Friday, September 27, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 9/27/2013

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

1) This is a portrait of Andrew Bell (1726-1809), the Edinburgh printer who was one of the co-founders of the Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Looking at this portrait, you can see that the description of him in ECHO was not an exaggeration.
Andrew Bell had the biggest nose I had ever seen, and in the course of an eventful life, I had seen a number of prize specimens. It began between his eyebrows, curved gently down for a short distance as though nature had intended him to have the profile of a Roman emperor. Something had gone amiss in the execution, though, and to this promising beginning, something that looked like a small potato had been affixed. Knobbly and red, it took the eye.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 74, "Twenty-Twenty". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Andy Bell was only 4'6" tall, according to Wikipedia.  Whether his short stature was caused from dwarfism or some other disability, I think it explains a lot about Jamie's reaction in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES after Henri-Christian's birth:

a) Jamie wasn't bothered by Henri-Christian being a dwarf because he had known Andy Bell as a friend for years.

b) Having seen Andy Bell's example close-up, Jamie would have known it was possible for Henri-Christian to someday work and support himself and become a productive member of society.  Fergus, of course, didn't believe this at first (hence his attempt to kill himself), but I suspect that this is one of the "terrible lot of things" that Jamie tried to tell Fergus in an attempt to keep him from committing suicide, that day by the river.

c) Jamie's relationship with Andy Bell also helps to explain why he thought right away of printing as a trade that Fergus could manage.  Possibly with an eye to the future, as something that Henri-Christian might also be able to work at when he grows up?

2) Remember the injury Jamie suffered just before Claire met him for the first time? Here's an X-ray image from Wikipedia where you can clearly see that the shoulder joint has come out of the socket.
"You have to get the bone of the upper arm at the proper angle before it will slip back into its joint,” I said, grunting as I pulled the wrist up and the elbow in. The young man was sizable; his arm was heavy as lead.

“This is the worst part,” I warned the patient. I cupped the elbow, ready to whip it upward and in.

His mouth twitched, not quite a smile. “It canna hurt much worse than it does. Get on wi’ it.” Sweat was popping out on my own face by now. Resetting a shoulder joint is hard work at the best of times. Done on a large man who had gone hours since the dislocation, his muscles now swollen and pulling on the joint, the job was taking all the strength I had. The fire was dangerously close; I hoped we wouldn’t both topple in, if the joint went back with a jerk.

Suddenly the shoulder gave a soft crunching pop! and the joint was back in place. The patient looked amazed. He put an unbelieving hand up to explore.

“It doesna hurt anymore!” A broad grin of delighted relief spread across his face, and the men broke out in exclamations and applause.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 3, "The Man in the Wood". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The diagram above, from, shows the difference between a normal and a dislocated shoulder.  Click on the picture for a bigger view.

This video demonstrates several different methods of treating a dislocated shoulder when you can't get to a hospital.  I believe what Claire used was the third method shown.

3) This is a copy of an engraving by Alexander Naysmith, showing the Edinburgh Tolbooth as it existed in the 18th century.

What exactly is a tolbooth? From Wikipedia:
A tolbooth or town house (Scots: Towebuith) was the main municipal building of a Scottish burgh, from medieval times until the 19th century. The tolbooth usually provided a council meeting chamber, a court house and a jail.
You may remember this scene near the beginning of DRUMS OF AUTUMN:
"Da told me about one time he was arrested, when they took him to Edinburgh, and kept him in the Tolbooth. He was in a cell wi’ three other men, and one of them a fellow with the consumption, who coughed something dreadful, keeping the rest awake all night and all day. Then one night the coughing stopped, and they kent he was dead."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 3, "In Which We Meet a Ghost". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It's impossible to read that passage now without thinking of how the elder Ian died.


The Tolbooth was demolished in 1817.  The "Heart of Midlothian", in the pavement near the northwest corner of St. Glles’ Church, on the Royal Mile, marks the location where it once stood.  (Photo credit: Jonathan J. Mackintosh, on Flickr.)

For more information on the history of the Edinburgh Tolbooth, look here.

4) The photo above shows what a plant press looks like.
“I’ve some presses—the real ones, mind—for plants and such. Had them from my nephew, when he come up from university over his holiday. He brought them for me, and I’d not the heart to tell him I never uses such things. Hangin’s what’s wanted for herbs, ye ken, or maybe to be dried on a frame and put in a bit o’ gauze bag or a jar, but whyever you’d be after squashing the wee things flat, I’ve no idea.”

“Well, to look at, maybe,” Mrs. Baird interjected kindly. “Mrs. Randall’s made some lovely bits out of mallow blossoms, and violets, same as you could put in a frame and hang on the wall, like.”

“Mmmphm.” Mr. Crook’s seamed face seemed to be admitting a dubious possibility to this suggestion. “Weel, if they’re of any use to ye, Missus, you can have the presses, and welcome. I didna wish to be throwing them awa’, but I must say I’ve no use for them.”

