Thursday, December 25, 2008

A Holiday Treat from Diana

As a special holiday treat for all of us, Diana Gabaldon has posted on her web site a sample page of artwork and text from the upcoming OUTLANDER graphic novel!

And yes, it includes pictures of Jamie. <g>

I would definitely urge all of you to go take a look. Please note, she's asking that people NOT copy the picture from her site, but you can certainly link to it if you want (as I did above).

My impressions:

S

P

O

I

L

E

R

S

1) I love the way the bleak landscape reflects Jamie's mood, in the bottom frame.

2) I really wish Jamie didn't have his hair covered in these shots! I very much wanted to see if they'd managed to get his red hair correct, and I just can't tell from these pictures.

3) On the other hand, Jamie's eyes look just right to me. The "gull-wing brows" are about what I imagined. And I think the artist got his nose right, too.

4) Murtagh is much better looking than I'd expected from the description in the books. But if he's supposed to be significantly smaller in stature than Jamie, you can't really tell that from these pictures.

5) As for the story...I don't know about the rest of you, but I am intrigued. I want to know why Jamie came back. (Part of me is saying, "He had to come back because he has to be there when Claire shows up!" <g> But of course there has to be a reason that makes sense in the context of the story.)

I'm interested in hearing what the rest of you think. I started a thread on Compuserve, here, but by all means, feel free to post your comments right here on my blog, if you like. And if you have a specific comment or question about the graphic novel that you'd like me to pass on to Diana on your behalf, just let me know.

And please don't worry about putting spoiler warnings in your comments here. <g> The warning I put at the top of this post should be sufficient to alert anybody who doesn't want to know yet.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

Best wishes to all of you for a joyous holiday season. Just for fun, here are some links related to the holidays:

Physics of Santa - I saw this for the first time on USENET about twenty years ago. I still think it's pretty funny.

Dreaming of a White Christmas? Dickens may be to blame, according to this article from the Times of London. (Here in Raleigh, NC, where I live, we are expecting a bit of rain on Christmas Day. No white stuff, of any kind. Sigh....)

Here's a little Chanukah humor. I'm Jewish, and I thought this was hilarious.

And finally, here's a quote from the scene in DRUMS OF AUTUMN where Claire comes to find Jamie in the snow:


"What if I tell you a story, instead?"

Highlanders loved stories, and Jamie was no exception.

"Oh, aye," he said, sounding much happier. "What sort of story is it?"

"A Christmas story," I said, settling myself along the curve of his body. "About a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge."

"An Englishman, I daresay?"

"Yes," I said. "Be quiet and listen."

I could see my own breath as I talked, white in the dim, cold air. The snow was falling heavily outside our shelter; when I paused in the story, I could hear the whisper of flakes against the hemlock branches, and the far-off whine of wind in the trees.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21 ("Night on a Snowy Mountain"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Diana's comments on the graphic novel

Someone on Compuserve asked about the release date for the OUTLANDER graphic novel, and here is Diana's response:

As for the release date...originally, the two editorial entities doing ECHO and the GN were--while still both within Random House--in separate publishing "groups," meaning separate administration, editorial, marketing, publicity, etc. Ergo, hard to get them to coordinate.

Two things have changed, though; 1) owing to the recent publishing meltdown, Ballantine (GN) and Bantam-Dell (ECHO) are now in the _same_ publishing group (same marketing and publicity), and 2) the artist, while doing fabulous work, is only up to page 65 (of 192); there's no way the book would be ready for release in summer of 2009.

Now, the eventual pub date does still depend on the artist's progress--the Ballantine editor put on the Random House website that she was expecting to release the book in spring of 2010, but I'm hoping that might change back to fall of 2009, IF the artwork is done in time. But I, of course, have no control over that.

Go here to see the thread on Compuserve where she made these comments.

I am actually rather glad that they are not trying to rush the project. I'd rather wait a bit longer for quality artwork than have them rush to meet an arbitrary deadline and have the pictures be less than outstanding. (And besides, we'll have ECHO in our hands next fall, regardless of what happens with the GN. <g>) But that's just my own personal opinion. What about the rest of you?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

OUTLANDER Links, Part IV: Native Americans

It occurred to me today that there's a category I overlooked in my series of "OUTLANDER Links" posts a couple of months ago. And that is the references in the OUTLANDER books to various Native American tribes, their history, customs, and culture.

I know very little about this subject, but here are a few interesting links that I found. Please let me know if you have any more you'd like to share!

1) History of the Mohawk
Note what it says on the first page about "Kahnawake". If you've ever listened to the unabridged audio version of FIERY CROSS, you'll notice that toward the end, when young Ian returns from the Mohawk, the name of his tribe is pronounced kannawagga or gannawagga. I think the word Davina Porter is saying there is "Kahnawake", instead of "Kahnyen'kehaka" as it says in the book. (I asked Diana about this once, in one of my very early posts on Compuserve; you can see her explanation here.)

I also like the photo of a longhouse on this site.

2) Trail of Tears


This is a brief history of the forced relocation of the Cherokee, which was mentioned in ABOSAA.
"It grieves me to tell you," Jamie said, and meant it. "Sixty years from this time, the Tsalagi will be taken from their lands, removed to a new place. Many will die on this journey, so that the path they tread will be called..." He groped for the word for "tears", did not find it, and ended, "the trail where they wept."

(From A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 43 ("Displaced Persons"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I found it interesting that Jamie's translation of the phrase, "the trail where they wept", is the same as the phrase used on this site.

3) Tuscarora Indians in North Carolina


Some historical information about the Tuscarora Indians in 18th century North Carolina, describing how land was set aside for the exclusive use of the Tuscarora. (Could this be the "Treaty Line" referred to in ABOSAA? I'm not sure.)

4) Interior of a longhouse



This picture looks exactly like what Diana described in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, don't you think?
Five hearths burned, down the length of the house, each with its own smokehole, and the far wall was divided into cubicles, one for each couple or family, with a low, wide shelf for sleeping and space beneath for storage.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 53 ("Blame"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) Interactions between Indians and Scottish settlers in Colonial North Carolina
This is an article that appeared in my local newspaper earlier this year, about an archaeological dig near Charlotte, NC, that has uncovered the remains of a Catawba Indian village, circa 1755-59. I was fascinated to learn that a genuine Scottish dirk had been found at the site. (Look here for some discussion of this article on Compuserve.)
Note that the article says this particular band of Indians fought on the British side in Quebec in 1759. By coincidence, that's precisely where Lord John will be heading in his next adventure, the upcoming story "Custom of the Army".
If you find these links interesting, check out my previous "OUTLANDER Links" blog entries:

OUTLANDER Links, Part 14: 18th Century Clothing

OUTLANDER Links, Part 13: Plants and Herbs
OUTLANDER Links, Part 12: Standing Stones
OUTLANDER Links, Part 11: Science and Technology
OUTLANDER Links, Part 10: Weaponry
OUTLANDER Links, Part 9: Historical Events
OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine
OUTLANDER Links, Part VII: Gemstones
OUTLANDER Links, Part VI: Wildlife
OUTLANDER Links, Part V: Castles and Palaces
OUTLANDER Links, Part III: All Things Scottish
OUTLANDER Links, Part II: Colonial North Carolina
OUTLANDER Links, Part I: Culloden
What Do These Things Look Like?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jamie Fraser: "Great Scot" or only human?

