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:

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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.