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

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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News and Notes: Rough Summer

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. I have had a difficult summer: After breaking both my hands (covered previously in this space), I had to have a series of emergency dental procedures (still not done!), and, as if that wasn’t enough, my whole family got Covid, including yours truly. Still, it hasn’t been all bad. I did manage to get some micro fiction and poetry published, and I represented Comic Book School at Eternal Con in Long Island, hosting multiple panels in early July.

First off, my work was included in the From One Line, Vol 3 anthology. From One Line is one of my favorite writing prompts on Twitter, and they periodically publish anthologies based on their prompts. I am proud number of micro-fictions and poems in the anthology, and feel that the From One Line prompts, which provide a first line which authors must use to start their pieces, bring out some of my best work. You can purchase the From One Line anthology here.

From One Line, vol 3

My work also appears in this year’s Serious Flash Fiction winners anthology, which collects the winners of its annual micro fiction contest. This is the fifth year in a row that I’ve had work in the anthology, and it’s a special publication for me, as when I was first published in it 5 years ago, it broke a long publishing drought for me. You can get the anthology here.

Serious Flash Fiction

As mentioned above, I represented Comic Book School at Eternal Con in Long Island at the beginning of July. I tabled at the con, and hosted a number of panels, both planned and as a full-in for Buddy Scalera who had to miss the show unexpectedly.

Among the panels which I hosted, were the ever-popular Origin Story Interactive Character Creation panel (co-hosted with the always amazing Cathy Kirch of My Writing Hero and Columbia University), and a brand new panel on dialogue based on two blog posts I wrote here.

If you weren’t at the show, you can read those posts here:

Cookie Monster blog

and here:

Yoda Blog

Hopefully, the skies will clear for me soon, and the second half of the summer will be better. Thank you for sticking with me during this difficult time.

News and Notes: Publishing News and Broken Hands

I apologize for missing last week’s post. I recently broke bone in both of my hands, and typing remains difficult.

I do have some publication news to report: My short story, “The Three Capitalist Pigs” has been published in Once Upon Another Time: Fresh Tales From The Far Side of Fantasy, which is available for FREE download now on Amazon. The book includes stories by 13 members of the vibrant Twitter writing community, and can be downloaded here.

Nassau County Voices in Verse was also released this past weekend. The annual collection of poets from Nassau County includes my gothic poem, “The Wolf in Me.” It can be ordered directly from the publisher here.

I also received word that my poem, “When the House of Usher Falls,” will be published in volume 2 of Love Letters To Poe. My poem, The Widow’s Walk was published last year in Vol 1. More information to follow.

Here are a few photos from the poetry reading in support of the Nassau Country poets book launch on Saturday. I look a bit different because I was unable to put in my contacts with my broken hands.

Beneath the Robot’s Net (#NationalPoetryMonth)

The sentinels protect us
From danger from above–
They have no sense of duty
They have no sense of love–
But their programming’s infallible,
We know, our leaders said–
It better be, ‘cause if they fail,
We will all be dead.

The aliens are coming,
I heard the newsman say–
They’re flying here to get us
From a planet far away–
So to protect my freedom,
So I don’t have to fret,
I must learn to live contentedly
Beneath the robots’ net.

I used to dream of traveling
Up there among stars–
Of mining fields on Venus
Of colonies on Mars–
But my dreams have now been grounded
My thoughts are nothing worth,
My ambition’s now been bounded–
Down here on this earth.

–A. A. Rubin

A Sonnet for Opening Day

Happy #OpeningDay and #NationalPoetry month. Continuing a tradition I’ve established over the last few years, here is my “Baseball Sonnet” to mark the occasion. Play ball!

Baseball Sonnet

by A. A. Rubin

That time of year thou mayst in fans behold
That malediction, fever of the spring–
Surrounded by lingering snow and cold,
We dream of pennants and World Series rings.
With pride we root our noble heroes on,
Eating hot dogs, peanuts, and crackerjacks–
And all our worldly troubles fade, are gone,
When that first pitch is thrown and bat doth crack.
But Lo! When April fades to crueler months,
We reach the summer of our discontent–
Like Mighty Casey in the Mudville ninth–
With hearts bereft of joy and merriment.
Yet hope springs eternal for one and all,
When that blue-clad umpire calls out, “Play Ball!”

Happy World Poetry Day

Happy world poetry day! Here are some places where you can read my poetry, both online and in print:

My latest published poem, Earth 2022, was recently published in The Deronda Review. You can read it for free here on page 27, right after a poem by Pablo Neruda:

The poem is in the tradition of the Wordsworth poem, London, 1802, and critiques the current state of education.

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You can also read my gothic horror poem, The Widow’s Walk, which was published in Love Letters to Poe, here. The webpage includes an interview and a link to an episode of the publication’s podcast, which features me reading the poem.

