Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year!

As we prepare to ring in 2015, I thought it would be appropriate to have an old-fashioned Hogmanay celebration, as they might have celebrated it on Fraser's Ridge two hundred years ago.

This picture shows a cabin built around 1820 near Grandfather Mountain, NC (very close to where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located). I think this might look something like Bree and Roger's cabin, perhaps?
A firstfoot was to bring gifts to the house: an egg, a faggot of wood, a bit of salt--and a bit of whisky, thus insuring that the household would not lack for the necessities during the coming year.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Hogmanay". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I can't participate in a first-footing myself, even if I lived in Scotland (redheads being considered extremely bad luck on such an occasion), but I'd like to share these small tokens with you anyway.

Here's an article I found about Hogmanay Traditions in Scotland.  From what I can tell, the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh are an even bigger deal than New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square!

Happy New Year, and best wishes to all of you in 2015!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 Year in Review

2014 has been a truly amazing, unforgettable year for OUTLANDER fans all over the world!  Here are some of my favorite moments from the past year:

January 12 - A comment I made in a discussion on Compuserve inadvertently inspired what Diana Gabaldon referred to as the "Necessary (Horrible) Thing" that was going to happen in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD. (Hint: see the end of chapter 133.) Despite what Diana said at the time, it's definitely Not My Fault! <g> But I'm delighted that I was able to contribute to the writing in some small way.

February - Diana Gabaldon visited the set of OUTLANDER for the first time, and filmed her cameo appearance for Episode 104, "The Gathering". (Photo credit: Entertainment Weekly)

April 15 - The standalone e-book edition of Diana Gabaldon's novella, "The Space Between", was published. This is the same story that was previously published in THE MAD SCIENTIST'S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION and A TRAIL OF FIRE.  For more detailed information, see "The Space Between" FAQ page.

March 20-April 6 - I held a Friday Fun Facts contest to celebrate my 100th Friday Fun Facts post. Thanks again to everyone who participated!

June 1 - Fans everywhere celebrated World OUTLANDER Day on blogs, fan-sites, Twitter, and Facebook. It was a lot of fun.

June 10 - Diana Gabaldon's WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD was published, debuting at #1 on the NY Times Bestseller List!

I was thrilled to be mentioned in the Acknowledgements to MOHB! (Click on the images above to enlarge them.)

Managing the MOHB discussions in the Diana Gabaldon folder on Compuserve (aka the "Great Thread Explosion of 2014, Part 1") turned into a full-time job for me for the next 5 or 6 weeks, but I was really pleased with the way things went.

July 25 - The world premiere of the OUTLANDER TV series took place at the San Diego Comic Con. Shortly thereafter, STARZ made the first episode available online, and we found ourselves in the middle of the "Great Thread Explosion of 2014, Part 2" (TV series edition). <g> I was so busy over the next several months trying to keep up with the discussions on Compuserve that I barely had time to breathe, but it was a LOT of fun!

August 9 - OUTLANDER officially premiered on STARZ!! I really couldn't be happier with the TV series -- the writing, the acting, the cinematography, the costumes, the music, is all WONDERFUL, and it's been an amazing experience to watch the story come to life on TV.

Here are my recaps of Episodes 101-108:

Episode 101: "Sassenach"
Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
Episode 103: "The Way Out"
Episode 104: "The Gathering"
Episode 105: "Rent"
Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
Episode 107: "The Wedding"
Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"

For those of you who don't know, the series will resume on STARZ on April 4, 2015.

August 15 - I was thrilled to see that Outlandish Observations was mentioned in a list of OUTLANDER fan-sites in the August 15 issue of Entertainment Weekly magazine!

August 15 - OUTLANDER was renewed for a second season on STARZ!

September 20 - Fans all over the world celebrated Jamie and Claire's wedding in Episode 107 of the TV series by tagging their tweets with #OutlanderWedding. There were a number of very successful OUTLANDER-related Twitter campaigns this year. I was the one who came up with the idea for this one. <g> I suggested it to Outlander Ambassadors after seeing the hashtag in the wedding invitation posted by STARZ (pictured above -- click on the image for a bigger view), and I was delighted to see that they took my suggestion and ran with it. Thanks to everyone who participated!

December 14 - Outlandish Observations reached 6,000 followers on Facebook!  THANK YOU ALL!!

December 16 - Diana Gabaldon's WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD was featured on "Jeopardy". (Photo credit: princesstlcw on Instagram.)

What an incredible year this has been! The average number of daily visitors to my site has more than doubled, from 552 in 2013 to 1229 in 2014, and I'm delighted to see all the new people who've found their way here in recent months.  Thanks to ALL of you who take the time to visit Outlandish Observations, and I wish you all the best in 2015!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas quotes from the OUTLANDER books

Here are some Christmas-themed quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books. This has become an annual tradition on my blog. I hope you enjoy them. Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating this week!

1) It's hard to imagine, from our 21st-century perspective, anyone losing track of the date this close to Christmas. But Roger had a lot of other things on his mind....
"What's the occasion? For our homecoming?"

She lifted her head from his chest and gave him what he privately classified as A Look.

"For Christmas," she said.

