Tuesday, May 29, 2012

THE SCOTTISH PRISONER is out in paperback!

Diana Gabaldon's latest novel, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, is now out in paperback!  The trade-paperback edition (that's the large size paperback) comes out today, May 29th, in the US and Canada.



In honor of the occasion, here are a few of my favorite quotes from SCOTTISH PRISONER.  (All quotes are copyright © 2011 by Diana Gabaldon.)

1) Jamie, examining Abbot Michael's book collection:
You could tell from the books whether a library was meant for show or not. Books that were used had an open, interested feel to them, even if closed and neatly lined up on a shelf in strict order with their fellows. You felt as though the book took as much interest in you as you did in it and was willing to help when you reached for it.

(Chapter 19, "Quagmire", p. 235 in the hardcover)
2) Jamie teaching two-year-old Willie to say "Nnnnnno".
“Give it here!”

“Mo!” Willie jerked his hand away and glowered at Jamie under wispy brows that nonetheless were well marked.

“Nnnnn,” Jamie said, leaning down close and glowering in his turn. “Nnnnno.”

Willie looked suspicious and uncertain.

“Mo,” he repeated, but with less surety.

“It’s ‘no,’ believe me,” Jamie assured him, straightening up and pulling the bucket of mash closer. “Ye’ve heard your auntie Isobel say it, have ye not?” He hoped Isobel--or someone--said it to Willie on occasion. Not often enough, he was sure of that.

(Chapter 5, "Why Am Not I At Peace", pp. 70-71 in the hardcover)
3) Lord John, near the beginning of the story, when Hal asks if he'll go ask Jamie Fraser for assistance with the Wild Hunt poem:
“I would not piss on him was he burning in the flames of hell,” Grey said politely.

One of Hal’s brows flicked upward, but only momentarily.

“Just so,” he said dryly. “The question, though, is whether Fraser might be inclined to perform a similar service for you.”

Grey placed his cup carefully in the center of the desk.

“Only if he thought I might drown,” he said, and went out.

(Chapter 2, "Erse", p. 22 in the hardcover)
4) John and Stephan and the "marmaliaison":
It was true that Stephan had limited experience, no artifice, and not much natural skill. But Grey had forgotten that Stephan was a horseman, and a breeder and trainer of dogs. He didn’t need words to understand what an animal--or a person--was feeling. And he knew what “slowly” meant.

(Chapter 9, "Eros Rising", p. 122 in the hardcover)
5) This exchange between Jamie and Lord John makes me laugh:
Fraser snorted a little but seemed resigned.

“Aye. I’ll tell wee Byrd to lay hold of a couple of burlap bags, then.”

“What for?”

“To wear over our heads when we break in to Siverly’s house.”

Grey had stopped in the act of putting his signet back on and eyed Fraser.

“Haven’t much faith in my powers of diplomacy, have you?”

“No, and neither has your brother, or I wouldna be here.”

(Chapter 17, "Castle Athlone", pp. 216-17 in the hardcover)
6) Jamie's thoughts of Claire are just heartbreaking.  I kept wanting to assure him, "Don't worry, she's fine.  You'll see her in a few years."
“May God rest her soul, poor dear lady. Come, lad, sit. You’ll have a tint of whiskey.”

This wasn’t phrased as an invitation, and Jamie made no argument when a sizable dram was poured and shoved into his hand. He lifted the glass mechanically toward the abbot in acknowledgment, but didn’t speak; he was too busy repeating over and over within himself, Lord, that she might be safe! She and the child! as though fearing the abbot’s words had indeed sent her to heaven.

(Chapter 19, "Quagmire", p. 234 in the hardcover)
7) I'm VERY flattered to have a character in this story named for me <vbg>, but I hasten to add that Keren-happuch bears no resemblance to me in terms either of personality or religious beliefs!  (And it goes without saying that I like Jamie considerably more than my alter ego does. <g>.)
He lingered for a moment after breakfast, to speak to Keren-happuch, the middle-aged Welsh kitchen maid, who liked him in a reserved, thin-lipped, dour sort of way. She was deeply religious, Keren--as evidenced by her name--thought him a Roman heretic, and wouldn’t stand for carryings-on in any case, but when he told her that he had come back with news for Betty of a kinsman, she was willing to take his message. Everyone would know, of course, but under the circumstances, that wouldn’t matter. At least he hoped not.

(Chapter 38, "Redux", pp. 459-460 in the hardcover)
Hope you enjoyed these!  And if you haven't yet read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, I would definitely recommend it.  You can see my review here.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day quotes

In honor of today's observance of Memorial Day in the US, here are a few quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books honoring those who fell in battle:

The first is from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, after the battle of Prestonpans:
I found them at length some distance up the hill behind the church. Jamie was sitting on a rock, the form of Alexander Kincaid cradled in his arms, curly head resting on his shoulder, the long, hairy legs trailing limp to one side. Both were still as the rock on which they sat. Still as death, though only one was dead.

I touched the white, slack hand, to be sure, and rested my hand on the thick brown hair, feeling still so incongruously alive. A man should not die a virgin, but this one did.

"He's gone, Jamie," I whispered.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Prestonpans". Copyright ©1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)



The next quote is also from DRAGONFLY, from the scene in the beginning where Roger and Brianna visit the battlefield at Culloden:
"Heather," Roger said. "It's more common in the summer, when the heather is blooming--then you'll see heaps like that in front of every clan stone. Purple, and here and there a branch of the white heather--the white is for luck, and for kingship; it was Charlie's emblem, that and the white rose."

"Who leaves them?" Brianna squatted on her heels next to the path, touching the twigs with a gentle finger.

"Visitors." Roger squatted next to her. He traced the faded letters on the stone--FRASER. "People descended from the families of the men who were killed here. Or just those who like to remember them."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Culloden". Copyright ©1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)



Here is a bit from the battle of Moores Creek Bridge, in ABOSAA, a reminder that men do terrible things in battle.  I can't even imagine what Jamie felt like, killing a man he once considered his friend.  
Major Donald MacDonald floundered, rising halfway in the water. His wig was gone and his head showed bare and wounded, blood running from his scalp down over his face. His teeth were bared, clenched in agony or ferocity, ther was no telling which. Another shot struck him and he fell with a splash--but rose again, slow, slow, and then pitched forward into water too deep to stand, but rose yet again, splashing frantically, spraying blood from his shattered mouth in the effort to breathe.

Let it be you, then, lad, said the dispassionate voice. He raised his rifle and shot MacDonald cleanly through the throat. He fell backward and sank at once.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 113, "The Ghosts of Culloden". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And this is from Lord John's visit in "Haunted Soldier" with the parents of a lieutenant killed at the battle of Crefeld.  Regardless of the circumstances, there's no easy way to deliver news like that:
"I saw your son for the first time only moments before his death," he said, as gently as he could. "There was no time for talk. But I can assure you, sir, that he died instantly--and he died bravely, as a soldier of the king. You--and your wife, of course--may be justly proud of him."

(From LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS by Diana Gabaldon, Lord John and the Haunted Soldier, Part I, "Inquisition". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


And finally, here's a quote from THE FIERY CROSS that reminds us that Memorial Day is not just about honoring the fallen, but also honoring all those who have served in our armed forces:
"Many of us died in battle," he said, his voice scarcely audible above the rustle of the fire. "Many died of burning. Many of us starved. Many died at sea, many died of wounds and illness." He paused. "Many died of sorrow."

