Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 9/28/2012

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.  (And check out my new index to all the Friday Fun Facts posts!)

1) These photos show the cliffs at Arbroath, on the eastern coast of Scotland, where Jamie and his group of smugglers attempted a rendezvous in VOYAGER.

cliffs in Arbroath

Arbroath Red Cliffs 2

Click on the photos to enlarge them.  (Photo credits: Top: anitapinezo on  Bottom: Guiseppe Lambertino on Flickr.)
It was a wild piece of coast--not surprising, most of Scotland’s coast was wild and rocky--and I wondered how and where the French ship would anchor. There was no natural bay, only a curving of the coastline behind a jutting cliff that sheltered this spot from observation from the road.

Dark as it was, I could see the white lines of the surf purling in across the small half-moon beach. No smooth tourist beach this--small pockets of sand lay ruffled and churned between heaps of seaweed and pebbles and juts of rock. Not an easy footing for men carrying casks, but convenient to the crevices in the surrounding rocks, where the casks could be hidden.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 30, "Rendezvous". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
In case you're wondering, no, I didn't visit Arbroath during my recent trip to Scotland. Have any of you been there?

2) The photo above shows what a mattock looks like.  It's an ancient farming implement, similar to a pickaxe, used for tilling the soil.  As we saw in ECHO, a mattock can make a formidable weapon!
“Free her, MacIfrinn!” The mattock chunked into the earth beside his head.

He flung himself over, Laoghaire still clutched to him, rolling madly through the beds. The sound of panting and uneven steps, and the mattock came down again, pinning his sleeve to the ground and scraping the flesh of his arm.

He jerked free, heedless of tearing skin and cloth, rolled away from Laoghaire, and sprang to his feet, then launched himself without pause at the weazened figure of Laoghaire’s servant, who was in the act of raising the mattock above his head, narrow face contorted with effort.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 78, "Old Debts". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are some examples of 18th-century mattock heads, meant to be fixed onto a wooden handle.

3) Remember Brianna's experiments with paper-making in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES? 
"Paper?” Malva blinked, red-eyed, and sniffed. “How?”

“Well, you squish up anything fibrous you can get your hands on,” Bree told her, making squishing motions with both hands in illustrations. “Old bits of used paper, old rags of cloth, bits of yarn or thread, some of the softer sorts of leaves or flowers. Then you soak the mash for days and days in water and--if you happen to have some--dilute sulfuric acid.” One long finger tapped the square bottle affectionately.

“Then once the mash is all digested down to a sort of pulp, you can spread a thin layer of it on screens, press out the water, let it dry, and hey-presto, paper!”

I could see Malva mouthing “hey-presto” to herself, and turned away a little, so she couldn’t see me smile.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 62, "Amoeba". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This video shows the basic steps involved in making handmade paper.

Here's a step by step guide to paper-making, in case you want to try it yourself.

4) I love all the 20th-century pop culture references in the books.  Here's one that always makes me laugh:
The dog would run a few steps toward the house, circle once or twice as though unable to decide what to do next, then run back into the wood, turn, and run again toward the house, all the while whining with agitation, tail low and wavering.

"Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ,” I said. “Bloody Timmy’s in the well!"

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 3, "Keep Your Friends Close". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Timmy's in the well" is such a well-known phrase that Jon Provost, who played Timmy (pictured above, with Lassie) even used it as the title for his autobiography.  You might be surprised to learn that Timmy never actually did fall in a well, during his years on the "Lassie" TV series (1957-1964).  However, he did get into quite a few other dangerous situations.  Here's a list.

5) I have always been struck by Jenny's comment to young Ian in VOYAGER, just after he brought Claire back to Lallybroch.
“A cuckoo,” she said, almost conversationally. “That’s what ye are, laddie--a great cuckoo in the nest. God knows whose son ye were meant to be; it wasna mine.”

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Practical and Applied Witchcraft". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
So, what does Jenny mean by "a great cuckoo in the nest"?  Cuckoos don't build nests of their own.  According to this site,
The cuckoo will seek out the nest of a bird, often hedge sparrows or warblers, and either lay directly into the nest, or lay elsewhere and carry its egg in its beak to the nest. It may also remove eggs already in the nest, and the cuckoo’s egg may mimic the colour of those of the parasitised host. The young cuckoo hatchling will push out any remaining eggs, or other newly hatched birds, and will be solely fed by its adoptive parents. There can be few more pitiful sights in nature than that of a tiny warbler bringing food to an enormous great gowk that has murdered its brood and taken over its home.
For more about the habits of cuckoos, check out this BBC documentary.  It's almost an hour long, but it's worth watching if you have the time.

