Tag Archives: Elizabeth Peters

Of Parking Lots and Kings

Hey, all. Suze here (no, that’s not me in the picture!). Glad you could drop by today.

Richard%20III%20Reconstruction[1]Have you heard the news? Richard III, one of Britain’s most notorious kings, has been dug up under a parking lot. (Click here to read more about it) Physical evidence includes hideous wounds to the skeleton consistent with death in battle, as well as a pronounced curvature of the spine consistent with accounts of Richard being a hunchback. (That rumor was likely spread by his enemies–according to the scientists he probably wasn’t hunched, just lopsided). There’s been a facial reconstruction! And there’s a DNA match with a living descendant of Ricky’s sister. A DNA match!

I live for this stuff. Kings buried unceremoniously in unmarked graves. Hoards of ancient gold and jeweled objects found just under the surface of a nondescript field by an ordinary guy with a metal detector. Reclusive heiresses who die, leaving safety deposit boxes that haven’t been opened in decades.
I must have an Inner Indy who needs to be constantly fed new and fascinating discoveries. It belongs in a museum? Not hardly. It belongs in my head, as fodder for future stories.
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There’s a wonderful book by Elizabeth Peters (one of my all-time favorite authors) called The Murders of Richard III. If you’re a mystery fan, you’ll love this one about a librarian, Jacqueline Kirby, who finds herself tangled up in a modern-day plot that has strange connections to the Richard III legend. I’d love to know what Ms. Peters thinks about the discovery of the king’s final resting place.
How about you? Any news stories that have fascinated you recently?

Raiding the ‘Stache

Hey, you’re back! Well so am I! It’s Suze-day.

So today I thought I’d talk about something that may turn out to be controversial. Yes, or no? To shave, or not to shave?

I’m talking about men’s facial hair. I won’t bore you with a history of styles (you know I looked it up, though! Fellow nerdettes and nerds, click here for a nice Wikipedia article on beards, and here for one on mustaches).

The main types:

Eyebrows: Nothing crazy here. Keep ‘em trimmed. But if you have a unibrow — that’s another story. Pluck or wax and keep it secret. Only Larry Hagman as JR Ewing gets to keep ‘em, because he’s, you know, legendary.

Sideburns: Unless you’re Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine, I’m going to say no to muttonchops and big 1970s-style ‘burns. Sorry, Elvis, but this just was not a good look. I’m also not a fan of the country star shaved-straight-across-the-bottom cheekbone thing. I will admit that I have a thing for close-trimmed, neat sideburns that are just a little bit too long, like the ones my UPS man has. He also has cute legs, FYI.

Mustaches: There are many, many types of mustaches, from the bushy Ned Flanders-style soupstrainer, to the handlebar, the pencil-thin, and the porn star. I don’t think we’ll see the return of the Hitler ‘stache anytime soon, but who knows? Fashion is fickle.

Beards: There are also several types of beards, and by beards I mean facial hair that originates below the lower lip. Beards are usually worn in combination with sideburns and/or mustaches, the notable exception being the soul patch. Which looks great with the aforementioned just-a-bit-too-long sideburns and which I sort of love. (Don’t bother me for a few minutes — I’m having my Bruce Springsteen reverie right now).

The goatee/mustache combo is very popular these days. My husband’s cousin’s husband is a barber of Portuguese descent, and I adore the precisely razored lines along his jaw — so exotic (and so much work to keep up!). There is also the Amish beard, where the chin hair connects up with the sideburns with no mustache, also known as the Abraham Lincoln. Who knows? This one may be poised for comeback. I will tell you that I’m a little partial to these because my grandfather and uncle used to grow matching red beards like this during deer hunting season to keep their jaws warm out in the woods. Although I never asked, I suspect the mustaches were dispensed with because they tend to get frosty when a guy is out in the cold for long periods of time.

Now, I’ve noticed something. Heroes in novels (romance and otherwise) almost never have facial hair. Oh, they may have a scruff because they’ve been too busy fending off highwaymen or tending to the cattle on their ranches or performing undercover special-ops missions to shave for a couple days, but I can’t think of a single recent novel where the hero has a beard or mustache. The only exception is Elizabeth Peters’ Radcliffe Emerson, who has a magnificent black beard when our heroine, Amelia Peabody, encounters him in a Victorian Egyptian museum–she detests it, so off it comes. Rhett Butler has a mustache in the movie, but I don’t recall him having one in the book (anyone? does he?).

So why do you think that is? Studies have shown that most American women find a guy with a light, well-groomed beard and mustache more attractive than a clean-shaven guy or a guy with a full, bushy beard. There’s apparently something about men’s ability to grow facial hair that speaks to women on a biological level. Look around you next time you’re out and about — there are a lot of men out there who wear it. And yet our literary heroes don’t take advantage of that, and neither do we writers.

How about you? What’s your preference? Do you like your heroes, fictional or real-life, clean-shaven or with a bit of manly ‘stache or beard? Would you ever create a hero with facial hair?

Read, Rinse, Repeat

Hello, Scribe Groupies, Susannah here.     

I love to read.  Every writer I know loves to read.  I don’t know about you, but I just can’t read everything I want to.   

I look through the Book Page every month and make a list of the books that look new and interesting — authors I haven’t read before, or unfamiliar stories that intrigue me.  Some I buy, some I put on reserve at my town’s amazing public library.   I usually only get through a couple of those a month, sometimes more if I can get the audio version and listen while I drive or go about my household duties.  

More of my reading time is taken up with single title authors I enjoy and with series.  Since I’m in the middle of a lot of them, there’s usually a new one coming out at any particular time.  I’m fiercely loyal.  Even if the series has lost its steam (usually by around Book 5 or 6) I’ll read the series through to the finale.  I always have hope that maybe, just maybe, the story will turn around, and I just have to know how it ends.   (Not that all series deteriorate — Tess Gerritsen is a prime example.  Her Rizzoli and Isles novels have gotten better and better now that the characters are so complex)

The thing about these books is: I most likely will never read them again. Now that I’m a writer, I have to spend more of my time, well, writing, rather than reading.  Sometimes I have to put myself on a reading diet in order to get my writing done.  With my limited reading time, and new stuff coming out demanding my attention, once through most books is enough.

But there are some books I come back to.   I read Jane Austen’s novels every couple of years.  Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte).  Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier).  Far From the Madding Crowd (Thomas Hardy — a relation?  Possibly way back!).  The Turn of the Screw (Henry James — I just can’t figure out if the ghost is real or if the heroine is imagining it.  Every time I read it I come to a different conclusion).  There are some more modern books too:  anything by Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels (they’re the same person).  Stephen King’s short stories are so readable, so well done, I love them far more than the full length novels.  These are the stories that have stuck with me, that I turn to when I need to ground myself.  These are the works that made me want to be a writer in the first place, and inspire me to be a better writer now.  

Chime in and tell us about the books you love enough to read over and over, and how they’ve influenced you and your writing.   See you next week!