Sunday, July 28, 2013

2nd Annual OUTLANDER Photo Contest!

In celebration of the 5th anniversary of Outlandish Observations, which is coming up at the end of August, I'm pleased to announce the 2nd Annual OUTLANDER Photo Contest!

[UPDATE 9/8/2013: The contest is over. Look here for the winners and the slideshow of photos.]

We had a lot of fun with this contest last year, and I wanted to try it again.  You can see last year's contest entries here.

The Rules:

1) Submit a photo showing one of the following:
  • Yourself, a friend, or a family member (including children or pets!) reading or holding one of Diana Gabaldon's books.
  • Your OUTLANDER book collection
  • A well-loved paperback edition (you know, one of those books that's been read so often it's nearly falling apart...)
  • Your favorite place to read the books
  • The most unusual place you've read the books
  • etc.
Be creative! The only requirements are:
  • At least one of Diana Gabaldon's books must be included in the photo in order to qualify for the contest.
  • The photo must be one that you took yourself, or that you have permission to use.
2) Please email your photo to, with the subject line "OUTLANDER Photo Contest", and include:
  • Your name
  • A brief caption or description of the photo.  (If there's a story behind the photo, I'd love to hear it!)
  • Please state whether or not it's OK to share your photo.  (After the contest ends, I will post the photos in an album on Picasa, so that Diana Gabaldon and any fans who might be interested can see them. If you'd rather not have your photo included in this collection, that's fine, just let me know.  It won't affect your eligibility for the contest.)
3) Contest ends Saturday, September 7, at midnight Eastern Time. Winners will be chosen at random on September 8, 2013.

4) One entry per person, please!

5) You do not have to be a US resident in order to enter this contest.

6) Winners of last year's OUTLANDER Photo Contest are not eligible to win this year's contest. (Sorry, but I'd like to give others a chance to win.)

The Prizes:

There will be three (3) prizes awarded. Each winner will receive his/her choice of ONE of the following books in hardcover, signed and personalized by Diana Gabaldon:
  • Any of the OUTLANDER or Lord John books (excluding WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, which won't be published until March 25, 2014)
  • THE EXILE (graphic novel)
  • The OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary Edition
I will arrange with the Poisoned Pen bookstore to ship the autographed book to you if you win.

Please contact me at, or leave a comment here, if you have any questions.  Good luck, and have fun!  I'm looking forward to seeing what everybody comes up with. <g>

PLEASE NOTE: I will acknowledge each entry as it's received with a reply by email.  If you sent in a photo but you did NOT get a reply back from me, please re-send it and make sure that you put "OUTLANDER Photo Contest" in the subject line, so I will know it's for the contest.  Thanks.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 7/26/2013

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

Cape Wrath

1) The photo above was taken at Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point in Scotland. This is where Fergus, Marsali, Duncan Innes, and the rest of Jamie's small band of smugglers boarded the Artemis, just before she set sail across the Atlantic.  Click on the photo for a bigger view. (Photo credit: murphyz, on Flickr)


Here's another view of Cape Wrath.  (Photo credit: Garga A., on Flickr.)  I like this photo because it seems to match the description in the book very closely:
It was a cold, gray day--there is no other kind in Scotland in December--when the Artemis touched at Cape Wrath, on the northwest coast.

I peered out of the tavern window into a solid gray murk that hid the cliffs along the shore. The place was depressingly reminiscent of the landscape near the silkies’ isle, with the smell of dead seaweed strong in the air, and the crashing of waves so loud as to inhibit conversation, even inside the small pothouse by the wharf. Young Ian had been taken nearly a month before. Now it was past Christmas, and here we were, still in Scotland, no more than a few miles from the seals’ island.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 41,  "We Set Sail".  Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Have any of you ever been to Cape Wrath?

2) You may remember this scene from LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, where General Stanley is distraught over the cancelling of his engagement to Lord John's mother, Benedicta:
The general, relieved of Olivia’s blatantly fecund presence, had left the looking glass and was pottering round the room, heedlessly picking things up and putting them down at random.

“You do not suppose this is meant as some sort of test of my devotion?” he asked, rather hopefully. “Like Leander swimming the Hellespont, that sort of thing?”

“I think if she had meant you to bring her a roc’s egg or anything of the kind, she would have said so,” Grey said, as kindly as possible.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 16, "In Which an Engagement is Broken". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The painting above, by Elihu Vedder, is called "The Roc's Egg". A roc is a mythical bird of prey, enormous in size -- big enough to carry an elephant in its talons, as you can see from this illustration from THE ARABIAN NIGHTS.

For more about rocs, look here.

3) The photo above shows a closeup of stinging nettles (Urtica dioica). Just reading this brief description in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER makes me wince, imagining what that would feel like.
Still holding my eyes with his own, he reached out his free hand, fumbling over the rocks until he touched a bunch of nettles.  He drew in his breath as his fingers touched the prickly stems, but his jaw clenched; he closed his fist and ripped the plants up by the roots.

