Flash Fiction Friday 002: Neil L Yuzuk’s ‘Captain Jack’s Cave’

Welcome to the second Flash Fiction Friday and the second piece of flash fiction in this new weekly series. Last week’s was a story entitled ‘Green’ by JD Mader. Tonight’s is ‘Captain Jack’s Cave’ by crime novelist Neil L Yuzuk

The Crooked Corsair’s Cave looked as good a place as any to get out of the heat and fierce tropical sun. I opened the door, stepped in and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark cave-like interior. The aroma of food made my mouth water and snatches of gay conversation filled the air. One gruff voice dominated, “C’mon matey and shut the door, you’re letting the hot air in.”

I sensed someone near and a woman’s arm took mine, “Come in and I’ll guide ye to a table. Captain Jack’s about to fill the air in here with some bullshit story about his pirate days and ye don’t wantta miss it. Jack,” she shouted, “Jack let me get this one seated and ordered and then ye can start.”

“Quickly lass, the day’s growin’ old.”

As we walked I began to make out the interior. It looked like a Disney Pirates of the Caribbean set, but the furnishings here were heavily weathered. A large dark-skinned man dressed as a pirate sat comfortably in a captain’s chair on a small stage, his peg leg resting on a stool and a schooner of beer was within easy reach. A parrot perched on a stand behind him.

“Here ye be, sir,” she said as we approached what looked like the last empty table – lucky me. I sat and almost laughed out loud at the theatrics. But I was on vacation, so what the heck.

“And what would ye be having to drink?”

I looked at my companion, who was dressed as a pirate wench with a low-scooped top that hinted at pleasures to be revealed. Her clear café au lait complexion was matched with a saucy grin and dark eyes that examined me as frankly as my blue ones did her.

“Your best rum with ice, and,” I looked at the chalked menu on the wall, “the grilled snapper with a small mixed salad.”

“That’s a good choice, the snapper’s fresh caught,” she said with that same smile. I looked at even white teeth, pink lips and real eyebrows – no makeup, all natural. Not the usual woman I would meet in the city. She tossed her long and wavy honey-gold hair at my examination as if to say, ‘Like what you see?’ Instead I heard, “I’ll have your drink right away.” She turned and with a swish of her hips she hurried away leaving behind the aroma of her perfume, musk—my favorite. She was back quickly with my drink. I took her wrist and asked, “And what be your name, saucy wench?”

“Never ye mind . . . and ye best watch your manners in front of Captain Jack. He doesn’t like his wenches to be pestered.” She slapped softly at my hand, I held on.

“Daniella lass, can we get started?” Jack called from the stage.

“Soon as me bucko unhands me.”

I released her wrist and said, “Miss Daniella, we’ll talk later.”

She smiled and bustled away. I had to have her, she was going to be mine. The parrot began to squawk, “Oyez, Oyez,” and Jack started his pirate tale, but I wasn’t listening as I stalked her with my eyes. Occasionally I saw her looking at me. I sensed her hunger, but mine was greater. I needed to feed.

It was later that night, after we’d made love, I looked down at her resting my weight on my forearms as I cupped the face that had captivated me between my hands. I turned her so I could see the left side of her neck; I leaned forward and pressed my lips to the spot that was warmed by the flow of blood through her carotid artery. I touched it with the tip of my tongue and gave her a tiny nip with my teeth.

“Oh now, is that the way ye roll?’


With unexpected strength she flipped me and I was on the bottom looking up.

“And this be how I roll,” she said with a fanged grin and she leaned forward.

“That’s just what I was hoping for,” I replied as I reached for her with my own fangs.

We fed on each other that night and have hunted together, ever since the day we met in Captain Jack’s Crooked Corsair’s Cave.

I asked Neil what had prompted this piece and he said…

The inspiration behind “Captain Jack’s Cave?” hmm . . . I was in Washington, D.C. and a LI site was having a short story contest. The story needed a pirate, a cave and it had to be under 700 words. Ergo, “Captain Jack’s Cave” was born. I tried to give it a modern twist rather than doing a version of the Pirates of the Caribbean. It’s a variation of another short story I once wrote in the YA genre. It didn’t win, but it was fun to write. Morgen likes it, so that makes it a winner. Enjoy!

I do. Thank you Neil.

Neil L. Yuzuk was born in Brooklyn, New York. Now retired after twenty-two years, as a SPARK Substance Abuse Prevention Counselor, he wrote Beachside PD: The Reluctant Knight, after collaborating with his police officer son on a screenplay of the same name. The book was a finalist in the Global eBook Awards in the category of suspense / thriller.

