Inspiration through Research

Guest Blogger: David Sakmyster

“You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

My favorite part about the writing process (next to typing ‘The End’ at the appropriate spot, and sending said object of my blood, sweat and tears on to the agent, editor or publisher in question), takes place long before I ever set fingers to the keyboard.

I love doing research.  I suppose twenty years ago – before Google, Wikipedia, Flickr, free online books and Instant Chat with people half a world away – it would have been nerve-wracking and tedious, and I give immense credit to all those authors who slogged it out the hard way.  But now everything is there for you, quite literally at your fingertips.

But while all those resources are great once you know exactly what you want to write about, what I really love is the process of discovery, and how more often than should be statistically probable – as if something akin to a research fairy went back in time to leave these little gold nuggets for me to find – I discover exactly the thing I need (but never expected) to elevate the story or take it in a cool new direction.

When I started researching the Pharos Lighthouse for legends that it guarded a great treasure, what I didn’t expect to find but was thrilled to discover, was an account by thieves who claimed they sprang some horrific booby trap that slaughtered most of their party.  And that took my novel into a completely new direction.  Now I could propose the creation of a diabolical puzzle-trap system as the central impediment to thwart my heroes from the prize.

Another recent experience of research-inspiration came while studying up on Genghis Khan – and the mystery of where his tomb might be.  Contemporary belief is that he’s somewhere on the Sacred Mountain, near where he grew up.  This is because the one written document from the time – The Secret History of the Mongol People, hints as much.  But while researching that document, I came across a theory that the author(s) deliberately used disinformation to further protect the resting place of their great leader.  With that came my ‘Eureka’ moment, and diverted my characters to a far more interesting destination.  (And while this is fiction, I of course secretly wonder if I haven’t in fact, cracked the mystery. Only time will tell).

And finally, another benefit of research is in its capacity as a Writer’s-Block-Buster.  When I was feeling less than excited about the plotting of the third book in this series, I took a break and delved more deeply into the research.  I knew I wanted a subplot dealing with the Nazi’s interest in the occult, but when I read a few books about their connection to Tibetan mystics and the search for an entrance to the ‘Hollow Earth’, it jump-started my novel’s trajectory and led to a more compelling set of adversaries.

Writing is full of inspiration, and it can come from anywhere.  But for me, sitting around outlining and dreaming can only take me so far.  The rest comes from out there.

And speaking of ‘out there’, next week I’m visiting Cornell University’s Physics department, where I have a date with a Particle Accelerator, researching a potential means of dispatching an elemental demon from another dimension.  Maybe along the tour, I’ll discover something entirely different, but even more inspirational.

Can’t wait.

How do you find inspiration?

David Sakmyster is an award-winning screenwriter and author of THE PHAROS OBJECTIVE (Variance Publishing, 2010), and its sequel, THE MONGOL OBJECTIVE (forthcoming, 2011).  Visit David’s website here.

My Ode to the True Crime Fan

Guest Blogger:   M. William Phelps

Janice was kind enough to ask me to blog here (something I don’t do much anymore), and I gratefully appreciate her thinking of me in this regard.

This is an important year for me. A moment I have worked toward for nearly a decade. LOVE HER TO DEATH marks my seventeenth book in print. My publisher is “re-launching” my career under a new brand: “nonfiction thriller author.” I am currently wrapped up in writing and researching cases for my own television show about serial killers on Investigation Discovery. We start shooting in April. It should air early next year. I’d announce a title, but it keeps changing. I pitched it as “Murder Squad.” At present it is called “Hunting Justice.” “The Serial Hunter” is being tossed around.

Hooray for Hollywood.

In all seriousness, today I want to talk about my fans and why I write these books.

Most importantly, when I begin to investigate a case I think might become a book, I first consider whether it has all the elements my fans expect from me. I have, over the years, created a body of work with themes, especially where the killers themselves are concerned. I have chosen—with the exception of my serial killer work (but then, come to think of it, three of those five books are about women, too)—to focus on the female killer. In my latest release, LOVE HER TO DEATH, I have stepped outside those parameters, but only because the case itself is so tantalizing and the key characters—a wealthy undertaker, his gorgeous wife, a Mennonite mistress—and the setting—Amish country, Lancaster, Pennsylvania—are so different and exciting, the affair that is the focus of the book so steamy and salacious, the murder so heartless and unforgiving, I could not pass up the opportunity to explore these lives in the deeper context of a book.