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, September 25, 2012

Friday Fun Facts Index!

I have created an index of all the items mentioned in my Friday Fun Facts (FFF) posts.

Thanks to Theresa at Outlander Kitchen for the inspiration. <g> I got the idea from the Recipe Index on her site.

There are 165 items listed in the FFF index at the moment, and with five more added every week, it's getting hard to keep track of what's already been mentioned and where it is.  So I thought this would be helpful, both for me and for the rest of you.

The index is here.  Please let me know what you think.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

ECHO, three years later

This week marks three years since Diana Gabaldon's novel AN ECHO IN THE BONE was published.

Diana often comments that readers' reactions change over time. For those of you who read ECHO when it was first published in 2009, I was just wondering whether your attitudes toward the book have changed at all, in those three years, and if so, in what way, and why?

For example:
  • Are there parts of the book that you enjoy more on subsequent re-reads than you did at first?

  • What do you think of William, Rachel, Denny, and Dottie?  And has your reaction to any of these characters changed since you first read ECHO?

  • Are there any scenes in ECHO that you skip over on re-reading?  And if so, why?

  • Has your response to the Claire/Lord John subplot changed at all since you first read that part of the book?  If so, how, and what caused it to change? 

    (For me, the answer to that last question is a definite YES, but it took a long time, multiple re-reads, and quite a lot of discussion on Compuserve, for my opinion to change.  I'm still not thrilled that it happened, but I have finally gotten over my initial strongly negative reaction.)
These are just some suggestions to get you thinking; feel free to add your own ideas!

PLEASE NOTE:  I don't read excerpts or #DailyLines from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (Book 8, aka MOHB or MOBY), so please don't refer to excerpts or #DailyLines in your comments.  Thank you.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 9/21/2012

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

Scotland England border, Carter Bar A68England Scotland border, Carter Bar A68

1) The photos above show the boundary stone at the Carter Bar, on the border between England and Scotland.  Click on the pictures to enlarge them. (Photo credit: Ray Crabb, on Flickr.)

This is the stone Jamie told Claire about in VOYAGER:
He had come up from the Lake District and over the Carter’s Bar, that great ridge of high ground that divides England from Scotland, on whose broad back the ancient courts and markets of the Borders had been held.

“There’s a stone there to mark the border, maybe you’ll know; it looks the sort of stone to last a while.” He glanced at me, questioning, and I nodded. I did know it; a huge menhir, some ten feet tall. In my time, someone had carved on its one face ENGLAND, and on the other, SCOTLAND.

There he stopped to rest, as thousands of travelers had stopped over the years, his exiled past behind him, the future--and home--below and beyond, past the hazy green hollows of the Lowlands, up into the gray crags of the Highlands, hidden by fog.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 37, "What's in a Name". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Have any of you seen it?

2) I saw this branding iron in the shape of an "M" at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, NC, in 2011.  (A fascinating museum, by the way, and highly recommended!)  It was labeled as being from the 19th century, but it caught my attention because it looks just like the one that was used to brand Bobby Higgins for his role in the Boston Massacre.  The "M" is very small, maybe the size of my thumb nail.  Certainly big enough for people to notice it, though!
Jamie did his best in the office of ambassador, but the effect of Bobby’s brand proved insuperable. While admitting that Bobby was a nice young man, Mr. Wemyss was unable to countenance the notion of marrying his daughter to a murderer, no matter what the circumstances that had led to his conviction.

"Folk would take against him, sir, ye ken that fine," he said, shaking his head in response to Jamie’s arguments. "They dinna stop to ask the why and wherefore, if a man’s condemned. His eye--he did nothing, I am sure, to provoke such a savage attack. How could I expose my dear Elizabeth to the possibility of such reprisals? Even if she should escape herself, what of her fate--and that of her children--if he is knocked over in the street one day?" He wrung his hands at the thought. 

"And if he should one day lose his Lordship’s patronage, he could not look for decent employment elsewhere, not with yon mark of shame upon his face. They would be beggared. I have been left in such straits myself, sir--and would not for the world risk my daughter’s sharing such a fate again."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 59, "Froggy Goes A-Courting". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) This is what foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) looks like.  According to Wikipedia,
The scientific name means "finger-like" and refers to the ease with which a flower of Digitalis purpurea can be fitted over a human fingertip.
The entire foxglove plant is toxic, including its roots and seeds, but its medicinal benefits have been known for centuries.
The use of D. purpurea extract containing cardiac glycosides for the treatment of heart conditions was first described in the English-speaking medical literature by William Withering, in 1785....It is used to increase cardiac contractility...and as an antiarrhythmic agent to control the heart rate, particularly in the irregular (and often fast) atrial fibrillation. Digitalis is hence often prescribed for patients in atrial fibrillation, especially if they have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Claire treated Alex Randall with digitalis in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, when he was dying of consumption.
I couldn’t bear the look of his chest, heaving under its impossible burden, and I gently closed his shirt and fastened the tie at the neck. One long, white hand grasped mine.