I assured Mr. Crook that I would be delighted to make use of the plant presses, and still more delighted if he would show me where some of the rarer plants in the area could be found.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 1, "A New Beginning". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a video showing how to press flowers using a plant press.

If you want to try this yourself, you can find step-by-step instructions here.

Clan Crest MacKenzie - courtesy of

5) This is the Clan MacKenzie crest. (Image from
As the dark came on, the fires bloomed on the mountainside, dotted here and there among the shallow ledges and sandy pockets. For a moment, I had a vision of the MacKenzie clan badge--a “burning mountain”--and realized suddenly what it was. Not a volcano, as I had thought. No, it was the image of a Gathering like this one, the fires of families burning in the dark, a signal to all the clan was present--and together. And for the first time, I understood the motto that went with the image: Luceo non uro; I shine, not burn.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 71, "Circle's Close". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The name "MacKenzie" comes from the Gaelic "MacCoinneach", meaning "Son of the Fair One".  The war cry of Clan MacKenzie, "Tulach Àrd," means "To the high hill" in Gaelic.

I hope you enjoyed these Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts, and please come back next week for more.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sale on T-shirts in my Zazzle store! is having a sale on t-shirts through midnight Pacific time on Wed., Sept. 25!

Buy any T-shirt and get 30% off the sale price when you use the code FALLSTYLES30 at checkout.

"OUTLANDER Addict" T-Shirt

"I'm a fan of Diana Gabaldon" T-Shirt

These are just two examples of the styles you can choose from. You can customize the colors and styles in many different ways.  Check out the rest of my OUTLANDER-themed products in my Outlandish Observations Zazzle store.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

On this day in history

Today is the 237th anniversary of the execution of Nathan Hale, which took place on September 22, 1776. (The photo above, from Wikipedia, shows the Nathan Hale statue in City Hall Park in New York.)

I really enjoyed the bit in AN ECHO IN THE BONE where William encounters Nathan Hale, and I think the scene where he witnesses Hale's execution was very effective precisely because Diana didn't show him saying the famous line, "I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country."  (There's some dispute among historians as to whether or not Hale actually said that, in any case.)
[William] tightened the muscles of his throat and concentrated again on Hale’s hands. The fingers were twisting, helplessly, though the man’s face was calm. They were leaving faint damp marks on the skirt of his coat.

A grunt of effort and a grating noise; the ladder was pulled away, and there was a startled whoof! from Hale as he dropped. Whether it was the newness of the rope or something else, his neck did not break cleanly.

He’d refused the hood, and so the spectators were obliged to watch his face for the quarter of an hour it took him to die. William stifled a horrific urge to laugh from pure nerves, seeing the pale blue eyes bulge to bursting point, the tongue thrust out. So surprised. He looked so surprised.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 20, "I Regret". Copyright© 2009 by Diana   Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The image of Hale with his tongue protruding, etc., is one that I don't think I'll ever forget!

For more about Nathan Hale, look here.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 9/20/2013

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

1) This is an example of a powder horn, dating from around 1760. (Photo credit: Illinois State Museum)  Made of cow, ox, or buffalo horn, the powder horn served as a waterproof container for gunpowder.  If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can see that this powder horn is covered with very detailed engravings.
Grey didn’t let go of the powder horn but didn’t take it out of his pocket, either; his thumb rubbed back and forth, restless on the line of engraving round the rim.

Acta non verba, it said: action, not words.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 16, "Tower House". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's a short video showing some examples of powder horns carried by soldiers during the American Revolution. Look here for a close-up view of one of them, dating from 1775. Notice the very prominent slogan, "Liberty or Death".

 oak galls

2) Iron-gall ink, made from oak galls combined with iron, was commonly used in the 18th century for writing and drawing. The photo above shows what oak galls look like. (Photo credit: cloud_burst, on Flickr.)  According to Wikipedia, oak galls are created when a gall wasp lays eggs within the leaf buds of an oak tree.
[Jamie] shook ink powder made of iron and oak gall into the stained half-gourd he used as a well, and poured a little water from the pitcher, using the shaft of a quill to stir the ink. He smiled at Brianna, and took a sheet of paper from the drawer.

“Now, then, lass, how is this man of yours to look at?"

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 50, "In Which All is Revealed". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a quick do-it-yourself method for making iron-gall ink:
[Take] a few iron nails and place them in a small jar with some distilled vinegar. Let that sit until the reaction of the acid vinegar dissolving iron from the nails is complete. Pour the liquid off the undissolved residue and into a bottle. In another jar, take some oak galls you've gathered and crush them. Put them in a Pyrex dish and pour some boiling water on them. After standing for some time, perhaps until cool, or at least lukewarm, filter them through a coffee filter, keeping the filtrate (the liquid portion). When you mix the two liquids together, you form an ink.
I've never tried this myself, but it doesn't sound too difficult.