Throughout the OUTLANDER series, Jamie Fraser has always been portrayed as a heroic figure, big and strong, brave and honorable, able to meet nearly any challenge that comes his way. But is he too perfect a character? We know he has flaws, because Claire sees them all too clearly. But he keeps them hidden away from everyone else — from his tenants, even from Brianna and Roger — with the result that outsiders tend to view him as almost super-human.

[Most of the new tenants] regarded him with a half-superstitious awe, and I was given to understand that Himself could naturally survive the eating of things that would kill any normal person dead on the spot.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 70 ("The Gathering"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The first and most obvious sign of Jamie’s vulnerability is his heavily scarred back. Flogged nearly to death at the age of nineteen, Jamie has taken great pains to keep his scars hidden ever since. This is entirely understandable; as Jamie explains in OUTLANDER:
"I think...if he were to see the scars, he couldna see me anymore without thinking of my back. And I'd be able to see him thinking of it, and that would make me remember it, and--" He broke off, shrugging.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 8, "An Evening's Entertainment". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
However, he allows Claire to see them almost from the beginning, when they are still strangers to one another. He is open and honest with her in a way that he can never be with anyone else. Once, one of his tenants makes a remark to the effect that “he could be dying and you’d never know it,” and Claire is startled by this, thinking to herself that if he were dying, she would certainly know about it. And yet, in FIERY CROSS when Jamie does in fact come close to dying from snakebite, he never says a word to Claire about it.
In the light of day, I saw clearly what exhaustion and the aftereffects of shock had stopped me seeing the night before. His insistence on his own bed. The open shutters, so he could hear the voices of his family below, his tenants outside. And me beside him. He had, very carefully, and without saying a word to me, decided how and where he wanted to die.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 93 ("Choices"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Jamie does not show his feelings easily in front of other people (Claire excluded). He seems to feel that a chief, a leader of men, must not betray any signs of weakness or uncertainty in public, lest it undermine the people’s confidence in him. We see this outward confidence shaken only rarely -- for example, when Young Ian is kidnapped in VOYAGER:
"I don't know," he said. "Damn me to hell, I don't know what to do!" His hands flexed suddenly into fists at his sides. He shut his eyes, breathing heavily.

I felt even more frightened at this admission. In the brief time I had been back with him, I had grown once more accustomed to having Jamie always know what to do, even in the direst circumstances. This confession seemed more upsetting than anything that had yet happened.

(From Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39 ("Lost, and by the Wind Grieved"). Copyright © 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.

In ABOSAA, when Jamie rescues Claire from her abductors, we see a completely different side of Jamie, where he has reverted almost entirely to pure instinct. Terrified by the thought of losing Claire, seized by fury and a deep desire for vengeance, he reacts with a sort of mindless brutality, all traces of the civilized man, the gentleman, forgotten.
He was saying something else, urgently, but I couldn't manage to translate it. Energy pulsed through him, hot and violent, like the current in a live wire, and I vaguely realized that he was still almost berserk; he had no English.

(From A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 28 ("Curses"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Another aspect of Jamie's character that tends to make him seem super-human, at least to those who don't know him well, is his refusal to acknowledge his body’s weakness – whether due to the effects of illness or injury. This is something that has been shown over and over again during the course of the series. On the very first day Claire meets him, he nearly falls off his horse, only then reluctantly acknowledging that he has been stabbed in the side. It’s all the more shocking, therefore, when Jamie does occasionally show signs of physical exhaustion: after the events at the Beardsley farm in FIERY CROSS, for example, when he collapses from the combined effects of exhaustion and a bad cold. But he reveals this side of himself only to those he knows extremely well, and only very rarely.

Jamie’s refusal to show weakness in public sometimes causes friction with the other men. Tom Christie is frankly jealous of Jamie’s leadership abilities and his ease in dealing with people. Roger is intimidated by Jamie’s seeming ability to handle any situation (”He can do everything better than I can”, he snaps to Bree at one point in ABOSAA). It’s not until Roger saves Jamie’s life when he is bitten by the snake in FIERY CROSS that a true bond of friendship and trust is established between Roger and Jamie. I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is the first time Jamie really lets down his guard in front of Roger, dropping the stoic facade and allowing Roger to see the vulnerable human being underneath.

Even with Claire, Jamie is not always willing to show what he is really feeling. In times of the greatest emotional stress, his first instinct is to turn away, to hide his tears (which he views as shameful evidence of his “weakness”), and to refuse Claire’s attempts to comfort him. But eventually, he always turns to her, finding solace in her embrace. For it is only with Claire that he can truly be himself.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

UK Cover Design for ECHO

Earlier this week, Diana posted on her blog a picture of the proposed cover art for the UK version of AN ECHO IN THE BONE.

There's a lot of discussion there about the colors, the fonts used in the title, and the symbolism of the "skeleton leaf" on the cover. You may want to check it out.

U.S. readers please note: As far as we know, the American version of the cover is still going to be a burgundy (some call it mulberry -- at any rate, it's a dark red <g>) color, with a caltrop on the front. Though Diana did mention on her blog yesterday that she would be amenable to a skeleton leaf instead, like the one on the UK cover, if the caltrop doesn't turn out to be feasible from an artistic point of view.

I like the blue/black color scheme, and the leaf makes sense now that Diana explained what it means (if you're still puzzled about that, look down through the comments on Diana's blog for the one that says "For Those Who Don't 'Get' The Leaf" <g>).

I don't care much for the typeface used for the title. Though if they took the "tails" off the A, h, and B, I would be perfectly happy with it. Well, it doesn't matter so much what I think, as I probably won't ever see the UK version of the book. But I'd be interested in what the rest of you think, particularly those of you who will be buying it in the UK.

And if any of you have comments about this cover design that you'd like me to pass on to Diana on your behalf, just let me know.

UPDATE 2/6/09 6:30 pm: Diana announced today that the U.S. version of the cover is going to be a jewel-tone cover with a caltrop on it, but the background color will be black, not dark red. Look here for a picture of the proposed cover art. I think it looks fantastic, though it's quite different from the UK cover design. If you want to comment on the U.S. cover art, my latest blog entry on the subject is here.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

December poll

I just posted a new poll for the month of December.

With the holidays approaching, everyone is so focused on gift-giving that I thought it would be appropriate to look at the various gifts, given and received, in Diana's books.

Please take a moment to vote in the poll, and feel free to comment here if you like.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Post-holiday ramblings

Poll Results

Here are the results of the November poll:

What do you think of the idea of an OUTLANDER movie?

Very excited! I can't wait! (25%)

Cautiously optimistic (36%)

Skeptical, but I'll probably go see it anyway (21%)

Disappointed that Diana is not going to be writing the script (5%)

It's a terrible idea. How can a movie possibly be as good as the book? (11%)

What movie? (This one got no votes, which I suppose is not very surprising. <g>)

Thanks to all of you who participated, and watch for a new poll later this week.

Thanks from Diana

I was delighted to see this, from Diana on Compuserve this morning:

"I'm thankful for all of you, especially Karen"

People ask me sometimes, when I start talking about the Compuserve forum, "Does Diana Gabaldon actually know who you are?" The question is usually accompanied by a look of wide-eyed incredulity, as if to say, "You're on a first-name basis with a Best-Selling Author?!? How in the world did you manage that?" Sometimes I can't quite believe it myself.