It’s a funny thing, actually: knowing that you have a large, firm fan base out there and the cases you choose, and the way you write the books, will affect each one of them deeply and passionately. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude (and respect) for every reader. These fans of mine, they expect a certain type of book from me—true-crime that is, all at once, mysterious, sympathetic, earnest, and perceptive. It’s my job to deliver that every time out. I read some of the criticism from the, let’s call them, “non-true-crime reading public,” and I don’t pay much mind to it, simply because I am writing for a specific genre and a specific demographic. My television show, I should note, is an extension of this—and will allow readers to see a more personal side of me as I investigate unsolved serial killer cases and put all I have learned over the years into play and figure out, along the way, why it is I have this inherent need to focus my life on the dead and certain scumbags who commit murder.

I’ve read a lot lately about bookstores closing (which makes me cringe), e-readers, tablets, and e-books. This spring, in fact, I am going to publish an “exclusive” e-book—a thriller I have spent years writing. (Yes, it involves a serial killer and cop who is my alter ego, yet so much more.) I have thought about the business and how it is changing. To me, it makes no difference how fans get the books (there will always be print books, you can bet on that!), as long I focus on the content I put into each book and write with passion every day, I feel I am doing my job. Whatever happens outside of that is beyond my control. I don’t write these books for my editor; not the rare, knuckleheaded, agenda-driven reviewer on Amazon, Publisher Weekly or Booklist; not the publishing sales staff that re-title our books and make the decisions about what works and what doesn’t; and certainly not the reader who buys from bestseller lists. I write the books for my loyal true-crime fans (you know who you are!). Each one of you deserves a great read every time. And my intention (always) is to deliver on that promise. So I tip my hat to each of you: Thank you! I appreciate you giving me a chance to entertain and enlighten you over the years. I am humbled and grateful by the notion that you return to me book after book.

Crime expert, lecturer, television personality and investigative journalist M. William Phelps is the national bestselling, award-winning author of seventeen nonfiction books (with two more set for publication in 2011). Winner of 2008 New England Book Festival Award for I’LL BE WATCHING YOU, Phelps has appeared on CBS’s “Early Show,” The Discovery Channel, ABC’s “Good Morning America,” The Learning Channel, Biography Channel, History Channel, Investigation Discovery, USA Radio Network, Catholic Radio, ABC News Radio and Radio America, who calls him “the nation’s leading authority on the mind of the female murderer.” He lives in a small Connecticut farming community and can be reached at his author Website. Join Phelps on Facebook, or his fan site page. Read more about Phelps and his books at Open Road Media. Phelps will be teaching in August at the Cape Cod Writers Center conference.

2010 Bram Stoker Finalists

The finalists for the 2010 Bram Stoker Awards were announced this morning by the Horror Writers Association, and I can not begin to express how excited I am that my book WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE (co-written with Jonathan Maberry) made the list for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction. A huge congratulations to all the nominees!

Superior Achievement in a NOVEL

HORNS by Joe Hill (William Morrow)

ROT AND RUIN by Jonathan Maberry (Simon & Schuster)

DEAD LOVE by Linda Watanabe McFerrin (Stone Bridge Press)

APOCALYPSE OF THE DEAD by Joe McKinney (Pinnacle)

DWELLER by Jeff Strand (Leisure/Dark Regions Press)

A DARK MATTER by Peter Straub (DoubleDay)

Superior Achievement in a FIRST NOVEL

BLACK AND ORANGE by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (Bad Moon Books)

A BOOK OF TONGUES by Gemma Files (Chizine Publications)

CASTLE OF LOS ANGELES by Lisa Morton (Gray Friar Press)

SPELLBENT by Lucy Snyder (Del Rey)

Superior Achievement in LONG FICTION

THE PAINTED DARKNESS by Brian James Freeman (Cemetery Dance)

DISSOLUTION by Lisa Mannetti (Deathwatch)