His eyes looked beyond the firelit circle for a moment, and I thought perhaps he was searching for the face of Abel MacLennan. He lifted his cup then, and held it high in salute for a moment.

"Slàinte!" murmured a dozen voices, rising like the wind. "Slàinte!" he echoed them--then tipped the cup, so that a little of the brandy fell into the flames, where it hissed and burned blue for an instant's time.

He lowered the cup, and paused for a moment, head bent. He lifted his head then, and raised the cup toward Archie Hayes, who stood across the fire from him, round face unreadable, fire sparking from his silver gorget and his father’s brooch.

"While we mourn the loss of those who died, we must also pay tribute to you who fought and suffered with equal valor--and survived."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 15, "The Flames of Declaration". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Wishing all of you in the US a happy Memorial Day!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A TRAIL OF FIRE is available for pre-order!

Diana Gabaldon's upcoming story collection, A TRAIL OF FIRE, including "The Custom of the Army", "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows", "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies", and "The Space Between", is now available for pre-order!  The estimated release date is 11 October 2012.

HOWEVER.....

The book is only going to be published in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

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.
The first of those "e-shorts", "The Custom of the Army", was published in the US and Canada on May 21, 2012.  Look here for details.

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.

Here are the pre-order links from the website of Orion Books (Diana's UK publisher) for A TRAIL OF FIRE:

Hardcover

Paperback

E-book

Here's a site in New Zealand that is listing A TRAIL OF FIRE for pre-order.  And a site in Australia.  I would think it's going to be available through the major bookshops in Australia and NZ, just as all of Diana Gabaldon's books are, so please check with your local retailer or online bookseller.

And finally, here's the link to the pre-order page on the Book Depository site.  I've never used the Book Depository, but I've heard good things about them, and from what I understand, they ship worldwide.  This might be a good option for fans who live outside the UK/Australia/New Zealand who want to get their hands on the book as soon as it's published.

A German translation of A TRAIL OF FIRE will be available at some point in the future, but I have no further details.

It's still early yet, and the information above is subject to change.  I don't know anything more about A TRAIL OF FIRE than what I've stated here.  I will post further updates as more details become available.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 5/25/2012



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


1) This first item comes from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, in honor of its release in paperback in the US on Tuesday, May 29th.
“Butter? In the bog?”

Beannachtaí m' mhíc, everyone puts their butter into the bog in summer to keep cool. Now and then, the woman o’ the house forgets just where she put it--or maybe dies, poor creature--and there it sits in its wee bucket. We often find butter when the lay brothers cut peats for the fire. Not often edible,” he added, with regret. “But recognizable, even after a great long while. Peat preserves things.”

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Quagmire". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I had never heard of bog butter before I read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.  Here's an article explaining all about it.


2) Here's what Plasmodium vivax -- the organism that causes malaria -- looks like under a microscope (photo from Wikipedia).  As Claire explained to Bobby Higgins,
"Do you see that some of the blood cells are broken? And that some have little spots in them?"

"I do, mum," he said, screwing up his face and peering intently. "What are 'ey, then?"

"Parasites. Little beasts that get into your blood if a certain kind of mosquito bites you," I explained. "They're called Plasmodium. Once you've got them, they go on living in your blood--but every so often, they begin to...er...breed. When there are too many of them,they burst out of the blood cells, and that's what causes a malaria attack--the ague. The sludge of the broken blood cells sort of silts up, you see, in the organs, and makes you feel terribly sick."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Bloodwork". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This diagram shows the life-cycle of Plasmodium vivax.


3) Here's an example of a silver tetradrachm, minted at Amphipolis (Macedonia) around 280-270 B.C, showing a representation of Alexander the Great. I am no coin expert (!) but I think this looks similar to the one that Jamie and Mayer the coin-dealer examined in VOYAGER.
He looked again, picked out a worn gold disc with an indistinct profile, then a silver one, somewhat larger and in better condition, with a man s head shown both full-face and in profile.

"These,” he said. “Fourteen of the gold ones, and ten of the ones with two heads.”

“Ten!” Mayer’s bright eyes popped wide with astonishment. “I should not have thought there were so many in Europe.”

Jamie nodded. “I’m quite certain--I saw them closely; handled them, even.”

“These are the twin heads of Alexander,” Mayer said, touching the coin with reverence. “Very rare indeed. It is a tetradrachm, struck to commemorate the battle fought at Amphipolos, and the founding of a city on the site of the battlefield."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 40, "I Shall Go Down to the Sea". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I found the tetradrachm shown above on eBay, selling for $1250.00.  Click on the images to enlarge them.

(UPDATE 5/25/2012 2:58 pm: Someone on Compuserve commented that the tetradrachm shown here is not identical to the coin described in the book. That's true; it's not precisely identical. But it's the best example I could find, and I think it's close enough to give you a pretty good idea of what Jamie and Mayer were looking at.)


4) Major General Lord Charles Grey (1729-1807) is a real historical figure, mentioned briefly in ECHO.
One of Howe’s commanders, Major General Lord Charles Grey--a distant cousin of Grey’s--attacked the Americans at Paoli at night, with orders to his troops to remove the flints from their muskets. This prevented discovery from the accidental discharge of a weapon, but also obliged the men to use bayonets. A number of Americans were bayoneted in their beds, their tents burned, a hundred or so made captive--and Howe marched into the city of Philadelphia, triumphant, on September 21.

Grey watched them, rank upon rank of redcoats, marching to drum music, from the porch of Mrs. Woodcock’s house. Dottie had feared that the rebels, forced to abandon the city, might fire the houses or kill their British prisoners outright.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 71, "A State of Conflict". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
A distant cousin of Lord John's?  That made me laugh, the first time I read ECHO.  Sure, why not? I thought.  Everybody else in this book seems to be turning up long-lost relatives or obscure branches of their family tree.

Two bonus bits of trivia relating to this particular quote: 
UPDATE 5/25/12 4:18 pm: For more on the Paoli Massacre, see Carol's very informative blog post here.



5) The photos above show what a Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocratalus) looks like.  Diana confirmed, when I asked, that this is the same kind of pelican we saw in VOYAGER.  It certainly seems to fit Ping An's description very well:
A pelican on the ground is a comical thing, all awkward angles, splayed feet, and gawky bill. A soaring pelican, circling over water, is a thing of wonder, graceful and primitive, startling as a pterodactyl among the sleeker forms of gulls and petrels.

Ping An, the peaceful one, soared to the limit of his line, struggled to go higher, then, as though resigned, began to circle. Mr. Willoughby, eyes squinted nearly shut against the sun, spun slowly round and round on the deck below, playing the pelican like a kite. All the hands in the rigging and on deck nearby stopped what they were doing to watch in fascination.

Sudden as a bolt from a crossbow, the pelican folded its wings and dived, cleaving the water with scarcely a splash. As it popped to the surface, looking mildly surprised, Mr. Willoughby began to tow it in. Aboard once more, the pelican was persuaded with some difficulty to give up its catch, but at last suffered its captor to reach cautiously into the leathery subgular pouch and extract a fine, fat sea bream.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 44, "Forces of Nature". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a brief video showing a pelican dive-bombing for fish at very close range.



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

Monday, May 21, 2012

Thank you, Diana Gabaldon!!