Diana and I have never met in person (not likely to, either, unless she comes to North Carolina on a book-tour or something, because I don't travel a great deal), but she's gotten to know me through the Compuserve forum just the same way many of you have. I'm very pleased to be able to help out there in any way I can, especially now that she's entering the "Final Frenzy" stage of ECHO, trying to concentrate on finishing the book. As far as I'm concerned, anything that makes her life easier in the next couple of months benefits all of us who are eagerly waiting for the next book.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of the holiday, here are some Thanksgiving-themed quotes:


1) Roger and Brianna, hunting turkeys:
"What a thing," he said. He held it at arm's length to drain, admiring the vivid reds and blues of the bare, warty head and dangling wattle. "I don't think I've ever seen one, save roasted on a platter, with chestnut dressing and roast potatoes."

He looked from the turkey to her with great respect, and nodded at the gun.

"That's great shooting, Bree."

She felt her cheeks flush with pleasure, and restrained the urge to say, "Aw, shucks, it warn't nothin'," settling instead for a simple, "Thanks."

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20 ("Shooting
Lessons"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I love this scene, both for what it reveals about Brianna's childhood (did Frank really find evidence that she would travel to the 18th century some day?) and for Roger's reaction. He's a little taken aback by her shooting skills, but his ego doesn't seem to be threatened by the fact that she's better at hunting (providing food for the family) than he is.

2) Jocasta and Duncan's wedding feast:

"Can ye not decide where to begin, Sassenach?" He reached down and took the empty wineglass from her hand, taking advantage of the movement to come close against her back, feeling the warmth of her through his clothes.

She laughed, and swayed back against him, leaning on his arm. She smelled faintly of rice powder and warm skin, with the scent of rose hips in her hair.

"I'm not even terribly hungry. I was just counting the jellies and preserves. There are thirty-seven different ones--unless I've missed my count."

He spared a glance for the table, which did indeed hold a bewildering array of silver dishes, porcelain bowls, and wooden platters, groaning with more food than would feed a Highland village for a month.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46 ("Quicksilver"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Most major holiday dinners give me this same feeling, although I can't say I've ever seen thirty-seven different varieties of *anything* at one meal before. <g>

3) The "hearth blessing" on Fraser's Ridge:

We blessed the hearth two days later, standing in the wall-less cabin. Myers had removed his hat, from respect, and Ian had washed his face. Rollo was present, too, as was the small white pig, who was required to attend as the personification of our "flocks," despite her objections; the pig saw no point in being removed from her meal of acorns to participate in a ritual so notably lacking in food.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19 ("Hearth Blessing"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Considering how successful that little homestead on the Ridge would prove to be, I think there must have been something extra-powerful in that blessing. <g> And I love the mention of the little white piglet, who will grow up to become the infamous White Sow. If this blessing was intended to ensure fertility on the part of that sow, it succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

4) The Selkirk Grace:

[Hamish] glared round the table to insure that everyone was in a properly reverential attitude before bowing his own head. Satisfied, he intoned,

"Some hae meat that canna eat,
And some could eat that want it.
We hae meat, and we can eat,
And so may God be thankit.
Amen."

(From Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6 ("Colum's Hall"). Copyright © 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I have a great deal to be thankful for this year -- not least, the many new friends I've made in the OUTLANDER fan community, including those of you who've been kind enough to visit my blog and participate in the discussions here.

Happy Thanksgiving! (And to those of you outside the U.S., best wishes for the holiday season.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"The Highlanders" Doctor Who episode

Many of you have heard Diana's story of how she got the idea for the character of Jamie from an old "Doctor Who" episode featuring a young man in a kilt named Jamie. <g>

You can now view detailed information about the episode ("The Highlanders") that introduced this character, here. It's set in 1746 Scotland around the time of the battle at Culloden. And here's a link to a "photonovel" (sort of a slideshow of the episode, scene by scene).

A few things I noticed immediately:


1) The laird in the story is named Colin. That's pretty close to Colum, don't you think? <g>

2) There is a character named Grey, a British solicitor who proclaims himself "His Majesty's Commissioner for the disposal of rebel prisoners." And though he seems pretty unscrupulous, not at all like Lord John Grey, I can't help but wonder if perhaps the name was planted in Diana's subconscious when she saw this episode, long before she wrote DRAGONFLY. Even if that's not the case, I think the coincidence of names is pretty amazing.

3) Watching the scenes that take place in the little cottage, surrounded by British forces, I couldn't help but think of the similar scene in DRAGONFLY, where Claire and the others take refuge in the little church.

Thanks very much to Carlotta, on Compuserve, for providing the link to the BBC archive! I had fun looking through this, and I hope you will, too.

UPDATE 11/22/08 4:12 pm: Oops! It turns out I was wrong in my initial assumption. Diana says this is not, in fact, the same episode that inspired the character of Jamie. The episode she saw was called "War Games". A quick look at the BBC site reveals that this same Jamie was indeed a character in that episode, but he wasn't the main focus of the plot, just a young man in a kilt who happened to be in it. <g> It doesn't matter to me. It's the same character, after all, who inspired Jamie Fraser.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Another Diana Gabaldon podcast

Diana's latest podcast is available on her web site, here:

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~gatti/gabaldon/media/podcasts/episode24.mp3

This one is a real treat for people like me who are fascinated by historically accurate use of language (idiom, slang, and so on).

Despite what it says on her web site, this podcast does NOT contain an excerpt from AN ECHO IN THE BONE. Instead, Diana reads an excerpt from the upcoming Lord John story, "Custom of the Army."

I enjoyed this podcast quite a bit and I hope you will too!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

OUTLANDER tour of Scotland

If you've ever wondered what it's like to go on the "OUTLANDER Tour" of Scotland, take a look at this article, about the experiences of a group that recently went on this tour.

More information can be found here: Celtic Journeys

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with these tours in any way. In fact, I've never even been to Scotland, though I'd love to visit some day. Just passing on the information that I happened to see on the Ladies of Lallybroch site. I hope it's useful to you.

Autumn musings

The middle of November in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I live, is just past the peak of the fall foliage season. So I went out this morning for the start of the annual fall ritual of raking pine straw from my back yard -- a seemingly endless task, as every time it rains or the wind blows, thousands more pine needles rain down over my lawn, from the handful of 40-50 foot tall pine trees at the back of my property. And once the pine needles land, they don't blow away, either, they just lie there until someone comes along to rake them up.


In the course of this yard work, I started thinking about some of the beautiful descriptions of the seasonal foliage in the OUTLANDER books. And that inspired me to go looking for some pictures to share with you.

For example:


Autumn in the Scottish Highlands
The sun was coming down the sky, but hadn't yet reached the row of pines that topped the ridge on the west side of Lallybroch. It was still late afternoon, and the world glowed with the colors of late autumn.
The fallen beechmast was cool and slippery under me, but a good many leaves still clung, yellowed and curling, to the tree above. I leaned back against the smooth-barked trunk and closed my eyes, dimming the bright glare of ripe barley fields to a dark red glow behind my eyelids.
(From Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 31 ("Mail Call"). Copyright ©1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


Fall Foliage in the North Carolina Mountains
I looked up to find Jamie leaning against a tree on the other side of the streamlet. The bold colors of his dress tartan and white linen sark stood out bright against the faded autumn foliage; face and hair, though, made him look like some denizen of the wood, all bronze and auburn, with the wind stirring his hair so the free ends danced like the scarlet maple leaves above.
(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1 ("Happy the Bride the Sun Shines On"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

We climbed a granite ledge, thick with moss and lichen, wet with the omnipresent flow of water, then followed the path of a descending freshet, brushing aside long grass that pulled at our legs, dodging the drooping branches of mountain laurel and the thick-leaved rhododendrons.

