Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Outlander Calendar 2010

Take a look at the wonderful Outlander Series Calendar 2010 that Jari Backman has put together on his site. Jari put a lot of time and effort into this, and I think we'll find it very useful.

There are two different views: monthly (to view one month at a time) and annual (to view all of 2010 on one page).

Dates that are taken directly from the books are displayed in blue. For example, on January 21 it says, "1776, The House on Fraser's Ridge doesn't burn down, ABOSAA".

Birthdays are displayed in red. For example, look at May 1, which is Jamie's birthday.

Dates for which we know only the month and year, but not the specific day, are displayed in magenta. For example, look at April 28, which says: "1948, Claire returns to 20th Century, DIA". We know she arrived in the 20th century in late April, 1948, but the exact date is not given in the books, so the magenta color indicates that this date is only speculation. (Many of these dates shown in magenta are very good guesses, but only Diana can say for sure if they're accurate. <g>)

Holidays are displayed in green. These include U.S. holidays as well as the sun feasts and fire feasts (look at November 1, for example, which is Samhain).

Jari, thanks so much for this! It's going to be a wonderful resource for OUTLANDER fans. I have said it before, but I think you deserve the title of Unofficial Keeper of the Timeline. <g> And thank you again for all your help with the Notable Dates This Month feature on this site. I really appreciate it.

UPDATE 12/30/09 5:44 pm - I just wanted to let people know that this calendar contains SPOILERS for AN ECHO IN THE BONE, and you may want to be cautious with it, if you haven't yet finished the book.

UPDATE 12/31/09 7:15 am - If you have comments about the calendar, or suggestions, or if you see something that needs to be corrected, please contact Jari Backman at, or post in the thread on Compuserve, here. Thanks.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Reading Challenges

There are a number of different reading challenges available for 2010. I've chosen these three, in an attempt to broaden the scope of my reading this year, and get some exposure to authors I've never read before.

I also chose these particular challenges because I think they're achievable within a year. <g> There are others out there -- the Twenty Ten Challenge, for example, where you have to read two books in each of ten different categories -- that seem either impossible to complete, too time-consuming, or overly restrictive. I tried to stick with challenges that fit with my own interests in reading.

1. 2010 Time Travel Reading Challenge

(January 1 - December 31, 2010)

As a lifelong reader of time-travel stories (look here for some of my favorites), I was delighted to see this challenge, created by Alyce at At Home with Books. It certainly won't be hard for OUTLANDER fans to complete it!

Decide how many time travel books you want to read and then read them before the end of 2010 - that's it!

I'm going to do something a little different with this challenge. I'm not going to pick a set number of books in advance, but I am going to try to read as many of the ones on this list as I can, that I haven't read before. And for my own version of this challenge, I'm not going to count the OUTLANDER books.

2. Awesome Author Challenge 2010

(January 1 - December 31, 2010)

This one also comes from Alyce at At Home with Books:

The idea behind this challenge is to read works by authors who have been recommended to you time and again, but you haven't gotten around to reading them yet. These are the authors that everyone else tells you are awesome, thus the "Awesome Author Challenge" title.

Titles and authors do not have to be predetermined, and can change at any time.

Books can come from any genre or reading level, the only requirement is that you have heard great things about the author, but haven't yet read any of their works.

I haven't yet decided which authors to focus on. Suggestions welcome!

3. 2010 Chunkster Challenge

(February 1, 2010 - January 31, 2011)

Definition of a Chunkster:

* A chunkster is 450 pages or more of ADULT literature (fiction or nonfiction) ... A chunkster should be a challenge.
* If you read large type books your book will need to be 525 pages or more

I participated in this challenge in 2009 and had fun with it. If you're going to be (re-)reading the OUTLANDER books in 2010 anyway, this one isn't difficult. <g>

Monday, December 28, 2009

What would you like to see in 2010?

Looking back over the past year, I'm amazed at the success of this blog, which I started in September 2008 with a handful of readers and fairly low expectations. It's grown into something much bigger than I ever imagined. And now I'm wondering...what else would you, the readers of Outlandish Observations, like to see here, as we move into 2010?
  • Are there particular topics you'd like to talk about?
  • Things I've done well that you'd like to see more of? (If so, what?)
  • Suggestions for future poll-of-the-month questions?
  • Do you have any interesting OUTLANDER-related links you'd like to share?
Any and all comments and suggestions welcome!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Vote for ECHO on Goodreads!

