going to be talking to you about facial hair. No, not of the unwanted
feminine variety, you may be relieved to hear! I’m going to talk about
what is arguably the manliest of accessories: the beard.
Why do men
grow beards? There’s probably as many reasons as there are bearded men
in the world: fashion; religious observance; covering a weak chin and/or
acne scars; to name but a few. Some men are clean-shaven up until
middle age, when a receding (or totally absent) hairline prompts them to
grow a beard on their chin, presumably to prove there’s testosterone in
the old devil yet. And then, of course, there’s always the old standby:
couldn’t be arsed to shave.
|If only Njal had had one of these|
Beards have danced in and out of fashion
for centuries. And likewise, have been used to express rebellion. In
the 1920s, beards were seen as a fusty mark of the establishment, and
clean-shaven youths would roam the streets shouting “beaver!” when they
caught sight of a bearded man. Nowadays, when few who aspire to public
office would dare abandon shaving, it’s the anti-establishment youth who
sport facial hair.
I always knew that Viggo in Fall Hard would have a
beard. He’s a rugged, outdoor type—and more than that, he’s a Viking,
albeit a modern-day one. Can you imagine a Viking without a beard?
Actually, if you’ve read Njal’s Saga, then yes, you can. (It’s also
known as The Saga of Burnt Njal. And yes, the end is exactly as gruesome
as it sounds…) While his contemporaries reveled in their hirsuteness,
Njal was unable to grow a beard. In a culture in which slurs on a man’s
masculinity were the worst kind of insult, this was a gift to his
enemies. One of them made up a little ditty describing Njal as a
beardless wonder who ought to try smearing dung on his chin to see if it
would make something grow, and his sons as “dungbeardlings”. He didn’t
get to laugh about it for very long, however. Njal’s sons went straight
out and cut off his head for the insult.
Beards: they’re a more serious matter than you thought!
I’m offering a free signed paperback copy of Pressure Head (I’m happy to ship internationally) to a randomly chosen commenter on the tour, plus a $10 Amazon gift certificate!
I’ll be making the draw around teatime on Monday 30th September, GMT. Good luck! 😀
Giveaway question: Readers, how do you prefer your men? Clean-shaven and soft as a baby’s bum, or hairier than the average bear? Or, of course, somewhere in between?
Some memories are better off lost in the mist…
Eight months ago, British academic Paul Ansell lost his lover—and all the memories of their time together—in an accident at Iceland’s Gullfoss Falls. Returning to the misty island country to resume his study of the bloodthirsty Viking Egil Skallagrimsson is tough as he struggles to pull his life back together.
First, there’s his colleague, Mags, who treats him like glass, and summer student Alex, who peppers him with discomforting questions. Then there’s Icelandic jet-boat driver Viggo, a tattooed, modern-day Viking who won’t say much about how they know each other. Leaving Paul to wonder if their volcanic attraction is fuelled by a desire to make a fresh start, or desperation to forget the past.
As more fragments of his lost memories fall into place, Paul is unsure if he can trust himself, much less anyone around him. And he begins to suspect his accident was nothing of the kind.
Warning: Contains a modern-day Viking whose boat has V8 engines for oars, and a harsh land of hot springs and hotter passions that won’t forgive any false steps.
About JL Merrow
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance, and is frequently accused of humour.
She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com