What a wonderful surprise I found at the very end of the new e-book edition of Diana Gabaldon's "The Custom of the Army"!

Click on the picture to see a bigger view.  It reads, "This story is for Karen Henry, Aedile Curule, and Chief Bumblebee-Herder."

WOW!!  Just...WOW! 

I am just thrilled, to put it mildly, as you can imagine. And have not stopped smiling since I saw this earlier this evening.

THANK YOU, Diana!!

(In case you're wondering, both of those titles refer to my role as volunteer Section Leader in Diana Gabaldon's folder on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, a position I've held since 2008.)

John Hunter and THE KNIFE MAN

With today's release of the e-book edition of Diana Gabaldon's novella, "The Custom of the Army" in the US and Canada, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take a closer look at a character who plays a small but important role in this story: John Hunter.



Some of you may remember that John Hunter was mentioned in AN ECHO IN THE BONE as a distant relative of Denny and Rachel Hunter. As Rachel explains:
“John Hunter, bless his name. He is a famous physician, he and his elder brother, who is accoucheur to the Queen herself.” Despite her egalitarian principles, Miss Hunter looked somewhat awed, and William nodded respectfully. “He inquired as to Denny’s abilities, and hearing good report, made provision for Denny to remove to Philadelphia, to board there with a Quaker family and to go to the new medical college. And then he went so far as to have Denny go to London, to study there with himself!”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "A Matter of Conscience". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Denny and Rachel are fictional, but John Hunter was a real historical figure, and a fascinating man, one of the pioneers of modern surgery.

He was also an infamous body-snatcher, and Lord John seems well aware of his reputation:
Someone was saying something to him. With difficulty, he fixed his attention on Mr. Hunter, standing by his side, still with that look of penetrating interest. Well, of course. They d need a surgeon, he thought dimly. Have to have a surgeon at a duel.

"Yes," he said, seeing Hunter's eyebrows raised in inquiry of some sort. Then, seized by a belated fear that he had just promised his body to the surgeon were he killed, seized Hunter s coat with his free hand.

"You...don't...touch me," he said. "No...knives.  Ghoul," he added for good measure, finally locating the word. Hunter nodded, seeming unoffended.

(From "The Custom of the Army" by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
John Hunter also makes a brief cameo appearance in the duel scene in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.

If you're interested in learning more about John Hunter, or 18th century medicine in general, or if you just enjoy a well-written biography, I would recommend Wendy Moore's excellent biography of John Hunter, THE KNIFE MAN (subtitled "Blood, Body Snatching, and the Birth of Modern Surgery").

Diana actually recommended this book to me three or four years ago, and I enjoyed it quite a bit.  I'm reposting my review here for those of you who may have missed it.



My review of THE KNIFE MAN

John Hunter was born in Scotland in 1728, but moved to London as a young man, where his elder brother William was an anatomist.

Here are some interesting bits of trivia from this book, that may be of interest to OUTLANDER fans.  (Page numbers refer to the paperback edition of THE KNIFE MAN.)

- John Hunter kept a wolf-dog hybrid (similar to Rollo) as a pet for many years.

- He went to a great deal of effort to obtain cadavers for dissection, often resorting to grave-robbing. (You may recall that Jamie was horrified by Claire's proposing to do an autopsy on Betty, the murdered slave in FIERY CROSS. This seems to have been a very common attitude at the time.)

- His house in London contained an extensive collection of human and animal specimens, including a stuffed giraffe:
Unfortunately, the astonishing stature of the stuffed beast, estimated to have measured as much as eighteen feet, made its accomodation rather difficult. With the rooms housing his collection already bursting at the seams, Hunter was forced to hack off the giraffe's legs and stand it in his entrance hall. The sight presented a dramatic welcome to visitors and patients. (p. 197)
- He deliberately infected himself with gonorrhea in 1767, in an attempt to prove that gonorrhea and syphilis were caused by the same agent, and did in fact contract both diseases.
The experiment, as far as Hunter was concerned, had been a resounding success. It proved, to his satisfaction at least, that gonorrhea developed into lues venerea. In reality, it was a complete disaster. The experiment had been doomed from the outset, since Hunter had plainly used infected matter containing both syphilis and gonorrhea bacteria. The person from whom he had taken the venereal pus had evidently, like so many of Hunter's patients, been a victim of both diseases. The results of the fated trial would set back medical progress in terms of the understanding of sexual diseases for half a century. (pp. 136-37)
- He contributed a great deal to the understanding of fetal development. By dissecting the bodies of women who had died in various stages of pregnancy, John Hunter was able to determine that the maternal and fetal blood supplies were separate. He worked with a Dutch artist, Jan van Rymsdyk, who sketched pictures of the inside of the womb, laid open by Hunter's dissections:
Whereas previously anatomical pictures of babies in the womb had shown curiously adultlike figures floating in a shapeless void, for the first time van Rymsdyk portrayed the intimate relationship between mother and child in a completely naturalistic style. (p. 58)
Look here for some examples of these drawings.

- He performed the first successful defibrillation in 1774, on a three-year-old girl who had fallen out of a window. Hunter's views on the use of electricity to stimulate the heart are remarkably modern-sounding; clearly he was far, far ahead of his time, on this particular issue at least:
"Electricity has been known to be of service, and should be tried when other methods have failed," he advised. "It is probably the only method we have of immediately stimulating the heart." (p. 188)
Hunter was not without his flaws. For one thing, he had a lifelong aversion to reading (the author speculates that he may have been dyslexic), and therefore could not easily counter attacks by his professional rivals. For another, his obsession with obtaining unusual specimens sometimes led him to take extreme measures that seem grossly unethical by today's standards.

Just to take one example: Moore describes how Hunter became obsessed with obtaining the body of a giant named Charles Byrne, reputed to be at least 7'7" tall. When Byrne died in 1783, he left instructions that his body should be disposed of at sea, in order to keep his remains out of the reach of anatomists like Hunter. But Hunter managed to bribe the undertaker, by paying him the "colossal sum" of £500 in order to procure the giant's body, and had it smuggled into his underground laboratory, where he eventually recreated the enormous skeleton and added it to his collection. I couldn't help but feel sorry for Byrne when I read that.

John Hunter was a very interesting man, and Wendy Moore's account is a fascinating, sometimes horrifying, but always entertaining read. I would encourage you to take a look at it.


Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 5/18/2012



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


1) Remember Claire's encounter with the four-eyed fish, in VOYAGER, when she first meets Lawrence Stern?
"Talking to a fish," I finished. "Yes, well...have they really got four eyes?" I asked, in hopes of changing the subject.

"Yes--or so it seems." He glanced down at the fish, who appeared to be following the conversation with rapt attention. "They seem to employ their oddly shaped optics when submerged, so that the upper pair of eyes observes events above the surface of the water, and the lower pair similarly takes note of happenings below it."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 50, "I Meet a Priest". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The scientific name of this species is Anableps anableps.  Here's a brief video of the four-eyed fish in motion.


2) Here's one artist's conception of what a Nuckelavee looks like. (Drawing by Verdego at DeviantArt.com.)  Click on the picture for a bigger view.
“Jem,” she said, the thought occurring as they came even with him. “Do you know what a Nuckelavee is?”

Jem’s eyes went huge, and he clapped his hands over Mandy’s ears. Something with a hundred cold tiny feet skittered up Brianna’s back.

“Aye,” he said, his voice small and breathless.

