Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween quotes

Here are some Halloween-themed quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books and stories.  I first posted this collection of quotes two years ago, and I thought it would be appropriate to share it again this week (updated to include a couple of quotes from Diana's recent stories).

This is one of my favorites from AN ECHO IN THE BONE:
Now there was nothing out there but the black of a moonless Highland night. The sort of night when Christians stayed indoors and put holy water on the doorposts, because the things that walked the moors and the high places were not always holy.

(From An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 72 ("The Feast of All Saints"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Claire and Roger on Halloween night, 1968:
"No, I never could sleep on All Hallows'. Not after all the stories my father told me; I always thought I could hear ghosts talking outside my window."

She smiled, coming into the firelight. "And what did they say?"

"'See'st thou this great gray head, with jaws which have no meat?' " Roger quoted. "You know the story? The little tailor who spent the night in a haunted church, and met the hungry ghost?"

"I do. I think if I'd heard that outside my window, I'd have spent the rest of the night hiding under the bedclothes."

(From Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22 ("All Hallows' Eve"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Roger's thoughts, on the eve of Claire's departure through the stones to find Jamie:
Hallowe'en had always seemed to him a restless night, alive with waking spirits. Tonight was even more so, with the knowledge of what would happen in the morning. The jack o'lantern on the desk grinned in anticipation, filling the room with the homely scent of baking pies.

(From Voyager by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22 ("All Hallows' Eve"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I couldn't resist including a bit of Duncan's ghost story here:
"He said it was a figure like a man, but with no body," Duncan said quietly. "All white, like as it might have been made of the mist. But wi' great holes where its eyes should be, and empty black, fit to draw the soul from his body with dread."

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1 ("A Hanging in Eden"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Even wee Jemmy is affected by stories of "things that go bump in the night".
"Scared? Of what?" A little more gently, she pulled the shirt off over his head.

"The ghost."

"What ghost?" she asked warily, not sure yet how to handle this. She was aware that all of the slaves at River Run believed implicitly in ghosts, simply as a fact of life. So did virtually all of the Scottish settlers in Cross Creek, Campbelton, and the Ridge. And the Germans from Salem and Bethania. So, for that matter, did her own father. She could not simply inform Jem that there was no such thing as a ghost--particularly as she was not entirely convinced of that herself.

"Maighistear arsaidh's ghost," he said, looking up at her for the first time, his dark blue eyes troubled. "Josh says he's been walkin'."

(From A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 99 ("Old Master"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's one of the creepiest moments in the whole series, in my opinion:
"We should go before moonrithe," she said softly. "She cometh out then."

An icy ripple ran straight up my spine, and Jamie jerked, head snapping round to look at the darkened house. The fire had gone out, and no one had thought to close the open door; it gaped like an empty eye socket.

"She who?" Jamie asked, a noticeable edge in his voice.

"Mary Ann," Mrs. Beardsley answered. "She was the latht one." There was no emphasis whatever in her voice; she sounded like a sleepwalker.

"The last what?" I asked.

"The latht wife," she replied, and picked up her reins. "She thtands under the rowan tree at moonrithe."

(From The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29 ("One-Third of a Goat"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Jerry MacKenzie, on a long-ago Halloween night:
“Damn,” said the fair one, softly.  “There’s a light.”  

There was; a single light, bobbing evenly over the ground, as it would if someone carried it.  But look as he might, Jerry could see no one behind it, and a violent shiver ran over him.

Uisge,” said the other man under his breath.  Jerry knew that word well enough—spirit, it meant.   And usually an ill-disposed one.  A haunt.

“Aye, maybe.”  The dark man’s voice was calm.  “And maybe not.   It’s Samhain, after all."

(From "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows", by Diana Gabaldon, in the SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH anthology. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I don't care how many times I've read this, it still sends a chill up my spine, every time.
"You asked me, Captain, if I were a witch," I said, my voice low and steady. "I'll answer you now. Witch I am. Witch, and I curse you. You will marry, Captain, and your wife will bear a child, but you shall not live to see your firstborn. I curse you with knowledge, Jack Randall--I give you the hour of your death."

