Thursday, October 31, 2013

Who is Dolina?

I was intrigued by this article about the recent casting of Grant O'Rourke as Rupert in the OUTLANDER TV series.  Not because of what it says about him, but because of this bit:

"Muireann Kelly is also filming for Outlander, playing Dolina."

Dolina??  Who's that? I can state definitively that there is no character by that name in any of Diana Gabaldon's books. That being the case, I see only two possibilities:

1) They're inventing a completely new character, or

2) Dolina might be a minor character who was in OUTLANDER but never mentioned by name, like the innkeeper's wife who helps Claire dress on her wedding day.

I asked Diana about Dolina on Compuserve and her response was, "I haven't the faintest idea, myself.  Haven't seen that name in any of the scripts I've read so far, fwiw."

So even Diana doesn't know who the mystery woman is. And there's been no official announcement yet from anyone at STARZ regarding Muireann Kelly's casting. Unless someone involved with the production can tell us, I guess we're all going to have to wait and see.  But feel free to speculate about Dolina, if you want to!

UPDATE 11/1/2013: Thanks to @TallShipProds on Twitter for answering this burning question for us!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween, All Hallows' Eve, or Samhain to all of you!

If you happen to go near any stone circles in the next several days, be sure you carry a wee gemstone with you!  You just never know what might happen. <g>

In the spirit of Halloween, here's Bri's hilarious tribute to Jamie in THE EXILE:

Look here for some of my favorite Halloween-themed quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books.

And finally, here's the story of Diana's own personal encounter with a ghost at the Alamo, many years ago.  Some of you may have seen it before, but I thought it was worth reposting today.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

OUTLANDER Casting: Grant O'Rourke as Rupert!

The latest OUTLANDER casting news from STARZ:  Grant O'Rourke will play Rupert!  Here's the official announcement from the OUTLANDER STARZ Facebook page:
Grant O’Rourke will play Rupert MacKenzie, a loyal member of Clan MacKenzie and an angler who is always looking for opportunities - he just can't stand to pass up a good raid. Rupert is Dougal's right hand man; Dougal has power and Rupert wishes he did as well.
I don't know anything about Grant O'Rourke's background (I'll update this post if and when there's an official press release with more details) but I think he has a friendly expression and a nice smile.

You can follow him on Twitter here.

Welcome, Grant!

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

Spookiest moments in the books

With Halloween approaching, I thought it might be fun to talk about some of the spookiest, scariest, or most eerie moments in Diana Gabaldon's books.  What are some of your favorites?

Here are a few of mine:

- Margaret Campbell speaking in Brianna's voice, in the "crocodile" scene in VOYAGER (Chapter 61, "The Crocodile's Fire").  That always gives me shivers, especially the audio version!

- Claire seeing Otter-Tooth's ghost in DRUMS OF AUTUMN (Chapter 23, "The Skull Beneath the Skin"), and her shoes appearing on the doorstep of their cabin on the Ridge.

- Lord John's encounter with a zombie in his bedchamber, in "Plague of Zombies".

What about the rest of you?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Fun Facts - 10/25/2013

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

1) Mutt and Jeff was a long-running classic comic strip.  Created by Bud Fisher in 1907, and drawn from 1932-1980 by Al Smith, it became the first successful daily comic strip.
There were two ecclesiastical examiners, seated on padded stools behind a table that had been erected in the square. One judge was abnormally tall and thin, the other short and stout. They reminded me irresistibly of an American comic-paper I had once seen; not knowing their names, I mentally christened the tall one Mutt and the other Jeff.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see more classic Mutt and Jeff covers on the DC Comics website here.

2) Remember Jamie's story about how he broke his nose?
"There were two English soldiers, come scouting up the hill. I think they didna expect to find anyone--neither had his musket loaded, or I should ha’ died there.”

He spoke quite casually. A small shiver went over me, but not from cold.

“They saw me, ken, and then one of them saw you, up above. He shouted, and made to go after ye, so I threw myself on him. I didna care at all what happened, so long as ye were safe away, so I went for him bald-heided; plunged my dirk into his side. But his bullet box swung into my way and the knife stuck in it, and--” He smiled, lopsided. “And while I was trying to get it free and keep from bein’ killed, his friend came up and swung the stock of his musket into my face.”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29, "Perfectly Fine". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo above, from the Morristown National Historic Park in New Jersey, shows a British infantry cartridge box from the Revolutionary War.  I think it's similar to the "bullet box" Jamie described. 

An 18th-century cartridge, like the one shown above, was a small paper-wrapped package containing a musket ball and a pre-measured amount of powder.  The soldier would tear the cartridge open (often with his teeth), pour the powder down the barrel of his musket, and use the ramrod to load the ball and the bit of paper into the barrel.