“Who told you about it?” she asked, keeping her voice calm. She’d kill Annie MacDonald, she thought.

But Jem’s eyes slid sideways, as he glanced involuntarily over her shoulder, up at the broch.

“He did,” he whispered.

He?” she said sharply, and grabbed Mandy by the arm as the little girl wiggled free and turned furiously on her brother. “Don’t kick your brother, Mandy! Who do you mean, Jemmy?”

Jem’s lower teeth caught his lip.

“Him,” he blurted. “The Nuckelavee.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "The Minister's Cat". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The following description of the Nuckelavee, from a site on the folklore of the Orkney Islands, sounds very close to the way the creature is described in ECHO:
From the few recorded descriptions of the Nuckelavee, we learn that his head was similar to that of a man only "ten times larger". He had an incredibly wide mouth that jutted out like a pig's snout and a single red eye that burned with a red flame.

Hairless, his body was also skinless, its entire surface appearing like raw and living flesh. It was said that his thick, black blood could be seen coursing through his veins, as his sinewy muscles writhed with every movement he made. His long ape-like arms hung down to the ground and from his gaping mouth spewed a foul, black reek.

All in all, not a pleasant sight to encounter on some lonely stretch of coastline.
Definitely not! <shudder> I can certainly understand why eight-year-old Jem was scared out of his wits at the prospect of encountering such a creature.


3) Here's a video showing how to put on a great kilt, or belted plaid.  And here are step-by-step instructions, with pictures.  (Please note, I can't vouch for the accuracy or the authenticity of either of the methods shown!)

Even Roger seemed to have some difficulty with this:
"All right," he said with resignation. "Laugh if ye must." Getting into a belted plaid wasn't the most dignified thing a man could do, given that the most efficient method was to lie down on the pleated fabric and roll like a sausage on a girdle. Jamie could do it standing up, but then, the man had had practice.

His struggles--rather deliberately exaggerated--were rewarded by Brianna's giggling, which in turn seemed to have a calming effect on the baby. By the time Roger made the final adjustments to his pleats and drapes, mother and child were both flushed, but happy.

Roger made a leg to them, flourishing, and Bree patted her own leg in one-handed applause.

"Terrific," she said, her eyes traveling appreciatively over him. "See Daddy? Pretty Daddy!" She turned Jemmy, who stared openmouthed at the vision of male glory before him and blossomed into a wide, slow smile, a trickle of drool hanging from the pouting curve of his lip.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "The Bard". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


4) The photo above shows what tansy looks like.  Claire advised Marsali to take tansy oil to keep from getting pregnant, but somehow I don't think Marsali actually did. <g>
“Here,” I said, pulling out a large chunk of cleaned sponge. I took one of the thin surgical knives from the fitted slots in the lid of the box and carefully sliced off several thin pieces, about three inches square. I searched through the box again and found the small bottle of tansy oil, with which I carefully saturated one square under Marsali’s fascinated gaze.

“All right,” I said. “That’s about how much oil to use. If you haven’t any oil, you can dip the sponge in vinegar—even wine will work, in a pinch. You put the bit of sponge well up inside you before you go to bed with a man—mind you do it even the first time; you can get with child from even once.”

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "We Meet a Porpoise". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) In honor of Monday's release of the e-book edition of "The Custom of the Army" in the US and Canada, I wanted to share one of my favorite links between the books.  (WARNING! What follows is a spoiler for "Custom of the Army", so you may want to skip this bit if you haven't yet read the story.)

First, here's Lord John in Quebec in 1759:
“We will baptize him as a Catholic, of course," Father LeCarré said, looking up at him.  The priest was a young man, rather plump, dark and clean-shaven, but with a gentle face.  “You do not mind that?”

“No."  Grey drew out a purse.  “Here--for his maintenance.  I will send an additional five pounds each year, if you will advise me once a year of his continued welfare.   Here--the address to which to write.”  A sudden inspiration struck him—not that he did not trust the good father, he assured himself--only….  “Send me a lock of his hair," he said.  “Every year.”

He was turning to go when the priest called him back, smiling.

“Has the infant a name, sir?"

“A--” he stopped dead.   His mother had surely called him something, but Malcolm Stubbs hadn't thought to tell him what it was before being shipped back to England.   What should he call the child?  Malcolm, for the father who had abandoned him?  Hardly.

Charles, maybe, in memory of Carruthers…

...one of these days, it isn't going to.


“His name is John," he said abruptly,  and cleared his throat.  “John Cinnamon.”

(From "The Custom of the Army" by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And William, also in Quebec, on Christmas Eve, 1776:
We had a Guide for our Journey between St. John and Quebec, a Man of mixed Blood (he had a most remarkable Head of Hair, thick and curly as Sheep’s Wool and the color of Cinnamon Bark) who told us that some of the native People think that the Sky is a Dome, separating Earth from Heaven, but that there are Holes in the Dome, and that the Lights of the Aurora are the Torches of Heaven, sent out to guide the Spirits of the Dead through the Holes.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Joyeux Noel". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Diana has confirmed that the young man William encounters is indeed the grown-up John Cinnamon.  I like this connection very much.

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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"Custom" FAQ has been updated



In anticipation of Monday's release of the standalone e-book version of "The Custom of the Army" in the US and Canada, I have updated my "Custom of the Army" FAQ page to reflect current information.  I hope it's useful to you!

Please pass this along to anyone else who may be interested.  And if you haven't yet read the story, don't worry, there are no spoilers on that FAQ page! <g>

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION



Here's the cover art for the upcoming anthology, THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION, edited by John Joseph Adams, which will feature Diana Gabaldon's novella, "The Space Between".  Click on the picture to see a bigger view.  Thanks very much to Carmen Theiler for letting us know about this cover!

"The Space Between" is a novella (about 40,000 words) that tells the story of Young Ian's brother Michael and Marsali's sister Joan, whom we met in AN ECHO IN THE BONE, as well as the Comte St. Germain (no, he's not dead!)  You can read excerpts of "The Space Between" on Compuserve here.

According to the editor's blog post dated May 16, 2012, THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION will be published in January, 2013, by Tor Books.  When I have any more specific information on a release date, I'll post it here.

Now here's where it gets complicated.  As far as I know, THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE will be published only in the US.  But Diana's story, "The Space Between", will also be published in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand as part of A TRAIL OF FIRE, coming in October, 2012.

So if you live in the US and you don't want to wait until January to get your hands on Diana's new story, you will be able to order A TRAIL OF FIRE from any online bookstore that ships books from the UK.

See Diana Gabaldon's recent blog post for the full explanation, in her own words, of the complexities surrounding the publication rights to "The Space Between" and her other shorter pieces.

Keep watching this page for the latest updates, and as soon as there's any further news, I'll post it here.

(There is a typo on the cover picture shown above, on the second line of text below the picture of the mad scientist.  The word is "megalomaniAcal".  I mentioned this to Diana Gabaldon on Compuserve and she said she would tell the editor about it, and hopefully they'll fix that in the final version.) 

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New video from Jemmy Mac

Here's a new video from Jemmy MacKenzie's alter ego on Facebook. This was posted as a "thank you" to Diana Gabaldon, in honor of Jem's birthday, which is sometime this week.



Isn't that sweet? I think the lad's got some of his mam's artistic talent! <g>  Diana saw it and she liked it, too.  I couldn't resist passing it along.