"How long?" he said. His tone was light, almost unconcerned, displaying no more than a mild curiosity.

“I don’t know,” I said. “That’s the truth. I don’t know."

"But not long," he said, with certainty.

"No. Not long. Months perhaps, but almost surely less than a year."

"Can you...stop the coughing?"

I reached for my kit. "Yes. I can help it, at least. And the heart palpitations; I can make you a digitalin extract that will help." I found the small packet of dried foxglove leaves; it would take a little time to brew them.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "Family Ties". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) Remember the card game that Lord John, Hal, and Harry were playing in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER?  According to this site, the game, called piquet or picquet, has been played for centuries, but I had never heard of it before I read SCOTTISH PRISONER.  (The photo above, from Wikipedia, shows a French piquet deck.)
“Sixième!” Clifford said, his voice full of joy. Grey smiled, despite the loss of points, gave the proper reply of “Not good,” meaning his own hand could not beat that, and put Percy firmly out of mind.

Harry had suggested that Grey and Hal might leave after the first game, but Grey was entirely aware that Harry knew this wouldn’t happen. Hal was a cutthroat cardplayer, and once his blood was up, there was no dragging him away from the table. As picquet was a game for two hands, obviously Grey couldn’t leave until Hal did, or the numbers would be unbalanced.

They therefore played in pairs, changing partners after each game, the two men with the highest scores to play the final game. Grey did his best to put everything out of his mind but the play.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Not Good". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are the rules of piquet, in case you want to try it yourself.
Piquet is game for two players, using a shortened pack of 32 cards which omits 2 to 6 in each suit. In ascending order, the cards rank 7, 8, 9, 10, J, Q, K, A (high). A number of French terms are traditionally used for various features of the game.

A game consists of a set of 6 deals called a partie, with the deal alternating. Each player is dealt 12 cards, with 8 left as a talon. A deal consists of three parts: discarding a number of cards and replacing them from the talon to try to improve the hand, declaring various features in the hand, and then playing the cards in tricks.

Piquet is a very old game. It was well established by 1650 with similar rules to the present ones....It has retained its popularity to the present day as one of the best and most skilful card games for two players.

5) The photo above, from Wikipedia, shows an American bison (also known as a buffalo). 

What's the difference between a buffalo and a bison?  Look here.  The one that visited Fraser's Ridge in THE FIERY CROSS was apparently a bison, although I don't suppose any of the characters in the story knew that. <g> And even today, many people use the terms buffalo and bison interchangeably.

Whatever you choose to call them, they're BIG!  According to the National Geographic site,
Bison stand some 5 to 6.5 feet (1.5 to 2 meters) tall at the shoulder, and can tip the scales at over a ton (907 kilograms). Despite their massive size, bison are quick on their feet. When the need arises they can run at speeds up to 40 miles (65 kilometers) an hour. They sport curved, sharp horns that may grow to be two feet (61 centimeters) long.

Now imagine what Claire and Bree and Marsali must have felt, seeing one of these enormous beasts heading straight for 18-month-old Jemmy, tethered by his leading strings to a paddock fence.
It had walked casually through the paddock fence, snapping the rails as though they were matchsticks, and stood now in the midst of the pumpkin patch by the house, vines jerking in its mouth as it chewed. It stood huge and dark and wooly, ten feet away from Jemmy, who stared up at it with round, round eyes and open mouth, his gourd forgotten in his hands.

Marsali let out another screech, and Jemmy, catching her terror, began to scream for his mother. I turned, and--feeling as though I were moving in slow motion, though I was surely not--snatched the saw neatly from Jamie’s hand, went out the door, and headed for the yard, thinking as I did so that buffalo looked so much smaller in zoos.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 91, "Domestic Management". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information about bison, look here.  I like this little video, because you can hear what they sound like.

UPDATE 9/22/2012 7:06 am: Diana Gabaldon made the following comment on Compuserve today:
They are indeed bison, and the one Claire and Bree met was a wood bison. However, the folk who lived in the colonies at that time did call them buffalo.
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!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Off the charts!