MONSTERS AMONG US by Kirstyn McDermott (Macabre: A Journey through Australia’s Darkest Fears)

THE SAMHANACH by Lisa Morton (Bad Moon Books)

INVISIBLE FENCES by Norman Prentiss (Cemetery Dance)

Superior Achievement in SHORT FICTION

RETURN TO MARIABRONN by Gary Braunbeck (Haunted Legends)

THE FOLDING MAN by Joe R. Lansdale (Haunted Legends)

1925: A FALL RIVER HALLOWEEN by Lisa Mannetti (Shroud Magazine #10)

IN THE MIDDLE OF POPLAR STREET by Nate Southard (Dead Set: A Zombie Anthology)

FINAL DRAFT by Mark W. Worthen (Horror Library IV)

Superior Achievement in an ANTHOLOGY

DARK FAITH edited by Maurice Broaddus and Jerry Gordon (Apex Publications)

HORROR LIBRARY IV edited by R.J. Cavender and, Boyd E. Harris (Cutting Block Press)

MACABRE: A JOURNEY THROUGH AUSTRALIA’S DARKEST FEARS edited by Angela Challis and Marty Young (Brimstone Press)

HAUNTED LEGENDS edited by Ellen Datlow and Nick Mamatas (Tor)

THE NEW DEAD edited by Christopher Golden (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Superior Achievement in a COLLECTION

OCCULTATION by Laird Barron (Night Shade Books)

BLOOD AND GRISTLE by Michael Louis Calvillo (Bad Moon Books)

FULL DARK, NO STARS by Stephen King (Simon and Schuster)

THE ONES THAT GOT AWAY by Stephen Graham Jones (Prime Books)

A HOST OF SHADOWS by Harry Shannon (Dark Regions Press)

Superior Achievement in NONFICTION

TO EACH THEIR DARKNESS by Gary A. Braunbeck (Apex Publications)

THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE by Thomas Ligotti (Hippocampus Press)

WANTED UNDEAD OR ALIVE by Jonathan Maberry and Janice Gable Bashman (Citadel)

LISTEN TO THE ECHOES: THE RAY BRADBURY INTERVIEWS by Sam Weller (Melville House Publications)

Superior Achievement in a POETRY collection

DARK MATTERS by Bruce Boston (Bad Moon Books)

WILD HUNT OF THE STARS by Ann K. Schwader (Sam’s Dot)

DIARY OF A GENTLEMAN DIABOLIST by Robin Spriggs (Anomalous Books)

VICIOUS ROMANTIC by Wrath James White (Bandersnatch Books)

A Writer Puts It All on the Line

Guest Blogger: Michael Palmer

First of all, I want to thank Janice for inviting me to guest blog on her website. I actually love writing when there are few or no restrictions, and this is one of those situations. So I’m going to do what I do best—ramble.

As of the first week of the new year, I am working on chapter 10 out of maybe 60 of my 17th thriller. The trend in suspense novels, it seems, and certainly in my suspense novels, are toward shorter chapters. The “What If” question on which #17 is based (see the writers’ tips on my website for my feelings about what if questions) is: What if a kindly primary care doc suddenly shoots and kills 7 people in his office, and then kills himself?

The name of the book, suggested by my editor, is THE WHITE HOUSE. I’m not ready yet to embrace that title, but Jennifer Enderlin, my editor at St. Martin’s Press is super sharp about such things, so for now I’m going to ride with it. The emphasis in the title, however, is on the word HOUSE, as opposed to the president’s digs where the emphasis is on WHITE. The cover of the book would have to make that clear. The concept at work here is embodied in the word: prosody, defined as the study of rhythm, intonation, stress, and related attributes in speech. There, don’t say I never taucha nothin’.

The answer to the What If question is called (by many, including me) THE MCGUFFIN. For a discussion of that concept, Google the word or check, you guessed it, my web site. I won’t tell you much about THE WHITE HOUSE McGuffin except that the book deals with genetically recombinant food. So far it’s all pretty scary. If things work out, it will feature Dr. Lou Welcome, my first on-going character.

