Monday, April 29, 2013


This is my homemade OUTLANDER sign, which I created in 2010.  Diana Gabaldon was kind enough to autograph it for me when I saw her in Winston-Salem, NC, in 2010, and some of you may have seen me with it at Diana's recent appearance in Annandale, VA.

I'm delighted by the positive reaction to the sign!  In the few days since this photo was posted on the Fairfax County Library's Facebook page, the number of "likes" on my Outlandish Observations FB page has gone from 1200 to about 1650 (!), and needless to say I'm thrilled!  If you're new here, welcome!

Some of you have asked about the possibility of getting T-shirts made with this logo.  I wanted to let all of you know that I am looking into the possibilities, and I hope to have something set up within the next few days.  I'll post again when it's ready.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 4/26/2013

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


1) Looking at the spines covering this European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), it certainly seems as though mating would be uncomfortable, to say the least!
"If you’ll not let me be spiritual about it, you’ll have to put up wi’ my baser nature. I’m going to be a beast.” He bit my neck. “Do ye want me to be a horse, a bear, or a dog?”

“A hedgehog.”

“A hedgehog? And just how does a hedgehog make love?” he demanded.

No, I thought. I won’t. I will not. But I did. “Very carefully,” I replied, giggling helplessly. So now we know just how old that one is, I thought.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "We Meet a Beggar". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a brief BBC video about the mating habits of hedgehogs, narrated by David Attenborough.

For more about hedgehogs, look here.

2) The photo above shows what ginseng root looks like.  There are two main varieties of ginseng; the type Claire and Nayawenne found in North Carolina was the American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius.
I had been fortunate enough to find four large ginseng roots the week before.  I fetched all four from my medicine chest and pressed them into her hands, smiling. [Nayawenne] looked back at me, then grinned, and untying the cloth bag from her belt, thrust it at me.  I didn't have to open it; I could feel the four long, lumpy shapes through the cloth.

I laughed in return; yes, we definitely spoke the same language!

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "The White Raven". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
Ginseng has been found to protect the body and nervous system from stress, stimulate and increase metabolic function, increase physical and mental efficiency, lower blood pressure and glucose levels when they are high, and raise them....when they are low, increase gastrointestinal movement and tone, increase iron metabolism, and cause changes in nucleic acid (RNA) biosynthesis.

In geriatric use, Ginseng has been proven beneficial in restoring mental abilities....This herb also aids mental function by improving circulation. Animal studies have clearly demonstrated Ginseng's ability to help the learning process.
For more about the medicinal properties of ginseng and its use as a herbal remedy, look here and here.

3) I had never heard of a Roman hypocaust before I read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.  The photo above shows the remains of a hypocaust at Bignor Roman Villa, Sussex, UK.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  The arrows indicate the direction in which the warm air flowed.
"Not for this winter,” she said, taking him contentedly by the arm, “but eventually--I’m wondering if I can vent some of the heat from the kiln, and run it under the floor of the cabin. You know what a Roman hypocaust is?”

“I do.” He turned to eye the foundation of his domicile, a simple hollow base of fieldstone on which the log walls were built. The notion of central heating in a crude mountain cabin made him want to laugh, but there was really nothing impossible about it, he supposed. “You’d what? Run pipes of warm air through the foundation stones?”

“Yes. Always assuming I can actually make good pipes, which remains to be seen. What do you think?”

He glanced from the proposed project up the hill to the Big House. Even at this distance, a mound of dirt by the foundation was visible, evidence of the white sow’s burrowing capabilities.

“I think ye run a great danger of having that big white buggeress transfer her affections to us, if ye make a cozy warm den under our house."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "An Eye to the Future". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an interesting article explaining how a Roman hypocaust works.

4) This is an example of a hook prosthesis from the early 19th century.  I think it's similar to what Fergus would have worn.  Look here for more photos.
"Complainant stated that one Fergus Fraser struck him in the face with his fist, causing complainant to fall stunned upon the ground, whereat the defendant seized the bridle of the horse, leapt upon it, and rode away, calling out remarks of an abusive nature in the French tongue. Complainant--”

A loud cough from the dock pulled all eyes to the defendant, who smiled charmingly at Mr. Justice Conant, plucked a handkerchief from his pocket and elaborately wiped his face--using the hook at the end of his left arm.

“Oh!” said the Justice, and swiveled cold eyes toward the witness chair, where Berowne squirmed in hot-faced agony.