"The peasants of Gascony beat a faithless wife wi' nettles," he said.  He lowered the spiky bunch of leaves and brushed the flower heads lightly across one breast.  I gasped from the sudden sting, and a faint red blotch appeared as though by magic on my skin.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29, "To Grasp the Nettle". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The expression "to grasp the nettle" comes from Aesop's Fables:
A Boy was stung by a Nettle. He ran home and told his Mother, saying, "Although it hurts me very much, I only touched it gently."

"That was just why it stung you," said his Mother. "The next time you touch a Nettle, grasp it boldly, and it will be soft as silk to your hand, and not in the least hurt you."
You may be surprised to learn that nettles are edible.  Here's a recipe from Outlander Kitchen that uses nettles.

For more information about medicinal and other uses for nettles, look here and here.

4) Richard Scarry's ANIMAL NURSERY TALES was first published in 1975, and it's still in print.  The photo above shows the cover of the 1975 edition, which is probably the one that Bree read to Jem and Mandy.
"Come on, what story are we reading tonight?”

“Aminal Nursy Tales!”

“An-i-mal,” Jem said, bending down to speak distinctly into his sister’s face. “An-i-mal Nur-ser-y Tales.”

“Okay,” she said amiably. “Me first!” and scampered madly out the door, giggling, followed by her brother in hot pursuit.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 5,  "Morality for Time-Travelers".  Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)    

5) I had not heard of ley lines before I read the OUTLANDER books.  According to Wikipedia,
On 30 June 1921, Alfred Watkins visited Blackwardine in Herefordshire, and had been driving along a road near the village (which has now virtually disappeared). Attracted by the nearby archaeological investigation of a Roman camp, he stopped his car to compare the landscape on either side of the road with the marked features on his much used map. While gazing at the scene around him and consulting the map, he saw, in the words of his son, "like a chain of fairy lights" a series of straight alignments of various ancient features, such as standing stones, wayside crosses, causeways, hill forts, and ancient churches on mounds.
The diagram above shows the Belinus ley line, the longest ley line in the UK. It was discovered in 1974 by Guy Raglan Phillips.  Notice that Pitlochry and Culloden lie on its path.  Craigh na Dun, of course, is not far from Culloden.

These ley lines exist throughout the world, as Roger explained in his "Hitchhiker's Guide" in ECHO:
What people usually have in mind when using this term is an ancient pathway that leads, say, from a standing stone to an ancient abbey, which is itself likely built on a spot of much older worship.

Since there isn’t much objective evidence beyond the obvious existence of such lines, there’s a lot of guff talked about them. Some people think the lines have a magical or mystical significance. I don’t see any grounds for this myself, and neither does your mother, who is a scientist. On the other hand, science changes its mind now and then, and what looks like magic may really have a scientific explanation.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Ley Lines". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a very interesting video about ley lines, including some discussion of ancient megaliths and other structures that were built where ley lines intersect.

For more about ley lines, 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, July 24, 2013

Diana talks about Jamie and Dougal's relationship

Here's a fascinating post from Diana Gabaldon on Compuserve, about the very complex relationship between Jamie and Dougal.  Written as an answer to Sam Heughan's question about why she'd made Jamie left-handed, it's one of the best and most comprehensive explanations of Dougal and Jamie's relationship that I've ever seen.

Note to the Heughligans:  Diana was kind enough to share this particular response on Compuserve, but please don't go out of your way to mention that to Sam.  Diana says,
I won't generally post stuff about this sort of discussion, though;  I don't mind talking about my "process" (for lack of a better word <g>) at all, and don't mind people watching me work, but I don't know how Sam feels about it and he's entitled to privacy in which to do his own work/prep.
Sam Heughan is absolutely entitled to have discussions in private with Diana about the characters, their background, their motivations, etc., and the last thing I want is to make him feel self-conscious about asking Diana questions!

But since Diana did post this explanation in public, I would encourage you all to take the time to read it.  I love it when she goes into great detail about the characters like that.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Diana's daughter is getting married!

Diana Gabaldon mentioned on Twitter that her elder daughter, Laura, will be getting married on Saturday!

Her daughter lives in Oregon, and I believe that's where the wedding will be taking place, but I have no further details.  I don't even know the groom's first name.

Congratulations and best wishes to Diana, her daughter, her new son-in-law, and the rest of their family!  I hope everything goes smoothly!

If you want to pass your congratulations on to Diana, there's a thread on Compuserve here.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 7/19/2013

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

1) Diana Gabaldon has said that the Devil's Tramping Ground in rural Chatham County, North Carolina, was the inspiration for the barren spot inside the rhododendron hell that Roger discovered in DRUMS OF AUTUMN.
His head and shoulders protruded into a clear space. Not merely clear, but empty. Eagerly, he wriggled forward, out of the claustrophobic grip of the rhododendrons.

He was standing in an open space, facing a cliff wall that rose on the far side of a small clearing. It really was a clearing, too; nothing at all grew in the soft dirt beneath his feet. Astonished, he turned slowly round, gulping great lungfuls of cold, sharp air.