Wonders sprang up by my feet, small orchids and brilliant fungi, trembling and shiny as jellies, shimmering red and black on fallen tree trunks. Dragonflies hung over the water, jewels immobile in the air, vanishing in mist.
(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16 ("The First Law of Thermodynamics"). Copyright © 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.
This quote is from one of my all-time favorite chapters in the whole series, the scene where Jamie and Claire discover the site of Fraser's Ridge. I love the imagery Diana uses here. These tiny details, so beautifully expressed, are the sort of thing you miss completely if you skim through the books, or read too fast. (Both of which I freely admit to doing the first few times I read the series -- mea culpa. <g>)
Before you ask: No, I didn't take these photos! (Well, except for the first one, which is indeed a picture of my back yard <g>, as it looked this morning.) Aren't they gorgeous, though?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

ECHO's cover design

It looks as though Diana has settled on a cover design for AN ECHO IN THE BONE. Here is what she said on Compuserve last night:

Well, I believe we're basically set here. ECHO will follow the same basic pattern of the series--deep jewel tone cover (I picked the color already--#222 on this chart), with a gold caltrop as icon. Don't know exactly what the caltrop will look like, or whether they'll add embossing, Celtic ornament, or what--I'll leave that to the book designer.

But it'll match your existing set, no problems.

You can see the full discussion on Compuserve here.

I am delighted with this news, since I was really hoping for a caltrop on the cover, and also that they would stick with the jewel-tone covers. (I really love the look of the matched set!)

Does anyone else think this particular color is a bit like the color of dried blood? <g> Compare the color 222 on Diana's chart above to this color, for example.

Caltrops, blood, war, "mortality" as a possible theme...this is all starting to sound rather ominous, to me at least. But I guess we'll all just have to wait and see.

UPDATE 12/6/08 9:03 am: Diana posted a picture this week on her blog of the proposed UK cover design for ECHO, which is quite different from the US cover design. Look here for more information.

UPDATE 2/6/09 6:30 pm: Well, it's going to be a jewel-tone cover with a caltrop on it, but the background color will be black, not dark red. Look here for a picture of the proposed cover art. I think it looks fantastic! If you want to comment, my latest blog entry on the subject is here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

New poll about the OUTLANDER movie

I'm still occasionally playing around with Blogger, seeing what new features I can add to this blog. So, last night I figured out how to create a poll. <g> This one is about the possibility of an OUTLANDER movie.

I hope you'll take a moment to participate in the poll. And if you don't like any of the choices, feel free to let me know what option you would have picked instead.

The poll will be open until the end of November, or until I think of something better to replace it with. <g>

Monday, November 10, 2008

Diana's comments on a possible OUTLANDER movie

Diana Gabaldon has posted a new blog entry with her response to all the rumors and speculations that have been flying around lately regarding the possibility of an OUTLANDER movie.

You can read what she says here. Very interesting stuff, and I would urge you to take a look at it. (Feel free to comment here, if you want.)

My take on it: She's right that the project is still at a fairly early stage, and people shouldn't assume that it will definitely happen. Also, we have Absolutely No Idea at this point who they are considering for the major roles. All the talk about Gerard Butler, Keira Knightley, and James McAvoy notwithstanding, the fact is that everyone is speculating, and no one but the casting director actually knows who they have in mind.

I'm actually relieved that Diana doesn't want to get too involved with the movie. It would take away far too much time from her writing, and that would be bad for all of us.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Searching Inside the Books: The Complete List

I discovered this evening that the Amazon "search inside this book" function for HAND OF DEVILS is now available. And for those of you who've been wondering, the search function for FIERY CROSS seems to be working again, after a few weeks when it wasn't available.

Just to put them all in one place, here is the complete list of Diana Gabaldon's books in searchable format, available on Amazon.com:

OUTLANDER

DRAGONFLY IN AMBER

VOYAGER

DRUMS OF AUTUMN

THE FIERY CROSS

A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES

LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE

LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER

LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS

OUTLANDISH COMPANION

Hope you find these links as useful as I do! I believe they're all accurate, but if you find any problems, let me know.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Today's OUTLANDER news

A couple of interesting developments today:

1) Diana posted a new blog entry asking for our opinions and suggestions on a possible redesign of the OUTLANDER book covers when AN ECHO IN THE BONE comes out next year.

So if you have any ideas, please post them either on her blog or on Compuserve (here).

And if you have a good idea but you are too nervous to suggest it directly to her, post it here and I will be more than happy to pass it on to Diana on your behalf.

2) Some news about the upcoming OUTLANDER movie, courtesy of The Scotsman.

This is a very interesting article and I would encourage you to take a look at it. James McAvoy and Keira Knightley are mentioned as possible casting choices, but I hasten to add that I have no idea whether they're really being considered or not.

And in case you're wondering, Diana has absolutely no influence over the casting of the OUTLANDER movie. She commented today on Compuserve, "They might ask what I thought, just to be polite, but I don't have any power to affect whom they cast, at all."

Thoughts? Opinions? Speculations? What do you think of the idea of an OUTLANDER movie?

Personally I am very skeptical that any feature-length film could possibly do justice to the story, or the characters -- so many movie adaptations of popular books end up disappointing those who loved the books -- but I will certainly go see an OUTLANDER movie if one does get made.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Diana's latest podcast: "Where Scenes Come From"

The latest in Diana Gabaldon's new series of podcasts has been posted on her web site at www.dianagabaldon.com. This one is titled "Where Scenes Come From".

You can download it here:

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~gatti/gabaldon/media/podcasts/episode23.mp3

Since this particular podcast deals so specifically with the details of ECHO, I probably won't listen to it myself. I'm still trying to avoid finding out any more than I absolutely have to about what happens in ECHO. But of course there's no reason why the rest of you should stay away from it!

P.S. To everyone in the U.S., I hope you go out and vote today.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Problems on Compuserve Forum

For those of you who visit the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum where Diana hangs out, you probably have noticed that the site has been having problems today, with major changes to the look and feel of the screens, and possibly other issues that I'm not aware of.

Please don't email me asking for help with this. I don't know any more about the changes than you do, and I have absolutely no power to fix anything on Compuserve outside of the posts in Diana's section of the forum itself. Things are in a state of flux over there today, and changes are continuing to take place as the powers that be (whoever they are) find and fix bugs.

Any updates will be posted on the General Forum on the Compuserve Books and Writers Forum as we learn more. Until then, please be patient, and remember I'm just as baffled by the sudden changes as the rest of you.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

UPDATE: Searching inside the books

I just discovered this week that some more of Diana's books are now searchable via Amazon:

A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES

LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE

LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER

I am delighted to see the ABOSAA search, in particular, as this will make it much easier to track down specific quotes from that book.

The search for HAND OF DEVILS doesn't appear to be quite functional yet, but they are clearly working on it. I will post the link here if I see that it's actually functioning.

And if you don't know what the Amazon search is or why it's so useful, look here.

Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Spooky OUTLANDER moments

As Halloween approaches, I've been thinking about some of the spookiest, scariest, most eerie or supernatural moments in the OUTLANDER books.

