Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Leap Day!


Here's some February 29th trivia for you.  Among other things:
According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.
And I thought this was interesting, and relevant for OUTLANDER fans:
In Scotland, it used to be considered unlucky for someone to be born on Leap Day, just like Friday 13th is considered an unlucky day by many.
Personally, I don't believe that February 29th is unlucky.  I've never known anyone born on that day, have you?

But I do think the writer of this article in The Scotsman has a point:
Even if Leap Day falls on a weekend, there will usually still be an extra working day in a leap year. If your salary is calculated annually or monthly rather than by actual amount of hours worked, then every four years you work an extra day, usually without extra pay.
Happy Leap Day to all of you!

Monday, February 27, 2012


I'm celebrating a few blogging milestones today:
  • The Outlandish Observations page on Facebook gained its 500th follower today!  (Thank you, whoever you are!)

  • The site has had more than 10,000 visitors in February (the first time that's ever happened, in the 3 1/2 years since I started this blog) and there's still two days left to go!

  • The average number of visitors per month is up at least 54% from what it was a year ago (!)

  • Just in the last month, the site has averaged more than 370 visitors and 670 page views per day (compared to an average of 233 visitors and 376 page views per day in February 2011).
Needless to say, I'm delighted by all of these developments. <g>

What's caused this recent spike?  Well, I can think of a few things:
  • Since Diana Gabaldon's official Facebook page was launched in September, 2011, I now have a vastly greater potential audience of fans who might be interested in my blog.  (Thanks very much to those of you who found your way here as a result of a link on Diana's Facebook page, by the way.)

  • The weekly Friday Fun Facts feature that I started in January has been very popular, and I'm very gratified by the positive reaction to something I decided to do more or less on a whim. <g>

  • I joined Pinterest a few weeks ago, and that seems to be bringing some new visitors to my site.  (If you're one of them, welcome!)

  • I have finally gotten over being shy about talking about my blog where Diana can see it.
Some of you may be surprised by that last item, considering that I'm in communication with Diana on almost a daily basis on Compuserve.  A little background might help.  I started this blog in 2008, and for the first two years, I made no effort at all to draw attention to it on Compuserve, out of a lingering sense of....embarrassment? shyness? not wanting to appear like a gushing fangirl in front of Diana?  (A combination of all of those things, actually, particularly the last one. <g>) 

But ever since Diana's new website was launched last year, with my photo and a link to Outlandish Observations included on the Links page, I've gradually become less self-conscious about mentioning my blog in front of Diana.  These days I have no hesitation at all about sending her links to posts that I think she'll find interesting, like the one about the symbolism of everyday objects.  And I've been very gratified by her reactions.  I get a thrill whenever she retweets one of my blog posts on Twitter, or comments on something I post on her Facebook page, because I know it's being seen by many thousands of fans.

Thanks so much to all of you who follow my blog and take the time to post your comments and reactions.  It really means a lot to me.  I hope you're finding this site interesting, entertaining, and full of useful information.

I was one of the first to create a successful OUTLANDER blog, and I'm always happy to help other OUTLANDER bloggers by sharing links and spreading the word about anything interesting that's going on in the OUTLANDER fan community.  I hope that those of you who have OUTLANDER-related sites or Facebook pages will continue to do the same for me.  I have said many times that I think those of us who have OUTLANDER fan-sites should support each other.  We all have one thing in common: our love for Diana Gabaldon's wonderful writing and unforgettable characters. <g>

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Harry Potter meets OUTLANDER

I saw this on Pinterest today and it made me laugh out loud.  I just can't resist sharing it!

Click on the picture to see a bigger view.

Diana Gabaldon's podcasts

Some of you may remember that Diana Gabaldon did a series of podcasts a few years ago.  There are 24 podcasts in all, recorded from 2006-2008.  I thought I'd post the links here, because these podcasts are quite interesting, and it's all but impossible to find them on Diana's website unless you already know they are there.
If you like, you can also access all of the podcasts from the RSS feed here.  (Thanks to Catherine A. on Compuserve for letting me know about that!)

Diana has not recorded any new podcasts since 2008.  As she explained on Compuserve last week,
  I did them at the instigation of the US publisher, Random House, who a) asked me to do them as promo for AN ECHO IN THE BONE (hardcover and trade paperback), and b) arranged for the recordings--first in a studio in Phoenix, then over the phone with a recording engineer in New York.  c) They also took care of uploading the podcasts, making them available on an RSS feed and on iTunes--none of which I was able to do on my own.