Here's another example. I took the photo above, showing a cartridge box and several paper cartridges, on my recent visit to Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

3) This is the Foundling Hospital in London, as it looked in the 18th century. Founded in 1742, it was described as "the most imposing single monument erected by eighteenth century benevolence" and became London's most popular charity. From Wikipedia:
In 1756, the House of Commons resolved that all children offered should be received, that local receiving places should be appointed all over the country, and that the funds should be publicly guaranteed. A basket was accordingly hung outside the hospital; the maximum age for admission was raised from two months to twelve, and a flood of children poured in from country workhouses. In less than four years 14,934 children were presented....Of these 15,000, only 4,400 survived to be apprenticed out.
The Foundling Hospital also contained the first contemporary collection of British art.  The famous 18th-century artist William Hogarth was one of its early patrons.You may recall that Lord John and Percy attended one such exhibition in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE:
There were a number of children on the open ground, bundled in coats and shawls against the chill, running about in some sort of game under the eyes of a pair of nurses.

“Do you like children, particularly?” he inquired, surprised at seeing Percy’s attention fixed on them.

“No, not particularly.” Stirred from his reverie, Percy turned and smiled at him, his face touched with ruefulness. “I was only wondering what their life is like here.” He glanced around them, at the high walls of brick and gray stone. The place was clean, and certainly not without elegance, but “homely” was not the adjective one would choose to describe it.

“Better than it would have been otherwise, I suppose.” Some of the foundlings were orphans, others given up by mothers who could not feed them.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Pictures at an Exhibition". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

When I visited Colonial Williamsburg last week, I saw an exhibition at the art museum there called "Threads of Feeling".  It's a collection of scraps of fabric worn by infants admitted to the London Foundling Hospital in the 18th century -- a heartbreaking collection that really conveys the depth of feeling of the parents who could no longer care for their children.  You can see many of those items here (click on the slideshow link on the left).

For more about the history of the London Foundling Hospital, look here and here.


4) The photo above shows a jackdaw (Corvus monedula).  (Photo by Marc Davison, on Flickr.)
"I’ve never seen so much rubbish in my life,” I observed. “You’re a regular jackdaw, Jamie.”

“It isna rubbish,” he said, stung. “I’ve uses for all these things.”

“Well, the fish lines, and the hooks, yes. And the string for snares. Even, stretching a point, the pistol wadding and the balls--you do carry a pistol now and again. And the little snake Willie gave you, I understand that. But the stones? And a snail shell? And a piece of glass? And…” I bent closer to peer at a dark, furry mass of something.

“What is--it isn’t, is it? Jamie, why on earth are you carrying a dried mole’s foot in your sporran?”

“Against rheumatism, of course.” He snatched the object from under my nose and stuffed it back in the badger skin.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 31, "Quarter Day". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Jackdaws, the smallest members of the crow family, are intelligent birds with a reputation for thievery and mischief. According to this site,
The jackdaw's intelligence and curiosity....perpetuate the bird's tendency to get into trouble. One of its more infamous doings was documented in 1989–90 in England and South Wales, where it had been photographed in the act of removing the caps and drinking from milk bottles delivered to peoples' homes. People who drank the milk fell ill with bacterial infections caused by strains of Campylobacter. Researchers isolated the organisms from pecked milk bottles and traced them back to jackdaws and magpies (a close relative of the jackdaw), implicating the birds as the source of the outbreak.
You may have heard the story of the "Vain Jackdaw", from Aesop's Fables.

5) This is a caricature of a press-gang, circa 1780, rounding up men to serve as seamen on British navy ships. (Image from Wikipedia)
Tremendous bangings and rumblings from below ensued, with seamen popping up periodically to relay news of their findings to Captain Stebbings, who lounged by the rail, watching as the men of the Teal were rounded up and herded together on deck--Ian and Jamie among them.

“Here, now!” Captain Roberts was game, I’d give him that. “Mr. Fraser and his nephew aren’t crew; they’re paying passengers! You’ve no call to molest free men, about their lawful business. And no right to press my crew, either!”

“They’re British subjects,” Stebbings informed him briefly. “I’ve every right. Or do you all claim to be Americans?” He leered briefly at that; if the ship could be considered a rebel vessel, he could simply take the whole thing as a prize, crew and all.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 30, "Ships That Pass in the Night". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a video where Professor Denver Brunsman (author of THE EVIL NECESSITY, about the history of impressment in British Navy) talks about the practice of impressment in the 18th century. It's about 15 minutes long, but interesting.

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.

First official photo of Sam Heughan as Jamie!

