Don’t Bury Your Beauties by Stuart Suffell – Guest Blog and Giveaway


This post is part of a virtual book tour organized by Goddess Fish Promotions. The authors will be awarding a $20 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click on the tour banner to see the other stops on the tour.

Don’t Bury Your Beauties by Stuart Suffell

When does one bury a short story so deep into the back of one’s wardrobe, that all of Narnia have read it – twice?

The answer is perhaps never. “Birthright”, my short story in the fabulous Behind the Mask: A Superhero Anthology, began life in a cold wet January in a small, slightly damp room, on the west coast of Ireland in the year 2014. After a hectic schedule for the previous six months, where my trusty laptop knew no creative endeavour, I had decided, enough was enough. I was a writer, (or so I’d told people), so I should write!

My laptop creaked opened and I sat there for some time, staring into space. I was about to close it again when an image appeared in my mind’s eye. A girl, alone, walking down a hard dirt desert road, surrounded by miles of emptiness. She looked like a young Sissy Spacek, and in hindsight it’s possible I had seen said actress in a scene like that somewhere back in time. Way back.

She was alone, but not exactly lonely. There was something awkward in her gait, like she was carrying an invisible burden on one shoulder, throwing her off balance. The burden played on her mind, yet she carried it deftly, accepting its presence. I knew in a flash that she was on the cusp of a change – on the sidelines of an unclaimed destiny.

And I wanted to know why.

Why on the sidelines? What was her burden? Why did she accept its weight? Why didn’t she leave it down?

The heat of the sun burned down on this girl’s back, and I saw her burden. A sunburnt back, but more than sunburned. Ravaged, red, raw. She had been scarred, but I did not know how.

But I started to write, feverishly.

She lived with her Pa, whom she loved dearly, but now a distance had grown between them. She lived in a shack, the yard littered with bits of machinery, car engines, homemade mechanical gizmos. But where? Twelve hundred words written and I did not know her address.

And so out came my mini globe (a cheap toy, but a handy one). I gave it a spin, and the Nevada desert jumped up too bite me.

I went onto Google maps. Ridgecrest popped out. I went in deep. No, too big. I knew she was from a smaller more rural town. I went deeper, and there it was Randsburg. Raggedly Randsburg. A one horse town, whose horse had died of thirst years ago.

So what next? Well, the dreaded research, that’s what!

I hate research, or anything that isn’t creative writing, but sometimes, (all times), it just had got to be done. And boy was I happy I did it.

An empty desert full of vibrant history. The fervour and fever of the gold rush, the displacement of native peoples, the KKK sponsored dances in nearby Johannesburg, and then, the gem, the thing that expanded the story, gave it an undercurrent, and an end – the tunnel, ‘known as Burro’s Tunnel, named after William ‘Burro’ Schmidt, the madman who’d spent thirty three years of his life carving it out of Copper Mountain, with nothing but a pickaxe’.

Who could have imagine such gems could exist in such a dusty dead desert? Certainly not me.

So twelve hundred words became six thousand by the end of the week. I was a hero, the world had been saved.

Except it hadn’t. Friends and fellow writers I shared my master piece with had responses that ranged from ‘meh’, to ‘is everything all right Stuart? I mean, you getting enough sleep ‘n stuff?’

But I knew this was the one. I knew it was a shift in my writing style. Dagnabbit, I found my writer’s voice! After all this time, I’d found that damned, elusive, ‘voice!’

And, I had. But I hadn’t found how to make it speak.

When a got a pretty detailed rejection from my intended publisher, which essentially echoed the comments of my beta readers, I decided it was time to hit the N button – the Nephew.

My dear nephew, Eoin (pr Owen) – hates reading. Despises it. Would rather pluck out his ‘nose hairs with a pair of pliers.’

But his skills with the ‘cross-out pen’ are second to none. He is ruthless to the point of awe, with as much concern for my feelings, as a scorpion might have for its prey. That which ‘bores’ Eoin, goes. Most of it anyway. 6000 words became 5000.