For example:

  • Claire's encounter with Otter-Tooth's ghost in DRUMS

  • Margaret Campbell, the catatonic screaming woman in VOYAGER, speaking with Brianna's voice during the scene with the crocodile

  • Jamie's ghost in OUTLANDER

Do you have a favorite scary moment from the series? Or maybe not so much scary, as unexplainable by anything other than supernatural means?

Diana has had her own real-life encounters with ghosts. If you haven't seen her Alamo ghost story before, it's worth reading.

And speaking of ghost stories: In the scene in VOYAGER that takes place on Halloween night, just before Claire goes back through the stones, Claire and Roger discuss an old Scottish folk tale that had Roger scared out of his wits as a young boy. Rychane on Compuserve tracked this story down for me a couple of months ago.

Happy Halloween/All Hallows Eve/Samhain to all of you! <g>

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A little news about the graphic novel

Bits and pieces of information are starting to emerge about the upcoming graphic novel.

Diana's latest blog entry contains some interesting information about a preview of the graphic novel that will be available in a magazine article to be published in mid-November.

Also, on Compuserve today she confirmed:
  • we will get to see the scars on Jamie's back in the graphic novel
  • "we'll see both Claire and Jamie in their wedding gear"
You can see the whole discussion here.

(Note to Merrymags: Yeah, I did blog about the "strange and unusual words" <g>, but I'm reasonably sure Diana's never seen my blog, or at least she's never mentioned it to me. My guess is she's far too busy. I'm flattered that you would think to mention it in your comment to Diana, though.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

OUTLANDER Links, Part III: All Things Scottish

Here are some links related to Scotland, Scottish culture, and the Gaelic language.

Please note: I don't have a drop of Scottish blood myself, I don't speak Gaelic, and I've never attended a Gathering or Highland Games, much less visited Scotland myself. So I can't guarantee the authenticity of any of the information below.

Thanks to everyone who's been sending me links. I really appreciate it! <g>

1) Bodhran player - Thanks to my sister Alice for this one! I think he's terrific.

2) Scottish Place Names Around the World - It's amazing to think how widespread Scottish influence is, all over the world. (Has anybody read "How Scots Invented the Modern World" by Arthur Herman? I haven't, yet, but I keep meaning to. The title intrigues me.)

3) Beag air Bheag - a BBC site that teaches simple Gaelic vocabulary (with pronunciations!)

4) Fraser Clan site - thanks to Jari Backman for this link.

5) How to Wrap a Great Kilt - this one comes from Elsa, and I can't let it pass without quoting the scene in FIERY CROSS where Roger wears one:
"All right," he said with resignation. "Laugh if ye must." Getting into a belted plaid wasn't the most dignified thing a man could do, given that the most efficient method was to lie down on the pleated fabric and roll like a sausage on a girdle. Jamie could do it standing up, but then, the man had had practice.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23 ("The Bard"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
6) Frasers of Lovat - note how much of the history of Simon Fraser, Jamie's grandfather ("the Old Fox"), described in DRAGONFLY, is documented historical fact. Including how he took wives by force and treachery.

7) Dictionary of the Scots Language - thanks to Atrevista for this one! Very useful for those of us who've never heard of the many Scots words used in the books, from "broch" to "hochmagandy" to "oxter". <g>

8) Scottish Wedding Accessories - Actually, this site has a lot more than just wedding-related items, but I heard about it first from Diana, in a post on Compuserve a few months ago, when she linked to a pendant that she particularly liked on this site.

9) Caithness Paperweights - I fell in love with these paperweights, manufactured by a Scottish company called Caithness, on a visit to Replacements near Greensboro, NC, about a year ago. I've started a collection (well, OK, so far I only have two, but every collection has to start somewhere, right?) In all honesty, I loved the paperweights even before I found out they were made in Scotland, but still....[UPDATE 3/20/2010: I have four of them now, and you can see my current collection here.]

If you have any more Scottish-related sites, please let me know!

If you find these links interesting, check out my other "OUTLANDER Links" blog entries:

OUTLANDER Links, Part 14: 18th Century Clothing
OUTLANDER Links, Part 13: Plants and Herbs
OUTLANDER Links, Part 12: Standing Stones
OUTLANDER Links, Part 11: Science and Technology
OUTLANDER Links, Part 10: Weaponry
OUTLANDER Links, Part 9: Historical Events
OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine
OUTLANDER Links, Part VII: Gemstones
OUTLANDER Links, Part VI: Wildlife
OUTLANDER Links, Part V: Castles and Palaces
OUTLANDER Links, Part IV: Native Americans
OUTLANDER Links, Part II: Colonial North Carolina
OUTLANDER Links, Part I: Culloden
What Do These Things Look Like?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Another new podcast from Diana

Here's the link to Diana's latest podcast:

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~gatti/gabaldon/media/podcasts/episode22.mp3

This one is about the places where she goes to meet and talk to fans: Highland Games, SF/fantasy conventions, and even prisons. Enjoy!

And if you want some visuals to accompany the part of the podcast where she talks about what it's like to attend a Highland Games, try this: 2007 Grandfather Mountain Highland Games (of course you'll have to turn down the bagpipe music that accompanies the slideshow <g>).

Have any of you actually attended a Highland Games, or a book-signing or other event where Diana was present? I haven't, myself, but if you want to share your experiences, I'd love to hear about them.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What I like about Claire

In honor of Claire Fraser's birthday on October 20th, I thought I'd share a few of my own thoughts about what makes her such a compelling character.

1) Adaptability

Claire shows an amazing capacity to adapt to unfamiliar conditions and changing circumstances, even when (as in OUTLANDER) she's had no warning whatsoever that a change is coming. Even in OUTLANDER, once she arrives at Castle Leoch the first time, rather than spending every minute plotting her escape, she manages to make a place for herself as a healer.

In VOYAGER, contemplating her return to the past, Claire thinks about what it will be like to leave behind all the modern conveniences of the 20th century:

Could I live without all the "conveniences," large and small, to which I was accustomed?

I had been asking myself that with each touch of a button, each rumble of a motor, and was quite sure that the answer was "yes." Time didn't make all the difference, after all; I could walk across the city and find people who lived without many of these conveniences--farther abroad and there were entire countries where people lived in reasonable content and complete ignorance of electricity.

For myself, I had never cared a lot. I had lived with my uncle Lamb, an eminent archaeologist, since my own parents' death when I was five. Consequently, I had grown up in conditions that could conservatively be called "primitive," as I accompanied him on all his field expeditions.
(From Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19 ("To Lay a Ghost"). Copyright © 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

There is no question that Claire seems to adapt to 18th-century life more quickly and more easily than a lot of us imagine that we would in the same circumstances. (And she adapts much more readily than Brianna does, certainly.) Jamie's presence has a lot to do with that, of course; Claire is willing to put up with a lot, even sleeping on the cold, hard ground in close proximity to a battlefield, just to be near him.

2) Stubbornness

As much as everyone talks about the vaunted Fraser stubbornness, I think Claire is at least a match for Jamie in that respect. She doesn't give up easily, even when faced with overwhelming odds. (Examples include the scene in OUTLANDER when she fought off the wolf with her bare hands, or the infamous "wife-beating" scene.) You get the sense that she'll move heaven and earth to protect the ones she loves, no matter what it costs her.

"Jamie," I said, into the folds of his plaid. "I'm going back with you."

He started back, staring down at me.

"The hell you are!" he said.