This is what my blog traffic looked like yesterday, September 19, after Diana Gabaldon was kind enough to mention my OUTLANDER Photo Contest on her Facebook and Twitter pages.

This chart shows the traffic over the last 30 days.  The yellow shows the number of unique visitors to the site, which has been averaging around 408 per day over the last month.  Yesterday that number was 3145 (!)  Similarly, the number of page views (yellow and red combined) was 5615 yesterday, which is four times the previous record!

A huge THANK YOU to Diana, and welcome to all my new visitors! :-) 

If you're new here, I hope you'll take some time to explore the site.  There's a lot of information here of interest to OUTLANDER fans, and I try to keep it as up to date as possible.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Wondering where you can find Diana Gabaldon's upcoming story collection, A TRAIL OF FIRE?  As you may have heard, this book is only being published in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand for now, due to rights issues.  So how can readers in the US, Canada, and other countries get their hands on the book?  Here are a couple of suggestions:

If you don't care whether your copy of A TRAIL OF FIRE is signed or not, you can order from

If you would like a signed copy of A TRAIL OF FIRE, you can order it from the Poisoned Pen bookstore here, or call them at 1-888-560-9919.

I called the Poisoned Pen yesterday to place the order for the winners of the OUTLANDER Photo Contest, and I asked when they expect to be able to ship out signed copies of A TRAIL OF FIRE.  The man I spoke to, Patrick, said that Diana will be signing all the pre-orders on October 23, the day of the launch party for A TRAIL OF FIRE, and they will be shipped out as soon as possible after that.  ("We'll be working around the clock" is what he told me.)

For more information about A TRAIL OF FIRE, see the FAQ here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Contest results!

I'm delighted to announce the results of the OUTLANDER Photo Contest!

And the winners are...

There were 3 prizes awarded in this contest.  The winners (selected using the random number generator at, from the 114 entries submitted) are:

Kris Holtan (# 50)

Carrie King (# 64)

Viviana Rocco (# 82)

Congratulations!!  I've sent emails to each of you asking for your mailing address, and which of the three books you'd like to have as your prize.  Please contact me so we can work out the details.

I'm pleased, by the way, that the random selection picked contest winners from three different countries. <g> Kris lives in the US, Carrie lives in the UK, and Viviana lives in Uruguay.  The OUTLANDER fan community truly is an international one, and I always enjoy talking to fans from around the world.

The Photo Collection

I know you're all eager to get a good look at the contest photos.  The collage at the top of this post shows the whole collection.  If you move your mouse over the collage, you'll see a small version of each of the contest photos.  (You can see a bigger version of the photo collage here.)

I've put together a slideshow on Picasa to display full-size versions of all of the photos, along with a brief description of each one.  (Please note, I had to edit some of the descriptions that people sent me so that they would fit in the space available.)

You can also view each of the individual photos in the Picasa album here. Click on the photo to see a bigger view.  From the detail page, you can "Like" the photo, or leave a comment at the bottom.

If you have trouble viewing the photos on the Picasa site, try the RSS feed.

Once again, thank you all so much for participating in the OUTLANDER Photo Contest!  I'm really pleased with the variety and the creativity of the photos, and I hope you all enjoy the collection as much as I have.

UPDATE 9/18/2012 7:18 pm:  Here's Diana Gabaldon's reaction (on Compuserve) to the contest photos:
ROF,L!!   These are GREAT--both the photos themselves, and the captions.  (Loved Brian C. <g>, the "favorite kilted redhead" and Silvia's contraceptive device especially--but I'm not through looking at/reading them all yet, either.)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Last call for photos!

[UPDATE 9/16/2012 4:30 pm: The contest is over.  Many thanks to those of you who sent in photos! To see the winners, as well as the rest of the contest photos, look here.]

Today is the last day to submit your photos for the OUTLANDER Photo ContestThe deadline for entries is midnight Eastern Time tonight (Saturday, September 15, 2012).

Many thanks to all of you who've sent in your photos already!  I'm delighted to report that I have received more than 100 photos!

It's really a wonderful collection of photos, and I can't wait to share them with Diana and the rest of you.  (I plan to post a link to the photo album along with the contest results.)

The contest rules are here.  All you have to do is email me a photo with one or more of Diana Gabaldon's books visible in it, and you could win an autographed copy of the OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary Edition, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, or the upcoming story collection, A TRAIL OF FIRE.

Please send your contest photos to, with the subject line "OUTLANDER Photo Contest".  Be sure to let me know if it's OK to share your photo online as part of the collection, after the contest is over.  Thanks!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 9/14/2012

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

1) Here is a recording of pianist Glenn Gould performing Bach's Goldberg Variations in 1955.

