, here are my nine:

Iorek Byrnison (His Dark Materials): An armored polar bear is the ultimate enforcer for my traveling party. He is strong, principled, and though he does manifest a daemon, he has as much soul as anyone. He also has smithing skills, which will come in handy. Iorek is the ultimate protector for my hero, and even though it meant I couldn’t include Lyra, including him was an easy choice.

Lucy Pevensie (Narnia): She will be the young heroine of the quest. I’ve been reading the Narnia books with my 8 year old daughter at bedtime each night, and rereading the books as an adult, it is clear to me that Lucy is the best character in the series. She is brave, smart, and true. She is willing to stand up to and go against her older siblings when she knows that she’s right, and yet she’s humble and isn’t seeking power. She also possesses a magical healing potion, which will certainly come in handy on any quest.

Tenar (Earthsea): It takes a lot to give up power, to go against the conventions of society in the name on right, to abandon the only traditions and systems you have known–the very systems that have brought you power–to do what your conscience says is right. Tenar does all of these things. This was a tough one for me, as I really wanted to use Ged Sparrowhawk as my wizard, but there are many great wizards throughout fantasy literature. There is only one Tenar.

Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings): The ultimate friend. Sometimes the obvious choice is the right one.

Belgarath the Sorcerer (The Belgariad, etc.): Perhaps some of you can relate to this: There was a writer whose books were essential to my falling in love with fantasy. I read all of their books in high school, mostly as they were being published. It was just the second fantasy series I read. It fanned the flames of my nascent ideas about wanting to be a writer. Later, as an adult, I found out some very disturbing things about the author. I try to separate my nostalgia for the books from my opinion of the person who wrote them. No, it’s not the one who immediately springs to mind for most of you. It’s David Eddings. Anyway, Belgarath is just as powerful as any other classic wizard. He has the same types of powers, and generally fits the archetype, but he’s more down to earth and fun. You’d rather have a beer with him than with Gandalf, for example.

The Fox (The Little Prince): “And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” ‘Nuff said.

Lu Tze, The Sweeper (Discworld): There are many fine choices across Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. Sam Vimes would probably be the most popular with his blend of street smarts and combat experience, but Angua the Werewolf, DEATH, Granny Weatherwax, or even Rincewind (sometimes running is the best option) would make fine choices as well. Ultimately, Lu Tze is my choice. He is a 6000 year old Time Monk who does not hold rank in the hierarchy of the order. He just sweeps floors (hence The Sweeper). Yet those who know, know his kung fu–snafu to be precise–is better than anyone else’s. He is irreverent as well and would make a fine mentor and foil for Belgarath. Anyone who disagrees should remember rule number one.

Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride): Book Inigo is much like the movie version, except there is way more background about his father in the book (which is at least as hilarious and awesome as the movie). A skilled sword master should balance out the fighting skills in the party. With Iorek as the brute strength, The Sweeper as the unarmed combat specialist, and Inigo as the skilled swordsman, all phases of battle are covered. Also, much like Samwise, Lucy, Tenar, etc, Inigo is principled as well.

Door (Neverwhere): The last choice is always the hardest. I had planned on including a character from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. I’ve been doing a reread since the show came out, and it is reminding me of how much I love that particular fantasy framework. The question is, who to pick. Dream is right out. He would get bored and leave. He prefers to quest alone. Death has other responsibilities. My favorite character in the series is Hob Gadling, but while he does bring a wealth of experience, I don’t think he quite fits. I would have loved to include Barnabas, Destruction’s sarcastic talking dog, but that seems like overkill the way my party is currently constructed. We already have two other talking animals. Destruction himself is really interesting. He has abandoned his position in the Endless, and is living as a mortal, almost. He writes poetry, paints, and cooks. He seems like a good guy, and everyone seems to get along with him. The problem is that as the embodiment of destruction, destruction follows him around. People die. Things get destroyed. We don’t need that hanging over the quest. Therefore, I decided to pivot to another Gaiman work, Neverhwere. Door has the ability to open and create doors. That is a skill that will no doubt come in useful on a quest.

So, how did I do? Let me know in the comments.

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Who is your Ultimate Fantasy Questing Party (Part 1)?

With the release of Prime Video’s Rings of Power, I’ve been rereading a lot of Tolkien recently. Tolkien was the writer who first sparked my interest in writing, and hanging out in Arda, whether in the pages of his books or through the portal of an onscreen adaptation, always leaves me wiser and happier than I was before. Revisiting Middle Earth has also reminded me of one of the great debates I used to have with my nerdy friends (such as they were) in my youth: If you had to pick the ultimate fantasy traveling party to go on a magic-filled quest, who would you include?