"I am." I felt very calm, with no trace of doubt. "I can make a kilt of my arisaid; there are enough young boys with the army that I can pass for one. You've said yourself it will all be confusion. No one will notice."

"No!" he said. "No, Claire!" His jaw was clenched, and he was glaring at me with a mixture of anger and horror.

"If you're not afraid, I'm not either," I said, firming my own jaw. "It will...be over quickly. You said so." My chin was beginning to quiver, despite my determination. "Jamie--I won't...I can't...I bloody won't live without you, and that's all!"

(From Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46 ("Timor Mortis Conturbat Me"). Copyright ©1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I think there's no way on earth she would have left him at that point, if he hadn't begged her to do so for the sake of their unborn child. It was the only possible way he could overcome her stubbornness and determination.

3) Medical Skills

Claire's medical knowledge and skill have impressed me from the very beginning. I love the scene in OUTLANDER where she sets Jamie's broken fingers, overcoming her own fear and distress in the face of this dire medical emergency, and managing, despite her lack of experience, to repair the damage well enough so that he could still use the hand.

I love watching Claire work as a surgeon, though sometimes she surprises me, as when she occasionally operates by "feel":

I felt the fibrous parting of skin and fascia, resistance, then the soft pop as the blade went in. There was a sudden loud gurgle, and a wet kind of whistling noise; the sound of air being sucked through blood. Roger's chest moved. I felt it, and it was only then that I realized my eyes were still shut.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 69 ("Hideous Emergency"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

What else? Are there other aspects of Claire's personality that you particularly like, or dislike? And why?

Friday, October 17, 2008

OUTLANDER Links, Part II: Colonial North Carolina

Here are some links to various sites relating to Colonial North Carolina, the American Revolution, and colonial life in general:
Merrymags sent in the following links:
http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/ - Check out the encyclopedia. Fascinating stuff!
http://www.ncssar.com/ - This is the site of the North Carolina Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
This one comes from Jari Backman:
http://tinyurl.com/3fokmh - Lots of interesting facts about Governor Josiah Martin of North Carolina, mentioned in ABOSAA.
And here are some that I found:
http://jas-townsend.com/ - A site for 18th century re-enactors, including tons of photos of objects, clothing, etc., in use in everyday life. And all of it is available for sale! <g>

http://ncpedia.org/history/usrevolution/moores-creek-bridge - Moore's Creek Battlefield site (commemorating the battle described in ABOSAA)


http://www.ncfolk.org/TravelGuides/Groundhog_kilns.aspx - A "groundhog kiln" similar to the one Brianna tried to build in ABOSAA
And finally, here's a book about 18th century clothing, with lots of illustrations, that I found on a visit to Colonial Williamsburg in September. (Sorry I can't post pictures from the book here, but it's copyrighted material.) I highly recommend this book if you are curious about what the various items of clothing mentioned in the OUTLANDER and Lord John books actually looked like.

That's all for now. If you come across any more links that you think others would like to see, please pass them along!

If you find these links interesting, check out my other "OUTLANDER Links" blog entries:

OUTLANDER Links, Part 14: 18th Century Clothing
OUTLANDER Links, Part 13: Plants and Herbs
OUTLANDER Links, Part 12: Standing Stones
OUTLANDER Links, Part 11: Science and Technology
OUTLANDER Links, Part 10: Weaponry
OUTLANDER Links, Part 9: Historical Events
OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine
OUTLANDER Links, Part VII: Gemstones
OUTLANDER Links, Part VI: Wildlife
OUTLANDER Links, Part V: Castles and Palaces
OUTLANDER Links, Part IV: Native Americans
OUTLANDER Links, Part III: All Things Scottish
OUTLANDER Links, Part I: Culloden
What Do These Things Look Like?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Brianna's bracelet is now available!

I just saw this announcement from M&M on the Ladies of Lallybroch site, and wanted to pass it on: Brianna's bracelet is now available for sale!



Okay, here's the scoop in a nutshell. :-)

When I went to visit the Claire's Ring jewelers before Fergus last year, he gave me a really cool Claire's cuff bracelet made from the design of the Claire's ring. I then asked if he could make one for the others that it wouldn't of happened w/o them...DG, Janice, DG's elf Susan, and Elaine (not of the boards) who put the design together.

While chatting I said...it would be really great if someone made jewelry for really popular books, or just great fiction, that nobody does anything for people that love to read. He basically said if I designed some things, they would come up with some stuff too, and I could make a website for it all.

So the next time I saw Diana (at a book signing in Chicago) I asked her if we could sell "Brianna's Bracelet", the cuff, some other neat things, and other things from the books, she graciously said, yes. After many designs, molds were made, samples made, photographed, an online store was born. Brianna's bracelet is there, among other Outlandish treasures, and so far some Jane Austen, Anya Seton, and Charlotte Bronte.

You can see the bracelet (along with other OUTLANDER-themed jewelry) and the ordering information here:

http://www.theauthorsattic.com/gabaldon.htm#DianaGabaldon

Please pass this link on to anyone you think might be interested! And thanks very much to Michelle/M&M at LOL for making this happen for us.

Disclaimer: I have no connection to the site selling these bracelets, or Claire's ring, or anything else you may find there. So if you have questions about the jewelry, click on the Contact Us link on the site I linked to above, and ask your questions there. Or ask on the LOL site.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

ECHO's shape: It's a caltrop

Diana mentioned yesterday on Compuserve that she thinks she's seen the "shape" of AN ECHO IN THE BONE.

It's a caltrop.

This has sparked a very interesting discussion on Compuserve, regarding all the various meanings of the word, and what you can do with an object shaped like that. I would encourage you to check it out.

Oh, and this relates back to my blog entry about Diana's strange and unusual words, because I'd never heard of the word caltrop until I read DRUMS OF AUTUMN. Remember the scene where Claire is walking around barefoot in the strawberry field and steps on something sharp?

I had stepped on some sort of cocklebur; half a dozen vicious caltrops were stuck in my bare sole, blood drops welling from the tiny punctures. Precariously balanced on one foot, I tried to pick them out, cursing under my breath.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 16 ("The First Law of Thermodynamics"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I think this is a fascinating shape that has a lot of potential for great storytelling.

Feel free to speculate here about what it means <g>, just please don't discuss anything you may have read in an excerpt. I'm still trying to avoid hearing anything about the plot of ECHO. Thanks.

Also please keep in mind, this isn't necessarily set in stone! A few weeks ago, Diana mentioned a slightly different shape for ECHO. So it evolves over time, and it might change again.

UPDATE 2/6/09 6:30 pm: Diana announced today that the U.S. cover will be black with a caltrop on it. Look here for a picture of the proposed cover art. I think it looks fantastic! If you want to comment, my latest blog entry on the subject is here.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

OUTLANDER Links, Part I: Culloden

The clan stones were large boulders of gray granite, rounded by weather and blotched with lichens. They sat on patches of smooth grass, widely scattered near the edge of the moor. Each one bore a single name, the carving so faded by weather as to be nearly illegible in some cases. MacGillivray. MacDonald. Fraser. Grant. Chisolm. MacKenzie.

(From Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4 ("Culloden"). Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

And here is a video of a Culloden re-enactment. I like the song playing in the background (performed by Isla Grant) very much. Thanks to Kristin Sanderson -- aka "Woogie" -- for the link!


