Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 6/28/2013

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

1) Beatrix Potter's Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle is a classic children's story, published in 1905.  Remember this scene in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, where Claire meets Governor Martin's wife?
She was round—very round, given her advanced state of pregnancy—with a small, sharp nose and a nearsighted way of peering that reminded me irresistibly of Beatrix Potter’s Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle. In terms of personality, not quite so much.

“Who the devil is this?” she demanded, poking a frowsy, capped head out of the bedclothes.

“Midwife, mum,” Dilman said, bobbing again. “Have you slept well, mum?”

“Of course not,” Mrs. Martin said crossly. “This beastly child’s kicked my liver black and blue, I’ve puked all night, I’ve sweated through my sheets, and I have a shaking ague. I was told there was no midwife to be found within the county.” She gave me a dyspeptic look. “Where did you discover this person, the local prison?"

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 92, "Amanuensis". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you're not familiar with the story of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, you can read the full text on Project Gutenberg here.

2) I didn't know that peach pits contained cyanide until I read OUTLANDER.
"Cyanide?” He looked down curiously at me. “What’s that?”

“The thing that killed Arthur Duncan. It’s a bloody fast, powerful poison. Fairly common in my time, but not here.” I licked my lips meditatively.

“I tasted it on his lips, and just that tiny bit was enough to make my whole face go numb. It acts almost instantly, as you saw. I should have known then--about Geilie, I mean. I imagine she made it from crushed peach pits or cherry stones, though it must have been the devil of a job."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 26, "The Laird's Return". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
There is about eighty-eight milligrams of cyanide in the average peach pit. If the pit is accidentally swallowed, the hard shell covering it will keep the cyanide from being released suddenly. Also, if swallowed, the most the cyanide will cause is a bad stomachache. The usual fatal dose of cyanide for an adult is about as low as one and a half milligrams per every kilogram of body weight....Other fruits that contain poisonous pits are: cherries, apricots, plums, almond, and, to a smaller degree, elderberries. The purpose of these poisonous pits is to repel herbivores from eating the trees' fruit before they are ready.
The amount of cyanide in peach pits is not enough to harm an adult, but might be dangerous if ingested by children or pets due to their lower body weight.

3) This is William Hogarth's famous 1746 portrait of Simon Fraser, Lord Lovat, aka the "Old Fox", Jamie Fraser's grandfather.  Click on the image for a bigger view.
He raised a thick gray brow in my direction, and shifted the gimlet stare to Jamie. “No more sense than your father, it seems.”

I could see Jamie’s hands twitch slightly, resisting the urge to clench into fists.

“At the least, I had nay need to take a wife by rape or trickery,” he observed evenly.

His grandfather grunted, unfazed by the insult. I thought I saw the corner of his wrinkled mouth twitch, but wasn’t sure.

“Aye, and ye’ve gained little enough by the bargain ye struck,” he observed. “Though at that, this one’s less expensive than that MacKenzie harlot Brian fell prey to. If this sassenach wench brings ye naught, at least she looks as though she costs ye little."

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

This is the block and axe used in the execution of Lord Lovat on Tower Hill, London, on April 9, 1747.  (Photo credit: kdewhunter, on Flickr.)  Lord Lovat was the last man to be executed by beheading in England.

For more about the "Old Fox", look here and here.

4) This is Athlone Castle in County Westmeath, Ireland.  (Click on the photo for a bigger view.)  If you take away the very modern boats and the cars parked near the dock, I think it looks very much as Diana described it in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.
The guard who admitted them to the castle led them up the curving walkway into the center of the fortress, past a series of arrow slits set into the immense outer wall. These were narrow in their outer aspect but much wider on the inside, to allow an archer to draw a longbow, Grey supposed, and wondered idly if he could fit his head through one.

It was an ancient construction, originally a motte and bailey, and remnants of this were still evident, the central donjon rising like a twelve-sided pepperpot from the old bailey, now a paved courtyard ringed with smaller structures that crowded up against the huge surrounding wall.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 17, "Castle Athlone". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The photo above shows the twelve-sided stone structure, part of the fortifications of Athlone Castle, that was built by Justiciar John de Gray (mentioned in SCOTTISH PRISONER as a distant ancestor of Lord John) around the year 1210.

5) From the description, the "ghost bear" in THE FIERY CROSS was probably an albino black bear, like the one shown above.
“But why do they think it’s a ghost?” Brianna leaned forward, interest displacing her initial horror at the tale.

Peter glanced at her, one eyebrow raised.