  I wasn't equipped to produce more podcasts on my own, and without some pressing need, it wasn't worth my spending a lot of time or money to do so.  Nowadays, I could probably do them with "Garage Band" on my Mac, but I haven't had time or urgent need to figure that out as yet.
Hope you enjoy them!  I've asked Diana to see if she can put these links up somewhere on her website, because I think it's a shame that they're so difficult to find.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Still time to vote in the SCOTTISH PRISONER poll

What did you think of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER?

I'd like to know what you think about Diana Gabaldon's latest book. If you haven't yet done so, please take a moment to cast your vote in my SCOTTISH PRISONER poll.  Voting ends at midnight on Wednesday, February 29. (And if you've already voted, thanks!)

If you don't see a choice that fits your opinion, just vote "Other", and there's a space where you can leave a brief comment.

(By the way, the March poll on Outlandish Observations, which I'll post on Thursday, will be all about your favorite villains from the OUTLANDER books.  Something to think about over the next few days.)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 2/24/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.

1) Here's a video about whisky-making.  Thanks to Carol at My Outlander Purgatory for the link!

2) The drawing below shows what the interior of a broch looked like in the 18th century.  (Click on the picture to see a larger view.)

This cutaway drawing is based on the Dun Carloway broch on the Isle of Lewis, but I think the broch from which Lallybroch got its name would have been similar, judging from the description in OUTLANDER:
"He gave us each a broom, a brush, and a bucket, and pointed us in the direction of the broch," said Jamie, taking up the story.  "Said I'd convinced him of my point, so he'd decided on a more 'constructive' form of punishment."

Ian's eyes rolled slowly up, as though following the rough stones of the broch upward.

"That tower rises sixty feet from the ground," he told me, "and it's thirty feet in diameter, wi' three floors." He heaved a sigh.  "We swept it from the top to the bottom," he said, "and scrubbed it from the bottom to the top. It took five days, and I can taste rotted oat-straw when I cough, even now."

"And you tried to kill me on the third day," said Jamie, "for getting us into that."  He touched his head gingerly.  "I had a wicked gash over my ear, where ye hit me wi' the broom."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29 ("More Honesty"). Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) Here's what the Z-shaped incision on Tom Christie's hand might have looked like, after his surgery for Dupuytren's contracture in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES. (The picture shows the left hand, and Claire performed this procedure on Christie's right hand, but use your imagination. <g>)

4) There's a mockingbird on Fraser's Ridge that sounds just like Adso the cat. <g>
A mockingbird was busy nearby, practicing its repertoire of calls. It was the bird who lived in the red spruce behind the house; he knew because it paused now and then in the midst of its chatter and trilling to give a fine imitation of Adso the cat's midnight yowl.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 41 ("The Gun-Smith"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you doubt that such a thing is possible, watch this:

5) Here's another of those subtle links between the books.  I found this one in 2008, and it remains one of my favorites. 

Helwater, 1758.  Jamie leaves a note for Lord John, a few hours after their confrontation in the stable in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE:
There was indeed a crumpled paper on the desk, a rough square torn from some larger sheet. Grey picked it up gingerly, as though it might explode.

It was a grubby bit of paper, translucent with oil in spots and pungent, clearly used originally to wrap fish. What had he used for ink, Grey wondered, and brushed a ginger thumb across the paper. The black smudged at once, and came off on his skin. Candleblack, mixed with water.

It was unsigned, and curt.

I believe your lordship to be in pursuit of a wild goose.

"Well, thank you very much for your opinion, Mr. Fraser!" he muttered, and crumpling the paper into a ball, crammed it into his pocket.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 32 ("The Path of Honor"). Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
River Run, 1770.  Brianna hands Lord John a note from Jamie:
The black letters struck him with a small jolt of familiarity.  He had seen Jamie Fraser's hand only once before, but once was enough; it was a distinctive scrawl.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 62 ("Three Thirds of a Ghost"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If this is the only other time Lord John has ever seen Jamie's handwriting, then he must be referring to the scene in BOTB.  I don't quite know what to call this sort of thing. It's not really foreshadowing, because the scene that comes first chronologically was written many years after the one in DRUMS. It feels sort of like a memory of something that hasn't happened yet, if that makes any sense. <g>

If you haven't read BOTB, the fact that Lord John had only seen Jamie's handwriting once before seems like a trivial and unimportant detail.  But once you notice the connection, it gives that little scene in DRUMS a lot more depth than it had before. Consider what Lord John must have been remembering, in the moments after he read that note from Jamie: the confrontation in the stable at Helwater that nearly ended their friendship forever; the note Jamie left for him with the oblique reference to Irish Jacobites; and possibly even their adventure in Ireland, from SCOTTISH PRISONER.  Diana couldn't possibly have known any of those things, at the time she wrote DRUMS, because she doesn't plan it all out years in advance.

