Friday, January 31, 2014

Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #4

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 hope you enjoy them!

1) Sapphires are extraordinarily beautiful gemstones.
"A jewel?” Lord John’s voice sounded blank, even to his own ears. “What sort of jewel?”

“Any sort.” Fraser shrugged, impatient. “It doesna matter--so long as it should be some precious gem. I once gave ye such a stone--” His mouth twitched at that; he had handed over the stone, a sapphire, under duress, as a prisoner of the Crown. “Though I dinna suppose ye’d have that by ye, still.”

In point of fact, he did. That particular sapphire had traveled with him for the last twenty-five years, and was at this moment in the pocket of his waistcoat.

He glanced at his left hand, which bore a broad gold band, set with a brilliant, faceted sapphire. Hector’s ring. Given to him by his first lover at the age of sixteen.....Without hesitation, but with some difficulty--the ring had been worn a long time, and had sunk a little way into the flesh of his finger--he twisted it off and dropped it into Jamie’s hand.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 118, "Regret". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I like the symbolism of those two sapphires a great deal. The sapphire Jamie gave John can be seen in metaphorical terms as representing John and Jamie's relationship.  The other one, the sapphire ring that belonged to Hector, is presumably now destroyed, if it went through the stones, but the sapphire Jamie gave him still exists.  John and Jamie's friendship still endures, despite everything.

And Hector's ring, symbolizing (to John) the tragic loss of his friend, in the end will help save the life of Bree or Roger or one of the kids.  John will never know this, of course, but it makes me, as a reader, feel some sort of closure regarding Hector's death.  That something good came out of it after all, I mean, even if it took thirty years.

For more about sapphires, look here.

2) This is what a passenger pigeon looked like. The species, Ectopistes migratorius, became extinct in 1914.

Here's an artist's rendering of a group of men in Louisiana in the 1870's, shooting passenger pigeons for sport. (You can see a bigger version here.)  Looking at this, you can get some sense of what Claire and Bree experienced.
Rushing out of the house, I thought at first that a storm had come suddenly upon us. The sky was dark, the air filled with thunder, and a strange, dim light flickered over everything. But there was no moisture in the air, and a peculiar smell filled my nose--not rain. Definitely not rain.

“Birds, my god, it’s birds!” I barely heard Brianna behind me, among the chorus of amazement all around. Everyone stood in the street, looking up. Several children, frightened by the noise and darkness, started to cry.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 82, "A Darkening Sky". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Such a shame that they're gone now.

3) This is what Penicillium spores look like under a microscope.
There they were. Dark stalks, topped with clublike spores, dense against the pale bright ground of the microscope’s field of view. Confirmation.

“Got them.” I straightened up, slowly rubbing the small of my back as I looked over my preparations.

A series of slides lay in a neat fan beside the microscope, each bearing a dark smear in the middle, a code written on the end of each slide with a bit of wax from a candle stub. Samples of mold, taken from damp corn bread, from spoiled biscuit, and a bit of discarded pastry crust from the Hogmanay venison pie. The crust had yielded the best growth by far; no doubt it was the goose grease.

Of the various test substrates I had tried, those were the three resultant batches of mold that had contained the highest proportion of Penicillium--or what I could be fairly sure was Penicillium. There were a dismaying number of molds that would grow on damp bread, in addition to several dozen different strains of Penicillium, but the samples I had chosen contained the best matches for the textbook pictures of Penicillium sporophytes that I had committed to memory, years ago, in another life.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 36, "Worlds Unseen". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

The photo above shows Penicillium mold growing on an orange. (Yes, I know it looks disgusting, but just remember that similar moldy bits of rotting food produced the penicillin that saved Jamie's life after the snakebite in FIERY CROSS.)

Here's an explanation of how to grow your own penicillin.

4) The picture above is called "The Great Wave off Kanagawa", a wood-block engraving by a 19th-century Japanese artist named Hokusai.  (Click on the picture to see a bigger view.)