“My God in heaven,” he said softly, aloud. The clearing was roughly oval in shape, ringed by standing stones, with one end of the oval closed by the cliff face. The stones were evenly spaced around the ring, a few of them fallen, a couple more dislodged from their places by the press of roots and stems behind them. He could see the dense black mass of the rhododendrons, showing between and above the stones--but not one plant grew within the perimeter of the ring.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 51, "Betrayal". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Devil's Tramping Ground - 10

Here's another view. (Photo credit: opus2008, on Flickr.) According to this site,
The Devil's Tramping Ground is a mysterious, perfectly round and absolutely barren circle about forty feet in diameter in the pine woods of Chatham County. Not a tree, not flower, no lowly weed or even a single blade of grass will grow in the limits of the circle. Seed sowed there refuse to sprout. Any vegetation transplanted there will wither and die.

And, what's even more strange, any object left in the circle at dusk will have been violently moved outside its bounds by dawn.

2) Here's Tennessee Ernie Ford singing "Sixteen Tons", a song he recorded in 1955.
He'd been out by the barn, shoveling well-rotted manure into a wheelbarrow to spread on the kailyard, Jem assisting with his own small spade.

“Sixteen tons and what do you get?” Roger had sung--if the sort of hoarse croaking he produced could be called that.

“Another day older and deeper in shit!” Jem bellowed, doing his best to pitch his voice down into Tennessee Ernie Ford range, but then losing control in a glissando of giggles.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 16, "Unarmed Conflict". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see the song lyrics here.  I can easily imagine Roger and Jem listening to this record together, perhaps in their time in Boston or at Lallybroch.

Gorse bushes at Culloden, Scotland

3) Gorse is the common name for a genus of flowering plants found throughout the UK.  This photo shows some gorse bushes at Culloden.  (Photo credit: Danie van der Merwe, on Flickr.)

Considering that gorse bushes are full of spines, it wouldn't be a very comfortable spot to get tossed into, but Claire was in no position to be picky about it!
Suddenly reining up next to a large gorse bush, Jamie grabbed me round the waist and unceremoniously dumped me into it.


The rock surfaces were cratered with shadow; I could hear shouts and occasional musket shots, but couldn’t tell if the movements I saw were those of men, or only the shades of the stunted oaks that sprouted from cracks in the rock.

I extricated myself from the bush with some difficulty, picking bits of prickly gorse from my skirt and hair. I licked a scratch on my hand, wondering what on earth I was to do now.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 3, "The Man in the Wood". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Look here for more information about gorse.  I was surprised to learn that it is considered an invasive species on the West Coast of the US.

4) Seasickness is a form of kinetosis, or motion sickness.  According to Wikipedia, this is
a condition in which a disagreement exists between visually perceived movement and the vestibular system's sense of movement. Depending on the cause, it can also be referred to as seasickness, car sickness, simulation sickness or airsickness.
The vestibular system, which is part of the inner ear, monitors movement and helps control balance. In other words, the inner ear tells your brain that you're moving, but your eyes tell you that you're not (or vice versa).

Poor Jamie!  I always feel so sorry for him whenever he gets on a boat.
Jamie was lying on his side, wedged into one of these [berths] like a snail into its shell; one of which beasts he strongly resembled at the moment, being a pale and viscid gray in color, with streaks of green and yellow that contrasted nastily with his red hair. He opened one eye when he heard me come in, regarded me dimly for a moment, and closed it again.

"Not so good, hm?” I said sympathetically.

The eye opened again, and he seemed to be preparing to say something. He opened his mouth, changed his mind, and closed it again.

“No,” he said, and shut the eye once more.

I tentatively smoothed his hair, but he seemed too sunk in misery to notice.

“Captain Raines says it will likely be calmer by tomorrow,” I offered. The sea wasn’t terribly rough as it was, but there was a noticeable rise and fall.

“It doesna matter,” he said, not opening his eyes. “I shall be dead by then--or at least I hope so.”

“Afraid not,” I said, shaking my head. “Nobody dies of seasickness; though I must say it seems a wonder that they don’t, looking at you."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 41,  "We Set Sail".  Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are some tips for avoiding seasickness on a cruise (or a transatlantic voyage by sailing ship, as the case may be....)  I was particularly struck by item number 2 on this list:
STAY ON DECK.  When you’re feeling drowsy and nauseous, the first thing you feel like doing is going back to your room and laying down; however, this is the worst possible thing you could do. Stay on deck as much as possible to allow your eyes to confirm the movement that your body is feeling, this way your body can expect the movements before they occur and allow you to better prepare yourself.
Apparently Claire didn't know about that.  Too bad.  It might have eased Jamie's suffering somewhat.

5) Here's an example of an Iroquois cradleboard, circa 1800-1830, from the collection of the McCord Museum in Quebec, Canada.
She had been going to the forest with some other girls, one day in late summer. They carried baskets for gathering; Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa had an ax through her belt. One of the other girls had asked her whether she meant to find wood for another bowl like the one she had made for her mother; Works With Her Hands had said--with a quick, warm look toward Ian, who lounged nearby with the other young men--that no, she wished to find a good red cedar, for wood to make a cradleboard.