When I mentioned this link between BOTB and DRUMS to Diana on Compuserve, back in 2008, her response was:
Very perceptive of you! <g>  Yes, that's exactly what I do--leave zillions of tiny details that aren't important in themselves, but leave me with hundreds of ways to go back and pick one up, in order to link the strands between the books, or to twist a storyline in an unexpected direction--or to pull off something Really Unexpected, on occasion. <g>
I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Listen to Duncan's caithris in Gaelic!

Someone on Compuserve was asking today if there are any recordings available of the Gaelic bits from the OUTLANDER books.  It occurred to me that many fans out there probably don't know about the recording Cathy-Ann MacPhee made in 2008 of Duncan's caithris from DRUMS OF AUTUMN.

Here's a bit of that scene:
Duncan, drunker than ever, fixed the soldiers at the next table with a baleful glare, sweat pouring down his face.

"A Shasunnaich na galladh's olc a thig e dhuibh air bàs gasgaich. Gun toireadh an diabhul fhein leis anns a bhàs sibh, direach do Fhirinn!!"  "Wicked Sassenach dogs, eaters of dead flesh!  Ill does it become you to laugh and rejoice at the death of a gallant man!  May the devil himself seize upon you in the hour of your death and take you straight to hell!"

Ian blanched slightly at this, and Jamie cast Duncan a narrow look, but they stoutly shouted, "Èisd ris!" along with the rest of the crowd.

Fergus, seized by inspiration, got up and passed his hat among the crowd, who, carried away by ale and excitement, happily flung coppers into it for the privilege of joining in their own denunciation.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1 ("A Hanging in Eden"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And here is the audio file:

IMPORTANT NOTE:  If the link above doesn't work for you (it requires an audio player that supports M4A files), try the MP3 version of Cathy-Ann's file instead, which is now available on Diana Gabaldon's German website.  (Thanks to Barbara Schnell for taking care of that!)

Thanks very much to Cathy MacGregor, who arranged for her friend Cathy-Ann MacPhee, a noted Gaelic singer, to do this recording for us.  I wish this audio file was more easily available, because I think a lot of fans would enjoy it.  I found this buried in the archives of Diana's old website.

Please pass the link on to anyone else you know who may be interested.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Diana's trip to Lithuania

Diana Gabaldon is heading off to Lithuania for the Vilnius Book Fair (February 23-26), followed by a few days in London with her husband, Doug.  Don't be surprised if there are no new #DailyLines on Facebook or Twitter for a few days, as she has no idea what the internet access in Lithuania will be like.  She assured me that she will have wifi in the hotel in London, though, so she should be back online around the 27th.

I don't know if anyone following this blog lives in Lithuania, but please spread the word to anyone you may know who might be interested.  Diana has never been to Lithuania before, and it will be interesting to hear her impressions of the country.

In case you're wondering, no, she's not planning any public appearances during her stay in London.  That part of the trip is just for relaxation. <g>

Meanwhile, when Diana is traveling, she leaves me "holding the fort" in the Diana Gabaldon folder on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community:

Actually, though, I'm not much of a cat person.  My friend Cathy MacGregor told me years ago that I have a "border collie personality", and it's absolutely true.  It happens to be a very good fit with my job as Section Leader on Compuserve, a position I've held since 2008.

What does a "border collie personality" mean?  Well, the general idea is that I'm always gently but firmly herding people in the right direction. <g>  Chasing after stragglers and the ones who wander off on their own.  That sort of thing. 

It happens to be just the sort of temperament required to manage a very active (but constantly shifting) group of forum members, where new people join the discussions on almost a daily basis. I hope I'm not quite this obsessive, though!

Please keep in mind that it's meant more or less as a joke. <g>

If you have questions or comments for Diana, you might want to wait for a few days.  She'll be back home on March 3rd.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The symbolism of everyday objects

One of the things I love about Diana Gabaldon's writing is the way she can take a perfectly ordinary object, something you've seen a thousand times and never really paid attention to before, and turn it into something completely unforgettable.

Here are a few examples of what I mean.

1) Doorknobs

I don't think anyone who has read BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE will look at doorknobs the same way again.
Meanwhile, the doorknob--made of white china and slick as an egg--as though to compensate for the loss of the key, was inclined either to spin loosely round on its stem, or to jam fast, both conditions preventing the door from being opened from the outside.
(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25 ("Betrayal"). Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) Strawberries

I can't think of strawberries now without remembering the wonderful scene in DRUMS OF AUTUMN where Jamie and Claire discover the site of Fraser's Ridge:
"It's a rare plant," he said, touching the sprig in my open hand.  "Flowers, fruit and leaves all together at the one time.  The white flowers are for honor, and red fruit for courage--and the green leaves are for constancy."

My throat felt tight as I looked at him.

"They got that one right," I said.