"What?" He groped blankly, trying to count the days, but the events of the last three weeks had completely erased his mental calendar.


"Tomorrow, idiot," she said with exaggerated patience.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Home for Christmas". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo above shows 18th-century style Christmas decorations at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

2) Here's a quote from one of my favorite scenes in DRUMS, when Claire comes to find Jamie in the snow:
"What if I tell you a story, instead?"

Highlanders loved stories, and Jamie was no exception.

"Oh, aye," he said, sounding much happier. "What sort of story is it?"

"A Christmas story," I said, settling myself along the curve of his body. "About a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge."

"An Englishman, I daresay?"

"Yes," I said. "Be quiet and listen."

I could see my own breath as I talked, white in the dim, cold air. The snow was falling heavily outside our shelter; when I paused in the story, I could hear the whisper of flakes against the hemlock branches, and the far-off whine of wind in the trees.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Night on a Snowy Mountain". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The illustration above, showing Scrooge with Marley's ghost, comes from the 1843 edition of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

3) I think it's interesting--and rather sad--that Lord John should seek out Nessie, rather than the company of his own family, on Christmas Eve. You may recall that he brought her a box of sugar plums, like the ones pictured above.
“Aye, well, it is Christmas Eve,” she said, answering his unasked question. “Any man wi’ a home to go to’s in it.” She yawned, pulled off her nightcap, and fluffed her fingers through the wild mass of curly dark hair.

“Yet you seem to have some custom,” he observed. Distant singing came from two floors below, and the parlor had seemed well populated when he passed.

“Och, aye. The desperate ones. I leave them to Maybelle to deal with; dinna like to see them, poor creatures. Pitiful. They dinna really want a woman, the ones who come on Christmas Eve--only a fire to sit by, and folk to sit with.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Joyeux Noel". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) The next quote is a reminder that Christmas was viewed differently back then than we think of it today. But of course many of today's Christmas traditions date from the 19th century or later:
Catholic as many of them were--and nominally Christian as they all were--Highland Scots regarded Christmas primarily as a religious observance, rather than a major festive occasion. Lacking priest or minister, the day was spent much like a Sunday, though with a particularly lavish meal to mark the occasion, and the exchange of small gifts.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 

5) Speaking of Christmas traditions, here's one, from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
They’d brought down the Yule log to the house that afternoon, all the household taking part, the women bundled to the eyebrows, the men ruddy, flushed with the labor, staggering, singing, dragging the monstrous log with ropes, its rough skin packed with snow, a great furrow left where it passed, the snow plowed high on either side.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Succession". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

6) And what would the holidays be without sweets? <g> Check out Outlander Kitchen's recipe for molasses toffee, as described in this scene from THE FIERY CROSS:
With a certain amount of forethought, Mrs. Bug, Brianna, Marsali, Lizzie, and I had made up an enormous quantity of molasses toffee, which we had distributed as a Christmas treat to all the children within earshot.  Whatever it might do to their teeth, it had the beneficial effect of gluing their mouths shut for long periods, and in consequence, the adults had enjoyed a peaceful Christmas.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) Quakers don't have any special Christmas celebrations, but there's no denying that Denny and Rachel Hunter found Christmas, 1777, a particularly memorable occasion, thanks to Dottie!
"Well, that is odd,” Rachel said, turning to look first at her brother, and then at the small clock that graced their rooms. “Who goes a-visiting at nine o’clock on Christmas night? It cannot be a Friend, surely?” For Friends did not keep Christmas and would find the feast no bar to travel, but the Hunters had no connections--not yet--with the Friends of any Philadelphia meeting.

A thump of footsteps on the staircase prevented Denzell’s reply, and an instant later the door of the room burst open. The fur-clad woman stood on the threshold, white as her furs.

“Denny?” she said in a strangled voice.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 86, "Valley Forge". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

8) I love this quote, even though things didn't turn out the way Roger had expected. (The photo above, by krbnah on Flickr, shows Inverness at Christmas, 2009.)
She'd wanted to go to the Christmas Eve services. After that...

After that, he would ask her, make it formal. She would say yes, he knew. And then...

Why, then, they would come home, to a house dark and private. With themselves alone, on a night of sacrament and secret, with love newly come into the world. And he would lift her in his arms and carry her upstairs, on a night when virginity's sacrifice was no loss of purity, but rather the birth of everlasting joy.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Home for the Holidays". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Wishing all of you the best in this holiday season!

Monday, December 22, 2014

STARZ OUTLANDER marathon on Christmas Day!

STARZ will be running an OUTLANDER marathon on Christmas Day!  Starting at 3pm ET/PT on Thursday, STARZ will be showing all 8 episodes of the OUTLANDER TV series.

(Note for those of you on the West Coast: I've been informed that if you subscribe to the East Coast feed, the marathon starts at noon Pacific Time.)

In the meantime, here's the OUTLANDER Yule Log, featuring music by composer Bear McCreary.

Friday, December 19, 2014

New OUTLANDER trailer!

Here's the latest trailer for the second half of Season 1 of the OUTLANDER TV series, featuring Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, and Graham McTavish.

I'm not sure if this video will work outside the US, but if it doesn't, try this instead.