“Oh, aye, he didna say--or rather I expect he did, but not so as ye’d understand it. The thing was much bigger than the usual bear, he says--and pure white. He says when it turned to look at him, the beast’s eyes glowed red as flame. They kent at once it must be a ghost, and so they werena really surprised that their arrows didna touch it."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 81, "Bear-Killer". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to Wikipedia:
The eyes of an albino animal appear red because the colour of the red blood cells in the underlying retinal blood vessels shows through where there is no pigment to obscure 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, June 26, 2013

Interesting comments from Diana

Diana Gabaldon made some interesting comments today on Compuserve, about the difference between OUTLANDER as a novel and as a TV series, and why certain things that work in a novel may not translate as effectively to the visual medium of television.

She was talking about the discussions she had a few months ago with Ron Moore (executive producer of the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ), and mentioned that they had discussed (among many other things) "the stories that weren't in the books <g>".

Naturally I was intrigued by this comment, and when I asked what she meant by it, Diana gave a detailed example of why the opening scene in OUTLANDER wouldn't work very well as the opening for the TV show, and what Ron Moore suggested as an alternative.

She convinced me; read what she has to say, and you might be convinced, too!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

News about the STARZ TV series!

Lots of "breaking news" today about the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ!

First of all, here's the STARZ press release, quoted in its entirety on Diana Gabaldon's blog. I particularly liked these comments:
“We are thrilled to be bringing ‘Outlander’ to Starz next year,” said Chris Albrecht, CEO of Starz. “Diana has created an incredibly compelling heroine, thrust into a very complex world, not to mention, time. The books weave a fascinating tapestry of history, spirituality, love and honor, not to mention plenty of time travel, sex and warfare. With Diana’s stories guiding us and Ron’s mastery, we hope to bring Claire and Jamie to life for the millions of fans the world over.”

Moore added, “I’m very excited to have the opportunity to bring these books to life. Diana’s created a rich and textured world filled with intriguing characters, and I believe that Starz is the perfect home for her story. I think we’ll make something that the millions of fans of these books will enjoy and recognize as ‘Outlander.’”
Another comment from Ron Moore on Facebook today:
Exciting news today with the official announcement that Outlander is picked up for a 16 episode first season and I'm sure many of you are balancing your excitement with worry about how faithful we'll be to the original material. Let me tell you right from the start that we're fans of the books and our first priority is to be as true to the characters and the story that Diana Gabaldon has given us as we can. Put simply, our goal is to realize Outlander, not reinvent it. More updates to come as we roll into preproduction -- stay tuned.
If you're on Facebook, check out the OUTLANDER STARZ page on Facebook!

If you're on Twitter, you can follow @Outlander_Starz for the latest updates.

The official website for the OUTLANDER TV series was unveiled today. There's not much information there yet, but keep watching that site for further updates.

I like the fact that the logo they are using for the series is a simple, straightforward, OUTLANDER on a dark blue background, using the same font as the US editions of the OUTLANDER books.
I think this is a very encouraging start, and I remain cautiously optimistic.  I would just ask you all to please keep a few things in mind:

1) We have no information yet on who has been cast as Jamie, Claire, or anyone else.

2) Diana Gabaldon has said she will NOT be involved in casting, or in writing the scripts for the TV series.

3) The exact date of the series premiere has not yet been announced.

4) We don't have any information yet about the availability of this series outside the US.

I'll post more details as I find out more, but I think this is all very exciting!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer sale on Zazzle products!

To mark the official beginning of summer (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least <g>), is running a special sale:

Mugs are 50% off.

T-shirts are 40% off.

Bags and buttons are 30% off.

Keychains are 20% off.

Everything else is 10% off.

This offer is good through midnight Pacific time on Thursday, June 27. All you have to do is use the code SUMMERSTYLES at checkout.

Look here for details.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

On this day in OUTLANDER history

A couple of events to note today that took place on June 23:

The Battle of Krefeld took place on June 23, 1758.  This is the battle in which Lord John was badly wounded in a cannon explosion, in LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.
"Duck!” came a faint cry, and he threw himself headlong in the sopping grass just as his own gun spoke near at hand. Without looking to see the possible effect of the shot, he scrambled up into a crouch and scuttled the rest of the way, arriving winded and wheezing to the cheers of his men.

“Once more,” he panted. “Give it them again!”

The men were already at it; the linstock was thrust into his hand and he fumbled for the fuse, but his hand was shaking too badly to manage. The powder monkey seized the wobbling end of the slow-match and thrust it through the hole, slashing off the bit of fuse so hastily that the knife tip scratched Grey’s hand, though he didn’t feel it.

“Fall back!” he gasped, and lowered the hissing match to the touchhole.

There was an instant of breathless expectancy, and then the world disappeared in a blast of fire and darkness.