Goodreads is running a poll of the Best Books of 2009, and Diana Gabaldon's AN ECHO IN THE BONE is (as I write this) #15 and climbing.

Diana posted this on her blog yesterday:

"At a glance, there seem to be a _lot_ of good books listed, and I'm honored to be among them."

Please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested. I'm not sure how long the poll will be open. You have to be a member of Goodreads to vote, but it's free and the signup process is very quick.

Thanks to RZ on Compuserve for letting us know about this!

UPDATE 12/27/09 4:35 pm: If you haven't yet voted in this poll, please note, there are two different listings for ECHO on the "Best Books of 2009" page that I linked to above -- one showing the U.S. cover (black background with a gold caltrop) and one showing the UK cover (blue with a skeletal leaf). In the interest of consolidating things, until Goodreads can fix this, I would recommend that you vote for the one with the U.S. cover, which is the one ranked higher in the list. (They're the SAME book, after all!) Thanks.

UPDATE 12/30/09 6:10 am: The two listings for ECHO have been combined into one (thanks to Judie at LOL for contacting Goodreads to get this fixed!) and ECHO is now solidly in third place. If you haven't yet voted, click here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

To those of you on Facebook

The traffic on this site had a HUGE and unexpected increase yesterday, due to the fact that someone posted a link to my "Christmas Quotes" blog entry on the OUTLANDER fan page on Facebook.

Lately my site has been averaging about 150 visitors per day. Yesterday, December 23, there were 385 visitors (!), the vast majority of them coming from Facebook. I think that's a new record for this blog; even the day of ECHO's release, I didn't get that many visitors. I'm delighted to see all the new people coming to check out my blog.

The sudden jump in traffic took me completely by surprise, because I hadn't even known that fan page existed. (Thanks to Diana Larson for clearing up the mystery for me <g>) I still don't know who posted the link, but whoever you are, thank you so much!

I'm relatively new to Facebook, having joined only in September 2009, but I'm having fun with it so far.

If you've found my blog through Facebook, welcome, and feel free to look around. I think you'll find quite a lot of things here of interest to OUTLANDER fans.

And in case you're wondering, yes, I am the same Karen Henry who's mentioned in the Acknowledgements of AN ECHO IN THE BONE as the "Czarina of Traffic" in Diana's section of the Compuserve Books and Writers Community. <g> New members are always welcome there, and if any of you have a question or a comment for Diana, I would encourage you to post on the forum.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas quotes

Here are some Christmas-themed quotes from the OUTLANDER books.

1) It's hard to imagine, from our 21st-century perspective, anyone losing track of the date this close to Christmas. But Roger had a lot of other things on his mind....

"What's the occasion? For our homecoming?"
She lifted her head from his chest and gave him what he privately classified as A Look.
"For Christmas," she said.
"What?" He groped blankly, trying to count the days, but the events of the last three weeks had completely erased his mental calendar. "When?"
"Tomorrow, idiot," she said with exaggerated patience.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33 ("Home for Christmas"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) Here's a quote from one of my favorite scenes in DRUMS, when 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.)

3) I think it's interesting--and rather sad--that Lord John should seek out Nessie, rather than the company of his own family, on Christmas Eve:

“Aye, well, it is Christmas Eve,” she said, answering his unasked question. “Any man wi’ a home to go to’s in it.” She yawned, pulled off her nightcap, and fluffed her fingers through the wild mass of curly dark hair.
“Yet you seem to have some custom,” he observed. Distant singing came from two floors below, and the parlor had seemed well populated when he passed.
“Och, aye. The desperate ones. I leave them to Maybelle to deal with; dinna like to see them, poor creatures. Pitiful. They dinna really want a woman, the ones who come on Christmas Eve--only a fire to sit by, and folk to sit with.”