Friday Fun Facts - 12/19/2014

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

1) Pomanders made from oranges studded with cloves have been used for centuries, both as a natural air freshener and as holiday decoration. (Photo credit: SarahVictoriaMarks, on Flickr.)  Lord John was obviously quite familiar with them:
As he followed Stephan from the coach, he caught the scent of von Namtzen’s cologne, something faint and spicy--cloves, he thought, and was absurdly reminded of Christmas, and oranges studded thick with cloves, the smell festive in the house.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "Eros Rising". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you'd like to try making your own, look here or here.

2) This 15th-century painting by Andrea Montegna depicts St. Sebastian, one of the early Christian saints and martyrs, who died in the year 288. You may recall that there was a tapestry of "St. Sebastian the Human Pincushion", as Claire called him, in Jamie's room at the Abbey in OUTLANDER:
The room was close and stuffy with smoke from the brazier. The only window was covered with a heavy tapestry, one showing the execution of Saint Sebastian. I eyed the saint’s upturned face and arrow-punctured torso, wondering afresh at the mentality of the person who had chosen this particular decoration for a sickroom.

Indifferently rendered as it was, the tapestry was of heavy silk and wool, and excluded all but the strongest drafts. I lifted the lower edge and flapped it, urging the charcoal smoke out through the stone arch. The cold, damp air that streamed in was refreshing, and did something to calm the throbbing that had started in my temples as I stared into the reflecting water, remembering.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "To Ransom a Man's Soul". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I found an interesting bit of trivia here that might answer Claire's question about why the monks chose to put the tapestry of St. Sebastian there:
During the 14th century, the random nature of infection with the Black Death caused people to liken the plague to their villages being shot by an army of nature’s archers. In desperation, they prayed for the intercession of a saint associated with archers, and Saint Sebastian became associated with the plague.
For more about Saint Sebastian, look here.

3) This marble bust from the 2nd century AD shows what a Phrygian cap looks like. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
After walking for an hour or so, [Lord John] found a sheltered spot among the roots of an enormous pine tree and, taking out the knife, hacked off his hair as best he could. He stuffed the shorn locks well back under a root, rubbed his hands in the dirt, and then applied them vigorously to hair and face before donning his Phrygian cap.

Thus suitably concealed, he heaped a thick blanket of fallen dry needles over himself, curled up, and went to sleep to the sound of pattering rain in the trees above, once more a free man.

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Freedom!". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
I didn't know what a Phrygian cap was before I read MOHB, and I was fascinated to see how widespread its use was in the late 18th century, particularly in America and France, as a symbol of liberty. Look closely at the official seals of the United States Senate and the Department of the Army, for example.

This type of cap, known as the "bonnet rouge", was ubiquitous during the French Revolution. This 1792 cartoon shows Louis XVI of France wearing a Phrygian cap. (Click on the image for a bigger view.) Look here and here for more examples.

4) I had never heard of amaranthus before I read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD. (Photo credit: monetmama, on Flickr.)  Isn't it beautiful?
"What sort of name is Amaranthus, may I ask?”

She swallowed, blinked, and sat down, clutching the baby.

“It’s a flower,” she said, sounding rather dazed. “My grandfather’s a botanist. It could have been worse,” she added more sharply, seeing John smile. “It might have been Ampelopsis or Petunia.”

“Amaranthus is a very beautiful name, my dear--if I may call you so?” Hal said, with grave courtesy.

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 135, "Amaranthus". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The ornamental variety shown above, Amaranthus caudatus, is also known as "love-lies-bleeding". (Photo credit:  rayyaro, on Flickr.)

I was surprised to learn that the leaves and seeds of amaranthus are edible. From Wikipedia:
Known to the Aztecs as huauhtli, it is thought to have represented up to 80% of their caloric consumption before the conquest. Another important use of amaranth throughout Mesoamerica was to prepare ritual drinks and foods. To this day, amaranth grains are toasted much like popcorn and mixed with honey, molasses or chocolate to make a treat called alegría, meaning "joy" in Spanish.
For more information, look here.

5) "The Braes o' Killiecrankie" is a traditional Scottish song, with words by Robert Burns, commemorating the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689, which was part of the first Jacobite Rising. Click on the video above to hear the Corries' version of "Killiecrankie".

You may recall that Roger performed this song for the people on the Ridge in THE FIERY CROSS:
He would have earned his own supper by the time he got it. He had been playing and singing for more than an hour, and the moon was rising over Black Mountain now. He paused under cover of the refrain, just long enough to grab the cup of ale set under his stool and wet his throat, then hit the new verse fresh and solid.

"I fought on land, I fought on sea,
At hame I fought my auntie, Oh!
I met the Devil and Dundee...
On the braes o' Killiecrankie-O!"

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Playing With Fire". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see the lyrics in Scots and English here.

I hope you enjoyed this week's Friday Fun Facts! Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

OUTLANDER on "Jeopardy"!

Diana Gabaldon's WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD was featured on "Jeopardy"!  (Photo credit: princesstlcw on Instagram.)

I think this is very cool! And great publicity for both the books and the TV series.  Congratulations, Diana!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

6000 followers on Facebook!

