Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A TRAIL OF FIRE update from Poisoned Pen

If you've been thinking about ordering Diana Gabaldon's story collection, A TRAIL OF FIRE, in hardcover, please read this message from the Poisoned Pen bookstore, which Diana posted on her Facebook page this afternoon:
"We have bought out the remaining stock of A TRAIL OF FIRE from the UK publisher--so once these are gone, that's the end of the hardcover copies! Consider thinking ahead to Valentine's Day or Mother's/Father's Day..."
Here's the link to order a copy, while supplies last!

[UPDATE 1/31/2013 6:54 am:  Well, that didn't take long!  Diana posted this update on her Facebook page last night, from the manager of the Poisoned Pen:  "Trail of Fire is now sold out (thank you! That was fast!)"]
For those of you who don't know, the Poisoned Pen is Diana Gabaldon's local independent bookstore in Scottsdale, Arizona.  That's where I got my copy of TRAIL in November.  Their staff is very friendly and knowledgeable about the books, and they ship all over the world.

For more information about A TRAIL OF FIRE, see my FAQ page here. (Diana has said that TRAIL will eventually be published in the US, but probably not until sometime in 2014, owing to publishing rights restrictions.)

Neil Gaiman's "Entitlement Issues" post

Seeing some of the posts on Diana Gabaldon's Facebook page lately ("When is the next book coming out?"  "Write faster!"), I can't help thinking that some of these people would benefit from reading Neil Gaiman's blog post from May 12, 2009, called "Entitlement Issues".

Gaiman is talking about George R. R. Martin's fans, but many of the same things could be said about Diana Gabaldon's.  For example:
People are not machines. Writers and artists aren't machines.

You're complaining about George doing other things than writing the books you want to read as if your buying the first book in the series was a contract with him: that you would pay over your ten dollars, and George for his part would spend every waking hour until the series was done, writing the rest of the books for you.
Yes, the waiting is very hard, but we can't make Diana write any faster than she already does.  And she's entitled to have a life (including the occasional trip to Disneyland with her husband <g>), every bit as much as the rest of us are!

Here's Neil Gaiman again:
And if you are waiting for a new book in a long ongoing series, whether from George or from Pat Rothfuss or from someone else...

Wait. Read the original book again. Read something else. Get on with your life. Hope that the author is writing the book you want to read, and not dying, or something equally as dramatic. And if he paints the house, that's fine.
Think about this, the next time you wonder why it's taking Diana so long to finish WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD -- or the next time a day or two goes by without the usual #DailyLines on Facebook and Twitter.  Diana has said that the book will be out in Fall 2013, and I'm sure it will be worth the wait!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A full year of Friday Fun Facts!

One year ago today, I posted my very first Friday Fun Facts! Thanks VERY much to all of you who've commented on the FFF over the past year! I'm delighted, and very gratified, that something I started more or less on a whim a year ago has become so popular!

I plan to keep posting Friday Fun Facts as long as I find new and interesting things to talk about, so I don't expect to run out of ideas anytime soon. <g> Many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for putting these fascinating little tidbits in the books in the first place!

Here's a list of all of my Friday Fun Facts posts so far.

And here is the index of all the FFF topics.  If you have a suggestion for a future FFF post, by all means let me know!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 1/25/2013

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

1) Today is Robert Burns Day, and by way of celebration, I thought I'd take a closer look at something distinctively Scottish:  the traditional Highland dirk.  Here is an article describing the traditional Scottish dirk.  (Thanks to Jari Backman, who found this link for me a few years ago.)

Here's Rupert, teaching Claire the art of wielding a dirk:
“Now, here,” he said, pointing to the center, just under the breastbone, “is the spot to aim for, if ye’re killin’ face to face. Aim straight up and in, as hard as ye can. That’ll go into the heart, and it kills wi’in a minute or two. The only problem is to avoid the breastbone; it goes down lower than ye think, and if ye get yer knife stuck in that soft bit on the tip, it will hardly harm yer victim at all, but ye’ll be wi’out a knife, and he’ll ha’ you."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "Raiders in the Rocks". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I took the photo above, showing 18th-century dirks, pistol, and sgian dubh, at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh in July, 2012.  (Fascinating place, and definitely worth a visit if you're in Edinburgh!)  Click on the photo for a better view.

