Sunday, April 29, 2012

What Jamie Fraser looks like?

For those of you who don't follow the discussions on Compuserve, here's something I think you'll enjoy:  Silvia's latest portrait of Jamie!

Click on the picture to see a bigger version.  I think this is a terrific picture, and so does Diana Gabaldon.  Here's Diana's reaction, on Compuserve a few days ago:
Dear Silvia--

  YES!  Muscular, but _lean_ muscular.   And a great face, too. <g>

[Edited to add that you are a Certified Genius. <g>]

That's high praise indeed, coming from Diana. I think Silvia has gotten closer to the image of Jamie that Diana sees in her head than many other fans.  Thanks very much to Silvia for sharing this with all of us!

To see more of Silvia's artwork, look here.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Diana's books in German at the Poisoned Pen

Diana Gabaldon's assistant, Susan -- aka "Herself's Elf" -- asked me to pass on the following message:
Several GERMAN language editons of Diana's books were just delivered to The Poisoned Pen, waiting for anxious readers to purchase a signed copy. There are various quanties of each book, usually 3-4 of each title shown.

The books consist of:

OUTLANDER (Feuer Und Stein)
DRAGONFLY IN AMBER (Die Geliehene Zeit)
VOYAGER (Ferne Ufer)
A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES (Ein Hauch von Schnee und Asche)
AN ECHO IN THE BONE (Echo der Hoffnung)
THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION (Der Magische Steinkreis)

Also in-stock, some Spanish, Polish, Italian and even Finnish editions available. Diana can sign AND personalize to YOU!!

For those of you who don't know, the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona, is Diana Gabaldon's local independent bookstore.  Diana stops by there frequently to sign books, and she says they will ship books all over the world.

Click here to order the books online from the Poisoned Pen site, or contact David at the Poisoned Pen ( to check availability of these books and place an order.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who may be interested.  Thanks!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 4/27/2012

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

1) Gallberries (shown above) are the very bitter-tasting berries that Claire uses in ABOSAA as a substitute for cinchona bark, to treat Lizzie's malaria.
I am told by the Trader from whom I procured Jesuit Bark that the Indians use a Plant called Gallberry, which rivals the Bark of Cinchona for bitterness and is thought capital for Use in tertian and quartan Fevers. I have collected some for Experiment and propose to try an Infusion so soon as the Opportunity presents itself.

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.)

2) I had never heard of amplexus (the clasping posture of fertilization in frogs and toads) before I saw the word in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, in the chapter title of that name.
There were frogs in the ditches, in the bogs that lay beyond the scrim of trees. They called, high and low, shrill and bass, cascading over one another in a vast, pulsating chorus. At a distance, sitting on a lawn with that chorus as background, watching the stars come out, that sound might be no more than a pastoral, the song of spring.

This close, it was still the song of spring, but that song was revealed to be what the pagans had always known it to be--the blind urge to seize, to mate, to spill blood and seed heedlessly into the earth, wallow in crushed flowers, writhe in the juices of grass and mud.

Those bloody frogs were shrieking their passion, raw-throated and triumphant. Hundreds of them. The racket was deafening.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 28, "Amplexus". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
By coincidence, Saturday, April 28, 2012 is Save the Frogs Day, but I didn't discover that until after I'd already decided to include the frogs in this week's FFF.

3) Here's an article about the history of trepanation. The engraving above (from Wikipedia) comes from an 18th-century French encyclopedia.  Looking at this picture gives you a new appreciation of what Lord John went through in DRUMS, doesn't it?  No wonder Claire was fascinated. I bet she wished she'd been there to observe the operation. <g>
"Brianna says that Dr. Fentiman trephined your skull."

He shifted uncomfortably under the sheets.

"I am told that he did. I am afraid I was not aware of it at the time."

Her mouth quirked slightly.

"Just as well. Would you mind if I look at it? It's only curiosity," she went on, with unaccustomed delicacy. "Not medical necessity. It's only that I've never seen a trepanation."

He closed his eyes, giving up.

"Beyond the state of my bowels, I have no secrets from you, madame."