According to Wikipedia, the Goldberg Variations were first published in 1741.  So it's plausible that Mother Hildegarde could have had a copy of the score in Paris in 1744.
"Here are the Bach pieces. They're fairly old, I haven't looked at them in several years. Still, I’m almost sure..." She lapsed into silence, flipping quickly through the pages of the Bach scripts on her knee, one at a time, glancing back now and then at the "Lied" on the rack.

"Ha!" she let out a cry of triumph, and held out one of the Bach pieces to me. "See there?"

The paper was titled "Goldberg Variations," in a crabbed, smeared hand. I touched the paper with some awe, swallowed hard, and looked back at the "Lied." It took only a moment’s comparison to see what she meant.

"You’re right, it’s the same!" I said. "A note different here and there, but basically it’s exactly the same as the original theme of the Bach piece. How very peculiar."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 15, "In Which Music Plays a Part". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) The photo above shows what a peat fire looks like.  The prisoners at Ardsmuir spent many hours cutting peats:
The prisoners’ crew was accompanied by six armed soldiers, who fell in before and behind, muskets held in marching order, their smart appearance a marked contrast to the ragged Highlanders. The prisoners walked slowly, oblivious to the rain that soaked their rags. A mule-drawn wagon creaked behind, a bundle of peat knives gleaming dully in its bed.

Quarry frowned, counting them. “Some must be ill; a work crew is eighteen men—three prisoners to a guard, because of the knives. Though surprisingly few of them try to run,” he added, turning away from the window. “Nowhere to go, I suppose.” He left the desk, kicking aside a large woven basket that sat on the hearth, filled with crude chunks of a rough dark-brown substance.

“Leave the window open, even when it’s raining,” he advised. “The peat smoke will choke you, otherwise."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Honor's Prisoner". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a video that demonstrates the traditional method of peat-cutting in Scotland.  (If the sound of bagpipes bothers you, turn down the volume before you watch this. <g>)

For more information about what it was like to live with peat fires in the 18th century, including the challenge of cooking over an open peat fire, look here. (Take some time to explore the site; there's a wealth of information there that I think OUTLANDER fans would enjoy.)

3) Lizzie's baby girl was in a "transverse lie" position in ECHO, similar to the illustration shown below.

You can see at once why Claire was so worried.
The fact was that without a hospital, operating facilities, or anesthesia, my ability to deal with an unorthodox delivery was severely limited. Sans surgical intervention, with a transverse lie, a midwife had four alternatives: let the woman die after days of agonizing labor; let the woman die after doing a cesarean section without benefit of anesthesia or asepsis--but possibly save the baby; possibly save the mother by killing the child in the womb and then removing it in bits (Daniel Rawlings had had several pages in his book--illustrated--describing this procedure), or attempting an internal version, trying to turn the baby into a position in which it might be delivered.

While superficially the most attractive option, that last one could easily be as dangerous as the others, resulting in the deaths of mother and child.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Transverse Lie". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I think Lizzie was very lucky to have had Claire there to help, otherwise she likely would have died, and the baby as well.

4) The gentleman's club known in the 18th century as White's Chocolate House still exists today, at the same location in St. James's Street that it has occupied since 1773.  The betting book mentioned in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE is also real.  According to this site:
Some eccentric bets for those with money to burn included Lord Avanley's £3,000 bet on which of two raindrops would fall on the bottom of the famous bow window pane first. Other bets had more serious consequences. According to Anthony Lejeune's book, Gentleman's Clubs of London, one member bet £1,000 that a man could live under water for 12 hours. He hired a man to carry out the experiment. The bet was lost when the man died.
Here's Lord John and his brother Hal, discovering a man lying unconscious in the street outside White's:
"Is he dead, do you think?” The man’s wig had slipped askew, half covering his face. It had begun to snow lightly, and between the flickering light and the swirling flakes, it was impossible to perceive whether he was breathing.

“Let me look; perhaps--” Hal stooped to touch the man, but was prevented by a shout from the doorway.

“Don’t touch him! Not yet!” An excited young man issued from the club and seized Hal’s arm. “We haven’t put it in the book yet!”

“What, the betting book?” Hal demanded.

“Yes--Rogers says he’s dead, and I say he’s not. Two guineas on it! Will you join the wager with me, Melton?"

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "Not a Betting Man". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information on the history of White's, look here.  Some notable modern members of the club have included David Niven, Prince Charles, and Randolph Churchill (son of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill).  The current British PM, David Cameron, whose father was a former club president, resigned his membership in 2008, apparently in protest at the club's refusal to admit women.