My 16th book, A HEARTBEAT AWAY, was published on 2/15/11. That means it is currently being reviewed by magazines, bloggers, newspapers, Amazonians, and Barnes and Nobility. My thin skin doesn’t deal well with negative reviews, and I get peeved with those that come with no byline. Luke, the youngest of my three sons taught me what he called the Dickwad Equation for On-Line Reviews:

Normal Person + Anonymity + Audience = Dickwad

I can’t speak for other writers, but in the case of me, negative reviews hurt far more than positive ones exhilarate. One of my best seller writer friends got so sick of getting negative reviews from the same magazine over and over again that he asked his publishers to stop sending them his books. I say BRAVO to that. Many have said that there is no such thing as negative publicity. I politely disagree. If these publications are there to support the book industry, how can panning a writer’s work help achieve that goal? In addition, I am reminded of the old saying that it is just as difficult to write a bad book as a good one. I certainly know that I try just as hard with every book. Some like a certain book of mine best, while others feel that one’s on the bottom of the totem pole, right below the beaver.

So, then. I feel as if I have rambled enough. One last thing: My middle son Daniel’s first novel (a cyber thriller called DELIRIOUS) hit the stores in late January. Check it out. You can even read the reviews.


Massachusetts native Michael Palmer is the author of 15 novels of medical suspense, all international best sellers. His books have millions of copies in print worldwide, and have been translated into thirty-eight languages. Palmer was educated at Wesleyan University and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. His most recent novel is THE LAST SURGEON, dealing in part with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. His novel EXTREME MEASURES was made into the hit film of the same name starring Hugh Grant, Gene Hackman, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Palmer also works as an associate director of the Massachusetts Medical Society’s Physician Health Services, helping doctors with physical and mental illness, as well as drug dependence including alcoholism. He has three sons, two cats, and aquarium full of salt water fish.

Writing Fear

Guest Blogger: Weston Ochse

I’ve been a horror author for about 12 years now. I never started out to be a horror author, but once I started being published, that’s what people started to call me. Which was cool. As long as there’s the word author at the end the label, I’m pretty much okay with whatever someone wants to call me. I suppose one of the reasons I was tagged as a horror author was because I was able to write about fear. I was good at it. I could scare people and it wasn’t that hard. I’d take the mundane, create normal characters, make readers like them, then do something to them.

And it worked. I developed a following. But the weird thing is that after awhile I became immune to it. You see, when I first started writing, once I would scare myself, I realized that I’d be able to scare other people. But the more I wrote, the less I scared myself. I got to the point when I’d write something thinking it would be scary, but not really knowing if it would be scary. I wrote out of pure confidence and trust in my art. Frankly, I wrote out with my fingers crossed. And eventually, my confidence in my ability to write fear began to ebb.

Then with my fifth novel, my latest novel, I got my biggest contract. It was a mass market paperback to be released on three continents. Empire of Salt is a zombie novel and interestingly enough, with more than a hundred short stories published, I’d only written about zombies once before a long long long time ago. Zombies were never my forte. In fact, I might not have ever written a zombie novel had the publisher not asked me to. Do you know why? I didn’t particularly find zombies scary. But I’d come to learn that even if they weren’t scary to me, it didn’t mean that they weren’t scary to the world at large.

So I wrote the novel. There’s a way to write tension, and I wrote it. There’s a way to put characters in conflict and I did it. There’s a way to devise the monstrosity of the zombie threat and I devised it. It didn’t scare me to write it. When it was all said and done, I didn’t think it was scary.  I thought it was a good novel, for sure, but I wrote it for a large audience and felt that it was pretty tame.

But you know what? Empire of Salt scared the hell out of people. There are readers out there who can’t get past chapter four. There are some who can’t get past chapter one. How the heck did that happen?

Then I figured it out. I’d been too close to it. Those who read horror on a regular basis might be too close to it too. They understand the mechanisms we use. They depend on them, but never really become scared. Those who don’t read horror on a regular basis, say 80-85% of the readers out there do not have the same personal relationship with horror as me and my followers do. Regular readers, those who might read a Stephen King novel or a Dean Koontz novel once a year get involved in a story and pop-zoom-pow they get the Stuttgart scared out of them.  And let me tell you, by all reports, very few readers of Empire of Salt had any Stuttgart left in them when they read the last few lines. It was awesome.