He caught my hand in his own, squeezing my fingers around the tiny stem.

"And the fruit is the shape of a heart," he said softly, and bent to kiss me.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16 ("The First Law of Thermodynamics"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Oranges, and orange marmalade

The encounter between Lord John and Stephan von Namtzen in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER has been dubbed a "marmaliaison" by some people on Compuserve. <g>  If you read carefully, you'll see references to oranges scattered throughout that whole chapter.
As he followed Stephan from the coach, he caught the scent of von Namtzen’s cologne, something faint and spicy--cloves, he thought, and was absurdly reminded of Christmas, and oranges studded thick with cloves, the smell festive in the house.

His hand closed on the orange, cool and round in his pocket, and he thought of other rounded things that might fit in his hand, these warm.

“Fool,” he said to himself, under his breath. “Don’t even think about it.”

It was, of course, impossible not to think about it.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9 ("Eros Rising"). Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) A wooden mallet, its handle wrapped with twine

Even Jamie is bothered by the memories evoked by this particular object, and no wonder!
"Surely ye can make hare pie without looking in the wee book?" he said, obligingly taking the big bone-crushing wooden mallet from the top of the hutch where it was kept.  He grimaced as he took it into his hand, feeling the weight of it.  It was very like the one that had broken his right hand several years before, in an English prison, and he had a sudden vivid memory of the shattered bones in a hare pie, splintered and cracked, leaking salty blood and marrow-sweetness into the meat.
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7 ("To Us a Child is Given"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) Sausages

The sausage pictured above is a whopping 15 1/2 inches long, roughly comparable in size to the one described in DRAGONFLY:
"I'll leave it to you, Sassenach," he said dryly, "to imagine what it feels like to arrive unexpectedly in the middle of a brothel, in possession of a verra large sausage."

My imagination proved fully equal to this task, and I burst out laughing.

"God, I wish I could have seen you!" I said.

"Thank God ye didn't!" he said fervently. A furious blush glowed on his cheekbones.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12 ("L'Hopital des Anges"). Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
6) Pebbles

I thought Jamie's collection of stones, one for each of his family members, was a lovely bit in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
A scatter of stones, picked up because of their feel in the hand or a pretty color. He counted them; there were eleven: one each for his sister, for Ian, for Young Jamie, Maggie, Kitty, Janet, Michael, and Young Ian; one for his daughter, Faith, who had died at birth; another for the child Claire had carried when she went; the last--a piece of rough amethyst--for Claire herself. He must look out for another now: the right stone for William. He wondered briefly why he had not done that before. Because he hadn’t felt the right to claim William even in the privacy of his own heart, he supposed.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38 ("Redux"). Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) Compass with needle pointing north

I love the compass-needle imagery in "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier", as a metaphor for John's feelings for Jamie:
He dipped the pen again, and saw the slender splinter of metal that lay on his desk, straight as a compass needle, dully a-gleam in the candlelight.

My regiment is due to be reposted in the spring; I shall join them, wherever duty takes me. I shall, however, come to Helwater again before I leave.

He stopped, and touched the metal splinter with his left hand. Then wrote, You are true north.

(From "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier", in LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS by Diana Gabaldon (Part III, "The Hero's Return"). Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love that metaphor. John simply can't stop loving Jamie, any more than a compass needle can avoid pointing north.

Hope you enjoyed these! Let me know if you find any more examples like these in the books.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Diana's short stories and novellas

Are you confused by all the various shorter pieces (short stories and novellas) that Diana Gabaldon has been writing in recent years?  Wondering where you can find them?  Or where they fit into the overall timeline of the OUTLANDER series?

Diana's latest blog post explains all about these shorter pieces, including:

"A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows"
"The Custom of the Army"
"Lord John and the Plague of Zombies"

and the upcoming stories,

"The Space Between" and "Virgins".

And in case you're wondering, Diana says,
Yes, eventually some of these pieces will very likely be published as e-shorts, collected into a single volume, or both. When they are, I’ll tell you; stay tuned!
As soon as I have any more information about "Virgins" or "The Space Between", including publication dates, I'll post it here.

If you're looking for the order of the Lord John books and stories, you can find it here.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 2/17/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts.  I hope you enjoy them!

1) Here's what a bodhran sounds like when played by an expert. Thanks very much to my sister Alice, who found this video several years ago. I can't embed it here, unfortunately, but click here to watch it. The performer's name is John Joe Kelly, and I think he's terrific!
I sat up, listening hard.  It was a drum with a sound like a beating heart, slow and rhythmic, then trip-hammer fast, like the frantic surge of a hunted beast.
I could have told them that Indians never used drums as weapons; Celts did.  It was the sound of a bodhran.
What next? I thought, a trifle hysterically, bagpipes?
It was Roger, certainly; only he could make a drum talk like that.  It was Roger, and Jamie was nearby.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, chapter 28 ("Curses"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) Tomatoes were widely believed to be poisonous in the 18th century. Ronnie Sinclair certainly thinks so.
"It's the tomato fruits she's using, Mac Dubh," he hissed, tugging at Jamie's sleeve and pointing at the red-crusted bowl.  "Devil's apples! She'll poison us all!"

