Autumn

October 2013 Flash Contest Winners

Hi folks,

 

It’s time to announce the winners for our October contest. I’ve had some time to think, and to change my mind several times over. Nothing new here, haha. I loved every single story selected for posting, and choosing the winner was pretty difficult this month.

 

So, let’s get to it, then :)

 

1. The overall winner ($55) — for the best story in Austin’s opinion — is “Pragmatic” by Michael Seese. It’s a tense, dramatic and pretty brutal story told with laconic mastery.

 

2. The most shared story ($33 each)… traditionally, this prize goes to Salvatore who out-shares everyone else by a wide margin. Of course he did it again, and I’m grateful to him for spreading the word. But I thought that this time, I can recognize two stories in this category: both the top one and the runner-up :) So, we have two winners:

Stop me by Salvatore Buttaci. This story, of course, is truly powerful in its own right.

For my Broken Heart by Rebecca Barray. It’s a wonderful story that blends sadness and hope, and I believe it thoroughly deserves all the positive and supportive comments it got.

 

3. Most helpful commenter ($33). This was, probably, the most active month in terms of comments yet. As always, I’ve read every single one, and as always I’ve been torn. I believe Diana Feltner more than deserves the prize for her frequent, insightful and supportive comments to the other authors.

 

Congrats to the winners :) I’ll wire you the prize cash via Paypal over the next few days.

 

Now… I have two more points to make. One is optimistic, and one’s rather not.

 

FIRST, I’m looking for a kind person who could go back through the entire history of the contest entries and select the best ones for publication in an almanac. We’re talking about 681 stories out of which we should probably select a fair amount, maybe 200-300 truly good ones which we could publish in 2-3 books.

 

I’ll happily compensate you for your time. If you’d like to take part, could you please get in touch using the contact form down in the footer, and let me know how much you’d charge for this? :) Maybe we can agree.

 

SECOND, after much thinking, I’ve decided to put the contest on hold for now.

 

It’s a difficult decision to make after meeting so many wonderful, talented and supportive authors here and investing countless pleasant hours and quite a few thousand dollars into running the contest, which I consider money very well spent.

 

My reason is simple: I’m burnt out.

 

I can no longer run it with any quality on top of the long hours in my day job, writing books in the evenings (I’m now juggling 4 active series) and having a family.

 

On average, it takes me 30 minutes to publish one story — after pre-selection, proof-reading, commenting, and corresponding with the author if edits are required. Also, not all stories come with images, and image search takes a looong time :)

 

So there we go. I’ve come to love the interaction with you, wonderful authors, the daily inspiration of reading your powerful and beautiful stories, and the anticipation of what gems of writing could end up in my inbox in the morning.

 

Also, I know I can make the contest way, way bigger, if only I have the time. But I can’t afford the time. Maybe later when I can transition to full-time writing which is my dream, I’ll reopen the contest again.

 

Thank you, and best of luck in your writing endeavors. I’m sending you all my goodwill vibes :)

Under the Limitless Sky Cover

Here’s the new cover dilemma for the new novel I’m launching very soon. It’s an erotic romance with elements of thriller … It’s also quite explicit, so not for the faint of heart. It’s a large, involved novel of around 550 pages that explores love, friendship, trust and lust.

 

Which cover would you choose and why?

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funny face

June 2013 Contest Winners

Sorry for my radio silence. I believe I’ve gone off everyone’s radar screen around end-June.

 

I’m now resurfacing to continue the contest due to many very nice notes and requests I’ve received over the last few months. To be honest, while I was running it, I didn’t realise that so many people appreciated it and used it as an inspiration for their writing muse.

 

Well, I’m back, and will try to sustain the pace until the next summer break.

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BrokenPlume

New Cover

Hi friends,

 

As I’m prepping a few book launches under my different pen names, I’ve met some seriously talented cover designers . . . and decided to upgrade the covers of all my existing books.

 

For Five Dances with Death, which of the 3 choices below would you prefer — A, B or C?

 

To encourage some discussion, I’m throwing in $10 Amazon voucher for a random comment on this post – I’ll run the random draw on Sep 15.

 

The story is a historical fantasy written from the point of view of an Aztec warrior who finds himself in the midst of Spanish invasion, dark magic and the collapse of his world.

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NewFire-Final

Dark Water

Hi all,

 

With this post (first after the summer break), I’d love to introduce Phil Dickinson, a fellow author of fiction set in the Aztec times. His first book, “New Fire” is out and is a thrilling read.