Lord Balmerino's Dirk

This is a dirk that belonged to Lord Balmerino, who was executed in 1746 for his part in the Jacobite Rising.  (Photo credit: East Ayrshire Museums and Galleries)  You may remember Balmerino, who appeared briefly in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER.  This particular dirk eventually came into the possession of Robert Burns, so I thought it was appropriate to post today. <g>

2) This is a great blue heron, like the one William saw in ECHO.  (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)
A sudden movement sent him lunging sideways, hand reaching for his pistol. He barely remembered that the pistol was gone, before realizing that his adversary was a great blue heron, which eyed him with a yellow glare before launching itself skyward in a clatter of affront. A cry of alarm came from the bushes, no more than ten feet away, together with the boom of a musket, and the heron exploded in a shower of feathers, directly over his head. He felt drops of the bird’s blood, much warmer than the cold sweat on his face, and sat down very suddenly, black spots dizzy before his eyes.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Long Island". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about the great blue heron, look here.

3) This is what cinchona bark looks like.  Cinchona has been used for centuries as a treatment for malaria.  According to Wikipedia,
According to legend, the first European ever to be cured from malaria fever was the countess of Chinchón, the wife of the Spanish Luis Jerónimo de Cabrera, 4th Count of Chinchón - the Viceroy of Peru. The namesake Chinchón is a small town in central Spain. In the Viceroyalty of Peru, the court physician was summoned and urged to save the countess from the waves of fever and chill threatening her life, but every effort failed to relieve her. At last, the physician administered some medicine he had obtained from the local Indians, who had been using it for similar syndromes. The countess survived the malarial attack and reportedly brought the cinchona bark back with her when she returned to Europe in the 1640s.

Cinchona bark -- sometimes called Jesuit bark -- contains quinine, which remained the antimalarial drug of choice until the 1940s, when other drugs with less unpleasant side effects replaced it.
[Lizzie] was still shockingly thin, but the nasty yellow tinge of jaundice was fading from her skin, and her eyes were nearly white again. I cupped my fingers gently under her jaw; lymph glands only slightly swollen--that was better, too.

“Feeling all right?” I asked. She smiled shyly, and nodded. It was the first time she had been outside the cabin since her arrival with Ian three weeks before; she was still wobbly as a new calf. Frequent infusions of Jesuit bark had helped, though; she had had no fresh attacks of fever in the last week, and I had hopes of clearing up the liver involvement in short order.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Whisky in the Jar". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


4) I had never heard of oast houses until I read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER. The photo above shows the oast houses at Sissinghurst, Kent, England.  (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)
Athlone Castle was black and squat. It reminded Grey vaguely of an oasthouse, those cone-shaped structures in Kent where hops were dried. Much bigger, though.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Castle Athlone". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article about oast houses in England. According to this site,
The distinctive conical roof of the oast is necessary to create a good draught for the fire. The odd projections at the peak of the roof are cowls which can be pivoted to create just the right airflow for the kiln fire to draw properly.
Have any of you ever seen one of these?

5) Finally, in honor of Robert Burns Day, here's the quote that led Roger to pinpoint Jamie's exact location in the past.  It comes from the final stanza of a poem called "The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer", which Robert Burns wrote in 1786.
Scotland, my auld, respected mither!
Tho' whiles ye moistify your leather,
Till, whare ye sit on craps o' heather,
Ye tine your dam;
Freedom an' whisky gang thegither!
Take aff your dram!
As Roger explained to Claire:
"Here it is”--his racing finger stopped suddenly on a phrase-- “‘for as has been known for ages past, “Freedom and Whisky gang tegither.” ’ See how he’s put that Scottish dialect phrase in quotes? He got it from somewhere else.”

“He got it from me,” I said softly. “I told him that--when he was setting out to steal Prince Charles’s port.”

“I remembered.” Roger nodded, eyes shining with excitement. “But it’s a quote from Burns,” I said, frowning suddenly. “Perhaps the writer got it there--wasn’t Burns alive then?"

"He was," said Bree smugly, forestalling Roger. "But Robert Burns was six years old in 1765."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Q.E.D.". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The poet would be 254 years old today. <g> Happy Burns Day to all of you!

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, January 23, 2013

I'm going to see Diana in April!