(From THE FIERY CROSS, chapter 13 ("Beans and Barbecue"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) Did you ever wonder where Rollo came from? I found this in the Wikipedia article on wolf-dog crossbreeds:
The first record of a wolf and dog breeding in Great Britain comes from the year 1766 when what is thought to have been a male wolf mated with a Pomeranian bitch, which resulted in a litter of nine pups.
And just a few months later, in the summer of 1767, Ian acquired Rollo. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not. <g>

Another interesting bit of trivia: The 18th-century surgeon, Dr. John Hunter, whom we met for the first time in the Lord John story "The Custom of the Army", is a real historical figure who apparently had a fascination for wolf-dog hybrids, and kept one as a pet for many years.
Hunter had been given the hybrid as a puppy in about 1766 by a menagerie owner known as 'Wild Beast Brookes,' who had bred a litter of nine puppies from a male wolf and female dog. While Hunter clearly adored his unbiddable half-breed as much as it adored him, it scared the life out of passersby. Eventually it was stoned to death by a mob who mistook it for a rabid dog."

(THE KNIFE MAN, by Wendy Moore, p. 116, paperback ed.)
And yes, that's the same John Hunter who is mentioned in ECHO as a distant relative of Denny and Rachel. <g>

4) Charles Edward Stuart really did have a picnic set made of gold and sterling silver, shown above. This must be the same picnic set mentioned by Lord Lovat, Jamie's grandfather, when he was considering what gift to send to Charles Stuart:
"Ha," said his lordship with satisfaction.  "We'll send the gold and sterling picnic set.  That's rich enough, but too frivolous to be interpreted as political support.  Besides," he added practically, "the spoon's dented."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, chapter 41 ("The Seer's Curse"). Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The prince left his picnic set on the field at Culloden, as Roger explained to Bree in DRAGONFLY, Chapter 4, "Culloden".

5) I like the subtle little bits that connect different parts of Diana's books together.  Here is one of my favorites, from DRUMS OF AUTUMN.

Jamie, remembering the time he spent lying in the snow, dreaming about the daughter he thinks he'll never see:
"Has she a birthmark, Sassenach? And if so, did ye tell me of it?"
"She does," I said slowly, thinking.  "I don't think I ever told you about it, though; it isn't visible most of the time, so it's been years since I noticed it myself.  It's a--"
His hand tightening on my shoulder stopped me.
"It's a wee brown mark, shaped like a diamond," he said.  "Just behind her left ear. Isn't it?"
"Yes, it is." It was warm and cozy in bed, but a small coolness on the back of my neck made me shiver suddenly.  "Did you see that in your dream?"
"I kissed her there," he said softly.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN, chapter 21 ("Night on a Snowy Mountain"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Much later in the book, immediately after Jemmy's birth:
I glanced upward once, to see Brianna glowing, still smiling from ear to ear. Jamie was beside her, also smiling, his cheeks wet with tears.  He said something to her in husky Gaelic, and brushing the hair away from her neck, leaned forward and kissed her gently, just behind the ear.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN, chapter 64 ("Bottom of the Ninth"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What a sweet, poignant moment!  And it gives me goosebumps now, thinking of both ends of that connection:  Jamie dreaming of the future, of the moment his grandson would be born; and then getting to witness it himself, something he surely never imagined or expected.  I like to think that Jamie remembered it, though, and that it was part of what made "his cheeks wet with tears" at that moment.

I hope you enjoyed these! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please stop by next week for more!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Downton Abbey and OUTLANDER

So I was watching Season 2 of "Downton Abbey" on PBS last week, and it occurred to me that there are some interesting parallels in several of the storylines between "Downton Abbey" and the OUTLANDER books.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

Spoilers for Season 2 of "Downton Abbey" below, as well as for THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.

If you're sensitive to spoilers, don't read below unless you have seen Episode 6 of "Downton Abbey" Season 2, which aired on February 12 in the US.









1) Lady Sybil abandoning her upper-class upbringing, wealth, and a life of luxury in order to marry Branson, the chauffeur.  There are many similarities to the Dottie-and-Denny storyline in AN ECHO IN THE BONE.  I was surprised and pleased to see Lord Grantham, in Episode 6, let Sybil go with his blessing, and enough money so they won't starve.  I wonder what Hal's reaction will be, in MOHB, to the news that his daughter Dottie has decided to turn Quaker and marry Denny Hunter?