3) The town of Port Royal, Jamaica, was destroyed by an earthquake in 1692. The illustration above, from, is a modern artist's rendering of what it might have looked like before the quake. You may recall that Lawrence Stern told Claire about it in VOYAGER:
"My informant was most discursive upon the habits of the buccaneers. Sodomites to a man,” he said, shaking his head.


“It was a matter of public knowledge,” he said. “My informant told me that when Port Royal fell into the sea some sixty years ago, it was widely assumed to be an act of divine vengeance upon these wicked persons in retribution for their vile and unnatural usages.”

“Gracious,” I said. I wondered what the voluptuous Tessa of The Impetuous Pirate would have thought about this.

He nodded, solemn as an owl. “They say you can hear the bells of the drowned churches of Port Royal when a storm is coming, ringing for the souls of the damned pirates."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 50, "I Meet a Priest". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
On the morning of June 7, 1692, a massive earthquake estimated at a 7.5 magnitude hit the island. The city, largely built over sand, suffered instantly from liquifaction, with buildings, roads, and citizens sucked into the ground. Geysers erupted from the earth, buildings collapsed, then finally the city was hit by tsunami waves, dragging what had not been destroyed out to sea.[....]As news spread of the destruction of Port Royal, it was picked up as a cautionary tale and a sure sign of divine retribution for the lewd behavior of the pirates and prostitutes, the pretensions and wealth of the gentry of the town, or the sins of slavery, depending on the city and the audience.
Here's a video from the History Channel that explores the history of Port Royal, and the efforts of underwater archaeologists to investigate the sunken city.  It's about 43 minutes long, but very interesting.

4) This photo shows a patient with a petechial rash, similar to what Jamie had after the snakebite in FIERY CROSS.
I peered closely at his hip. Here, I could see that the redness was caused by a denser version of the rash on his chest; the stipple of tiny dots showed up clearly on the stretched skin over the ilial crest.

“You look like you’ve been roasted over a slow fire,” I said, rubbing a finger over the rash in fascination. “I’ve never seen anything so red in my life.” Not raised; I couldn’t feel the individual spots, though I could see them at close range. Not a rash as such; I thought it must be petechiae, pinpoint hemorrhages under the skin. But so many of them...

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 91, "Domestic Management". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What exactly are petechiae?  Here's a definition from the Mayo Clinic:
Petechiae (pronounced puh-TEE-kee-ee) are pinpoint, round spots that appear on the skin as a result of bleeding under the skin. The bleeding causes the petechiae to appear red, brown or purple. Petechiae commonly appear in clusters and may look like a rash. Usually flat to the touch, petechiae don't lose color when you press on them.
I agree with Claire that they're pretty bizarre-looking!

 Loch Errochty Dam

5) This is the dam at Loch Errochty, Scotland, mentioned in AN ECHO IN THE BONE. Click on the photo for a bigger view. (Photo credit: Bob McDowall, on Flickr.) 
[Bree] turned away from the power box, looking into the utter black. She hadn’t been in this particular tunnel before, though she’d seen one like it during her tour with Mr. Campbell. It was one of the original tunnels of the hydroelectric project, dug by hand with pick and shovel by the “hydro boys” back in the 1950s. It ran nearly a mile through the mountain and under part of the flooded valley that now held the greatly expanded Loch Errochty, and a toylike electric train ran on its track down the center of the tunnel.

Originally, the train had carried the workmen, the “tunnel tigers,” to the work face and back; now reduced to only an engine, it served the occasional hydroelectric workers checking the huge cables that ran along the tunnel’s walls or servicing the tremendous turbines at the foot of the dam, far off at the other end of the tunnel.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 27, "Tunnel Tigers". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a National Geographic photo slideshow about Scotland's hydro-electric plants.  The photo below shows how dark it would be inside one of those dams (imagine it with the lights turned off!)

Here's an article from July 23, 2013, about the hydro-electric plant inside a mountain at Cruachan, Scotland. For more information about the Tunnel Tigers, look here and 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, September 18, 2013

Diana will be at Comic Con in NYC!

Diana Gabaldon confirmed today on Compuserve that she will be at Comic Con in NYC in October.

You can see details about the October 11th event here.

Diana said, "Ron D. Moore and I will be on that panel; haven't heard about anybody else."

For those of you who don't know, Ron Moore is executive producer and "show-runner" of the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series.

It's possible that some of the cast members from the TV series will also be there, but I have no further details.  I also don't know if this is Diana's only planned public appearance at Comic Con, or whether there will be a separate book-signing.  Keep watching the Appearances page of Diana's website for further details.

In case you're wondering, no, I'm not going to be there myself.  I just wanted to pass this along so those of you in the NYC area can start to make plans.

UPDATE 9/18/2013 7:42 am:  It appears tickets may have sold out already. If you're lucky enough to already have tickets, I hope you'll attend this panel and let us know any news!

