Wednesday, February 27, 2013

MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE e-book on sale for $1.99!

The e-book edition of THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION (that's the anthology containing Diana Gabaldon's story, "The Space Between") is on sale for only $1.99!  That's 80% off the regular price of $9.99.

Nook edition

Kindle edition

I don't know how long this sale price will last, so grab it while you can!

(I don't think this offer applies to people outside the US, but I could be wrong.)

For those of you who are wondering, "The Space Between" is a novella (about 40,000 words) about Young Ian's brother Michael, Marsali's sister Joan, and the Comte St. Germain. It's the same story that was published last November in A TRAIL OF FIRE in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand, but it's only recently been published in the US for the first time.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Release date rumors

Diana Gabaldon posted the following messages on Twitter last night, in response to several people who were under the impression that Book 8 of the OUTLANDER series (WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD) will be out in December. 
"Hey! They just make these dates up, you know. NO official pub date set as yet."

"That was news to me. Random House assured me the date is "still fluid," which is a Good Thing, as I'm not done _writing_ the book."
In other words, the December 10, 2013, date that has been floating around cyberspace for the last few days is NOT ACCURATE!  And neither is the 26 September 2013 date listed on  (Diana has complained for many years that Amazon just makes up dates.)

Until a date shows up on the Random House website (Diana's US publisher), and/or Diana confirms it personally on Compuserve, Facebook, and Twitter, all of these rumored release dates are just that, rumors, and not the real date.

We are still hoping for a Fall 2013 release for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, but nothing is set in stone at this point.  If and when there is any news about an official release date, I'll post here as soon as I find out.  Check my Release Dates FAQ for the most current information.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 2/22/2013

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

1) Did you ever wonder why Stephen Bonnet's ship in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES was called the Anemone? The term "anemone" can refer to a type of flower, or a marine animal, but I think Bonnet's ship is named for the latter.

The pictures above show several different species of sea anemones (scientific name: Actiniaria).  Click on the photos to enlarge them.  According to Wikipedia, sea anemones are "a group of water-dwelling, predatory animals" that use venom to catch fish and crustaceans.
They had no trouble in finding persons familiar with Anemone and her captain. Stephen Bonnet was well-known on the Edenton docks, though his reputation varied, depending on his associations. An honest captain was the usual opinion, but hard in his dealings. A blockade runner, a smuggler, said others--and whether that was good or bad depended on the politics of the person saying it. He’d get you anything, they said--for a price.

Pirate, said a few. But those few spoke in low tones, looking frequently over their shoulders, and strongly desired not to be quoted.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 105, "The Prodigal". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Water-dwelling?  Yes, that certainly fits Stephen Bonnet, the infamous pirate.  Predatory?  Definitely!  Venomous?  I wouldn't argue with that, especially when you consider what he did not only to Brianna, but to Marsden, the man he blinded following a duel in FIERY CROSS.

Look here for more photos of sea anemones.  I think they're beautiful and exotic-looking -- but dangerous!

2) The photo above shows a small prehistoric stone carving known as the Venus of Willendorf.  It seems very similar to the small fertility charm Mrs. Bug gave to Claire in THE FIERY CROSS:
It was a small chunk of stone, pale pink in color, and veined with gray, badly weathered. It had been crudely carved into the shape of a pregnant woman, little more than a huge belly, with swollen breasts and buttocks above a pair of stubby legs that tapered to nothing.  I had seen such figures before--in museums. Had Johnnie Howlat made it himself? Or perhaps found it in his pokings through wood and moor, a remnant of much more ancient times?

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to Wikipedia, the Venus of Willendorf and similar carvings are more than 20,000 years old.

Here's a short video with more information about the Venus of Willendorf.

3) The practice of tarring-and-feathering people in America dates back to at least 1766, but it became increasingly popular during the 1770s. The Bostonians Paying the Excise-Man (pictured above) is a British propaganda print from 1774 that depicts the tarring and feathering of Boston Commissioner of Customs John Malcolm.
"I wouldna have a lawyer up my backside at all,” Jamie was shouting happily, poking at Forbes with his broom. “He’d steal your shite and charge ye for a clyster!”