I'm celebrating a blogging milestone today: My Outlandish Observations Facebook page now has 6,000 followers!!

THANK YOU ALL!! I really appreciate your support!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Most anticipated scenes from 2nd half of Season 1

We still have a long way to go before OUTLANDER Season 1 resumes on April 4th on STARZ.  I thought it might be fun to talk about what scenes we're most looking forward to (or dreading!) in the second half of Season 1, as a way to pass the time while we wait.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * * 

There are Major Spoilers from OUTLANDER (aka CROSS STITCH) below.  If you haven't finished the first book, stop right here, and come back when you're done with the book!









My personal list includes:

- The infamous scene where Jamie takes a strap to Claire, and the argument on the road between them that precedes it.
- The witch-trial, especially Jamie coming to the rescue, and Claire's revelation of where she comes from.
- Jenny and Ian at Lallybroch.
- Jamie at Wentworth, "bargaining for [Claire's] life using the only thing he had left--himself."

I am frankly dreading seeing some of the very emotionally intense scenes toward the end of Season 1 dealing with Wentworth and its aftermath.  I have a feeling (and this is just speculation on my part) that it's going to be far more horrific than I have been imagining all these years from reading the books.

What about the rest of you?  What scene(s) from OUTLANDER are you most looking forward to seeing in episodes 109-116? Do you plan to avoid the more graphic or emotionally intense scenes?

I'd like to hear what you think. Please leave a comment here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The costumes on the OUTLANDER TV series

Terry Dresbach, costume designer for the OUTLANDER TV series, has a new blog post up, and I think it's terrific! It's a real eye-opener to those of us who are not familiar with the amount of detail involved in creating the costumes for a historical drama like OUTLANDER.

SPOILER for DRAGONFLY IN AMBER (Book 2 of the OUTLANDER series) below:








All I can say after reading this is, if buttons and shoes are this complicated, it's absolutely mind-boggling to think about what it will take to create all the exquisitely detailed period costumes they're going to need for the French-court scenes in Season 2! <g>

Diana Gabaldon radio interview TODAY at 9am PT!

Diana Gabaldon will be doing a live radio interview TODAY (Wednesday, 12/10/14) starting at 9am Pacific Time (12pm ET).

Look here for more details.

[UPDATE 12/10/2014 8:30 pm:  If you missed the show today, just click the link above to listen to the recording.]

Monday, December 8, 2014

Kindle edition of DRAGONFLY on sale for $0.99!

The Kindle edition of Diana Gabaldon's DRAGONFLY IN AMBER (Book 2 of the OUTLANDER series) is on sale for only $0.99!

This is a great opportunity for those of you who are just reading the books for the first time to see what's in store for Jamie and Claire in Season 2 of the OUTLANDER TV series. <g> And it's too good a deal to pass up, if you have a Kindle or know someone who does. 

Please pass this on to anyone else you know who may be interested.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Interview with Caitriona Balfe

Here's a very interesting interview with Caitriona Balfe, where she talks in detail about what it's like to play Claire on the OUTLANDER TV series. It's about 18 minutes long, and definitely worth watching!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Deleted scene from Episode 106

STARZ has released a deleted scene from OUTLANDER Episode 106, "The Garrison Commander", showing the original ending to that episode.

I'm not sure if this video will work outside the US, but if it doesn't, try this link instead.

I was glad to see that they filmed more of Claire's initial reaction to the news of her impending marriage to Jamie, even if there wasn't time to include it in the finished episode.  (The voice-over is taken almost word-for-word from the book.)

The scene with Frank and Claire was tender and sweet, but coming on top of the horrific scenes of the flogging, I think the last thing I would have wanted to see at that point in the show was a character who so strongly resembles Jack Randall.  I think they made the right decision to end the episode on a lighter note, with a touch of humor.  ("Does it bother you that I'm not a virgin?", etc.)

If you want to see more of my reactions to Episode 106, look here for my recap.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

STARZ announces 25 days of #OutlanderOfferings

STARZ announced yesterday that they will be doing 25 days of #OutlanderOfferings, in appreciation of OUTLANDER fans everywhere.
For the next 25 days, Starz will release exclusive ‘Outlander’ content across Twitter and Facebook, including cast interviews, never-before-seen footage, holiday recipes, e-cards, Outlander Store discounts, and the chance to win a show prize pack by answering trivia questions or tweeting using #OutlanderOfferings.
The first installment is a new 20-second trailer featuring never-before-seen footage from the second half of Season 1.  (I don't know if this video is available outside the US, but I hope so.)

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

Monday, December 1, 2014

What's your favorite gift in the OUTLANDER books?

It's December, the holiday season is here, and I've just posted my December poll, which asks the question, "What is your favorite gift from the OUTLANDER books?"

So what do you think? Claire's silver wedding ring?  Brianna's photos? The little cherrywood snake? Of all the gifts given and received in Diana Gabaldon's books, which one is your favorite, and why?  Please take a moment to vote in my poll, and leave a comment here (or on Facebook or Twitter) explaining your choice.