 

Check out this snippet from the upcoming sequel:

 

 

The Orizaba warrior fell clumsily across the granite block and Leaping Fire swept his sword up on high to finish him off.  The crowd leapt to their feet baying for blood, but at that moment, the prisoner kicked Leaping Fire in the stomach and doubled him up, then followed with a blow to the side of Leaping Fire’s head.  The Mexica lurched sideways and suddenly the spectators all jumped to their feet again with a collective gasp.  The strike hadn’t been very powerful but Leaping Fire was clearly dazed and crucially, he was still in range of his opponent.  The combatant from Orizaba wasted no time.  He rolled from the platform and swung his club backhanded, catching the Jaguar Knight full in the face.  The crunching of bone was audible through the shrieking of the crowd.

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No Letter E

May 2013 Winners

Hi all. I’m back from my almost 2 months of absence, for which I apologize. End of fiscal year in my day job wasn’t a walk in the park this time; I can’t quite remember going through so much travel and intense work in my whole career. All the while prepping 5 books for publication in July, for laughing out loud. Talk about stressing myself, huh.

Anyway, let’s catch up.

First, I’d love to announce, belatedly, the May winners of the contest. It was a tough prompt — write a story with no “E”, and many writers have managed it admirably. It was, admittedly, one of my favorite months in the whole history of our contest.

Here are the 3 top prizes:

FIRST PRIZE ($55) for the best story:

Block by Mark Brown. Maybe I have a soft spot for the inner struggle . . . But I thought this was one of the stronger stories back in May.

SECOND PRIZE ($33) for the most shared story:

Bringing it Down by Salvatore Buttaci. Not only was it the most shared story in May across all channels, it’s also a GOOD story on its own.

THIRD PRIZE ($33) for the best commenter:

Paolo Jose Cruz for his insightful, supportive comments on many stories.

So there we go… next up in a couple of days—the June contest winners. To be honest, I’m thinking to suspend the contest for the rest of the summer. Will think more about this before the next post…

Austin.

A-Briggs-Cover-1

New Kindle Paperwhite Draw Winner

As promised, I’ve run the second round of the Kindle Paperwhite draw. Once again, it was a targeted campaign that went hand-in-hand with my book giveaway at the Library Thing.

After the success of the previous draw, I gave away 100 copies of my “How to Build a Writer’s Platform in 90 Days” book and here are the results:

  • Slightly less than a 100 copies got sent out, because several accounts who “won” my giveaway on Library Thing got suspended (shrug).
  • The book received 10 unique and meaningful reviews across Library Thing, Amazon and Good Reads.
  • A few people got back to me saying that for various reasons they couldn’t finish the book on time for the draw, and would post their reviews later.

Once again, I had asked for meaningful, not positive reviews.

Not too bad, I think.

The Winner

To be 100% transparent, here’s the winner selection process.

  1. I sorted all unique reviews by date and assigned a number from 1 to 10 to each.
  2. I entered the numbers into the generator over at www.random.org.
  3. Ta-da! #5 is the winner:

Random May

 

In my count, #5 is Wolfjack — congratulations! A brand-new, shiny Kindle Paperwhite will be on its way to you as soon as we get in touch and confirm the shipment details.

Thanks to everyone who participated :)

fast typing

From Zero to Amazon in 90 Days: First Month Update

A quick update, in case you folks are interested, on how I’m doing with my challenge to write and publish a book in 90 days.

Net: I went bananas.

I’m writing 5 books.

 

  • A Toltec Historical Drama, yet to be named:
    • Around 30,000 words written.
    • First cover concepts received from an incredibly talented Mexican artist, who actually understands the visual difference between the Aztecs and the Toltecs.
    • Brilliant editor found; I’ve asked her to look at the early manuscript and offer book strengthening suggestions.

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public-service-announcement

New Prizes

I’m very excited. The almanac idea that some of YOU came up with won’t let me sleep. I’m on it: selecting the best stories, looking for illustrators, learning about SEO to promote the eventual masterpiece . . . You name it.

I believe that together, we’ll help each other build our individual writer’s platforms and sustainable book sales.

As I do all this, I’m launching an idea that stems form the recent changes to the voting approach.

Please recall that we added “social sharing” as one of the quality measures last month. I’ve also upgraded to a more versatile commenting system.

Building on that, as of May 2013 there will be 3 prizes:

  • $55: Best 55-Word Story of the Month. This is my personal prize for the one story that blew me away.
  • $33: Most Awesome Commenter. I read every single comment on this site, and each month I’ll award the person who provides the most insightful, supportive and overall awesome comments to the other writers.
  • $33: Most Shared Story of the Month. This is 100% transparent. You can track this in the right-hand sidebar. The selection is based on a complex electronic algorithm that tracks how many social shares you story receives across many social channels.

Hope this change helps make this site into an even more helpful, enjoyable and supportive community. What do you think?

As you can see, I’m listening to your ideas and implementing many of them.

To our writing success :)

Austin.

whatif

April 2013 Flash Contest Winners

It’s time to announce the last month’s winners. It’s taken me 3 days of non-stop reading and rearranging the order of the winning stories to come up with the final short-list.