2) Ethel, the former housemaid with a bastard child.  Watching Episode 6 the other night, I was struck by the choice Bryant's father gave her:  he would take the child and raise it as his heir, in a life of wealth and privilege, but she would never see her son again.  I couldn't help thinking that Brian Fraser, too, was the bastard son of a housemaid, acknowledged by the laird (the Old Fox, Lord Lovat).  It's all too easy to picture Lord Lovat giving Brian's mother precisely the same choice.

3) The marriage of Daisy and William, when William lay dying from his war injuries, seems very reminiscent of the deathbed scene in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, when Mary Hawkins marries Jonathan Randall.  Daisy doesn't love William, doesn't particularly want to be married to him, but allows herself to be talked into it, and in the process, she presumably gains some amount of financial security, by taking advantage of his military pension.  I think the same is true of Mary Hawkins.

4) Lady Sybil's attempt to elope with Branson, in Episode 5, by fleeing to Gretna Green, just across the border in Scotland.  Those of you who have read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER will recognize the similarities to Isobel's attempt to elope with Wilberforce, the lawyer.  (Of course it was a much more arduous journey to get to Gretna Green in 1760 than in 1918!)  And Lady Mary gets there just in the nick of time, just as Jamie did in SCOTTISH PRISONER.

5) Cora (Lady Grantham), Lord Grantham's American-born wife, like Claire, is an outlander, who has made a home and a life for herself in England.  I loved Robert's line to Cora in this week's episode:  "If you're turning American on me, I'll go downstairs." <g>

6) In some ways, the Dowager Countess reminds me of Jocasta Cameron.

Consider, for example, her reaction to the idea of Downton Abbey being turned into a hospital for wounded soldiers:

Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham: I think it's a *ridiculous* idea.
Lady Sybil Crawley: Why?
Dowager Countess: Because this is a house, not a hospital.
Lady Mary Crawley: Granny, a convalescent home is where people rest and recuperate.
Dowager Countess: But if there are relapses. What then? Amputation in the dining room? Resuscitation in the pantry?

Or an autopsy in the garden shed in the dead of night, like we saw in THE FIERY CROSS? <g>  It's probably just as well that Jocasta never found out about that.  I think she would have been appalled at the idea.  On the other hand, she did let Claire operate on John Quincy Myers on her dining room table, in full view of a roomful of guests, in DRUMS OF AUTUMN.

I think these two women, with their powerful personalities, have a lot in common.

7) And finally, because I can't help thinking of this every time I lay eyes on the man:  Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, looks very much like my mental image of a young Lord John, possibly as he looked around the time of BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE or SCOTTISH PRISONER.  I first commented on this a year ago, and I haven't seen anything in Season 2 to change my mind.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Alex Beaton update

Some good news today from Scottish folk singer Alex Beaton: he's finally home, after seven long months in various hospitals and rehab centers, recovering from a serious spinal cord injury that he suffered last July.  (You can see details at

I fell in love with Alex Beaton's music after hearing him perform at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in the summer of 2010.  I don't know if he will ever sing in front of an audience again, but I'm glad I got the opportunity to hear him in person.

In honor of Alex Beaton's homecoming, here are a few of my favorite Beaton songs.  The first two have more of an Irish theme, but the third is definitely Scottish! <g>  Hope you enjoy them.

The Maid in the Calico Dress

Rare Ould Times

These are My Mountains


Check out this wonderful OUTLANDER quilt, by Susan Leidy, aka "Sooz".

Isn't it beautiful??  The attention to detail is just amazing.  She even managed to get Willie's snake in there, and the OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary edition, complete with ribbon bookmark.  And look closely at the purple book on the right.  Yes, that's a placeholder for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD! <g>

I think Sooz did a magnificent job on this quilt.  Clearly it was a labor of love, and it shows.  I love it!

By the way, when Diana saw this picture over the weekend, her reaction on Facebook was "Oh!  That's gorgeous! <g>"  And it certainly is.

If you want to learn more about the making of this quilt, check out MaryFaithPeace's blog post here.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Pictures for OUTLANDER addicts

Here's just a small sampling of what I've found on Pinterest and other sites in the last few days.  Hope you like these!

[UPDATE 2/13/2012 7:43 am to add one more at the end, because I just couldn't resist....]

This one comes from My Outlander Purgatory, and I think the combination of the photo and the caption is just hilarious! (Speaking as one of the excerpt-avoiders myself, of course.)

I love this. Wish it came in Fraser tartan, but I still think it's hilarious! <g>

I can't wait until July when I go to Scotland!