Monday, September 16, 2013

OUTLANDER Casting: Hamish MacKenzie

Say hello to 11-year-old Roderick Gilkison, who will be playing young Hamish MacKenzie, Jamie's cousin, in the OUTLANDER TV series.

The official press release is here.

I think he looks just right! <g> THIS is what a natural redhead looks like, and I'm delighted, as I think it bodes well for what they'll do with Jamie's hair color. Welcome, Roderick!

UPDATE 9/21/2013 6:43 am: Here's another article about him.

For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, see my FAQ page here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #1

Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.  This is a collection of some of my favorite items from previous FFF posts.  I was far too busy this week to come up with new ones, but I thought many of you might not have seen my earlier FFF posts.  All of these were originally posted more than a year ago.  Hope you enjoy them!

1) The photo above shows forget-me-nots, like the ones Claire noticed on Craigh na Dun only hours before she went through the stones for the first time.
Casting an eye over the ground, though, I [saw] an interesting plant growing near the base of one of the tall stones. Myosotis? No, probably not; this had orange centers to the deep blue flowers. Intrigued, I started toward it. Frank, with keener hearing than I, leaped to his feet and seized my arm, hurrying me out of the circle a moment before one of the morning's dancers entered from the other side.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "Standing Stones". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Do the forget-me-nots have some special significance?  When Diana was asked that question on Compuserve in January, 2009, her response was,
Yes, but a) I didn't know what it was when I used it <g>, and b) I can't tell you what it is yet.
Grrrrrr!!  I really hate it when she does that. <g> We'll just have to wait and see, I guess.

Some people on Compuserve have speculated that Jamie might have planted them, after Claire's death, perhaps, or sometime during their 20 years apart.  I really have no idea.  But it seems clear that the reason Claire returned to Craigh na Dun that day was to find these flowers.  And so, if it hadn't been for the forget-me-nots, Claire might never have gone through the stones in the first place!

The discussion on Compuserve is here if you're interested.

I should add, for the record, that I never paid the slightest attention to the forget-me-nots mentioned in OUTLANDER until people started talking about them on Compuserve in 2011.

Culloden Dovecote

2) A dovecote, or doocot as they were known in Scotland, is a structure built to house pigeons.  The photo above shows the doocot at Culloden.  (Photo credit: The Poss on Flickr.)

Why pigeons?  According to this site,
Pigeons provided a valuable source of year-round fresh meat and eggs, adding variety to meals in the winter months. Their droppings, which built up in the dovecots, made an excellent fertiliser and were used in the production of gunpowder and in the processes of leather tanning and cloth dyeing. There was also a prevalent belief that pigeons had medicinal properties and they were used in various forms as a cure-all for everything from the plague to baldness.
You may recall that Lallybroch had a doocot:
Besides the arbor, there was a small walled garden, blooming with the last of the summer roses. Beyond it was what Jamie referred to as "the doocot"; or so I assumed, from the assorted pigeons that were fluttering in and out of the pierced-work opening at the top of the building.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "The Laird's Return". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's what a doocot looks like from the inside.  The pigeons would roost in the little cubbyholes.  (You can see that this is where the term "pigeonhole" comes from!)

Doocots came in many different shapes and sizes.  There's a list of Scottish doocots here if you're interested.

3) Here's a video about fish falling from the sky, just as Lawrence Stern described to Claire in VOYAGER: 
"I have seen a great many things which might be described as peculiar.  Fish-falls, for instance, where a great many fish--all of the same species, mind you, all the same size--fall suddenly from a clear sky, over dry land. There would appear to be no rational cause for this--and yet, is it therefore suitable to attribute the phenomenon to supernatural interference? On the face of it, does it seem more likely that some celestial intelligence should amuse itself by flinging shoals of fish at us from the sky, or that there is some meteorological phenomenon--a waterspout, a tornado, something of the kind?--that while not visible to us, is still in operation?"

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 62 ("Abandawe"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I think the phenomenon is fascinating.

4) Remember the star-shaped beauty mark that Phillip Wylie wore in THE FIERY CROSS? These tiny beauty marks -- made of velvet, taffeta, or even leather -- were known as "mouches", after the French word for fly. The diagram above, labeled in French, shows what the location of the mouche was supposed to symbolize.

Here is a similar list in English, for those of you who don't speak French. <g>

middle of forehead = dignified
corner of eye = passionate
middle of cheek = gallant
heart-shaped (left cheek) = engaged
heart-shaped (right cheek) = married
between mouth and chin = silent
on lower lip = discreet
beside the mouth = likes to kiss
on nasolabial fold = playful
on nose = saucy
near lip = flirtatious

Phillip Wylie wore his star-shaped beauty patch in the corner of his mouth, which you can see from the diagram above means he was flirtatious.  (As if we couldn't tell that from his behavior!)
[Jamie's] lips pressed tight together, and he didn’t answer. Instead, he extended a forefinger and touched it, very delicately, beside my mouth. He turned his hand over then, and presented me with a small dark object clinging to the tip of his finger--Phillip Wylie’s star-shaped black beauty mark.