If you want to see some more of Jemmy Mac's OUTLANDER-related videos, look here.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day quotes



Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there!  Here are a few of my favorite quotes about motherhood from Diana Gabaldon's books.  Hope you enjoy them!

1) Marsali, in an advanced state of pregnancy, and five-year-old Germain:
She leaned back a little and pushed a hand firmly into the side of her mound. Then she seized Germain's hand and put it on the spot. Even from where I stood, I could see the surge of flesh as the baby kicked vigorously in response to being poked.

Germain jerked his hand away, startled, then put it back, looking fascinated, and pushed.

"Hello!" he said loudly, putting his face close to his mother's belly. "Comment ça va in there, Monsieur L'Oeuf?"

"He's fine," his mother assured him. "Or she. But babies dinna talk right at first. Ye ken that much. Félicité doesna say anything but 'Mama' yet."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 27, "The Malting Floor". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) I like the realistic depictions of breastfeeding in these books, even though I've never had kids of my own.  Here's Claire with Brianna, age three months:
Brianna burrowed into the front of my red chenille dressing gown making small voracious grunting noises.

"You can't be hungry again," I said to the top of her head. "I fed you not two hours ago." My breasts were beginning to leak in response to her rooting, though, and I was already sitting down and loosening the front of my gown.

"Mrs. Hinchcliffe said that a baby shouldn't be fed every time it cries," Frank observed. "They get spoilt if they aren't kept to a schedule."

It wasn't the first time I had heard Mrs. Hinchcliffe's opinions on child-rearing.

"Then she'll be spoilt, won't she?" I said coldly, not looking at him. The small pink mouth clamped down fiercely, and Brianna began to suck with mindless appetite. I was aware that Mrs. Hinchcliffe also thought breast-feeding both vulgar and insanitary. I, who had seen any number of eighteenth-century babies nursing contentedly at their mothers' breasts, didn't.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 3, "Frank and Full Disclosure". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Bree's reaction on the night before Claire goes back through the stones, when she thinks she'll never see her mother again:
"It's like--there are all these things I don't even know!" she said, pacing with quick, angry steps.  "Do you think I remember what I looked like, learning to walk, or what the first word I said was? No, but Mama does! And that's so stupid, because what difference does it make, it doesn't make any difference at all, but it's important, it matters because she thought it was, and...oh, Roger, if she's gone, there won't be a soul left in the world who cares what I'm like, or thinks I'm special not because of anything, but just because I'm me! She's the only person in the world who really, really cares I was born, and if she's gone..."  She stood still on the hearthrug, hands clenched at her sides, and mouth twisted with the effort to control herself, tears wet on her cheeks.  Then her shoulders slumped and the tension went out of her tall figure.

"And that's just really dumb and selfish," she said, in a quietly reasonable tone. "And you don't understand, and you think I'm awful."

"No," Roger said quietly. "I think maybe not."  He stood and came behind her, putting his arms around her waist, urging her to lean back against him.  She resisted at first, stiff in his arms, but then yielded to the need for physical comfort and relaxed, his chin propped on her shoulder, head tilted to touch her own.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "All Hallows' Eve". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) Jamie lost his mother at a very young age, but he hasn't forgotten her:
I had heard what he said to the plover he released. Though I had only a few words of Gaelic, I had heard the old salutation often enough to be familiar with it. “God go with ye, Mother," he had said.

A young mother, dead in childbirth. And a child left behind. I touched his arm and he looked down at me.

“How old were you?” I asked.

He gave me a half-smile. “Eight,” he answered. “Weaned, at least."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "We Meet a Beggar". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
5) And finally, here is my favorite Mother's Day quote from the whole series:
“Did I ever think to thank ye, Sassenach?" he said, his voice a little husky.

“For what?" I said, puzzled. He took my hand, and drew me gently toward him. He smelled of ale and damp wool, and very faintly of the brandied sweetness of fruitcake.

“For my bairns," he said softly. "For the children that ye bore me."

"Oh," I said. I leaned slowly forward, and rested my forehead against the solid warmth of his chest. I cupped my hands at the small of his back beneath his coat, and sighed. "It was...my pleasure."

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

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 5/11/2012



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



1) Here's an astrolabe from the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England.  Click on the photo to see a bigger view.
It was a flat golden disk, about four inches across. Goggling in astonishment, I could see that the rim was slightly raised, like that of a plate, and printed with tiny symbols of some kind. Set into the central part of the disk was an odd pierced-work arrangement, made of some silvery metal. This consisted of a small open dial, rather like a clock-face, but with three arms connecting its outer rim to the center of the bigger, golden disk.

The small silver circle was also adorned with printed arcana, almost too fine to see, and attached to a lyre-shape which itself rested in the belly of a long, flat silver eel, whose back curved snugly round the inner rim of the golden disk. Surmounting the whole was a gold bar, tapered at the ends like a very thick compass needle, and affixed with a pin that passed through the center of the disk and allowed the bar to revolve. Engraved in flowing script down the center of the bar was the name "James Fraser."

"Why, whatever in the name of Bride will that be?" Mrs. Bug, naturally, recovered first from her surprise.

"It's a planispheric astrolabe," Jamie answered, recovered from his surprise, and sounding almost matter-of-fact.

"Oh, of course," I murmured. "Naturally!"

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 77, "A Package From London". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's some more information about astrolabes, including how to tell time using an astrolabe and instructions on how to make your own astrolabe.



2) The photo above shows the wax-myrtle berries that Claire, Bree, Marsali, and the children went to collect in FIERY CROSS.
"What is that lovely scent?" I asked Mrs. Crawford during the interval, sniffing at the candelabra that decorated her harpsichord. The candles were beeswax, but the scent was something both delicate and spicy--rather like bayberry, but lighter.

"Wax-myrtle," she replied, gratified. "I don't use them for the candles themselves, though one can--but it does take such a tremendous quantity of the berries, near eight pound to get only a pound of the wax, imagine! It took my bond-maid a week of picking, and she brought me barely enough as would make a dozen candles. So I rendered the wax, but then I mixed it in with the regular beeswax when I dipped the candles, and I will say I am pleased. It does give such a pleasant aroma, does it not?"

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 103, "Among the Myrtles". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are step-by-step instructions for making your own wax-myrtle candles.  (Although it does sound like you'd need an immense quantity of berries!)



3) The photo above shows a jet rosary from 18th century Germany.  I think it looks something like the one that Colum gave Claire in OUTLANDER.
Jamie turned me with a hand on my shoulder. I couldn't bear to face the crowd, but I knew I must. I kept my chin as high as I could, and my eyes focused beyond the faces, to a small boat in the center of the loch. I stared at it 'til my eyes watered.

Jamie turned back the plaid, holding it around me, but letting it drop far enough to show my neck and shoulders. He touched the black rosary and set it swinging gently to and fro.

"Jet will burn a witch's skin, no?" he demanded of the judges. "Still more, I should think, would the cross of our Lord. But look." He dipped a finger under the beads and lifted up the crucifix. My skin beneath was pure white, unmarked save for the smudges of captivity, and there was a gasp and murmur from the crowd.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)



4) Remember the skeletons that Jamie and Claire found in a cave in France, with their arms locked about one another?  I was stunned to learn that there really was such a Neolithic couple, discovered in a cave in Italy in 2007 -- a full fifteen years after DRAGONFLY was published!  I think the picture above is just amazing.
"There." He pointed to a spot near the cavern entrance. The rocks there were brown with dust and age, but not rusty with water and erosion, like those deeper in the cave.