I just got my plane tickets for my trip to see Diana Gabaldon at her book-signing in Fairfax, VA, on April 12, 2013!

We don't have a lot of details yet, but the following information was provided by Diana's assistant, Susan (aka "Herself's Elf") on Facebook yesterday:
Save the date! Special appearance and public signing for New York Times Bestselling author.........Diana Gabaldon!
When: 7:30 pm Friday evening, April 12, 2013
Where: Stacy C. Sherwood Center (near GMU)
Fairfax, VA (near Washington D.C.)

Additional information will be available soon through the Fairfax County Public Library - Facebook and regular webpages.
UPDATE 1/23/2013 6:27 pm:  Registration for the event opens on Feb. 15 at 10 am.  Look here for details.

The weekend of April 13-14 happens to coincide with the end of the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC.  I plan to do some sightseeing in Washington on that Saturday with my brother and my sister-in-law.  (I will be staying at my brother's house in Maryland.)

I know that there's a group of fans from My Outlander Purgatory who are making plans to be at this event on April 12.  What about the rest of you?  If you're planning to be there, post a comment here and let me know!

I'm really looking forward to this.  It will be my third time meeting Diana in person, and the first opportunity we've had to see each other since 2010. (The photo above is from my first meeting with Diana, in 2009.)

Hope to see some of you there!

Monday, January 21, 2013

January 21st

I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't think of today's date without remembering the newspaper clipping about the fire that was supposed to take place on January 21, 1776.
January 21 was the coldest day of the year. Snow had fallen a few days before, but now the air was like cut crystal, the dawn sky so pale it looked white, and the packed snow chirped like crickets under our boots. Snow, snow-shrouded trees, the icicles that hung from the eaves of the house--the whole world seemed blue with cold. All of the stock had been put up the night before in stable or barn, with the exception of the white sow, who appeared to be hibernating under the house.

I peered dubiously at the small, melted hole in the crust of snow that marked the sow’s entrance; long, stertorous snores were audible inside, and a faint warmth emanated from the hole.

“Come along, mo nighean. Yon creature wouldna notice if the house fell down atop her.” Jamie had come down from feeding the animals in the stable, and was hovering impatiently behind me, chafing his hands in the big blue mittens Bree had knitted for him.

“What, not even if it was on fire?” I said, thinking of Lamb’s “Essay on Roast Pork.” But I turned obligingly to follow him down the trampled path past the side of the house, then slowly, slipping on the icy patches, across the wide clearing toward Bree and Roger’s cabin.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 111, "January Twenty-First". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This picture shows a cabin built around 1820 near Grandfather Mountain, NC (very close to where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located). I think this might look something like Bree and Roger's cabin, perhaps?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 1/18/2013

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

1) This is a portrait of Dr. Benjamin Rush (1746-1813), painted by Charles Willson Peale in 1783, only a few years after Lord John's meeting with Rush in ECHO:
Word spread through the people round them that Grey was a friend of Franklin’s, and he was much hailed in consequence, eventually being conveyed by insensible degrees through the crowd until he found himself face-to-face with Benjamin Rush.

It wasn’t the first time Grey had been in close proximity to a criminal, and he kept his composure. This was plainly not the time to lay his nephew’s situation before Rush, and Grey contented himself with shaking the young doctor by the hand and mentioning his connection with Franklin. Rush was most cordial, and shouted over the noise that Grey must come to call at his house when they both should be at leisure, perhaps in the morning.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 58, "Independence Day". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
Dr. Rush was a prominent physician, and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  In 1803, he provided medical supplies for the Lewis and Clark expedition.  According to Wikipedia, these included
fifty dozen of Dr. Rush's Bilious Pills, laxatives containing more than 50% mercury, which the corps called "thunderclappers". Their meat-rich diet and lack of clean water during the expedition gave the men cause to use them frequently. Though their efficacy is questionable, their high mercury content provided an excellent tracer by which archaeologists have been able to track the corps' actual route to the Pacific.
I wonder if Claire encountered him during her time in Philadelphia?