“And would you care to explain, sir, how you have sustained injury upon the right side of your face, when struck by the left fist of a man who does not have one?”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 41, "Journey's End". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article about the history of prosthetic limbs.  The technology certainly has come a long, long way!

5) I had a set of colorful plastic pop-it beads like the ones shown above when I was five or six.  Here are more examples.
I sank down on the ground, dazed. Hodgepile’s body lay nearby, limbs askew. I glanced at it, the picture clear in my mind of a necklace Bree had had as a child, made of linked plastic beads that came apart when you pulled them. Pop-It pearls, they were called. I wished vaguely that I didn’t remember that.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 28, "Curses". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article about the history of Pop-it beads.  (I had no idea they were actually a popular fad in the 1950's, and I certainly wasn't aware that adults wore them!)

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. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

MOHB excerpt booklets coming this summer!

Diana Gabaldon made a comment on Facebook the other day about "the pre-release booklets that Random House US will be handing out at BEA this summer. <g> Those will be Very Cool: the first seven chapters of the book!"

"BEA" is Book Expo America, which will be taking place in New York from May 29-June 1.  Diana will be attending this event on June 1, so that's when the booklets will be available; check the Appearances page of her website for more details.  Tickets are required.

What if you can't attend BEA?  I'm hoping that they will make these excerpt booklets available to the general public after the conference ends, but Diana hasn't yet confirmed that.

Some of you may remember the ECHO excerpt booklets that were available for free at Borders bookstores in the US in the summer of 2009, a few months before AN ECHO IN THE BONE was published.  They were a big success (even if some insane people actually paid $50 or more for signed copies of the booklets on eBay!) and I'm glad they will be doing something similar this year. 

Note to those of you outside the US: I have no information about availability of these booklets in other countries.  If I find out anything more, I'll post it here.

That's all I know right now.  Stay tuned for further details! <g>

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Mandy!

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday to Bree and Roger's little girl.  Today is April 21st, Mandy MacKenzie's birthday. <g>

Depending on how you want to look at it, she's either 237 years old (born in 1776) or approximately 35 (counting from 1978, which is roughly when the MacKenzies returned to the 20th century).

Either way, it's kind of mind-boggling! <g>

Friday, April 19, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 4/19/2013

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

Jamaican Yellow Billed Parrot

1) This is a yellow-billed Amazon parrot (Amazona collaria), a species of parrot that is native to Jamaica.   Click on the photo for a bigger view.  I think this might have been the type of parrot that Lord John encountered on Jamaica in "A Plague of Zombies".
Loud screams came from the garden below, and Grey glanced out, to see a flock of small, brightly coloured parrots swooping in and out of a big, lacy tree with yellowish fruit. Like clockwork, two small black children, naked as eggs, shot out of the shrubbery and aimed slingshots at the birds. Rocks spattered harmless among the branches, but the birds rose in a feathery vortex of agitation and flapped off, shrieking their complaints.

(From "A Plague of Zombies" by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about the parrots of Jamaica, look here.

2) Many of you in the UK will doubtless be familiar with Aga cookers, but I had never heard of them before I read AN ECHO IN THE BONE:
He was fascinated by the Aga and pressed his backside against it, fairly shivering with delight.

“Oh, sweet Virgin,” he breathed, eyes closed as he reveled in the heat. “Is it not the lovely thing."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 72, "The Feast of All Saints". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a diagram showing how the Aga cooker works.  Click on the image for a bigger view.

The Aga was developed in 1922 by Gustav Dalén, a Swedish inventor and Nobel Laureate.  Here is an article with more information about Aga cookers.

3) This is what elecampane (Inula helenium) looks like.
"I’m afraid I’m none so canny wi’ the medicines as my Da yet,” young Mr. Haugh was saying at my elbow. “He’d taught me a good bit, but then he passed on a year ago, and there’s things here as I dinna ken the use of, I’m afraid.”

“Well, that one’s good for cough,” I said, taking down a jar of elecampane with a glance at the impatient Reverend, who had taken out a handkerchief and was wheezing asthmatically into it. “Particularly sticky-sounding coughs."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29, "Culloden's Last Victim". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are some medicinal uses of elecampane (from A MODERN HERBAL, which is one of the herbals that Diana Gabaldon uses as a reference.)