He tilted his head, indicating the location of the hole in his head, and felt her cool fingers slide under the bandage, lifting the gauze and allowing a breath of air to soothe his hot head.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63, "Forgiveness". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) Here's a photo of Rose Hall, Jamaica. (Click on the picture to see a bigger view.)
Rose Hall was a two-storied house; long and graciously proportioned, with a roof laid in expensive slates, rather than in the sheets of tin that covered most of the planters' residences. A long veranda ran all along one side of the house, with long windows and French doors opening on to it.

A great yellow rosebush grew by the front door, climbing on a trellis and spilling over the edge of the roof. The scent of its perfume was so heady that it made breathing difficult; or perhaps it was only excitement that made my breath come short and stick in my throat. I glanced around as we waited for the door to be answered, trying to catch a glimpse of any white-skinned figure near the sugar refinery above.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 60, "The Scent of Gemstones". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The story of the Witch of Rose Hall may or may not be true, but I think it's fascinating all the same. Her name was Annie Palmer.  No indication that she was actually a time-traveler from 1968 <g>, but then again, I don't suppose anyone was too eager to poke into her background, given her reputation.  She sounds positively evil!

UPDATE 4/27/2012 6:30 pm: Here's Johnny Cash singing "The Ballad of Annie Palmer". Thanks very much to Penny Viens on Facebook for the link! I'd never heard of this song before, but it's VERY appropriate! <g>

5) This is a Mohawk bow.  (Click on the picture to see a bigger view.)  According to the site where I found this picture, it's 44-1/2" long, probably made from a hickory sapling, and originally decorated with quillwork. Can't you just picture young Ian using this?
Then the boar's front legs gave way and it fell to its knees. It wobbled, eyes glazing, and collapsed onto its side, the shaft of an arrow poking up, looking frail and inconsequential by comparison to the animal's bulk.

Jemmy was squirming and crying underneath him. He sat up slowly, and gathered the little boy up into his arms. He noticed, remotely, that his hands were shaking, but he felt curiously blank. The torn skin on his palms stung, and his knee was throbbing. Patting Jemmy's back in automatic comfort, he turned his head toward the wood and saw the Indian standing at the edge of the trees, bow in hand.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 108, "Tulach Ard". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
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, April 25, 2012

"Plague of Zombies" and the Edgar Awards

As many of you know, Diana Gabaldon's novella, "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies", has been nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Short Story by the Mystery Writers of America.

From the website:
Each Spring, Mystery Writers of America present the Edgar® Awards, widely acknowledged to be the most prestigious awards in the genre.
The awards will be presented at a banquet in New York City on Thursday evening, April 26.

You can see the full list of Edgar award nominees here

For more information on "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies", see the FAQ page here.

Good luck, Diana!

UPDATE 4/27/2012:  Well, unfortunately, Diana didn't win the award last night. :-(  I hope she had a good time anyway.  And as she says, it's an honor to be nominated, regardless of the outcome.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Download OUTLANDER audiobooks for $7.95 through May 1

Check out this announcement posted on today:
With such passion behind the Outlander series, we want to make sure that anyone who hasn’t yet heard these amazing performances has the opportunity to try them out, so The Fiery Cross and the rest of the series will be on sale for just $7.95 each until May 1, 11:59 PM ET.
If you haven't yet had a chance to listen to the audiobooks, I'll say again, I highly recommend them!  Davina Porter's narrations are just wonderful.  (I'm just starting to listen to ECHO again this week.)

Please pass this on to anyone else you know who may be interested.  Thanks!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

"Custom of the Army" e-book edition

A special e-book edition of Diana Gabaldon's novella "The Custom of the Army" will be released in the US and Canada on May 21, 2012.

Isn't that a gorgeous cover picture?  I really like it.

You can pre-order the Kindle edition here, and the Nook edition here.

It's priced at only $1.99, so if you haven't yet read this story, I would definitely encourage you to download the e-book when it becomes available!

UPDATE 5/22/2012 12:42 pm:  I was delighted (to say the least!) to discover that the e-book version of "Custom of the Army is dedicated to me.  WOW!!  It's quite an honor, and came as a total surprise to me.  Thank you very much, Diana!!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 4/20/2012

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

1) I had never heard of a corset busk before I read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES. Here is an example of an ivory corset busk. (Click on the picture to see a bigger view.)