5) Bee gums were sections of hollow trees, used as hives; they were called "gums" because they often were made from gum trees. The bee gums shown above are from the Mountain Farm Museum near Cherokee, NC, not too far from where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be.  (Photo credit: Jess Stryker)

The photo above shows a bee gum from Virginia. (Photo credit: lashlarue on Flickr.)
In the half-second between the first sting and the next, I had glimpsed one of the bee gums lying on its side in the dirt just inside the gate, combs and honey spilling out of it like entrails.

I ducked under branches and flung myself into a patch of pokeweed, gasping and cursing incoherently. The sting on my neck throbbed viciously, and the one on my temple was already puffing up, pulling at the eyelid on that side. I felt something crawling on my ankle, and batted it away by reflex before it could sting.

I wiped tears away, blinking. A few bees sailed past through the yellow-flowered stems above me, aggressive as Spitfires. I crawled a little farther, trying at once to get away, slap at my hair, and shake out my skirts, lest any more of them be trapped in my clothes.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 84, "Among the Lettuces". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
For more information on the history of bee-keeping, look here.

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!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Poisoned Pen event for A TRAIL OF FIRE

I just got the following email from Will at the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ.  (For those of you who don't know, the Poisoned Pen is an independent bookstore in Diana Gabaldon's hometown.  They stock all of Diana's books, and they ship all over the world.)


I wanted to pass on a little info about Diana's upcoming event this October.

She will be discussing her latest novel A TRAIL OF FIRE on October 23 2012 at 7pm. [That would be 7pm Arizona time - KLH]  We've engineered it so that fans can virtually attend here:

I'll be passing fan questions along to her as the virtual event progresses. Right now, I'm really trying to get the word out so that fans all over the world can watch and even participate.

The in person event details can be found here:


Diana has confirmed that this is the official launch party for A TRAIL OF FIRE.  I'm glad they are setting it up in a way that fans who can't attend the book-signing in person can still participate.

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

Saturday, September 8, 2012

OUTLANDER Photo Contest update!

[UPDATE 9/16/2012 4:30 pm: The contest is over.  Many thanks to those of you who sent in photos! To see the winners, as well as the rest of the contest photos, look here.]

This is the final week to send in your entries for the OUTLANDER Photo ContestThe deadline for entries is midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, September 15, 2012.

If you've been procrastinating, time is running out!  I hope those of you who've promised me that you're planning to send in photos will do so this week. <g>

I've received 64 entries so far. Thanks to all of you who've sent in your photos!  I think they're terrific, and I can't wait to share the whole collection with Diana and the rest of you

The contest rules are here.  All you have to do is email me a photo with one or more of Diana Gabaldon's books visible in it, and you could win an autographed copy of the OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary Edition, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, or the upcoming story collection, A TRAIL OF FIRE.

Please send your contest photos to, with the subject line "OUTLANDER Photo Contest".  Be sure to let me know if it's OK to share your photo online as part of the collection, after the contest is over.  Thanks!

    Friday, September 7, 2012

    Friday Fun Facts - 9/7/2012

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

    1) Here are a couple of examples of Iroquois masks of the type used by the False Face Society.

    As Ian explained to Brianna in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
    After this second loss, the Medicine Society had taken the two of them to a private hut, there to sing and beat drums and to dance in huge painted masks, meant to frighten away whatever evil entities might be hampering Ian’s spirit--or unduly strengthening Emily’s.

    "I wanted to laugh, seeing the masks," Ian said. He didn’t turn round; yellow leaves spangled the shoulders of his buckskin and stuck in his hair. "They call it the Funny-Face Society, too--and for a reason. Didna do it, though."

    "I don’t...suppose Em-Emily laughed." He was going so fast that she was pressed to keep up with him, though her legs were nearly as long as his own.

    "No," he said, and uttered a short, bitter laugh himself. "She didna."

    (From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 70, "Emily". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
    According to this site,
    Members of the society put on the false faces to visit the lodge of a sick man who has declared himself in need of a cure. With their masks on, and shaking rattles made of turtle shells, the members who are to effect the cure creep towards the sick man's home speaking a nasal "language" . They scrape their rattles against the door, and enter the house, continuing to shake the rattles. Then ashes and tobacco are used in a ritual meant to drive away the cause of the patient's illness. Anyone who is cured becomes a member of the society, or a man or a woman may join if he or she has a dream signifying that it is necessary to become a member.
    Here is another site with more information about the masks.


    2) This is what hyacinth looks like.  (Photo from Wikipedia.)  What beautiful flowers!  It really is a shame that Jamie's allergic to them.
    "Are you all right?” I looked around for some means of disposal, and settled for dropping the sachet into a stationery box on my desk at the far side of the room.