"That was the entrance, once," he said. "The rocks fell once before, and sealed this place." He turned back and rested a hand on the rocky outcrop that shielded the lovers from the light.

"They must have felt their way around the cave, hand in hand," I said. "Looking for a way out, in the dust and the dark."

"Aye." He rested his forehead against the stone, eyes closed. "And the light was gone, and the air failed them. And so they lay down in the dark to die."  The tears made wet tracks through the dust on his cheeks. I brushed a hand beneath my own eyes, and took his free hand, carefully weaving my fingers with his.

He turned to me, wordless, and the breath rushed from him as he pulled me hard against him. Our hands groped in the dying light of the setting sun, urgent in the touch of warmth, the reassurance of flesh, reminded by the hardness of the invisible bone beneath the skin, how short life is.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29, "To Grasp the Nettle". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
UPDATE 5/12/2012 7:20 am:  I asked Diana, on Compuserve, if she had any comments about this story of the Neolithic couple found in the cave in 2007, and she said, "I saw a similar picture (though I don't recall where that particular cave was) in a National Geographic magazine, lo, these many years ago, and it stuck in my mind--as such a thing naturally would."

Hippos. Kruger  National Park, Crooks Corner Phafuri,  South Africa by www.stormc.co.za

5) Claire's favorite way of measuring seconds without a watch is to count hippopotami: One hippopotamus, two hippopotamus, and so on.
Eighty-nine hippopotamus, ninety hippopotamus...

The child was hanging from Lizzie’s body, bloody-blue and shining in the firelight, swaying in the shadow of her thighs like the clapper of a bell--or a body from a gibbet, and I pushed that thought away...

"Should not we take...?” Auntie Monika whispered to me, Rodney clutched to her breast.

One hundred.

“No,” I said. “Don’t touch it--her. Not yet.” Gravity was slowly helping the delivery. Pulling would injure the neck, and if the head were to stick...

One hundred ten hippo--that was a lot of hippopotami, I thought, abstractedly envisaging herds of them marching down to the hollow, there they will wallow, in mud, glooooorious...

“Now,” I said, poised to swab the mouth and nose as they emerged--but Lizzie hadn’t waited for prompting, and with a long deep sigh and an audible pop!, the head delivered all at once, and the baby fell into my hands like a ripe fruit.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Transverse Lie". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And just in case you're not familiar with the song by Flanders and Swann that Claire is thinking of, here it is. (Lyrics are here.) 



I'm not taking responsibility for any earworms that may result from watching this video; if the song gets stuck in your head, you can blame Diana. (Just kidding! <g>)

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

Thursday, May 10, 2012

THE SCOTTISH PRISONER wins an RT Award!




Diana Gabaldon's THE SCOTTISH PRISONER has won RT Book Reviews Magazine's 2011 Reviewer's Choice Best Book Award for Historical Fiction!  Congratulations, Diana!

You can see the list of nominees, with SCOTTISH PRISONER noted as the winner, here.  (Scroll down until you see the list of nominees for Historical Fiction.)

Apparently the winners were announced in April, but I didn't know about this until someone mentioned it on Compuserve today.  (Thanks, Di!)

This is the same magazine that interviewed me about a year ago for OUTLANDER's 20th Anniversary.  You can see that interview here if you're interested.

If you haven't yet read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, I highly recommend it.  The trade-paperback edition (that's the large size paperback, pictured above) will be published on May 29, 2012.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

OUTLANDER Quilt on eBay

Some of you may remember the wonderful OUTLANDER quilt made by Susan Leidy, aka "Sooz", several months ago.  What you may not realize is that Sooz made a second version of this quilt, had it signed by Diana Gabaldon, and donated it to the OUTLANDER Silent Auction that "OUTLANDER: The Musical" co-creator Mike Gibb is sponsoring.  All proceeds will go to Friends of Bianca Pet Rescue.



This beautiful handmade OUTLANDER quilt is up for auction on eBay right now!  (Click on the picture above to see a bigger version.)

Here is the description from the eBay listing:
Exquisitely handcrafted Outlander Book Quilt offered by Friends of Bianca Pet Rescue for Silent Auction.  Donated by and signed by the artist, Susan Leidy, and signed by the author of the Outlander series, Diana Gabaldon (pictured with the quilt). Each book is duplicated with fabric and embroidered title matching the USA book cover.  Even includes the yet-to-be-released book, Written in My Own Heart's Blood (cover color/title as imagined by the artist, since the upcoming book jacket is yet-to-be-determined).  Special Celtic Charms attached to each book, plus extras including the ribbon bookmark of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Outlander, bead pearl bookmark in the Outlandish Companion and carved wooden snake given to Jamie by his brother, Willie.  One of a kind unique item that will be the envy of all your Outlander fan friends!  Suitable for hanging.  All proceeds go to homeless, abused or neglected pets in need!
This auction ends on Tuesday, May 15, 2012, at 7:00 pm Pacific Time.

Bidding is now underway, and it was up to $355 when I checked just now.  I realize that's a lot of money, believe me, but if you can afford it, and if you'd like to see this beautiful quilt hanging in your own home, consider placing a bid.  It's for a good cause!

Congratulations, again, to Sooz, for doing such a beautiful job on this quilt. <g>

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Diana's comments about the #DailyLines

For those of you who follow the #DailyLines on Facebook or Twitter:

Diana Gabaldon posted the following message on Facebook last night:
To the Impatient (and you KNOW who you are <g>)--

Look. This is how it works:

I write the best books I can.

It takes as long as it takes.

It takes a long time because they're big, complex, interesting books.

I've always shared bits and pieces of my work online, because I enjoy it, and I'm glad if you do, too.

I, um, _don't_ do it as a public service.

I don't post anything truly spoilerish.

Some days I don't write.

I don't keep track of what I post--what, you think I have time to keep records and thumb through a years' worth of posting every time I put something up? (Also, owing to the large number of people coming through this page, even if a few of you have seen one bit or another before, lots and lots of others haven't. You aren't the only person in the world, you know.)

All of which means that some days I have a bit that meets my criteria, and I post it.

If I don't, I don't.

I might post something else, repost something that's been up, or not post at all.

I enjoy hearing what y'all think about the #DailyLines. But I don't feel that I _owe_ the readers anything, other than the best book I can write.

Sincerely,

--Diana
I thought this was worth quoting in its entirety.  She's a human being, not a machine, and it really isn't fair for the fans to expect a brand-new, never-seen-before, snippet every single day.

I love that last sentence, by the way.  I think Diana should take all the time she needs, to make WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD as good as it possibly can be.  Yes, the waiting is awfully hard, but re-reading helps <g>, and 2013 will be here before you know it.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

MenInKilts.com



Have you ever heard of MenInKilts.com?  I hadn't, until I saw them mentioned on Facebook last week.  Apparently this is a company with franchises in the Vancouver and Seattle areas, that does exterior cleaning services -- windows, gutters, etc. -- where all the work is done by men in kilts!  (As they say in their advertising, "No Peeking!")  Click on the picture above to see a bigger view.