(From Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35 ("Wentworth Prison"). Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Lord John's encounter with a zombie:
Bloody hell, where was the man?  If it was a man.  For even as his mind reasserted its claim to reason, his more visceral faculties were recalling Rodrigo's parting statement:  Zombie are dead people, sah.  And whatever was here in the dark with him seemed to have been dead for several days, judging from its smell.

He could hear the rustling of something moving quietly toward him.  Was it breathing?  He couldn't tell, for the rasp of his own breath, harsh in his throat, and the blood-thick hammering of his heart in his ears.

(From "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies" by Diana Gabaldon, in the DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS anthology. Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And last but not least, here's Bri's Pumpkin Homage to THE EXILE. I think this is truly hilarious (particularly if you've seen page 5 of THE EXILE), not to mention extremely creative.  Can you imagine the amount of time and effort it took to do that?  Amazing!

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Diana Gabaldon posted on Compuserve today that she finally received her very own first-off-the-presses copy of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER!

I asked her how many pages the story is, and here's her response:
The story itself is 507 pages.  The Author's Notes run from 509-518, and the previews from MOBY [she means WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD], from 521-534.  
I'm really happy to hear that, because at 507 pages, SCOTTISH PRISONER will be even longer than BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.  It's going to be a substantial book -- not the size of one of the OUTLANDER novels, to be sure, but still, long enough that it will take a while to absorb all the details.

In other news....the audiobook of SCOTTISH PRISONER is now available for pre-order at sites like and Barnes & Noble.  B&N is actually offering a very good deal on the CD version right now, only $30.36 (about 1/3 off the list price).  I couldn't pass that up, so I pre-ordered from B&N last night.  (Thanks to Sandy on Compuserve for the tip!)  Release date for the audio CDs says November 29, the same day the hardcover and e-book versions will be published.

The picture above, from, lists both Jeff Woodman and Rick Holmes as narrators.  In case you haven't heard, Jeff Woodman will be reading Lord John's parts of the book, and Rick Holmes will be reading Jamie's.  I really hope this works out well.  I've never listened to an audiobook with dual narrators before, but in this case it makes sense, as the book is told half from Jamie's point of view and half from Lord John's.

Oh, and in case you're wondering about availability of the audiobook on, Diana said on Compuserve today, "The audiobook _should_ be available pretty much simultaneously with the print version.  <crossing fingers>  _Really_ looking forward to hearing it!"

UPDATE 10/27/2011 7:12 pm: Random House has released an official SCOTTISH PRISONER countdown widget, to help you keep track of the days remaining until the November 29 release date.

If you want to put this widget on your own site, just click "Get Widget" at the bottom, and follow the instructions to get the proper embed code for your platform.

(Please forgive the way the widget cuts off at the right side of my blog; it's just a bit too wide to fit in the sidebar, and I didn't have time last night to resize the whole blog just to make the widget display properly.  Might work on it this weekend, if I get a chance.)

P.S.  This site had a staggering 1400 page views on Wednesday, well over twice the usual number on a really good day.  Whoever was exploring all the nooks and crannies of Outlandish Observations yesterday, I really appreciate the fact that you took the time to look around!  Thanks, whoever you are, and leave me a comment if you want to.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A note from Diana about the #DailyLines

Those of you who have been enjoying Diana Gabaldon's posting of "#DailyLines" (brief bits from her writing) on Facebook and Twitter, please read this message from Diana, posted on Facebook this morning.  (I think you have to be logged in to Facebook to see it.  Be sure to click on "See More" at the bottom to see the whole thing.)

I thought Diana's comment at the end of this message was worth passing along, even to those of you who aren't on Facebook:

Now, I am not a machine <g>, nor do I have anyone posting these things for me, let alone a random quote-generator. Ergo, if I'm traveling, tired, ill, or hideously #DailyLines. (I've been in Canada for the last five days at a writers conference, for instance.) But when I can--and most days, I can--I'm delighted to share them with you. Hope you enjoy them!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

"Leaf" quotes

In honor of today's release of the paperback edition of SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, here are some of my favorite quotes from Diana Gabaldon's story, "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows".