The girls had giggled and embraced Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa; the young men had grinned and prodded Ian knowingly in the ribs. And Ian had caught a glimpse of Sun Elk’s face, hot eyes fixed on Emily’s straight back as she walked away. 

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 70, "Emily".  Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This is a modern replica of a Mohawk cradleboard, showing how the baby would be placed in it.  (Photo credit: Bill Loran)  The wooden piece in front of the baby's head is intended to protect the child if the cradleboard falls.

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, July 17, 2013

Introducing Heughan's Heughligans!

My friend Kristin has started a new website called Heughan's Heughligans, to collect information and interesting links about Sam Heughan, the 33-year-old Scottish actor who will be playing Jamie Fraser in the OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ.

Apparently the term "Heughligans" was coined on Twitter shortly after Sam was announced as Jamie.  I like it. <g>

Please note, I didn't create this site and I have no connection to it; I'm just helping to spread the word. <g> If you have comments or suggestions about things you'd like to see added to it, see the contact information here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cameo suggestions for Diana

Diana Gabaldon mentioned the other day on Compuserve that the producers of the OUTLANDER TV series have asked her to do a cameo appearance:
The producers did ask me if I'd be an extra in one episode and I said I would.  No idea what/when, though.  And you don't know what may--or may not--happen, either.  George RR [Martin] told me he'd done a cameo for one of the Game of Thrones episodes, but it ended up on the cutting-room floor!
I have no further details.  In fact, I told Diana that I think it would be more fun for the fans if she doesn't tell us which scene or episode she'll be appearing in.  Let's see how quickly the sharp-eyed OUTLANDER fans can spot her! <g>

In the meantime, I thought it might be fun to speculate about which scene you'd like to see Diana appear in.  Keep in mind we're talking about the first book only, and that it would have to be a part with little or no dialogue.

There are certainly plenty of crowd scenes in OUTLANDER that Diana could appear in -- the mob at Cranesmuir, or the spectators at Colum's Hall, for example -- but my personal favorite for a possible Diana appearance would be as the woman in the cottage where Claire first encounters Jamie:
I was ignored as Dougal turned and spoke in a tongue I dimly recognized as Gaelic to a woman who cowered in the corner. Surrounded by the mass of men, I had not noticed her before. She was dressed oddly, I thought, in a long, ragged skirt and a long-sleeved blouse half-covered by a sort of bodice or jerkin. Everything was rather on the grubby side, including her face. Glancing around, though, I could see that the cottage lacked not only electrification but also indoor plumbing; perhaps there was some excuse for the dirt.

The woman bobbed a quick curtsy, and scuttling past Rupert and Murtagh, she began digging in a painted wooden chest by the hearth, emerging finally with a pile of ratty cloths.

“No, that won’t do,” I said, fingering them gingerly. “The wound needs to be disinfected first, then bandaged with a clean cloth, if there are no sterile bandages."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 3,  "The Man in the Wood". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The idea that Diana should be present in that cottage, to witness Jamie and Claire's first meeting, has a lot of appeal to me.  But of course I could be wrong.

What do the rest of you think? What scene would YOU like to see her in?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

My trip to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games

I had a wonderful time at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in Linville, NC, with my parents on Friday.  It was fun, but exhausting.  We were very lucky that the weather was good while we were there.  Here are some of the highlights.

First of all, I went to Grandfather Mountain hoping to meet as many of Diana Gabaldon's fans as I could.  The T-shirt (my own creation) reads, "I'm a fan of Diana Gabaldon and the OUTLANDER series!", and it was very effective in attracting the attention of OUTLANDER fans and their family members.  A number of people asked if Diana was there at the Games, but I told them, "No, she's in Flagstaff this week.  Writing, I hope." <g>  (Even in the midst of all the excitement over the TV series, she still has a book to finish!)  I always enjoy talking to other fans, especially at an event like this, and I met at least a couple dozen of them.

We watched a demonstration of border collies herding sheep, which was very entertaining. My friend Cathy MacGregor told me years ago that I have a "border collie personality", and she's right. <g>

What does that mean, exactly?  Well, border collies are known as intelligent, hard-working, and tenacious, and always trying to herd the sheep in more or less the same direction.  That description happens to fit very well with what I do as Section Leader of Diana's section of the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, a position I've held for almost five years.

And speaking of Compuserve....I met Julia Miller, a forum member from Georgia, and she gave me this little rubber gavel as a present.  It says "Czarina of Traffic" on one side, and "GONK! Your message has been moved" on the other side.  I laughed when I saw it.  How very appropriate!  Thanks, Julia! <g>

Tossing the caber.  I watched them do this, and I still don't know how they managed it.  Amazing!

Here I am with my dad.  He was a good sport about the whole thing, and helped get my scooter over some rough terrain.

My mom, relaxing at the Games.  Note our matching OUTLANDER T-shirts!  These shirts are available in my Zazzle store, here.