(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.)
The painting above, by 19th-century German artist Richard Knötel, depicts the infantry of Hessen-Kassel at the battle of Krefeld.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  (Note: the location of this battle is known as Crefeld, in the book.  Krefeld is the modern spelling.)

Great Dismal Swamp - Lake Drummond

On June 23, 1777, William Ransom, ninth Earl of Ellesmere, feverish and thoroughly lost, stumbled across Lake Drummond, in the middle of the Great Dismal Swamp.  (Photo credit: Sam Cooper, on Flickr.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.)
At midday on the third day, he found the lake.

He’d come to it through a cathedral of towering bald cypress, their great buttressed trunks rising like pillars from the flooded ground. Half starved, light-headed from a rising fever, he walked slowly through calf-deep water.

The air was still; so was the water. The only movement was the slow drag of his feet and the buzzing insects that plagued him. His eyes were swollen from the bites of mosquitoes, and the louse had company in the form of chiggers and sand fleas. The darning needles that darted to and fro didn’t bite like the hundreds of swarming tiny flies, but had their own form of torment--they made him glance at them, sunlight glinting gold and blue and red from their gauzy wings and shining bodies, dizzying in the light.

The smooth surface of the water reflected the trees standing in it so perfectly that he could not be sure quite where he himself was, balanced precariously between two looking-glass worlds. He kept losing his sense of up and down, the dizzying sight through the branches of the towering cypress above the same as that below. The trees loomed more than eighty feet over him, and the sight of drifting clouds seeming to sail straight through the gently stirring branches below gave him the constant queer sense that he was about to fall--up or down, he couldn’t tell.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 37, "Purgatory". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Friday, June 21, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 6/21/2013

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

DSC_0574 HDR

1) In honor of the summer solstice today (June 21), here's a look at one of the stone circles mentioned in the OUTLANDER books.  This is Corrimony Cairn, in Inverness-shire, Scotland.  Click on the photo for a bigger view. (Photo credit: heidi33 on Flickr.)

Jamie and Claire traveled to Corrimony Cairn to bury General Simon Fraser in AN ECHO IN THE BONE:
I had drawn closer, along with the other women, and found I was now standing within a foot or two of one of the standing stones that ringed the cairn. These were smaller than the stones on Craigh na Dun—no more than two or three feet high. Moved by sudden impulse, I reached out and touched it.

I hadn’t expected anything to happen, and it very luckily didn’t. Though had I suddenly vanished in the midst of the burial, it would have substantially enlivened the event.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 75, "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love this bit.  It always makes me laugh, a little nervously.  Can you imagine what would have happened if Claire really had vanished in the middle of a crowd of people like that? <g>

corrimony cairn

Here's another view of Corrimony Cairn. (Photo credit: hagfelsh, on Flickr.)  According to this site,
The cairn is believed to have been built some 4000 years ago, and from faint traces found in 1952 is believed to have been the last resting place of a (presumably very high status) woman. No grave goods were found, though a single bone pin did emerge during the excavation. It is probable that the cairn was built first, with the entrance being blocked off after use. Some time - perhaps many generations - later, the stone circle was added around the outside.
Have any of you visited Corrimony Cairn? If so, I'd like to hear about it!

2) Indigo was one of the most commonly used dyes in the 18th century. It comes from a plant called Indigofera tinctoria, pictured above. Indigo dye has a very distinctive blue color, as you can see in the photo below.

The women on Fraser's Ridge used indigo to dye their clothing.  Remember this scene from THE FIERY CROSS?
Distracted by Jamie’s dramatic arrival, I had left a vat full of dyeing to mind itself in the side yard--and the water had been low. Christ, if it boiled dry and burned the clothes...

The hot reek of urine and indigo hit me in the face as I shot out the door. In spite of that, I drew a deep breath of relief, as I saw Marsali, red in the face with the effort of levering a dripping mass from the pot with the big wooden clothes-fork. I went hastily to help her, snatching the steaming garments one by one from the sopping pile and flinging them onto the blackberry bushes to dry.

“Thank goodness,” I said, waving my scalded fingers in the air to cool them. “I was afraid I’d ruined the lot."

"Weel, they’ll be a bit dark, maybe.” Marsali wiped a hand across her face, plastering back the fine blond strands that escaped from her kerch. “If the weather keeps fine, though, ye can leave them in the sun to fade."

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

Here's a video demonstrating how to dye yarn with indigo.  I think it's fascinating to watch the color change from green to blue as the indigo dye is exposed to the air.