    “Aye, I’ll do. It’s the hya…hya…hyaCHOO!”

    “Goodness!” I hastily flung the window open, and motioned to him. He obligingly stuck his head and shoulders out into the wet drizzle of the morning, breathing in gusts of fresh, hyacinth-free air.

    “Och, that’s better,” he said with relief, pulling in his head a few minutes later. His eyes widened. “What are ye doing now, Sassenach?”

    “Washing,” I explained, struggling with the back laces of my gown. “Or getting ready to, at least. I’m covered with oil of hyacinth,” I explained, as he blinked. “If I don’t wash it off, you’re liable to explode."

    (From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Useful Occupations". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
    For more information about hyacinths, look here.  There are a number of interesting facts on that page, including the following:
    An ancient Greek legend describes the origin of the Hyacinth. Two of the gods, Apollo and Zephyr, adored a handsome young Greek called Hyakinthos. Apollo was teaching Hyakinthos the art of throwing a discus.

    Zephyr, who was the god of the west wind, was overwhelmed with jealousy and he blew the discus back. It struck Hyakinthos on the head and killed him. From his blood grew a flower, which the sun god Apollo named after him.

    3) This is an illustration of what an eye infected with a loa loa worm looks like.
    "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ," I said. "What was that?"

    "A loa-loa worm," Geilie said, looking amused at my reaction. "They live in the eyeballs, just under the lining. They cross back and forth, from one eye to the other, and when they go across the bridge o’ the nose, I’m told it’s rather painful." She nodded at the slave, still quivering slightly on his pallet.

    "The dark keeps them from moving so much," she explained. "The fellow from Andros who told me about them says ye must catch them when they’ve just come in one eye, for they’re right near the surface, and ye can lift them out with a big darning needle. If ye wait, they go deeper, and ye canna get them."

    (From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 60, "The Scent of Gemstones". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
    The diagram below, from the CDC's website, illustrates the life cycle of the loa loa worm.

    The Wikipedia entry notes matter-of-factly, "Common symptoms include itching, joint pain, fatigue, and death."  (Yikes!)

    If you're really curious, you can do a Google image search for more pictures.  I won't post the more graphic photos here!

    Fort Ticonderoga from Mt Defiance 7-2004

    4) This photo shows Ft. Ticonderoga, as seen from Mt. Defiance.  (Photo credit: wolfspotter on  Click on the photo to see a bigger view.  You can easily see how the fort would be vulnerable to enemy attack from that location:
    The fort could indeed hold out against standard siege tactics; forage and provisions had been coming in from the surrounding countryside in abundance, and Ticonderoga still had some artillery defenses and the small wooden fort on Mount Independence, as well as a substantial garrison decently supplied with muskets and powder. It could not hold out against major artillery placed on Mount Defiance, though. Jamie had been up there, and told me that the entire interior of the fort was visible--and thus subject to enfiladement at the enemy’s discretion.

    (From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 50, "Exodus". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
    What exactly is "enfiladement"?  Here's the definition from Wikipedia:
    A formation or position is "in enfilade" if weapons fire can be directed along its longest axis. For instance, a trench is enfiladed if the opponent can fire down the length of the trench.
    Here is the official website of Fort Ticonderoga.  I've never been there myself, but it looks like a fascinating place to visit!

    5) Remember the star-shaped beauty mark that Phillip Wylie wore in THE FIERY CROSS? These tiny beauty marks -- made of velvet, taffeta, or even leather -- were known as "mouches", after the French word for fly. Here is a diagram, labeled in French, showing what the location of the mouche was supposed to symbolize.

    Here is a similar list in English, for those of you who don't speak French. <g>

    middle of forehead = dignified
    corner of eye = passionate
    middle of cheek = gallant
    heart-shaped (left cheek) = engaged
    heart-shaped (right cheek) = married
    between mouth and chin = silent
    on lower lip = discreet
    beside the mouth = likes to kiss
    on nasolabial fold = playful
    on nose = saucy
    near lip = flirtatious

    Phillip Wylie wore his star-shaped beauty patch in the corner of his mouth, which you can see from the diagram above means he was flirtatious.  (As if we couldn't tell that from his behavior!)
    [Jamie's] lips pressed tight together, and he didn’t answer. Instead, he extended a forefinger and touched it, very delicately, beside my mouth. He turned his hand over then, and presented me with a small dark object clinging to the tip of his finger--Phillip Wylie’s star-shaped black beauty mark.

