A Halloween visit with Mr. Poe

We think the modern day style of writing is just that – modern. Grabbing a reader right away and moving quickly to the action.
It is not new at all.
Over 100 years ago, Edgar Allen Poe created some of the basic rules for powerful short story writing. 
“First the artist must decide, of all the innumerable effects or impressions, what one shall I select?”
“If the very initial sentence does not bring out this affect, then he has failed  in his first step.”
Many of Poe’s opening sentences immediately pull in the setting and the character.
From “The Cask of Amontillado”:

“THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best could ; but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge.”
“The Tell Tale Heart”:

“TRUE! – nervous – very, very nervous I am and had been and am; but why will you say I am mad?”

From “The Pit and The Pendulum”:

“I WAS sick — sick unto death with that long agony; and when they at length unbound me, and I was permitted to sit, I felt that my senses were leaving me.”

From “The Black Cat”:

“FOR the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief.”
And of course, “The Raven”:
“Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,

Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore–

While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,

As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.”
Guess what? He also created the detective story. Sherlock Holmes and Poirot – and TV’s “House”? All ripoffs of Poe. Who knew?
And he, too, struggled for a looooong time before finding his success. Enough times that any of us would have quit. 
Imagine if he had. 

I called it: 3000

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, because we still have 68 followers to go, but when we launch the contest Wednesday – if that’s what we’re doing – I’ll be swamped and I won’t have time to thank you properly.


Look at what I posted in March, just 8 short months ago:


I also said:

It wasn’t that long ago – about a year – when we were closing it on 1000. Now, just 13 months later, we’ve passed 2000.

It took more than three years to get that first thousand (we call that the dark times), and a little more than one year to get the next thousand. I’m sure it will take even less time to get the next next thousand (3000).

Well, I called it.


  • Three years to get to 1000 followers

  • 13 months to get to 2000 followers

  • about 8 months to get to 3000 followers


almost 3k

Now, rather than bask in the glow of my amazingness while you all say congratulations…


Well, okay, let’s do that


But also, let’s explore WHY this happened/is happening.


1First, like most of you, there was a time when NOBODY was following my blog. A LONG TIME. And I mean NOBODY. I didn’t care (yes, I did) I was writing for me (and wishing others were reading) and I was content (because I had to pretend to be) that I was improving my skills with each post.

Well, what changed? I took some advice from Allison because why not? Nobody was reading my blog anyway (not even her, I don’t think) and she said to make some changes. My image was a book cover, Savvy Stories, and the blog was called that.

People wanna connect with people, not a book cover, she said. (Plus, I wrote other stuff after that book, so it wasn’t super relevant anymore).


So I took a fave pic of me and my daughter, cropped it down to just me. Made it black and white (it’s color now) and slapped it up there.

BOOM! Hello, that’s my smiling mug staring at ya, world. No more hiding behind a book cover.

And why would I? I’m kinda photogenic.


2I started following other blogs, especially popular ones, commenting on them to make friends with the owners, and asking questions about how to grow my blog.


3I shared what I learned about blogging and writing with you, but I was

  1. always trying new things
  2. kept doing what worked
  3. moved on from stuff that didn’t

Remember Writers Off Task With Friends? How about our top ten lists? Gone! What about Ask Dan Anything, or Brag Of The Week? Still doing it! Some stuff works, some stuff  doesn’t. But that was never ALL that was going on here. My writing contests put me into another layer of the stratosphere – soon we’ll hit 50,000 views for this year – but I was always here doing my thing, too.

4. I was more “ME,” which a lot of you struggle with


5. I was more engaging with YOU, which a lot of you also struggle with.


6. I told you I’d help you, and I did my best to do that,


7. I just kept doing it.


Those don’t sound like secrets. They aren’t. The secret is, most of you won’t do it. You’ll get tired and discouraged and you’ll scale back or stop. Don’t. I felt that way, too. I kept going. I found people who wanted to help me, and I took their advice. And some of that advice came right around the time I was gonna hang it up. So don’t hang it up. Reach out instead.


Some of you don’t have the talent to do what I do.


9. Yes you do.

Have fun and the world will find your smiling face. It found mine.



  • You’re a better writer than you think, and

  • if I could give you one thing, it would be ENOUGH confidence. So fake it until you do.


See, I shake in my boots sometimes, too. Yes, yes I do. But I’m also a showman because it’s fun to me, and some of you come to watch the show. So I give you one.