I live in a one-story house, so not much point in hiring these lads to do my windows...but gutters?  Yeah, I could see watching them work on ladders. <g>

Unfortunately, they're not located anywhere near where I live.  But I thought I'd pass on the link, anyway.  If you live in the areas they service, maybe you can try them out?  And if not, well, the concept is certainly good for a laugh. <g>

Friday, May 4, 2012

Friday Fun Facts - 5/4/2012



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



1) Remember the rhododendron hell Roger was trapped in while trying to escape from the Indians in DRUMS?  It may have looked something like this.
He took a slow inventory of the damage, listening all the while for sounds of pursuit. Not surprisingly, there were none. He had heard talk about rhododendron hells in the taverns in Cross Creek; half-boasting stories of hunting dogs who had chased a squirrel into one of the huge tangles and become hopelessly lost, never to be seen again.

Roger hoped there was a fair amount of exaggeration to these stories, though a good look around wasn't reassuring. What light there was had no direction. Any way he looked, looked the same. Drooping clusters of cool, leathery leaves, thick stems and slender branches laced together in a nearly impenetrable snarl.

With a slight feeling of panic, he realized that he had no idea from which direction he had come.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 51, "Betrayal". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)



2) I'm sure many of you will remember Phillip Wylie's Friesian stallion, Lucas, from THE FIERY CROSS.  What you may not know is that Diana Gabaldon's German translator, Barbara Schnell, owns several Friesian horses. The top photo comes from Wikipedia (and no, that's not one of Barbara's horses, but I like the wild, untamed look of the stallion in that photo).  The bottom photo, which Barbara was kind enough to share with me from her personal collection, shows one of her Friesians, a stallion named Apollo. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
These black horses had great floating masses of silky hair--almost like women's hair--that rose and fluttered with their movements, matching the graceful fall of their long, full tails. In addition, each horse had delicate black feathers decorating hoof and fetlock, that lifted like floating milkweed seed with each step. By contrast to the usual rawboned riding horses and rough draft animals used for haulage, these horses seemed almost magical--and from the awed comment they were occasioning among the spectators, might as well have come from Fairyland as from Phillip Wylie's plantation in Edenton.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "In Cupid's Grove". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see more of Barbara Schnell's photos of her Friesians, Apollo and Talisker, in this photo gallery.  (Barbara says, "Lucas, Talisker's sire, inspired Lucas in the book.")  And here's a video showing a young German equestrian, Jessica Süss, riding a Friesian named Zorro at a competition in 2010.  Thanks very much to Barbara for sharing the pictures and links with us!  For more information about Friesians, visit the website of the Friesian Horse Association of North America.

UPDATE 6/4/2012 9:35 am:  I found out today from Barbara Schnell that Zorro, the Friesian stallion shown in the video, died unexpectedly a few days ago.  Look here for details.  Obviously this comes as a big shock to everyone who knew and cared for Zorro.  My condolences to Barbara, and to Jessica!




3) The Pinard stethoscope was invented in 1895 as a means of listening to the fetal heartbeat. Here's a brief video demonstrating the use of the Pinard.



It makes sense to me that Claire would have had one of these, as part of her midwife's toolkit. But I can't think of the Pinard without recalling this scene, just after Mandy's birth:
For the hundredth time in two days, I bent close, ear pressed to the Pinard as I moved it over Amanda's neck and chest, hoping against hope that the sound would have disappeared.

It hadn't.

"Turn your head, lovey, yes, that's right..." I breathed, delicately turning her head away from me, Pinard pressed to the side of her neck. It was hard to get the stethoscope close to her fat little neck...there. The murmur increased. Amanda made a little breathy noise that sounded like a giggle. I brought her head back the other way--the sound decreased.

"Oh, bloody hell," I said softly, so as not to scare her. I put down the Pinard and picked her up, cradling her against my shoulder.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, chapter 114, "Amanda". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)



4) The portrait above shows Joseph Brant (also known as Thayendanagea), who is mentioned in AN ECHO IN THE BONE. (Click on the picture for a bigger view.)  Here's Lord John's reaction on seeing this portrait for the first time, at the Beefsteak:
"Who is that?" he asked, startled. The painting, prominently displayed upon the wall opposite, showed a stately Indian, festooned in ostrich plumes and embroidered draperies. It looked distinctly odd, set as it was among the staid portraits of several distinguished--and mostly deceased--members.

"Oh, that is Mr. Brant, of course," Mr. Bodley said, with an air of mild reproof. "Mr. Joseph Brant. Mr. Pitt brought him to dine last year, when he was in London."

"Brant?"

Mr. Bodley's brows rose. Like most Londoners, he assumed that everyone who had been in America must of necessity know every other person there.

"He is a Mohawk chief, I believe," he said, pronouncing the word "Mohawk" carefully. "He has been to visit the King, you know!"

"Indeed," Grey murmured. He wondered whether the King or the Indian had been more impressed.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "Delicate Matters". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Another bit of trivia that may be of interest to those of you following the 2012 presidential campaign in the US: this portrait was painted in 1776 by an English artist named George Romney.  I was curious about his surname, so I looked him up on Wikipedia, and found that he is in fact an ancestor of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney; the artist George Romney was Mitt's great-great-great-grandfather.  (Yes, really. <g>  Mitt's great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, was the grandson of the artist.)



5) The incident in the tube station during World War II in which Roger's mother was killed is based on a real historical event, a tragedy which occurred at the Bethnal Green tube station in London on March 3, 1943. According to Wikipedia:
As the crowd surged forward towards the shelter, a woman tripped on the stairs, causing many others to fall. Within a few seconds 300 people were crushed into the tiny stairwell. 172 people died at the scene, with one more dying in hospital later; 62 of the dead were children.
The photo above (from the UK National Archives) shows what the stairs looked like on the day after the disaster.
"It was a miracle that I hadn't been killed with everyone else on that stair, they told me. They said my mother must somehow have lost hold of me in the panic--I must have been separated from her and carried down the stair by the crowd; that's how I ended on the lower level, where the roof hadn't given way."

Brianna's hand was still curled over his, protective, but no longer squeezing.

"But now you remember what happened?" she asked quietly.

"I did remember her letting go my hand," he said. "And so I thought the rest of it was right, too. But it wasn't.

"She let go my hand," he said. The words came more easily now; the tightness in his throat and chest was gone. "She let go my hand...and then she picked me up. That small woman--she picked me up, and threw me over the wall. Down into the crowd of people on the platform below. I was knocked mostly out by the fall, I think--but I remember the roar as the roof went. No one on the stair survived."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 98, "Clever Lad". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you look closely at the photo, you can see this low wall at the top right.  Now imagine a small woman with curly black hair, who had the presence of mind in the midst of a horrible disaster, in the moments before she died, to pick up her son and heave him over that wall.  (If you've read "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows", you know what happened next, but I won't spoil it for those who haven't read the story.)

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, May 2, 2012

Diana Gabaldon's latest blog post

Please take a few minutes to read Diana Gabaldon's latest blog post, which explains all about the upcoming story collection, A TRAIL OF FIRE, and why and when the various shorter pieces are being released as individual e-books.  (The e-book version of "The Custom of the Army" will be out on May 21 in the US and Canada!)



I have updated the FAQ page and the Release Dates FAQ to reflect the latest information.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy Birthday, Jamie Fraser!