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The Patchwork Man, one of my favorite poems, was published earlier this year in Poetica, from Clarendon House. The book is available on Amazon.

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If free verse is more your style, check out Snow Ghosts, published last year in Bards Annual, the annual anthology of Long Island Poets from Local Gems.

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Of course, I also publish poetry on this site from time to time, including this sonnet about baseball, and this one about the moon.

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Happy World Poetry Day! Enjoy.

Rules, What Rules: Avoid Alliteration, Always?

In the first post I published on this blog, I bemoaned the reductive nature of writing advice. “If you write like everyone else,” I wrote, “your writing will read like everyone else’s.” While I have gotten away from that theme from time-to-time, I try to return to it every now and then as part of my series: Rules: What Rules? which consists of a series of blogs that deal with common pieces of writing advice, and then present a famous work–by a successful author–which breaks those rules. My aim is not to criticize these authors—I enjoy all of them, that is the point. Rather, I present their works as examples of successfully writing, which might cause you to reexamine the writing “rule” critically. I am not advising you to ignore these rules, rather to take control of your own craft, and consider your choices actively. As always, I believe there is more than one path to success, more than one formula for great writing. Consider these posts synecdochally. The specific rule is not the point; it speaks to a general attitude which is prevalent within the contemporary writing community.

In each blog post in this series, I will give a brief summary of the rule, followed by a case study of a successful author, work, or series that breaks that rule. Finally, I will provide some analysis of the rule and the alternative techniques the featured author makes. Since the posts in this series will not necessarily be consecutive blog entries, I will link each piece to previous entries.

Previously in this series:

Dialogue Tags

Eliminating Adverbs

The Rule: Avoid Alliteration, Always

The pithy way this rule is usually stated is derived from a 1986 Writers Digest article by Frank L. Visco which took the form of a list of “rules” the author had “learnt” (sic) over the course of his writing career. The article, which has been quoted in numerous places, has been circulated widely, especially in recent years, through meme culture and social media. The statement in question leads off the set of rules, in which the statement of each rule violates the very principle it purports to teach.

While the article is a bit tongue-in-cheek, the rules it professes are, by and large, considered “good” advice by the writing community.

Alliteration, especially when done excessively, is supposed to be distracting. It supposedly takes the reader out of the story and makes them focus on the delivery rather than the content.

And yet…

There is a long tradition of using alliteration in English language literature. In fact, alliteration has been there right from the beginning. Anglo-Saxon epics, such as Beowulf, which is considered by many to be the first foundational text of English literature, is built around an alliterative structure. Seamus Heaney’s landmark verse translation keeps this structure, and his translator’s introduction explains his methods, the anonymous poet’s techniques, and the traditions upon which they both draw better than I ever could.

Shakespeare used alliteration (Love’s Labour Lost, for example), but I’d like to begin our discussion in earnest with a poet from the next generation, Alexander Pope whose poem Sound and Sense is both a poem and an instruction manual for writing poetry. Throughout the sonnet, Pope uses the techniques he wants his reader to learn, most of which have to do with the sound the language make, including alliteration, but also rhythm, meter, assonance, and consonance. These devices are categorized as “sound and sense” devices to this day. In the couplet that gives the poem its title, Pope writes:

‘Tis not enough no harshness gives offense,
The sound must seem an echo to the sense:

This couplet states the poem’s argument, which is that the poet–or any writer for that matter–should use their devices in harmony with, or to accentuate the content and/or message, of the piece. Throughout the piece, Pope uses the devices he intends to teach, but does not name them explicitly.

Pope employs alliteration throughout the poem, including in the above-quoted couplet. The leading “S” sound is repeated 3 times in the stanza’s second line, and five times in the next couplet:

Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows,
And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows;

The alliterative sound is not necessarily in consecutive words, which is actually the correct way to write alliteration. As least where poetry is concerned, alliteration is not, as it’s commonly defined the repetition of a sound at the beginning of a word, it’s actually the repetition of that sound on the stressed syllable.

One of my favorite examples comes from Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous poem, The Raven:

And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain

The repeated S sound occurs at the beginning of “silken” and “sad,” but in the middle of “uncertain” and “rustling.” But read the line out loud. Notice how the S sound falls on the stressed syllable, whether it comes at the beginning of the word or not:

AND the SILken, SAD, unCERtain RUStling

If you transpose “silken” and “sad”, the alliteration won’t read as well, first, because of the meter, and secondly, because the alliteration won’t sound as natural.

The reason Poe’s line works so well is that the sound does, indeed, echo the sense. Not only is there an onomatopoeia in the “s” sound, which mimics the curtains rustling in the wind, but the hypnotic use of alliteration combines with the trochaic meter–the opposite of iambic, which is the most common English language meter–highlights the dream-like quality of the encounter (“while I nodded nearly napping”; the nightmarish Raven perched atop the bust of Athena, a symbol of rationality)–to “shush” the reader to that dream state with the repeated, soporific “s” sound.