I hope you enjoyed reading the April flash stories as much as I did! :)

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stone garden

Chapter One

Genre: Erotic Romance. 

Target Publication Date: July 1, 2013. 

 

Sayuri and I designed the Japanese stone garden in our backyard to be perfectly round, but some time ago our daughters added a rivulet of gravel connecting it to the forest.

The addition was crude, lacking any refinement whatsoever. The stream of tiny white stones emerged from the garden’s main body, passed between two young oaks that our daughters named after themselves Mie and Sara, and cascaded downhill into a dense bamboo growth. It split our backyard with a messy, bold line, such as a toddler may draw across a piece of paper with the full strength of his unsteady hand.

On Sunday afternoons, when the kids would be away playing with the neighbors, Sayuri and I took to sitting on the opposite sides of that convoluted line. With our backs against the oaks, we’d gaze at the perfection of our surroundings, sometimes reading, sometimes listening to music, hardly ever talking. It used to be a comfortable silence in the midst of a well-tended garden. But lately, some of the hedges began to need maintenance; and neither of us had bothered to fix them. Slowly, without me noticing it, the silence took on heavier undertones.

This Sunday was different.

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public-service-announcement

Announcement

My webmaster and I have been working hard on some under-the-hood changes to this site. Specifically:

 

  • The notorious thumb up/down rating has been coded out. The FB “Like” button replaced it to encourage sharing of your brilliant stories.

 

  • “Most Voted” stories changed to “Most Shared” stories. This prevents the voting abuse that we’ve been seeing. It counts sharing across many Social Media channels, not just FB. Hopefully, this change makes this site less of a “war zone” and more of a “collaborative community”!

 

  • The contest page now displays twice as many stories as before.

 

  • Moved the comment system into Disqus. For a few days, hundreds of your comments won’t show – this is a known issue with migration to Disqus. Please be patient, they’re all safe and will all come back :) The intent is to encourage exploration of other stories and to have a consistent website look and structure.

 

  • I’m experimenting with some monetization ideas, because this site costs me a lot :)

 

Please let me know what you think. Also, do let me know if you’d like to see any other changes here. As you can see, I’m very open to suggestions.

 

Austin.

 

 

Color_Comp_1

Chapter 1

Genre: Historical. 

Target Publication Date: July 1, 2013. 

 

I stood between two trees in the semi-dark of the night, the lifeless branches above me casting barely any shadow beneath the swollen moon.

From this hidden place, I watched my son Reed deliver the first blow.

A moonbeam sparkled on his silver armband as he pushed his opponent with the dull end of his sword. The man gave out a muffled yell and fell into the shadows under the wall of his house.

My son’s companions, three young warriors wearing only breechcloths, and four pleasure girls dressed in long tunics to mimic nobility, laughed and resumed their music of flutes and rattles.

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Angry-Wasp-Small

From Zero Words to Amazon.com in 90 Days

The challenge:

Write, edit and publish a complete novel in 90 days.

In my case, the start date is April 1, 2013. The target publishing date on Amazon Kindle is July 1, 2013.

The Fun:

There are 3 ways to join the adventure.

(1) Direct the story! Share what you like or hate about it, what do you think the characters should do next. Let’s make it fun :)

I’ll be happy to credit you inside the published book, promote your links on this site, and I’ll simply be grateful to you.

And I’ll of course send you the cool, final, edited and signed version after it’s done.

(2) Join this challenge with YOUR novel! It’s easier together. Even if we publish our book in 100 days, or 200 days, it sure beats not publishing it at all.

(3) Help me complete it in 90 days with your advice and ideas. We’ll learn something together.

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MysteriousMask

March 2013 Flash Contest Winners

I sit here without words.

This month, we’ve got almost 40 flash stories, and this is after the initial pre-selection I do when folks submit their drafts.

Forty stories . . . I can’t say if I’m having the time of my life re-reading them in all their brilliance, or a near-death experience having to actually select the winner.

I think I’ll start inviting other writers to come and select the winners each month!

Today I’ll cover three topics: the winners, a question to you folks, and the April prompt.

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Kindle_Paperwhite_35438287_35437744_35438313_35438312_02_620x433

Kindle Paperwhite Winner

The common wisdom says that reviews are a lifeblood of the online business.

I agree.

However, I struggle getting reviews. My sales have been good; they’ve been great during the promotion periods. And yet, very few take the time to leave a review.

This is understandable. I, for one, have pretty much stopped doing it because I’m uncomfortable reviewing the work of my colleagues. I confine myself to reviewing only those authors who are either safely dead like William Golding, or who are way above my league like Stephen King.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to run an experiment.

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Time

20 Ways to Write When You Can’t Find the Time

Have you ever felt that you just can’t find the time to get those words out of your head and down on paper?

It’s not that you lack ideas, or inspiration, or writing skills.