2) This is a Kewpie doll from the 1960's.  Look here for a better view.
He lifted the blanket slightly, exposing tiny Joan’s sleeping face, and smiled--as people always did--at sight of her comical quiff of brown hair, which came to a point like a Kewpie doll’s.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "Happy the Bride the Sun Shines On". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
From Wikipedia:
Their name, often shortened to "Kewpies", is derived from "cupid", the Roman god of beauty and – as Eros is the Greek version of Cupid – erotic love. The early dolls, especially signed or bisque, are highly collectible and worth thousands of dollars. The time capsule at the 1939 New York World's Fair contained a Kewpie doll.
Here's an article about the history of Kewpie dolls.  I had no idea they'd been around for 100 years!

3) This photo shows a fossilized tooth of a cave bear from the Carpathian Mountain caves near Brasso, Romania.  I think it's similar to the one Father Michael showed Jamie in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
He plucked a discolored chunk of what looked like ivory out of the clutter on the shelf and put it into Jamie's hand. It proved to be an enormous tooth, long and curving to a blunt point.

"Recognize that, do you?"

"It"s the tooth of something verra large that eats flesh, Father," Jamie said, smiling slightly. "But I couldna tell ye is it a lion or a bear, having not had the advantage of bein' bitten by either one. Yet," he added, with a discreet sign against evil. "But as I havena heard that there are lions in Germany..."

The abbot laughed.

"Most observant, mo mhic, a bear is just what it is. A cave bear."

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Quagmire". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is a reconstruction of what a cave bear might have looked like.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  They were comparable in size to the largest modern-day bears.  According to Wikipedia,
The cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) was a species of bear that lived in Europe during the Pleistocene and became extinct at the beginning of the Last Glacial Maximum, about 27,500 years ago.
Many cave bear fossils have been found in caves in Central Europe, so it's plausible that Lawrence Stern would have encountered them during his travels.

4) This photo shows what a smallpox vaccination scar looks like.  I never had a smallpox vaccination, and so I was baffled when I first read the scene in OUTLANDER where Claire sees Geillis Duncan's scar:
For I hadn’t stood frozen at the revelation of Geilie’s pregnancy. It was something else I had seen that chilled me to the marrow of my bones. As Geilie had spun, white arms stretched aloft, I saw what she had seen when my own clothes were stripped away. A mark on one arm like the one I bore. Here, in this time, the mark of sorcery, the mark of a magus. The small, homely scar of a smallpox vaccination.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Smallpox was highly contagious and often fatal.  According to Wikipedia,
Transmission occurs through inhalation of airborne variola virus, usually droplets expressed from the oral, nasal, or pharyngeal mucosa of an infected person. It is transmitted from one person to another primarily through prolonged face-to-face contact with an infected person, usually within a distance of 6 feet (1.8 m), but can also be spread through direct contact with infected bodily fluids or contaminated objects such as bedding or clothing.
No wonder the sailors aboard the Gloriana were so alarmed at the thought that smallpox had broken out on board ship!

The photo above (from the CDC) shows an infant covered with smallpox lesions. When I look at this picture, I can't help thinking of the baby infected with the disease who was tossed overboard in DRUMS, or Jamie's elder brother Willie, who died of smallpox at the age of eleven.  Not to mention the many millions of real people who died throughout history from smallpox. I'm glad we live in a time when this horrible disease has been eradicated!

5) The photos above show a couple of different species of grasshoppers found in North Carolina.  Look here for more pictures.
I shuddered in memory. A cloud of the nasty goggle-eyed things had come whirring through, just at the end of the barley harvest. I’d gone up to my garden to pick greens, only to discover said greens seething with wedge-shaped bodies and shuffling, clawed feet, my lettuces and cabbages gnawed to ragged nubbins and the morning-glory vine on the palisade hanging in shreds.

“I ran and got Mrs. Bug and Lizzie, and we drove them off with brooms—but then they all rose up in a big cloud and headed up through the wood to the field beyond the Green Spring. They settled in the barley; you could hear the chewing for miles. It sounded like giants walking through rice.” Goosebumps of revulsion rose on my shoulders, and Jamie rubbed my skin absently, his hand large and warm.

“Mmphm. Was it only the one field they got, then?”

“Oh, yes.” I took a deep breath, still smelling the smoke. “We torched the field, and burnt them alive."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "Le Mot Juste". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a video of a grasshopper-infested field.  After watching this, I don't blame Claire one bit for being furious enough to torch an entire barley field full of them!

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, January 15, 2013

ABOSAA unabridged audiobook available in the UK!