When I wrote my poem, The Widow’s Walk which was recently published, fittingly, in Love Letters to Poe, I attempted to emulate Poe’s alliterative style. The opening line of the poem reads:

She wends her way around her walk
And round and round she goes.

Scanning the opening line, we get:

she WENDS her WAY aROUND her WALK

The alliterative “w” sound is used on the stressed syllable (although I use iambic rather than trochaic meter in this poem.)

Some might say that alliteration is an antiquated device found mostly in older poems (and poems like mine which pay homage to them), but modern poets use alliteration prominently as well.

In her poem, Fugue, from her new book, Call Us What We Carry, superstar inaugural poet Amanda Gorman writes:

excerpt from “Fugue” by Amanda Gorman

The first line of the excerpt employs alliteration in the same manner as Poe. The D sound is repeated on the stressed syllable. Later in the excerpt, Gorman uses alliteration in a similar manner to an anglo-saxon poet, as she moves the “f” sound around to different places in her lines.

Later in the collection, Gorman highlights alliteration as an essential literary technique, one which defines the poet, and speaks to the power of poetry. In her poem “Memorial”, Gorman writes:

But why alliteration?
Why the pulsing percussion, the string of syllables?
It is the poet who pounds the past back into you.

Thus, arguably the biggest contemporary superstar in poetry (is that even arguable at this point?) uses alliteration in her poetry.

Gorman, Poe, Pope, and the Beowulf poet refuse to avoid alliteration; the rest of us should follow their example.

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Alliteration works in non-poetic writing as well. One of my favorite examples of alliteration in prose writing comes from Charles Dickens’ description of the storming of the Bastille in A Tale of Two Cities:

Deep ditches, double drawbridge, massive stone walls, eight great towers, cannon, muskets, fire and smoke. Through the fire and through the smoke — in the fire and in the smoke, for the sea cast him up against a cannon, and on the instant he became a cannonier — Defarge of the wine-shop worked like a manful soldier, Two fierce hours.

Deep ditch, single drawbridge, massive stone walls, eight great towers, cannon, muskets, fire and smoke. One drawbridge down! “Work, comrades all, work! Work, Jacques One, Jacques Two, Jacques One Thousand, Jacques Two Thousand, Jacques Five-and-Twenty Thousand; in the name of all the Angels or the Devils — which you prefer — work!”Thus Defarge of the wine-shop, still at his gun, which had long grown hot.

In the first line of each of the two excerpted paragraphs, Dickens uses similar phrases which feature alliteration. In each example, Dickens’ uses the repeated hard “d” sound to represent the thud of the cannons against the walls of The Bastille. Like Poe’s, Dickens’ alliteration is also onomatopoeia, and, therefore, as Pope advises, even in prose, the sound echoes the sense. Moreover, the missing “d” in the second paragraph highlights the fact that one of the two drawbridges has been taken out by the rebels’ cannons. The missing “d” sound highlights the missing drawbridge.

Another more modern example is found in the film V for Vendetta, written by the Wachowskis and directed by James McTeigue. In one of the most popular scenes from the film, V, played by Hugo Weaving, gives a speech in which nearly every word begins with the letter “v,” in tribute to the Alan Moore’s comic which inspired the movie, in which each chapter title is a “v” word (in fact, many of the “v” words used in the speech are taken directly from those chapter titles).

V for Vendetta “V” speech

When I watched the movie in the theater, this speech drew appreciative applause from the audience, who seemed thrilled by the alliteration as the speech built to a crescendo–take that, Frank L. Visco!

Of course V for Vendetta followed a long tradition of comic book alliteration. The great Stan Lee loved alliteration, especially when naming characters: Peter Parker, Sue Storm, Read Richards, Matt Murdock, The Fantastic Four, the list goes on.

I could go on as well, but I think I’ve made my point.

Analysis

So, why is alliteration looked down upon? It seems that it’s because people misinterpreted a joke. Visco, who ironically uses alliteration to criticize its use, was clearly writing tongue-in-cheek. One could even say that the fact he opens with the alliteration “rule” shows he recognizes its power. Meme culture has contributed to the proliferation of Visco’s rules, and, as with so many other things, its has stripped the the original article of its context.

While it is true that alliteration can take a reader out of the story or be distracting if its used poorly, the same could be said for any literary technique. A bad simile or metaphor will take the reader out of the writing just as quickly; poor rhythm in poetry will do the same. Any device can be overused, and the writer must strive use them all judiciously. That is true about alliteration, but it is not unique to alliteration.

The fact is that proper alliteration makes writing memorable, which is why it often used in marketing. It is a signature device of writers ranging from Edgar Allan Poe, to Stan Lee, Charles Dickens, to Amanda Gorman.

Avoid it at your peril.


Be sure to check out the links page to read some of my published writing, and to follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.