The second book in the series, Beachside PD: The Gypsy Hunter is in pre-publishing, and will be available in December, 2011.

He’s working on the third book in the series, entitled Beachside PD: Undercover, as well as a screenplay: Fade To Light. Another book, Zaragossa: Fruit of the Vine is also in the works.

Neil’s co-author son, David A. Yuzuk was born in Brooklyn, NY and has been working in law enforcement for the past 14 years in southern Florida. He is also working on a prequel to the Beachside PD series called, Beachside PD: Cities of Sand and Stone.

David is the author of a soon to be released children’s book entitled, “The Legend of the Smiling Chihuahua.” He says “It’s my hope to create something positive and uplifting with my little story. If it can inspire children of all ages to follow their dreams, then who knows how beautiful this world can be.”

Let me know how you go David. 🙂 

If you’d like to submit your 1,000-word max. stories for consideration for Flash Fiction Friday take a look here.


Guest post: Writing Short Stories For Women’s Magazines by Helen M Hunt

I’m delighted to bring you this guest blog post, today by short story author, book review blogger and writing magazine columnist (and writing friend so I asked her to do this for me :)) interviewee Helen M Hunt.

Writing Short Stories For Women’s Magazines

The women’s magazine short story market remains one of the most competitive out there. Sadly, it is a shrinking market and because competition is so fierce, only the very best stories will make it to publication. There are still opportunities for those determined to succeed though, and in this post I’ve gathered together what I think is the most helpful advice for anyone who wants to make their mark!

For beginners

Patience is the key – don’t expect your first story to be accepted for publication, or your second or third. It can be a long process. Check submission guidelines for specific magazines carefully: there’s no point in sending a story that doesn’t fit the magazine’s requirements. I strongly recommend Womagwriter’s blog which has all the guidelines and contact details for the magazines you might want to submit to.

Initially you should concentrate on targeting one or two magazines – pick the ones that appeal to you most as a reader. If you try to research all the magazines in one go you’ll be overwhelmed. Remember that magazines are looking for stories that are similar in style and tone to the ones they are currently using, but at the same time they need to be different enough to catch an editor’s eye. That’s why you need to study the magazines really carefully and ask yourself why the stories in them work. Then ask yourself how you can bring something different to it!

Magazines aimed at writers – Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine are the big names – often have advice for beginner writers and also for short story writers. I’m writing some articles for Writing Magazine at the moment that cover different aspects of short story writing, so look out for those over the next few months.

For those with a bit more experience

Write as many stories as you can and keep sending them out. It’s helpful if you can set yourself a quota – but make sure it’s realistic. Once you are writing to a publishable standard, the more stories you have out there, the greater your chance of acceptance.

Never give up on a story! If one magazine rejects it, look at it again, revise it if necessary and send it somewhere else. Different editors have different tastes and I’ve sold a story on its seventh outing before.

Join a critique group if you haven’t already, either online or in the real world. Make sure that at least some people in the group are being published in the area you are aiming for. Ideally join a group that are just writing short stories as, although general creative writing groups are great for encouragement and inspiration, short story writing skills are very different from novel or poetry writing skills. If this isn’t possible you could use a critique service instead.

Women’s magazine writers are a friendly lot and always generous with their advice. There’s lots of online support out there for people who are aiming at this market.

In particular you might want to have a look at Womagwriter’s blog, Teresa Ashby’s blog and Della Galton’s website.

For anyone who prefers a book to refer to, Della Galton’s ‘How To Write And Sell Short Stories’ is the best book out there on this subject and I highly recommend it.

You might also be interested to know that I run workshops for people who are interested in writing for the women’s magazine market. You can find full details here. I also offer email short story critiques.

Thank you Helen! 🙂

Helen Hunt writes short stories and features for magazines. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly, The Weekly News, People’s Friend and Take A Break Fiction Feast in the UK, and That’s Life Fast Fiction in Australia. She also writes articles for Writers’ Forum and Writing Magazine. Helen is also a contributor to the ‘Tears and Laughter…‘ anthology.

You can find her blog at http://fictionisstrangerthanfact.blogspot.com. You can also read my interview with Helen here.

If you would like to write a writing-related guest post for my blog then feel free to email me with an outline of what you would like to write about – take a look here for the list of current topics and dates. If it’s writing-related then it’s highly likely I’d email back and say “yes please” (while quietly bouncing up and down in my seat with joy!).