If you haven't yet read "Leaf", I highly recommend it!  It's really a wonderful story, and a must-read for OUTLANDER fans.

All quotes below are copyright (c) Diana Gabaldon, of course.  Page numbers refer to the hardcover edition.
"He wouldn't throw a fit—he hardly ever did—but he wouldn't give up, either." (p. 450)
I love that. Roger's calm temperament, his determination and refusal to give up, have been demonstrated so often over the course of the series. No surprise to me that these traits were evident even when he was only a toddler.
"You're right; they're not all brave. Most of them—-of us—-we're just…there, and we do our best. Most of the time." (p. 454)
I think this applies REALLY well to the Great Frank Debate <g>, because it's more evidence in favor of my argument that all of these characters, Frank included, are flawed, fallible human beings. Frank wasn't a hero, or a saint, or a villain, just a human being who did the best he could (most of the time <g>) with an impossible situation, after Claire came back.
"F*CK!" he bellowed, and ripping the strap free of his leg, he picked up the box and hammered it on the edge of the seat, then slammed it back onto his thigh—-visibly dented, he saw with grim satisfaction—and pressed the balky button.
Clunk, the camera answered meekly.
"Aye, well, then, just you remember that!" he said, and puffing in righteous indignation, gave the buttons a good jabbing.
(pp. 442-443)
Jerry's approach in dealing with balky machinery makes me laugh, because it's exactly the sort of thing I would have done.
"What d'ye think you are?" she whispered, leaning over him. "A gorilla?"
"Yeah," he whispered back, taking her hand and pressing it against him. "Want to see my banana?" (p. 435)
I love that line. <g>

Friday, October 21, 2011

Learning Gaelic

I saw the following link on Compuserve this morning and wanted to pass it on.

This looks like a wonderful resource for learning the Gaidhlig language!
Welcome to LearnGaelic, a one-stop shop for anyone and everyone interested in learning Scottish Gaelic. Whatever stage you are at, and whatever age you are, all the help you need is just a click away.
The site includes a Gaelic/English dictionary and thesaurus, and more than 400 video clips from a television series called "Speaking Our Language", designed to teach useful words and phrases in Gaelic.

There are resources on the site for kids as well as adults.

I haven't had time to do more than glance at it yet, but it looks like the sort of site that would be fun to explore.  (Thanks very much to Kevin Fulton on Compuserve for the link!)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Claire!

Happy Birthday

Happy 93rd birthday to Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser!  If you're on Twitter, you can help us celebrate by tagging your tweets today with #Happy93Claire.

In honor of the occasion, Diana Gabaldon has posted an excerpt on her blog from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (aka Book 8) that she says is Claire's first scene in that book.

(Please note, I don't read excerpts!  So if you want to comment on the excerpt, please post on Compuserve, or Diana's blog, or the LOL Excerpt Board.  Not here on my blog or on my Facebook page.  Thanks.)

ABC's of Claire Fraser

A few weeks ago, I posted the ABC's of Jamie Fraser.  I thought it would be appropriate to do the same for Claire, in honor of her birthday. The idea is to list one word pertaining to the character for each letter of the alphabet, along with a brief explanation.

All quotes from the OUTLANDER books are copyright (c) Diana Gabaldon, of course.

A - Adaptability.  This is one of Claire's greatest strengths, in my opinion.  Many of us would have a great deal of difficulty adjusting to life in the 18th century.  Claire adapts relatively quickly, and we rarely see her thinking about missing the conveniences of the 20th century.

B - Bravery. "Ye were always bolder than was safe; now ye're fierce as a wee badger." (A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, Chapter 20, "Bees and Switches")  Whether it's killing a wolf with her bare hands in OUTLANDER, or surviving the ordeal of being abducted and raped in ABOSAA, Claire never, ever gives up, and I find much to admire in that.

C - Cat.  Adso, to be precise. <g>  Claire loved that wee cheetie, and the scene in ECHO where Claire says goodbye to Adso was just heartbreaking.

D - Diagnosis.  Joe Abernathy called her the "best diagnostician I ever saw".

