Alethea Kontis's Blog, page 9

April 23, 2014

In honor of Shakespeare’s birthday today (and World Book Night tonight!), here is my favorite sonnet.

SONNET 130
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.

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Published on April 23, 2014 04:00 • 25 views

April 22, 2014

Because I was such an avid reader and lover of poetry as a child, I did not discover Shel Silverstein until my friends started passing around copies of Where the Sidewalk Ends at school.

I enjoyed Silverstein’s prose and fun approach to poetry, but he wasn’t as groundbreaking for me as he was for some. I mean…he’s not Ogden Nash. But I still have my favorites. Like this one:

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INVENTION
Shel Silverstein

I’ve done it, I’ve done it!
Guess what I’ve done!
Invented a light that plugs into the sun.
The sun is bright enough,
The bulb is strong enough,
But, oh, there’s only one thing wrong….

The cord ain’t long enough

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Published on April 22, 2014 04:00 • 20 views

April 21, 2014

My dearly beloved bosom companion Leanna Renee Hieber posted an incredibly fun and insightful interview last Monday about her writing process last week, and then asked if I wouldn’t mind answering the same questions in turn. But of course! And here they are:

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WBN Loves CoverWhat am I working on?

Right now, I’m working on three things at once. I’m still in the middle of TRIXTER, the companion novella to HERO. I’m pitching a really fun secret project to a major publisher (yay! squee!) so keep your fingers crossed on that one (because it is AWESOME). And I’m toying around with an adult magical realism novel, a-la Sarah Addison Allen.

And of course there are still my YouTube Fairy Tale Rants, and the fairy tale podcasts, and World Book Night, and Wattpad and and….

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

My work can most easily be compared to that of Neil Gaiman — across age ranges and genres at whim, always under my name, always with a bit of drama, and always containing some element of the fantastic.

Why do I write what I do?

I do what I love. ALL the things I love. I write the books I would have loved as a kid, that didn’t exist. I write for young people now (and the young-at-heart) who didn’t have the rich literary background I grew up in and have only been exposed to retellings supplied by Major Media. I want to always be encouraging people to read MORE.

How does your writing process work?

It’s a lot of me telling myself, “Alethea, sit down and write.” Usually, if I just force myself to DO IT, then I suddenly realize that I’ve been at it for hours and my tea is cold. Amidst this world of distractions and my Very Interesting Life, however, this is a far more difficult task than it should be. It’s been ten years since I signed my very first book contract, and I’m still a work in progress, always trying to be better in my writing, and better at my discipline.

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To keep the momentum going, I am tagging the lovely, talented, and Best Roommate Ever: 2014 Golden Heart nominee Denny S. Bryce. Be sure to pop by her website next Monday to learn about her frenetic writing process…

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Published on April 21, 2014 03:57 • 20 views

April 20, 2014

My response to “Tears of the Hollow Men,” written after a personal family issue…and a dream about a monk who wrote a poem describing the shifting of a cloud from an eagle to an angel.

Sunset on the way to Newport News*********************************

Tears of the Hollow Men
Alethea Kontis (1994)

Blue clouds at sunset
With silver-pink lining
Free as an eagle
On the wind shining
Real as each second
Soft as a dove
Hard as the truth
False as your love
Some woman said all the real men are dying
All I can see are the hollow men crying

Clouds are a-changing
The eagle is now
A heaven-bound angel
Taking a bow
To the powers before him
Which shower him gold
I cannot believe
The stories I’m told
Harsh white light
Showed the red-blooded taint
I cannot listen
To keep you a saint
I cannot hear
How perfection is fake
I cannot stand
The apologies you make
I cannot look
So I look away
What kind of madness
Has made you this way?
Some woman said
All the real men are dying
All I can hear
Are the hollow men crying

I don’t deserve
For you to forgive
Me for my feelings
About how you live
Your life is your own
Independence, be proud
I look up to you for that
As I look to you now
An eagle, an angel
High up in the sky
An eagle, an angel
How high can you fly?
Some woman said
All the real men are dying
All I can feel
Are the tears that I’m crying

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Published on April 20, 2014 04:11 • 35 views

April 19, 2014

(Now I want to write a parody play with this title. But that’s beside the point…)

I was notified yesterday that The Huffington Post had cited THE ENTIRE WOODCUTTER SISTERS SERIES as part of a list of “10 Books to Read While Impatiently Waiting for Maleficent.”

WOOHOOOO!!!!!!!
Yeah, I’m still dancing about it.

To read the article with the full list (which is a great list, btw), check it out here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/colleen-oakes/10-books-to-read-while-wa_b_5090743.html

…and be sure to share it with all the teens, librarians, teachers, and other fairy tale fanatics of your acquaintance!