What you lack is the time.

You have to deliver content, but your latest novel sits on your hard drive unopened, your blog is a few days behind schedule, and your Facebook updates are a few days—or weeks—old.

Your regular readers (if you have any) message you asking what’s wrong with you. They are genuinely interested, and some even offer help.

But there’s simply too much to take care of in your life. The day job. The family. Just the basic sleep.

And on top of all that, you must write.

But how?

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Diver with Aurora

February 2013 Flash Contest Winner

Million thanks to all the authors for the beautiful stories you guys wrote — and for your patience as some had to wait a while for me to post them. Been one heck of a month.

Now to business :)

I have this short-list of seven stories this month.

1. Jump Through by Alissa Vaughan. Such a nice, assertive, optimistic story.

2. Come Dance with Me by Deborah Lean. A touching and emotional piece of fiction.

3. Close Encounter by Alan Barker. I laughed out loud reading it; a small world skillfully created via dialogue.

4. The Ruins by O.D. Trebor. It shows how few words we need to create genuine tension.

5. A Youthful Adventure by Daron Henson. Love the energy coming from this story.

6. Midnight Explorers by R.J. Saxon. The feeling of childhood perfectly captured, in my opinion.

7. The Plunge by A. Partridge. I believe it wonderfully captures the relationships in the couple, and the excitement of the jump.

And the winner this month is…

Close Encounter by Alan Barker, taking home the first prize of $55.

It’s a complete story with tension, nice setup, excellent dialogue and a resolution.

The two runner-up prizes of $33 each go to:

Midnight Explorers by R.J. Saxon.

Come Dance with Me by Deborah Lean.

As always, will send the winnings via Paypal after confirming the correct emails.

This month, I suggest we do something different. Instead of simple thematic prompt, let’s try a more complex approach that, I hope, would stimulate your imagination in a new way.

The March Prompt:

Please write a story of 55 words or less which meets all these 3 criteria:

1. Has a mystery.

2. Has a romantic relationship.

3. Mentions the word “decide”.

Have fun! :)

MysteriousMask

Woman puts forefinger to lips as a sign of silence

January 2013 Winners

The January was a short month, because of me. Although I missed the time and didn’t announce any particular topics, great entries kept coming in.

Because there hadn’t been many stories posted, I suggest we do away with the short list and go straight to the winners.

1st Place ($55): A Breathing Secret by Raani York. I loved the completeness of this very emotional, deep story. The conflict, although subdued, is masterfully done.

2nd Place ($30): Tastes like Oak by Robert P. Wills. Brilliant, isn’t it? I fell in love with this cool piece.

2nd Place (#30): Leftovers by Eugene Chun. This is such a bizarre, dystopian story that I can’t get over. Wonderfully done.

To be honest, this was a tough one, having to select three from so few strong stories. I know that on top of brilliant writing, some folks like  really drove exposure to this contest, for which I’m deeply grateful. Please write again, who knows, you may win next month!

As always, I’ll contact the winners by email and will wire them the money via Paypal.

Congratulations!

Now, on to the next month!

In February, let’s write about adventure. I love this picture of a Russian diver beneath the ice, with aurora raging above him. I hope this image captures the spirit of adventure, exploration and beauty that the February stories should be about!

 

Adventure

Diver with Aurora

Write a complete story in 55 words about any adventure – doesn’t have to be about diving in the dark northern sea! Don’t forget about the contest’s criteria found here.

Woman puts forefinger to lips as a sign of silence

December 2012 Winners

Thanks to all who dropped me a quick note asking where the heck was I. Your questions made me realize that the contest is starting to get some traction.

I apologize for missing a month. I simply had a good old overload, and dropped a few balls. Trying to do too much too fast!

Anyway.

I loved the December entries, didn’t you? Here are some that believe deserve to be short-listed for the award – the Greatest Seven of December:

1. Scattering Mum by Sandra-Jane Goddard.

2. End of the Line by O.D. Trebor.

3. Moving on by Thomas Giles.

4. Some Secrets are Better Left, well, Secret by Michael Coady.

5. No Price Too High by Elizabeth John.

6. A Journey of Secret Discoveries by Linda Goldman Foley.

7. My Sister Jenny by Salvatore Buttaci.

As always, I wish I could award more, and I’m sure I’ve missed very deserving stories. However, this site isn’t perfect, and an element of subjectivity in my assessments will always remain.

The winners, in my view, are:

1st prize ($55): End of the Line by O.D. Trebor. This chilling story has thoroughly fascinated me.

2nd prize ($30): My Sister Jenny by Salvatore Buttaci. The humanity in this story has affected me deeply.

2nd prize ($30): Scattering Mum by Sandra-Jane Goddard. The conflict, the emotion in this complex story is brilliant.

Congratulations! Next up: the January winnings and the February prompt.