“Oh.” I felt a distinct buzzing in my ears. “That. Er...” My head felt light, and small spots--all shaped like black stars--danced before my eyes.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Flirtations". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
"Une dame à sa toilette", by 18th-century artist François Boucher, shows a lady applying beauty marks to her face.

You can see more about these beauty patches here.

Hippos. Kruger  National Park, Crooks Corner Phafuri,  South Africa by

5) Claire's favorite way of measuring seconds without a watch is to count hippopotami: One hippopotamus, two hippopotamus, and so on.
Eighty-nine hippopotamus, ninety hippopotamus...

The child was hanging from Lizzie’s body, bloody-blue and shining in the firelight, swaying in the shadow of her thighs like the clapper of a bell--or a body from a gibbet, and I pushed that thought away...

"Should not we take...?” Auntie Monika whispered to me, Rodney clutched to her breast.

One hundred.

“No,” I said. “Don’t touch it--her. Not yet.” Gravity was slowly helping the delivery. Pulling would injure the neck, and if the head were to stick...

One hundred ten hippo--that was a lot of hippopotami, I thought, abstractedly envisaging herds of them marching down to the hollow, there they will wallow, in mud, glooooorious...

“Now,” I said, poised to swab the mouth and nose as they emerged--but Lizzie hadn’t waited for prompting, and with a long deep sigh and an audible pop!, the head delivered all at once, and the baby fell into my hands like a ripe fruit.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Transverse Lie". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And just in case you're not familiar with the song by Flanders and Swann that Claire is thinking of, here it is. (Lyrics are here.) 

I'm not taking responsibility for any earworms that may result from watching this video; if the song gets stuck in your head, you can blame Diana. (Just kidding! <g>)

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!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Favorite Claire moments from OUTLANDER

In honor of the casting of Caitriona Balfe as Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser, here are some of my favorite Claire moments from OUTLANDER. Hope you enjoy them!  (All quotes are copyright © 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

1) Just before Claire and Jamie's wedding:
I turned to Jamie in sudden panic. “I can’t marry you! I don’t even know your last name!”

He looked down at me and cocked a ruddy eyebrow. “Oh. It’s Fraser. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser.” He pronounced it formally, each name slow and distinct.

Completely flustered, I said “Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp,” and stuck out my hand idiotically. Apparently taking this as a plea for support, he took the hand and tucked it firmly into the crook of his elbow. Thus inescapably pinioned, I squelched up the path to my wedding.

(OUTLANDER, chapter 14, "A Marriage Takes Place")
2) This is one of my favorite bits from the infamous sex scene that was cut out of CROSS STITCH:
Twenty-seven years of propriety were no match for several hundred thousand years of instinct. While my mind might object to being taken on a bare rock next to several sleeping soldiers, my body plainly considered itself the spoils of war and was eager to complete the formalities of surrender.

(OUTLANDER, chapter 18, "Raiders in the Rocks")
3) One of my all-time favorite Claire moments of the whole series, and a reminder that Claire is not a woman to be messed with, ever:
I whipped my hand from the concealed pocket in my skirt, and the dawn light struck sparks from the blade of the dagger pressed against his chest.

“If,” I said through my teeth, “you ever raise a hand to me again, James Fraser, I’ll cut out your heart and fry it for breakfast!"

(OUTLANDER, chapter 22, "Reckonings")
4) This one always makes me cry:
“Go ahead,” he said, a moment later. “Open it. It’s yours."

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

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

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

(OUTLANDER, chapter 23, "Return to Leoch")
 5) Claire finally tells Jamie the truth:
"Do you know when I was born?” I asked, looking up. I knew my hair was wild and my eyes staring, and I didn’t care. “On the twentieth of October, in the Year of Our Lord nineteen hundred and eighteen. Do you hear me?” I demanded, for he was blinking at me unmoving, as though paying no attention to a word I said. “I said nineteen eighteen! Nearly two hundred years from now! Do you hear?”

I was shouting now, and he nodded slowly.

“I hear,” he said softly.

“Yes, you hear!” I blazed. “And you think I’m raving mad. Don’t you? Admit it! That’s what you think. You have to think so, there isn’t any other way you can explain me to yourself. You can’t believe me, you can’t dare to. Oh, Jamie...” I felt my face start to crumple. All this time spent hiding the truth, realizing that I could never tell anyone, and now I realized that I could tell Jamie, my beloved husband, the man I trusted beyond all others, and he wouldn’t--he couldn’t believe me either.

(OUTLANDER, chapter 25, "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live")
6) Claire and Black Jack Randall. This is absolutely chilling!
I stepped back a pace, so that the torchlight fell full on me, for I wanted him to remember my face.