A pipe band.  Gotta love those tall men in kilts! <g>


Part of the fun of these Highland Games is walking around looking at all the different clan booths.  Here's a collection of antique Scottish weaponry that I saw at one of the clan tents.  I wonder if Arch Bug's axe would have looked like this one?


At the Clan Fraser booth, they had a basket of Brach's strawberry candies.  I had to laugh when I saw them.  Talk about symbolism!  "Honor and courage and constancy" and all that. <g>

I had a great time, and I would definitely encourage any of you who live in the vicinity of western North Carolina to come to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games some day.  It was fun!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

No FFF this week

No Friday Fun Facts this week.  I'm off to the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in western North Carolina, near where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located.  I'll tell you all about it (with photos!) when I get back, I promise. <g>

In the meantime, if you need a FFF fix, please check out the FFF index here.  The Friday Fun Facts will resume on July 19.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It's official! Sam Heughan IS Jamie!

It's official!! Here's the press release announcing the choice of 33-year-old Scottish actor Sam Heughan to play Jamie Fraser in the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series:

New Original Series Based on Diana Gabaldon’s International Best-Selling Novels

From “Battlestar Galactica” Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore

Beverly Hills, Calif., July 9, 2013 – Starz in association with Sony Pictures Television has announced today that Sam Heughan will play the role of Jamie Fraser in the original series “Outlander,” adapted from Diana Gabaldon’s international best-selling books, which will premiere on STARZ in 2014. The chivalrous young Scottish warrior, Jamie Fraser, has been adored worldwide by fans of the seven-book series that has sold more than 20 million copies and has graced the New York Times best-sellers list six times.

Diana Gabaldon said, “Oh. My. God. That man is a Scot to the bone and Jamie Fraser to the heart. Having seen Sam Heughan not just act, but be Jamie, I feel immensely grateful to the production team for their painstaking attention to the soul of the story and characters."

"From the very beginning, I knew the part of Jamie Fraser would be difficult to cast,” said Executive Producer Ronald D. Moore. “I had no one in mind for the part. I knew that someone would just come into the audition and be Jamie Fraser. And that's what Sam did."

In “Outlander,” Jamie Fraser strikes up a passionate affair with Claire Randall, a married combat nurse from 1945 who is mysteriously swept back in time to 1743. Armed with sheer grit and enduring strength, he is a strapping young Scottish clan lord with a complicated past and a disarming sense of humor. He is intelligent, principled, and, by 18th century standards, educated and worldly, with a tenderness and compassion that stands out in contrast to his contemporaries. A natural leader of men, he has no political ambitions or desire for battlefield glories. Instead, he wishes to remove the price on his head and return to his family’s ancestral farm.

Sam Heughan is a graduate of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, he was a 2003 nominee for the Laurence Olivier Award for Most Promising Performance for his work in the program. Last year, he originated the role of Batman in the DC/Warner Brothers and Waterlane production of "Batman Live," an international tour which opened at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles and went on to tour in South America and throughout Europe. In 2010, he was nominated for a British Soap Award for “Villain of the Year” for his role as Scott Neilson in the BBC soap opera "Doctors." He has also had roles in a range of television series including, "River City," "Island at War," "The Wild West," "Midsomer Murders," and, most recently, "Any Human Heart" as Lieutenant McStay. His TV movie credits include, "Breaking the Mould" for BBC Television, "A Very British Sex Scandal" for Channel 4 and "First Light" for BBC2. He was nominated for a "Grace award" for his performance as Prince Ashton, the son of Sir Roger Moore, in “A Princess for Christmas” for Hallmark Channel. His film credits include the short film Small Moments, and the feature films Alexander the Great from Macedonia and Emulsion. He will also be seen in the upcoming film Heart of Lightness. On stage, Heughan has performed at a variety of theatres in such productions as “King John,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “The Vortex,” “Hamlet,” “Macbeth,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and more. At the Royal Scottish Academy, Heughan starred in productions including “Crime & Punishment,” “The Seagull,” and “Prometheus Bound.” He is repped by United Talent Agency in the US and United Agents in the UK.

The series adaptation for “Outlander” will be written by Ronald D. Moore (“Battlestar Galactica,” “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation”). Ronald D. Moore and Jim Kohlberg are executive producers of “Outlander,” which is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Story Mining & Supply Company and Left Bank Pictures in association with Sony Pictures Television.

The series will begin filming in Scotland this fall.

“Outlander” Online

Twitter: @Outlander_Starz - join the conversation with #Outlander and #STARZ
You can follow Sam Heughan on Twitter here.  I'm delighted with the news, and so is Diana Gabaldon.  Let's hope they do as well in casting Claire and all the rest!

New roof!

I'm getting a new roof put on my house Tuesday and Wednesday.  Wish me luck!

No, it's not going to look anything like this! <g>  The photo above shows a log cabin built around 1728 in Winchester, VA.  I like to think Jamie and Claire's first cabin on the Ridge (the one that became Bree and Roger's) looked something like it.

