Tuesday, June 9, 2015

IMAGINE THAT...

Photo by Jacquelin LaVonne


Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world and all there ever will be to know and understand.
Albert Einstein

Have you ever spent a leisurely afternoon gazing up at fluffy clouds drifting through a sunny sky, changing into various shapes, sometimes into eerie dark formations? What did you see? Perhaps we each see something a little different as our imaginations soar - images based upon who we are, what we believe, and our experiences in life.

I personally love the image above of "angel clouds" captured by my dear friend, Jacquelin LaVonne, over Lake Kakagi in Ontario on a fishing trip with her late husband shortly before he died. The other image, of vivid clouds floating over an old barn, evokes a sense of nostalgia for days gone by. Imagine what life was like in those days...

Children frequently have the gift of imagination, something that we, as adults, tend to forget about as we grow older and busier with the demands of life. Children engage in pretend play, fantasy games, and some even have imaginary friends. It saddens me to think that many of us tend to outgrow imagination - one of life's greatest treasures, I think.

What is imagination exactly? Wikipedia defines it as "the ability to form new images and sensations in the mind that are not perceived through senses such as sight or hearing." I believe that it frequently involves superimposing the spiritual/intuitive realm upon the "real" world as we know it. But...what is real and what is not??

Why is imagination important? Because it opens up endless possibilities for the future. Because it allows us to go above and beyond the physical world as we know it. To learn. To explore. To create. Sometimes to escape from the problems in our lives as we imagine a brighter future - the first step to creating that future.

As a writer - and a reader - imagination is one of the things that I value most. I love authors like William Kent Krueger who have the ability to blend fact and fantasy into amazing stories that draw the reader into imaginary worlds. His recent release, Windigo Island, revolves around the theme "In every human being, there are two wolves constantly fighting. One is fear and the other is love." These words of wisdom come from Henry Meloux, the ancient Ojibwe Mide in this novel. Imagination at its' best!

As for me, I continually strive to develop my imagination, to get out of the way of my rational mind and let it flow. One of the greatest compliments I've received was in a book review by Stacie Theis of Beachbound Books. She wrote, "Janet Kay is a gifted storyteller who enthralls her readers with her brilliant imagination and alluring plot. Amelia 1868 is a story you won't be able to put down!" Thank you, Stacie!

Let's all step back to the days of our childhood and let our imaginations soar once more!

Please stay tuned and stay in touch.

Janet Kay
http://www.novelsbyjanetkay.com




Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Once Upon A Time...


Ireland, The Emerald Isle

We felt as if we were stepping into a fairy tale world - a mystical world steeped in folklore and ancient traditions - as we explored this fascinating country last month. Ireland had always been a priority on my "bucket list." Now Sherry and I were turning dreams into reality.

Once we learned to drive on the "wrong" side of the road and successfully navigate all the round-a-bouts in the cities, we began to relax and enjoy the incredible beauty that surrounded us. Lush green rolling pastures dotted with sheep and newborn baby lambs. Steep cliffs plunging down to the sea. Eerie fog, mist, howling winds and wild waves. Majestic medieval castles and ancient monastery ruins. Remnants of old stone houses and castles that had seen better days.

Ireland is a land steeped in history, a country proud of its heritage. We saw old druid settlements dating back several thousand years. Ancient burial mound sites 5,800 years old - older than Stonehenge or the Egyptian pyramids. We walked through "fairy rings" of old stone, listening to tales of the fairies and leprechauns that once lived here, they say. Standing quietly at these ancient sites, you can almost feel the spirits of the past - spirits that seem to linger in the gnarled old trees that have assumed distorted shapes over the centuries.

After exploring the nooks and crannies along the tiny winding roads, we enjoyed retiring to one of the old Irish pubs. We were happy to sit by the fire in these old stone buildings, some with thatched roofs, as we chatted with the friendly locals who were happy to share tales about Irish legends and their lives. The Irish people seem to have a magical quality about them - happiness, contentment, a more leisurely pace of life. They welcome strangers, going out of their way to help, even to walk us around town to show us special places.