You see, I’d been writing fear all the time, even when I thought I wasn’t writing fear. It was just that my  fans  and I had become a little immune to it. Like roller coasters. We love the ride. We scream like mad. But we weren’t actually scared. We just enjoyed the thrill of it. And now, to have a whole new slew of readers on three continents who weren’t used to riding the horror rollercoaster get actually scared… well, that reinvigorated me and told me that everything I was doing was right.

Writing fear is just like writing everything else I suppose. You can get too close to it and no longer be scared. But the learning point is that even if you aren’t scared, it doesn’t mean that what you’ve written isn’t scary. It just means that you have to keep doing it the way you know how to do it and count on it being scary. You have to have faith. You have to believe even when you have no evidence of it. Like ghosts or demons or zombies. They’re out there even if you don’t have any proof of it.

So what kind of writing scares you? What gets your fear going? Or are you like me, not a whole lot scares you?

Weston Ochse is multiple award-winning author and screenwriter. He lives in Southern Arizona, where he spends his days racing tarantula wasps, baking in the noon day sun, and walking along the border. Visit him online here.

A Writer’s Tools and a Writer’s Process

Guest Blogger: Carla Neggers

Thanks for having me here, Janice!

Early in my career, I bought my first computer and started typing. Ah. I was in love. It was far more complicated and unreliable than computers are today, and, sure enough, one day I turned it on and got gobbledygook. I called my local computer guy, who’d sold it to me, and he said, “What did you do?”

What did I do?

I wanted to know what it did. Basically he said he didn’t know and that everything I’d typed was indeed gone forever.

“These things happen,” he said.

I turned off the computer, put it back in its box and got out pads of paper and my old IBM Selectric typewriter. I loved my Selectric. I remember what an advance it was to have lift-off correction tape. I was always too impatient for White-Out.

I never did go back to my gobbledygook computer but I bought a new one and we made an uneasy peace. Backing up files was easier and more reliable, and freezing and gobbledygook were less common. Solitaire and then AOL were the big distractions. Now? Distractions abound. We all know what they are. Hey, I just spent ten minutes printing out seven different recipes for chicken soup.

The new “full screen” feature in Microsoft Word helps tame the temptation to look at photos of Ireland or see if I have a new email from HGTV, but there’s nothing quite like turning everything off and sitting on my project table with my pads, pens and pencils. I gave up my Selectric but not my paper. It’s not so much about avoiding distractions as it is about the writing itself. Last September I spent three weeks in an Irish cottage with Rhodia pads (lined and graph), twenty different pens and pencils and no computer as I worked on SAINT’S GATE, my upcoming novel.

A few years ago, I ran into a writer who was writing furiously with a black Bic pen on college-ruled notebook paper. He said that writing longhand is far more efficient for him—that the permanent “soft sentence” of composing on the computer lends itself to a lot more spew and he does more internal editing with pen and paper.

Another writer I know writes certain kinds of scenes longhand and certain kinds of scenes on the computer. Several writers I know switch to paper when they’re stuck and then go back to the computer. Of course, lots of writers don’t go near paper until the editing process, and they do just fine.

I have no set rules, and, who knows, the 11-inch MacBook Air I just bought might convert me to an all-computer writer, but I doubt it. If you’ve looked longingly at that Levenger’s fountain pen or wondered what writing on Rhodia paper might be like, why not take the plunge and see what happens?

Take care, and thanks again for having me here,


Carla Neggers is the New York Times bestselling writer of more than 60 novels. COLD DAWN, the third book in her popular Black Falls series, was released in November, and her 1999 stand-alone novel, KISS THE MOON, has just been reissued. Watch for the paperback of THE WHISPER in July and SAINT’S GATE in September. Known for her blend of action, suspense, romance and adventure, Carla enjoys writing, traveling, hiking and gardening. She lives with her family on a hilltop in Vermont. For more information, visit Carla here.

What’s your writing process like? Do you work on the computer? Use paper and pencil? Are you distracted by the internet and other outside factors? Do you have writing tools that you favor?