Forbes’s mouth opened, and his face went purple. He backed up a step, and seemed to be shouting back, but no one could hear his response, drowned as it was by the roar of laughter from the crowd.

“And then he’d sell it back to ye for night soil!” Jamie bellowed, the instant he could be heard. Neatly reversing his broom, he jabbed Forbes in the belly with the handle.

The crowd whooped in glee, and Forbes, no kind of a fighter, lost his head and charged Jamie, his own broom held like a shovel. Jamie, who had quite obviously been waiting for some such injudicious move, stepped aside like a dancer, tripped Forbes, and smacked him across the shoulders with the tar-smeared broom, sending him sprawling into the cooling tar puddle, to the raucous delight of the whole street.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 56, "Tar and Feathers". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an essay on the history of tar and feathers in America, by Benjamin H. Irvin of Brandeis University.

4) This is a Scottish deerhound, similar to Jamie's dog, Bran.
[Jamie] scratched the pricked ears, quoting
"Thus Fingal chose his hounds
Eye like sloe, ear like leaf,
Chest like horse, hough like sickle
And the tail joint far from the head."
"If those are the qualifications, then you're right," I said, inspecting Bran. "If his tail joint were any further from his head, you could ride him."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "The Laird's Return". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article about deerhounds.  "Gentle and very friendly....good around the kids."  Yeah, that seems right, based on the way Jamie describes them. <g>

(Note to nitpickers: These dogs are referred to in OUTLANDER by the term "staghound", but perhaps that's an archaic name for the breed or something?  Everything I could find online indicates they're called Scottish deerhounds.)

You may remember this Scottish deerhound named Hickory, who won Best in Show at the 2011 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

5) Here's the version of "Clementine" that I grew up listening to, performed by the Weavers.  This album was released in the 1950s, so I like to think that both Claire and Bree would be familiar with this version.
Light she was, and like a fairy—” He groped for the words to the song.


AND HER SHOES WERE NUMBER NINE!” Roger abruptly raised the volume, causing startled silence both inside the tent and outside, in the kitchen. He cleared his throat and lowered his voice back to lullaby level.

“Erm...Herring boxes without topses...Sandals were for Clementine. Oh, my darling, oh, my darling, oh, my darling Clementine...Thou art lost, and gone for-ev-er, oh, my dar-ling...Clementine.”

The singing seemed to be having an effect. Jemmy’s eyelids had dropped to half-mast. He put a thumb in his mouth and began to suck, but plainly couldn’t breathe through his clogged nose. Roger gently pulled the thumb away, and held the little fist enclosed in his own. It was wet and sticky, and very small, but felt reassuringly sturdy.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 47, "The Lists of Venus". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Listening to this bit in FIERY CROSS the other day, I had tears in my eyes, thinking how sad it was that this might have been one of the last times Roger ever sang to Jemmy before the hanging.

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! 

Sunday, February 17, 2013


THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION (the anthology that contains Diana Gabaldon's story, "The Space Between") will be published in the US on Tuesday, February 19.

For those of you who don't know, "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!)

This story is the same one that was published last November in the UK, Australia, and New Zealand as part of A TRAIL OF FIRE, but it hasn't been widely available in the US until now.

So I was just wondering.....

a) How many of you have pre-ordered the book (in any format, including Kindle, Nook, or other e-book), or are planning to?

b) How many of you are planning to buy it on or after the release date?

c) If you are planning to buy the book, have you already read "The Space Between"?

I personally am not going to pre-order this one, since I already have A TRAIL OF FIRE.  But I'll certainly take a look at it in the bookstore.

I'm looking forward to seeing more people's reactions to "The Space Between"!  I hope those of you who are waiting for THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION in order to read the story will post your reactions here (or on Compuserve, or on Diana Gabaldon's Facebook page) after you've read it.