According to this site:
Elecampane was one of the most important herbs to the Greeks and Romans. It was regarded as almost a cure-all for dropsy, digestive upsets, menstrual disorders and sciatica. The Anglo-Saxons used the herb as a tonic, for skin diseases, and leprosy. By the 19th century, it was used to treat skin disease, neuralgia, liver problems, and coughs. Today it is used almost exclusively for respiratory problems.

4) Here's a song called "The Maid Gaed to the Mill", performed by Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger.  You may remember it from the scene near the beginning of A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
Roger was, of all things, singing now, if one could call it that. Or chanting, at least, the words to a very bawdy Scottish song, about a miller who is pestered by a young woman wanting him to grind her corn. Whereupon he does.

“He flung her down upon the sacks, and there she got her corn ground, her corn ground...” Roger was chanting hotly in her ear, his full weight pinning her to the ground and the stars spinning madly far above.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Ambush". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If the original Scots lyrics are too difficult to follow, you can see an English translation here.

5) Remember Roger's difficulty learning to shoot in THE FIERY CROSS, which Claire attributed to a lack of binocular vision?
"I don’t...binocular vision? But doesn’t everyone?...I mean, both my eyes do work, don’t they?” He looked mildly bewildered. He looked down into the palm of his hand, closing one eye, then the other, as though some answer might be found among the lines there.

“Your eyes are fine,” I assured him. “It’s just that they don’t work together. It’s really a fairly common condition--and many people who have it don’t realize it. It’s just that in some people, for one reason or another, the brain never learns to merge the images coming in from both eyes in order to make a three-dimensional image."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Twenty-Twenty". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a fascinating article about stereo blindness (inability to see in 3D).

UPDATE 4/19/2013 9:07 pm: I asked Diana Gabaldon on Compuserve today where she got the idea for Roger's vision problems, and she said,
That would be my husband and elder daughter.  They were both born with severe strabismus, and while that was corrected, neither one ever learned to see binocularly.  It doesn't seem to hamper them.
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.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Culloden anniversary

Today is the 267th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which took place on April 16, 1746.

I like this video very much. (The song is "The Ghosts of Culloden", performed by Isla Grant.)

Diana Gabaldon noted in her blog post about her 2008 visit to Culloden that she saw the place where Jamie woke after the battle, thinking he was dead.  When I asked her on Compuserve if she recalled where that was, exactly, she said,
Jamie made it almost to the second government line.  He woke in a little swale or dip (you recall he was lying in water), about forty feet off the path that leads from the Visitors Centre--maybe a couple of hundred yards beyond the VC itself.
The photo below shows the area where the government lines were, marked with a red flag.

I was lucky enough to be able to visit Culloden last year.  It's an amazing place, and the Visitors Centre is very well done.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"A Plague of Zombies" e-book now available for $1.99!

The standalone e-book of "A Plague of Zombies" is now available for $1.99 in the US and Canada!

Kindle edition

Nook edition

This is the same story that was originally published in DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS and A TRAIL OF FIRE as "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies".  If you haven't yet read it, I would definitely recommend it! <g>

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

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pictures from the book-signing!

I had a WONDERFUL time at Diana Gabaldon's appearance in Annandale, VA, on Friday night!

Several members of our group had arrived early in the afternoon to secure our places in line, so we ended up getting very good seats, in the second row no more than 10 feet from where Diana was speaking! Here I am with Carol and Tracey from My Outlander Purgatory.

Highlight of the evening for me: at the point in Diana's talk where she mentions how she got involved with the online forum that is now the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, Diana looked right at me and said, "The fabulous Karen Henry manages my folder on Compuserve. She's the bumblebee-herder." And I turned around and waved to the crowd. <g>

"The fabulous Karen Henry" -- wow!  I couldn't believe she said that in front of 1200 people. You can see from this photo just how thrilled I was.  THANK YOU, DIANA!!

The signing line was IMMENSE, but luckily I wasn't in line for very long. One of the event people offered to let me get in near the front of the line, which was awfully nice of them! I found out later that Diana didn't finish signing books until 2am (!)

It was great to see Diana again! My only regret is that I was so excited that I didn't think to ask her to pose for a photo of the two of us.  (Oh, well. We'll see each other again, I'm sure.)  The photo below shows Diana looking at my OUTLANDER first edition, which she said was "one of the first ones I ever signed."  She added an inscription that reads, "To Karen, Right-hand woman and Chief Bumblebee Herder!  Diana Gabaldon, April 12, 2013."