According to this site, Eliza Lucas Pinckney of South Carolina was responsible for introducing indigo to the Colonies:
After her successful crop in 1744, Pinckney distributed indigo seeds to her neighbors, initiating an indigo revolution in South Carolina....By 1775, the southern colonies produced 1,122,200 pounds of indigo a year for export.
(Bonus Fun Fact: this is the same Mrs. Pinckney who started the silk industry in South Carolina. For more information, see my FFF post from November 30, 2012.)

The American "indigo boom" didn't last long. The ban on the export of goods to England during the Revolution cut off indigo planters' access to markets, and after the war, the British turned to India as their main source of indigo.

For more about indigo, look here.  Thanks to Rosemary Hopkins for suggesting this very interesting topic!

3) Here is an example of a gold chalice and paten from France, from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Click on the photo for a bigger view. This may not be exactly the same as the one Michael asked the goldsmith to make in "The Space Between", but I think it's similar.
“A chalice,” Murray was saying, the paper laid flat on the counter.  From the corner of his eye, Rakoczy could see that it held a list of names.  “It’s a presentation to the chapel of des Anges, to be given in memory of my late father.  A young cousin of mine has just entered the convent there as a postulant, “ he explained.  “So M. Fraser thought that the best place.”

“An excellent choice.”  Rosenwald picked up the list.  “And you wish all of these names inscribed?”

“Yes, if you can.”

(From "The Space Between" by Diana Gabaldon, in A TRAIL OF FIRE. Copyright© 2012 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Now imagine some future historian, like Roger, or even Frank, going through the archives of L'Hôpital des Anges for evidence that might corroborate Claire's story, and stumbling across this chalice and paten engraved with the names of not only Claire and Jamie, but Jenny and Ian and their children (!)

4) Brag (also known as three-card brag) is an 18th-century card game, one of the forerunners of poker.   The photo shows a reproduction of an English deck of cards from around 1750.

You may remember Claire playing brag with Sadie Ferguson in jail, in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
"Any good at cards?”

“Loo or whist?” I asked warily.

“Know a game called brag?”

“No.” Jamie and Brianna played it now and then, but I had never acquainted myself with the rules.

“That’s all right; I’ll teach you.” Reaching under the mattress, she pulled out a rather limp deck of pasteboards and fanned them expertly, waving them gently under her nose as she smiled at me.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 90, "Forty-Six Beans to the Good". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Look here for a detailed description of the rules of brag.  You can download a freeware brag program here.

5) This is an example of a Mandarin civil servant's rank badge, also known as a Mandarin square, from the Qing dynasty (1662-1911).  (Photo from the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Art.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.)  This particular badge belonged to a civil servant of the second rank, like Yi Tien Cho (aka Mr. Willoughby).
"I was a Mandarin,” Mr. Willoughby began, in Jamie’s voice, “a Mandarin of letters, one gifted in composition. I wore a silk gown, embroidered in very many colors, and over this, the scholar’s blue silk gown, with the badge of my office embroidered upon breast and back--the figure of a feng-huang--a bird of fire.”

“I think he means a phoenix,” Jamie added, turning to me for a moment before directing his attention back to the patiently waiting Mr. Willoughby, who began speaking again at once.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 24, "Mr. Willoughby's Tale". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
A feng-huang is indeed a mythological bird similar to a phoenix.

Here's a detailed description of the rigorous training and examination process that candidates for these civil service positions went through.  You might have more respect for Yi Tien Cho after you read through 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, June 19, 2013

New OUTLANDER site, and a giveaway!

I just found out about a new OUTLANDER fan-site called Outlander Addiction.  (Great name, by the way!)  I wanted to pass along the following announcement:
To kick off the new page, we’re doing a Giveaway, with the prize being a Hardcover copy of Diana Gabaldon’s The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel.  Giveaway begins June 19th, 2013 and ends June 26th, 2013.
If you have questions about the giveaway, please post on the Outlander Addiction site, not here.  Thanks.

I have always felt that OUTLANDER bloggers should support each other, so I'm happy to do what I can to help publicize this new site.  Be sure to check out the Outlander Addiction Facebook page, too!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

MOHB excerpt booklet on eBay

A copy of the special limited-edition excerpt booklet containing the first 7 chapters of Diana Gabaldon's upcoming novel, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, is currently up for sale on eBay. Look here for details. The listing expires on June 19.

I admit to being astounded that someone would pay more than the cover price of the hardcover edition (which will be $35, according to for this 45-page booklet, but then again, I'm not really a collector of such things.  So I thought I'd mention it here, in case anyone's interested in placing a bid.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day quotes

Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!  In honor of the day, I thought I'd post a selection of my favorite quotes about fathers and fatherhood from Diana Gabaldon's books.  Hope you enjoy them!