Happy Birthday

Wishing a very happy birthday to our favorite red-heided Scot, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser, who celebrates his 291st birthday today!  If you are on Twitter and you'd like to help us celebrate Jamie's birthday, please tag your tweets today (May 1) with #HappyBdayJamie.  But whether or not you're on Twitter, I'm sure you can think of some suitable ways to mark the occasion. <g>

In honor of Jamie's birthday, I'm reposting the "ABCs of Jamie Fraser" list that I originally posted here in September, 2011.  I hope you enjoy these!

ABCs of Jamie Fraser

I borrowed this idea from a writer's exercise that was posted on Compuserve.  The idea is to list one word pertaining to the character for each letter of the alphabet, along with a brief explanation.  Here's my alphabet for Jamie Fraser.

All quotes from the OUTLANDER books are copyright © Diana Gabaldon, of course.

A - Ardsmuir. As difficult as those three years in prison were for Jamie, caring for the other men gave him something to live for.

B - Boats. Sheer torture, for someone who suffers from seasickness as acute as Jamie's.  "I hate boats," Jamie said through clenched teeth. "I loathe boats. I view boats with the most profound abhorrence." (DRUMS, Chapter 6, "I Encounter a Hernia")

C - Claire
, of course. And his children -- all of them, whether they're born of his blood or not.

D - Duty.
Jamie takes his duty seriously, even when it means doing things he doesn't want to do, like raising a militia company to fight against the Regulators in FIERY CROSS.

E - Eloquence.
Jamie's way with words takes my breath away sometimes. "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." (DRUMS, Chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics")

F - Finger.
Jamie's much-abused fourth finger on his right hand, which caused him so much pain and trouble for years, and now lies buried at Lallybroch, with Ian. "I'll keep it safe 'til ye catch me up." (ECHO, Chapter 81, "Purgatory II")

G - God.
Jamie's Catholic faith is very important to him, even if he's rarely in a position to go to Mass or have a priest hear his confession. And sometimes God answers his prayers. ("Lord, that she may be safe. She and the child.")

H - Humor.
I love Jamie's sense of humor, especially when he teases Claire. "I'll gie ye the rest when I'm ninety-six, aye?" (FIERY CROSS, Chapter 40, "Duncan's Secret")

I - Intelligence.
Jamie is a very smart man, and a logical thinker. And he learns very fast!

J - Jenny.
Say what you will about her, but Jamie loves his sister as deeply as he does Claire. What will she make of her new life in America?

K - Killing.
Jamie kills when he must, in self-defense or in defense of his family or loved ones. But it bothers him. "I am a violent man, and I ken it well," he said quietly. He spread his hands out on his knees; big hands, which could wield sword and dagger with ease, or choke the life from a man. (DRUMS, Chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience")

L - Lallybroch.
I don't think you can fully understand Jamie's character without appreciating how much Lallybroch influenced him. It's sad to think that he might never go back there.

M - Memories.
Will Jamie ever recall more of Culloden, and what happened with Jack Randall?

N - Nephew.
Jamie bonded with Young Ian when he was only minutes old, and they've been through quite a lot together.

O - Outdoors.
Where some of Jamie and Claire's most memorable "mmmmphmm" moments have taken place. :-)

P - Prestonpans.
The location of Jamie's fateful encounter with the sixteen-year-old Lord John Grey.

Q - QED.
Three letters that symbolize Jamie's short-lived career as a printer in Edinburgh. Will he take up printing again in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (Book 8), now that he's gone to all that trouble to retrieve his printing press?

R - Red-heided.
All teasing about "the nameless and abominable colour of his hair" aside, this is one of the things I liked best about Jamie from the beginning, because I'm also a left-handed redhead. :-)

S - Stubbornness.
"Jamie was a sweet laddie, but a stubborn wee fiend, forbye." Jenny's voice by her ear startled her. "Beat him or coax him, it made no difference; if he'd made up his mind, it stayed made up." (DRUMS, Chapter 34, "Lallybroch")

T - Tone-deaf.
One of Jamie's more endearing traits, in my opinion, and proof that he's not perfect.

U - Uxorious.
Roger refers to Jamie as "deeply uxorious" in ABOSAA. It's an archaic word that according to Diana means "a man who was clearly and obviously in love with his wife."

V - Vows.
The blood vow at Jamie and Claire's wedding, for one. Jamie's promise never to beat her again, for another. "I don't make idle threats, Sassenach," he said, raising one brow, "and I don't take frivolous vows." (OUTLANDER, Chapter 22, "Reckonings")

W - Will-power.
Jamie has an amazing strength of will. Whether it's submitting to rape and torture at the hands of Jack Randall without fighting back, or not reacting to the presence of a pair of naked Indian girls in his bed in ABOSAA, his self-control is impressive.

X - eXample.
Jamie doesn't lead by sitting back and giving orders. He leads by example, as when he takes the punishment for Angus MacKenzie's possession of a scrap of tartan at Ardsmuir.  No wonder his men will follow him anywhere.

Y - Youthful.
It's hard to remember just how young Jamie was in OUTLANDER, barely 22. Even in his mid-50's, he still looks remarkably good for his age.  As Claire remarks, "Do you know, you haven't got a single gray hair below the neck?" (ECHO, chapter 8, "Spring Thaw")

Z - Zippers
, and other oddities of 20th-century life that Claire has had to explain to Jamie over the years.

Happy Birthday, Jamie, and Happy Beltane to all of you!

April poll results

Here are the results of the April poll:

Which of Diana Gabaldon's books are you currently reading or listening to?
  • 13.04% - I'm reading other things right now.
  • 11.73% - THE FIERY CROSS
  • 11.36% - DRAGONFLY IN AMBER
  • 10.80% - DRUMS OF AUTUMN
  • 10.43% - A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES
  • 10.24% - VOYAGER
  • 10.06% - AN ECHO IN THE BONE
  • 8.19% - THE SCOTTISH PRISONER
  • 7.26% - OUTLANDER / CROSS STITCH
  • 1.12% - One of the shorter pieces ("Leaf", "Custom", or "Zombies")
  • 0.93% - LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER
  • 0.74% - LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE
  • 0.37% - LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS
  • 0.37% - THE EXILE (graphic novel)
  • 3.35% - Other
I thought the responses for "Other" were interesting, particularly the people who said they were reading more than one of Diana's books simultaneously.
  • Reading everything again for the 4th time
  • Re-reading The Fiery Cross in concurrently with a library book
  • WOW reading the entire series for the first time! Will then begin to reread !!
  • excerpts
  • I have read all of diana's books and (im)patiently awaiting the nest one! I have
  • Outlander and Voyager depends on device I'm using
  • Finishing my 5th time through the whole series
  • Drums, zlj and the Private Matter, The Windup Gir, A Prayer for the Dying
  • I'm usually listening to one and reading one at the same time
  • reading something else but all these excerpts are making me crave to read them!
  • rereading all
  • Outlandish Companion
  • reading FC and ABOSA
  • Three at once!
  • LJBOB-kindle &Voyager iPod
  • Reading The Firey Cross again AND listening to Dragon Fly in Amber.
  • ABOSAA now, but went back into fave parts of Voyager this week. LOVE them all!
  • Reading ABOSAA and listening to Outlander.
There were 537 responses to this month's poll.  I didn't vote in it myself, but I was listening to ABOSAA for most of the month, and recently started listening to ECHO.

Thanks very much to everyone who participated!  Please take a moment to vote in the May poll, which asks the question, "Would you go through the stones, if you could?"