The Good Life

Guest Blogger: Kelli Stanley

So. The Writing Life. Or, as I insist on calling it, the good life. And not the “good life” that Jerome Bixby wrote about in his infamously horrific short story (later filmed as a Twilight Zone episode  with Bill Mumy—remember it? But I digress …). Maybe more like the good life of the Tony Bennett standard …

Oh, the good life, full of fun, seems to be the ideal … oh, the good life … lets you hide all the sadness you feel …

Sadness? Even after publishing?

Well, yeah. It is life, after all. And writing and publishing is a journey that, if we’re lucky, is without end, leading to unexpected highways and byways. You celebrate the triumphs, face down the fears, and when you’re sitting in front of your computer, worrying about sales and new contracts and whether or not the 85,000 words you just finished actually make sense, and how you’re going to reach new readers, and whether you should take out a Facebook ad or a print ad or how to make a video go viral without paying someone from Jersey Shore to be in it and wondering whether you’re going to get trashed in an online review the next time you open up a Google Alert, you can get a little sad. That’s not why you got in the business … but once you’re in, you deal with it.

Lots of stuff to be sad—and mad—and frustrated about. It’s life, and it is a good life, and it is the writing life. It’s the price you pay for being published—what you work toward, what you fight for. The chance to win an audience, the chance to share your work. The chance, even, to make a difference.

And when that happens, it’s worth the sadness and the madness and the frustration.

For me, it happens when someone tells me they hate history but love my novels. When I get an email from someone telling me they can’t quit thinking about CITY OF DRAGONS. It happened recently when I met a librarian from an inner city middle school for gifted but poor kids, and she told me I was her students’ favorite writer.

High moments, those. We cherish them and store the gold dust in a memory jar.

It’s the good life, to be free and explore the unknown …

And we do, don’t we? We sail backwards in time, fly ahead into the future. We travel the world, know the intimate secrets and lives and histories of our characters, paint words in ways we hope are unique and exciting, try to thrill and chill our readers, carry them away with us on a magic carpet for 300 pages. We explore the unknown and we do so alone at first, hesitating, and eventually the world is shaped. Then we offer it up … and hope it’s accepted.

That’s an amazing gift. A privilege … and a responsibility.

And it’s one reason why the writing life—despite all the headaches and heartaches that potentially wait around the corner in a quixotic business, despite the fear and anxiety and stress—it’s one reason why the writing life is a good life, and one I’m proud to embrace as my own. One of these days, my dream is to be able to do so fully, a full-time commitment.

So here I am, with THE CURSE-MAKER released, the follow up to my debut novel and first series. In September, CITY OF SECRETS will be out, the sequel to CITY OF DRAGONS.

And I’ll continue to write as well—and as fast—as I can, because I’ll keep chasing … the good life.

Kelli Stanley is an award-winning author of crime fiction. She writes two critically-acclaimed crime fiction series, one set in 1940 San Francisco (featuring hardboiled female PI, Miranda Corbie), the other in first century Roman Britain (the “Roman noir” Arcturus series).

Her newest book THE CURSE-MAKER just released on February 1st. Booklist starred: “…an engrossing mystery … Stanley serves up fascinating and never heavy-handed information on Roman life.” Her novels include CITY OF DRAGONS, NOX DORMIENDA, and CITY OF SECRETS (September, 2011). “Children’s Day”, a prequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, was published in the International Thriller Writers anthology FIRST THRILLS: HIGH OCTANE STORIES FROM THE HOTTEST THRILLER AUTHORS.  You can learn more about Kelli and the worlds she creates here, friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Every Writer’s Best Friend

Guest Blogger: Brad Parks

A dear friend of mine walked out on me yesterday, just left without word or warning.

It happened around 8 o’clock in the morning, shortly after I sat down to my keyboard to write. I didn’t even hear him go. He just scooted out, leaving me alone and, quite frankly, screwed. Because I can’t seem to write unless he’s around.

For the first little while, I kept listening for the squeak of the front door that would tell me he’d returned. Then I went looking for him in some of my favorite writing haunts, hoping I might find him along the way. But I never did.

The friend in question? My confidence.

Yeah. Him. I’ve learned through the years he’s indispensible to my work. Every day I sit down to write, I have to believe my story is worth hearing, that I’m the best person to tell it, and that I’m telling it in the best way possible.