I always have to laugh at Jamie's approach to roof repairs:
"Get up and knock at the spot where the split is, Ian. I’ll deal with it on the outside.” Seizing a fresh shingle, a hammer, a hatchet, and a bag of nails, he headed for the door.

“Don’t you go up on the roof in that!” I exclaimed, sitting up abruptly. “That’s your good woolen shirt!”

He halted by the door, glared briefly at me, then, with the rebuking expression of an early Christian martyr, laid down his tools, stripped off the shirt, dropped it on the floor, picked up the tools, and strode majestically out to deal with the leak, buttocks clenched with determined zeal.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 21,  "Night on a Snowy Mountain".   Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I have never been through a roof replacement before, and it's a little nervewracking!  I'm sure it will be worth it, though, when it's all over.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Sam Heughan as Jamie Fraser!

Meet Sam Heughan (pronounced "Hew-en").  He's Scottish, 33 years old, 6'3" tall -- and he's just been cast as Jamie Fraser in the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series!!

The news got out a little earlier than they'd planned -- someone at STARZ apparently let it slip prematurely on Twitter on Friday afternoon -- but Diana Gabaldon has been talking about him quite a lot on her Facebook page since the news broke, and it was confirmed officially on July 9, 2013, that Sam Heughan is going to play Jamie!

The photo above comes from IMDB.  Of all the Sam Heughan photos on IMDB, I think this one is my favorite.

Here's Sam Heughan's showreel on YouTube, a 7-minute montage of scenes from his previous roles.  Definitely worth watching!

I'm sure we will be hearing much, much more about Sam Heughan in the coming days.  His Twitter id is @Heughan.  My own first impression:  His height and build are exactly what I pictured, I love his Scottish accent, and I think his eyes are gorgeous! <g>

And finally, here's what Diana Gabaldon had to say about Sam Heughan on her Facebook page on July 6, 2013.  (I'm going to quote it in its entirety, for the benefit of those of you who aren't on Facebook.)  Please take the time to read the whole thing.
A few thoughts. <cough>

Do you, um, _know_ what it is that an actor does?

No, really. Do you? They do what I do—they make magic happen. They do it with their faces and bodies, while I do it with words, but it’s essentially the same thing. They create something that wasn’t there before.

Granted, sometimes it helps if you have the rough physical outline for a particular role. MOST of a physical resemblance, though, is really not necessary, and for two reasons:

1) Physical appearance is _very_ mutable. Hair and eye color are so simple to change that I’m amazed _anyone_ is carrying on about what color Mr. Heughan’s hair _is_. (For the record, he’s blond. Like any other actor, he dyes his hair as needed. It’s dark in these photos; it could be red within half an hour.)

2) Much more importantly—beyond very basic things like height and general build, physical aspects are just not that important, provided that an actor can _act_.

As one of the producers said to me—anent the auditioning process—“We were hoping that somebody would just walk in and _be_ Jamie.”

OK. Now, I got the word about Sam Heughan (it’s pronounced HEW-en, btw, in case you were wondering. He’s Scottish, and it may well originally have been a Gaelic name) while I was driving to Santa Fe with my husband; they thought they’d found Jamie and were sending me the audition videos a little later. Well, naturally, I spent the next hour Googling “Sam Heughan” on my iPhone. <g>

Now—I think this point may just possibly have escaped a few thousand of you, so let me restate it: Jamie is TWENTY-TWO in OUTLANDER, and a virgin. And as the producers do understand and respect the story very much, they wanted a guy who could believably _be_ a twenty-two-year-old virgin. (Yes, I know half of you are thinking of him as he is in the later books and thus “see” him in his 50’s. That doesn’t mean the producers should cast someone in his late 40’s and ask him to play a 22-year-old virgin. Am I right? Yes, I am. Now that _that’s_ settled...)

So I’m lookin’ at some of Sam’s photos and sayin’ to my husband, “Yeah, I buy him as a virgin…but I think Claire’s going to get done for statutory rape!” You know, a bit apprehensive. He’s quite big, but a very chiseled face that makes him look a good bit younger than he is, at least in stills.

(Husband approved of the stills from “First Light,” btw (where Sam is playing a Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain)—“He looks good beat up,” he said. “A good thing for playing Jamie.” <G>)

So anyway…we get to Santa Fe, let the dogs out, air the house, go have dinner… And _then_, I sit down at my computer, in a lather of trepidation and excitement, to watch the audition tapes.

First five seconds, I’m interested—he looks totally different than he did in _any_ of the stills—and five seconds later, Sam Heughan’s GONE, and so am I. It’s Jamie Fraser, right _there_ in front of me, moving, talking. One of the biggest thrills ever.

And that’s what actors do. Good ones. They can “be” someone else, totally.

Now, I saw him do two scenes: the confrontation between Jamie and Dougal, after Dougal exposes Jamie’s back in a tavern. Ferocious, explosive, a glimpse of the warrior. And he…freakin’ _exploded_.