Great news for those of you in the UK who listen to the OUTLANDER audiobooks!  I just found out that Diana Gabaldon's A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES is finally available for download in UNABRIDGED format on  (Thanks to Bev Philip on Diana's Facebook page for letting us know!)

ABOSAA Unabridged Audio 

Click on the image above, or go here, to download it from Audible UK.  Before you download, make sure you are looking at the UNABRIDGED version (narrated by Davina Porter, 57.25 hours running time), and NOT the abridged version narrated by Geraldine James.  (If you live in the US, you can download it here.)

I'm delighted to hear that it's finally available in the UK! Davina Porter does a wonderful job with this audiobook, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

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

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Diana Gabaldon's public appearances in 2013

Diana Gabaldon's website has been updated with details of her public appearances for 2013!

Please note:

1) Anything on this list is subject to change.

2) Additional appearances might be added to the list later.  For example, I'm sure Diana plans to attend the Surrey International Writers Conference in October -- she goes there every year -- but it's not yet on the list. [UPDATE 1/15/2013 7:50 am: Diana has confirmed that she's planning to be at Surrey this year, and she says the page will be updated soon to add that information.]

3) We have no details as yet about Diana's possible book-tour schedule in the fall when WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD is released.

I'm intrigued by the possibilities of her April 12 visit to Fairfax, VA.  That's less than an hour's drive from my brother's house in Maryland, and it's a Friday, so it would work out nicely if I flew up there for a long weekend or something.  I'll talk to my brother and my sister-in-law and see what can be arranged.  Keep your fingers crossed!  <g>  If it works out, that would be my third time meeting Diana in person. 

[EDIT to add: my brother said, "Sounds good! I'll put it on my calendar."  So it looks like I'll be going to the event in Fairfax.  I'm very excited, even though it's still three months away.]

Keep watching Diana's website for the latest updates.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 1/11/2013

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

1) As many of you know, today, January 11, is Diana Gabaldon's birthday!  (She's 61 today.)  So I thought I'd devote one of this week's Friday Fun Facts to a minor aspect of Diana's writing style that I like a great deal.

Here's Roger and Bree in ECHO, reading one of Claire's letters.
“It’s okay,” he said, turning to kiss her cheek. “It’s your mum, and she’s in an especially parenthetical mood. She doesn’t normally do that unless she’s feeling happy.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Psalms, 30". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Diana loves parentheses, and has been known to nest them three levels deep, in posts on Compuserve -- which never fails to make me laugh.  Look here for a particularly entertaining example of what I mean.  You'll see her do this in blog posts from time to time, too.

Diana, if you're reading this, I hope you have a wonderful birthday! <g>

0390 Smokehouse Img_5720

2) The photo above shows a smokehouse at the Schiele Museum of Natural History in Gastonia, NC. (Click on the photo for a bigger view.  Photo credit: DJEPS on Flickr.)  I think it looks very much like the one Jamie built just after they settled on the Ridge.
"What’s the shed for?”

“Meat,” he said. “We’ll dig a shallow pit at the back, and fill it wi’ embers, to smoke what we can for keeping. And make a rack for drying--Ian’s seen the Indians do it, to make what they call jerky. We must have a safe place where beasts canna get at our food.”

This seemed a sound idea; particularly in view of the sort of beasts in the area. My only doubts were regarding the smoking. I’d seen it done in Scotland, and knew that smoking meat required a certain amount of attention; someone had to be at hand to keep the fire from burning too high or going out altogether, had to turn the meat regularly, and baste it with fat to avoid scorching and drying.

I had no difficulty in seeing who was going to be nominated for this task. The only trouble was that if I didn’t manage to do it right, we’d all die of ptomaine poisoning.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Hearth Blessing". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The diagram above shows the design of a typical 18th-century American smokehouse.

This is the interior of a smokehouse built in 1810, located at the Genesee Country Museum Pioneer Farmstead in Mumford, NY. Click on the photo to see a bigger view.

For more about smokehouses, look here.

3) The photo above shows the Tower of London, as seen from the Thames. (Click on the photo for a bigger view.)  Here's Jamie's reaction to seeing the Tower for the first time, in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
There it was. He gasped, couldn’t help it, though it made all the soldiers look at him, conversation interrupted.