(From An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24 ("Joyeux Noel"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) The next quote is a reminder that Christmas was viewed differently back then than we think of it today. But of course many of today's Christmas traditions date from the 19th century or later:

Catholic as many of them were--and nominally Christian as they all were--Highland Scots regarded Christmas primarily as a religious observance, rather than a major festive occasion. Lacking priest or minister, the day was spent much like a Sunday, though with a particularly lavish meal to mark the occasion, and the exchange of small gifts.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34 ("Charms"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5) I love this quote, even though things didn't turn out the way Roger had expected:

She'd wanted to go to the Christmas Eve services. After that...
After that, he would ask her, make it formal. She would say yes, he knew. And then...
Why, then, they would come home, to a house dark and private. With themselves alone, on a night of sacrament and secret, with love newly come into the world. And he would lift her in his arms and carry her upstairs, on a night when virginity's sacrifice was no loss of purity, but rather the birth of everlasting joy.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17 ("Home for the Holidays"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Wishing all of you the best in this holiday season!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Diana's latest blog entry

Check out Diana Gabaldon's latest blog post, which explains in detail all the things she'll be working on over the coming year, and why it will be a while before we see the next OUTLANDER book.
You will get a couple of things in 2010, though: 1) THE EXILE. This is the much-talked-about graphic novel, due out September 28!, 2) a new Lord John novella, "The Custom of the Army" (due in March from Tor books, in an anthology titled WARRIORS), and (probably) 3) "A Leaf on the Wind," a short story in a Penguin anthology titled STAR-CROSSED LOVERS. This one tells the story of what really happened to Roger's father, for those with a particular interest either in MacKenzie family history and/or time-travel. [g]
That's great news about the graphic novel; I don't think we've seen a specific publication date before. And I am very much looking forward to both "Custom of the Army" and "Leaf".

I was intrigued by Diana's question at the very end:
Which is the storyline _you_ most want to see addressed Right Up Front in Book Eight?
In my opinion, Jem in the tunnel is the most urgent of the unresolved storylines. I want to see him get out of there, and then I want to see Brianna eviscerate Rob Cameron! (In that order. <g>)

My second choice would be to see more of William's reaction to the revelation of his paternity.

Jamie and Lord John would come in third. I most definitely DO want to see Jamie's reaction to the news about what happened between Claire and Lord John, but it can wait a bit.

What about the rest of you?

Sunday, December 13, 2009

OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine

I have always been fascinated by the descriptions of 18th-century medicine in Diana Gabaldon's books. I think it helps to see pictures of what these things actually looked like. So, here are a few things I found online:

I think Daniel Rawlings' medical chest (the one that Jamie gave to Claire in DRUMS) must have looked something like the picture shown above.
"There's more," he pointed out, eager to show me. "The front opens and there are wee drawers inside."

There were--containing, among other things, a miniature balance and set of brass weights, a tile for rolling pills, and a stained marble mortar, its pestle wrapped in cloth to prevent its being cracked in transit. Inside the front, above the drawers, were row upon row of small, corked bottles made of stone or glass.

"Oh, they're beautiful!" I said, handling the small scalpel with reverence. The polished wood of the handle fit my hand as though it had been made for me, the blade weighted to an exquisite balance. "Oh, Jamie, thank you!"

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8 ("Man of Worth"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you ever get a chance to visit Colonial Williamsburg, the apothecary's shop there is definitely worth seeing! When I visited there in 2008, I saw a medical chest very much like the one pictured above, sitting on a table in a little room adjoining the main apothecary's shop (see photo here).

Amputation saw and knives - These scary-looking instruments are even more disturbing when you consider that the amputation was being performed without benefit of anesthesia! I can't even imagine Claire contemplating using something like that large saw on Jamie's leg (in FIERY CROSS, after the snakebite).
I bit my lip, looking at the other blades. The biggest was a folding saw, meant for field amputation, with a blade nearly eight inches long; I hadn't used it since Alamance. The thought of using it now made cold sweat spring out under my arms and inch down my sides--but I'd seen his leg.

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 91 ("Domestic Management"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Fleam - the picture above shows an 18th century fleam (the device used to open a patient's vein for bleeding). I can't look at that fleam without remembering the scene in FIERY CROSS where Brianna teaches the 18th century doctor, Murray MacLeod, a charm for putting his fleam in boiling water between uses. <g> And then there's Claire's encounter with the governor's wife in ABOSAA:
"I should be let blood," Mrs. Martin declared. "That is the proper treatment for a plethory; dear Dr. Sibelius always says so. Three or four ounces, perhaps, to be followed by the black draught. Dr. Sibelius says he finds the black draught to answer very well in such cases." She moved to an armchair and reclined, her belly bulging under her wrapper. She pulled up the sleeve of the wrapper, extending her arm in languorous fashion. "There is a fleam and bowl in the top left drawer, Mrs. Fraser. If you would oblige me?"