"I hadna realized until I saw him just how alone I’d felt there--or how scairt. The soldiers would not give us any time alone together, but at least they let me greet him.” He swallowed and went on.

“I told him I was sorry--about Jenny, I meant, and the whole sorry mess. He told me to hush, though, and hugged me tight to him. He asked me was I hurt badly--he knew about the flogging--and I said I’d be all right. The soldiers said I must go then, so he squeezed my arms tight, and told me to remember to pray. He said he would stand by me, no matter what happened, and I must just keep my head up and try not to worrit myself. He kissed my cheek and the soldiers took me away. That was the last time I ever saw him."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "Reckonings". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.) 

“I wondered a bit,” he said thoughtfully, “whether my father was the sort of father he was because of the way old Simon treated him. I didna realize it at the time, of course, but it’s no so common for a man to show his feelings for his sons.”

“You’ve thought about it a lot.” I offered him another flask of ale, and he took it with a smile that lingered on me, more warming than the feeble autumn sun.

“Aye, I did. I was wondering, ye see, what sort of father I’d be to my own bairns, and looking back a bit to see, my own father being the best example I had. Yet I knew, from the bits that he said, or that Murtagh told me, that his own father was nothing like him, so I thought as how he must have made up his mind to do it all differently, once he had the chance."

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

Willie knew how an earl should behave; he was making a masterful effort to subdue his tears, sniffing ferociously and swiping at his face with a sleeve.

“Allow me, my lord.” Jamie did kneel then, and wiped the little boy’s face gently with his own coarse handkerchief. Willie’s eyes looked at him over the cotton folds, red-rimmed and woeful.

“Have you really got to go, Mac?” he asked, in a very small voice.

“Aye, I have.” He looked into the dark blue eyes, so heartbreakingly like his own, and suddenly didn’t give a damn what was right or who saw. He pulled the boy roughly to him, hugging him tight against his heart, holding the boy’s face close to his shoulder, that Willie might not see the quick tears that fell into his thick, soft hair.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 16, "Willie".  Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)

“You me Da,” he said. His voice was husky; he stopped and cleared his throat. “If--if ye want to, I mean,” he added diffidently.

“Da,” she said, and felt the smile bloom easily this time, unmarred by tears.

“Da. Is that Gaelic?”

He smiled back, the corners of his mouth trembling slightly. “No. It’s only...simple.”

And suddenly it was all simple. He held out his arms to her. She stepped into them and found that she had been wrong; he was as big as she’d imagined--and his arms were as strong about her as she had ever dared to hope.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 41, "Journey's End".  Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)

Roger had sworn an oath to take Jemmy as his own, no matter what the little boy’s true paternity might be; he was an honorable man, Roger, and he meant it. But the speech of the heart is louder than the words of any oath spoken by lips alone.

When I had gone back, pregnant, through the stones, Frank had sworn to me that he would keep me as his wife, would treat the coming child as his own--would love me as he had before. All three of those vows his lips and mind had done his best to keep, but his heart, in the end, had sworn only one. From the moment that he took Brianna in his arms, she was his daughter.

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

Jem was heavy in his arms, and groggy. He stirred, lifted his head, and blinked, blue eyes glassy with sleep.

“It’s okay,” Roger whispered, patting his back. “Daddy’s here.”

Jem sighed like a punctured tire and dropped his head on Roger’s shoulder with the force of a spent cannonball. He seemed to inflate again for a moment, but then put his thumb in his mouth and subsided into that peculiarly boneless state common to sleeping children. His flesh seemed to melt comfortably into Roger’s own, his trust so complete that it was not necessary even to maintain the boundaries of his body--Daddy would do that. 

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 29, "Perfectly Fine".  Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.) 

"For a long time,” he said at last, “when I was small, I pretended to myself that I was the bastard of some great man. All orphans do this, I think,” he added dispassionately. “It makes life easier to bear, to pretend that it will not always be as it is, that someone will come and restore you to your rightful place in the world.”

He shrugged.

“Then I grew older, and knew this was not true. No one would come to rescue me. But then--” He turned his head and gave Jamie a smile of surpassing sweetness.

“Then I grew older still, and discovered that, after all, it was true. I am the son of a great man.”

The hook touched Jamie’s hand, hard and capable.

“I wish for nothing more."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 18, "Pulling Teeth".  Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.) 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 6/14/2013

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

1) This is an example of a polonaise gown, or "robe à la polonaise", made in France in 1775.  Look here for close-up views.  I think it looks very much like the one Claire described in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
“I s’posed to hep you dress, ma’am.”

