Monday, November 30, 2009

Guest blogger: Dr. Michael Brant DeMaria, award winning writer and musician

Please welcome award winning author and musician, Michael Brant DeMaria, PhD, as guest blogger today. Michael, his wife, and their extended families have been dear friends of mine for more than 2 decades. I always feel refreshed, inspired, and encouraged after spending time with Michael.

Michael is a psychologist with over 25 years of experience in helping guide others on their life journeys. He has published and presented numerous papers on the role creativity and spirituality play in the healing process nationally and internationally. Michael is the author of Horns and Halos (1992), Ever Flowing On (2001) and the book of poetry, Moments (2008). He is the youngest recipient of a Ph.D. in the clinical psychology program at Duquesne University, where he studied in the graduate programs in psychology, philosophy and The Institute of Formative Spirituality. He has composed 3 CD’s of original music, two in the Healing Sound Project Series - The River (2003) and Ocean (2009) as well as the award winning soundtrack, Siyotanka (2009). Michael’s first full length play, CafĂ© Mezzo opened to rave reviews in 2007 and was chosen as the best play of the year for the Loblolly Theatre. He is also a regular contributor to the contemporary art gallery, Artel, with his original abstract acrylic paintings.

Leave a comment below and be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of Siyotanka – the Native American Award Winning album and #1 New Age Recording February 2009.

Let's hear what Michael has to share about creativity, writing, music, and life...

Q: Welcome Michael! You have won several awards for your music. Please tell us about that, yourself, and what books and CDs you have written.

A: Hi Kelly, thanks for having me. As you know I’m a big fan of your work so I’m honored to get a chance to share with your readers. I like to say I’m a psychologist by day and a musician, writer and artist by night. What’s amazing to me is over the last few years I’m a more and more a writer/artist and musician by day as well. As you know this last month my last album Siyotanka not only making it to #1 on the New Age charts in February, but then went on to win the Native American Music Award in the Native Heart category in Niagara Falls New York. It’s been a very exciting and fulfilling time.

My first love was music growing up in New England (Wilton, CT). I grew up with a love of people, nature and music. What I have realized over the years they all have something very important in common – listening. I’ve always been a listener – and now I make my living as a professional listener – both as a psychologist and musician. I draw my greatest inspiration for both of these vocations of mine from nature. Nature is infinitely creative – and it is part and parcel of who we are. Most of my writing and music has to do with really listening to how nature moves and using that as a guiding metaphor for how to move through the world. Just look at the title of my book “Ever Flowing On” which is all about using water as a metaphor for living a full and rich life – to the title of two of my albums in the Healing Sound Series, “The River” and “Ocean” and the one I’m working on in the studio right now is called, “Earth” - The wisdom of Nature (and in particular water) is ever present in my work. I actually spent many years as a wilderness guide where I guided personal growth journeys in the wilderness with adults to help them learn firsthand the wisdom and healing power of nature. Now I feel like I take people on similar journeys with my music. I like to call my music, sonic journeys for the soul.

Q: Is the musical creative process different from or similar to the writing creative process? How so?

A: That’s a great question Kelly – one I haven’t been asked! For me all creativity is inherently healing – and what I mean by that is it helps us get in touch with parts of ourselves that are usually ignored during our day to day domestic lives. In this way there is something wild in the creative process – and I mean ‘wild’ in the good sense of the term – that is, fresh, raw, full of energy. To me this is very soulful energy – I see the soul as a child of nature and the ego as a child of society. The soul in this way is more instinctual, more wild naturally than the ‘ego’. So in all my creative work it’s about connecting to this more wild, untamed, energy – in that way I find both of them very similar. Writing a personal growth book for me is much more difficult and takes more time for me than say writing poetry or playwriting which are more like music for me. I like to tell parents, our children come through us, not from us – and I feel the same way about the creative process – because I see creative work as ‘giving birth’ in a very real way. There is the impregnation, the incubation, then the as always final painful delivery. For many indigenous people music is considered to be all around us and a musician is simply ‘tapping’ into that music and being a channel for it to flow through us. I’ll sometimes hear my compositions or read my poems and say, “who wrote that?” That is a great experience – and reminds me to stay very humble about the whole mysterious process of creativity.