It had to be. He knew the look of a prison well enough. Huge round towers set in a grim high wall, and the filthy brown water of a broad river flowing past, flowing under an iron-barred gate. The Traitors’ Gate? He’d heard of it.

All of them were grinning at him, maliciously enjoying his shock. He swallowed hard and tensed his belly muscles. They wouldn’t see him cower. His pride was all he had left--but he had enough of that.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "When a Man is Tired of London, He is Tired of Life". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

According to Wikipedia,
The name Traitors' Gate has been used since the early seventeenth century. Prisoners were brought by barge along the Thames, passing under London Bridge, where the heads of recently executed prisoners were displayed on pikes. Queen Anne Boleyn, Saint Sir Thomas More, Queen Catherine Howard, all entered the Tower by Traitors' Gate.
I've never been to London, but if I ever get the chance to go, the Tower is one place I'd like to see.

4) The Mischianza described near the end of AN ECHO IN THE BONE was a real historical event.  The picture above shows one of the tickets issued to guests attending the event on May 18, 1778.  The Latin phrase at the top, "Luceo discedens aucto splendore resurgam", means "I descend in light, and shall rise again in splendor", according to this site.
It had been quite a long time since I’d seen a gilded roast peacock, and I hadn’t really expected to see another. Certainly not in Philadelphia. Not that I should have been surprised, I thought, leaning closer to look--yes, it did have eyes made of diamonds. Not after the regatta on the Delaware, the three bands of musicians carried on barges, and the seventeen-gun salute from the warships on the river.

The evening had been billed as a “mischianza.” The word means “medley” in Italian--I was told--and in the current instance appeared to have been interpreted so as to allow the more creative souls in the British army and the Loyalist community free rein in the production of a gala celebration to honor General Howe, who had resigned as commander in chief, to be replaced by Sir Henry Clinton.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 98, "Mischianza". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here is a detailed account of the Mischianza written by one of its organizers, Major John André, whom you may recall from ECHO.

5) Remember the story Jamie told Brianna while she was in labor, about Habetrot the spinstress?
"Aye, well. It happened that in an old farmhouse that stood by the river, there lived a fair maid called Maisie. She’d red hair and blue een, and was the bonniest maid in all the valley. But she had no husband, because…” He stopped, appalled. I glared at him.

He coughed and went on, plainly not knowing what else to do. “Ah…because in those days men were sensible, and instead of looking for lovely lasses to be their brides, they looked out for girls who could cook and spin, who might make notable housewives. But Maisie…”

Brianna made a deep inhuman noise. Jamie clenched his teeth for a moment, but went on, holding tight to both her hands.

“But Maisie loved the light in the fields and the birds of the glen..."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 64, "Bottom of the Ninth". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I had never heard of this folk tale until I read DRUMS. You can see one version of the story 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, January 10, 2013

Help celebrate Diana's birthday!

Diana Gabaldon's birthday is Friday, January 11th.  (She's turning 61 this year.)  Those of you who are on Twitter can help celebrate by tagging your tweets on Friday with #HappyBdayDG.

This is the third year in a row that we've done this.  Let's see how many people we can get to participate this time! You can address your tweets to Diana directly if you want -- she uses the id Writer_DG.

If you're not on Twitter, you can leave birthday wishes on Compuserve or on Diana Gabaldon's Facebook page.  Thanks!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Reminder about the FFF Index

I've had a few suggestions lately for possible Friday Fun Facts (FFF) topics.  I appreciate all the ideas, and I'll use as many of them as I can!  But before you send me a suggestion for a future FFF post, please take a few minutes to check the index of all the items that have been mentioned in the Friday Fun Facts so far.

There are 235 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.  (I certainly don't have them all memorized!  I keep a master list on a spreadsheet.)

The index is here.  It's organized by book, with links that will take you to the specific post where the topic is mentioned.  For example, if you want to know if Friesian horses have ever been mentioned in the Friday Fun Facts, just use your browser's "search" function to check the index page for the word "Friesian", and you'll find "Friesian horses" listed under the FIERY CROSS section, with a link that takes you to the FFF post from May 4, 2012, where I talked about them.