E - Eyes.  One of Claire's most striking features.  "They're the color of verra fine whisky, wi' the sun shining through them from behind.  I thought this morning they looked like sherry, but I was wrong.  Not sherry. Not brandy.  It's whisky.  That's what it is." (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 6, "Making Waves")

F - Face.  Claire's "glass face" -- her inability to hide what she's thinking or feeling from other people -- often gets her into trouble.

G - Garden. "Daddy always used to say it, when he'd come home and find Mama puttering in her garden--he said she'd live out there if she could.  He used to joke that she--that she'd leave us someday, and go find a place where she could live by herself, with nothing but her plants." (DRUMS OF AUTUMN, Chapter 43, "Whisky in the Jar")

H - Hair.  Claire's wild, unruly hair could almost be considered a character in its own right.  It reflects her personality extremely well, and it's one of the things Jamie likes best about her.

I - Intelligence.  Claire has a quick mind, and doesn't suffer fools gladly.  (She's much like Diana in that respect, actually.)

J - James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. <vbg>

K - Knitting.
  One of the very few things that Claire does not do well with her hands.

L - Lallybroch.
  Claire felt she'd found a home there, for the first time in her life.

M - Mother.
  Not just to Bree, but also to Faith, her stillborn first child.  "You are my baby, and always will be.  You won't know what that means until you have a child of your own, but I tell you now, anyway--you'll always be as much a part of me as when you shared my body and I felt you move inside.  Always."  (VOYAGER, Chapter 42, "The Man in the Moon")

N - Nurse. 
Also surgeon, midwife, physician, herbalist, conjure-woman -- Claire is a healer, first and foremost.

O - Outlander
, or, as the Scots say, Sassenach.  "He liked the strangeness of her, the Englishness.  She was his Claire, his Sassenach." (FIERY CROSS, Chapter 18, "No Place Like Home")

P - Practicality.
  Claire is perfectly willing to cast aside society's conventions of what is considered proper attire for a woman, in favor of something more practical.  "I am improvising a brassiere," I said with dignity.  "I don't mean to ride sidesaddle through the mountains wearing a dress, and if I'm not wearing stays, I don't mean my breasts to be joggling all the way, either.  Most uncomfortable, joggling."  (DRUMS OF AUTUMN, Chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience")

Q - Quentin Lambert Beauchamp.
Claire's beloved Uncle Lamb, who raised her from the age of five.

R - Ruthlessness. 
I think this is one of the qualities that makes Claire a good surgeon:  "[The] detachment of mind in which I could balance on that knife-edge between ruthlessness and compassion, at once engaged in utmost intimacy with the body under my hands and capable of destroying what I touched in the name of healing." (AN ECHO IN THE BONE, Chapter 62, "One Just Man")

S - Stubbornness. 
Claire is at least a match for Jamie in this respect, and gives as good as she gets.

T - Time-travel.
  The catalyst for this whole amazing adventure. <g>

U - Unladylike language.
  Claire's use of expressions like "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ" and "bloody f*cking hell" frequently scandalizes the 18th-century people around her, but to me, this is an integral part of her character.

V - Vitamins. 
"Well-nourished, is what I am," I retorted.  "Half the people on your estate are suffering from mild scurvy, and from what I've seen on the road, it's even worse elsewhere.  It's vitamin C that prevents scurvy, and apples are full of it."  (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 36, "Prestonpans") 

W - White
.  Claire's Indian name is White Raven, and she's been called many similar things over the years, including the White Witch and La Dame Blanche ("White Lady").  I'm intrigued by Nayawenne's prediction that Claire will come into her full power when her hair turns white, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see about that. <g>

X - eXperiments. 
From home-grown penicillin to gallberry ointment for the treatment of malaria, Claire is always experimenting with new ways to help her patients.

Y - Youthful.
  Claire looks much younger than other women her age in the 18th century, owing to the influence of genes, hygiene, and good nutrition.

Z - Zero.
  The number of times Claire has traveled though the stones using gemstones for protection.