The mere thought of letting blood first thing in the morning was enough to make me want to vomit. As for Dr. Sibelius's black draught, that was laudanum--an alcoholic tincture of opium, and not my treatment of choice for a pregnant woman.

(From A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 92 ("Amanuensis"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Leeches and maggots are an important part of Claire's medical arsenal.
"Still bleedin' under the skin. Leeches will help, then." She lifted the cover from the bowl, revealing several small dark sluglike objects, an inch or two long, covered with a disagreeable-looking liquid. Scooping out two of them, she pressed one to the flesh just under the brow-bone and the other just below the eye.

"See," she explained to me," once a bruise is set, like, leeches do ye no good. But where ye ha' a swellin' like this, as is still comin' up, that means the blood is flowin' under the skin, and leeches can pull it out."

(From Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6 ("Colum's Hall"). Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a video from Australia on the use of leeches and maggots in modern medicine (note, this is definitely not for the squeamish!)
"What, exactly, is going to stop them eating my entire leg?" Roger asked with a thoroughly spurious attempt at detachment. " spread, don't they?"

"Oh, no," I assured him cheerfully. "Maggots are larval forms; they don't breed. They also don't eat live tissue--only the nasty dead stuff. If there's enough to get them through their pupal cycle, they'll develop into tiny flies and fly off--if not, when the food's exhausted, they'll simply crawl out, searching for more."

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 66 ("Child of My Blood"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Gallberries - these are the very bitter-tasting berries that Claire uses in ABOSAA as a substitute for cinchona bark, to treat Lizzie's malaria.
I picked out one of the dried berries and bit into it. The pungent taste of quinine at once flooded my mouth--accompanied by a copious flood of saliva, as my mouth puckered at the eye-watering bitterness. Gallberry, indeed!

(From A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9 ("The Threshold of War"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The picture above shows the seeds of Daucus carota, aka Queen Anne's Lace or wild carrot. I believe that these are what Diana's books refer to as "dauco seeds".
It was a small bag of oiled silk, plumply stuffed with something, with a faintly sweet, slightly oily botanical scent about it. A crude picture of a plant had been drawn on the front in brownish ink, something with an upright stalk and what looked like umbels. It looked faintly familiar, but I could put no name to it. I undid the string, and poured a small quantity of tiny dark-brown seeds out into my palm.

"What are these?" I asked, looking up at Polly in puzzlement.

"I don't know what they're called in English," she said. "The Indians call them dauco."

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 10 ("Grannie Bacon's Gifts"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article describing how the seeds can be used for contraception.

And finally: If you've read AN ECHO IN THE BONE and you are wondering just what the "jugum penis" may have looked like, the picture above seems very similar to the description in the book. (Although the example above dates from the 19th century, not the 18th, the concept seems very much the same.)
“What on earth is it for?” I asked, more amused than offended by his reaction. “Given the name, obviously—-”

“It prevents” His face by this time was a dark, unhealthy sort of red, and he wouldn’t meet my eye.

“Yes, I imagine it would do that.” The object in question consisted of two concentric circles of metal, the outer one flexible, with overlapping ends, and a sort of key mechanism that enabled it to be tightened. The inner one was sawtoothed— much like a bear trap, as I’d said. Rather obviously, it was meant to be fastened round a limp penis— which would stay in that condition, if it knew what was good for it.

(From An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 67 ("Greasier Than Grease"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
As I told Diana when I read that in the book, it sounds to me like a cross between a medieval torture device and some sort of modern-day S&M paraphernalia!

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 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
What Do These Things Look Like?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thursday Thirteen

Thursday 13 Books

Here are 13 of my favorite minor characters from Diana Gabaldon's books (in no particular order):

1) Mrs. Bug. She always made me laugh. And what happened to her in ECHO was the first of many things I definitely did NOT see coming in that book!

2) Tom Byrd. I love the chemistry between him and Lord John.

3) Lizzie. I love watching her transformation from a scared young girl, so shy she almost couldn't talk, to the self-confident young woman we see in ABOSAA and ECHO.

4) Rachel Hunter. One of my favorite new characters in ECHO, and a remarkable young woman -- intelligent, insightful, and she even gets along well with Rollo! A perfect match for Ian. <g>

5) Master Raymond. An intriguing character, and very mysterious. I hope we see him again in Book Eight.

6) The White Sow. I love watching her antics. She's definitely a scene-stealer, especially in ABOSAA.

7) Tom Christie. I think he's one of those characters who gains more depth on re-reading. I didn't like him much at first, but his sacrifice for Claire in ABOSAA took my breath away.

8) Rob Cameron. I knew he was trouble, almost from the moment he appeared in ECHO. But definitely a memorable character!

9) Laoghaire. Whatever you feel about her, you can't deny that she's had a major influence on the course of the series!

10) Frank Randall. I know a lot of people disagree with this, but in my opinion Frank was an honorable man who got thrown into an impossible situation after Claire came back, and did the best he could with it.

11) Ian the Elder. How lucky Jamie is, to have had such a friend. "Guarding your weak side", indeed.

12) Geillis Duncan. Say what you want about her. Without Geillis, we wouldn't have Roger, or Jemmy, or Mandy, and we wouldn't know anything about the use of gemstones for time-traveling.

13) Geneva Dunsany. For a character who appears so briefly, she really had an enormous impact on the series as a whole.

What about the rest of you? Do you have a favorite "supporting character" or two? And what is it that makes them memorable? (If you want to cite examples from ECHO, please go right ahead.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Leaf on the Wind" is done!

Diana announced on Compuserve yesterday that the short story she's been working on, titled "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows", is completed. She says it's about 16,000 words.

This story will be published in an anthology titled SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH. Publication date is November 16, 2010.

For those of you who haven't heard about this story before, it's about Roger MacKenzie's parents, Jerry and Marjorie. You can see several excerpts from "Leaf on the Wind" here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Diana's upcoming projects

Diana Gabaldon posted a list of her upcoming projects for 2010 on Compuserve the other day. These include (in no particular order):

  • The "early phases" of Book 8
  • RED ANT'S HEAD (the contemporary mystery novel featuring Tom Kolodzi)
  • A short story possibly titled "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies"
She also mentioned that the artwork for the graphic novel is done! (And from what I saw when I looked at some sample pages in September, the artwork is just stunning.)

I'm not sure if there is a definite publication date yet for the GN, but I think Diana said it would be out around September 2010 (just in time for ECHO's release in paperback). I'll post here if I find out anything more specific.

I also do not know if the mention of the OC Volume II means that Diana intends to finish it next year, or only make significant progress on it. She has said before, on Compuserve, that it would cover the rest of the books in the series, and possibly also the Lord John books. So, I really don't know if she intends to publish the OC Volume II before she's done writing the rest of the series or not. (If she prefers to wait to publish the OC Volume II until the series is done, then I for one am not in any hurry to see it!)

If you have a comment or a question for Diana about any of these upcoming projects, the thread on Compuserve is here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November poll results

Here are the results of the November poll. The question was "What was your biggest surprise or shock in AN ECHO IN THE BONE?" There are some major spoilers in these poll questions, so I'll leave some spoiler space below, for those of you who have not yet finished the book.

Please take a moment to vote in the December poll, which is about something a little more fun: FOOD! <g> (In keeping with the holiday spirit and all....)













What was your biggest surprise or shock in AN ECHO IN THE BONE?

  • 42.7% - Claire having sex with Lord John
  • 29.4% - William Buccleigh MacKenzie's reappearance
  • 8.8% - Claire marrying Lord John
  • 8.8% - Jem in the tunnel
  • 4.4% - Mrs. Bug's death
  • 1.5% - Death of Ian Sr.
  • 1.5% - Ian falling in love with Rachel
  • 0.7% - William finding out the truth of his paternity
  • 2.2% - Other

For me, there's absolutely no doubt, the Claire-Lord John sex scene was by far the biggest shock in ECHO. (And I am not likely ever to forget it. When I met Diana in Columbia, MD, in September, she signed my copy of ECHO with the inscription, "To Karen, who survived the shock." And it was this particular shock that she was referring to.)

I agree that the appearance of "Buck" at the end of Chapter 70 deserves second place in this poll. That particular plot twist left me stunned.

I was a little surprised to see Ian's death ranked so low in this poll, but I may not have worded the question exactly right. The shock was more in learning that he was dying, and coming to terms with that; by the time Ian actually dies, we as readers have had some time to get used to the idea.

There were 136 votes in this month's poll. Thanks to all of you who participated!