I hope you find this index helpful.  And once again, THANK YOU to all of you who've been enjoying the Friday Fun Facts!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

REPOST: "Downton Abbey" and OUTLANDER

With the long-awaited premiere of Season 3 of "Downton Abbey" on PBS tonight, I thought some of you might be interested in this post that I wrote last year, about some interesting parallels in several of the storylines between "Downton Abbey" and the OUTLANDER books.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

Spoilers for Season 2 of "Downton Abbey" below.

If you're sensitive to spoilers, don't read below unless you have seen Episode 6 of "Downton Abbey" Season 2.









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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think these two women, with their powerful personalities, have a lot in common.  But I have to say, I much prefer the Dowager Countess's sense of humor and way with words. <g>

7) And finally, because I can't help thinking of this every time I lay eyes on the man:  Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley, looks very much like my mental image of a young Lord John, possibly as he looked around the time of BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE or SCOTTISH PRISONER. What do you think?


I'm very much looking forward to the new season of "Downton Abbey"!  It should be fun. <g>

Friday, January 4, 2013

New blog post from Diana

Diana Gabaldon has posted her annual "State of the Wicket" blog post.  In her words,
This is a quick run-down of everything I know about that y’all might possibly want to know about. [g]
Please take the time to read the whole thing, and pass the link on to anyone else you know who may be interested.  Thanks!

Friday Fun Facts - 1/4/2013

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

1) This is an example of an Aubusson rug from the second half of the 18th century.  (Photo is from Christie's, the auction house.)  Here is a close-up view.  It may not be exactly the same as the one described in OUTLANDER, but I think it's similar.
In the main drawing room of Eldridge Manor, MacRannoch’s home, Hector humped his burden onto the rug before the fire. Seizing one corner of the blanket, he unrolled it carefully, and a limp, naked figure flopped out onto the pink and yellow flowers of Lady Annabelle MacRannoch’s pride and joy.

To do the Lady Annabelle credit, she didn’t seem to notice the blood soaking into her expensive Aubusson rug. A birdlike woman in her early forties, arrayed like a goldfinch in a sunburst of yellow silk dressing gown, she had servants bustling in all directions with a brisk clap of her hands, and blankets, linen, hot water, and whisky appeared at my elbow almost before I had got my cloak off.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "MacRannoch". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
You can see more pictures of Aubusson rugs here.

2) The photo above shows a plant known as water-pepper (Persicaria hydropiper or Polygonum hydropiper).  It was one of the plants included in Nayawenne's amulet, as Claire explained to Bree:
"Bayberry, balsam fir, wild ginger, and Arsesmart,” she said, sniffing like a truffle-hound. “Bit of sage, too, I think.”

“Arsesmart? Is that a comment on what she thought of you?” In spite of her distress, Brianna laughed.

“Ha bloody ha,” her mother replied tartly, dusting the little heap of dried plant matter onto the table with the bones. “Otherwise known as water-pepper. It’s a rather irritating little thing that grows near brooks--gives you blisters and smarts the eyes--or other things, I imagine, if you happen to carelessly sit on it."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 78, "No Small Thing". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
You may recall that shortly after they met in OUTLANDER, Claire advised Ian to use water-pepper to treat irritation of his leg-stump.  So she's evidently known about it for a very long time.

According to this site,
The leaves are anti-inflammatory, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulant, stomachic, styptic. They contain rutin, which helps strengthen fragile capillaries and thus helps prevent bleeding. Use with caution. The seed is carminative, diuretic and stimulant. The whole plant, either on its own or mixed with other herbs, is decocted and used in the treatment of a wide range of ailments including diarrhoea, dyspepsia, itching skin, excessive menstrual bleeding and haemorrhoids. A poultice of the plant is used in treating swollen and inflamed areas.
For more information about the medicinal properties of water-pepper, look here and here.


3) The photo above shows a beaver (Castor canadensis).  Photo credit: Blackcat Photography, on Flickr.
“He’s no hurt, is he?” Ian asked, frowning at his dog.

She glared at him.

“No, he isn’t. I expect he’s embarrassed. You could ask whether I’m hurt. Do you have any idea what kind of teeth beavers have?”

The light was nearly gone, but she could see his lean shoulders shaking.

“Aye,” he said, sounding rather strangled. “I have. They, um, didna bite ye, did they? I mean--I should think it would be noticeable, if ye’d been gnawed."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 69, "A Stampede of Beavers". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a short video about beavers. You can see more beaver facts and photos here.