And then…the scene in which Jamie explains to Claire exactly why he intends to punish her for disobeying his orders to stay hidden, thus nearly getting them all killed.

OK. This is arguably _the_ most controversial scene in all the books. And I’m not about to go into the scene itself—not the point here. The point is that that’s one heck of a complex scene, emotionally, and _could_ be read/performed in a lot of different ways. Now, I happen to _know_ <g> exactly how Jamie acted and spoke during that scene…and that’s…exactly what Sam _did_. Thoughtfulness, intimacy, fair-mindedness, annoyance, firmness—and quite a lot of humor. One of Jamie’s hallmarks is the ability to be threatening and funny at the same time—and Sam pulled that off.

So, yeah. I’ve watched those videos a couple dozen times, just to be sure I wasn’t imagining things. I wasn’t. <g>

Now, fwiw—the necessary physical aspects are all there. Sam’s big—my head would hit about the middle of his chest (he’s only an inch shorter than my husband)—and _very_ well-built, in terms of what Jamie actually looks like. Tall, lean (not burly), rangy (not bulgy)*, broad-shouldered, muscular (but a _young_ muscular. Young athletes look way different from gnarly middle-aged ones). Face…chiseled, striking—but looks different in every single role.

And the bottom line is simply this: He showed up and he _was_ Jamie.

*(You know something? I don’t really _care_ if you, personally, have been imagining Chris Hemsworth as Jamie. You’re wrong; he doesn’t look like that at all. <g>)
Diana Gabaldon is clearly delighted with the choice of Sam Heughan, and so am I. Kudos to the STARZ casting people, and let's hope they do as well in casting Claire and all the rest!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 7/5/2013

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

1) This is what a quern looks like. A quern is a device made of a pair of flat stones, used for thousands of years to grind grain into flour. Many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for reminding me (in a discussion on Compuserve last week) that querns were in common use in the 18th century, and for providing the link to this photo. <g>
It was raining outside; a light rain, but the air was cold and damp enough to make the cozy nest of quilts more inviting than the distant prospect of hot coffee. Particularly since the getting of coffee would involve a trip to the stream for water, making up the campfire--oh, God, the wood would be damp, even if the fire hadn’t gone completely out--grinding the coffee in a stone quern and brewing it, while wet leaves blew round my ankles and drips from overhanging tree branches slithered down my neck.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 1,  "Happy the Bride the Sun Shines On".  Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a video demonstrating how to use a quern.

If you want to try making your own quern, you can find step-by-step instructions here.

2) Claire was able to diagnose Aidan McCallum's acute appendicitis by testing for pain at McBurney's point (#1 in the photo above).
I put a thumb in his navel, my little finger on his right hipbone, and pressed his abdomen sharply with my middle finger, wondering for a second as I did so whether McBurney had yet discovered and named this diagnostic spot. Pain in McBurney’s Spot was a specific diagnostic symptom for acute appendicitis. I pressed Aidan’s stomach there, then I released the pressure, he screamed, arched up off the table, and doubled up like a jackknife.

A hot appendix for sure. I’d known I’d encounter one sometime. And with a mixed sense of dismay and excitement, I realized that the time had come for me finally to use the ether. No doubt about it, and no choice; if the appendix wasn’t removed, it would rupture.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 50,  "Sharp Edges".   Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)   

This video shows how to locate McBurney's point.

3) I didn't know until I read THE FIERY CROSS that lavender can be used to alleviate migraine symptoms.
"D’ye think Mrs. Claire would have some lavender left?” Duncan asked, turning to Roger.

“Aye, I know she has,” Roger replied. His puzzlement must have shown on his face, for Duncan smiled and ducked his head diffidently.

“’Twas a thought I had,” he said. “Miss Jo suffers from the megrims, and doesna sleep sae well as she might. I mind, my mither had a lavender pillow, and said she fell asleep like a babe the moment she laid her head upon it. So I thought, perhaps a bit o’ velvet--so as she could feel it against her cheek, aye?--and perhaps Mrs. Lizzie would stitch it up for me....”

In sickness and in health . . .

Roger nodded his approval, feeling touched--and slightly shamed--by Duncan’s thoughtfulness.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 4, "Wedding Gifts". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here are some simple instructions for making a lavender pillow.

For more about the use of lavender in treating migraine symptoms, look here and here.

4) You may remember this scene from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
Fraser, close beside, felt him go and grabbed him, catching him round the middle and jerking him upright again.

“Are ye all right?” he asked, low-voiced, his breath warm on Grey’s cheek.

"Croakle dum-ho,” he said, breathless and dazed. Fraser’s hands were still tight on his arms, steadying him.


“Great Lord Frog to Lady Mouse. It’s a song. I’ll sing it to you later.”

Fraser made a sound in his throat that might have been either derision or amusement--maybe both--and let go Grey’s arms.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 28, "Amplexus". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The reference to "Great Lord Frog and Lady Mouse" is not explained further in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, but Diana gave this explanation on Compuserve in 2011, a few months before the book was published:
"The Great Lord Frog" comes to Lady Mouse to ask for the hand of her youngest daughter, and puts forth his various qualifications for marriage, only to come a-cropper on one small defect:  "Pox upon it, I've never a tail."