November poll results

Here are the results of the November poll, which asked the question, "Which of Diana Gabaldon's books are you currently reading or listening to?"
  • 11.76% - THE FIERY CROSS
  • 11.41% - VOYAGER
  • 9.84% - DRUMS OF AUTUMN
  • 6.77% - I'm reading other things right now.
  • 6.43% - AN ECHO IN THE BONE
  • 0.75% - A TRAIL OF FIRE
  • 0.41% - THE EXILE (graphic novel)
  • 3.28% - Other
Here are the responses for "Other":
  • I've read them all
  • Rereading passges in Outlander and Voyager that I love
  • Virgins in Dangerous Women
  • will be starting a reread of DIA soon
  • I don't have time to read for fun right now... :(
  • All of them
  • i read all the books for the 5th time at the moment voyager !
  • Just finished 3rd reread of whole series
  • Reading 'Beautiful Ruins' which has a Claire character and Outlander for 10th t
  • I'm finishing Outlander now. HOW ABOUT A BOX SET for Christmas????
  • The Space Between
  • the space between
  • I am reading MOHBY, audible book DIA on IPad, and CD in car of Scottish Prisoner
  • I've read all those listed. What's after ...Hearts Blood?
  • Just finished reading the series--it took me three months!
  • Listening to DIA and reading EIB
  • The Space Between
  • I've read the whole seried and started over. Into DIA right now.
  • Have read them all so rereading favorite scenes
  • i have read all of the above
  • I have her 8 bks on an iPod, listen randomly to all.
  • A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallow and The Space Between
  • Voyager on my own and Outlander with my husband.
  • Re-listened to entire series. Now catching up on other things.
  • finished Scottish Prisoner, rereading 1st book
  • The Space Between
  • Working my way through the BIG books--again.
  • Virgins
  • I'm reading Voyager to my husband at night, but the Scottish Prisoner alone.
  • Read them all, al over and over again, now in dia
  • I'm re-reading them but will insert LJG books as n
  • Reading Outlander, listening to MOBY! :)
  • I read and reread all of them!
  • Reading The Space Between, relistening to DIA
  • rereading Outlander and Voyager
  • the space between
  • waiting for Written in my own Hearts Blood in paperback. Have re-read all others
  • I've read them all already
  • The Space Between
  • But I'm thinking I should get the audio too.
  • Re reading them all
  • Rereading! It's along time until 4/4.
  • Re-reading the entire series
  • I just finished :( Hurry with book #9 :)
  • rereading them all again
  • The space between
There were 1463 responses to this poll. I didn't vote myself, but I am listening to OUTLANDER (yet again!) at the moment.  Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

Please take a moment to vote in the December poll, which asks the question, "What is your favorite gift from the OUTLANDER books?"  Thanks!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

In honor of the upcoming holiday, here are some Thanksgiving-themed quotes from the OUTLANDER books.  This has become an annual tradition here on Outlandish Observations, and I hope you enjoy them!

*** SPOILER WARNING! *** If you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, you will encounter spoilers below! Read at your own risk.

1) Roger and Brianna, hunting turkeys:
"What a thing," he said. He held it at arm's length to drain, admiring the vivid reds and blues of the bare, warty head and dangling wattle. "I don't think I've ever seen one, save roasted on a platter, with chestnut dressing and roast potatoes."

He looked from the turkey to her with great respect, and nodded at the gun.

"That's great shooting, Bree."

She felt her cheeks flush with pleasure, and restrained the urge to say, "Aw, shucks, it warn't nothin'," settling instead for a simple, "Thanks."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Shooting Lessons". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love this scene, especially for Roger's reaction. He's a little taken aback by her shooting skills, but his ego doesn't seem to be threatened by the fact that she's better at hunting (providing food for the family) than he is.

2) Claire and Jamie receiving gifts from the local Native Americans, very much in the spirit of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving:
Once the official introductions were over, Nacognaweto motioned to Berthe, who obediently brought out the large bundle she had carried, and opened it at my feet, displaying a large basket of orange and green-striped squash, a string of dried fish, a smaller basket of yams, and a huge pile of Indian corn, shucked and dried on the cob.

“My God,” I murmured. “The return of Squanto!”

Everyone gave me a blank look, and I hastened to smile and make exclamations--thoroughly heartfelt--of joy and pleasure over the gifts. It might not get us through the whole winter, but it was enough to augment our diet for a good two months.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "The White Raven". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) Jocasta and Duncan's wedding feast:
"Can ye not decide where to begin, Sassenach?" He reached down and took the empty wineglass from her hand, taking advantage of the movement to come close against her back, feeling the warmth of her through his clothes.

She laughed, and swayed back against him, leaning on his arm. She smelled faintly of rice powder and warm skin, with the scent of rose hips in her hair.

"I'm not even terribly hungry. I was just counting the jellies and preserves. There are thirty-seven different ones--unless I've missed my count."