4) The photos above show what grapeshot looks like.  From Wikipedia:
In artillery, a grapeshot is a type of shot that is not one solid element, but a mass of small metal balls or slugs packed tightly into a canvas bag. It was used both in land and naval warfare. When assembled, the balls resembled a cluster of grapes, hence the name. On firing, the balls spread out from the muzzle, giving an effect similar to a giant shotgun.

Grapeshot was devastatingly effective against massed infantry at short range. It was used to savage massed infantry charges quickly. Cannons would fire solid shot to attack enemy artillery and troops at longer range and switch to grape when they or nearby troops were charged. 
That's how Ian the elder lost his leg, as Jamie recalls:
"God, he could run like the wind.” A tinge of sadness crossed his face, his memory of the fleet-footed friend of his youth clashing with more recent memories of his brother-in-law, hobbling stiffly, if good-naturedly, on the wooden leg a round of grapeshot taken in a foreign battle had left him with.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "Royal Audience". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
It sounds like a very effective weapon!

5) Many of you will remember the song that Ian was so fond of in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.  It's an old Scottish ballad called "Eppie Morrie".
"...And put a pistol to his breest, his breest,” Young Ian chanted, “Marry me, marry me, minister, or else I’ll be your priest, your priest--or else I’ll be your priest!”

“Of course,” Roger said, dropping the song, in which a bold young man named Willie rides with his friends to abduct and forcibly marry a young woman who proves bolder yet, “we’ll hope ye prove a wee bit more capable than Willie upon the night, aye, Joseph?”

Mr. Wemyss, scrubbed, dressed, and fairly vibrating with excitement, gave him a glance of complete incomprehension. Roger grinned, tightening the strap of his saddlebag.

“Young Willie obliges a minister to marry him to the young woman at gunpoint,” he explained to Mr. Wemyss, “but then, when he takes his stolen bride to bed, she’ll have none of him--and his best efforts will not avail to force her.”

“And so return me, Willie, to my hame, as virgin as I came, I came--as virgin as I came!” Ian caroled.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 85, "The Stolen Bride". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
The video above features Karan Casey singing "Eppie Morrie".  You can see the lyrics 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, January 1, 2013

Poll results

Here are the results of the December poll:

What is your favorite gift from Diana Gabaldon's books?
  • 24.92% - Claire's silver wedding ring
  • 12.04% - The medicine box Jamie gave Claire for their anniversary
  • 11.71% - Adso the kitten
  • 11.37% - Fergus's last name
  • 10.37% - The cherrywood snake Jamie's brother made for him
  • 10.20% - The pearl necklace Jamie gave Claire on their wedding day.
  • 5.18% - The poison ivy bouquet
  • 3.85% - Hugh Munro's dragonfly in amber
  • 3.51% - The rosary Jamie gave Willie as a farewell gift
  • 1.34% - The boar's-tusk bracelets
  • 1.00% - The dachshund puppy Stephan gave to Lord John
  • 0.84% - The sapphire ring Lord John got from his first lover, Hector
  • 0.84% - Brianna's bracelet
  • 2.84% - Other
Here are the results for "Other":
  • ALL of the above!!!!!
  • The skin of the Wolf she killed
  • Claire's ring, posion ivy bouquet, cherrywood snake, adso, thr medicine box
  • The photos of Bree that Claire brought Jamie and the miniature that LJG gave Jam
  • Claire's wedding ring, after she finds the enscription
  • the medecine box Lord John gave Claire
  • The medicine box (Jaime GETS Claire), and Adso (so sweet!).
  • All of the above. :)
  • The "J" on her palm...he's marked her for life and it sustained her for 20 years
  • Brianna. The gift Jamie gave to Claire who gave her back to Jamie..
  • This time I can't pick - all are heartfelt and special.
  • Too many have such special meaning to the story that I can't choose
  • Just can't chose one...they are all meaningful!!
  • the rosary Jamie gave Willie AND Claire's silver wedding ring !
  • Can't choose between Claire's wedding ring and Fergus's last name!
  • I can't choose just one, all are special in their own way!
There were 598 votes in this poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!  I didn't vote in the poll, but I would have chosen Claire's ring as my favorite.

Please take a moment to vote in this month's poll, which is all about how you discovered Diana Gabaldon's books.  Thanks, and Happy New Year to all of you!