Transcription of Oundle Lit Fest (March 2011) – Day 3 of 5 (Mark Billingham & Michael Robotham)

The twenty-second special episode of the Bailey’s Writing Tips podcast was released on 30th May 2011 and featured the third day of five as a volunteer at Oundle Literature Festival here in Northamptonshire, England. The content has never been released other than website links (on my website).

Arriving at Oundle late afternoon, I met up with, and chatted to, Oundle Literature Festival Chairman Nick Turnbull at his Oundle School Community Action office in the town centre, which formed the second part of special episode 12.

That evening in the picturesque venue of the Long Room opposite St Peter’s Church, I was fortunate enough to get to sit in the ‘green room’ to chat to Mark Billingham and Michael Robotham before the event started (having nipped to Tesco to buy Mark a bottle of beer) :). Covering a variety of topics including writing (as would be expected), I was in my element especially as Mark and I were already Facebook ‘friends’ and he’d said he’d been looking forward to meeting me (and me him, obviously).

When the official event started, introductions were made by Molly Bickerstaff before she asked Mark what happened to him in a hotel room in 1995. He explained that he’d been there with a colleague and had ordered room service. The door bell rang and three men in balaclavas burst in, tying them up, before taking their valuables including their credit cards (and pin numbers). The colleague got himself then Mark free, grabbed a fire extinguisher and they ran to reception where the staff were oblivious of what had happened so were equally frightened to see two men charging at them. A year later his first novel came out and said he knows fear and can do that well. Because of what happened to him, Mark said he wanted to give the victims in his novels a voice.

Australian Michael then said that he’d been working for the Mail on Sunday in the UK and one story was about a £4M betting scam. His editor had sent him across to Ireland to investigate quoting him as saying to “send the Australian” making Michael feel very expendable. He said he’d had a similar experience to Mark where some men in balaclavas had tied him up, taken him to the airport and told him to go home. When he phoned his editor, the editor had said to wait 20 minutes and return to investigate but understandably Michael had taken the first out of Ireland.

Molly then asked how they create their characters, and how they feel about them? Mark said that even though it’s realistic writers need to engage the reader with heightened realism – if too realistic it would be too boring (going home to their spouses etc). Michael added that it’s hard to operate within the rules and gave an example as court procedures – too boring; so trimmed. So they have to make it richer…

Michael explained that his main character is a clinical psychologist and that he, Michael, worked with a respected clinical psychologist and admire someone who can get inside people’s head. His character though is flawed; he has a sharp mind but weak body (suffering from the onset of Parkinson’s).

Mark then referred to Tom & Jerry scenes where they’re hit by an anvil and suffer an anvil-shaped dent, but in the next scene they’re fine, and said it is similar in some books; they’re too unrealistic. They have to stay anvil shaped. Also each book has to read independently as well as part of a series; it’s all about realistic characters, and they’re not always likeable. He also said that he’s received lots of feedback from readers asking questions about the characters, even being asked when they’ll get married.

Michael said that he’d been asked if a character had had a baby and the reader had been stunned when Michael said he didn’t know!

Molly turned the talk to villains.  Mark said evil has a religious connotation which he’s not comfortable with. He doesn’t think people are inherently evil/good but have elements of both.

Michael said that when he was a young journalist: murderer on the run would phone him in the early hours, tipping him off when he’s committed a crime. It turned out that the criminal was only a couple of years older than Michael; very normal looking; like an ordinary Joe. He’d expected him to look like a thug.

Mark then talked about true-life cases and how down to earth even some of the most prolific murderers had been. Michael mentioned that his wife said they’d lose dinner invitations because he wrote such dark books!

Molly asked Mark and Michael about their use of prologues. Mark replied that a book should always start with unanswered questions so the reader says “why, what, who” etc. then the rest of the book should answer them. Apparently his wife will continue reading a book that she doesn’t enjoy saying “it’s not going to beat me”! whereas Mark would be quite happy to abandon it.

Michael explained that he uses the prologue to entice and that you should subtract your age from 100 and that’s how much you give a book, which I liked.

Molly then turned the conversation to plot. Michael doesn’t plot and once even pulled out 30,000 words which weren’t working. He said he may use them again and I’m sure they wouldn’t have been wasted. And this is a conversation I’ve been involved in recently on one of the LinkedIn forums.

Organic and exciting he said and added that Jeffrey Deaver apparently writes c. 250 page outline so he knows what he’s doing. Michael loves not knowing and the characters surprise him so he figures the reader won’t know either. (me too)

Mark does some sketching but a character’s never surprised him, which I think is a little sad. He wants them to surprise the reader but they don’t him and said the writer is in charge which is true but I do go with the flow and am often enthralled by what comes out.