“But I don’t need any . . .” I began, and then saw the garments laid out on the bed: one of Mrs. Martin’s day gowns, a pretty printed floral cotton, done in the newly popular “polonaise” fashion, complete with voluminous petticoats, silk stockings, and a large straw hat to shade the face.

Evidently, I was meant to impersonate the Governor’s wife. There was no real point in protesting; I could hear the Governor and the butler talking in the hall, and after all--if it got me out of the palace, so much the better. 

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 93, "In Which I Impersonate a Lady". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)
Here's another example of a polonaise gown, from England circa 1770-1780.  Both of these gowns come from the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

According to this site,
The polonaise gown first came into fashion in the 1770s. It was a style of gown with a close-fitting bodice and the back of the skirt gathered up into three separate puffed sections to reveal the petticoat below. The method of suspending the fabric varied. Most often the dress had rows of little rings sewn inside the skirt through which a cord ran from hem to waist. Alternatively, ribbon ties would be used, with the ribbons forming decorative bows. However, in some instances the skirt was held in place by simple cords sewn to the inner waist of the dress and looped over buttons attached to the outside waistline.
I think they're just gorgeous!

2) Claire performed a cricothyrotomy to save Roger's life after the hanging in THE FIERY CROSS.  The diagram above shows where the incision would be made.  (Click on the picture for a bigger view.) 
A cricothyrotomy? Fast, and requiring no great skill, but difficult to keep open--and it might not be sufficient to relieve the obstruction. I had one hand on Roger’s sternum, the soft bump of his heart secure under my fingers. Strong enough...maybe.

“Right,” I said to Brianna, hoping I sounded quite calm. “I’ll need a bit of help.”

“Yes,” she said--and thank God, she sounded calm. “What shall I do?”

In essence, nothing all that difficult; simply hold Roger’s head pulled well back, and keep it steady while I slit his throat.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 69, "Hideous Emergency". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)

Here's a video animation of how a cricothyrotomy is performed using modern equipment.  Claire, of course, had nothing but a scalpel, and a broken pipe stem to use as a breathing tube.  From Wikipedia:
Cricothyrotomy is easier and quicker to perform than tracheotomy, does not require manipulation of the cervical spine, and is associated with fewer complications. However, while cricothyrotomy may be life-saving in extreme circumstances, this technique is only intended to be a temporizing measure until a definitive airway can be established.
Look here for step-by-step instructions on how to perform an emergency cricothyrotomy.

3) This is a British one-shilling coin from 1763, showing King George III.  Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Ian swore, picking up the coin.

“How d’ye do that? Every night ye’ve said ‘tails,’ and every night, tails it is!”

“Well, it’s your shilling, Ian. Dinna blame me.” He sat down on the bed platform and stretched himself pleasurably, then relented. “Look at Geordie’s nose.”

Ian flipped the shilling over in his fingers and held it to the light of the fire, squinting, then swore again. A tiny splotch of beeswax, so thin as to be invisible unless you were looking, ornamented the aristocratically prominent nose of George III, Rex Britannia.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "People of the Snowbird". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)
This coin would have been about ten years old by the time Ian acquired it, which would explain its somewhat battered appearance. <g>

Erin Modeling a Buffalo Robe - It's heavier than it looks!

Small Buffalo Robe

4) This is what a buffalo robe looks like. Photo credits: Erin and Lance Willett (top) and paintedpony7 (bottom), on Flickr.
"I brought ye a present, Sassenach,” Jamie said, grinning and wiping sweat from his jaw.

“A...present,” I said faintly, looking at the enormous heap of...what?...he had dropped on the ground at my feet. Then the smell reached me.

“A buffalo robe!” I exclaimed. “Oh, Jamie! A real buffalo robe?”

Not much doubt of that. It was not--thank God--a fresh one, but the scent of its original owner was still perceptible, even in the cold. I fell to my knees, running my hands over it. It was well-cured, flexible, and relatively clean, the wool of it rough under my hands but free of mud, burrs, clumps of dung, and the other impedimenta that normally attended live buffalo. It was enormous. And warm. Wonderfully warm.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 68, "Despoiler". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)
I have always thought it was a shame that Jamie and Claire never got to try out the buffalo robe. <g>  Given that they departed for Scotland only a short time later, I wonder what happened to it?  Do you suppose they left it with Rachel?

5) This photo shows part of the underground network of tunnels below the city of Paris, known as the Catacombs. Click on the photo for a bigger view.