This photo was posted on the @Outlander_STARZ Twitter feed last night, with the message, "FOR THE BEST FANS IN THE WORLD. Here's what your wee hearts have desired. James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser."

Click on the photo for a bigger view.  I think he looks terrific!

[UPDATE 11/3/2013 7:01 am: Diana Gabaldon has confirmed that this is a younger Jamie, seen in flashback, in the scene where the English soldiers, including Black Jack Randall, arrive at Lallybroch.  That's why he looks so grim; he's just heard the soldiers, or possibly Jenny screaming from the house.]

I love the costume, too -- not just the kilt, but his worn linen shirt, which looks just as it's described in OUTLANDER. 

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

OUTLANDER Casting: Nell Hudson as Laoghaire!

The latest addition to the cast of the OUTLANDER TV series is Nell Hudson, who will play Laoghaire MacKenzie.  In this photo she looks remarkably close to my own mental image of Laoghaire!

The official announcement is here.  You can hear Nell doing several different accents, including a Scottish accent, here.

I wonder if the STARZ people have prepared for the possibility of Nell Hudson getting hate-mail, when the series is finally broadcast?  It's all very well to have theoretical discussions about "a character we love to hate", but can you imagine playing that character on TV?

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

Monday, October 21, 2013

Update on the TV series

I didn't have a chance to blog about the OUTLANDER TV series last week, because I was on vacation.  Here are a few of the highlights from last week's news:

1) STARZ released an official video of the Diana Gabaldon/Ron Moore fan event at NY Comic Con that took place on October 12.  (I was invited to this event, but couldn't manage a trip to NYC on such short notice.)

Those of you outside the US may not be able to view it, but if you can, I would really encourage you to watch the whole thing. It's terrific!

Near the end of the video, they show a collection of "concept art" from the TV series.  These drawings are available here if you want to get a closer look at them.

2) Laura Donnelly has been cast to play Jamie's sister, Jenny Fraser Murray. She worked with Sam Heughan earlier this year, in a movie called HEART OF LIGHTNESS.  Look here for the official press release.

3) Diana Gabaldon was asked on Compuserve about the series premiere date.  Here's her reply, from October 15, 2013:
Well, this weekend I heard--from assorted Starz people--"summer," "July," and "August."  So take your pick, I guess....but evidently not spring, no.  (Not surprised; they only began filming last week, after all.)
I know that's going to be a disappointment to many people, but I was frankly relieved to hear this.  It's going to be enough of a challenge for me to deal with the post-book-release discussions on Compuserve in the spring <understatement!> without the TV series coming out at the same time.

Please keep in mind that no premiere date has officially been announced yet!  As soon as I hear anything official, I'll post it here.

4) Finally, I thought this exchange on Twitter yesterday, in honor of Claire's birthday, was really sweet:

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Birthday, Claire!

Happy Birthday

Happy 95th birthday to Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser!

Here's a post I wrote last year, featuring some of my favorite "Claire moments" from the OUTLANDER books.  It wasn't easy to pick just one per book, but I tried to choose quotes that highlight the many different aspects of Claire's personality.  I hope you enjoy them!

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.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "Raiders in the Rocks". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

"Cut me,” I said urgently. “Deep enough to leave a scar. I want to take away your touch with me, to have something of you that will stay with me always. I don’t care if it hurts; nothing could hurt more than leaving you. At least when I touch it, wherever I am, I can feel your touch on me."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Timor Mortis Conturbat Me". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I ached desperately; my head throbbed, my back was stiff and my feet swollen, but none of these was of any significance, compared to the deeper ache that knotted my heart.

Any doctor hates to lose a patient. Death is the enemy, and to lose someone in your care to the clutch of the dark angel is to be vanquished yourself, to feel the rage of betrayal and impotence, beyond the common, human grief of loss and the horror of death’s finality. I had lost twenty-three men between dawn and sunset of this day. Elias was only the first.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 48, "Moment of Grace". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

"What, exactly, are ye doing, Sassenach? And what in the name of God are ye wearing?” Jamie, arms crossed, was leaning against the door, watching me with both brows raised.

"I am improvising a brassiere,” I said with dignity. “I don’t mean to ride sidesaddle through the mountains wearing a dress, and if I’m not wearing stays, I don’t mean my breasts to be joggling all the way, either. Most uncomfortable, joggling."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

As for sweeping the floor, polishing the windows, dusting, and general drudgery of that sort...well, if women’s work was never done, why trouble about how much of it wasn’t being accomplished at any given moment?