Mark said that writer’s block is rubbish and quoted the phrased I’ve heard before about plumbers not being able to work because they’ve got plumber’s block so it should be the same for writers. And I totally agree.

Michael quoted Stephen King as saying “dig and reveal” – see a bone, what will it be? Dog or dinosaur bone? Michael hopes it’s going to be a dinosaur.

Molly then asked how to avoid the clichés? Mark replied first saying that crime readers know it’s going to be crime so you have to make the readers care about the characters. Michael added that twists and turns are vital and it’s unrealistic when a character is in a dark warehouse with no reason… to which Mark said writers should try and avoid the parts that the readers will skip, which made the audience laugh.

Mark then said it’s all about economy and that every writer needs editing. Michael then gave Steig Larsson as an example as having too much content.

Molly asked how to write quick dialogue so readers don’t lose track. Michael said that good writers make it look easy (he writes longhand so the dialogue is sharper then types it up). Mark added that dialogue is a strength and should tell you everything about the character. You should know what you’re good at.

Molly said that as they’d both written about women, how do they do it? Michael explained that was a ghostwriter for 15 autobiographies (Geri Halliwell, Lulu amongst them) and initially he was worried as most of the readers would be women but has three women (his wife and two daughters) as his first readers.

Mark said that you have to write them and be able to write them, and that his favourite book to write was In ‘The Dark’ where main character was a heavily pregnant woman, although he admits that it was harder work.

Molly: how important are jokes in the books? Great mix of humour then dour and vice versa. Mark: life isn’t all dark – said he’d been out with the police and they joke because they’re nervous. Michael: agreed, it’s not because they’re insensitive, it’s their safety valve.

The audience was then invited to ask questions and the first was one that I was planning on asking; what Mark thought of David Morrisey’s TV portrayal of Tom Thorne. Mark said he had wanted him from the very beginning but that reader feedback said there were too many changes, but he was very pleased.

When Mark was asked whether he’d written the screenplay, he said he wasn’t but was involved in the making of the TV series.

The next question, directed at Michael, was about how he heard that his novel ‘Bleed for me’ had been shortlisted for the TV Book Club and what impact had it had.  He’d received a phone call from his publicist, and he was sure that it had made an impact, certainly in gaining awareness of him and his books.

Michael was then asked whether he is going to be easier on Joe? to which he said that Joe plays a small part in next book out and the one he’s writing now he has a bigger part. Someone then requested that Joe back with Julianne to which Michael laughed and said that he’d had mixed feedback on this and that he’d consider it.

The conversation then turned to how they were published. It turns out that they both submitted around 30,000 words and were both accepted. Mark admitting that he was ridiculously lucky especially, he said as British crime writer RJ Ellory had 28 unpublished novels before he was accepted. Michael said that he was known as ghostwriter so think that helped. Word then got out which resulted in a bidding war for his novel which then obviously put pressure on him for the other 2/3rds of the book. He even had no title for it, just a working title of ‘The Suspect’ which he felt  to be too much in the vein of John Grisham. Mark said had come up with shout line for his book: “he doesn’t want you dead, he doesn’t want you alive, he wants you somewhere in between”, which I really like.

When asked what the police think of his books Mark said how supportive they were and even assigned him a detective who put him in touch with others and he said that they can’t wait to tell you (official and unofficial juicy stuff), especially happy to talk about murder.

A member of the audience sitting near me asked Michael what made you give Joe Parkinson’s Disease? He said he had a two-book deal and had the idea for the second one of a religious mystery but the contract meant he had to write in a similar style. Hadn’t planned to use Joe again but loved the idea of healthy mind but crumbling body, quoting Stephen Hawking as example but then said that he loves Joe so much that he wishes he hadn’t done it to him now.

Mark was then asked whether his work shows up a dark side in him to which Michael said that he likes people look like their dogs which, as a dog-owner, made me smile. Mark said that it’s what he likes to read and that he likes closure (when the cases are solved) and he’s bored if there’s no action (bodies, car chases etc.). Michael added that there are even bodies in Shakespeare’s plays; so drama and conflict.

And really, that’s what it’s all about. Even in romance there has to be some element of drama and in every good story, a conflict.

Again, the book stall was a sell-out with me buying the last copy of Michael’s book. I’d already bought my collection (of six) of Mark’s books with me so I didn’t buy his latest, especially it was in hardback, which I’m not so keen on.