I *am* part of the horde eagerly awaiting the new Maleficent flick. If you haven’t seen the preview for that yet, watch it here!

 

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Published on April 19, 2014 07:21 • 34 views

I never read Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but I knew very well who The Guy was. When I discovered this poem in my twelfth grade textbook, I fell in love so hard I even wrote a poem of my own in response (I’ll post that tomorrow).

I stole that textbook.

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The Hollow Men
T.S. Eliot

Mistah Kurtz—he dead.

A penny for the Old Guy

I
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death’s other Kingdom
Remember us—if at all—not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.

II
Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death’s dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind’s singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death’s dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat’s coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer—

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom

III
This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man’s hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.

Is it like this
In death’s other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.

IV
The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death’s twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.

V
Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

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Published on April 19, 2014 04:05 • 37 views

April 18, 2014

Poor Emily Dickinson, becoming famous after her death, leaving that giant trunk full of her work behind. This was a genuine fear of my childhood. I can’t tell you how incredibly happy I am to be published. I appreciate it every single day.

Much Madness is divinest Sense
By Emily Dickinson

Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense – the starkest Madness -
’Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail -
Assent – and you are sane -
Demur – you’re straightway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain -

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Published on April 18, 2014 04:00 • 26 views

April 17, 2014

Alethea Kontis: The Little Girl with the Little CurlWhen I was young, I was often referred to as “The Little Girl With the Little Curl.”

I had always thought of this as a Mother Goose nursery rhyme…until looking this up for National Poetry Month, I HAD NO IDEA it was penned by Longfellow.

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There was a little girl
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

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Published on April 17, 2014 04:00 • 86 views

April 16, 2014

I fell in love with this poem because it was the one that Anne of Green Gables performed enthusiastically to a surprised and welcoming crowd. By rights I should have fallen for “Lady of Shallot” in a similar fashion, but for whatever reason I’ve never quite warmed to the Arthurian legends.

A thief in love? MUCH more my speed. And thanks to Lorena McKennit, I have memorixed far more lines of this lengthy piece than I ever thought I would.

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The Highwayman
By Alfred Noyes
PART ONE

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

PART TWO

He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
Marching—marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

. . .

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

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Published on April 16, 2014 04:19 • 31 views

April 15, 2014

I was recently contacted by a high school student named Sarah K, asking for my answers on a survey she was doing for her English class…she had chosen “authors” as her demographic.

I was so intrigued by her questions that I asked if I could post them here, and she said yes. Thanks, Sarah!

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Taking Care of Business, original film posterName: Alethea Kontis
Age: 38
Race: French Canadian/Greek American
Gender: Female

What qualities do you consistently put into the protagonists of your novels? Why?
All of my protagonists have a weakness. (This weakness is usually a weakness I have as well.) In the course of the story, they are challenged and forced–at some point–to overcome this weakness.
Nobody wants to read about perfect characters! I want to read about characters like me. We might not have the same color hair or eyes or skin, but maybe she’s scared of crowds or he’s done some terrible things in his past that he regrets…and through that porthole I become that character I’m reading. I want that to happen to my readers, too.

How has being an author changed you?
I have always been a writer–I have been writing creative things down and submitting them for publication since the age of eight. Being an author as a career is a different story entirely. I have become a loud, colorful celebrity, the freak I wish I had met when I was twelve so that I knew being like this–painting my face and dyeing my hair blue and waking up with glitter on my pillow–was a valid life choice. When I was a teen, I was quiet and frumpy and hid in the corners, watching and collecting misfits. Now I jump into whatever situation scares me and live my life in such a way that I will always be able to tell great stories.

How does love in the real world compare to fictional love?
A wise man told me once: “The difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.” There are different kinds of love, and different kinds of pain, and the more you live, the more you discover. I’m still a work in progress.

If you truly had the power to change anything about the world, where would you start?
I would give everyone in the world a huge injection of self-confidence and a good night’s sleep. I honestly think this is the solution to World Peace.

What is the difference between reality and perception?
When I was a teen, one of the movie posters on the ceiling above my bed was Taking Care of Business. It had James Belushi surfing on the roof of a fancy car and the tagline: “You are who you pretend to be.” As a child actress, this line always spoke to me and, when I was brave enough, I lived the life I wanted instead of the life I felt that had been forced upon me. Bad things happen to everyone. Good things happen too. THAT is reality. Perception is what you choose to do with that.

What is truth?
That’s an easy one: ME! Truth is my first name. “Alethea” means “truth” in Greek. I was named after a character Jodie Foster played in an episode of the TV show Kung Fu — a little girl that bravely chose not to tell a lie. Trust me, it’s as much of a curse as it is a blessing!

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Published on April 15, 2014 09:36 • 13 views