It's a wonderful story, with lots of potential for speculation!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 2/15/2013

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

1) Sedan chairs were widely used as a means of transportation for wealthy people in the 18th century.  The photo above shows an example of a sedan chair from the collection of the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC.  (Click on the photo for a bigger view.)  This particular sedan chair dates from the 1770s and was created by Robert Adam, the famous Scottish architect.
George Grenville had come in a sedan chair, and his bearers were waiting on the embankment. Grenville generously put these at Hal’s service, and he was taken off at the trot for Argus House, nearly insensible. Grey took leave of his friends as soon as he decently could and made his own way home on foot.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Succession". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
According to this site,
Sedan chairs for hire were common in London. Chairmen wore a uniform, were licensed to carry passengers, and had to display a number, like today’s taxi drivers. Three hundred chair permits were issued in London and Westminster in the early 1700′s. A similar system was later used in Scotland, where a fare system was established in 1738. A trip within a city cost six pence and a day’s rental was four shillings.
You may recall Rab MacNab, who worked as a chairman in London in LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.

2) The photo above shows what a thrush looks like.
"Thrush, is it, they call ye?” Mrs. Bug paused in her tonsorial activity, holding up a strand of glossy black and squinting suspiciously at it, as though in search of vermin.

“Oh, aye, but it’s no for the color of his bonnie black locks,” Duncan put in, grinning at Roger’s obvious discomfiture. “It’s for the singin’. Honey-throated as a wee nightingale, is Roger Mac."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "The Factor". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a video of what a wood thrush sounds like.  These birds are common to North America, but there are other varieties of thrushes found across the UK and Europe.  They certainly make a very pleasant sound!  It's a fitting nickname for Roger.

3) This painting by Belgian artist Patrice Courcelle shows what a French grenadier would have looked like circa 1750. (Click on the picture for a bigger view.)  You may recall Lord John's encounter with a French grenadier at the Battle of Crefeld, which took place on June 23, 1758.
"Surrender,” the grenadier said in French. “You are my prisoner.”

Grey hadn’t breath to spare in reply. He’d dropped his saber in the fall, but it lay on the ground, a few feet away. Gasping and swallowing, he gestured briefly to the grenadier for patience, walked over, and picked up the sword. Then he gulped air, swung it two-handed round his head, and, lunging forward, struck at the grenadier’s neck with the fixed intent of removing his head. He halfway succeeded, and the shock of it nearly dislocated every bone in his arms.

The grenadier fell backward, the spurting blood from his neck failing to obscure the look of total astonishment on his face. Grey staggered, barely kept a grip on his sword, but knew that to lose it was to die on the spot.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29, "Dawn of Battle". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
According to Wikipedia,
By the 18th century, the throwing of grenades was no longer relevant, but grenadiers were still chosen for being the most physically powerful soldiers and would lead assaults in the field of battle.
As you can see from the painting, grenadiers wore distinctive headgear that set them apart from other soldiers.

This tradition of elaborate head coverings can still be seen today -- for example, in the bearskin hats worn by the British soldiers in the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace (above).

4) This photo shows a baby with a Mongolian spot.  Here's Jamie and Claire, peering closely at Fanny Beardsley's newborn baby.
"What’s this, Sassenach? Is she damaged, d’ye think? Perhaps yon silly woman dropped her?”

I leaned close to look. He held the baby’s feet up in one hand, a wad of soiled cotton lint in the other. Just above the tiny buttocks was a dark bluish discoloration, rather like a bruise.

It wasn’t a bruise. It was, though, an explanation of sorts.

“She isn’t hurt,” I assured him, pulling another of Mrs. Beardsley’s discarded shawls up to shelter her daughter’s bald head. “It’s a Mongol spot.”

“A what?”

“It means the child is black,” I explained. “African, I mean, or partly so.”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 31, "Orphan of the Storm". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
Caused by simple variations in pigment, Mongolian spots are much more prevalent in babies of color, appearing in more than 90 percent of Native Americans and children of African descent, more than 80 percent of Asians, and more than 70 percent of Hispanics.
I had never heard of Mongolian spots before I read THE FIERY CROSS, and I had no idea they were so common.

5) Remember the scene in OUTLANDER where Jamie catches a trout with his bare hands?
We stretched full-length on the cool rock, head to head, peering down into the water, willow branches brushing our backs.