I submitted it again (the story went through numerous titles before Birthright). Again, thanks, but no thanks. Something was wrong.

My master piece was perfect. It was beautiful. It was downright pretty, damn it! And therein was the problem. I had diluted the central idea of the piece, the transformation of this strange girl. I had sacrificed urgency and tension for the ‘wonderful use of language’ accolades I knew would come. My nephew had said as much in his own eloquent inimitable way, (‘too much nonsense, Unc. Too much fluff.’)

My darlings had to die, and I, their father, had to kill them off, one by one.

5000 became 4400.

So I had my MC, her world, her burden, and her path to redemption/ destiny. She was a reluctant heroine – a reluctant super-heroine. But I needed something else. Some form of accelerator to give the story greater urgency. And then the other N came – nuclear. How can there be a superhero without some kind of nuclear fallout? How could there be a Fallout Man or Radioactive Boy without radioactive particles floating around the place? I decided there couldn’t. In such a world many would suffer, not least those yet to exist. A 100 words were added.

And “Birthright” was born.

So, the moral of this everlasting tale?

Don’t bury your beauties, reshape them until they shine through, and shine true.

Behind the Mask is a multi-author collection with stories by award-winning authors Kelly Link, Cat Rambo, Carrie Vaughn, Seanan McGuire, Lavie Tidhar, Sarah Pinsker, Keith Rosson, Kate Marshall, Chris Large and others. It is partially, a prose nod to the comic world—the bombast, the larger-than-life, the save-the-worlds and the calls-to-adventure. But it’s also a spotlight on the more intimate side of the genre. The hopes and dreams of our cape-clad heroes. The regrets and longings of our cowled villains. That poignant, solitary view of the world that can only be experienced from behind the mask.

Enjoy an Excerpt from “Birthright” by Stuart Suffel

Sara stalled her bike and parked on the side of the road some miles away from Joe’s place. She took a slim book from inside her jacket and opened it to a photo, which acted as a bookmark. It was the only photo she had of her mother.

In the photo, her mother was wearing dungarees and had her hair tied back. She was half-concealed under a cottonwood tree, her face and neck speckled with the blotches of shadow from the tree’s many leaves. She was smiling, but without showing any teeth.

As a child, Sara had thought that one had to smile with no teeth visible in order to be elegant. She’d practiced it herself for many hours in front of the mirror, until she’d come across the newspaper clipping that detailed her mother’s radiation poisoning—complete with graphic illustrations of tooth loss.

The photo was dated June 3, 2025, exactly five years after the start of the war—four and a half years after Sara was born. Her mother’s stance had a juvenile awkwardness, like a polio victim who had never stood before—likely to collapse at any time. It wasn’t just the radiation. The wings were heavier than they looked. They affected her mother’s balance when she was on solid ground. In the picture, the wings weren’t visible: They were folded back, like hair tightly brushed. Sara had sometimes wondered if her mother had been ashamed of her “blessing.”

Lily, her mother, was the first to get the poisoning. Soon others turned up at the medical center in Ridgecrest, their backs and shoulders bubbling like hot soup, yet none felt any pain. If anything, they each claimed to have felt healthier than they’d ever felt. Finally, one of the specialists sliced open her mother’s back to see inside. He and the other surgeons recoiled in horror as the two blood-wet wings unfurled before them. Not long after, her mother and the others were hailed as the salvation of the free world. In truth, they were the sacrificed.

In other parts of the world, it wasn’t wings. In some countries, it was dragon horns and a tail; in others, the legs and torso of a horse; in still others, multiple heads or arms. The scientists had said it was an “inverted psychosomatic manifestation of culturally inherited representations of the archetypical good or powerful.”

Each to their own crazy, Sara had once heard someone quip.

But growing up, Sara, like so many others, saw them as heroes. Real life heroes come alive from the comic books of old. Fearless, invulnerable superhuman creatures born from deep within the human psyche. Our childhood fantasies made flesh.

