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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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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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…



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
  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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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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