This particular busk dates from 1833, but I imagine the one Bree used to fatally wound the black slave, Emmanuel, in ABOSAA would have been similar.
They'd taken away the fouled dress, and left her in shift and stays. Well, that was something. She pulled off the stays, and by picking at the ends of the stitching, extracted the busk--a flat, twelve-inch strip of ivory that ran from sternum to navel. A better weapon than a hairbrush, she thought. She took it over to the chimney, and began to rasp the end against the brick, sharpening its point.

Could she stab someone with it? Oh, yes, she thought fiercely. And please let it be Emmanuel.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 107, "The Dark of the Moon". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) Here are a couple of photos of Beauly Priory, the priory attached to Beaufort Castle, in Scotland, where Claire meets Maisri the seer.

There was a small chapel in Beaufort Castle, to serve the devotional uses of the Earl and his family, but Beauly Priory, ruined as it was, remained the burying place of the Lovats, and the floor of the open-roofed chancel was paved thick with the flat tombstones of those who lay under them.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 41, "The Seer's Curse". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I'm not sure if I'll get to see this place when I go to Scotland in July or not. Have any of you been there?

3) The photo above shows forget-me-nots, like the ones Claire noticed on Craigh na Dun only hours before she went through the stones for the first time.
Casting an eye over the ground, though, I [saw] an interesting plant growing near the base of one of the tall stones. Myosotis? No, probably not; this had orange centers to the deep blue flowers. Intrigued, I started toward it. Frank, with keener hearing than I, leaped to his feet and seized my arm, hurrying me out of the circle a moment before one of the morning's dancers entered from the other side.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "Standing Stones". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Do the forget-me-nots have some special significance?  When Diana was asked that question on Compuserve in January, 2009, her response was,
Yes, but a) I didn't know what it was when I used it <g>, and b) I can't tell you what it is yet.
Grrrrrr!!  I really hate it when she does that. <g> We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Some people on Compuserve have speculated that Jamie might have planted them, after Claire's death, perhaps, or sometime during their 20 years apart.  I really have no idea.  But it seems clear that the reason Claire returned to Craigh na Dun that day was to find these flowers.  And so, if it hadn't been for the forget-me-nots, Claire might never have gone through the stones in the first place!

The discussion on Compuserve is here if you're interested.

I should add, for the record, that I never paid the slightest attention to the forget-me-nots mentioned in OUTLANDER until people started talking about them on Compuserve last year.

4) Here's a cutaway view of the shell of a chambered nautilus.
Jenny worries me. I know she grieves Ian with all her Heart, but she does not weep much, but only sits for long Periods, looking at Something that only she sees. There is a Calmness about her that is almost eerie, as though her Soul has flown with Ian, leaving only the Shell of her Body behind. Though since I mention Shells, it occurs to me that perhaps she is like a Chambered Nautilus, like the one that Lawrence Sterne showed us in the Indies. A large, beautiful Shell, made of many Chambers, but all empty, save the innermost one, in which the small Animal hides itself in safety.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 89, "Ink-Stained Wretch". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Diana made a comment about this on Compuserve a couple of months after the book came out:
I'm sure someone will helpfully pop up at some point to tell me this is a mistake (because in fact, a chambered nautilus lives in the _outermost_, largest chamber), but in fact, it's just a metaphor; Jamie knows nothing about nautili, but he knows a lot about his sister.
5) The photo below shows a raw opal from Ethiopia, still partly embedded in the rock in which it was found.  (Click on the picture to see a bigger view.)  I think it looks very much like the one described in DRUMS, that Claire found beside Otter-Tooth's skull.

I drew out the flat stone I had unearthed. It was dirty brown in color, an irregular oval half the size of my palm. It was flattened on one side, rounded on the other, and smooth as though it had come from a sttreambed. I turned it over on my palm and gasped.

The flattened face was indeed incised with a carving, as I had thought. It was a glyph in the shape of a spiral, coiling in on itself. But it wasn't the carving that brought both Jamie and Ian to peer into my hand, heads nearly touching.

Where the smooth surface had been chipped away, the rock within glowed with a lambent fire, little flames of green and orange and red all fighting fiercely for the light.

"My God, what is it?" Ian asked, sounding awed.

"It's an opal--and a damned big one, at that," Jamie said. He poked at the stone with a large, blunt forefinger, as though checking to ensure that it was real. It was.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "The Skull Beneath the Skin". Copyright ©1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
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, April 18, 2012


Check out the wonderful new OUTLANDER Timeline, created by Barbara Schnell, Diana Gabaldon's German translator.