“All it is,” he said, “is to pick a good spot, and then wait.” He dipped one hand below the surface, smoothly, no splashing, and let it lie on the sandy bottom, just outside the line of shadow made by the rocky overhang. The long fingers curled delicately toward the palm, distorted by the water so that they seemed to wave gently to and fro in unison, like the leaves of a water plant, though I saw from the still muscling of his forearm that he was not moving his hand at all.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "One Fine Day". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
The technique -- known as "guddling" in Scotland -- has been used for many centuries, but it's currently illegal in Britain.  It's mentioned in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, when the servant Maria refers to the approach of the hated Malvolio, head of Olivia's household, with the words "for here comes the trout that must be caught with tickling" (Act II, Scene 5).

Here's an article about trout tickling in the UK.  Be sure to read the comments!

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, February 12, 2013

Proposed cover art for "Plague of Zombies" e-book

Diana Gabaldon has posted 5 different versions of the proposed cover art for the upcoming e-book version of "A Plague of Zombies" (to be released in April 2013).

You can see them on her Facebook page.  If you're not on Facebook, or you'd prefer to see all five in one place, you can see the pictures on Compuserve here.  (Click on the attachments at the bottom of Diana's post to see a full-size view.)

My favorite is #4, the one with a pink-purple background and a silhouette of a snake.  What do the rest of you think?

In case you're wondering, this is the cover art for a standalone e-book that will be released in the US and Canada, priced at $1.99, similar to the e-books for "Custom of the Army" and "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows".

And yes, this is the same story that appears in A TRAIL OF FIRE and in DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS as "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies". The e-book version will be published under the title "A Plague of Zombies".  Look here for Diana's explanation of why they changed the title.

If you want to let Diana know what you think about the cover art, you can post on Compuserve or on her Facebook page.  I like the fact that she's asking for opinions from her readers!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Favorite romantic scenes

As Valentine's Day approaches, here are some of my favorite romantic scenes from the OUTLANDER books.  It was very hard to choose just one per book!


I love this scene.  It's one of my favorites in OUTLANDER.
"Go ahead,” he said, a moment later. “Open it. It’s yours.”

The outlines of the little package blurred under my fingers. I blinked and sniffed, but made no move to open it. “I’m sorry,” I said.

“Well, so ye should be, Sassenach,” he said, but his voice was no longer angry. Reaching, he took the package from my lap and tore away the wrapping, revealing a wide silver band, decorated in the Highland interlace style, a small and delicate Jacobean thistle bloom carved in the center of each link.

So much I saw, and then my eyes blurred again.

I found a handkerchief thrust into my hand, and did my best to stanch the flow with it. “It’s…beautiful,” I said, clearing my throat and dabbling at my eyes.

“Will ye wear it, Claire?” His voice was gentle now, and his use of my name, mostly reserved for occasions of formality or tenderness, nearly made me break down again

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "Return to Leoch". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This might seem an odd choice for "most romantic scene" (there's nothing romantic about tragedy, heartbreak, and separation) but Jamie's words speak so eloquently of his love for Claire that I simply had to include it.
"I will find you,” he whispered in my ear. “I promise. If I must endure two hundred years of purgatory, two hundred years without you--then that is my punishment, which I have earned for my crimes. For I have lied, and killed, and stolen; betrayed and broken trust. But there is the one thing that shall lie in the balance. When I shall stand before God, I shall have one thing to say, to weigh against the rest.”

His voice dropped, nearly to a whisper, and his arms tightened around me.

“Lord, ye gave me a rare woman, and God! I loved her well."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Timor Mortis Conturbat Me". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Of course I had to include a bit from the reunion:
"I have burned for you for twenty years, Sassenach,” he said softly. “Do ye not know that? Jesus!” The breeze stirred the loose wisps of hair around his face, and he brushed them back impatiently.

“But I’m no the man ye knew, twenty years past, am I?” He turned away, with a gesture of frustration. “We know each other now less than we did when we wed.”

“Do you want me to go?” The blood was pounding thickly in my ears.

“No!” He swung quickly toward me, and gripped my shoulder tightly, making me pull back involuntarily. “No,” he said, more quietly. “I dinna want ye to go. I told ye so, and I meant it. But…I must know.” He bent his head toward me, his face alive with troubled question.