No real news from Diana's talk, except that she said there still is NOT an official release date for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.  The date of December 10, 2013, that you may have seen on and elsewhere is NOT the real date. (Yes, even the date on the Random House website is not the real publication date.  I asked her that specifically, and she said, "They're making it up, too.")  Diana confirmed what I have said here repeatedly, that until she makes a public announcement, there's no official publication date, no matter what you may see on various online sites.

It was a lot of fun to meet so many people in person that I've known for a long time online.

Lara came all the way from South Dakota (in spite of a massive snowstorm the day before) to be with us.

Here I am with Carla (left) and Kristin (right).

Group shot.  Notice my homemade OUTLANDER sign, which was a big success!

I had a fabulous time (there's that word again <g>) and I'm really glad I made the effort to go!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Going to see Diana on Friday!

As some of you know, I'll be attending Diana Gabaldon's appearance in Annandale, VA on Friday evening, April 12.

Naturally I am tremendously excited!  This will be the first time I've seen Diana since September 2010, just before THE EXILE came out.

It's going to be a huge crowd (the event is sold out), but I don't mind.  It will be crazy but fun, I'm sure.  And I'm really looking forward to meeting so many people I've come to know online, especially my friends from My Outlander Purgatory.

Yes, of course I'll blog all about it (with pictures, I promise!) but not until I get home on Sunday evening.  I will be spending the weekend with my brother and sister-in-law in Maryland.

If any of you are planning to be at this event, I should be pretty easy to spot.  Just look for a redhead driving a little electric scooter, and carrying a homemade OUTLANDER sign. <g>  Hope to see you there!

Monday, April 8, 2013

UK cover art

Diana Gabaldon just posted this image on Facebook and Twitter.  She says this will be the cover art for the UK/Australia/New Zealand editions of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.

I like this cover very much, and I'm glad they were able to use the same octothorpe design as the US cover!

To see more about the US cover art, look here.

Questions about WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD?  Check out my newly updated Book 8 FAQ.

Saturday, April 6, 2013


The US cover art for Diana Gabaldon's upcoming novel, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (aka MOHB, MOBY, or Book 8), was unveiled yesterday on  Click on the image above for a bigger view.

I think this is a beautiful cover, and very appropriate to the book!  Diana says the symbol on the red wax seal is called an octothorpe.  I think it's a very intriguing design, with lots of potential for Deep Meaning. <g>

First of all, I like the red-on-parchment color combination. It's soothing to look at, somehow (in a way that the "Green Slime" ECHO paperback is emphatically not!) and the effect is both elegant and inviting. Almost as though the book is saying, "Come break this seal, open me up, and see what's inside!" <g> I like that.

My first thought when I looked closely at the octothorpe design was, "Oh, cool, it's a pair of Moebius strips!"  Then I looked closer.  "No, it's a pair of slightly-distorted, interlocking infinity symbols. Even better!"  When I look at the image, my eyes trace those loops over and over and over. It's sort of hypnotic. <g>

We've had some interesting discussion on Compuserve in the last several years about Moebius strips and infinity symbols and how they relate to the OUTLANDER series, and to time-travel in particular.  Diana made an interesting comment about Moebius strips on Compuserve in 2009, and it came to mind immediately when I saw this design:
Fwiw, the fact that we perceive time to be linear doesn't mean it _is_. (Picture a bug walking along a Moebius circle made of paper, I mean. To _him_, he's walking a straight line. And in fact, he is. It's just that he's also walking on both sides of the paper.
So for me, the double infinity loops in the octothorpe represent the time-travelers. Not just Claire, but Bree, Roger, and Buck, too. And I just LOVE the interlocking nature of the design. I've said many times that this is all one immense story, and "everything interconnects". I think the octothorpe captures that idea beautifully. All these characters' lives are inextricably intertwined with one another, and always will be. One of the things I'm looking forward to the most in this book is seeing how those relationships between the characters change, not only because of what happened in ECHO, but as a result of as-yet-unknown events in MOHB.

And for those who don't feel inclined to think Deep Thoughts about time-travel, the two interlocking loops could also be Jamie and Claire's relationship, or Roger and Bree's. (Both, I think. <g>) A love that endures forever, that even a long separation, or death itself, can't diminish. I am very much worried for Roger in this book, praying that he'll eventually be reunited with his family, and I find this symbol reassuring in that context.

What do the rest of you think of this cover?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 4/5/2013

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books. This is a special "All Things Scottish" edition, in honor of Tartan Day on Saturday, April 6.