Ireland is like a little slice of heaven for writers like me. It is saturated with inspiration just waiting to be released onto the page. No wonder so many prolific writers lived and worked in Ireland. James Joyce, William Butler Yeates, J.R. Tolkein, Bram Stoker to name a few.

We learned that J.R. Tolkein derived inspiration for his work through his many visits to The Burren, a surreal barren stone landscape that reminds one of the moon. Bram Stoker wrote his 1897 novel, Dracula, while living in Dublin. We toured Dracula's castle in Dublin, just across the street from his boyhood home. This is where he gained inspiration for his famous novel.

It is obvious why writers, artists and many others are drawn to this country. One cannot leave without having seriously expanded his or her concept of time. Irish history seems to go back forever, providing deep roots that have sustained the Irish people through many difficult periods of time.

Hiking along the top of the famous Cliffs of Moher, gazing down at the churning sea, I was struck with the magnitude of the universe, of time that had no beginning and no end. It made me realize how tiny our lives really are in the big picture of life. How insignificant our little problems are. I think the Irish people understand this far better than many of us in this world.

As I leave the fairy tale world of Ireland behind me, I take with me lessons that will help me view life in a slightly different way. Ideas to integrate into my novels. And a bit of that Irish magic from the land of the leprechauns! I leave you with an Irish prayer:

May the Irish hills caress you. May her lakes and rivers bless you. May the luck of the Irish enfold you, and May the blessings of Saint Patrick behold you.

Please stay tuned and stay in touch.

Janet Kay
http://www.novelsbyjanetkay.com







Monday, November 10, 2014

FACES FROM THE PAST



"The leaves of memory seemed to make a mournful rustling in the dark." Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

After my mother died in 2008, we searched her house for the family history book she was writing. Her last mission on earth, she told us. Her legacy to her family. We eagerly anticipated the family stories she would have written - stories that would hopefully fill in some of the gaps in our family history and solve a few mysteries.

We searched every nook and cranny, over and over again. All we found was a blank journal. Not a word had been written! We were stunned. She had been, after all, the last remaining family member of her generation.There was nobody else to ask questions of. Memories would be lost forever. Some family secrets had apparently gone to the grave with her.

Thankfully, she had at least compiled hundreds of old photos, labeling names and dates on the back. Some of these people were virtual strangers to me. And she'd left a notebook of genealogical data as well as a file of her favorite quotes, poems and words of wisdom that she wanted shared with her family.

It was a start - and a prompt from beyond the grave - for me to take over the task of writing our family history. I was, after all, the writer in our family. "Do it now!" her spirit whispered urgently in my ear.

I began my lengthy journey into the past, and what a trip it was! It included genealogical research with the help of Ancestry.com, interviewing family members, pouring over records in historical libraries, and several incredible journeys to Sweden and the Czech Republic, homes of my ancestors. I hired professional genealogists through http://www.genealogists.com to locate specific villages where my ancestors lived hundreds of years ago - even their homes (or remnants thereof) and their churches.

I also did extensive research to develop the historical context. What was life like in those days? Why did my ancestors make the decisions they did - particularly leaving their homelands for America? What was their culture like, their traditions, and their values? My goal was to bring these people to life.

It was a long journey full of challenges, surprises and rewards. I sometimes laughed - sometimes cried - as I learned valuable lessons about these faces from the past. Old photos that were once relatively meaningless came to life. I now feel like I know these people. This process has actually helped me to understand myself and my own family better.

My family history is complete and being published - my legacy to my children and grandchildren. No, it's not my mother's story or those of my children, although I've included a great deal of their information. It is my truth, based on my recollections and all that I've learned through my research. Truth is, after all, subjective, based upon one's personal experiences and the lens through which we each view our world.