Q: You are also a licensed psychologist. Can you share one or two techniques that work for you when you find yourself wanting to create but perhaps experiencing the dreaded writer's block?

A: Ironically, or perhaps not so ironically, music. I see music and writing for me like crop rotation. You know if you plant only cotton it depletes the nitrogen in the soil and after too many years you won’t be able to grow cotton anymore – so they alternate cotton growing with soil enriching crops like peanuts and peas. They even sometimes rotate the crops during different seasons in the same year – which helps discourage pests, help enrich the soil and make it more erosion resistant. Probably more than you wanted to know about crop rotation! So, I practice art rotation - alternate composing music, with writing plays, poetry, non-fiction and sometimes with painting. Of course, exercise is another wonderful way to ‘rotate’ throughout the day or week. Finally, I have to say that actually doing therapy is a form of crop-rotation for me. As you know the creative process is a very internal one – and you become very self-absorbed in creative work. After about 4 days of that I’m ready for my 3 days a week of clinical work where I can be there for someone else – sit across from them to listen to them instead of myself. Of course, after three days of being outside of myself listening to others I am SOOOO ready to dive into my creative work again. The old model (which I’m sure still works for many people) was to focus on one thing – for me that is the kiss of death – I always have multiple projects going in many different mediums – that keeps life interesting for me and prevents burnout or blockages. If I’m blocked I just move to something else for awhile until the inspiration comes back.

I want to draw one other analogy here from nature. Part of the creative infinity of nature is its commitment to diversity. If you look at the most durable, sustainable and resilient eco-systems they are tremendously diverse. The more diverse an eco-system is the more resilient it is to drought, storms, natural disasters. Now look at a corn field – a corn field is one thing and one thing only - corn. It’s a monoculture and there are few things more fragile than a corn field. It’s tremendously vulnerable to decimation by pests, weather changes, or natural disaster. So I learned early on to be very diverse in my creative life. It’s just the way my mind works anyway. Some work may go slower that way – but then when the energy comes watch out!

Q: From your perspective as a therapist, why is it important that people routinely access their creative selves?

A: Sanity. Plain and simple. Plato use to say that if you go into your madness voluntarily it won’t come out involuntarily. Jung said something similar, he said, if you bring out what is inside you it will free you – if you don’t bring it out it will kill or destroy you. This may not be true for everyone, but for the creative person I find it to be generally quite true – and have seen it in my own life. It is also inherently healing. It keeps our minds and hearts fresh – it puts us back into alignment – like a chiropractic adjustment for the soul. What is Creator doing all the time? Creating. So when we create we are aligning ourselves with the very fabric of creation – I’d say that is an important thing to do now and again – wouldn’t you?

Q: Do you have any upcoming workshops?

A: As you know I just have come off a busy few months of traveling with workshops and/or performances in New York, Arkansas and California. It’s been very exciting, but I’m taking a break for a bit. I tend to spend the winter creating – composing and writing new work – and then spend May through October being out in the world doing more workshops/concerts and speaking engagements. I do have a very special Winter Solstice Concert coming up in December here locally that I’m very excited about. It is December 20th, a Sunday at the Unity church on 9th ave. in Pensacola. It is a peace and healing concert for the holiday season – and I’m doing some unique new things with the audience and will also be sharing some of my newest compositions off my upcoming album Earth due out fall of 2010.

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: My brand new website was just launched this last week at or – I’m very excited about it. There is a lot of new content, a blog, a free meditation healing space with a free track available off of Ocean – the most recently promoted album that we hope will be charting well in the coming weeks and it also has a very soothing video that accompanies the music and I guide the listener through a short, but very relaxing meditation.

From Kelly: Thanks for a great interview Michael!

Question for comments: How does tending to your creative side enhance your day to day life?