What else?


10. If you can’t be ME, be the best YOU you can be. The helpful you. The smart you. The engaging you. All of you can do that. I had to learn it, but so can you. Reply to every comment. Share the stories of people you meet – how many new authors have I given a break to here? Plenty. You can do that.


11. But also look for people who want to feature you. Look for them. When a friend gets a written interview, ask that place to interview you. I did a lot of written interviews; some got a lot of notice, some got  none. I still did them and I’d do them again, ALL of them, because even 1 person counts. The person doing that blog with no followers wants to interview me? I’m in. Because maybe 3 years later they have a 3000 person following, and I’ll make a friend in the process. That’s better than going it alone.


12. We left some people behind, too. And I miss them. But they are gone and not likely to come back. It happens.

13. Some of that was my fault. Some wasn’t.

Some are going to fade away in the next few months or years. I’ll miss them, too. That’s life.

For the most part I like to think you come here to have a good time, and even when I’m a little dull I’m still pretty fun. Probably. (If you disagree, try drinking before you read me.)


You can do it. I’ll help when I can.

If I can do it, you can, and I almost gave up – so you can’t.




Top 5 Lessons From Bad Writer

I’m just gonna say it: I LOVE BAD WRITER! (and you should, too)

Allison Maruska

I have an alter-ego on Twitter. Her name is Bad Writer.

BW page

She doesn’t have a million followers or viral tweets or anything like that. She exists merely to be the public face of my sarcastic side. And since I talk to writers a lot on Twitter, she focuses on writing.

Since her creation in July, she has tweeted 643 times, according to that screenshot. That’s a lot of bad advice being doled out. Some of those are quoted Retweets from Nat Russo’s #HorribleWritingTips, Sam Sykes’ joke tweets, Tweeps who reply, and other parody accounts, but most are her own content based on things that I read she reads. Sometimes, the content overlaps a little. I thought we could use those instances for learning. And since Bad Writer says the opposite of what a writer should do, the lessons will be actual constructive things with her non-examples.

Lesson 1: Stop abusing…

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I want to tell you about two things that happened recently.

your humble host

I want to tell you about two things that happened recently.



First, I was on Facebook and I saw one of my author friends talking about how well one of her friend’s books was doing. It was not 100% humor related but my friend has a terrific sense of humor and she was basically saying this other book is very funny book even though it’s a different genre than humor.


So I messaged my friend and I said hey that might be good for this humor anthology I’m doing. Would you reach out to your friend?


She replied that the friend was very busy but she would ask.


A few hours later we got the reply that was kind of indicated – the friend was too busy but very flattered to be asked.


No problem.


Later that same day a different author friend shared a link to a blog post that was a very funny piece.


After reading it, I contacted the blogger. Coincidentally, he had just finished a project and was looking around for his next thing to do


I basically explained that I thought his piece was great and I would like to use it in the humor anthology and if he had some other stuff I would be interested in looking at them, too.


He thought it was intriguing and we are now corresponding, but it looks good!


My point is this:

reaching out a little bit is probably uncomfortable for most of us, but you have to remember the person on the other side is equally uncomfortable with reaching out most of the time.

When you do it, and they receive it, from their viewpoint it’s very flattering!


You never know where that will lead you.


Because I was not afraid to reach out a few times, I met a really good author and helped her launch her book that became a bestseller, and she and I now are very good friends and we edit each other‘s books. Similarly, I reached out to another person in a similar way and we also became very good friends and she’s very influential on my work as well as joining me on an internet show we did.


You just never know where things like this are going to lead.

Each day is another opportunity to make something amazing happen.


  • Because I chatted with an audience member at the conference about his book, he invited me to be on his radio show. It reaches 30,000 listeners. I could use 30,000 more readers…
  • Because I asked my two author friends to come to the FWA conference, they applied along with me and we were all accepted as presenters.
  • Because I did that, I’ve been asked to look at taking on a larger role at FWA – and I’m considering it.
  • Because I asked them and some other writer types to participate in a scary anthology, we gained another book on top of the Amazon bestseller list.



I could go on and on.

Focus on your books and focus on your family, and not necessarily in that order, but every once in a while don’t be afraid to reach out, or God forbid if somebody is reaching out to you, don’t slap the hand of opportunity away.


I don’t have all the good ideas but I sure try to run hard with the ones I do get.

If I can do it, you can do it.