"You asked me, Captain, if I were a witch,” I said, my voice low and steady. “I’ll answer you now. Witch I am. Witch, and I curse you. You will marry, Captain, and your wife will bear a child, but you shall not live to see your firstborn. I curse you with knowledge, Jack Randall--I give you the hour of your death."

(OUTLANDER, chapter 35, "Wentworth Prison")
7) Claire's first experience with 18th-century surgery, sans anesthesia:
"You actually expect me to set nine broken bones while you’re awake?”

“Yes,” he said briefly, placing the leather between his teeth and biting down experimentally. He shifted it back and forth, seeking a comfortable grip.

Overcome by the sheer theatricality of it, the precarious control I had been hoarding suddenly snapped.

“Will you stop being such a goddamned frigging hero!” I blazed at Jamie. “We all know what you’ve done, you don’t have to prove how much you can stand! Or do you think we’ll all fall apart if you’re not in charge, telling everyone what to do every minute? Who in bloody hell do you think you are, frigging John Wayne!?"

(OUTLANDER, chapter 36, "MacRannoch")
8) Claire is not a very spiritual person, but she managed to find some comfort in the Perpetual Adoration:
The thought came to me that perhaps Jamie would be better off dead; he had said he wanted to die. I was morally sure that if I left him as he wished, he would be dead soon, whether from the aftereffects of torture and illness, from hanging, or in some battle. And I was in no doubt that he knew it as well. Ought I to do as he said? Damned if I will, I said to myself. Damned if I will, I said fiercely to the sunburst on the altar and opened the book again.

It was some time before I became aware that my thread of petition was no longer a monologue. In fact, I knew it only when I realized that I had just answered a question I had no memory of asking. In my trance of sleepless misery, something had been asked of me, I wasn’t sure just what, and I had answered without thinking, “Yes, I will."

(OUTLANDER, chapter 39, "To Ransom a Man's Soul")
9) Here's one of my favorite scenes in the whole book. It makes me laugh, every time.
"Get back in bed! You’re going to fall down!” He was alarmingly pale, and even the small effort of standing had made him break out in a cold sweat.

“I’ll not,” he said. “And if I do, it’s my own concern.”

I was really angry by this time.

“Oh, is it! And who do you think saved your miserable life for you, anyway? Did it all by yourself, did you?” I grabbed his arm to steer him back to bed, but he jerked it away.

“I didna ask ye to, did I? I told ye to leave me, no? And I canna see why ye bothered to save my life, anyway, if it’s only to starve me to death—unless ye enjoy watching it!”

This was altogether too much.

“Bloody ingrate!”


I drew myself to my full height, and pointed menacingly at the cot. With all the authority learned in years of nursing, I said, “Get back in that bed this instant, you stubborn, mulish, idiotic--”

“Scot,” he finished for me, succinctly.

(OUTLANDER, chapter 40, "Absolution")

I am really looking forward to seeing all of these scenes come to life in the TV series.  I think Caitriona Balfe will do a wonderful job!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Introducing Caitriona Balfe as Claire!

We have our Claire, at long last!

This is Caitriona Balfe, who's just been cast as Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser in the OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ!

Here's the official press release, from Diana Gabaldon's Twitter feed. 
Diana Gabaldon said, "Hard to believe lightning can strike twice, but it surely did. The moment Caitriona Balfe came on screen, I sat up straight and said, ‘There she is!’ She and Sam Heughan absolutely lit up the screen with fireworks."
Diana is clearly thrilled with the choice of Caitriona Balfe, and so am I.  She's gorgeous, and if Diana's comments about the casting video are any indication, it sounds like she'll do a fabulous job as Claire. <g>

In case you're wondering how to pronounce her name, it's "Ka-TREE-na Balf."

I'm not concerned about the fact that she's a few inches taller than Claire.  The way I see it, that will just make it easier for Claire and Jamie to look each other in the eyes, whether it's in the middle of a heated argument or in a tender embrace.

I'm sure we will be hearing much, much more about Caitriona Balfe in the coming days!  If anyone has any interesting links featuring her (especially photos or videos), please feel free to post the links here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page.

You can follow Caitriona on Twitter here.

For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, see my FAQ page here.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

OUTLANDER Casting: Murtagh

More OUTLANDER casting news: Duncan Lacroix will play Jamie's godfather, Murtagh Fitzgibbons Fraser in the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ.  See the press release here.

Based solely on his photo, I'm delighted with the choice of Duncan Lacroix.  His face is very, very much like what I've always pictured for Murtagh. <g>

And his Irish connection is interesting, given that Murtagh is related to (among others) Abbot Michael FitzGibbons from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER.

The casting people continue to do a phenomenal job.  Fingers crossed that they'll do as well with Claire!

Stay tuned for another BIG casting announcement sometime tomorrow (Wednesday)!

For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, see my FAQ page here.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Contest results!

I'm delighted to announce the results of the 2nd Annual OUTLANDER Photo Contest!