Leave a comment and be entered into a drawing to win a free copy of Siyotanka – the Native American Award Winning album and #1 New Age Recording February 2009.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Guest blogger: ANNA HACKETT

Please welcome guest author, Anna Hackett. Anna is a mining engineer by day and a writer by night. She loves combining action, adventure and a healthy dose of romance in her stories. Her latest release, Taken by the South Wind is available from Silhouette Nocturne Bites and all online booksellers.

Leave a comment and you will be entered into a drawing to win a free download of one of Anna's stories!

Q: Welcome Anna! Please tell us about yourself and what you write.

A: Thanks Kelly for having me here. I’m married to the love of my life, Karl and we live in an isolated mining town in northern Australia (beautiful beaches but lots of crocodiles, sharks and killer jellyfish.) I’m a mining engineer by day and writer by night. I spend my work days in a hard hat and boots and my weekends hunched over my laptop lost in my own worlds.

If I’m not writing I have my nose in my Kindle. I’ve always been a reader and it was that love of reading that sparked my interest in writing. That or the creative side of my brain needed an outlet since my days are mostly numbers and calculations!

I currently write paranormal romance and have several short stories published with Harlequin’s Silhouette Nocturne Bites line. I also write action-adventure romance. I love combining adventure and my love of history with a happily ever after. That’s why the paranormal and suspense genres suit me so well.

Q: How do you manage your time to ensure that you will write consistently?

A: For me, not writing isn’t an option. I have this obsessive/compulsive urge to write. If I’m not writing I’m pondering plot problems, brainstorming my next scene or thinking about my next story idea. I am fairly disciplined and do treat writing as a job. I do the bulk of my writing on the weekend.

I have an office…and have to force myself to sit in there sometimes. I can write on the couch, out on the patio, at the kitchen table and at the coffee shop BUT I’m more productive at the desk in my office. What I did was track how many words I wrote at all my various locations and the numbers don’t lie! I’m working hard to get into my office more.

The most important thing for me in finding the time to write is my supportive husband. Sometimes he chases me to my desk! And he’s a fiend at putting visual reminders up about how many words I said I’d write today or how many chapters I said I’d revise. Then he checks in every few hours to see how I’m going. I think writers need to set some “rules” with their families and carve out some writing time where the family knows they can’t disturb them. Get your family involved in helping you succeed – make them a part of it too.

Q: Some writers believe in writer's block, others don't. What's your take on it? Can you give us a strategy that's worked for you?

A: I try not to think about writer’s block too much. I moved country and jobs a year ago and my writing certainly suffered until I was settled and back in a routine. I think writer’s block is probably a reflection of what’s going on in your life at the time. I don’t think there’s a magic pill to solve it except hard work and perseverance. Try not to dwell on it and get down. Make yourself write, give yourself permission to write crap and keep pushing until the words flow again.

Q: Can you tell us about a time that you got a great idea at an unusual time-- say when you were in line at the grocery store or when falling asleep-- and how you incorporated that into your work?

A: I get ideas all the time – usually in the middle of a movie (action movies are my favorites!) My husband’s accustomed to me saying “Press pause, I just got a story idea and have to write it down.” I keep a list of ideas and reread it every now and then when I’m thinking about my next story – it varies from a couple of words to a half page on a premise, character or setting.

I also keep a notebook beside my bed. Falling asleep or waking up are good times for ideas to strike. As I’m falling asleep, I often think about the next scene I’m going to write and it often heads in a different direction than I had planned.

My first Bites, Savage Dragon is about modern-day dragon knights who hunt down dragons turned wild. It was when I was falling asleep one night I had the idea to have different types of dragons with different powers (based on the ancient Chinese elements of earth, metal, fire, wood and water). I was thrilled with how my dragons turned out.

Q: Some writers use daily statements like "I write easily and well every day" as a way to stay motivated and keep creativity levels high. What do you do?

A: I have a list of affirmations that I look at when I need them. I have one I think of every day “I am a #1 NYT bestselling author” – why not aim high! To stay motivated, I love to read and watch movies. Reading a brilliant book or watching an exciting movie motivates me like nothing else and helps my creativity.

Q: Which do you like better: first drafts or revisions? Why?