Happy Birthday Claire!  And I hope the rest of you enjoyed these. :-)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Help us celebrate Claire's birthday!

If you're on Twitter, you can help us celebrate Claire Fraser's 93rd birthday on Thursday, October 20, by tagging your tweets with #Happy93Claire.

We had fun with this last year, and we hope to get as many fans to participate as possible.

Please spread the word to anyone else you know who may be interested.  Thanks!

(For those of you who don't know, my Twitter id is karenh3a.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Leaf on the Wind...." coming soon in paperback!

Just a reminder that the paperback edition of SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH will be out on October 25th.  This is the anthology that contains Diana Gabaldon's short story, "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows", about Roger MacKenzie's parents.

Thanks to Diana for the reminder on her Facebook page this morning, along with the little snippet from "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows".

If any of you haven't yet read "Leaf", I highly recommend it!  It's really a wonderful story, and a must-read for OUTLANDER fans. <g>   You can see more information about "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" here.

And I like what they've done with the paperback cover art. <g>

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Book 8 FAQ

I thought it was time to start a FAQ page for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (Book 8 of the OUTLANDER series), so I've created a new tab at the top of my blog.  Click on Book 8 FAQ to see it.

I plan to keep that FAQ page as up-to-date as possible, in the months to come.  Please let me know if there's anything you'd like to see added to it.  Thanks!

Lord John Read-Along

I wanted to pass on the following announcement:

Lara at The Science of Romance will be holding a Lord John Read-Along in the weeks leading up to the November 29 release of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.  The idea is to read all of the Lord John books and stories, in chronological order, by the time SCOTTISH PRISONER comes out.

Lara explains,
Starting on Monday, I'm going to read one per week and post my thoughts on Friday.  There will be spoilers, so if you plan on reading these stories at some point, you may want to skip my reviews.

I think this is a great idea, and I'm looking forward to seeing Lara's reactions as a first-time reader of the Lord John books.  I hope some of you will join in this read-along.  If you haven't yet read some or all of the Lord John books or stories, this sounds like a great opportunity.  And if you have read them, but it's been a while, participating in this read-along will mean the details will be fresh in your mind when you read SCOTTISH PRISONER. <g>

Friday, October 14, 2011

Most startling moments in the books?

We had a discussion on Compuserve recently about the most startling moments or scenes in the OUTLANDER books.  Scenes that make you stop and stare at the page -- "What?!?  Did I really see that?  That can't be right!"  Or scenes that made you scream at the book, laugh out loud in surprise, or whatever.

Here are a few of mine:

OUTLANDER - when Claire finds Jamie in the cell at Wentworth, and he shows her the bloated bag of bones that used to be his right hand. <shudder>  That was the point when it first hit me (in a very shocking, visceral sort of way) that I wasn't reading the sort of ordinary novel where the characters have adventures, but survive basically unscathed at the end.  I couldn't believe Diana would inflict such horrible, permanent damage on a main character like that.

DRAGONFLY IN AMBER - "But I wasna carrying your child." - I totally didn't see that coming the first time, despite the fact that we'd seen the adult Brianna at the beginning of the book.  I don't remember much of my reaction to the rest of DRAGONFLY on that first reading, only that feeling of utter shock, grief, and crying so hard I could hardly see the words on the page.

VOYAGER - The "Daddy" scene, where we learn of Jamie's marriage to Laoghaire, has to be my pick for "most startling moment" in this book.  I never would have seen that coming in a million years. <g>

DRUMS OF AUTUMN - The point when I realized that J&C were going to settle in North Carolina.  I've lived in NC for more than 25 years, and I was stunned (and delighted, and fascinated) to realize that the story was now going to be taking place not all that far from where I live.

THE FIERY CROSS - The hanging, of course.  I was absolutely convinced that Roger was dead, the first time I read it, and I felt a deep sense of shock and betrayal, that Diana would do that to one of her major characters (and one of my favorites).  Even when I realized that he was going to live, I was stunned that he'd lost his singing voice.  Just heartbreaking.