I received a total of 120 photos, from fans in at least 12 different countries, all over the world. It's a wonderful collection, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it!

The contest winners, chosen by the random number generator at, are:

Pat S. (UK)

Anne U. (US)

Sandy from Compuserve (US)

Congratulations to all three of you!  Please think about which of Diana Gabaldon's hardcover books you'd like as your prize.  I will be contacting you by email to work out the details.

Here is the link to the slideshow of all the contest photos.  Be sure to read all the captions!  They're very entertaining.

Please note, if you are viewing the slideshow on a mobile device, you may not be able to see the captions.  Try it from a desktop computer instead.

Once again, many thanks to everyone who participated in this photo contest.  I hope you had fun with it!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Last call for photos!

Have you sent in your photo yet for the 2nd Annual OUTLANDER Photo Contest?

You have one more day to submit photos for the contest.  The deadline for entries is midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, September 7.  Please send your photo to, with the subject "OUTLANDER Photo Contest", along with a brief description, and be sure to let me know if it's OK to share your photo as part of the collection, after the contest is over.

(Note to procrastinators: when I ran this contest last year, I received the last entry at exactly 11:59:59 pm -- one second before midnight! -- on the day the contest ended. <g>  If you're thinking of doing something like that this year, I can assure you that as long as you get your photo in on or before midnight on the 7th, it will count.)

After the contest ends, I will be posting a photo slideshow with all the contest entries, so all of you will be able to see these wonderful photos.  I hope to have the contest results and the slideshow posted sometime on Sunday.  In the meantime, you can see last year's photo slideshow here.

I'm delighted to report that I've received more than 100 entries already!  Thanks very much to everyone who's sent in photos.  It's going to be a great collection, but it's not quite finished yet! Keep those photos coming, please!

Friday Fun Facts - 9/6/2013

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

1) I think the chunk of amber that Hugh Munro gave Claire as a wedding gift might have looked like the one shown above.
In the morning, he was sound asleep beside me, and on my blanket rested a small parcel, done up in a sheet of thin paper, fastened with the tail-feather of a woodpecker thrust through the sheet. Unfolding it carefully, I found a large chunk of rough amber. One face of the chunk had been smoothed off and polished, and in this window could be seen the delicate dark form of a tiny dragonfly, suspended in eternal flight.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Deserted Glades". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Amber is fossilized tree resin, more than 100 million years old. Because it originated as a sticky substance, it often contains "inclusions" such as the remains of insects or plants.

Here's another example of a prehistoric insect trapped in amber. (Photo credit: Anders Damgaard, on Flickr.)

Baltic amber ball - very rare Cerambycidae - body 6 mm

For more about amber, look here and here.

2) Herman Husband (1724-1795) was a real historical figure. (The spelling of his first name seems to vary depending on which sources you read, but this is definitely the same Quaker who appeared in THE FIERY CROSS.)

I wasn't able to find any paintings of Husband, but the photo above shows a historical marker in Randolph County, NC, commemorating his role in the War of the Regulation.
"It is no rebellion,” Husband said stubbornly. He drew himself up, and pulled a worn black silk ribbon from his pocket, with which to tie back his hair. “But our legitimate complaints have been ignored, disregarded! We have no choice but to come as a physical body, to lay our grievances before Mr. Tryon and thus impress him with the rightness of our objection.”

“I thought I heard you speak of choice a few moments past,” Roger said dryly. “And if now is the time to choose, as you say, it would seem to me that most of the Regulators have chosen violence--judging from such remarks as I heard on my way here."

"Perhaps,” Husband said reluctantly. “Yet we--they--are not an avenging army, not a mob...” And yet his unwilling glance toward the window suggested his awareness that a mob was indeed what was forming on the banks of the Alamance.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 62, "Straglers and Suspected Persons". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a timeline of the events of Husband's life.  He sounds like a remarkable man.

Mature, Bellowing Red Deer Stag

3) This photo shows a red stag belling. (Photo credit: matpreec, on Flickr.)
The stag belled, a guttural, echoing roar, his challenge to any other stag within hearing. For the space of a breath, Roger expected one of Ian’s arrows to whir out of the rowans behind the deer or the echo of Jamie’s rifle to crack the air. Then he shook himself back into his skin and, bending, picked up a stone to throw--but the deer had heard him and was off, with a crash that took it rattling into the dry bracken.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "Stag at Bay". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
What does it sound like?  Here's a brief video of a red stag in Denmark.  

From Wikipedia:
During the mating season, called the rut, mature stags compete for the attentions of the hinds [female deer] and will then try to defend the hinds they attract. Rival stags challenge opponents by belling and walking in parallel. This allows combatants to assess each other's antlers, body size and fighting prowess. If neither stag backs down, a clash of antlers can occur, and stags sometimes sustain serious injuries.
Here is an article about the deer-rutting season in the UK.