1) This illustration by James Basire (1745) shows a woman wearing an arisaid draped over her head as a shawl. Click on the picture for a bigger view.
I pulled my arisaid, a warm tartan shawl, tighter around my own shoulders, in response to the rising breeze. I had thought this few days’ stretch of warm weather a good omen; I hoped it hadn’t been deceptive.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 40, "The Fox's Lair". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here is a modern recreation of an arisaid.  Look here for more photos.

Here's a site that explains the history of the arisaid, and how it was typically worn.  I was particularly entertained by this bit: 
In Glasgow in 1604, “great disorder hath been in the Kirk by women sitting with their heads covered with plaids during sermon sleeping, therefore ordains intimation to be made that afterword none sit with their head covered with plaids during sermon time."
Can't you just imagine Hiram Crombie or Tom Christie, frowning in disapproval at the women napping beneath their arisaids during Sunday services? <g>

2) This stylized white rose is a Jacobite symbol.  I think it must be the same one that Geillis Abernathy chose to brand her slaves with, in VOYAGER:
The mark was about three inches long and three wide; a flower, surmounting the initial “A,” burned into the skin a few inches below the point of the shoulder. It was the right size, and in the right place, to match the scar on the man Ishmael. It wasn’t, however, a fleur-de-lys; that had been the mistake of a careless transcriber. It was a sixteen-petaled rose--the Jacobite emblem of Charles Stuart. I blinked at it in amazement; what patriotic exile had chosen this bizarre method of maintaining allegiance to the vanquished Stuarts?

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 55, "Ishmael". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Many of the Jacobite supporters during the Rising wore a white rose, or a white cockade (a bundle of ribbons) as a symbol of it, as Charles Stuart is wearing in the portrait shown above.  According to this site:
The White Cockade, as a Jacobite symbol, was born in Fassifern, Scotland. History recounts that Prince Charles Edward stayed overnight en route from Glenfinnan to Invergarry Castle on August 23rd 1745 at Fassfern House on the shore of Loch Eil, then home to John Cameron, younger brother of Lochiel....As he departed Fassifern House, “Bonnie Prince Charlie” plucked a white rose from a nearby bush and attached it to his blue bonnet thus becoming the famous White Cockade, the emblem of the Jacobites of the ‘45. It's not known how many of his followers also took a bloom, but the white rose immediately became the symbol of Jacobite support and continues thus to this day.
If you want to make your own cockade, you'll find step-by-step instructions here.

3) This is what bracken (Pteridium aquilinum) looks like.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  (Photo credit: Photoseverywhere)
No, Jem had turned the other way. Where the devil could he be going? The dirt lane that led to the main road in one direction led absolutely nowhere in the other--it petered out where the land rose into steep, rocky hills.

And that, evidently, was where Jem was headed--for the hills. He turned out of the lane and began climbing, his small form almost obscured by the luxuriant growth of bracken and the drooping branches of rowan trees on the lower slopes. Evidently he was taking to the heather, in the time-honored manner of Highland outlaws.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "Stag at Bay". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
In modern times, bracken is considered a very invasive plant that people go to great lengths to control and/or eradicate.  From Wikipedia:
Bracken is a characteristic moorland plant in the UK which over the last decades has increasingly out-competed characteristic ground-cover plants such as moor grasses, cowberry, bilberry and heathers and now covers a considerable part of upland moorland. Once valued and gathered for use as animal bedding, tanning, soap and glass making and as a fertiliser, bracken is now seen as a pernicious, invasive and opportunistic plant, taking over from the plants traditionally associated with open moorland and reducing easy access by humans.
Look here for more information.

Highland Cow

4) This photo of a "Hieland coo" was taken at the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, Scotland.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  (Photo credit: Grant Glendinning, on Flickr.)
"On the other hand”--the guide’s crinkled eyes crinkled a bit more-- “’twas a family here from Lancashire a few years ago, cam’ rushin’ to the police station in Invermoriston, screamin’ as they’d seen the monster come out o’ the water and hide in the bracken. Said ’twas a terrible creature, covered wi’ red hair and fearsome horns, and chewin’ something, wi’ the blood all dripping from its mouth.” He held up a hand, stemming my horrified exclamation.