When everything was tidied away, lights turned off and the building locked up, Mark, Michael, committee member Leigh and I headed towards the pub to kill time before their train. As I’d not been directly invited I didn’t want to outstay my welcome so bade them goodnight and went to my car parked nearby, to drive home a very happy person.

So, that’s what happened on day 3 out of 5 – links to the transcriptions of the other days will put listed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/bwt-podcast when they’re posted.

Author Spotlight no.14 – Scriptwriter, novelist, actor (and more) Gregory Allen

To complement my daily blog interviews I recently started a series of Author Spotlights and today’s, the fourteenth, is of Gregory Allen. You can read the others here.

Born and raised in Texas, but moved north to become an official ‘Yankee’ for the past 24 years – Gregory G. Allen has had short stories and poetry published in over half a dozen journals including Loch Raven Review and Off the Rocks 14. He is a blog and article contributor to several websites and has written over ten musicals that he has served as book writer and/or composer/lyricists produced for the stage. Proud Pants: An Unconventional Memoir about the life of his older brother’s fight with addiction and eventual death is available digitally and has garnered many wonderful reviews for Allen’s nontraditional way of telling a story through the mind of his dying brother. Allen has been in the entertainment business for over twenty years as an actor, director, writer, and producer and studied at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and as a composer in the BMI Musical Theatre Workshop. He’s been the recipient of musical grants from BMI, ASCAP and the Watershed Foundation, and his musical River Divine won a Best Score award in New York’s TheatreWeek magazine back in the 90s. He spent six years as the Artistic Director of a theatre company in New Jersey and currently manages an arts center on a college campus.

And now from the author himself:

I have always loved to write since I was a child. I used to write stories and plays and direct the neighborhood kids in my original works. Who knew that would lead to a career in the arts so many years later? I love to write stories that have some sort of twist or do not give the reader (or audience for stage shows) what they expect. These are also the types of creative arts I’m drawn to. When Hollywood decides to change the ending of a movie to ‘please’ the audience, I always wince wishing they would allow the piece to be seen in the manner it was intended by the writers / directors. I think its part of the reason I do not want to be considered a certain genre writer that must write in any type of formula. My short story pieces have all been of different genres and even my longer stories have done the same. Proud Pants was a non-fiction memoir that I wrote about my brother. They are his stories, but I’m putting the words/thoughts into his mind in my attempt to make sense of his life. My novel Well with My Soul out in October, 2011 is a novel dealing with family dynamics, addiction, religion and sexuality. And the story does not necessarily go where most readers will think it is leading them. My stage musical, Invisible Fences, was a piece that dealt with racial tensions in the 1960s and included a bi-racial love story that was considered very taboo in the U.S. South during that time. My novel Patchwork of Me (that will be out in 2012) allows me to get into the women’s literature genre writing in the first person voice of a female protagonist with drips of a mystery thrown in.

About five years ago when I decided I wanted to really give writing a real go at it, I knew I needed to work hard to get my name out there. So I started with any online places I could submit my work to in order for others to see it. That was followed by a blog that I started a year ago and blogging is a way for me to not only connect with people, but continue to have a writing voice heard as I discuss many different topics. From reviews of shows, to weight loss, to politics and pop culture – I like to give my thoughts on what is happening in the world. Social media has knocked down that invisible wall that stood between authors and their readers and I have enjoyed being able to follow and speak online to several authors that I’ve long admired. It has also opened up a new world for me to meet amazing people (some that are other writers) that are carving out their own niche in the world of the internet.

While writers are taught to ‘write what they know’, I like to expand my mind and study other things to write about. I love to travel and I enjoy using those travels to set my stories in varied places – adding interest for readers who like to escape into a book and be transported to other places. I find the research when working on a novel to be an integral part of my work and something I greatly enjoy. It allows me (much as when I’ve acted in a show) to take on a different persona and give my characters jobs and life experiences that I would never have. And when a story that I’ve worked on for months and months comes to an ending point – I am sad to leave those characters, but know I will move on to another time and place full of other interesting people. I hope readers find them just as enjoyable to read about as I do writing them.

Thank you Gregory. 🙂 For more information about Gregory G. Allen, visit www.ggallen.net or http://www.facebook.com/author.gregory.g.allen.

The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with mystery author and fellow spotlighter Anne White – the one hundred and forty-first of my blog interviews – and Gregory’s interview is scheduled for Wednesday 2nd November, no.175. 🙂 If you like what you read, please do go and investigate the authors further. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me. You can also read / download my eBooks here.