4) You may remember this description of Lallybroch, as Claire first saw it in OUTLANDER:
It was larger than I had expected; a handsome three-story manor of harled white stone, windows outlined in the natural grey stone, a high slate roof with multiple chimneys, and several smaller whitewashed buildings clustered about it, like chicks about a hen.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "The Laird's Return". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
The photo above shows what harled stone looks like.  I took this photo on a visit to Stirling Castle in Scotland in July, 2012. According to Wikipedia:
In Scottish usage, harling describes an exterior building-surfacing technique which results in a long-lasting weatherproof shield for a stone building. A pigment can be embedded in the harled material, thus obviating the need for repainting. Harling as a technique provides the surface of many Scottish castles, but it is also used for a variety of common everyday building types. Long-lasting and practical, it well suits structures in the Scottish climate.
Harling is still used today in Scotland.  According to this site,
External coatings of lime mortar are still the most effect method of weather proofing solid masonry walls. Lime renders were traditionally applied to give protection to walls built of poor quality rubble stone, porous brick or to walls in exposed locations facing driving winds. They help by acting like a sponge, absorbing rainfall then allowing it to evaporate rather than soak into the wall. Most cottages and houses built of rubble stone would have been rendered originally and they tend to suffer from penetrating damp if the lime is removed or replaced with cement rich render.

5) Here's a video of The Corries singing "Bonnie Dundee".  Claire mentioned this song (along with several others) in a conversation with Roger in THE FIERY CROSS:
 "Oh, nothing’s as good as ‘murrrderr’ to a Scot,” I assured him. “Bloody-minded blokes that you all are.”

“What, all of us?” He grinned, plainly not minding this gross generalization in the least.

“To a man,” I assured him. “Mild enough to look at, but insult a Scot or trouble his family, and it’s up wi’ the bonnets of bonnie Dundee."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 97, "Conditions of the Blood". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see the lyrics here. (I believe "downie wassles" in the third verse is supposed to be "duine uasals", the "men of worth" described in DRUMS OF AUTUMN.)  For more information about the origin of the song and the historical background, 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, September 4, 2013

OUTLANDER Casting: Colum and Dougal!

More casting news! STARZ announced today that they have cast a pair of Scottish actors to play Colum and Dougal MacKenzie in the OUTLANDER TV series.

Here's the announcement, from Diana Gabaldon's Twitter page.

Gary Lewis will play Colum MacKenzie.

Graham McTavish will play Dougal MacKenzie.

From what I understand, Gary is 5'6" and Graham is 6'2", so the difference in their heights will be very apparent.  And they do resemble each other somewhat, which is good.

It's very exciting to see how the cast is coming together!  (In case you're wondering, no, we still don't know who's going to play Claire.)

OUTLANDER Photo Contest ends Saturday!

I've received 87 entries so far in the 2nd Annual OUTLANDER Photo Contest!  Thanks very much to everyone who's sent in photos so far!

If you're thinking about participating but you haven't yet sent in a photo, time is running out!  The deadline for entries is midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, September 7.

All you have to do is send a photo containing one or more of Diana Gabaldon's books, along with a brief description, to Please use the subject line "OUTLANDER Photo Contest", and be sure to let me know if it's OK to share your photo online, after the contest is over.

If your photo is chosen in the random drawing, you'll win your choice of one of the following books in hardcover, signed by Diana Gabaldon:
  • Any of the OUTLANDER or Lord John books (excluding WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD)
  • THE EXILE (graphic novel)
  • The OUTLANDER 20th Anniversary Edition
Look here for more details about the 2nd Annual OUTLANDER Photo Contest.  I hope you'll consider sending in a photo!  If you have any questions, please email me at, or leave a comment here.

Please note: I acknowledge every photo submission by email. If you sent in a photo for the contest but you did NOT receive an email back from me within 24 hours, please re-send your photo to Thanks.

After the contest ends, I will be posting a photo slideshow with all the contest entries, so everyone will be able to see these wonderful photos. It's going to be a great collection, but it's not finished yet! Keep those photos coming, please!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

August poll results

Here are the results of the August poll, which asked the question, "Have you ever been to Scotland?"
  • 53.63% - No, but I'd love to visit there some day!
  • 13.00% - I visited Scotland long before I knew Diana Gabaldon's books existed.
  • 8.34% - I visited Scotland after I discovered the OUTLANDER books.
  • 7.37% - Yes, I've been there more than once.
  • 4.77% - No, I can't afford it.
  • 3.90% - I've lived in Scotland all or part of my life.
  • 1.30% - I'm making plans to visit this year.
  • 1.30% - I went on an OUTLANDER-themed tour of Scotland.
  • 1.08% - I'd like to visit, but I can't travel due to age or health reasons.
  • 0.65% - No, I like reading about Scotland but I don't have any desire to go there myself.
  • 0.22% - No, it's too far away.
  • 4.44% - Other
There were 923 votes in this poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

Please take a moment to vote in the September poll, which asks whether you'd go through the stones, if you could.