    “Oh.” I felt a distinct buzzing in my ears. “That. Er...” My head felt light, and small spots--all shaped like black stars--danced before my eyes.

    (From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Flirtations". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
    "Une dame à sa toilette", by 18th-century artist François Boucher, shows a lady applying beauty marks to her face.

    You can see more about these beauty patches here.

    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, September 4, 2012

    Diana Gabaldon's latest blog post

    Check out Diana Gabaldon's latest blog post, which is all about when and where the four stories in A TRAIL OF FIRE will be available.

    In case you don't know, A TRAIL OF FIRE is a story collection that will be published in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand on October 11, 2012.  It contains four of Diana's short pieces:

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

    Here is the link to the pre-order page for A TRAIL OF FIRE on  (Yes, I'm told you can order the book from the UK even if you live in other countries, but it will be expensive.)

    I'm delighted to hear that the standalone e-book version of "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" will be out in the US in a few weeks.  I loved that story, and in my opinion it's absolutely a must-read for OUTLANDER fans!  I'm glad it will be more widely available soon.

    Monday, September 3, 2012

    Thinking of Bree and Roger

    I've been thinking about Brianna and Roger today, as this week marks the 243rd anniversary of their handfasting in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, which took place on September 2, 1769.

    I really, really hope they are reunited in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD!  I don't think I could stand a prolonged separation.

    (The image above is Brianna's bracelet from the Author's Attic site.)

    Saturday, September 1, 2012

    Two more weeks!

    [UPDATE 9/16/2012 4:30 pm: The contest is over.  Many thanks to those of you who sent in photos! To see the winners, as well as the rest of the contest photos, look here.]

    Just two more weeks left to send in your entries for the OUTLANDER Photo Contest!  I've received 48 entries so far, and it's shaping up to be a great collection.  I can't wait to share it with Diana and all of you.

    The contest rules are here.  All you have to do is email me a photo with one or more of Diana Gabaldon's books visible in it, and you could win an autographed copy of the OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary Edition, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, or the upcoming story collection, A TRAIL OF FIRE.
      I'm really enjoying the photos that people have sent in so far.  Keep 'em coming, please! The deadline for entries is midnight Eastern Time on September 15, 2012.

      August poll results

      Here are the results of the August poll:

      Have you tried to get other people to read the OUTLANDER books?
      • 25.60% - I got one or more of my close friends or family members addicted.
      • 19.31% - Many times!
      • 10.41% - Of course! I enjoy being an OUTLANDER ambassador.
      • 4.99% - I've given copies of OUTLANDER to my friends or coworkers.
      • 4.56% - I've recommended the books on Facebook, Goodreads, or other online sites.
      • 3.25% - I've recommended OUTLANDER to strangers in the bookstore or library.
      • 1.74% - I won a box of OUTLANDER paperbacks from Random House, and had fun distributing them to other people.
      • 1.52% - I got my book club to read OUTLANDER.
      • 12.80% - All of the above.
      • 9.54% - I've tried, but so far without success.
      • 1.95% - No, I haven't tried.
      • 4.34% - Other
      Here are the responses for "Other". 
      • I got my husband to read the Outlander series!
      • No's 1, 3, 5, 10
      • Nos. 1,2,3 and 5 above
      • most of the above. I did NOT receive a box of books from the publisher.
      • They Are overwhelmed by size. Don't know what they are missing.
      • several, but not all of the above...
      • You're the Best
      • 1, 2, 3. 5, 6, 7, are applicable on me...
      • most of the above.
      • I discovered my best friend at work also loves the books.
      • Almost all of the above - 4 out of 8 ain't bad!
      • Almost all of the above. 1-5 I haven't won any.
      • All of the above except for the box OUTLANDER paperbacks.
      • suggested 2 many ppl, but too selfish to share my signed hardcovers with them :)
      • Made reccomendations to friends, family,strangers and done some loaning.
      • Almost all of the above
      • I got a friend to read "Outlander." She loved it, but did not read the series.
      • Didn't recommend, just found others who enjoyed it too
      • 2 and 3
      • Some (who have been given books ages ago) are just starting to read them.
      There were 461 responses to this month's poll.  Thanks very much to everyone who participated!  I thought the results were very interesting.  I didn't vote in the poll, but I would have chosen the first option; I got my sister hooked on the series in 2008.

      The September poll is all about the animals in Diana Gabaldon's books.  Who's your favorite?  Rollo, Adso, the White Sow, or maybe Clarence the mule?  You decide. <g>  If your favorite isn't listed, just vote "Other".  I hope you'll take a moment to vote.  Thanks!