A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES - Claire's abduction and rape, definitely.  Also Lizzie and the Beardsley twins.  ("Both of them?!?" <g>  I still laugh when I think about that.)  And Malva's accusation that Jamie fathered her baby, which seemed to come out of nowhere.

AN ECHO IN THE BONE:  Aside from Claire and Lord John marrying and having sex (and that was a huge shock for me, no question!), the appearance of William Buccleigh MacKenzie was probably the biggest surprise in ECHO.  I really did stare bug-eyed at the page, going, "WHAT?!??!??"

What about the rest of you?  I would love to hear your own "most startling moments" from the OUTLANDER or Lord John books.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

50 days and counting.....

We're now at 50 days and counting until the release of Diana Gabaldon's THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.  What are you doing to get ready for the November 29 release of the book?

- Reading (or re-reading, or listening to) the other Lord John books and stories?  (Up to and including the latest story, "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies", which was just published last week.)

- Clearing your calendar of any distractions that might get in the way of reading during the week after it's released?

- Pre-ordering from Amazon, B&N, the Poisoned Pen, or elsewhere?

- Reading all the excerpts and #DailyLines about SCOTTISH PRISONER that you can find?

- Distracting yourself by reading other things?  (I just finished THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF MRS. TOM THUMB, which was an interesting read, if a bit depressing.)

- None of the above?

For those of you who are still undecided about whether you want to read SCOTTISH PRISONER or not, I'll just remind you that half of this book is told from Jamie Fraser's point of view.  That's several hundred pages, at least, of a piece of Jamie's life (in 1760, during his time at Helwater) that we know very little about from the main OUTLANDER books.

You can see more information about SCOTTISH PRISONER on Diana Gabaldon's blog here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"Plague of Zombies" reactions

Here are some of my reactions to "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies".

*** SPOILERS! ***

Don't read below unless you've finished the story!

First of all, I have to say I was fascinated by the descriptions of the wildlife in this story. <g> From the snake in the opening scene, to three-inch cockroaches, deadly spiders, fugu-fish, and finally the krait....I kept thinking, "Yikes!  What next?!"  (I've never been to Jamaica, but I work with someone who grew up there.  Must remember to ask him about the fauna, one of these days. <g>)  And there was plenty of humor in this story.  I found it a fast-paced and entertaining read.

(Page numbers below refer to the Nook edition, which may or may not match exactly with the hardcover.)

Warren's flight on p. 315 reminds me a bit of the scene in DRAGONFLY where Claire and Mary's attackers flee at the mention of "La Dame Blanche".

"[He] smelled strongly of ship’s reek—this composed in equal parts of sweat, sea-sickness, and sewage, well marinated in salt-water" (p. 319) - I like that.

Tom Byrd's entrance on p. 320 made me laugh.  I've missed him! <g>  And this line -- "He pointed sternly to a stool, and Lieutenant-Colonel Grey, commander of His Majesty’s forces in Jamaica, meekly obeyed the dictates of his nineteen-year-old valet." -- made me laugh even harder.  (Nitpicker alert:  I think Tom is 20, at least, by this time in 1761, but maybe Jari or someone else can confirm that?  Seems to me he was 18 in "Haunted Soldier", in late 1758, but I could be wrong.)

I liked the bit on p. 328 where John thinks about not being able to go to a brothel.  We really don't often see him feeling that his sexual orientation is an inconvenience or a disadvantage.

And I love this quote: 

"Could you call a man your lover, who would never touch you—would recoil from the very thought of touching you?  No. But at the same time, what would you call a man whose mind touched yours, whose prickly friendship was a gift,  whose character, whose very existence, helped to define your own?" (p. 328) 

Especially that last part, which helps explain John's reaction in ECHO when he thought Jamie was dead.  I didn't really appreciate the depth of John's feelings for Jamie until the post-ECHO discussions on Compuserve (here, in particular), and this idea -- "whose character, whose very existence, helped to define your own" -- is something I had a hard time grasping at first.  (Although I do think I get it now. <g>)  Good to see it stated here.