This is going to be a terrific resource for OUTLANDER fans.  It's very comprehensive, and Barbara did an amazing job in putting it together.

I love the way it's laid out because of the way it draws attention to events occurring simultaneously -- like the fact that 1729 saw both the death of Jamie's mother Ellen and the birth of Lord John Grey. <g>

The OUTLANDER Timeline is also available in German.

On a personal note:  You'll notice that Brianna's birthday is listed as November 23, 1948.  My birthday is also November 23. I've always thought it would be neat if Brianna and I shared a birthday, and I've said that on Compuserve a few times, but as far as I know, Diana has never confirmed it.  The timing works, though, since we know Bree was three months old in February, 1949, during that Very Bad Day when Claire was home alone with her (VOYAGER chapter 3, "Frank and Full Disclosure").

Please pass the link to the OUTLANDER Timeline on to anyone else you know who might be interested. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

THE FIERY CROSS has made it to the finals!

Diana Gabaldon's THE FIERY CROSS has made it to the finals of's Tournament of Audiobooks, crushing Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 in the semi-finals by a very decisive 86%-14%, out of a total of 3423 votes cast.  Congratulations to Diana and to Davina Porter!

Voting in the final round has now started. This round pits THE FIERY CROSS against THE INFORMATIONIST by Taylor Stevens. (I know nothing about THE INFORMATIONIST or its author.)

From the voting page:
Editors Picks #7 The Informationist: A Thriller vs. Customer Favorites #5 The Fiery Cross

An Editors’ Pick that was nearly last picked. A Customer Favorite that was far from the favorite. These are the duelists we’ll watch in the final. The Fiery Cross was initially given short shrift by yours truly and then impressed all spectators throughout the tournament in a voting frenzy that razed every single opponent. The Informationist did not make as loud a ruckus in its race to the end, but here it stands all the same. Both books have incredibly loyal followings that vaulted them into the Finals. Info author Taylor Stevens has mounted a social media campaign that may have put her over the top in several match-ups. It’s a strong debut and a great start to her new series, but we were all surprised by her run. The unabridged edition of The Fiery Cross was added to our store this year. As the fifth book in one of our most popular series, its tourney run has the support of both the author and her loyal fan base. Will Cross enjoy another tremendous turnout, or will The Informationist thrill once more?

Prediction: The winner’s circle will be a ring of fire; Gabaldon 64-36.
I would love to see that prediction come true.  Everybody please take a moment to vote! This round ends on April 23.  Let's keep Diana's momentum going!

If you're having trouble voting, try the HTML version instead. Be sure to scroll all the way down until you see the listing for Round 5.

Thanks to all of you who've voted in the tournament so far.  It's been fun.


4/20/2012 6:14 am:  Diana Gabaldon has posted this Open Letter to the Tournament of Audiobooks, conceding the final round to Taylor Stevens and THE INFORMATIONIST. It's been a good run, but Diana is asking her fans to stop voting now.  Please respect her wishes.  And please pass this on to anyone else you know who has been voting in the final round.  Thanks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Culloden anniversary

Today is the 266th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which took place on April 16, 1746.

I like this video, which someone sent me a few years ago when I was just starting this blog.

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

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

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "Shrapnel". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's the link to the Culloden Battlefield site in Scotland. Diana was there in 2008 to attend the dedication of their new Visitor's Centre. Go here and here to read her impressions of that visit. Some of you may already have seen these posts on Diana's blog or on Compuserve, but if you haven't read them before, I would really encourage you to do so.  Nothing like reading a firsthand description of what the area looks like, in Diana's own words.

I'm looking forward to seeing Culloden for myself when I go to Scotland in July.  I'm sure it will be a very moving experience.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 4/13/2012

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

1) Lord John and Percy viewed this 17th-century portrait of George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham, at an art exhibit in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.  I think this scene is much more effective if you read it with this picture in front of you.
"Look at that," [Lord John] said, nudging Percy.

It was the famous Larkin portrait of George Villiers, first Duke of Buckingham. The duke, slender as a sylph in white silk hose, and bejeweled like a dagger hilt, gave them back a grin of slightly frenetic gaiety, below a pair of knowing eyes.

After a long moment, Percy turned to him, with a nod at the portrait.

"What do you think?"

"No doubt about it, I should say."