This video gives a fascinating glimpse into the Catacombs.  These tunnels have been closed off to the public for decades.  You can see why the Comte St. Germain would consider this an ideal hiding place for his cache of gemstones.  Imagine him making his way through these tunnels with a torch that burned green fire.
His torch had begun to gutter already, and he pulled another from the bag and lit it from the remains of the first, which he dropped on the floor at the entrance to the side-tunnel, leaving it to flare and smolder behind him, the smoke catching at his throat. He knew his way, but even so, it was as well to leave landmarks, here in the realm of everlasting night. The mine had deep rooms, one far back that showed strange paintings on the wall, of animals that didn't exist, but had an astonishing vividness, as though they would leap from the wall and stampede down the passages. Sometimes--rarely--he went all the way down into the bowels of the earth, just to look at them.

(From "The Space Between", in A TRAIL OF FIRE by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2012 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)
If you haven't yet read "The Space Between", I highly recommend it!  Look here for more information.

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, June 12, 2013

Let the countdown begin!

By request, here is my countdown widget for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD!

It's counting down to midnight Eastern Time on March 25, 2014, the date when MOHB will be published in the US and Canada.  (If you missed Diana Gabaldon's announcement about the publication date, look here.)

Please keep in mind this is a totally unofficial, homemade countdown. When ECHO came out in 2009, Random House created an official countdown widget a few weeks before its publication, and I'm hoping they will do the same thing for MOHB when the date gets closer.

Feel free to share this widget or put it up on your own site.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

FAQs have been updated

In honor of all the Big News lately, about the upcoming STARZ TV series and the March 25, 2014, release date for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, I thought it was time to refresh all of my FAQ pages with current information.

So here they are. You can also access the FAQs from the links at the top of this page.

FAQ - for answers to commonly asked questions about the books and the series in general.

Book 8 FAQ - commonly asked questions about WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.

Release Dates - everything we know right now about Diana Gabaldon's new and upcoming books and stories, including publication dates if they've been announced.

OUTLANDER TV Series FAQ - This is a new page that I created last week, specifically for answers to common questions about the TV series.  I will be adding more to it in the coming weeks and months, as more information becomes available.

I hope you find these pages useful!  Let me know if there's anything you'd like to see added.

Monday, June 10, 2013

WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD official release date!!

[UPDATED November 24, 2013, 7:21 pm]

Diana Gabaldon announced on November 15, 2013, that the publication date for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD will be changing.  The book will be published in the US and Canada on June 10, 2014.

*** Please take the time to read Diana Gabaldon's explanation for the delay. ***

Article about the TV series in The Scotsman

Here's an article about the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series that appeared in the June 6 edition of The Scotsman, a major newspaper in Scotland.

Note this comment from the show's executive producer, Ron Moore:
"The idea would be to do a season a book."
Isn't that great news?!

By the way, don't be dismayed by the comments accompanying the article.  Here's Diana Gabaldon's reaction on Compuserve:
The comments there actually have nothing at all to do with the story, my books, or the TV show.  They're part of the ongoing (and increasingly acrimonious) argument between supporters of the SNP (Scottish Nationalist Party), who are heavily in favor of Scotland leaving the Union with England and becoming entirely independent, and those who think (with some reason) that this would be a disastrous idea and that the SNP are dangerous nuts. <g>

Evidently, they'll seize on anything--in this instance, the suggestion that the TV series might increase tourism (thus enhancing the Scottish economy)--to snipe at each other in a public forum.
For more information about the TV series, please check out my new OUTLANDER TV Series FAQ.  I will update it as more information becomes available.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 6/7/2013

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

1) You may remember Duncan Innes telling Roger this story in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
"Margaret,” he said. “Her name was Margaret. Eighteen she was, at the time.....[They] dragged her doon to the shore, her and an auld Covenanter woman from the village, stripped them, and tied them both to stakes at the tide line. Waited there, the crowd o’ them, for the water to come in.”

He took another swallow, not waiting for the taste of it.

“The auld woman went under first; they’d tied her closer to the water--I suppose thinking Margaret would give in, if she saw the auld woman die.” He grunted, shaking his head. “But nay, not a bit of it. The tide rose, and the waves came up ower her. She choked, and she coughed, and her hair loose, hanging over her face, plastered doon like kelp, when the water went out.

“My mither saw it,” he explained, lifting his glass. “She was but seven at the time, but she never forgot."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon,  chapter 15, "Stakit to Droon". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)
What Duncan is describing is a real historical incident.  The statue shown above, from Knox College in Toronto, Canada, depicts Margaret Wilson, the younger of the two women executed by drowning on the Solway Firth in 1685.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.