“The constable they sent to see cam’ back and said, weel, bar the drippin’ blood, ’twas a verra accurate description”--he paused for effect--“of a nice Highland cow, chewin’ her cud in the bracken."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "Standing Stones". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Highland cattle are, of course, native to Scotland. According to Wikipedia,
Their hair provides protection during the cold winters and their skill in browsing for food enables them to survive in steep mountain areas. They both graze and browse and eat plants which many other cattle avoid. The meat tends to be leaner than most beef because Highlands get most of their insulation from their thick shaggy hair rather than subcutaneous fat. The coat makes them a good breed for cold northern climates and they are able to thrive in outdoor conditions that would defeat most other breeds of domestic beef cattle. As such, Highland cattle are able to produce beef at a reasonable gross margin from inhospitable land that would otherwise normally be incapable of rendering a profit agriculturally.
For more information about Highland cattle, look here.

I bought a little plush "Hieland coo", like the one shown here, in the Edinburgh airport on the way home from Scotland last July.  I think she's pretty cute! <g> (You can see more about my trip to Scotland here.)

5) One of the most famous objects associated with Scottish Highlanders in the 18th century is the basket-hilted broadsword.  You may remember the swordmaker John Simpson and his son, whom we met in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER:
At one side of the Gallery, I caught sight of two stocky figures, almost identical in uncomfortable and unaccustomed formal dress. It was John Simpson, Master of the Swordmakers Guild of Glasgow, and his son, also John Simpson. Arrived earlier in the week to present His Highness with one of the magnificent basket-hilted broadswords for which they were famed throughout Scotland, the two artisans had plainly been invited tonight to show Don Francisco the depth of support that the Stuarts enjoyed.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 37, "Holyrood". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The Simpsons were real historical figures.  The photo above shows a sword made by John Simpson the Younger, who died in 1749.

Check out this video showing what the broadsword can do. No question, it's a formidable weapon!  (I got to hold one once, at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in 2010.  That was fun. <g>)

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts.

***PLEASE NOTE***  There will NOT be a Friday Fun Facts post next week, as I will be traveling to Virginia on April 12th to attend Diana Gabaldon's book-signing.  The FFFs will resume on April 19.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Thanks to MC on Compuserve for coming up with a fun idea for OUTLANDER fans! She's created this map in Google Maps, so fans all over the world can mark where they live.

If you want to try it, look here for detailed instructions.  As far as I know, anyone can view the map, but you have to have a Google account in order to edit the map and place a pin on it.

Look for my pin in Raleigh, NC. <g>

Two things to be aware of:

1) Please don't move or delete other people's pins!  If you move a pin by accident, try to put it back where it was.

2) Make sure to zoom all the way in (using the + sign) before you place your pin, otherwise you might find you've put it in a totally different place than you intended!

I know nothing about Google Maps, so if you have problems using this map, I can't troubleshoot it for you.  I just thought many of you would enjoy it.

Have fun!

Monday, April 1, 2013

March poll results

Here are the results of the March poll:

Have you read Diana Gabaldon's latest story, "The Space Between"?
  • 32.19% - Yes. I read it in A TRAIL OF FIRE.
  • 14.78% - Not yet, but I'm planning to.
  • 7.29% - Of course! I loved it.
  • 6.07% - No, I'm waiting for A TRAIL OF FIRE to be released where I live.
  • 5.06% - No, I will wait until it's available as a standalone e-book.
  • 3.24% - I'm reading it now.
  • 2.63% - No, I don't want to buy a whole book for one new story.
  • 2.63% - What's that? Never heard of it.
  • 1.82% - No, it's not available where I live.
  • 1.42% - No, I will wait for the audio version.
  • 1.21% - Yes, I got it from the library.
  • 1.21% - No, I'm not interested in reading stories about minor characters.
  • 1.42% - Other
Here are the responses for "Other":
  • Have Trail Of Fire, but am pacing myself, so not read it yet.
  • Just received A Trail of Fire from 'the Poisoned Pen'...Can't wait to read it !
  • I have it, but have not had time to read it yet.
  • Yes, I read bought 'The mad scientists' and then also bought 'A trail of fire'
  • I bought A TRAIL OF FIRE from TPP & waiting til I have time to savor it!
  • read it on my Nook
  • I have it, but haven't read it yet. I'm waiting for time to savour every word!
There were 494 responses to this poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated! I didn't vote in the poll myself, but I really enjoyed this story. If you want to learn more about "The Space Between", see my FAQ page here.

I hope you'll take a moment to vote in the April poll, which is all about what everybody's doing to pass the time while we wait for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD. 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 April.