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 96, "Aurum". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

"I have lived through a fucking world war,” I said, my voice low and venomous. “I have lost a child. I have lost two husbands. I have starved with an army, been beaten and wounded, been patronized, betrayed, imprisoned, and attacked. And I have fucking survived!” My voice was rising, but I was helpless to stop it. “And now should I be shattered because some wretched, pathetic excuses for men stuck their nasty little appendages between my legs and wiggled them?!” I stood up, seized the edge of the washstand and heaved it over, sending everything flying with a crash--basin, ewer, and lighted candlestick, which promptly went out.

“Well, I won’t,” I said quite calmly.

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

I had picked up Jamie’s sword before. It was a cavalry sword, larger and heavier than the usual, but I didn’t notice now.

I snatched it up and swung it in a two-handed arc that ripped the air and left the metal ringing in my hands.

Mother and son jumped back, identical looks of ludicrous surprise on their round, grimy faces.

“Get away!” I said.

Her mouth opened, but she didn’t say anything.

"I’m sorry for your man,” I said. “But my man lies here. Get away, I said!” I raised the sword, and the woman stepped back hastily, dragging the boy by the arm.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 62, "One Just Man". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
Happy Birthday, Claire!!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My trip to Williamsburg and Yorktown

I had a wonderful trip to Colonial Williamsburg and the Yorktown Victory Center in Virginia.  It was a great opportunity to indulge my obsession with all things 18th-century.  <g> 

We thoroughly enjoyed both places, but we were particularly impressed with the Yorktown Victory Center, which emphasizes "living history", with outdoor exhibits where you can explore an 18th-century farm and a military encampment from the Revolutionary War.  The site is currently undergoing a major renovation (they're building a new Museum of the American Revolution, scheduled to open in 2016) but we were able to see quite a lot, and the museum there has an extensive collection of artifacts, covering not just the Yorktown battle but the entire period of the Revolution.

These signs in the Colonial Williamsburg Visitors Center made me laugh:

The photos below are organized by category, not by date.  Photos marked with (W) were taken at Williamsburg, and photos marked with (Y) were taken at Yorktown.  As you look at these photos, you may recognize some of the items from my Friday Fun Facts posts.


Applying the ink (W)

Part of the printing press (W)

"Upper and lower case" trays for holding lead type (W)


Apothecary - notice all the carefully labeled containers (W)

Lavender, ginger, and camphor. (W)

Leather strips (with tooth marks!) for biting down during surgery (Y)

Medical chest like the one Jamie gave Claire in DRUMS. (W)

Military medical chest, showing the tiny bottles it contains. (Y)  The labels read (left to right): Snakeroot, Sage, Ipecacuanha, Peruvian Bark, Castor Oil, and Gum Arabic.

Doctor's desk (W)

Surgeon's tools (Y)

Here's a brief video I took of the doctor's office in the rear of the apothecary shop in Williamsburg.


Blacksmith (notice the red-hot iron!) (W)

Buckets made by a cooper. (W) They're much heavier than their modern counterparts!

Hogsheads (Y)

Women in the mantua-maker's shop, sewing by the window, where they have the best light. (W)


Caltrop, like the one on ECHO's cover. (Y)  It's small enough to fit easily in the palm of your hand.

Cannon (Y)

Cartridge box (W)

Postilion boots (Y), worn by cavalry, with extra protection for the feet to keep them from being crushed (for example, between two horses)

Re-enactor with musket (Y) - yes, that's a female, but don't tell, or they'll kick her out of the Continental army!

Here's a video showing how much faster a musket can be loaded and fired than a rifle.  This wasn't planned ahead of time; they did this demonstration for us on the spur of the moment.


Bed-key (Y). Used to tighten the ropes on a rope mattress, to keep it from sagging.  (You may recall that Claire used one of these in ABOSAA.)

Dining table (Y)

Lanterns (Y)

Laundry area (Y)

Oven. (W) We were told that it takes practice to learn how to judge the temperature.

Herbs and other bits of things hanging from the rafters to dry. (Y)

A sleeping space in the barn. (Y)


Lord Dunmore's proclamation offering freedom to slaves in Virginia who fought for the British. (Y)

Broadsheet announcing Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown on Oct. 19, 1781. (Y)

War Club and tomahawk (Y)   If you've read THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, you'll remember the club that Siverly used on Jamie, which looked like the one shown here.

Finally, if you're planning a visit to Williamsburg in the next few months, be sure to check out the "Threads of Feeling" exhibit in the art museum there.  It's a collection of scraps of fabric worn by infants admitted to the London Foundling Hospital in the 18th century.  (You may recall that Lord John and Percy attended an art exhibit in BOTB to benefit the Foundling Hospital.)  It's a heartbreaking collection that really conveys the depth of feeling of the parents who could no longer care for their children.