A: Gosh, this is a hard question. When I’m doing a first draft, I like revisions better. When I’m revising, I like first drafts better. The grass is always greener! When the story is flowing, the first draft is wonderful. On the flip side, my engineer brain feels quite happy with a list of revisions. I start at the top and work my way through them. I do find it a little easier to make myself sit down and revise because I know what I need to get done.

From Kelly~

Thanks for being here Anna!

Please leave a comment if you want to be entered into the drawing for a free story. For more about Anna, check out her website and blog: and

Friday, November 13, 2009

Guest Blogger Margie Lawson: Author, Speaker, Therapist

Welcome guest author Margie Lawson!

Margie is a psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter. She has applied her psychological expertise to dissect and analyze over a thousand novels. A former university professor, Margie taught psychology and communication courses at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels. Her resume includes clinical trainer, professor, director of a counseling center, hypnotherapist, and trauma specialist. Her psychologically-anchored Deep Editing tools are used by all writers, from newbies to NYT Bestsellers. She teaches writers how to edit for psychological power, how to hook the reader viscerally, how to create a page-turner. In the last five years, Margie presented over fifty full day Master Classes in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. She also offers intense three-day Immersion Master Classes on Deep Editing from her home. She lives in a log home on a mountain-top west of Denver.

Let's listen to some words of writerly advice from Margie!


By Margie Lawson

Who controls your moods? Who controls your life? Your mood, and life, is comprised of what you do each day, each hour, each minute. How you choose to live your life is determined by how you choose to live each minute. What moods do you choose? Are you riding the horse, or LETTING the horse ride you?

At times, we all have stress. We all get hit with bleak times – and black times. Times of seemingly insurmountable loss and depression, trauma and fear. Many of my clients attribute their negative moods to external causes. They apply an external locus of control. They allow the horse of life to ride them. They focus on the negatives. They feed their depression. They complain. They are miserable. They make people around them miserable.

Some writers buy into that external locus of control piece. They relinquish control of their moods to things they cannot control.

~ Writers cannot control getting an agent.

~ Writers cannot control getting a contract.

~Writer cannot control getting on a bestseller list.

Writers can control some aspects of their moods. When a disappointment hits, they can allow themselves to feel sad for a short time and kick themselves out of that pity pit by making plans to move forward and putting their plans into action. A Change Coach (and Career Coach) can be an incredible resource for a writer who is emotionally whomped. Change Coaches are also top-of-the-heap butt-kickers.

If you’ve taken my Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors course (offered on-line in January), you know a Change Coach can help a writer jettison the junk in their emotional trunk. If a writer can’t jettison it all, a Change Coach can help the writer box it, duct-tape it, and anchor it in the trunk. No more distractions from annoying banging and clanging. The writer’s focus shifts from lamenting to implementing.

Do what you need to do to take charge of your moods. Don’t let the horse of life ride you.

I idolize people who grab hold the reins, smile, and ride their horse of life through the worst of times. When you meet or read about someone whose life is loaded with cosmic-careening challenges . . . aren’t you awed? How many of us could graduate from Radcliffe—have twelve books published—get elected to the National Women’s Hall of Fame—do all that and more---if we were blind, deaf, and mute like Helen Keller? Writers can learn from Helen Keller’s grace, perseverance, and courage. When we feel emotionally challenged, we can put energy into taking charge of our moods.

Check out these quotes from Helen Keller.

  • We can do anything we want to if we stick to it long enough.
  • The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision.
  • College isn’t the place to go for ideas.
  • When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened.
  • Life is either a great adventure or nothing.
  • What I am looking for is not out there, it is within me.
  • Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow.
  • One cannot consent to creep when one has an impulse to soar.


Did any of Helen Keller’s quotes speak to you? What can you do to take charge of your mood today? This week? Next week? I will respond to posts several times today and this evening. Anyone who posts a comment TODAY has a chance to WIN a LECTURE PACKET from one of my on-line classes. I will award a Lecture Packet to one of every 25 people who post today.

1. Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors

2. Empowering Characters' Emotions

3. Deep Editing: The EDITS System, Rhetorical Devices, and More

4. Digging Deep Into the EDITS System

5. Writing Body Language and Dialogue Cues Like a Psychologist

6. Powering Up Body Language in Real Life: Projecting a Professional Persona When Pitching and Presenting

I’ll post the LECTURE PACKET WINNERS tonight, at 8:00PM Mountain Time.

In January, I’m teaching Defeat Self-Defeating Behaviors, a power-packed on-line course that helps writers access their strengths—and empower creativity and productivity. Lectures from each of my on-line courses are offered as Lecture Packets through PayPal from my web site. Lecture Packets are $22; I donate $5 per Lecture Packet for ALS (my cousin).

Please visit and click on Lecture Packets to read the course descriptions. If you’re interested in a sample of deep editing, I include Deep Editing Analyses in each issue of my monthly newsletter. To receive my newsletter, click on SUBSCRIBE on the home page of my web site,

THANK YOU for stopping by Kelly L. Stone’s blog today! I’m looking forward to seeing your blog posts.

From Kelly:

Thanks for an insightful and inspiring article, Margie! Please visit Margie's web site to learn more about her newsletter, on-line courses, presentation schedule, and Immersion Master Classes, If you would like to contact Margie about presenting a full day Master Class to your group, e-mail her:

Friday, November 6, 2009

Thinking Write on End Cap

THINKING WRITE is on an end cap at a Barnes & Noble in Atlanta!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Welcome Bestselling Author CJ Lyons!!

I'm thrilled to have as my guest today CJ Lyons, bestselling author of three medical thrillers. As a pediatric ER doctor, CJ Lyons has lived the life she writes about. In addition to being an award-winning medical suspense author, CJ is a nationally known presenter and keynote speaker. Her first novel, LIFELINES (Berkley, March 2008), received praise as a "breathtakingly fast-paced medical thriller" from Publishers Weekly, was reviewed favorably by the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, named a Top Pick by Romantic Times Book Review Magazine, and became a National Bestseller. LIFELINES also won a Readers' Choice Award for Best First Novel. Her second novel, WARNING SIGNS, was published by Berkley in January, 2009, with the third, URGENT CARE, scheduled for November, 2009. To learn more about CJ and her work, go to

CJ is graciously giving away a free copy of WARNING SIGNS to one lucky person who leaves a comment!

Welcome CJ!

Block Busting
By CJ Lyons

Thanks, Kelly for having me here! Your books are such a wonderful resource for writers!
When I teach my writing workshops, the problem of "writer's block" often arises. Personally, I don't believe in some magical force that suddenly removes a writer's ability to create—I see writer's block as a signal that I need to pay heed to.

After all, if your brain is shutting down the creative flow, be aware that there's probably a very good reason for it! Pay attention to that nudge the muse is giving you, or suffer the consequences.
There are many ways to overcome a block—just read Kelly's book!—but here's one I developed that not only is easy to do, but can work for anyone!
It's based on a scientifically proven method used by elite athletes and performers suffering from performance anxiety. I call it CJ's 4-R method:

Step one RESIST:

First, don't disregard the spinning your wheels and banging your head against the wall phase, as painful as it may be. By struggling with a problem, working it through, engaging all your focus, energy and attention on it, you release the hormones (norepinephrine in particular) that get your brain ready to solve the problem.
You have to be fully engaged here—really, really, trying, not just marking time until your next coffee or email break. Stay actively engaged in your work. If the scene isn't flowing, try doing some research or a character sketch. Maybe write a snippet of dialogue. Anything to keep you connected to the story.

So, first step: Resist.

This is the Apply Butt to Chair part of the equation. And sometimes, that's all it takes. Once you get going and focus, the words just fly.

But if they don't, go to step two: RELAX.

Take a break, indulge in some physical activity, take care of yourself and those around you.
A little creative volunteer work (reading to kids or the elderly, etc) can do wonders to free up the imagination. By giving back, you often expose yourself to new people, new opportunities that might break you out of your normal routine. And release endorphins (more good brain hormones!)