He spared a glance for the table, which did indeed hold a bewildering array of silver dishes, porcelain bowls, and wooden platters, groaning with more food than would feed a Highland village for a month.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Quicksilver". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Most major holiday dinners give me this same feeling, although I can't say I've ever seen thirty-seven different varieties of *anything* at one meal before. <g>

4) The "hearth blessing" on Fraser's Ridge:
We blessed the hearth two days later, standing in the wall-less cabin. Myers had removed his hat, from respect, and Ian had washed his face. Rollo was present, too, as was the small white pig, who was required to attend as the personification of our "flocks," despite her objections; the pig saw no point in being removed from her meal of acorns to participate in a ritual so notably lacking in food.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Hearth Blessing". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Considering how successful that little homestead on the Ridge would prove to be, I think there must have been something extra-powerful in that blessing. <g> And I love the mention of the little white piglet, who will grow up to become the infamous White Sow. If this blessing was intended to ensure fertility on the part of that sow, it succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

5) The Selkirk Grace:
[Hamish] glared round the table to insure that everyone was in a properly reverential attitude before bowing his own head. Satisfied, he intoned,

"Some hae meat that canna eat,
And some could eat that want it.
We hae meat, and we can eat,
And so may God be thankit.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Colum's Hall". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Happy Thanksgiving! (And to those of you outside the U.S., best wishes for the holiday season.)  If you're looking for OUTLANDER-related food ideas, check out this OUTLANDER Thanksgiving Feast posted by Theresa of Outlander Kitchen!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Hollywood's most powerful authors

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Diana Gabaldon is #14 on the list of Hollywood's 25 most powerful authors!
The real superheroes of the industry right now? These writers -- ranked in order of influence -- whose books are source material for more than 300 movie and TV projects, have helped rake in billions in box office and revenue, and prove every day that originality, above all else, still matters.
You can see the full list here.  Congratulations, Diana!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Eight years!

Eight years ago this week, I read OUTLANDER for the first time, and my life changed forever.  That's not an exaggeration! These books have had a profound impact on me, in many ways.

1) I've been a skim-reader all my life, but I discovered very quickly that you just can't do that with Diana Gabaldon's books, or you miss too much. <understatement!!>  So I started listening to the audiobooks, and was astounded by the amount of detail that I'd missed the first few times.  I've been listening to the OUTLANDER audiobooks on a continuous rotation (with occasional short breaks) for about 7 1/2 years now. <g> I never get tired of them!

2) In September, 2008, I became Section Leader (moderator) of the Diana Gabaldon folder on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, which is the online forum where Diana hangs out. This has been a tremendous opportunity for me, and a lot of fun, but it's not without its challenges, especially in a year as busy as this one has been! Diana refers to what I do on the forum as "herding the bumblebees", which is an image that always makes me smile. The trick to herding bumblebees is to do it without getting stung. <g> 

3) I visited Scotland in July, 2012, on the Celtic Journeys OUTLANDER Tour, along with my mom and my sister Alice.  We had a wonderful time, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.  You can see my blog posts about the trip here.

4) I've been lucky enough to meet Diana Gabaldon in person three times.  Diana called me "the fabulous Karen Henry" in front of 1200 fans at an appearance in Annandale, VA, in April, 2013. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

5) Diana has mentioned me by name in the Acknowledgements to AN ECHO IN THE BONE, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, A TRAIL OF FIRE, and WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.  The e-book edition of her novella, "The Custom of the Army", is dedicated to me. <g>  And the character of "Keren-happuch" in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER was named in my honor.  I'm flattered and delighted, of course!

6) Last but definitely not least: Without the OUTLANDER books, I would never have started this blog, Outlandish Observations.  It's succeeded far beyond my wildest imaginings <g>, and the average number of visitors per day is up more than 300% since the TV series premiered in August. My Outlandish Observations Facebook page now has almost 5900 followers. THANK YOU ALL!!

I originally bought OUTLANDER with a gift card my mom had given me for my birthday. I have always thought it hilarious that I got so thoroughly addicted without spending a penny of my own money. <g> If you want to see the story of how I found the OUTLANDER series, look here.

Many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for creating such an amazing story, and for her support and encouragement over the last few years.  It means a tremendous amount to me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

OUTLANDER premieres Jan. 6 in Germany!

The OUTLANDER TV series will premiere in Germany on January 6, 2015, on RTL Passion, which is a pay-TV channel.

Thanks to Barbara Schnell, Diana Gabaldon's German translator, for the link to this article with all the details!

For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, including a partial list of countries that will be showing the series, see my FAQ page here.

NOTE TO UK FANS: We still have no news about when OUTLANDER might be available in the UK. I promise I'll post here as soon as I hear anything!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Confessions of an OUTLANDER audiobook addict

Well, all right, to be honest, I'm just addicted to the series, period. In whatever form. <g> But I wanted to share some thoughts on the audio versions of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books, which I've been listening to almost daily since about April 2007.  (I'm currently about halfway through OUTLANDER....again.)

Please note, if you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, there are SPOILERS below!

Things I Like About the Audiobooks

1) They force you to slow down, and take in all the details.

I have always been a fast reader, and a "skimmer". I missed huge chunks of Good Stuff the first time I read the series, particularly in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, because I was reading much too fast. (Example: "Wait, you mean to tell me Claire lost the baby? When did that happen? Did I miss something?" [frantically flipping back through the book])

Because the audiobook narrators read Every Single Word, you learn to slow down and listen for the smaller details, the subtleties, the lyrical descriptions that skim-readers like myself often breeze right past. Slowing down has enabled me to see things in Diana Gabaldon's writing that I never would have picked up on otherwise, no matter how many times I re-read the books, because I just read too fast.