My instant reaction to the next line ("Not for the first time—and surely not for the last—he wished briefly that Jamie Fraser was dead.") was a) nervous laughter, and b) a strong desire to grab John and give him a good shake.  "You IDIOT, be careful what you wish for!" <g>

The bear grease as a reminder of Manoke (p. 328) - I always like these connections between the various books and stories. <g>  "He didn’t suppose he’d ever see Manoke again" made me smile, knowing it's not true.

"The house seemed to breathe around him, almost as though it were a sentient thing, and aware of him.  He found the fancy unsettling." (p. 332) - interesting, and reminiscent of Roger in ECHO, thinking that Lallybroch had a sort of "playful" personality.

Lord John's encounter with the zombie was suitably spooky and unnerving. <g>

I liked Tom's reaction to drinking whisky (p. 334)

I liked Lord John's encounter with Nancy, especially this bit: "Her touch lingered on his hand, a fraction of a moment too long.  Not long enough to be blatant, but long enough for a normal man to perceive it—and Grey’s reflexes in such matters were much better developed than a normal man’s, from necessity." (p. 340)  And I like the fact that John tried so hard to reveal nothing of his connection to Edward Twelvetrees, only to discover, too late, that they knew about it all along. <g>

Lord John on meeting Geillis:  "He had never been in the presence of anyone who repelled him so acutely." (p. 345)  That made me laugh.  The man has always been an astute judge of character, and his instincts are very good!

I liked this line on p. 346: "She spoke as matter-of-factly as though she had been telling him her private receipt for apple pan-dowdy or treacle-cake."

Geillis showing signs of "advanced syphilitic infection" (p. 348) - and this is what, six years or so before Claire encounters her in VOYAGER?  She doesn't seem quite as menacing in this story.  But I did get the impression that she enjoyed messing with Lord John's mind -- telling him the water of the spring was "bloody cold", for example, and no doubt laughing at him privately for being naive enough to believe that. <g>

I liked the bit with John dreaming an "unusually vivid erotic dream" (of Jamie, presumably) on p. 349, and the way he woke up, "Do I appear to be spurting blood or missing any necessary appendages?" is a great line.

"The teeth go in a circle" (p. 353) - like the bite mark on Jamie's arm in THE EXILE, after the wife-beating scene? <g>

"Fettes was beginning to look like a block of wood that someone had set about with a hammer and chisel." (p. 359) - this made me laugh.

The men and horses and tents and such all disappeared without Grey ever noticing? (p. 360)  I'm having a hard time picturing that.  Is John really such a deep sleeper that he never heard a sound, not even from the horses?

"The shock hit Grey like a musket ball.   A thump that knocked him off-balance, and the sickening knowledge of irrevocable damage done." (p. 365) - nice imagery there.

The krait - (p. 372) - Out of curiosity, I looked it up on Wikipedia and found that the krait's venom is "16 times more potent than cobra venom." (Yikes, again! <g>  Like I said, I'm finding the descriptions of wildlife in this story verrrry interesting.  Learning a lot, too.)

I was surprised by Ishmael ending up with a damaged foot, because I don't recall any mention of that in VOYAGER. (p. 374)  But this is a minor point.

Many thanks to Diana for a very enjoyable story!  I'm not a reader of zombie or horror stories normally, but I liked this one.  Can't wait to see what everybody else thinks of it!

Monday, October 3, 2011

"Lord John and the Plague of Zombies"

Congratulations to Diana Gabaldon on the publication of her latest story, a novella called "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies", in the DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS anthology, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

If you've read the story, please feel free to post here and let us know what you thought of it.  (All opinions, pro or con, welcome.)  If you have comments or questions about the story, you can post in the main "Zombies" discussion thread on Compuserve.

I can't wait to hear what everyone thinks of this story!

To those of you on Twitter:

In honor of the release of "Plague of Zombies" on Tuesday, a number of us will be tagging our tweets with #Zombies.  (Short and simple and easy to remember. <g>)  We've had fun with this on various OUTLANDER-related birthdays and other special occasions over the past year or so, and we hope you'll join us....when you're not too busy reading the new story, that is!  Please help spread the word to anyone else who may be interested.  Thanks! [UPDATE 10/4/2011 6:55 am: Hmmmm....the #Zombies tag is bringing up way too many unrelated tweets. :-(  I guess we should have predicted that.  I will be using #LJZombies instead.]