They looked at the portrait together, standing quite close; he could feel the warmth of Percy's arm brushing his.

"Odd, how it shows on some men, but others--" Percy shook his head, then glanced at Grey with a smile. "Not you, John."

"Nor you."

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19 ("Pictures at an Exhibition"). Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) Baboons really do have red behinds. <g>  This scene from VOYAGER always makes me laugh, but I didn't realize until this week, when I finally took the time to look it up, just how apt Claire's comparison was.
"A baboon," I said, enjoying the sight of his muscular back flexing as he scrubbed, "is a sort of very large monkey with a red behind."

He snorted with laughter and choked on the willow twig. "Well," he said, removing it from his mouth, "I canna fault your observations, Sassenach." He grinned at me, showing brilliant white teeth, and tossed the twig aside. "It's been thirty years since anyone took a tawse to me," he added, pressing his hands tenderly over the still-glowing surfaces of his rear. "I'd forgot how much it stings."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Buried Treasure". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article explaining why baboons have red bottoms.

Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder
3) Here's the Pitlochry Dam and Fish Ladder, mentioned in AN ECHO IN THE BONE. (Click on the photo for a bigger view.)
Brianna paused by the fish-viewing chamber. It wasn’t yet the breeding season, when--she’d been told--the great salmon swarmed through the chutes of the fish ladder that allowed them to climb the dam at Pitlochry, but now and then a silvery flash shot into view with heart-stopping suddenness, fighting strongly against the current for a moment before shooting up into the tube that led to the next stage of the ladder. The chamber itself was a small white housing let into the side of the fish ladder, with an algae-clouded window. She’d paused there to gather her thoughts--or, rather, to suppress some of them--before going in to the dam.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Ley Lines". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) It seems to me that it would be awfully difficult for someone from our own time to survive on their own in the wilderness of the 18th century, foraging for food in the woods and so on.
Fortunately for Otter-Tooth--if it was indeed he--he had been familiar with a number of edible plants, and seemed extremely pleased with himself for recognizing pawpaw and persimmon.

"Recognizing a persimmon is no great feat, for God's sake," I said. "They look like orange baseballs!"

"And they taste like the bottom of a chamber pot," Jamie added, he not caring at all for persimmons.  "Still, he was hungry by that time, and if ye're hungry enough..."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 109, "The Voice of Time". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I have to say, I sympathize with Otter-Tooth's predicament here, and I think Claire's being rather hard on him.  I don't suppose Robert Springer had ever seen the "exotic" fruits pictured above in his local supermarket!  (I haven't either, for what it's worth. <g>  Which is one reason I'm including the pawpaws and persimmons on this week's list.)

5) White phosphorus (pictured above) was used to make matches, starting in 1831, but it was so toxic that its use was banned by many countries by the end of the 19th century. Here's a fascinating video showing what it can do.  (The video is a little long, but the interesting part is in the first 4 minutes.)

It definitely doesn't seem like the sort of thing that's safe to keep in a small cabin with an inquisitive toddler!  I love Roger's reactions in this scene:
"And you intend to do...what with it?" he asked, trying to keep any note of foreboding from his voice. He had the vaguest memories of hearing about the properties of phosphorus in his distant school days; he thought either it made you glow in the dark or it blew up. Neither prospect was reassuring.

"Wellll...make matches. Maybe." Her upper teeth fastened momentarily in the flesh of her lower lip as she considered the jar. "I know how--in theory. But it might be a little tricky in practice."

"Why is that?" he asked warily.

"Well, it bursts into flame if you expose it to air," she explained. "That's why it's packed in water. Don't touch, Jem! It's poisonous." Grabbing Jemmy round the middle, she pulled him down from the table, where he had been eyeing the jar with greedy curiosity.

"Oh, well, why worry about that? It will explode in his face before he has a chance to get it in his mouth." Roger picked up the jar for safekeeping, holding it as though it might go off in his hands. He wanted to ask whether she were insane, but had been married long enough to know the price of injudicious rhetorical questions.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "Further Mysteries of Science". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
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!

UPDATE 4/13/2012 4:32 pm: I was delighted to see the following comment by Diana Gabaldon on Facebook:
"Karen-- You're kidding; you never saw baboons at the zoo? <g> Congratulations on another entertaining week--I'm _very_ impressed at you digging up not only the Duke of Buckingham, but also Pitlochry dam!"