“Do ye want me?” he whispered. “Sassenach, will ye take me--and risk the man that I am, for the sake of the man ye knew?”

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "House of Joy". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is one of my favorite scenes in the entire series. It still brings tears to my eyes, every time.
"I was dead, my Sassenach--and yet all that time, I loved you.”

I closed my eyes, feeling the tickle of the grass on my lips, light as the touch of sun and air.

“I loved you, too,” I whispered. “I always will.”

The grass fell away. Eyes still closed, I felt him lean toward me, and his mouth on mine, warm as sun, light as air.

“So long as my body lives, and yours--we are one flesh,” he whispered. His fingers touched me, hair and chin and neck and breast, and I breathed his breath and felt him solid under my hand. Then I lay with my head on his shoulder, the strength of him supporting me, the words deep and soft in his chest.

"And when my body shall cease, my soul will still be yours. Claire--I swear by my hope of heaven, I will not be parted from you."

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

There are many, many wonderful Jamie/Claire moments in this book, but I chose to focus instead on Roger and Brianna, on their wedding night.  Knowing what's going to come later, this is so poignant, it breaks my heart.
It was cold tonight, quite different from that first night together, that hot, gorgeous night that had ended in anger and betrayal. Months of other nights lay between that one and this--months of loneliness, months of joy. And yet his heart beat as fast now as it had on their first wedding night.

“I always sing for you, hen.” He came behind her, drew her back against him, so that her head rested on his shoulder, her hair cool and live against his face. His arm curled round her waist, holding her secure. He bent his head, nuzzling for the curve of her ear.

“No matter what,” he whispered, “no matter where. No matter whether you’re there to hear or not--I’ll always sing for you."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "On the Night That Our Wedding is On Us". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is one of my favorite scenes in ABOSAA.  The combination of humor and sensuality is just irresistible.
"You are squashing me,” I said with dignity. “Kindly get off.”

“No?” he repeated, not moving.

“Yes! All right! Yes! Will you bloody get off?!”

He didn’t get off, but bent his head and kissed me. I was close-lipped, determined not to give in, but he was determined, too, and if one came right down to it...the skin of his face was warm, the plush of his beard stubble softly scratchy, and his wide sweet mouth...My legs were open in abandon and he was solid between them, bare chest smelling of musk and sweat and sawdust caught in the wiry auburn hair....I was still hot with struggling, but the grass was damp and cool around us....Well, all right; another minute, and he could have me right there, if he cared to.

He felt me yield, and sighed, letting his own body slacken; he no longer held me prisoner, but simply held me. He lifted his head then, and cupped my face with one hand.

“D’ye want to know what it is, really?” he asked, and I could see from the dark blue of his eyes that he meant it. I nodded, mute.

“Above all creatures on this earth,” he whispered, “you are faithful."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Dangerous Gifts". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Ian and Rachel, together at last.  What a sweet, romantic note on which to end the book!
"Thee is a wolf, too, and I know it. But thee is my wolf, and best thee know that.”

He’d started to burn when she spoke, an ignition swift and fierce as the lighting of one of his cousin’s matches. He put out his hand, palm forward, to her, still cautious lest she, too, burst into flame.

“What I said to ye, before...that I kent ye loved me--”

She stepped forward and pressed her palm to his, her small, cool fingers linking tight.

“What I say to thee now is that I do love thee. And if thee hunts at night, thee will come home.”

Under the sycamore, the dog yawned and laid his muzzle on his paws.

“And sleep at thy feet,” Ian whispered, and gathered her in with his one good arm, both of them blazing bright as day.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 103, "The Hour of the Wolf". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Hope you enjoyed these!  There are many more that I like, of course; there just wasn't room enough to list all the good ones.

What are some of your own favorite romantic scenes from Diana Gabaldon's books?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 2/8/2013

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

1) I had never heard of "Lillibulero" before I read Diana Gabaldon's books.  Here's a clip from the 1975 movie "Barry Lyndon", featuring British redcoats marching to "Lillibulero".

Here's the version of "Lillibulero" used by the BBC World Service.  I wonder if Claire was familiar with that version?
The cold air outside was a relief, after the hot, smoky confines of the kitchen, and Jemmy quieted a little, though he continued to squirm and whine. He rubbed his hot, damp face against my neck, and gnawed ferociously on the cloth of my shawl, fussing and drooling.

I paced slowly to and fro, patting him gently and humming “Lilibuleero” under my breath. I found the exercise soothing, in spite of Jemmy’s crankiness. There was only one of him, after all, and he couldn’t talk.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "The Fiery Cross". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
There's also a reference to "Lillibulero" in the first chapter of AN ECHO IN THE BONE, where Lord John whistles the tune.

2) If you've read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, you'll remember the Wild Hunt poem.  I was not familiar with Wild Hunt legends before I read that book, and I was surprised to learn that the stories are common in many European cultures.  The painting above, called Åsgårdsreien, by Norwegian artist Peter Nicolai Arbo (1872), is a depiction of the Wild Hunt. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
Sir Melchior looked interested and sat up, fumbling for his spectacles. Placing these on his nose, he read the lines slowly out loud, following the words with a blunt fingertip.

Listen, you men of the three lands.
Listen for the sound of the horns that wail in the wind,
that come out of the night.

She is coming. The Queen is coming
and they come following, her great train, her retinue
wild of hair and eye,
the volunteers who follow the Queen.

They search out blood, they seek its heat. They echo the voice of the king under the hill.

"Deuced odd thing, that," he said, looking up from the page and blinking owlishly through his spectacles at them. "I've heard of the Wild Hunt but can't say I've ever seen an account quite like this one."

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Castle Athlone". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's more information about the Wild Hunt, including an exploration of the various Wild Hunt legends throughout Northern Europe.

3) The image on the cover of AN ECHO IN THE BONE is called a caltrop.  It represents the "shape" of the book, as Diana explains on her website.

Some of you may remember the word from the following scene from DRUMS OF AUTUMN:
I had stepped on some sort of cocklebur; half a dozen vicious caltrops were stuck in my bare sole, blood drops welling from the tiny punctures. Precariously balanced on one foot, I tried to pick them out, cursing under my breath.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
We had a lot of discussion about caltrops and their possible significance on Compuserve before ECHO was published.

Here are a couple of examples of caltrops.  Click on the photos to enlarge them.  The photo on the left shows a style of caltrop from Vietnam that Diana has said she particularly likes. (Look at those barbs on the ends of the "spikes" and imagine what that would feel like if you stepped on it!)

The one on the right is an early-17th-century example of a caltrop that I saw in the Visitors Center at Jamestown, VA, in 2008.  It would fit easily in the palm of your hand.

4) The painting above, by Pieter de Hooch (1658), illustrates the use of "leading strings", strips of fabric sewn into the clothing of young children.  Remember the scene in FIERY CROSS when the buffalo appears at the Big House?
Jemmy was on the ground nearby, his leading-strings securely tied to the paddock fence.  He certainly didn't need them to help him stay upright, but they did keep him from escaping while his mother was busy.

(From THE FIERY CROSS, Chapter 91, "Domestic Management". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is a doll from England circa 1740-1750, from the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.  You can clearly see the leading strings fastened to the back of the doll's gown, just like the ones that young children wore.

5) This scary-looking creature is a Moray eel.  I was surprised to learn that there are more than 200 species of Moray eels!  (The one shown here is called a viper moray.  Photo credit: Pelagicus on Flickr.)
"Well, when I was a kid, I thought the beetle with the death-ray eyes would be best,” [Roger] admitted. “Then I went to sea and started hauling up the occasional Moray eel in my net. Those are not the kind of thing ye’d want to meet in a dark alley, believe me.”

“More agile than Godzilla, at least,” she said, shuddering slightly at the recollection of the one Moray eel she’d met personally. A four-foot length of spring steel and rubber, fast as lightning and equipped with a mouthful of razors, it [....] had flashed through the silver wash of fish on deck, shot under the rail, and landed on the wet stones of the quay, where it had caused similar panic among the fishermen hosing down their gear, writhing and lashing about like a crazed high-tension cable until one rubber-booted man, gathering his self-possession, had rushed up and kicked it back into the water.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, Chapter 6, "Ambush". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a video showing some of the many different species of Moray eels.

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, February 7, 2013

Revolutionary War battles...animated!

Here's a site I think many of you would be interested in, especially if you like learning about the history of the American Revolution.

Revolutionary War Animated

From the site's main page:
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good animation is worth ten thousand. After reading book after book about the Revolutionary War and finding only complicated maps with dotted lines and dashed lines crisscrossing the pages, we decided to depict the key naval and land battles using animation technology.
For example, if you want to view the battles at Saratoga/Ticonderoga that were described in AN ECHO IN THE BONE, go here and click the red "Play" button in the middle of the page.  Then just keep clicking Play to advance the animation to the next frame.

Thanks to my friend Sandy on Compuserve for the link!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Diana's e-book on how to write sex-scenes

Some of you may have heard about the e-book Diana Gabaldon is working on, about how to write sex-scenes.

Diana posted on Compuserve the other day that she's almost done with this e-book, but she's trying to decide on a title.  You can see some of the suggested titles here.

This morning she posted the list of chapter titles for the e-book.  It sounds like it will be a very entertaining read, even for those of us who are not writers of fiction.  I personally find it fascinating when Diana talks about the "craft" of writing, what techniques are effective and why.

We have no idea when this e-book might be published, but I would think it will be out sometime this year.  I will post here if I find out anything more definite.

And yes, in case you're wondering, OF COURSE Diana is still focusing on Book 8 (WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD).  She has said many times that working on multiple projects at the same time helps her avoid writer's block.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 2/1/2013

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

1) This is an example of an 18th-century lantern, made out of tin.  It may not be exactly the same as the one that the smugglers used in VOYAGER, but I think it's similar.
Mr. Willoughby stood on tiptoe to reach into the back of the wagon, emerging with an odd-looking lantern, fitted with a pierced metal top and sliding metal sides.

“Is that a dark lantern?” I asked, fascinated.

“Aye, it is,” said Young Ian, importantly. “Ye keep the slides shut until we see the signal out at sea.” He reached for the lantern. “Here, give it me; I’ll take it--I ken the signal.”

Mr. Willoughby merely shook his head, pulling the lantern out of Young Ian’s grasp. “Too tall, too young,” he said. “Tsei-mi say so,” he added, as though that settled the matter once and for all.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 30, "Rendezvous". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information and pictures of similar lanterns, look here.

2) The photo above shows what watercress (Nasturtium officinale) looks like.
"What are you doing, Mr. Fraser?" Grey asked, in some bewilderment.

Fraser looked up, mildly surprised, but not embarrassed in the slightest.

"I am picking watercress, Major."

"I see that," Grey said testily.  "What for?"

"To eat, Major," Fraser replied evenly.  He took the stained cloth bag from his belt and dropped the dripping green mass into it.

"Indeed?  Are you not fed sufficiently?" Grey asked blankly.  "I have never heard of people eating watercress."

"It's green, Major."

In his fatigued state, the Major had suspicions that he was being practiced upon.

"What in damnation other color ought a weed to be?" he demanded.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "The Wanderer". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
Watercress’s Latin name, Nasturtium officinale, means “nose twister”--an appropriate description considering its pungent, peppery taste.
Here's an article about the health benefits of eating watercress.

3) Here's an example of a set of RAF dog tags from 1941, like the ones Jerry MacKenzie would have worn. Click on the photo to enlarge it.  Photo credit: Wendy on Flickr.
They kept coming, slowly, spreading out to surround him. He hadn't liked the looks of them to start with, and was liking them less by the second. Hungry, they looked, with a speculative glitter in their eyes.

One of them said something to him, a question of some kind, but the Northumbrian accent was too thick for him to catch more than a word. ‘Who’ was the word, and he hastily pulled his dog tags from the neck of his blouson, waving the red and green disks at them. One of the men smiled, but not in a nice way.

(From "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows" by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The photo above comes from a site that supplies replica dog tags for re-enactors and collectors of WWII memorabilia.  I'm including it here because it gives a better idea of the original colors used for the dog tags.  Each tag had the serviceman's name, serial number, branch of service (for example, RAF for Royal Air Force), and religion (CE for Church of England, RC for Roman Catholic, etc.) stamped on it.