This one has been going around Facebook in recent days. I think it's very appropriate for OUTLANDER-addicts, don't you? <g>

And here's one that somebody posted on Diana Gabaldon's Facebook page. I prefer "addicted" to "obsessed", myself, but I don't agree that nobody understands. OUTLANDER fans all over the world understand perfectly! <g>

Friday, February 10, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 2/10/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts.  I hope you enjoy them!  I'm having a lot of fun picking out my favorite bits of OUTLANDER trivia to share with all of you.

1) What was Claire doing on July 4, 1776?  She was in Wilmington, NC, picking a gemstone (a chrysoberyl, to be precise, like the one shown below) out of Young Ian's nostril with a pair of tweezers.  (This is presumably not the sort of thing most people have in mind when they fantasize about traveling back in time and possibly witnessing momentous historical events. <g>)

By the way, here's an extra bit of trivia for you:  The "nose-picker" scene (ABOSAA Chapter 115) came about as a result of a writing challenge on Compuserve in 2004, in which the participants had to write a scene about nose-picking "where said nose-picker comes across in a sympathetic manner".  So Linda Grimes gets the credit for inspiring that one. <g>

2) Brian Fraser's mother (Jamie's paternal grandmother) is listed in the Fraser family tree in the OUTLANDISH COMPANION, p. 218, as one Davina Porter. <g>  Yes, she's named after the narrator of the unabridged OUTLANDER audiobooks.  I've always thought that was a lovely tribute to a very talented lady.

3) In AN ECHO IN THE BONE, we learn that Andrew Bell printed the first edition of his Encyclopaedia Britannica in Edinburgh, using Jamie Fraser's printing press (chapter 74, "Twenty-Twenty")  According to Wikipedia, "The Britannica is the oldest English-language encyclopaedia still in print. It was first published between 1768 and 1771 in Edinburgh, Scotland as three volumes."  Between 1768 and 1771....when Jamie was in America, and his printing press just happened to be entrusted to Andy Bell's care in Edinburgh? <g>  I love this bit, because of the way it sort of obliterates the line between fiction and historical fact.

Here's a picture of an 18th-century printing press similar to Jamie's.

4)  Electric eels, like the one pictured below, can produce an electric charge of up to 500 volts (!)  No wonder Lord John had such a severe reaction to being shocked by one.  And if you haven't read Diana Gabaldon's novella, "The Custom of the Army", where that scene appears, I highly recommend it.  (Look here for more information about the story.)

5) Jocasta occasionally smokes marijuana to ease her glaucoma symptoms.
"There's a bittie parcel in there of an herb ye might find of interest."
I found it immediately--by smell.
"Where on earth did you get that?" I asked, halfway amused.
"Farquard Campbell," she replied matter-of-factly.  "When ye told me what the difficulty was with my eyes, I asked Fentiman if he kent anything that might be of help, and he told me that he'd heard somewhere that hemp might be of use.  Farquard Campbell has a field of it under cultivation, so I thought I might as well try it.  It does seem to help.  Would ye put it in my hand, please, niece?"
Fascinated, I put the parcel of hemp and the little stack of papers down on the table beside her, and guided her hand to it.  Rolling carefully onto her side to prevent the poultice falling off, she took a good pinch of aromatic herb, sprinkled it down the center of the paper, and rolled as tidy a joint as I had ever seen in Boston.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 110 ("The Smell of Light"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here is an article from the Glaucoma Research Foundation about medical marijuana being used to treat glaucoma.  According to the article, it does provide some short-term relief, but not enough to offset its side-effects.

If you enjoyed these, look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts.

And be sure to stop by here next week for more!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Will there be a Book 9?

There continues to be a lot of speculation and rumors flying around Facebook and various fan-sites to the effect that WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD might be the last book in the OUTLANDER series.

This is a rumor, nothing more.  As Diana Gabaldon said last April on Compuserve:
I can't think _what_ makes people do that.  Every single time a new book comes out, I get rashes of email from people moaning about how sad they are that it's the last one.  Did I ever _say_ it was the last one?  No!  Never.  Where do they _get_ this stuff?
The subject came up again on Compuserve yesterday (February 8, 2012), and I thought it was worth repeating Diana's comments here:
FWIW--I haven't said Book 8 is the last book.  I won't say for sure that it isn't, until I've seen the whole shape of it--but for now, it's not. <g>
And here is another comment from Diana, dated February 2, 2012:
Well, I'm beginning to _feel_ that it isn't the last book, but I'm not about to declare that definitively until I've seen the end of Moby [she means Book 8].  And ends, like beginnings, just come along of their own free will, and can occur at any point in the process.
I'm certainly hoping that there will be a Book 9; I've said before that I like the idea of a "trilogy of trilogies" very much.  But Diana has consistently and repeatedly said for months that she does not know yet with certainty whether Book 8 will be the last one or not.  When she does know for sure, she'll tell us.