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Diana Gabaldon posted some very interesting news recently on Compuserve, about an upcoming story collection which will bring together four of her shorter pieces in one volume.  As she explained on Compuserve:
We're going to call it A TRAIL OF FIRE (this works well in terms both of overall theme--there is a "trail of fire" in each one of the stories--and in terms of the stories taking up unexplored "trails" of the main story), and do the stories in this order:

   "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows"

   "The Custom of the Army"

   "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies"

   "The Space Between"
(For those of you who don't know, "The Space Between" is Diana's as-yet-unpublished novella about Young Ian's brother Michael, Marsali's sister Joan, and the Comte St. Germain.)

I think A TRAIL OF FIRE is a good title.  It's intriguing, it should lend itself to some eye-catching cover art <g>, and it links all four of the stories together.  As Diana put it on Compuserve:
[The] fiery trail of a wounded Spitfire falling out of the sky. Or the burning of plantations in a Jamaican night, in a trail leading down from the mountains, straight toward Kingstown. Or the trail blazed by night by the handful of heroic Highlanders who fought their way straight up a vertical cliff to stand on the Plains of Abraham in a fiery dawn. Or the trail of a torch burning green, through the stench of a Parisian cemetery and down into the mysterious ground.
So when will this story collection be available?  That's complicated.  Please read Diana's explanation below, taken directly from a post on Compuserve.
This collection is going to be peculiar, because of the rights issues.  To wit:  we can't legally publish these stories in North America until the rights to all of them have reverted--and each one has an exclusive period of 12-18 months (depending on the original contract) from first publication in the anthologies until the rights _do_ revert to me.  So right this minute, "Custom" is the only one I could legally sell again--but the rights to "Leaf" come due this October, and "Plague of Zombies" next April (2013).

However--owing to a lot of complications and negotiations you don't need to hear about <g>--we _can_ publish a printed collection in the UK when "Leaf" comes free.  So there _will_ be a print volume coming out from Orion in October of _this_ year--but _only_ in the UK (and its Commonwealth countries--i.e., Australia, New Zealand, etc.).  (You can still get the book in the US, but it would be expensive.)   So meanwhile, we have it in mind to publish the individual stories in the US/Canada as individual e-shorts (sold inexpensively) as the rights revert, so that US readers can _get_ the stories as they revert without waiting until _all_ the rights revert and we can do a print collection--we couldn't do print in the US until (probably) early 2014.
UPDATE 5/1/2012 6:57 am:  Please see Diana's blog post here for all the details about A TRAIL OF FIRE and the individual e-versions of the shorter pieces.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

FIERY CROSS in the semi-finals of Audible's Tournament!

Diana Gabaldon's THE FIERY CROSS won Round 3 of's Tournament of Audiobooks, 67% to 33% over A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, out of a total of 2156 votes cast.  Congratulations to Diana and to Davina Porter!

Voting in Round 4 (the tournament semi-finals) has now started. Let's keep Diana's momentum going!  This round pits THE FIERY CROSS against Haruki Murakami's 1Q84. (I haven't read 1Q84, but I've heard a lot about it.)

From the voting page:
Critically Acclaimed #1 1Q84 vs. Customer Favorites #5 The Fiery Cross

Have you ever tasted humble pie? Try it sometime. I’ve been enjoying a slice every week as Gabaldon has sailed on. In case you’ve forgotten, I chose her to lose in the first round. Whoops. Now she’s up against a #1 seed who had a very shaky week and is pulling in less than half her votes. Murakami must rely heavily on his stable of jukes, fakes, and dodges of reality to make it to the Finals.

Prediction: The last of the #1s gets crossed out by Fire; Gabaldon 58-42
I would love to see that prediction come true.  Everybody please take a moment to vote! This round ends April 16th.  Thanks!

If you're having trouble voting, try the HTML version instead. Be sure to scroll all the way down until you see the listing for Round 4.
UPDATE 4/16/2012 12:51 pm:  THE FIERY CROSS won the semi-final round, 86%-14% over 1Q84, out of a total of 3423 votes.  Congratulations to Diana and Davina Porter!  THE FIERY CROSS will be up against THE INFORMATIONIST by Taylor Stevens in the finals. Voting in the final round begins on Tuesday, April 17th.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

REPOST: Spring pictures

I first posted this in 2009, and I think it's appropriate for today, too.