It’s an act of hubris, but as writers it’s one we perform repeatedly. And I can’t do it unless my confidence is somewhere nearby.

Mind you, it’s not always easy to keep him around. Especially when I, say, make the mistake of comparing myself to other writers. (Did you know I’m not even the most famous Brad to guest blog for Janice this month? That effin’ Brad Meltzer was here two weeks ago. Luckily, this is the last Tuesday of the month, because if she got Brad Thor, I’d be shoved back to third place).

As for yesterday? I’m not sure what, exactly, made him flee. Probably it’s because I’m in that most nerve-wracking stage of the publishing process. My next book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, drops Feb. 1, a week from today, which means I have spent the last few months promoting the spine off the thing: Blogging and being blurbed; making postcards for librarians, posters for bookstores, bookmarks for everyone; committing to a thirty-something stop tour that will single-handedly wear the remaining life out of my tires and ensure my children will look at me as a stranger when I return.

Yet, for all that, I harbor the doubt—that is apparently shared by authors great and small—that it’s still not enough, that this will be the book no one will want to buy, that the cherished dream of continued authorship will come crashing around me.

So, yeah, my confidence decided to take a vacation, dooming me to a day of wallowing and moaning to my wife about how worthless I am.

I know self-loathing like that can be a valuable part of the writing process—we all have moments when we are quite certain we have just shamed the language—but I’ll argue that, whether you realize it or not, developing your confidence as a writer is every bit as important as working on your plotting, characterization or dialogue.

In some ways, it’s far easier to do: It only takes a second to make that great-yet-small leap of faith to believe in yourself.

It really is that simple. And that necessary. Look, even if you harbor the suspicion you suck; even if you’ve been rejected by every agent, literary magazine and publishing company in creation; even if you are currently barricaded in your office by the moldering pages of your multiple unpublished manuscripts, I will argue the only time you’re truly done as a writer is when you stop believing in yourself.

I was done yesterday when my friend left me. Thankfully—for my wife and everyone else around me—he came back today.

Damn, did I miss him.

Brad Parks’s debut, FACES OF THE GONE, became the first book ever to win the Nero Award and Shamus Award, two of crime fiction’s most prestigious prizes. His next book, EYES OF THE INNOCENT, releases Feb. 1 from St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. Library Journal gave it a starred review, calling it “as good if not better (than) his acclaimed debut.” For more Brad, sign up for his newsletter, follow him on Twitter or became a fan of Brad Parks Books on Facebook.

Best Advice I Ever Got

Guest Blogger: Brad Meltzer

After my first novel was published, I struggled with the next one. I wasn’t worried what people thought (I was working on it long before the first one ever came out). And I wasn’t worried about the rejection (my first novel—still unpublished to this day—got me 24 rejection letters. To be clear, there were only 20 publishers; I got 24 rejection letters). But man, that next novel was kicking my ass.

It was my Mom who put the creative bug in me. Throughout her life, my mother worked for herself, decorating houses and being creative. And there’s a certain confidence—and an underlying insecurity—that goes along with being creative. Your job lives and dies on your taste…and on people believing in it. In every decision, you leap from that trapeze…you give your opinion…and you try to never think twice about if someone will catch you.

But as that novel was kicking my ass, a fellow writer gave me the best advice I’ve ever gotten. Sensing my fear and seeing my anxiousness, he said to me, “If it were easy, everyone would do it.”

So simple, right?

And so damn true.

Everyone wants to think that writing books is about sitting on the beach and drinking margaritas. But it’s not. It’s about one thing: writing. And writing. And writing.

As for the person who gave me the advice, I’ll spare him the public embarrassment. But he knows who he is. He’s the one who caught me as I was falling from that trapeze.

I owe him forever.

But the real truth? I’m on my eighth novel now. And it’s still—thankfully—as hard as ever.

Brad Meltzer is the #1 bestselling author of THE BOOK OF FATE and six other the bestsellers. He is the host of the History Channel’s new show, BRAD MELTZER’S DECODED. His newest thriller, THE INNER CIRCLE, will be released today, January 11, 2011. Read the first chapter here.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever got?