Repetitive activity such as running, walking, sports, repeating a word or phrase (mantra), meditating on rhythmic breathing, even drumming, can also release endorphins.

Break out of your normal routine—leave your work area and go take a shower or soak in a warm tub. Meditate or take a nap in another room. Go to an art gallery, indulge your other senses. Again, the idea is to break out of your usual routine and let your mind wander in new directions.

Whatever you do, try to fully engage in it—don't try to think about your "writing problem" or anything else. If you're listening to music, give yourself over to it—wave your arms like you're conducting an orchestrate or sing along.

If you're taking a walk or exercising, concentrate solely on the exercise—watching TV while riding an exercise bike is great, but it's not the kind of relaxation we're talking about here. But running and listening intensely to music would be because the two activities reinforce the repetition that allows your brain to re-boot.
Pick one activity and pour all your focus and energy into it. Eliminate any other distractions.

Put a time limit on this phase—fifteen or thirty minutes is fine. You want to get back to your work while those endorphins are still flowing.

(Note: studies have shown that volunteer work creates endorphins that flow for a prolonged period of time, days even, so no need to put limits on that!)

When you see someone like Venus Williams absently bouncing her tennis ball before a crucial serve, she's using a quick Relax phase to get her into her "zone" and prepare her for the next step: Release.

Step 3: RELEASE.

Return to work. Usually, if those endorphins are flowing, you'll feel a sense of total release, as if you simply don't care any more. The problem will be solved or not, it's out of your hands. You're simply going to relax, give it one last try, and do the best you can.

This is that all-powerful zone that athletes talk about. That feeling of freedom, effortlessness, where you aren't sure if it's really you hitting that home run or the universe letting it happen. Everything seems in synch, like it was meant to be.

Begin to work, try to simply free-write, no conscious direction or planning. Tell yourself you're just going to write 100, 200 words, you don't care what they are, even if they're nonsense.

You can even type with your eyes closed (if you're accurate enough to read it afterwards!) or turn the monitor off. You don't care. You promised yourself you'd get some work done and so you'll keep that promise, but you really don't care what you write.

Surprisingly, all those good hormones will often take your brain in a direction that solves problems you didn't even know you had—or send you in a new direction that's better than the old one.

Many times you might find yourself writing something that doesn't seem to apply to your current work. A poem or piece of flash fiction or a blog post. Don't fight it, go with it—often you'll be surprised and the piece will turn out to be something you needed to write, even if it has nothing to do with the work you've been struggling with.
But don't get too distracted or sidelined. Put a time limit on this step, fifteen minutes or so. Again, you want to associate those good feelings, that sense of pride and accomplishment with writing (writing anything!).

Then go to step four: RECONNECT.

Reconnect with your work in progress. Immerse yourself in it, using those endorphins to help you focus. Often you'll discover where you went wrong—and it won't seem like a catastrophe but rather an opportunity because now you suddenly know exactly how to fix it.

Don't limit this step—write as long as you like, let the ideas pour out, don't try to edit or constrain them as long as they have to do with your work in progress. Stay focused. Fully engage with the world of your story.
Many times you'll look up, feeling exhausted, and notice you've been writing almost effortlessly for hours. You're in the zone.

Remember this good feeling! Use it the next time you hit a stumbling block to remind yourself that you have overcome obstacles and that you can do it again!

Sometimes just that memory will be enough to propel you forward, a shortcut bypassing the block entirely.

To recap, CJ's 4-R block-busting method involves:

Resist—feel free to struggle and work through the block
Relax—get away from work for a short time, build up some endorphins
Release—return to work, not worrying about the block, just free write
Reconnect—resume your project, letting the endorphin rush carry you past the block!
Repeat as necessary.

Do you have a Block Buster that works for you? Please share! One commenter will win a copy of my second novel, WARNING SIGNS.

Thanks for reading,

Note from Kelly: I recently tried CJ's 4-step method for block busting and it works! Thanks for sharing such great insights into writing, CJ.

Please leave a comment and check back often to see CJ's responses and to find out who wins the book! I'll post the winner tomorrow morning.