Of course I can't let a mention of Culloden pass without noting that Jamie Fraser was there as well:
"Ye looked fair wild, man, for there was blood runnin' doon your face and your hair was loose on the wind. Ye'd sheathed your sword to carry me, but ye pulled it again as ye turned away. I didna think I should see ye again, for if ever I saw a man set to meet his death..."

He shook his head, his eyes half-closed, as though he saw not the sober, stalwart man before him, not the Fraser of Fraser's Ridge--but Red Jamie, the young warrior who had not gone back from gallantry, but because he sought to throw his life away, feeling it a burden--because he had lost me.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7 ("Shrapnel"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's the link to the Culloden Battlefield site in Scotland. Diana was there earlier this year (on the anniversary of the battle of Culloden that took place on April 16, 1746) to attend the dedication of their new Visitor's Centre. Go here to read her impressions of that visit. Some of you may already have seen this account on Diana's blog or on Compuserve, but if you haven't read it before, I highly recommend it! <g> Nothing like reading a firsthand description of what the area looks like, in Diana's own words.
If you find these links interesting, check out my other "OUTLANDER Links" blog entries:

OUTLANDER Links, Part 14: 18th Century Clothing
OUTLANDER Links, Part 13: Plants and Herbs
OUTLANDER Links, Part 12: Standing Stones
OUTLANDER Links, Part 11: Science and Technology
OUTLANDER Links, Part 10: Weaponry
OUTLANDER Links, Part 9: Historical Events
OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine
OUTLANDER Links, Part VII: Gemstones
OUTLANDER Links, Part VI: Wildlife
OUTLANDER Links, Part V: Castles and Palaces
OUTLANDER Links, Part IV: Native Americans
OUTLANDER Links, Part III: All Things Scottish
OUTLANDER Links, Part II: Colonial North Carolina
What Do These Things Look Like?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Quotes relating to the current financial crisis

I've been pondering the state of the economy today. Hard not to think about it, with U.S. stocks still falling and the financial markets all over the world in trouble. I thought I'd take a look at what Diana has to say on the subject:

Speculative Bubbles

This quote is from Lord John's explanation of how his father ended up losing his title as Duke of Pardloe. It all started with a bubble that seems very reminiscent of what happened with tech stocks in the 1990's, or real estate prices today:

Within the previous five years, the price of South Sea shares had risen, from
ten pounds to a hundred, then dizzyingly, from a hundred to a thousand within a
year, driven up by rumor, greed--and not a little calculated chicanery on the
part of the company's directors. The duke sold his shares at this pinnacle.

"And a week--one week--later, the slide began." It had taken most of a
year for the full devastation of the great crash to become evident. Several
great families had been ruined; many lesser folk all but obliterated. And the
public outcry toward those seen to be responsible...

(From Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade, by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4
("Chisping"). Copyright (c) 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Foreclosures

This is, of course, neither a new problem nor one confined to the United States of the early 21st century. But foreclosures have been much in the news lately. I'm sure many of you can sympathize with Abel MacLennan's plight here:

"[Sheriff Travers] came with a paper, and said he mun' put us oot, and the taxes not paid."

Faced with necessity, Abel had left his wife in their cabin, and gone posthaste to Salem. But by the time he returned, six shillings in hand, his property had been seized and sold--to Howard Travers's father-in-law--and his cabin was inhabited by strangers, his wife gone.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2 ("Loaves and Fishes"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Sudden Loss of Wealth

And here's one all you stock-market and mutual fund investors out there can relate to, from the scene in DRUMS OF AUTUMN just after Stephen Bonnet's attack leaves Jamie, Claire, and young Ian virtually destitute:

Even our perilous trip north had felt like an adventure, with the certain knowledge that we possessed a fortune, whether it was spendable or not. I had never before considered myself a person who placed much value on money, but having the certainty of security ripped away in this violent fashion had given me a sudden and quite unexpected attack of vertigo, as though I were falling down a long, dark well, powerless to stop.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9 ("Two-Thirds of a Ghost"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.

A Final Note

I went out to lunch with some friends the other day at a Chinese restaurant. When it came time to open our fortune cookies, mine said, "You should be able to make money and hold on to it."

Under almost any other circumstances, I would have considered that a good omen, and a promise of good fortune. But considering the events of the last few weeks, that word "should" sort of jumped out at me. Does it mean that I should, under normal circumstances, be able to make money etc., but given today's economic climate, it won't be possible? Or is that too cynical a view?

Frankly, I would have found it a lot more reassuring if the fortune had said "you will" instead of "you should". <g> But I'll try to look on the positive side. It could have been a lot worse!

P.S. Thanks to everyone who's been sending me links. Keep 'em coming!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Share your favorite OUTLANDER links

I was really pleased with the response to last week's blog entry with the links to items mentioned in the books. Several people have asked me to do a follow-up. But this time, rather than doing all the research myself, I'd like to ask for your help.

Do you have any links you've collected, relating to the non-fictional aspects of the OUTLANDER books, that you think others might be interested in? Such as:

  • Revolutionary War battle sites, weaponry, uniforms, etc.
  • Information about historical figures mentioned in the books (and not just the later books, either. Charles Stuart, perhaps?)
  • Pictures of Scotland: the landscape, the wildlife, the flora and fauna of the Highlands. I've never been to Scotland, and would really love to see some pictures of what the area mentioned in the books looks like.
  • Pictures of Culloden, if anybody has them available. I've seen only the black-and-white picture of the Fraser stone in the OUTLANDISH COMPANION, and would be interested in seeing more.
  • 18th century clothing or other items in use in daily life (either in Scotland or the Colonies) that have been mentioned in the books.
  • Kilts, tartans, and so on. (Anybody have a picture of a Scot dressed up in full Fraser clan regalia? <g> I would love to see that.)
  • Anything else you've run across that you think others would like to see?
If you're interested, you can either post the links here, or send me an email. (My email address is at the bottom of this screen, on the right.) I'll sort through them and post my favorite ones in a future blog entry.

Thanks in advance for your help!

Monday, October 6, 2008

New Diana Gabaldon podcast: "Battlefields"

Diana has posted another new podcast on her web site, here:

http://66.147.244.179/~dianagab/media/podcasts/episode21.mp3

This one is all about writing battle scenes. It includes an excerpt from AN ECHO IN THE BONE. (Once again, I would ask you please not to discuss that excerpt here. An excellent place for excerpt discussions is the Ladies of Lallybroch Excerpt Board.)

This podcast is about 11 minutes long. It might be of more interest to writers than non-writers, but Diana is always worth listening to. <g>

(Updated 6/7/2010 to fix link.)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

What do these things look like?

There are many items mentioned in Diana Gabaldon's books that are difficult for modern readers to picture, because we don't have a frame of reference for what they look like in real life. Here are some links I've collected that show what some of these things (and people!) actually look like:

1. Astrolabe (mentioned in THE FIERY CROSS, chapter 77, "A Package From London")
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Yale%27s_Hartmann_astrolabe.jpg

The Wikipedia article on astrolabes from which I got this picture indicates that this is a 16th century brass model, but you can easily imagine it gold-plated, with Jamie's name engraved on it. <g>

2. Bilboquet (18th century toy)
http://jas-townsend.com/product_info.php?cPath=13&products_id=306

Placing the hand over his eye, he fixed the other piercingly on the bilboquet and gave the ivory cup a toss. The tethered ball leaped from its socket into an arc, and dropped as though guided by radar, landing back in its cup with a snug little plop.
(From Dragonfly In Amber by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12 ("L'Hopital des Anges"). Copyright © 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.
I saw this in a gift shop in Colonial Williamsburg in September. Naturally, the moment I saw it, I decided I had to have one. It's not nearly as easy as it looks! <g> This may not look exactly like the French version mentioned in DRAGONFLY, but the basic idea is the same.