Some said the bombs were a blessing. There were even new comics made—graphic novels her father always corrected her—of the Birds, the Minotaurs, the Dragons, the Kali.

She had collected all of the Bird novels. They were heroes. Superheroes. Unbeatable. Impenetrable. Invulnerable.

But it turned out they weren’t any of these things.

About the Author:Stuart Suffel’s body of work includes stories published by Jurassic London, Evil Girlfriend Media, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, Kraxon Magazine, and Aurora Wolf among others. He exists in Ireland, lives in the Twilight Zone, and will work for Chocolate Sambuca Ice cream.

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All other authors in the anthology

Kelly Link is the author of four short story collections: Get in Trouble, a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, Pretty Monsters, Magic for Beginners, and Stranger Things Happen. She lives with her husband and daughter in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Seanan McGuire lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest, in a large, creaky house with a questionable past. She shares her home with two enormous blue cats, a querulous calico, the world’s most hostile iguana, and an assortment of other oddities, including more horror movies than any one person has any business owning. It is her life goal to write for the X-Men, and she gets a little closer every day.

Seanan is the author of the October Daye and InCryptid urban fantasy series, both from DAW Books, and the Newsflesh and Parasitology trilogies, both from Orbit (published under the name “Mira Grant”). She writes a distressing amount of short fiction, and has released three collections set in her superhero universe, starring Velma “Velveteen” Martinez and her allies. Seanan usually needs a nap.

Website | Twitter

Carrie Vaughn is best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, who hosts a talk radio show for the supernaturally disadvantaged, the fourteenth installment of which is Kitty Saves the World. She’s written several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, as well as upwards of 80 short stories. She’s a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R.R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado.

Website

Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches atop a hill in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is an Endeavour, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee. Her second novel, Hearts of Tabat, appears in early 2017 from Wordfire Press. She is the current President of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers of America. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see her website.

Website

Lavie Tidhar is the author of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize winning and Premio Roma nominee A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), the World Fantasy Award winning Osama (2011) and of the critically-acclaimed The Violent Century (2013). His latest novel is Central Station (2016). He is the author of many other novels, novellas and short stories

Kate Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and several small agents of chaos disguised as a dog, cat, and child. She works as a cover designer and video game writer. Her fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and other venues, and her YA survival thriller I Am Still Alive is forthcoming from Viking.

Website

Chris Large writes regularly for Aurealis Magazine and has had fiction published in Australian speculative fiction magazines and anthologies. He’s a single parent who enjoys writing stories for middle-graders and young adults, and about family life in all its forms. He lives in Tasmania, a small island at the bottom of Australia, where everyone rides Kangaroos and says ‘G’day mate!’ to utter strangers.

Michael Milne is a writer and teacher originally from Canada, who lived in Korea and China, and is now in Switzerland. Not being from anywhere anymore really helps when writing science fiction. His work has been published in The Sockdolager, Imminent Quarterly, and anthologies on Meerkat Press and Gray Whisper.

Adam R. Shannon is a career firefighter/paramedic, as well as a fiction writer, hiker, and cook. His work has been shortlisted for an Aeon award and appeared in Morpheus Tales and the SFFWorld anthology You Are Here: Tales of Cryptographic Wonders. He and his wife live in Virginia, where they care for an affable German Shepherd, occasional foster dogs, a free-range toad, and a colony of snails who live in an old apothecary jar.

Website

Jennifer Pullen received her doctorate from Ohio University and her MFA from Eastern Washington University. She originally hails from Washington State. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are upcoming in journals including: Going Down Swinging (AU), Cleaver, Off the Coast, Phantom Drift Limited, and Clockhouse.