I encourage you all to think about researching and writing your family history - before it's too late to ask questions of your elders. As my mother told me, "Do it now!"

Stay tuned and please stay in touch.

Janet Kay
http://www.novelsbyjanetkay.com





Friday, October 10, 2014

A DIFFERENT VIEW OF DEATH


"Let life be as beautiful as summer flowers
and death as beautiful as autumn leaves."
Rabindranth Tagore

The first anniversary of the death of a loved one can be a difficult time for anyone. Memories swell, crashing over you like angry waves or gentle ripples, sometimes a little of each. How do you cope with a day like this?

Yesterday was the first anniversary of the death of Len, my best friend and partner for 35 years. I felt I needed to do something special to acknowledge the day, aside from putting a new autumn floral arrangement on his gravestone. I decided to get into my car and go for a ride to see the beautiful fall leaves, something we often did together. As my car meandered its way along winding country roads, his favorite Willie Nelson songs magically popped up on my radio.

After making a few stops to try to capture the beauty of the season with my camera, I found myself at the casino where Len and I had often enjoyed the buffet lunch and playing the slot machines. We typically lost about $25 each before we called it a day and began a leisurely drive back home. In fact, I frequently took him to the casino to celebrate his birthday. Now I was going alone - to mourn his death.

As I pondered the stark contrast between celebrating a birth and mourning a death, it suddenly struck me that birth and death are actually the same thing - if you look at it from a different angle, within a broader perspective. Len's death on earth was actually his birth in heaven. Perhaps I should be celebrating his first birthday on the other side of life instead of mourning the first anniversary of his death on earth...

It had been time for him to shed his deteriorating earthly body, his time to "go home" again. But his spirit lives on in many mysterious ways. That includes within our memories and in the hearts and souls of those he left behind.

Wiping back a few lingering tears, I looked up at the startling beauty of autumn leaves swirling overhead. And I whispered "Happy Birthday, Len."


Stay tuned and please stay in touch.

Janet Kay
http://www.novelsbyjanetkay.com



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

ODE TO THE OLEANDER


Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature." Gerard De Nerval


The enchanting island of Galveston, Texas is once again blooming with the mysterious Nerium Oleanders. Vibrant shades of yellow, red, white, pink and salmon consume these flowering evergreen shrubs that cover the island. In fact, Galveston is known to have the most extensive collection of oleanders in the world.

One of the things that fascinates me the most about the Oleander is the contradiction between its enticing beauty - and the fact that the plant is in fact poisonous. It contains a toxin that can be poisonous if ingested in large quantities. Fumes from burning the branches of the oleander can also be hazardous.

According to Greek mythology, oleanders represent romance and charm. There once was a beautiful Greek maiden who was loved by a man named Leander. He swam across the sea every night to see his beloved. One night, however, he braved a tempest to see her and drowned as the wild waves slammed his body against the sharp rocky cliffs.

The next day, his distraught lover found his body on the shore. "Oh Leander," she cried out, her voice echoing across the sea. In his hand, he clutched a flower, one he had intended to give to her. She gently pried the flower from his cold hand and saved it as a symbol of their everlasting love. That flower magically grew and spread throughout the world - evolving into today's beautiful oleanders.

A charming tale indeed - one that I plan to use in my next historical fantasy novel which will be set in Galveston. My mind is already spinning with ways I may integrate the lovely but deadly oleander into this novel. Lovely...but...deadly. Surely there is a story there?

Please stay tuned and stay in touch.

Best Always,

Janet Kay
http://www.novelsbyjanetkay.com




Friday, October 25, 2013

GONE FISHING...


Len, my best friend and partner for 35 years, has "gone fishing" on the other side of life. While my family and I deeply mourn his passing, we know he's in a better place and free of pain. He took his last breath while holding my hand.