A couple of ground rules:

  1. For the purposes of this exercise, we are going to assume that you are building your party to go on a traditional fantasy quest, like the one described in The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Your quest will consist of an epic, episodic adventure, involve a magical object, feature a mentor, etc. A nefarious, evil entity will try to thwart you, and you will probably lose at least one companion along the way. There will be magic. There will be monsters. Your hero will change over the course of the journey. The FATE OF THE WORLD will be at stake.
  2. For the purpose of this exercise, your party will consist of nine. Why nine? First, because we need an equal number for the sake of comparison and evaluation. If every party is the same size, the game is fair. Why nine specifically? Any number would, technically, do, but we’ll go with nine in honor of the nine walkers in the Lord of the Rings. These things tend to be traditional.
  3. The members of your traveling party MUST originate in a fantasy novel or series of novels. Graphic novels are ok for the purpose of this exercise; TV shows and movies are not (use the books upon which they were based).
  4. You may only choose one character from each book or series. Choose wisely. If you choose Gandalf, you will not be able to also include Samwise Gamgee. If you choose Hermione, no Harry Potter, etc.
  5. We’re using traditional high fantasy as our setting. Magic is ok; technology is not.
  6. Consider the different archetypes traditionally found on a fantasy quest. You need not use all of them, but they exist for a reason. A party of Gandalf, Ged Sparrowhawk, Dumbledore, etc, might seem really powerful and cool, but there is a reason why we don’t see many such parties in fantasy novels. Who will play the role of the mentor? The hero? The muscle? Which characters will be able to use magic? Which will not?

I will post my answer next week in this space. Truthfully, the members of my party will likely change many times between now and then. In the meantime, please put yours in the comments. I might even include some in next week’s blog. I look forward to hearing your ideas.


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In Praise of the Dog Ear, In Theory and Practice

This may be controversial, but I’m going to come right out and say it: I have never understood the book-reading community’s hatred of the dog ear. Perhaps, as a messy person, I am predisposed to this opinion. Perhaps, I was indoctrinated into it by my grandfather (of blessed memory) who comforted me one Passover evening when I spilled the wine left over from seder all over my brand new copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles by saying that books are meant to be read, and that a well-read book should have wine and coffee spilled on it, have its spine broken, and indeed, have many, many dog-eared pages. A well-loved book, he said, one that has been carried around in your pocket and read in a variety of questionable locations, takes as much from you as it gives. It grows with the blood and sweat and tears you leave in it (and whatever you spill in it) until, by the end of the reading, it is twice as thick as it was when you started. I have adhered to this philosophy ever since. Give me a well-worn book over a Gatsby’s library-like display copy with its pages still stuck together. Still, it seems as if–at least in the circles in which I run–I am in the minority.

Still, there are some books which I don’t usually dog-ear: Library books, for example, and sometimes a first-edition hard cover from a favorite author. Recently, this practice got me in trouble.

I have been reading Marlon James’ new book Moon Witch, Spider King the sequel to his Black Leopard, Red Wolf, one of my favorite recent fantasy novels. As my copy is a first printing, first edition, I had not been dog-earing the pages, rather I’ve been using a variety of makeshift bookmarks, ranging from receipts, to business cards, to strips of toilet paper. The book sits on my nightstand and I usually read it in bed, right before I go to sleep.

A couple of weeks ago, I came across a quote I wanted to remember. I did not have a pen or my phone handy, and being tired, I did not want to get out of bed and go looking for one. Normally, I would have dogeared the page to mark the page where the line was (I usually dog-ear the bottom of the page to mark a quote, rather than the top, which I use to mark my place in the book), but with this book being a first edition, first printing, I was hesitant and gave into societal pressure. I fumbled around for a bookmark, and found a punch card for a tea shop in a neighborhood I haven’t lived in for five years, marked the page using that, and kept reading until the next section break, which I marked with the receipt I had been using as my main bookmark. I then placed the book atop the pile of books on my nightstand, and went to sleep.

I woke up the next morning to find my stack of books had been knocked over during the night (I suspect the cat), and the books that had been at the top had toppled onto the floor. I picked them up in the morning, but the bookmark I had used to mark the page where the quote was found had fallen out. I had read over 50 pages the previous night, and I knew it would be extremely difficult for me to find the quote–something about waiting or not waiting for a reason to run away from a bad situation–would be slim if I did not reread the entirety of what I had read the night before.

If I had just dogeared the page, I would have been able to find the quote easily.


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In Honor of Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie signing a book

Like everyone else, I am shocked and appalled by what happened to Salman Rushdie this past week. Not only is Rushdie one of the greatest living authors, he is also a champion of free speech and a model of principled bravery in the face of real danger. He is also one of my favorite writers.

If you only know Rushdie from his most famous and controversial work, The Satanic Verses, you should check out some of his other work as well. The booker-winning Midnight’s Children is, deservedly, his most highly regarded novel (and probably the right place to start if you are a Rushdie novice), but my favorite is Haroun and the Sea of Stories, which masquerades as a children’s fantasy book, but is actually about the dangers of censorship.

I’ve also learned a lot as a writer from Rushdie, who, in his melding of Eastern and Western traditions, often breaks a lot of so-called “rules” of writing. Here is a blog I wrote about his used of adverbs back in 2021.

Blog post on Rushdie and Adverbs

Please join me in wishing Rushdie a speedy recovery. Get well soon.

Publishing News: The Next Metamorphosis and Love Letters to Poe, Volume Two.