3. Dirk and sgian dubh
http://www.oregonknifeclub.org/dirk.html

Thanks to Jari Backman for this link, which shows exactly what a dirk looks like. They're larger than I'd thought!

4. Barrel-type butter churn
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Leeds_butter_churn.jpg

This is, presumably, the same type of butter churn mentioned in FIERY CROSS:


"Oh, no, Father; it was a barrel churn. The sort that lies on its side, aye, with a wee handle to turn it? Well, it's only that she was workin' the churn with great vigor, and the laces of her bodice undone, so that her breasts wobbled to and fro, and the cloth clinging to her with the sweat of her work. Now, the churn was just the right height--and curved, aye?--so as to make me think of bendin' her across it and lifting her skirts, and--"

My mouth opened involuntarily in shock. That was my bodice he was describing, my breasts, and my butter churn!
(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 13 ("Beans and Barbecue"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5. Mammoth skeleton
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=5337024

This is a picture of a mammoth skeleton from a museum in Milwaukee. Just imagine what Ian and Brianna must have thought, to see those enormous tusks curving up out of the ground:


The raked arches of ribs rose huge from the dirt, and she had the impression of a scatter of things half-buried in the rubble at the foot of the bank: enormous things, knobbed and twisted. They might be bones or simply boulders--but it was the tusk that caught her eye, jutting from the bank in a massive curve, intensely familiar, and the more startling for its very familiarity.

(From A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 70 ("Emily"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
6. Rhododendron hell
http://www.flickr.com/photos/79666107@N00/1098653091/

Remember the rhododendron hell Roger was trapped in while trying to escape from the Indians in DRUMS?


He looked upward, through the snarl of branches. He could see small patches of sky, but the rhododendrons rose nearly twelve feet over his head. There was no way to stand up; he could barely sit upright under the interlacing branches.
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 51 ("Betrayal"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7. Here is a picture of Simon Fraser (the "Old Fox", Jamie's grandfather)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:William_Hogarth_-_Simon,_Lord_Lovat.png

Also look here for more information. The "Old Fox" was an actual historical figure. Notice the eyes in this portrait; these are the "gull-wing brows" that Jamie inherited. <g>

8. Passenger pigeon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passenger_pigeon
http://www.wbu.com/chipperwoods/photos/passpigeon.htm

This was something that very much startled me the first time I read FIERY CROSS:


It was impossible to make out individual birds in that violent cascade; it was no more than a river of feathers that filled the sky from one side to the other. Above the thunder of the wings, I could hear the birds calling to each other, a constant sussurrus of sound, like a wind storm rushing through the forest."
(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 82 ("A Darkening Sky"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Finally, here are a couple of items that I was curious about:

9. Banyan (men's dressing gown), worn by Lord John:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:J_S_Copley_-_Nicolas_Boylston.jpg)

10. Stays (women's undergarment):
http://www.nwta.com/patterns/pics/ebaystays/ebaystays.html

If you liked these links, check out my other "OUTLANDER Links" blog entries:

OUTLANDER Links, Part 14: 18th Century Clothing

OUTLANDER Links, Part 13: Plants and Herbs

OUTLANDER Links, Part 12: Standing Stones

OUTLANDER Links, Part 11: Science and Technology

OUTLANDER Links, Part 10: Weaponry

OUTLANDER Links, Part 9: Historical Events

OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine

OUTLANDER Links, Part VII: Gemstones

OUTLANDER Links, Part VI: Wildlife

OUTLANDER Links, Part V: Castles and Palaces

OUTLANDER Links, Part IV: Native Americans

OUTLANDER Links, Part III: All Things Scottish

OUTLANDER Links, Part II: Colonial North Carolina

OUTLANDER Links, Part I: Culloden

Friday, October 3, 2008

Can you identify these accents?

This topic is only slightly relevant to Diana Gabaldon's books, but I couldn't resist sharing it.

What accent is this?

This is a little quiz to see if you can identify accents from different parts of the world. You watch a brief video clip of each person reciting two lines from a Rudyard Kipling poem, and then try to guess where they're from based on their accent. (Thanks to Janet McConnaughey at Compuserve for mentioning it, and inspiring me to track down the link.)

Give it a try and let us know how you did. My score was a pretty dismal 22 points. It's very hard for me, as an American, to distinguish between, say, Australian and New Zealand accents, or German and Austrian.

Listen closely to the various English and Scots accents. I got most of those wrong, but maybe you'll do better. From the reference in FIERY CROSS, I always assumed that Glaswegian accents were incomprehensible...but in this quiz that was one I got right, oddly enough.

I can't help thinking that Claire would be good at this. <g> From her encounter with Jack Randall in OUTLANDER (Chapter 12, "The Garrison Commander") where he tests her on identifying accents, she seems to have a pretty good ear for the nuances of the way people speak.

Have fun!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Paradoxes of Time Travel

I have always loved time-travel stories, ever since I was a child. I was a devoted fan of the original Star Trek series for many years, starting around the age of ten, and ever since then I have devoured any story or movie that deals with the idea of time-travel. (One of my favorites in recent years is Audrey Niffenegger's THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, which I highly recommend if you haven't read it yet. Or wait for the movie version, which will be out around Christmas 2008, I think.)

The paradoxes caused by time-travel in the OUTLANDER books have always intrigued me. Take Jemmy's box, for example:

The note was brief, stating merely that the box had come from a defunct banking house in Edinburgh. Instructions had been stored with the box, stating that it was not to be opened, save by the person whose name was inscribed thereon. The original instructions had perished, but were passed on verbally by the person from whom he obtained the box. (From A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, "Epilogue I: Lallybroch". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

All right. So the box has been carefully preserved for two hundred years. Did it already exist, in some twentieth-century bank vault, at the time Claire was born in 1918? If events happen only once (as the Gabaldon Theory of Time Travel would have us believe) then I suppose the answer is yes. And if the box already existed before Claire was born, does that mean she was somehow fated to go back in time?

And what about the other evidence of the time-travelers' presence in the past? The documented proof that they were in the 18th century exists, certainly, in our own time. The deed of sassine with Claire's signature on it (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER). The newspaper clipping (DRUMS OF AUTUMN). For all we know, the copy of the Lexington Alarm mentioned in ABOSAA -- written in Claire's handwriting with Jamie's signature at the bottom -- may have survived in some historian's files somewhere.

Frank certainly seems to have found some sort of evidence of Brianna's presence in the past, as Bree herself notes in FIERY CROSS:

"I wondered why a man who didn't ride or shoot should take such pains to see that his daughter could do both those things. I mean, it wasn't like it was common for girls to do that." She tried to laugh. "Not in Boston, anyway." (From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 20, "Shooting Lessons". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

What do you suppose Frank found? Bree's marriage certificate, perhaps? And if evidence of Brianna's presence in the past existed in the 20th century long before she even knew she was a time-traveler, does this mean that she was "meant" to travel back in time? Did she choose to do so of her own free will, or because history showed she was there?

The paradoxes of time-travel tend to give people headaches. Enough of my speculations for now. I'd like to hear what you think.