2) The narrators are terrific.

Davina Porter's voice is so expressive, and she does a wonderful job with all of the accents. (Well, almost all. See Things I Don't Like, below.) I love being able to hear what the Scottish accents and Gaelic phrases actually sound like. And she can be very creative with the voices at times. I absolutely love the way her voice for Roger changes in FIERY CROSS, for example: strong and resonant in the beginning; barely more than a hoarse whisper when he begins to speak again after the hanging; and by the end, a sort of harsh, rasping shadow of his original voice. Very much as it's described in the book, in other words. And Davina Porter's voice for Mrs. Bug sounds so exactly like the way I imagined, that I always have to laugh whenever I hear it.

Here's a wonderful two-part interview with Davina Porter from 2009.

Jeff Woodman, narrator of the Lord John audiobooks, is also a wonderful reader. I love his voices for Lord John, Hal, Tom Byrd, and Harry Quarry.  Diana Gabaldon says that Jeff Woodman's voice for Lord John sounds just like the voice she hears in her head. <g>  He doesn't do so well (understandably enough) with the female voices, but overall he does a good job.

Here's an interview with Jeff Woodman from 2010.

3) You can listen anywhere, any time.

I often listen to the audiobooks in the car while driving back and forth to work. It works out pretty well, especially if you are sitting in traffic, but I would recommend caution if you are listening to one of the really emotionally intense parts of the books! One day in 2007, I was driving home while listening to the scene in OUTLANDER where Jamie is being given last rites. I suddenly found myself half-blinded by tears, still driving down the road, about a mile from my house. I got home without incident, but it was a pretty scary experience.

Some people like to listen to the audiobooks while gardening or doing housework.  I enjoy listening to them while doing needlepoint.

Things I Don't Like

Some of the voices are just plain wrong. If you've read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, you'll recall Wendigo Donner, the time-travelling Native American who whistles "Yellow Submarine". He's clearly not British in the book:
"Man," he said, longing clear in his voice, "what I wouldn't give for a cold Bud and a baseball game on TV."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 123, "Return of the Native". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Unfortunately, the voice Davina Porter uses for him in the audio version makes him sound like a Liverpudlian. Certainly he doesn't sound like a man born and raised in the U.S.  (Davina has admitted that she got his accent wrong.)  Brianna's accent is also a bit odd. She lived her whole childhood in Boston, yet she doesn't have a trace of a Boston accent. I've always thought she should.

And as for Jeff Woodman's voices: Well, let's just say that I don't care for his Jamie-voice at all. Jamie sounds half-dead in most of the scenes where he appears in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, his voice dull and almost inflectionless. And even if this is Woodman's way of showing a more subdued or even depressed Jamie than we're used to from the OUTLANDER books (which would be reasonable under the circumstances, I suppose), I still don't like it one bit. Especially compared to Davina Porter's Jamie.

The dual-narrator approach that they tried with THE SCOTTISH PRISONER was not as successful as I had hoped.  I thought it was a good idea to have two narrators for that book, with Jeff Woodman reading Lord John's parts of the book and Rick Holmes reading Jamie's. Unfortunately, while Rick Holmes has a very soothing voice as a narrator, his Jamie doesn't sound distinctively Scottish, at least to my ears.

Still, these are minor quibbles at best, and they don't diminish my enjoyment of the audiobooks at all.

A Word of Caution

I would recommend that those of you with young children be careful which parts of the books you listen to when your kids are around. There are a lot of scenes in these books that would be awkward to explain, to put it mildly. <g>  And I'm not just talking about the sex scenes!

One day in 2010, I was on my way out to lunch with a couple of male co-workers, and I forgot I'd had DRAGONFLY IN AMBER on my iPod coming through the car stereo.  I got in the car, turned on the ignition, and heard Davina Porter (in Jamie's voice) saying "pustulent arseholes...." <g>  (I think the context of the phrase was something to do with Claire's work at L'Hopital des Anges, but it doesn't matter; the point is, these were the first and only words my coworkers heard.)

I shut the stereo off fast, blushing furiously.

My startled coworkers stared first at the radio, then at me.  "What on earth was THAT?!"

"Oh, um....nothing."

I just couldn't think of any way to explain.  The truth would have required a lot more explanation than I was prepared to give, just at that moment.  (These being coworkers who had no idea of my OUTLANDER-addiction.)  I think they went away thinking I had very odd tastes in radio programs, or something.

I suppose I should count myself lucky that I hadn't been listening to one of the sex scenes. <g>  That would have been AWFULLY hard to explain!

Where to Find the Audiobooks

All of Diana Gabaldon's books are available in unabridged audio format.  I would strongly encourage anyone who's interested to go to or Amazon to check them out!

Please note, if you get the OUTLANDER audiobooks from the library, make sure you are listening to the UNABRIDGED version, read by Davina Porter.  (The abridged versions have been phased out in recent years, much to Diana Gabaldon's relief and delight.)

I hope you enjoy the audiobooks as much as I have!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

REPOST: The symbolism of everyday objects

I first posted this in February, 2012, and it got a very positive response.  This is an updated version of the original list.  Hope you enjoy it!