I am thrilled to announce that my short story, The Next Metamorphosis, has won second prize in the Flying Ketchup Press C Note competition. The competition invited authors to revisit a famous, public domain short story. You can read The Next Metamorphosis here:

https://www.flyingketchuppress.com/post/summer-short-fiction-winner-second-place-a-a-rubin-s-the-next-metamorphasis?postId=10d4bda5-0a29-4877-9db3-351fbeeaf3cd&utm_campaign=7566b327-c3c9-42a2-85fd-ee761bbefcae&utm_source=so&utm_medium=mail&utm_content=9f77fb37-1e92-4765-97b9-168f10c31b54&cid=00fdbf39-5264-4890-be76-e27013f93b84

Also, volume 2 of Love Letters to Poe, which includes my poem, When The House of Usher Falls, is now in preorders and will be officially released August 16th.

Reserve your copy here:

https://www.amazon.com/Love-Letters-Poe-Houses-Usher-ebook/dp/B0B8QMJVSC/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?crid=1LW6UYF0A3KGC&keywords=love+letters+to+poe&qid=1660058622&sprefix=love+letters+to+poe%2Caps%2C81&sr=8-3

Let me know what you think in the comments.

Anniversary Sonnet

Yesterday marked my 12th wedding anniversary. to mark the occasion, here is my poem, Anniversary Sonnet, which first appeared in Poetica 2 (Clarendon House).

Anniversary Sonnet

by A. A. Rubin

Some poets ‘gainst the sonnet form do rail,
As creativity they say it mars.
Their poetic license they claim assailed,
By tradition, meter, and measured bars.
To capture passion and proclaim true love,
No antiquated formal rules are meet:
Their verse—free—to soar the skies above,
Instead of tripping o’er iambic feet.
But I have never felt my love confined,
By giving up my liberty to you—
My affection, rather, has been refined;
Myself—my soul—do grow through love so true—
  And thus these fourteen rhyming lines do sing,
  Of love we consecrated with our rings.


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Remnants: The Kings of New York (Excerpt)

As I continue to recover from my broken hands (I start occupational therapy today), here is a free excerpt from my story, The King of New York, which was published last in the Remnants shared world, post apocalyptic, science fiction anthology from Fedowar Press. This is the second edition of Remnants, and the new edition includes some stories which were not included in the original, Kyanite Press edition. You can purchase Remnants in both print and ebook editions by clicking any of the hyperlinks on this page.


The Kings of New York

By A. A. Rubin

How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow, she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces—Lamentations 1:1

At midnight, the oracle climbs her tower and sings her lamentations to the stars. Her skyscraper no longer pierces the heavens; its massing is no longer symmetrical. The Art Deco spire lies in pieces, scattered across the rubble that used to be 5th avenue. The pinnacle, incongruously complete, sticks out of the wreckage, piercing the carcass of a monster more dangerous than any Hollywood gorilla, like a lightning bolt from Olympus or a spear thrown down from heaven.

The observation decks have long-since fallen, so she stands atop the tallest remaining setback in the open air, like a prayer-caller on a minaret, singing her story, and searching for signs of The Swarm through the night, until the sunrise.

We call her Cassandra. We do not know her real name. She does not speak coherently about the present. She sings of the past and of the future in riddle and metaphor. Everyone she knew is gone, killed by The Horde because they did not heed the warnings of the dead she claims speak through her.

That she is alive and so many are dead is her proof of her prophecy, and so we listen, and on nights like this, when she’s silhouetted by the full moon against the midnight sky, we almost believe.


To read the rest of the story, buy Remnants in either print or ebook editions.

The Three Capitalist Pigs (Excerpt)

My story, The Three Capitalist Pigs was recently published is Once Upon Another Time: Fresh Tales From The Far Side of Fantasy. I’ve included the beginning of the story below. You can download the rest–for free–by clicking on any of the hyperlinks in this post. Enjoy.

The wayward wolf wandered the enchanted forest. As the runt of the litter—abandoned by the pack—he had learned to live on his wits. He couldn’t hunt deer, that required a team, and the trolls and ogres were stiff competition for the other carnivorous forest-dwellers like himself. Though he wasn’t proud of it, the wolf sometimes scavenged amongst the humans. He had, on occasion, poached sheep from their farms, and for this, those uppity apes had labeled him “Big” and “Bad.” They made up stories to scare their young into obedience—stories that made the wolf shudder. Over time, people came to believe those tales, and he gained a reputation as a nefarious villain. Truthfully, it was the humans—those hypocritical alpha predators—who ate other species’ young. They even, ironically, made a hunter his nemesis in many of their fables.

Still, humanity wasn’t the enemy on the wolf’s mind that evening. No, the real villains were the capitalist pigs who set up shop at the edge of the forest. Those three brothers bought up land at an alarming rate, especially woodland, which contained an abundance of natural resources. Now, deforestation was becoming the most pressing issue for the residents of that enchanted woods.

The wolf, who had always had a way with words, started a petition amongst the forest’s residents. He collected signatures and filed the complaints with the proper authorities, but, alas, his pleas were ignored by the powers that be. It was almost as if the castle was still under the enchantment of the hundred-year-sleep. Truth be told, the bacon had greased the royalty by funding all their charming balls. 

To read the rest of the story, download the FREE ebook.