Unfortunately for Lord Frog, this objection is insuperable to Lady Mouse, "When we treat you at our cheese/Lack of a tail is all one sees/Fie, you live on bended knees!" and Lord Frog goes off indignantly in search of "one who values brains more than tails!"

It's a funny story on one level, and witty social comment on another (common to 18th-century songs).  (And while neither Lord John nor I actually considered this at the time, it could be taken as a comment on his relationship--or lack of one--with Jamie.  In that he simply doesn't have the physical requirement to get what he wants.)
A version of this song, performed by Anne Enslow and Ridley Enslow, is available for $0.99 here. The lyrics can be found here, in a book published in 1719. (Use your browser's Find function to look for "Great Lord Frog".)

 photo a10.jpg

5) Remember eight-year-old Jem's fascination with ants in ECHO?
“They’re not drowning, Mama. Look--see what they do?”

She crouched beside him, looking closer, and saw that, in fact, the ants weren’t drowning. Single ants that had fallen in struggled madly toward the center, where a large mass of ants clung together, making a ball that floated, barely denting the surface. The ants in the ball were moving, slowly, so that they changed places constantly, and while one or two near the edge of the mass were motionless, possibly dead, the majority were clearly in no immediate danger of drowning, supported by the bodies of their fellows. And the mass itself was gradually drawing closer to the rim of the cup, propelled by the movements of the ants in it.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 21, "The Minister's Cat". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a brief video showing how they do it.

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

Please note, I will not be posting FFF's next week because I will be attending the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games. The FFF's will resume on July 19.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

REPOST: "1776", the Musical

I've reposted this a couple of times before, but I wanted to share it again.  Wishing all of you in the U.S. a very happy Fourth of July!
As we approach the 4th of July holiday in the U.S., I can't resist putting in a plug for my favorite Revolutionary War movie: "1776", which is a musical about the drafting of the Declaration of Independence.

If you've never seen "1776", I highly recommend it. It came out in 1972 (based on the Broadway musical of the same name) and I think I've seen it almost every year since I was nine or so. That tradition continues to this day; my family always watches it on DVD every July 4th, and we will do so again this year.

Diana Gabaldon likes it, too; I've heard her describe it as "hilarious, moving, and very singable". I asked her specifically about the costumes, because I'm fascinated by the details of the 18th century clothing in this movie, and she said they're pretty accurate.

For those of you who have read AN ECHO IN THE BONE: Can you watch Ben Franklin in this movie without thinking of the scene in ECHO where he's "air-bathing", stark naked? <g> That image is burned indelibly into my brain now, and I don't think I'll ever forget it.

Here are a couple of my favorite songs from the movie:

1) "The Egg" - Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson choose America's national bird.

2) "Sit Down, John" - This is the movie's opening number.

You can get "1776" via Amazon, Netflix, and Blockbuster. Hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Monday, July 1, 2013

June poll results

Here are the results of the June poll:

Do you read excerpts or #DailyLines from Diana Gabaldon's upcoming books?
  • 56.30% - Absolutely! I will gladly devour any excerpt or #DailyLine I can find.
  • 14.91% - No, I would rather wait and see those bits of the story in their proper context, when the book comes out.
  • 5.14% - No, I am trying hard to avoid the excerpts and #DailyLines.
  • 5.04% - I'm addicted to the #DailyLines!
  • 4.73% - I used to read them, but I don't anymore.
  • 4.73% - I read the #DailyLines on Facebook and/or Twitter, but not the longer excerpts.
  • 3.15% - I have stopped reading excerpts from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.
  • 1.89% - I read excerpts, but only for certain books or stories.
  • 1.58% - What excerpts? Where can I find them?
  • 1.16% - What are #DailyLines?
  • 1.37% - Other
Here are the results for Other:
  • haha, I read the books so many times, no "spoilers" possible!
  • sometimes I have to peek
  • had I but known would be 1st choice & now will be!
  • Never have.
  • Sometimes, depends on if in a hurry or not & only on Facebook.
  • I read them but do so by peeking through my fingers so it doesn't count. <g>
  • i do read them but since i am from germany i ofthen finde them quite confusing
  • read any/all Daily lines ond/or ecerpts Diana provide. They keep mr going.
  • occasionally I read them all.
  • Try hard to resist, but "resistance is futile"
  • I try not to now, but somedays it's hard to resist!
  • I read them sometimes....with no rhyme or reason.
  • Sometimes I do but I prefer not to
There were 952 votes in this poll.  Thanks very much to everyone who participated!  I didn't vote in the poll myself, but I have been an excerpt-avoider since the beginning of 2008.  I think it's fascinating that different people have different levels of tolerance for reading excerpts.  Even though I don't read them myself, I certainly don't mind if others do! <g>

Please take a moment to vote in the July poll, which is all about the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ.  Thanks! (If you don't see the poll at the top right side of the page, go here.)