The Symbolism of Everyday Objects

One of the things I love about Diana Gabaldon's writing is the way she can take a perfectly ordinary object, something you've seen a thousand times and never really paid attention to before, and turn it into something completely unforgettable.

Here are a few examples of what I mean.

1) Doorknobs

I don't think anyone who has read LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE will look at doorknobs the same way again.
Meanwhile, the doorknob--made of white china and slick as an egg--as though to compensate for the loss of the key, was inclined either to spin loosely round on its stem, or to jam fast, both conditions preventing the door from being opened from the outside.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "Betrayal". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) Strawberries

I can't think of strawberries now without remembering the wonderful scene in DRUMS OF AUTUMN where Jamie and Claire discover the site of Fraser's Ridge:
"It's a rare plant," he said, touching the sprig in my open hand.  "Flowers, fruit and leaves all together at the one time.  The white flowers are for honor, and red fruit for courage--and the green leaves are for constancy."

My throat felt tight as I looked at him.

"They got that one right," I said.

He caught my hand in his own, squeezing my fingers around the tiny stem.

"And the fruit is the shape of a heart," he said softly, and bent to kiss me.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) Oranges, and orange marmalade

The encounter between Lord John and Stephan von Namtzen in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER was dubbed a "marmaliaison" by my friend Vicki Pack on Compuserve, shortly after the book came out. <g>  If you read carefully, you'll see references to oranges scattered throughout that whole chapter.
As he followed Stephan from the coach, he caught the scent of von Namtzen’s cologne, something faint and spicy--cloves, he thought, and was absurdly reminded of Christmas, and oranges studded thick with cloves, the smell festive in the house.

His hand closed on the orange, cool and round in his pocket, and he thought of other rounded things that might fit in his hand, these warm.

“Fool,” he said to himself, under his breath. “Don’t even think about it.”

It was, of course, impossible not to think about it.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "Eros Rising". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) A wooden mallet, its handle wrapped with twine

Even Jamie is bothered by the memories evoked by this particular object, and no wonder!
"Surely ye can make hare pie without looking in the wee book?" he said, obligingly taking the big bone-crushing wooden mallet from the top of the hutch where it was kept.  He grimaced as he took it into his hand, feeling the weight of it.  It was very like the one that had broken his right hand several years before, in an English prison, and he had a sudden vivid memory of the shattered bones in a hare pie, splintered and cracked, leaking salty blood and marrow-sweetness into the meat.
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "To Us a Child is Given". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Just looking at the photo makes me shudder, thinking of Jamie's hand.

5) Sausages

The sausage pictured above is a whopping 15 1/2 inches long, roughly comparable in size to the one described in DRAGONFLY:
"I'll leave it to you, Sassenach," he said dryly, "to imagine what it feels like to arrive unexpectedly in the middle of a brothel, in possession of a verra large sausage."

My imagination proved fully equal to this task, and I burst out laughing.

"God, I wish I could have seen you!" I said.

"Thank God ye didn't!" he said fervently. A furious blush glowed on his cheekbones.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "L'Hopital des Anges". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

6) Pebbles

I thought Jamie's collection of stones, one for each of his family members, was a lovely bit in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
A scatter of stones, picked up because of their feel in the hand or a pretty color. He counted them; there were eleven: one each for his sister, for Ian, for Young Jamie, Maggie, Kitty, Janet, Michael, and Young Ian; one for his daughter, Faith, who had died at birth; another for the child Claire had carried when she went; the last--a piece of rough amethyst--for Claire herself. He must look out for another now: the right stone for William. He wondered briefly why he had not done that before. Because he hadn’t felt the right to claim William even in the privacy of his own heart, he supposed.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "Redux". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I like to think that this is a habit Jamie continued all his life, and that he would have kept pebbles for Bree, Roger, Jem, and Mandy as well.

7) Compass with needle pointing north

I love the compass-needle imagery in "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier", as a metaphor for John's feelings for Jamie:
He dipped the pen again, and saw the slender splinter of metal that lay on his desk, straight as a compass needle, dully a-gleam in the candlelight.

My regiment is due to be reposted in the spring; I shall join them, wherever duty takes me. I shall, however, come to Helwater again before I leave.

He stopped, and touched the metal splinter with his left hand. Then wrote, You are true north.

(From "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier", in LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love that metaphor. John simply can't stop loving Jamie, any more than a compass needle can avoid pointing north.

8) Roquefort cheese

If you've read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, you'll never look at Roquefort cheese the same way again. <g>
“Roquefort,” I said urgently. “Is it Roquefort cheese? Sort of gray, with green and blue veins?”

“Why, I don’t know,” she said, startled by my vehemence. She gingerly plucked a cloth-wrapped parcel out of the basket and held it delicately in front of me. The odor wafting from it was enough, and I relaxed--very slowly--back down.

“Good,” I breathed. “Denzell--when you’ve finished...pack the wound with cheese.”

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 83, "Sundown". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The blue mold in Roquefort contains penicillium, which helped to save Claire's life.

Hope you enjoyed these! Let me know if you find any more examples like these in the books.