In the meantime, if you hear of anyone spreading rumors to the effect that WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD is going to be the last book in the series, please point them to this blog post so they can see Diana's own words for themselves.  Thanks!

And we'll just have to wait and see.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Most romantic quotes

I know it's a little early for Valentine's Day, but I thought some of you might appreciate something else to talk about besides the Endless Movie-Casting Debate on Diana Gabaldon's Facebook page.  So, here are my all-time favorite romantic quotes from the OUTLANDER series.

"Ye are Blood of my Blood, and Bone of my Bone. I give ye my Body, that we Two might be One. I give ye my Spirit, 'til our Life shall be Done."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14 ("A Marriage Takes Place"). Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"I do not know if the wound is mortal, but Claire--I do feel my heart's blood leave me, when I look at you."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29 ("To Grasp the Nettle"). Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.
"I have burned for you for twenty years, Sassenach," he said softly. "Do ye not know that?"

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25 ("House of Joy"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire--I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16 ("The First Law of Thermodynamics"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"When the day shall come, that we do part....if my last words are not 'I love you'--ye'll ken it was because I didna have time."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 111 ("And Yet Go Out to Meet It"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Claire," he said, quite gently, "it was you. It's always been you, and it always will be."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 31 ("And So To Bed"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Thee is a wolf, too, and I know it. But thee is my wolf, and best thee know that."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 103 ("The Hour of the Wolf"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It's hard to pick just one per book! Feel free to suggest your own favorites.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Pinterest update

Thanks very much to all of you who've started following me on Pinterest or viewing my pinboards.  I'm having fun with Pinterest so far.  You can see my pinboards by clicking on the image below:

Follow Me on Pinterest

I have gone through all 3 1/2 years worth of my old blog posts (a time-consuming job which took the better part of a week to finish!) and pinned all the photos that seemed relevant.  I think I've got them all now, more or less.  I've collected more than 200 images so far, and I spent some time this weekend subdividing them into categories, to make the pictures easier to find.

Outlandish Observations - this is the main pinboard, for pictures relating to me, my blog, Diana's books, and OUTLANDER fandom in general.

OUTLANDER: Historical Figures
OUTLANDER: Flora and Fauna
OUTLANDER: Standing Stones
OUTLANDER: Men in Kilts
OUTLANDER: Gemstones
OUTLANDER: Food and Drink
18th Century Clothing

I might add more categories later (for example, I'd like to create a pinboard for photos of Scotland), but for now, I'm satisfied with the way it's set up.

Feel free to look around and repin any of these photos for yourselves.  Hope you enjoy them!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 2/3/2012

I was just DELIGHTED by the positive response to my first Friday Fun Facts post last week!  I'm going to make this a regular weekly feature on my blog.

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts:

1) Jamie's baby brother, who died at birth along with his mother when Jamie was eight years old, was named Robert.  (AN ECHO IN THE BONE, Chapter 21, "The Minister's Cat".)  We've known about this baby brother for a long time, but we didn't know his name until ECHO came out.

2) Salt causes leeches to fall off.  (As Claire tells Willie in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, Chapter 25, "Enter a Serpent".)

Why is that?  I found this explanation on Yahoo Answers:
Salt causes leeches to dry up due to the hypotonic state inside the leech's body. It's way saltier outside than inside the leech. The water will travel through osmosis to the surface of the leech's skin in an attempt to dilute the saltiness, but this will cause the leech to dry up internally and fall off.
3) Roger was born in Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland.  (FIERY CROSS, chapter 6, "For Auld Lang Syne")  Judging from pictures like the one below, it looks like a beautiful place.

4) Dauco seeds -- the seeds of the wild carrot, Daucus carota, also known as Queen Anne's lace (shown below) -- are still occasionally used today as a natural method of contraception.  Here's an article with more details.

5) Jane McCrea, the scalped woman mentioned in ECHO, was a real historical figure.
He’d never heard a sound like that before--a shriek of such horror, such grief, that his heart froze in his chest.
"Jane! Jane!" A Welsh lieutenant he knew slightly, called David Jones, was forcing his way through the crowd, beating at the men with fists and elbows, lunging toward the surprised Indians, his face contorted with emotion.
"Oh, God," breathed a soldier near him. "His fiancée’s called Jane. He can’t mean--"
Jones threw himself at the pole, snatching at the fall of honey-colored hair, shrieking "JANE!" at the top of his lungs.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 55 ("Retreat"). Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The painting below by John Vanderlyn (1804) depicts the incident in which she was killed.

I hope you enjoyed these! Stop by next week for more Friday Fun Facts!

Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts.