Sunday, March 31, 2013

Amazon and publication date rumors

Some of you may have noticed that WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD is now listed on with an estimated publication date of December 10, 2013.



I asked Diana Gabaldon last week on Compuserve if the Dec. 10 date was confirmed, and her verbatim reply was "No, they're just makin' things up."

So, despite what Amazon says, December 10 is NOT the real publication date!  You don't have to take my word for it. You can see Diana's comments here.

Note to UK readers:

1) Diana called the 30 January 2014 date listed on for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD "completely unwarranted".

2) The listing for RED ANT'S HEAD on Amazon UK that shows a publication date of 18 April 2013 is also completely fictitious.  That book (Diana's contemporary mystery novel, featuring Tom Kolodzi) is still only partly written, and Diana is not even working on it at the moment.  Quite understandably, she's primarily focused on MOHB (aka MOBY, aka Book 8) these days.

I've said it before, but it's worth repeating:

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

As soon as I hear that a publication date for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD has been confirmed, of course I'll post it here. In the meantime, keep watching my Release Dates FAQ page for the latest information.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 3/29/2013

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

1) Here are some poison ivy leaves showing their autumn colors.  (Click on the photo for a bigger view.) Can't you just imagine Jamie, spotting these brilliantly colored leaves along the trail leading up to the Ridge, and on impulse deciding to add them to the bouquet he made for Claire?
"Ye might have told me, Sassenach.” Jamie glowered at the table near the bedroom window, where I’d set his bouquet in a cup of water. The bright, blotchy red of the poison ivy glowed, even in the dimness of the firelight. “And ye might get rid of it, too. D’ye mean to mock me?”

“No, I don’t,” I said, smiling as I hung my apron from the peg and reached for the laces of my gown. “But if I’d told you when you gave it to me, you’d have snatched it back. That’s the only posy you’ve ever given me, and I don’t imagine I’ll get another; I mean to keep it."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "No Place Like Home". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Oh, well.  At least his intentions were good! <g>

According to Wikipedia,
Toxicodendron radicans, commonly known as poison ivy (older synonyms are Rhus toxicodendron and Rhus radicans), is a poisonous North American plant that is well known for its production of urushiol, a clear liquid compound found within the sap of the plant that causes an itching, irritation and sometimes painful rash in most people who touch it.
My dad is very sensitive to poison ivy, and can't venture into the woods without covering up as much as possible, even in the middle of summer.

2) This is a replica of a British rotary dial telephone from the 1970's.  According to the site where I found it,
This telephone was the final version of the GPO746 and was released in this format when STD dialling became widespread throughout the UK. In circulation from the 1970's, this telephone was the GPO's standard rental instrument until the privatisation of the telephone network when the new generation of push-button telephones were introduced.
I like to think that this might have been the specific phone model that Jamie saw in his dream.
"There was a...thing...on the table. I couldna say what it was; I’ve never seen the like.”

He held his hands about six inches apart, frowning at them. “It was maybe this wide, and just a bit longer--something like a box, maybe, only sort of...humped.”

“Humped?” I said, puzzled as to what this could be.

“Aye, and it had a thing on top like a wee club, only wi’ a knob to each end, and the club was tied to the box wi’ a sort of black cord, curled up on itself like a piggie’s tail. Jem saw it, and he reached out his hand, and said, ‘I want to talk to Grandda.’ And then I woke.”

He leaned his head back farther, so as to look up into my face.

“Would ye ken what a thing like that might be, Sassenach? It was like nothing I’ve ever seen."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 121, "Across the Abyss". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) This is what a hammerhead shark looks like.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.
The shark was easily twelve feet long, a dark, sinuous shape keeping pace with the ship, barely visible through the storm-stirred gray waters. It had appeared abruptly just before noon, startling me badly when I looked over the rail and saw its fin cut the surface.

“What’s amiss with its head?” Jamie, appearing in response to my startled cry, frowned into the dark water. “It has a growth of some sort.”

“I think it’s what they call a hammerhead.” I clung tight to the railing, slippery with spray. The head did look misshapen: a queer, clumsy, blunt thing at the end of such a sinisterly graceful body. As we watched, though, the shark came closer to the surface and rolled, bringing one fleshy stalk and its distant cold eye momentarily clear of the water.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 30, "Ships That Pass in the Night". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a brief video about hammerhead sharks, from NatGeo Wild.  I think the eyes are extremely bizarre-looking!  Look here for more interesting facts about hammerhead sharks.

4) I had never heard of a pelican distillation apparatus before I read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.
"Oh, look,” I said, enchanted. I held in my hands the fruit of Mr. Blogweather’s artistry: a globe of glass, the size of my head, blown to perfect symmetry and lacking even the hint of a bubble. There was a faint blue tinge to the glass, and I could see my own distorted reflection, wide-nosed and bug-eyed, like a mermaid peering out.

“Aye, mum,” said Bobby, dutifully peering at the retort. “It’s, er...big, in’t it?”

“It’s perfect. Just perfect!” Rather than being cut off cleanly from the blower’s pipe, the neck of the globe had been drawn out into a thick-walled tube about two inches long and an inch in diameter. The edges and interior surface of this had been...sanded? Ground? I’d no idea what Mr. Blogweather had done, but the result was a silky, opaque surface that would form a lovely seal when a similarly finished piece was inserted into it.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Dangerous Gifts". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to the site where I found the photo:
The Pelican is a circulatory distillation vessel with two side-arms feeding condensed vapors back into the body. It resembles a pelican pecking at its breast to feed its hatchlings with its own blood, and thus is a symbol of the sacrifice the original solution goes through to give up its essence in the experiment. The alchemists believed that compounds could be created in the Pelican that no other apparatus could produce.

This type of device was used by alchemists for centuries, as you can see from these illustrations from a book published in 1500.

5) The photo above shows the Easter vigil at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.  It looks very much as Jamie remembers:
"The church was all dark,” Jamie continued, “but the folk coming for the service would buy small tapers from the crones at the doors. It was something like this”--I felt, rather than saw, his motion at the sky above--“a great space above, all ringing wi’ the silence, and folk packed in on every side.” Hot as it was, I gave an involuntary shiver at these words, which conjured up a vision of the dead around us, crowding silently side by side, in anticipation of an imminent resurrection.

“And then, just when I thought I couldna bear the silence and the crowd, there came the priest’s voice from the door. ‘Lumen Christi!’ he called out, and the acolytes lit the great candle that he carried. Then from it they took the flame to their own tapers, and scampered up and down the aisles, passing the fire to the candles o’ the faithful.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "In Which We Meet a Ghost". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Happy Easter to all of you who are celebrating this week!

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, March 25, 2013

"Plague of Zombies" audiobook now available!

The audio version of Diana Gabaldon's novella, "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies", is now available!

You can download it from here.  I'm told that it's also available on

Running time is 3 hours 13 minutes.

The audiobook is narrated by Jeff Woodman, who does the narration for all the other Lord John books and stories.  He's a wonderful reader, and Diana Gabaldon says he sounds very much like Lord John does in her head. <g>  I'm looking forward to hearing Jeff Woodman's take on this very entertaining story.

For more information about "Plague of Zombies", see my FAQ here.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 3/22/2013

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

1) Sapphires are extraordinarily beautiful gemstones.
"A jewel?” Lord John’s voice sounded blank, even to his own ears. “What sort of jewel?”

“Any sort.” Fraser shrugged, impatient. “It doesna matter--so long as it should be some precious gem. I once gave ye such a stone--” His mouth twitched at that; he had handed over the stone, a sapphire, under duress, as a prisoner of the Crown. “Though I dinna suppose ye’d have that by ye, still.”

In point of fact, he did. That particular sapphire had traveled with him for the last twenty-five years, and was at this moment in the pocket of his waistcoat.

He glanced at his left hand, which bore a broad gold band, set with a brilliant, faceted sapphire. Hector’s ring. Given to him by his first lover at the age of sixteen.....Without hesitation, but with some difficulty--the ring had been worn a long time, and had sunk a little way into the flesh of his finger--he twisted it off and dropped it into Jamie’s hand.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 118, "Regret". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I like the symbolism of those two sapphires a great deal. The sapphire Jamie gave John can be seen in metaphorical terms as representing John and Jamie's relationship.  The other one, the sapphire ring that belonged to Hector, is presumably now destroyed, if it went through the stones, but the sapphire Jamie gave him still exists.  John and Jamie's friendship still endures, despite everything.

And Hector's ring, symbolizing (to John) the tragic loss of his friend, in the end will help save the life of Bree or Roger or one of the kids.  John will never know this, of course, but it makes me, as a reader, feel some sort of closure regarding Hector's death.  That something good came out of it after all, I mean, even if it took thirty years.

For more about sapphires, look here.

2) The first modern cuckoo clocks were made in the Black Forest region of Germany in the 1740s, according to Wikipedia.  The example above, from the collection of the Deutsches Uhrenmuseum (the German Clock Museum), is from 1780.  Cuckoo clocks would have been state-of-the-art in 1744, when Claire saw the one in Louise's country house.
"This is my newest toy; is it not lovely?” she cooed, running her hand lovingly over the carved dark wood of a tiny house that sprouted incongruously from the wall next to a gilt-bronze sconce in the shape of Eurydice.

“That looks like a cuckoo clock,” I said disbelievingly.

“You have seen one before? I didn’t think there were any to be found anywhere in Paris!” Louise pouted slightly at the thought that her toy might not be unique, but brightened as she twisted the hands of the clock to the next hour. She stood back, beaming proudly as the tiny clockwork bird stuck its head out and emitted several shrill Cuckoo!s in succession.

“Isn’t it precious?” She touched the bird’s head briefly as it disappeared back into its hidey-hole.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "Fontainebleau". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here is another example of an 18th-century cuckoo clock, showing the mechanism.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  How does it work exactly?  According to this site,
Two small pipes are attached to the tops of two air-driven bellows that make alternating high and low pitched whistles that mimic the sound of the cuckoo bird. At the top of each hour as the cuckoo clock's iron weights and swinging pendulum cause the clock's wheels to turn, the cuckoo bird is released from his nest and the bellows are activated sending alternating puffs of air into each pipe causing the sound of a cuckoo.

3) Until I read THE FIERY CROSS, I'd never heard of people writing letters both horizontally and vertically to save paper, but apparently this was a common practice in the 18th century.
Mama writes in tiny letters when she does her case-notes, and when Da writes to Scotland he writes on both sides of the page, and then he turns it sideways and writes across the lines, so it looks like lattice-work.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 74, "The Sounds of Silence". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo above shows an example of a "crossed letter" from Robert Ker Porter to Anna Maria Porter, dated 4 April 1806.  Click on the photo to enlarge it, and you'll see the writing going from bottom to top across the page.  You can clearly see the "sideways" signature near the right-hand side of the photo.

According to this site, where I found the photo:
Crossed letters began to decline in use after 1840, when the “Uniform Penny Post” was established in England, allowing letter-writers to send domestic mail a rate of a penny per 1/2 once (thus the name “penny post”), regardless of distance, payable in advance by the sender.

4) Claire was a bit squeamish about the use of leeches (Hirudo medicinalis) when she first arrived in the 18th century. Remember Mrs. Fitz showing her how to use them?
"Still bleedin’ under the skin. Leeches will help, then.” She lifted the cover from the bowl, revealing several small dark sluglike objects, an inch or two long, covered with a disagreeable-looking liquid. Scooping out two of them, she pressed one to the flesh just under the brow bone and the other just below the eye.

“See,” she explained to me, “once a bruise is set, like, leeches do ye no good. But where ye ha’ a swellin’ like this, as is still comin’ up, that means the blood is flowin’ under the skin, and leeches can pull it out.”

I watched, fascinated and disgusted. “Doesn’t that hurt?” I asked Jamie. He shook his head, making the leeches bounce obscenely.

“No. Feels a bit cold, is all.”

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Colum's Hall". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a very interesting NOVA video about the medicinal use of leeches. (Warning: Not for the squeamish!)

Leeches were officially approved by the FDA in 2004. I discovered while researching them that there is a leech therapy center in Scottsdale, AZ, where Diana Gabaldon lives. <g>

The photo above shows a moose (Alces americanus), the largest species in the deer family.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.
It was more than a week later that Roger went out with a hunting party. The weather was cold but clear, and they traveled far, eventually finding and killing a moose. Roger was stunned, not only by the size of the thing but by its stupidity. He could understand the attitude of the hunters: There was no honor in killing such a thing; it was only meat.

It was a lot of meat. He was burdened like a pack mule, and the extra weight bore hard on his lame foot; by the time they returned to the village, he was limping so badly that he couldn’t keep up with the hunting party, but lagged far behind, desperately trying to keep them in view lest he be lost in the forest.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 54, "Captivity I". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to Wikipedia, an adult bull moose can weigh from 840–1,500 lbs (380–700 kg). If you want to get a sense of the sheer size of these animals, take a look at this video, filmed in northern Ontario in 2007. (It's labeled as "Moose Hunting", but in fact the moose on the video was not harmed at all.)

For more information about moose, look here.

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!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"A Plague of Zombies" e-book coming April 15

Diana Gabaldon's novella, "A Plague of Zombies", will be released as a standalone e-book on April 15, 2013 in the US and Canada.  It will sell for $1.99, and it will be available for Kindle, Nook, etc.

Here are the pre-order links:

Kindle edition

Nook edition

I'm looking forward to adding this e-book to my collection!

Please note, this standalone e-book is going to be available ONLY in the US and Canada, due to international rights issues.

This is the same story that was previously published in DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS and A TRAIL OF FIRE as "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies".  For more detailed information, see the "Plague of Zombies" FAQ page.

"A Plague of Zombies" is a very enjoyable story, and I'm glad that more people will have access to it soon.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I don't have a drop of Irish blood myself, but I'm reliably informed that everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day!  So, in celebration of the day, here are my top 10 most memorable Irish characters from Diana Gabaldon's books, in alphabetical order:

1) Bernard Adams.  You may remember that Lord John gouged his eye out at the end of BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.  He later confessed to the murder of Lord John's father, the Duke of Pardloe.

2) Stephen Bonnet. One of Diana's most memorable villains.  I think Brianna gave him a more merciful death than he deserved.

3) Father Donahue, the priest who baptizes Germain, Jemmy, and Joan in FIERY CROSS.  He seemed a very pragmatic, adaptable sort of person, perfectly willing to baptize the children with whisky instead of water if that was the only option available.  (And IMHO he gets extra points for managing to keep a straight face while listening to Jamie's confession involving Claire and the butter churn. <g>)

4) Father Michael FitzGibbons, abbot of Inchcleraun monastery, Ireland.  The abbot is a decent man (despite his desire to get Jamie involved in the Jacobite scheme), with a curiosity about the natural world that I was surprised to see in a priest.

5) Jeffries, the Dunsanys' coachman in VOYAGER.  Besides Jamie, and Lord and Lady Dunsany, he's the only other eyewitness to the death of the Eighth Earl of Ellesmere.  I wonder if we'll see him again in a future book?

6) Aloysius O'Shaughnessy Murphy.  Ship's cook aboard the Artemis, in VOYAGER. He makes a truly memorable (or should we say infamous?) turtle soup! <g>

7) The O'Higgins brothers, Rafe and Mick, who helped to smuggle Percy Wainwright out of prison near the end of BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.  They played only a relatively minor role in that book, but I thought they were pretty entertaining.

8) Tobias Quinn.  He was certainly a memorable character in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, although I found him somewhat irritating and a nuisance most of the time.  I liked his sense of humor.

9) Finbar Scanlon. The apothecary in LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER.  Among other things, he cured Maria Mayrhofer of syphilis by deliberately infecting her with malaria.

10) Gerald Siverly.  He saved Lord John's life in "The Custom of the Army", but that's his only redeeming quality, as far as I'm concerned.  He was a very memorable villain in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER!

Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day, everybody!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 3/15/2013

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

1) This is a painting called "L'Odalisque", by French artist François Boucher (1703-1770). Click on the photo to see a bigger view.
"Thank you,” I murmured, with a charming smile, and wandered over to the wall, pretending to be absorbed in a large Boucher, featuring the backview of an amply endowed nude woman seated on a rock in the wilderness. If this was a reflection of current tastes in female anatomy, it was no wonder that Jamie appeared to think so highly of my bottom.

“Ha,” I said. “What price foundation garments, eh?”

“Eh?” Jamie and the Duke, startled, looked up from the portfolio of investment papers that formed the ostensible reason for our visit.

“Never mind me,” I said, waving a gracious hand. “Just enjoying the art."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Untimely Resurrection". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The painting shown above dates from about 1749, so this is not precisely the same Boucher painting that Claire saw in the Duke of Sandringham's house in Paris, but you can certainly get the idea!

2) This is a 17th-century Spanish conquistador's helmet. (Photo from Wikipedia.) Click on the photo for a bigger view.  I think it looks very much like the one described in ECHO:
The Spaniard leaned against the wall, bony legs stretched out, skull fallen forward as if in a doze. Tufts of reddish, faded hair still clung here and there, but the skin had gone entirely. His hands and feet were mostly gone, too, the small bones carried away by rodents. No large animals had been able to get at him, though, and while the torso and long bones showed signs of nibbling, they were largely intact; the swell of the rib cage poked through a tissue of cloth so faded that there was no telling what color it had ever been.

He was a Spaniard, too. A crested metal helmet, red with rust, lay by him, along with an iron breastplate and a knife.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Spring Thaw". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
These helmets, known as morions, were widely used in the 16th and 17th centuries.

I wonder if some day Jamie will return to the Spaniard's cave?

3) This is Clostridium tetani, the bacteria that causes tetanus. According to this site,
Tetanus is a dangerous nerve ailment caused by the toxin of a common bacterium, Clostridium tetani. Bacterial spores are found in soil -- most frequently in cultivated soil, least frequently in virgin soil.....If the spores enter a wound that penetrates the skin and extends deeper than oxygen can reach, they germinate and produce a toxin that enters the bloodstream.

Remember Byrnes, the overseer in DRUMS who died of tetanus?
I had never actually seen anyone die of tetanus myself, but I knew the symptoms well enough: restlessness and difficulty swallowing, developing into a progressive stiffening as the muscles of arms and legs and neck began to spasm. The spasms increased in severity and duration until the patient’s body was hard as wood, arched in an agony that came on and receded, came on again, went off, and at last came on in an endless tetany that could not be relaxed by anything save death.

“He died grinnin’, Ronnie Campbell said. But I shouldna think it was a happy death, forbye.” It was a grim joke, but there was little humor in his voice.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What a horrible way to die! Fortunately, this disease is preventable in modern times; the tetanus vaccine was first introduced in 1924.

4) This is a common ringed plover (Charadrius hiaticula). There are many different species of plovers, and I'm not positive that this is the same type of plover that appears in OUTLANDER, but it's probably pretty close. <g>
"Why did you do that?” I asked, curious.

“What?” He was momentarily startled; I think he had forgotten I was there.

“You crossed yourself when the bird flew off; I wondered why.”

He shrugged, mildly embarrassed.

“Ah, well. It’s an old tale, is all. Why plovers cry as they do, and run keening about their nests like that.” He motioned to the far side of the tarn, where another plover was doing exactly that. He watched the bird for a few moments, abstracted.

“Plovers have the souls of young mothers dead in childbirth,” he said. He glanced aside at me, shyly. “The story goes that they cry and run about their nests because they canna believe the young are safe hatched; they’re mourning always for the lost one—or looking for a child left behind."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "We Meet a Beggar". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about plovers, look here.

5) Here's a video of the children's counting song, "The Ants Go Marching".
He had a song in his head--again. They sneaked in when he wasn’t looking, melodies singing in his inner ear like sirens from the rocks, ready to dash him in pieces.

Not this one, though. He smiled to himself, as he nudged the bar of the astrolabe and sighted on a tree on the opposite bank. It was a children’s song, one of the counting songs Bree sang to Jemmy. One of those terrible songs that got into one’s head and wouldn’t get out again. As he took his sightings and made the notations in his book, he chanted under his breath, ignoring the cracked distortion of the sounds.

“The...ants one.”

Five thousand acres. What in hell was he to do with it? What in hell was he to do, period?

“ ggetout...atha RAIN...bum, bum, bum..."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 82, "A Darkening Sky". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Many of you will remember this little song (I certainly did!), but I thought those of you who live outside the US might not be familiar with it.

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!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

What have you learned?

As I put together my Friday Fun Facts posts each week, I can't help thinking about the incredible wealth of detail in these books (historical, medical, zoological, botanical, cultural, you-name-it, the list goes on and on and on....), and I thought I'd ask everyone here:

Of all the things you've learned from reading Diana Gabaldon's books, what are some of your favorites?

That's an open-ended question on purpose, because I'm hoping it will generate some discussion. <g>  It could be an obscure bit of historical trivia (like the hanged-man's grease from DRAGONFLY IN AMBER), or a strange-but-true fact about animal or plant life mentioned in the books, or something about the history of 18th century Scotland or North Carolina that particularly caught your interest.  What I'm looking for are things you didn't know before you read the books, or maybe things/places/people/events you first encountered in Diana's books that you've been inspired to learn more about.

For myself, I think I'll let my Friday Fun Facts index speak for me. <g>  Nearly 300 items on the list already, and the vast majority of them are things I did not know before I read Diana's books.

What about the rest of you?

Monday, March 11, 2013

"The Space Between" FAQ page

I've created a new FAQ page for Diana Gabaldon's latest story, "The Space Between".  Go here to see it.  I hope you'll find it useful.  If you have any questions or comments about the FAQ, please let me know.  Thanks!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lord John e-book bundle coming April 8!

I was just looking at Diana Gabaldon's page on the Random House website, and noticed the following:

On April 8, 2013, they're going to release an e-book bundle of all the Lord John novels for $31.99!

This includes:


I have no idea if this deal will apply outside the US, but I just wanted to let everybody know.

You can pre-order the bundle for Kindle here, or for Nook here.

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 3/8/2013

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

1) This is a portrait of Tadeusz Kościuszko (1746-1817), painted by Kazimierz Wojniakowski.  You may remember "Kos" from AN ECHO IN THE BONE:
"If ye came for money and girls, man, ye joined the wrong army,” Jamie said dryly, and Kosciuszko laughed.

“I say first money,” he corrected. “I come to Philadelphia, read there La Declaration.” He pronounced it in French, and bared his head in reverence at the name, clasping his sweat-stained hat to his breast. “This thing, this writing… I am ravish.”

So ravished was he by the sentiments expressed in that noble document that he had at once sought out its author. While probably surprised by the sudden advent of a passionate young Pole in his midst, Thomas Jefferson had made him welcome, and the two men had spent most of a day deeply involved in the discussion of philosophy (in French), from which they had emerged fast friends.

“Great man,” Kos assured Jamie solemnly, crossing himself before putting his hat back on. “God keep him safe.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 60, "Deserter Game, Round II". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This site has a lot more information about Kosciuszko's life and his role in the American Revolution.  Among other things, he oversaw the construction of the garrison defenses at West Point, New York, from 1778-1780.

2) The mangrove trees shown above are located in the Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, not far from where Claire landed after her escape from the Porpoise.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  I like this photo because it looks just like the scene described in VOYAGER:
The thick bushlike plants must be mangroves. They stretched as far as I could see in either direction; there was no alternative but to clamber through them. Their roots rose out of the mud in big loops like croquet wickets, which I tripped over regularly, and the pale, smooth gray twigs grew in bunches like finger bones, snatching at my hair as I passed.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 50, "I Meet a Priest". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a short but very informative video about mangroves, filmed in the Dominican Republic.

For more information about mangroves, look here.

3) The photo above shows a deer fly (genus Chrysops).  Photo credit: Bastiaan (Bart) Drees.  According to Wikipedia:
Deer flies are a genus that belongs to the family commonly called horse-flies (Tabanidae). They are smaller than wasps, and they have coloured eyes and dark bands across their wings. While female deer flies feed on blood, males instead collect pollen. When feeding, females use knife-like mandibles and maxillae to make a cross-shaped incision and then lap up the blood. Their bite can be extremely painful, and allergic reaction from the saliva of the fly can result in further discomfort and health concerns.
This scene from DRAGONFLY always makes me laugh.  Poor Jamie!
I sat like a mildly nervous statue, half-hypnotized by the menacing buzz. The heavy winged body, deceptively slow, hummed lazily back and forth between the horse’s ears and my own. The horse’s ears twitched violently, an impulse with which I was in complete sympathy.

“If that thing lands in my ear, Jamie, I’m going to--” I began.

“Shh!” he ordered, leaning forward in anticipation, left hand cupped like a panther about to strike. “Another second, and I’ll have him.”

Just then I saw the dark blob alight on his shoulder. Another deerfly, seeking a basking place. I opened my mouth again.


“Hush!” He clapped his hands together triumphantly on my tormentor, a split second before the deerfly on his collar sank its fangs into his neck.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 40, "The Fox's Lair". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) The plants pictured above are called bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis). I had never heard of bloodroot before I read the following scene in THE FIERY CROSS:
I finished grating a root and dropped the stub into a jar on the desk. Bloodroot is aptly named; the scientific name is Sanguinaria, and the juice is red, acrid, and sticky. The bowl in my lap was full of oozy, moist shavings, and my hands looked as though I had been disemboweling small animals.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 76, "Blood Money". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see what Claire means, judging by this photo.  (Photo credit: Paul Zahl,

Bloodroot has a number of medicinal uses, as described here and here. But it should be used with caution, as it is toxic in large doses. From Wikipedia:
In 2005, "folk healer" Dan Raber (of Georgia, United States) was arrested and charged with causing severe bodily harm and practicing medicine without a license for dispensing bloodroot paste to nine women with various ailments including breast cancer, causing severe disfiguring destruction of their skin and underlying tissue (as well as failing to successfully excise their tumors).
I'm not quite sure what Claire intended to use her grated bloodroots for, but presumably not as a treatment for cancer!

5) This is a 1969 blue Ford Mustang, like Brianna's car.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.
[Roger] yanked the bell-sleeved shirt over his head, wondering just what level of comfort Brianna was accustomed to. He was no judge of women's clothing--how expensive could blue jeans possibly be?--but he knew a bit about cars. Hers was a brand-new blue Mustang that made him itch to take the wheel.

Plainly her parents had left her enough to live on; he could trust Claire Randall to have seen to that. He only hoped it wasn't so much that she might think him interested on that account.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "A Blast from the Past". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a site with more information about the 1969 Mustang. Since the car is not described in detail in the books, we can only speculate as to which specific model Bree's car might have been.  But I like the look of the one shown above, very much!  (Well, I might be biased; I drive a blue car myself. <g>)

If you're wondering about the car Roger drove, look here.

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

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

25 years!

Today marks 25 years since Diana Gabaldon began writing, "for practice", the novel that would become OUTLANDER.  She started writing on March 6, 1988.

Congratulations, Diana!! And we wish you many more happy, productive, and successful years of writing!  Thank you so much for creating this amazing story.  It really has changed my life, in many ways.

Here's a long post from Diana on Compuserve on the occasion of her 22nd "writing anniversary", in March 2010.  I think you'll find it interesting, particularly those of you who found the OUTLANDER series in the last several years and may not have heard the full story before.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

REPOST: The Boston Massacre

Today is the 243rd anniversary of the Boston Massacre, which took place on March 5, 1770.  I posted this last year in honor of the anniversary, and I thought it was appropriate to repost today.


Here is Paul Revere's famous engraving depicting the massacre.  Click on the picture to see a larger view.

Here is Lord John's account of the events, from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
Boston is by all Accounts a perfect Hellhole of republican Sentiment, with so-called "Marching Societies" at large in the Streets in every Weather, these being no more than an Excuse for the Assembly of Mobs, whose chief Sport is the tormenting of the Troops quartered there.

Higgins tells me that no Man would dare go out alone in Uniform, for fear of these Mobs, and that even when in greater Numbers, harassment from the public soon drove them back to their Quarters, save when compelled by Duty to persist.

A Patrol of five Soldiers was so beset one Evening, pursued not only by insults of the grossest Nature, but by hurled Stones, Clods of Earth and Dung, and other such Rubbish. Such was the Press of the Mob around them that the Men feared for their Safety, and thus presented their Weapons, in hopes of discouraging the raucous Attentions rained upon them. So far from accomplishing this Aim, the Action provoked still greater Outrages from the Crowd, and at some Point, a Gun was fired. No one can say for sure whether the Shot was discharged from the Crowd, or from one of the Soldier's Weapons, let alone whether it were by Accident or in Deliberation, but the Effect of it...well, you will have sufficient Knowledge of such Matters to imagine the Confusion of subsequent Events.

In the End, five of the Mob were killed, and while the Soldiers were buffeted and badly handled, they escaped alive, only to be made Scapegoats by the malicious Rantings of the mob's Leaders in the Press, these so styled as to make it seem a wanton and unprovoked Slaughter of Innocents, rather than a Matter of Self-defense against a Mob inflamed by Drink and Sloganeering.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Victim of a Massacre". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It seems only natural that Lord John, a career soldier and former Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, would be outraged at the ill-treatment of British soldiers in Boston, and sympathetic to the plight of Bobby Higgins, who was convicted of manslaughter and branded as punishment.  I have always been quite entertained by the notion that Bobby Higgins would have met John Adams, who defended the British soldiers at their trial.

You can learn more about the Boston Massacre at the official site of the Boston Massacre Historical Society.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

The latest addition to my collection!

Here's the latest addition to my OUTLANDER book collection:  an OUTLANDER First Edition hardcover!  Click on the photos to enlarge them.

I'm amazed at the amount of detail in this cover.  I've only seen it before in photos online, where it's hard to make out the smaller details.

Back cover.

Here's the title page.  As you can see, it's signed by Diana, but there's room at the top of that page for her to inscribe it to me personally, which I hope she'll do when I see her at her appearance in Fairfax, VA, on April 12. <g>

Copyright page.  Notice the full number line at the bottom, which is one way to identify a genuine OUTLANDER first edition.

I found this book on Amazon a couple of weeks ago, in "like new" condition, listed for $223, and I thought, that's a bargain, considering that I really have no desire to spend $600 for a pristine, unsigned, first edition.  So, I splurged. <g>

The book is in excellent condition, with just a small amount of wear in the dust jacket, which I don't mind. 

I am not normally a book-collector.  I don't have any particular desire to own first editions of the rest of the series (except for future releases, of course!), but when I saw this, I thought it was too good a deal to pass up. <g>

For more information about how to identify an OUTLANDER first edition, look here.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 3/1/2013

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

1) I had never heard the term "blue vitriol" before I read "The Space Between", and I was surprised to learn that it's an archaic term for copper (II) sulfate (CuSO4) -- a chemical that you may remember from chemistry classes in school.  Isn't that a gorgeous color? I thought the Comte's use of it in the story was fascinating.
He found the blue vitriol by smell, and wrapped the cloth tightly around the head of one torch, then--whistling under his breath--did three more, impregnated with different salts.   He loved this part.  It was so simple, and so astonishingly beautiful.

He paused for a minute to listen, but it was well past dark and the only sounds were those of the night itself--frogs chirping and bellowing in the distant marshes by the cemetery, wind stirring the leaves of spring.   A few hovels a half-mile away, only one with fire-light glowing dully from a smoke-hole in the roof.

Almost a pity there’s no one but me to see this. He took the little clay firepot from its wrappings and touched a coal to the cloth-wrapped torch. A tiny green flame flickered like a serpent’s tongue, then burst into life in a brilliant globe of ghostly color.

(From "The Space Between" by Diana Gabaldon, in A TRAIL OF FIRE. Copyright© 2012 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
The beautiful blue color arises from water molecules attached directly to the copper(II) ion. The water/copper ion complex absorbs photons of yellow or red light. Absorption of a photon promotes an electron from the water to the copper(II) ion. Since only yellow or red light is absorbed, blue light is transmitted, and the crystals appear blue.

Here's a short video showing how you can make your own green flames using common household chemicals.

(If you haven't yet read "The Space Between", I highly recommend it!  It's available in THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION or A TRAIL OF FIRE.)

2) The photo above shows a copper warming pan similar to the one Tom Byrd used to warm Lord John's bed in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.  Filled with embers from the fire, it was a quick and easy method of warming up a bed.
Tom bent to shovel embers into the warming pan. “And a pair of doeskin breeches.”

“Don’t I have a pair?” Grey asked, surprised

“You do,” Byrd said, straightening, “and Lord only knows what you sat on whilst wearing ’em.” He gave Grey a disapproving look; Tom was eighteen, and round-faced as a pie, but his disapproving looks would have done credit to an old gaffer of eighty.

“I’ve done me best, me lord, but bear in mind, if you go out in those breeches, don’t be taking your coat off, or folk will be sure you’ve beshit yourself.”

Grey laughed, and stood aside for Tom to warm the bed. He shucked his banyan and slippers and slid between the sheets, the heat grateful on his chilly feet.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 1, "All in the Family". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article about the various types of warming pans used in the 17th-19th centuries.

If you're wondering why Jamie and Claire didn't have one of these on the Ridge, I can think of two reasons: 1) These pans were made of metal, and metal of any kind was scarce and expensive in the Colonies; 2) With Jamie's internal furnace, Claire evidently didn't need any extra help staying warm on those cold winter nights! <g>  They certainly had one of these when they were living in Jared's house in Paris, though.

[UPDATE 3/1/2013 6:25 am:  Diana Gabaldon said on Compuserve this morning, "Oh--warming pans were expensive--and unnecessary.  The common way of warming a bed in the backcountry (or in poorer homes) was to set a brick or stone in the fire for awhile, then roll it out with the poker, wrap it in rags, and put it under your quilts to take the chill off.  It would radiate heat for some hours, much like a hot-water bottle."]

3) Those of you who have read "The Space Between" will recall Leopold the snake, but even if you haven't read the new story, you probably remember this scene from OUTLANDER:

“Aye. Did ye know that snakes have two cocks?--male snakes, I mean.”

“No, I didn’t. Are you sure about that?”

“Aye, and both of ’em forked, like this.” He spread his second and third fingers apart in illustration.

“That sounds terribly uncomfortable for the female snake,” I said, giggling.

“Well, she appeared to be enjoying herself,” said Jamie. “Near as I could tell; snakes havena got much expression on their faces."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 15, "Revelations of the Bridal Chamber". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Diana Gabaldon posted a link to the photo above, showing a snake's hemipenes, on Facebook about a year ago, and I just couldn't resist including it here. <g> So why, exactly, do snakes have two penises?  Look here for an explanation.

Moores Creek Bridge

4) The photo above shows Moores Creek Bridge, where a battle was fought on February 27, 1776.  (Photo credit: irisha_z on Flickr)

Here's part of Jamie's view of the battle, from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
“A righ! A righ!” The King! The King!

McLeod was at the bridge; he’d been hit, there was blood on his coat, but he brandished sword and targe, and ran onto the bridge, stabbing his sword into the wood to anchor himself.

The cannon spoke again, but were aimed too high; most of the Highlanders had crowded down to the banks of the creek--some were in the water, clinging to the bridge supports, inching across. More were on the timbers, slipping, using their swords like McLeod to keep their balance.

“Fire!” and he fired, powder smoke blending with the fog. The cannon had the range, they spoke one-two, and he felt the blast push against him, felt as though the shot had torn through him. Most of those on the bridge were in the water now, more threw themselves flat upon the timbers, trying to wriggle their way across, only to be picked off by the muskets, every man firing at will from the redoubt.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 113, "The Ghosts of Culloden". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article with more information about the history of the battle. The Moores Creek National Battlefield is located in Pender County, NC, about 20 miles from Wilmington. It's only a couple of hours drive from where I live, but I've never been there.

5) The photo above shows an example of a Royal Doulton Toby jug.  Click here to see close-up views.
Jocasta and Duncan were sitting side by side, rigid as a pair of Toby jugs, carefully not facing each other. At this, Jocasta took a deep and audible breath, obviously forcing herself to relax.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 55, "Deductions". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to Wikipedia:
A Toby Jug - also sometimes known as a Fillpot (or Philpot) - is a pottery jug in the form of a seated person, or the head of a recognizable person (often an English king). Typically the seated figure is a heavily-set, jovial man holding a mug of beer in one hand and a pipe of tobacco in the other and wearing 18th century attire: a long coat and a tricorn hat. The tricorn hat forms a pouring spout, often with a removable lid, and a handle is attached at the rear.
For more about Toby jugs, visit the website of the American Toby Jug Museum in Evanston, Illinois.

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! 

February poll results

Here are the results of the February poll:

How long have you been reading Diana Gabaldon's books?
  • 20.28% - 2-5 years
  • 15.80% - 5-10 years
  • 13.15% - 10-15 years
  • 12.73% - Since OUTLANDER was first published.
  • 11.19% - 1-2 years
  • 10.21% - 15-20 years
  • 5.73% - Less than 6 months
  • 5.17% - 6 months to 1 year
  • 4.20% - 20+ years
  • 0.56% - I don't remember.
  • 0.14% - I read excerpts of her work on Compuserve before OUTLANDER was published.
  • 0.84% - Other
Here are the responses for "Other":
  • Seems like I've always been reading Outlander.
  • I read the first 4 books as they were published but that was all. Now reading the
  • was given Cross Stitch about 2 years ago and have read all Outlander series
  • about 4 months but I have finished the series two times already
  • Since "Dragonfly in Amber" was published. First, I went back and read "Outlander"
  • listened to audio books on a recommendation begining in 2012. 
There were 715 responses to this poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated! I didn't vote in the poll myself, but I've been reading the books for a little over six years.

I hope you'll take a moment to vote in the March poll, which is all about Diana Gabaldon's latest story, "The Space Between". If you can't see the poll at the top right side of the page, try this link for the non-mobile version. The new poll will run through the end of March.