Stephanie Lai is a Chinese-Australian writer and occasional translator. She has published long meandering thinkpieces in Peril Magazine, the Toast, the Lifted Brow and Overland. Of recent, her short fiction has appeared in the Review of Australian Fiction, Cranky Ladies of History, and the In Your Face Anthology. Despite loathing time travel, her defence of Dr Who companion Perpugilliam Brown can be found in Companion Piece (2015). She is an amateur infrastructure nerd and a professional climate change adaptation educator (she’s helping you survive our oncoming climate change dystopia).

Twitter | Website | Blog

Aimee Ogden is a former biologist, science teacher, and software tester. Now she writes stories about sad astronauts and angry princesses. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Asimov’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, Baen.com, Persistent Visions, and The Sockdolager.

Nathan Crowder is a Seattle-based fan of little known musicians, unpopular candy, and just happens to write fantasy, horror, and superheroes. His other works include the fantasy novel Ink Calls to Ink, short fiction in anthologies such as Selfies from the End of the World, and Cthulhurotica, and his numerous Cobalt City superhero stories and novels. He is still processing the death of David Bowie.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the 2015 Nebula Award winning novelette “Our Lady of the Open Road.” Her novelette “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind” was the 2014 Sturgeon Award winner and a 2013 Nebula finalist. Her fiction has been published in magazines including Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies. Her stories have been translated into Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Galician. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife and dog.

Website | Twitter

Keith Frady writes weird short stories in a cluttered apartment in Atlanta. His work has appeared in Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, Literally Stories, The Yellow Chair Review, and The Breakroom Stories.

Ziggy Schutz is a young queer writer living on the west coast of Canada. She’s been a fan of superheroes almost as long as she’s been writing, so she’s very excited this is the form her first published work took. When not writing, she can often be found stage managing local musicals and mouthing the words to all the songs. Ziggy can be found at @ziggytschutz, where she’s probably ranting about representation in fiction.

Matt Mikalatos is the author of four novels, the most recent of which is Capeville: Death of the Black Vulture, a YA superhero novel.

Website | Facebook

Patrick Flanagan – For security reasons, Patrick Flanagan writes from one of several undisclosed locations; either—
1) A Top Secret-classified government laboratory which studies genetic aberrations and unexplained phenomena;
2) A sophisticated compound hidden in plain sight behind an electromagnetic cloaking shield;
3) A decaying Victorian mansion, long plagued by reports of terrifying paranormal activity; or
4) The subterranean ruins of a once-proud empire which ruled the Earth before recorded history, and whose inbred descendants linger on in clans of cannibalistic rabble
—all of which are conveniently accessible from exits 106 or 108 of the Garden State Parkway. Our intelligence reports that his paranoid ravings have been previously documented by Grand Mal Press, Evil Jester Press, and Sam’s Dot Publishing. In our assessment he should be taken seriously, but not literally. (Note: Do NOT make any sudden movements within a 50′ radius.)

Keith Rosson is the author of the novels THE MERCY OF THE TIDE (2017, Meerkat) and SMOKE CITY (2018, Meerkat). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.

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NOTE: THE PUBLISHER IS OFFERING A SPECIAL CONTEST – ONE COPY OF THE BOOK (CHOICE OF Epub or Mobi) WILL BE GIVEN AWAY TO A RANDOMLY DRAWN COMMENTER AT EVERY STOP (Drawing will be held 5 days after today’s date and is separate from the Rafflecopter drawing below – to enter, the entrant must leave a comment at the stop). Thanks!

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Comments

  1. Thanks for hosting!

  2. Lisa Brown says:

    Congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win 🙂

  3. Astilbe says:

    This was such a detail description of the writing process. Thanks for sharing it. Your story sounds interesting.

  4. James Robert says:

    Good Morning! I appreciate the chance at winning, thank you!

  5. stuart suffel says:

    Btw, I added the extra L in Suffel for em…impact…
    🙂

  6. Rita Wray says:

    I have enjoyed the tour, thank you.

  7. Victoria says:

    I’ve enjoyed the tour and can’t wait to check out Behind The Mask! Thanks for sharing 🙂

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