He left this world exactly the way he wanted. His "celebration of life" included a canoe, fishing gear, and his "Old Farts Club" coffee mug. Polka music was played instead of traditional hymns. He wanted us to celebrate his life.

When a loved one crosses over to the side of life, I think we all want to know that he or she has arrived safely. We all hope for signs from beyond this limited earthly existence. For reassurance that life does continue beyond death.

Len has not disappointed us! As military taps were played at his gravesite, three eagles swooped over his grave. Three eagles have always been symbolic in our family, representing three deceased family members who sometimes choose to manifest themselves in this way. They were there for Len.

Arriving back home after the funeral, my family and I were stunned to see the most incredible double rainbow we've ever seen arching over the lake. It was brilliant in color, reflected perfectly in the still waters. Thanks, Len!

This was only the beginning! Since then, he manages to nudge our minds, reminding us of things we need to do, where certain things are located. And yes, his sense of humor even lives on as he plays little jokes on us all.

I'd like to leave you all with a poem I wrote and read at his celebration of life:


I AM NOT GONE

I am not gone
for I live on
in another time
and place.

When you think of me,
I will be there...
as seagulls soar o'er
waters of the dancing sky,
when a gentle breeze caresses your face,
in the magic of moonlight
shimmering softly
on the lakes I loved.

I will be there...

Look up at the moon
and tell me good night.
Tell me about your day,
For this I know...

I am not gone,
I'm just away
until we meet
again
someday.

Stay tuned and please stay in touch.

Janet Kay
www.novelsbyjanetkay.com




Thursday, September 26, 2013

SHE WHO LAUGHS LASTS...


Life has been difficult, to say the least, during the past year of my life. This has been my time to face love and loss - to cherish the tender and unforgettable moments while struggling with the fact that my dearest friend on this earth may not be here with me much longer. Cancer has a way of destroying dreams and crippling the creative process.

I've managed to occasionally visit my St. Croix Writers Group in Solon Springs, Wisconsin. Here I find inspiration and support that helps to keep me going.

Let me tell you about our group's leader, a character whom you writers out there may very well want to write into your next novel!

Jo Stewart is 85 years young, a talented writer with a heart of gold, and...a crazy sense of humor!In 2006, she decided to start a "laughing group" on the Main Street of the little village of Solon Springs, Wisconsin.

She had been inspired by visitors who told her of laughing groups sprouting up across the world, dedicated to enhancing wellness through laughing.

Actually, it all began in Mumbia, India in the early 1990s when Dr. Madan Kataria became interested in the growing body of scientific evidence showing that laughter is beneficial for physical and mental health. He soon began prescribing "laughter" to his patients. In March of 1995, he launched his first Laughter Club in a public park in his neighborhood. The initial five charter members soon grew to fifty or more.

Since March of 2006, Jo can be found every Thursday morning at precisely 10 o'clock on the Main Street of Solon Springs across from the National Bank of Commerce. Here, with or without other participants, shadowed by the growing pines and beneath the "Laughing Group" sign, she begins to laugh, sometimes to roar. She laughs whether it rains, shines, or snows. It doesn't matter.

She may laugh alone or be joined by up to twenty participants. They all wave to people passing by, who sometimes cannot resist joining them. Once the local Red Hat Society came out to laugh with them. Another time, a couple from Hawaii heard about Jo's laughing group on national television and made a point to visit and laugh with them.

"We're a destination point," Jo boasts with a gleam in her aging eyes as she begins to roar once more, waving at cars passing by.

"It's a good thing," she tells me, "a good thing for the public to relate to." It fascinates her that artificial laughter soon progresses to real laughter, to actually feeling better.

Yes, Jo, laughter truly may be the best medicine! After laughing with Jo and her group today, I feel recharged and ready to face whatever I may need to face.

Thank you, Jo, for sharing your wisdom with us all!

Stay tuned and please stay in touch.

Janet Kay
http://www.novelsbyjanetkay.com