4) The word "puce" means "flea" in French, and the color really was named after the insect, as Jamie explained in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.
Tom had unwrapped a suit of an odd purplish brown and was stroking the pile.

“Would you look at this, sir?” Tom said, so pleased with the garments that he momentarily overcame his nervousness of Fraser. “I’ve never seen such a color in me life--but it’ll suit you prime!”

To Grey’s surprise, Fraser smiled back, almost shyly.

“I’ve seen it before,” he said, and put out a hand to stroke the fabric. “In France. Couleur puce, it was called. The Duc d’Orleans had a suit made of it, and verra proud of it he was, too."

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "The Belly of a Flea". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
By the time of Marie Antoinette, some fifteen years after the events of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, puce was all the rage among the Parisian nobility, according to this site:
As Baronne D’Oberkirch....wrote in her Memoires“ ...every lady at court wore a puce-colored gown, old puce, young puce, ventre de puce [flea's belly], dos de puce [flea's back], etc.  [And] as the new color did not soil easily, and was therefore less expensive than lighter tints, the fashion of puce gowns was adopted by the [Parisian] bourgeoisie.”

5) The photo above shows a seal box from 1752, engraved with the emblem of the University of Glasgow.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  (Photo credit: The Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.)
"That's called a seal, a nighean," her husband informed her, having now settled a pair of half-moon spectacles firmly atop his nose, and turning the little metal emblem over between his fingers. "You're right, though, it’s Mr. Caldwell's, for see?" A horny finger traced the outline of the figure on the seal: a mace, an open book, a bell, and a tree, standing on top of a fish with a ring in its mouth.

"That's from the University of Glasgow, that is. Mr. Caldwell's a scholar," he told me, blue eyes wide with awe. "Been to learn the preachin', and a fine job he makes of it."

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

Here's a modern version of the University of Glasgow's emblem. Look here for an explanation of the symbols on the emblem and what they represent.

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!

Results of the January poll

Here are the results of the January poll:

How did you discover Diana Gabaldon's books?
  • 36.88% - A friend or family member recommended the books to me.
  • 25.60% - I stumbled across them while browsing in a bookstore or library.
  • 13.67% - A friend or family member gave me a copy of OUTLANDER, saying, "Read this, you'll love it!"
  • 5.72% - Someone on Facebook, Goodreads, or another online site recommended them.
  • 3.34% - I read a review in a newspaper, magazine, or online.
  • 2.23% - I found a used copy at a garage sale, second-hand bookstore, etc.
  • 2.07% - I discovered the audiobooks first, then decided to look for the printed version.
  • 1.43% - A librarian or bookstore employee recommended them.
  • 1.27% - I don't remember.
  • 0.32% - Someone at my book club mentioned them.
  • 0.32% - I had been reading excerpts of Diana's work on Compuserve since before OUTLANDER was published.
  • 0.16% - I happened to see Diana at a book-signing or other public event.
  • 6.99% - Other
There were more than 40 different responses for "Other"!  I won't list them all, but here are some of the more unusual answers:
  • After reading Scottish Prisoner I had to find out more about Jamie.
  • Bought them from a psychic
  • Discovered person I was discussing Poldark with was published author
  • Found a Book Crossings copy in the artichokes at Kroger
  • Hospital gift shop, while baby daughter was hospitalized.
  • I read a short story in an anthology
  • In line to see the True Blood cast at DragonCon in Atlanta in 2011
  • It was listed in a poll on AOL as a "book that changed your life"
  • Waiting for an Rx to be filled
  • You tube video w/quotes of Jamie being a virgin on wed night!  I was hooked!
There were 629 votes in this poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!  I didn't vote in the poll, but I would have chosen "I stumbled across them while browsing in a bookstore or library", because I found OUTLANDER by accident while browsing in Barnes & Noble in 2006.  (My story is here if you're interested.)

Please take a moment to vote in this month's poll, which is all about how long you've been reading the OUTLANDER books.  Thanks!

If you don't see the poll in the top right corner of my blog, try this link instead. The "m=0" at the end of the URL will hopefully let you see the site in desktop mode, even if you're using an iPhone or other mobile device.