From Wikipedia:
On 11th May 1685....Margaret Wilson and Margaret McLachlan were chained to stakes on the Solway Firth. At the last moment, choking on the salt water, Margaret Wilson was allowed to offer a prayer for the King, which she did, but she continued to refuse to abjure the covenant. This was not good enough for her accusers, and she was forcibly thrust beneath the waves. It is said that, as the tide rose, she defiantly quoted from the psalms and the epistles and sang until she drowned.
These women became known as the Solway Martyrs.  For more information, look here.

2) The photo above shows Salmonella typhi, the bacteria that causes typhoid fever.
That seaman didn’t have the characteristic belly rash, nor the next, but the third one did. The light red rosettes were plain on the clammy white skin. I pressed firmly on one, and it disappeared, blinking back into existence a moment later, as the blood returned to the skin. I squeezed my way between the hammocks, the heavy, sweating bodies pressing in on me from either side, and made my way back to the companionway where Captain Leonard and two more of his midshipmen waited for me.

“It’s typhoid,” I told the Captain. I was as sure as I could be, lacking a microscope and blood culture.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon,  chapter 46, "We Meet a Porpoise". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)
Here is a list of symptoms of typhoid fever.  What a horrifying disease!  I think it's amazing that Claire was able to save as many lives as she did, working under such primitive conditions aboard the Porpoise.

Typhoid can only spread in environments where human feces or urine are able to come into contact with food or drinking water.  Improved sanitation and the development of a typhoid vaccine have greatly reduced the spread of this disease in modern times, but it remains a serious worldwide threat, especially in the developing world, affecting an estimated 22 million people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease is endemic in India, Southeast Asia, Africa, South America and many other areas.

3) This photo from Wikipedia shows what a girdled tree looks like. You can see why Roger didn't like doing this job.
"Sorry,” he murmured under his breath to the tree he had selected. It was ridiculous to feel pity for a tree; the more so in this sprawling wilderness, where saplings sprang out of the thawing earth with such spring vigor as to crack solid rock and the mountains were so thickly blanketed with trees that the air itself was a smoky blue with their exhalations. For that matter, the emotion wouldn’t last longer than it took to begin the job; by the time he reached the third tree, he would be sweating freely and cursing the awkwardness of the work.

Still, he always approached the job with a faint reluctance, disliking the manner of it more than the result. Chopping down a tree for timber was straight-forward; girdling it seemed somehow mean-spirited, if practical, leaving the tree to die slowly, unable to bring water from its roots above the ring of bare, exposed wood.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 95, "The Summer Dim". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Girdling is used in the same manner today, to kill unwanted trees, but you may be surprised to learn that a similar technique is also used to encourage trees to produce more fruit.  Here's an article about the benefits of girdling peach trees.

4) The photo above shows an orb weaver spider spinning its web.  Click on the photo to enlarge it.
The orb weaver was advancing cautiously toward the center of her web again.

“See where she walks?” Jamie pointed to the web, anchored by a number of spokes, supporting the intricate netlike whorl. “The spokes there, those are spun of the dry silk, so the spider can walk over it herself wi’ no trouble. But the rest o’ the web is the sticky kind of silk--or mostly so--and if ye watch a spider careful for quite a long time, you’ll see that she goes only on the dry strands, for if she walked on the sticky stuff, she’d be stuck herself.”

“Is that so?” Ian breathed reverently on the web, watching intently as the spider moved away along her nonskid road to safety.

“I suppose there’s a moral there for web weavers,” Jamie observed to me, sotto voce. “Be sure ye know which of your strands are sticky.”

“I suppose it helps even more if you have the kind of luck that will conjure up a handy spider when you need one,” I said dryly.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29, "Culloden's Last Victim". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon.  All rights reserved.)
Here's a video showing how the spider spins its web.

How do spiders avoid getting stuck in their own webs?  Look here.

5) Here's an example of a pie safe from Colonial North Carolina.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.  I like to think it might have been similar to the one Jamie and Claire had in their house on Fraser's Ridge.
"No!” I said, my voice sounding rather louder than I intended. “I’m not...damaged.”

He said something in Gaelic under his breath, short and explosive, and shoved himself away from the table. His stool fell over with a loud crash, and he kicked it. Then he kicked it again, and again, and stamped on it with such violence that bits of wood flew across the kitchen and struck the pie safe with little pinging sounds.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon,  chapter 29, "Perfectly Fine". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
According to this site, the purpose of a pie safe is to keep mice and flies away from baked goods, while still providing enough ventilation (through the tiny holes in the pierced-tin panels) so that the food doesn't spoil.

The photo above shows a pie safe from the 1820s, made of walnut.

The panels on these pie safes were often beautifully decorated, as you can see from this example.

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.