Whether you are celebrating Easter, Passover, or just the return of springtime this weekend, here are a few pictures of what spring looks like in the various places mentioned in Diana Gabaldon's books.

(Please note, I didn't take any of these myself! The photos come from  Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Ben Rinnes from the Dufftown road
Glenlivet and Cairngorms in spring, Scotland

Gorse at Loch Morar
Gorse at Loch Morar, Scottish Highlands

April in the woods of NC
Creek in springtime, near Asheville, NC

Redbud in bloom
Redbud tree in bloom, North Carolina

Sunset on the Albemarle Sound
Sunset on the Albemarle Sound, NC (near the Outer Banks)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 4/6/2012

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

1) I had never heard of greylag geese before I read Diana Gabaldon's books.  Here's a short video that shows a flock of greylags at a wildlife sanctuary in the UK.  Even in this brief clip, you can see how they tend to move about in pairs.
"Well, then. Ye'll ken that the greylag mate for life? If ye kill a grown goose, hunting, ye must always wait, for the mate will come to mourn. Then ye must try to kill the second, too, for otherwise it will grieve itself to death, calling through the skies for the lost one."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "I Meet a Lawyer". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) Here's a copy of the Lexington Alarm, from the collection of the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA.  If you find the 18th-century handwriting difficult to read, click here to see a transcript.  You'll notice that it's almost identical to the version of the Lexington Alarm quoted in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.

As Claire explains to Jamie:
"After the battle at Lexington, General Palmer--he's a general of militia--wrote this and sent it through the countryside by an express rider, to bear witness to what had happened, to notify the militias nearby that the war had started.

"Men along the way took copies of it, endorsed them to swear that they were true copies, and sent the message along to other townships and villages; there were probably hundreds of copies made at the time, and quite a few survived. Frank had one that someone gave him as a present. He kept it in a frame, in the front hall of our house in Boston."

Then a quite extraordinary shudder went through me as I realized that the familiar letter I was looking at had in fact been written only a week or two before--not two hundred years.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 79, "Alarms". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
There has been some speculation on Compuserve about whether the copy of the Lexington Alarm that hung on the wall in Claire and Frank's house in Boston might have been the same one that Claire copied in her own handwriting, with Jamie's signature at the bottom.  Personally I think that's unlikely.  Claire would have had no reason to avoid looking at it, after all, since it had nothing to do with the Jacobites or 18th-century Scotland, and I can't imagine that she would have failed to notice Jamie's signature on it.  (But it's fun to speculate, of course!)

3) Did you ever wonder where Malva Christie's name came from? I have always thought Malva was a very appropriate name for a character who "goes bad". ("Va mal" means "goes bad" in French. <g>) But Diana says that wasn't intentional; in fact, she's named after Aveda's "Black Malva" shampoo.  Here's what Diana had to say about it on Compuserve back in 2007:
In all honesty, she's named after an Aveda shampoo I used to use--Black Malva. Which is a plant, belonging to the family Malvaceae.   I liked the sound of the name, and the botanical connection (since she becomes Claire's apprentice, learning about herbs and the like from her)--and having grown up Catholic in pre-Vatican II times, I had enough Latin to recognize the "evil" root to her name. Didn't know the "va mal" construction, though.

4) One of the many 20th-century pop culture references in the books is the Yogi Bear theme song. I am old enough to remember watching Yogi Bear cartoons on TV as a child, so the references in THE FIERY CROSS make me laugh.
"It must be a particularly clever bear, no? To have been walking in and out of their village for months, I mean, and no one with more than a single glimpse of it?"

"Smarter than the average bear," Brianna agreed, her mouth twitching slightly. Jamie gave her a narrow look, which he switched to me as I choked on a swallow of beer.

"What?" he demanded testily.

"Nothing," I gasped. "Nothing at all."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 81, "Bear-Killer". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5) The photo above shows Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the 19th-century artist.  Like Colum MacKenzie, he suffered from a genetic disorder that is now known as Toulouse-Lautrec syndrome or pycnodysostosis. (What a tongue-twister!) 