Sunday, October 2, 2011


If you're looking for something to read while we wait for THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, here's my latest suggestion for the Methadone List.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS, by Erin Morgenstern

I just finished reading THE NIGHT CIRCUS, and I really enjoyed it.  The story centers around a unique circus, created in the late 19th century as a venue for a sort of contest on a grand scale, between a pair of young people with what we would consider magical powers:  the ability to transform objects, for example.  Le Cirque des Rêves (The Circus of Dreams) operates only at night, and everything within the boundary of the circus -- the tents, the performers' costumes, even the food -- appears in varying shades of black, white, gray, or silver.

THE NIGHT CIRCUS is an unforgettable story and a richly rewarding experience -- a delight for the senses, beautifully written, imaginative, and so vividly portrayed that the reader can experience something of what it must feel like to be inside the Cirque des Rêves.

As the story proceeds, the reader is drawn further and further into the circus, each new tent holding a surprise even more wondrous and beautiful than the last.  You will find yourself wishing that this circus actually existed so that you could experience it for yourself.

I had to laugh at the description of the "rêveurs" (fans who follow the circus), because this sounds so exactly like the way many of us (myself included!) respond to the OUTLANDER series:
It is these aficionados, these rêveurs, who see the details in the bigger picture of the circus.  They see the nuance of the costumes, the intricacy of the signs.  They buy sugar flowers and do not eat them, wrapping them in paper instead and carefully bringing them home.  They are enthusiasts, devotees.  Addicts.  Something about the circus stirs their souls, and they ache for it when it is absent.

They seek each other out, these people of such specific like mind.  They tell of how they found the circus, how those first few steps were like magic.  Like stepping into a fairy tale under a curtain of stars.  They pontificate upon the fluffiness of the popcorn, the sweetness of the chocolate.  They spend hours discussing the quality of the light, the heat of the bonfire.  They sit over their drinks smiling like children and they relish being surrounded by kindred spirits, if only for an evening.  When they depart, they shake hands and embrace like old friends, even if they have only just met, and as they go their separate ways they feel less alone than they had before.

(THE NIGHT CIRCUS, pp. 147-148, Nook edition)
By introducing this group of "rêveurs", the author has very cleverly given her readers a way to participate in the story, to be both witnesses to the action as it unfolds, and audience for all the wondrous sights, sounds, and sensations in the circus itself.

This is a keeper of a book, a story I'm going to return to more than once. My only (minor) complaint is that I found the jumping around in time to be a little disorienting, as in THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE.  But just as with that book, I think it will be much easier to understand on re-reading, once you're familiar with the characters and the sequence of events.

And I loved the ending.  Just wonderful. <g>

I would highly recommend this book.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

September poll results

Here are the results of the September poll:

Are you planning to buy DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS?
  • 20.61 % - No, I will get it from the library.
  • 19.74 % - Of course! I can't wait to read "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies".
  • 14.04 % - No, I don't want to buy a whole book for one story.
  • 11.84 % - I haven't decided yet.
  • 10.96 % - No, I'm not interested in "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies".
  • 8.33 % - Yes. I pre-ordered through Amazon, B&N, or some other online bookstore.
  • 5.26 % - Yes. I haven't pre-ordered yet, but I intend to do so soon.
  • 3.95 % - What's that? Never heard of it.
  • 1.32 % - No, it's not available where I live.
  • 3.95 % - Other
There were 228 responses to this month's poll.  Thanks to everyone who participated!  I didn't vote in the poll myself, but I'm very much looking forward to the book's release on Tuesday.  (If you don't know what DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS is or why it matters to OUTLANDER fans, look here.)

This month's poll is on the subject of a possible OUTLANDER movie or miniseries.  It's frankly not a topic that I think about all that often, but I looked back through my old blog polls and realized that I haven't asked this particular question in a very long time.  I'm interested to hear what the rest of you think.  Please take a moment to vote.  Thanks!