Monday, May 15, 2017

Straight Chatting from the Library: Behind the Mask

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 banners to see the other stops on the tour.


BIO: 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.

What is the favorite book you remember as a child?

I read Lord of the Rings at quite a young age, and I just remember being in awe. I didn't know you could make made up words with that many details, it felt so vast and exciting.

Do you have any bad book habits?

I'm an all or nothing reader. I pick a book up, and I either read the whole thing or I put it down and don't come back to it for months. Even if I love it! I stash it away somewhere like a squirrel hiding food for the winter.

Favorite book you've read this year?

I read C.B. Lee's Not Your Sidekick and had so much fun with it. It read like a comic book, and it was such a cool world and such a great origin story. Also, it was a story with people like me! Bisexual girls coming of age and into their superpowers? That was teenage me's goals, honestly.

Can you tell I like superheroes?

Favorite place to read?

On transit. I've usually got at least two books in my bag and another few on my phone. I take the bus a lot, and often find myself looking forward to longer bus rides because it means I get to sit and read and not have to worry about the stuff that needs doing at home.

Favorite genre?

Fantasy is where I grew up, and it's what I keep coming back to, whether it be high fantasy or urban fantasy or the fantastical-but-not-technically-fantasy world of superheroes and mutants and the like.

Lately I've been branching out, looking more for books with good queer representation above all else, or just diverse casts in general. Got tired of reading books where magic was commonplace but someone liking someone of the same gender was too outlandish to look for, you know? Still love some good fantasy, but it's got to have solid representation in it for me to really be engaged.

Do you loan your books?

At this point, I'm practically a miniature library. I'm always recommending books and shoving them into my friends' hands. There's even a few books I have multiple copies of, because I lent them out and then rebought them and then got the lent book back. I have a little notebook where I try to keep track of who has what, and my only rule is you've gotta discuss the book with me after. The easiest way to find reading buddies is to make your own, right?

Favorite book to recommend?

Right now, it's probably Six of Crows. I just finished my second read through of the duology, and the writing is so tight, the characters are so brilliant and real and unpredictable... It's a fantasy heist story. What's not to like about that?

I also shove Tamora Pierce's stuff into the hands of anyone who didn't grow up reading her. She was such an important part of my own childhood, and I still catch myself using a skill and being like 'hey, I learned this from one of Tamora Pierce's books.'

How do you keep your books organized?

I used to work at a bookstore, so my books were all properly arranged by author's last name, and I would get stressed when they weren't. Then I realized that was a silly way to live, and redid all our bookshelves into a big rainbow. It's very aesthetically pleasing, and it means I can trust people other than myself to put books back, too.

"Where does this one go?"

"Oh, just stick it with the other orange ones!"

Re-reader or not?

I often read my favourite books over and over again. With the best ones, I'm still discovering new stuff even after my third, fourth time through. Also, there's something so comforting, almost like coming home to old friends.


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.


It's been ten months since Pen's concussion, and she's pinned underneath some concrete. Her helmet and mask are gone-must have been knocked off when the giant lizard thing they were fighting flung her several blocks with its surprisingly quick tail. The sun is at just the wrong angle, or maybe that's her head, because no matter how she twists, it's still shining right in her eyes. Her head is already feeling strange, like it isn't attached to her body quite right, and if Pen could feel pain, she's pretty sure she'd be hurting right now.

Well, her body is getting crushed by the remnants of what looks like a wall of the library, so she'd be hurting regardless. That's beside the point.

It takes her longer than it should to find her voice, and her chest clenches at the thought of having to start over, of new holes in her vocabulary when she's just started to patch the old ones. But after a few moments of struggling, a strangled "Help!" leaves her lips, and within the minute, Davie is standing over her.

"Pen?" He's shaken enough that he forgets to use her codename. It's okay. There's no one around. "Don't worry, we'll get you out of there, okay? Hold on."

Whether by accident or design, Davie stands in the light as he works, grabbing gears and other bits of metal from the various pockets hidden in his suit. Pen loves watching technopaths work, and Davie's the best she's ever seen. Her panic fades away, leaving her more than a little embarrassed, because this is nowhere she hasn't been before. Just not since the injury.

"I didn't realize it was you at first," Davie says as he guides his creation to where it will have the best leverage to lift the rubble enough for Pen to get out from under it. "I wasn't aware that 'help' was in your vocabulary."

Privately, Pen didn't think it had been, either. She can't ever remember saying it out loud before. It doesn't feel as shameful as she thought it would.

Out loud, she groans, "Less talking, more lifting, little brother."

But her mask is gone, so there's nothing to hide her proud grin.

The fight does make her lose a few things. But no more than the sirens and flashing lights did that night she walked home without her shades. It's predictable: this two steps forward, one step back. Aggravating, but it no longer feels like her world is falling out from under her every time she has a bad day. That's what progress feels like, right? Like finding balance in a mess. Like finding new words under the rubble.

Pen stops thinking about "getting things back to normal" and starts thinking about what she can do to feel better, what she can do to be better. Even if better looks different than it used to.


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. You can find her online at

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.

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. Twitter: @stuartsuffel

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. His website and blog are at

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). You can find her on twitter @yiduiqie, at, or talking about pop culture and drop bears at

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,, Persistent Visions, and The Sockdolager.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. You can find her online at

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. She can be found online at and

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. Visit her at

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

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.

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  1. Congrats on the tour and thanks for the chance to win :)

  2. Thanks for hosting Behind the Mask. We (the co-editors) fell in love with Ziggy's poignant "Eggshells." It is one of several Young Adult stories in the collection and it seriously rocks! This was also Ziggy's FIRST publication :) We know one thing for sure: It will NOT be the last!!

  3. I am 100% with you on the mini library thing. Having a personal library is my dream honestly. Super proud of you for getting published!

  4. This interview was so much fun! I used to work at a bookstore and talking about my favourite books is my second favourite past time (right after writing my own stuff, although depending on how that's going, sometimes this slides to second place).

    I hope you all enjoy meeting Pen and her teammates~

  5. Great interview, thanks for sharing :)

  6. Replies
    1. Rita Wray, Congrats! You are the winner of the random drawing for an ebook! Contact us at to claim your prize!

  7. I liked the interview thank you for the blog.