Claire seems to diagnose Colum pretty easily:
Toulouse-Lautrec syndrome. I had never seen a case before, but I had heard it described. Named for its most famous sufferer (who did not yet exist, I reminded myself), it was a degenerative disease of bone and connective tissue. Victims often appeared normal, if sickly, until their early teens, when the long bones of the legs, under the stress of bearing a body upright, began to crumble and collapse upon themselves.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "An Evening's Entertainment". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to Wikipedia, "The height of adult males with the disease is less than 150 cm (59 inches, or 4 feet 11 inches)."  When I first read the graphic novel, THE EXILE, I was struck by one particular scene (in the middle of Chapter 3) that shows Dougal and Colum standing side by side, making the difference in their heights very obvious.

Just as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec became a successful artist in spite of his disability, Colum MacKenzie was a strong leader who used his wits and the force of his personality to keep control of Clan MacKenzie, despite the physical limitations imposed by his condition.

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!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

FIERY CROSS in Audible's Tournament, Round 3

Diana Gabaldon's THE FIERY CROSS won Round 2 of's Tournament of Audiobooks, 55%-45% over THE WISE MAN'S FEAR, out of a total of 6346 votes cast.

Voting in Round 3 of the tournament has now started. There are only eight books left now, and the competition is heating up!  This round pits THE FIERY CROSS against A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES by Deborah Harkness. (I haven't read A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES yet, but I've heard a wide range of opinions about it, both pro and con. <g>)

From the voting page:
In every single contest last week, the votes were in the thousands. I like the participation and ferocity of the fans, and the turnout has been tremendous. And then there was Gabaldon. Her matchup alone brought in more than 6,000 votes to crush a #1 seed. So how does Witches, coming off a 4-point win, look against the competition?

Prediction: Witches discovers what it’s like to feel the heat; Diana 61-39.
Everybody please take a moment to vote! Third round voting ends April 9th.  Thanks!

If you're having trouble voting, try the HTML version instead. Be sure to scroll down until you see the listing for Round 3.

[UPDATE 4/9/2012 12:20 pm: THE FIERY CROSS has won Round 3, 67% - 33%. The semi-finals start on April 10.]

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Which book are you reading?

For the April poll, I thought it would be fun to see which of Diana's books the rest of you are reading right now.  (Print or e-book, I really don't care.)

Or if you prefer to listen to the audiobooks, as I do, which one are you listening to at the moment?  (I'm about 2/3 of the way through the audio version of A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES -- again!)

The picture above shows my OUTLANDER book collection (well, except for the 20th Anniversary edition and the various anthologies).  And yes, all of them are signed by Diana Gabaldon.  I keep the hardcovers on this bookshelf within easy reach of my computer, the better to look up quotes at a moment's notice. <g>

Please take a moment to vote in the April poll.  (If you're reading more than one book at a time, just vote "Other", and you can leave a brief comment.)  Thanks!

The poll will run through the end of April.

March poll results

Here are the results of the March poll.

Who is your favorite villain in the OUTLANDER series?
  • 28.36% - Jonathan "Black Jack" Randall
  • 21.78% - Stephen Bonnet
  • 15.62% - Geillis Duncan
  • 11.51% - Dougal MacKenzie
  • 5.62% - Arch Bug
  • 5.48% - Laoghaire MacKenzie
  • 3.97% - Phillip Wylie
  • 2.88% - Malva Christie
  • 2.05% - William Buccleigh MacKenzie
  • 0.82% - Allan Christie
  • 0.55% - Rob Cameron
  • 0.27% - Harley Boble
  • 1.09% - Other
Here are the responses for "Other":
  • Jenny Murray-She made me mad how she pushed Jamie into marrying Laoghaire
  • Jenny Murray
  • Don't like villains
  • Randall, Bonnet, AND MacKenzie
  • Neil Forbes
  • Mr. Willoughby
  • They're all terrible, so I wouldn't say any are my "favorite".
  • I can't really say, that I have a favorite villiain
Thanks so much to everyone who voted!  I was delighted to see that we had a record 730 votes in this poll.

I didn't vote in the poll myself, but I agree with those who chose Black Jack Randall.

The most interesting result of this poll, to me, is the number of people who voted for Dougal MacKenzie.  I almost didn't put him on the list, as Dougal is not really what I would consider a villain.  On the other hand, he tried to kill Jamie at least twice (once with an ax, once in the attic of Culloden House), and I really didn't care for the way he treated Claire.

Please take a moment to vote in the April poll, which is all about the books you're currently reading.