What does a Japanese artist's rendering of a tidal wave have to do with OUTLANDER?  All of Diana Gabaldon's books have a "shape".  Here's how Diana described the shape of  A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, in a post on Compuserve, in November, 2005, shortly after that book was published:
A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES isn't a tempest, though--it's a double tidal wave. <g>  If you look at the Japanese wood-block print I mentioned in describing it (Google "The Great Wave Off Kanagawa"), you see the enormous cresting wave, spilling bits of water from the crest (these would be the various plot elements), towering over several small boats full of people--and in the background, Mount Fuji stands unmoved.  That--Mt. Fuji--would be Jamie and Claire's relationship, if you want to get symbolic, while the "crest" of the first wave is reached with Claire's rescue and Grannie Wilson's resurrection (which is the symbolic spiritual resolution of that particular episode).  The second wave then begins to build from a much lower point of tension, rising to (we hope) an even higher peak as it threatens all the characters in their frail little boats.  And at the end, Mount Fuji is still standing. <g>
I like this image because it fits very well with my experience while re-reading ABOSAA. That book always leaves me emotionally drained, exhausted, by the end.  I think the idea that the readers, as well as the characters in the story, have been tossed onto the shore at the very end of the book by some gigantic wave is not hard to imagine at all. <g>  I always need a bit of time to recover after I finish a re-read (or "re-listen") of ABOSAA, and this picture helps to explain why.

5) The mangrove trees shown above are located in the Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic, not far from where Claire landed after her escape from the Porpoise.  (Click on the photo for a bigger view.)  I like this photo because it looks just like the scene described in VOYAGER:
The thick bushlike plants must be mangroves. They stretched as far as I could see in either direction; there was no alternative but to clamber through them. Their roots rose out of the mud in big loops like croquet wickets, which I tripped over regularly, and the pale, smooth gray twigs grew in bunches like finger bones, snatching at my hair as I passed.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 50, "I Meet a Priest". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a short but very informative video about mangroves, filmed in the Dominican Republic.

For more information about mangroves, look here.

I hope you enjoyed this 4th installment of the Best of the Friday Fun Facts! Here are the previous collections:

Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #1
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #2
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #3

Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts. And please come back next week for more!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

New version of OUTLANDER trailer -- with Jamie!

STARZ has released a new version of the OUTLANDER trailer.  The ending includes a bit with Jamie and Claire together!

I think this version is terrific, and I think you will, too!

Here's the bit from OUTLANDER they used in that last scene:
"I'm so sorry...that is, I mean, thank you for...but I..." I was babbling, backing away from him with my face flaming. He was a bit flushed, too, but not disconcerted. He reached for my hand and pulled me back. Careful not to touch me otherwise, he put a hand under my chin and forced my head up to face him.

"Ye need not be scairt of me," he said softly. "Nor of anyone here, so long as I'm with ye."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "I Come to the Castle". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see the original version of the trailer here.

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

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Happy Robert Burns Day!

In honor of Robert Burns Day, here's the quote that led Roger, in VOYAGER, to pinpoint Jamie's exact location in the past.  It comes from the final stanza of a poem called "The Author's Earnest Cry and Prayer", which Robert Burns wrote in 1786.
Scotland, my auld, respected mither!
Tho' whiles ye moistify your leather,
Till, whare ye sit on craps o' heather,
Ye tine your dam;
Freedom an' whisky gang thegither!
Take aff your dram!
As Roger explained to Claire:
"Here it is”--his racing finger stopped suddenly on a phrase-- “‘for as has been known for ages past, “Freedom and Whisky gang tegither.” ’ See how he’s put that Scottish dialect phrase in quotes? He got it from somewhere else.”

“He got it from me,” I said softly. “I told him that--when he was setting out to steal Prince Charles’s port.”

“I remembered.” Roger nodded, eyes shining with excitement. “But it’s a quote from Burns,” I said, frowning suddenly. “Perhaps the writer got it there--wasn’t Burns alive then?"

"He was," said Bree smugly, forestalling Roger. "But Robert Burns was six years old in 1765."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Q.E.D.". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The poet would be 255 years old today. <g> Happy Burns Day to all of you!

Friday, January 24, 2014

How do you say "mo nighean donn"?

Here's the third lesson in the STARZ video series, "How to Speak OUTLANDER". Enjoy!

This is a terrific video.  What a great way to start the weekend! <g> I was actually hoping that they would do "mo nighean donn" (my brown-haired lass) as the next installment of this series, and I'm thrilled that I guessed right.  The way they put it together was just great!

And maybe it's just me, but I swear that was Jamie talking on the video. Not Sam. <g>

The first two lessons are here, in case you missed them:

Speak OUTLANDER: Sassenach

Speak OUTLANDER: Craigh na Dun

Friday Fun Facts - 1/24/2014

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

1) My sister Alice took this photo of the famous World's End pub on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh during our trip to Scotland in July, 2012.  I didn't actually get a chance to see it myself.  Have any of you been there?

This is the explanation inside the pub of where the name "The World's End" came from.  (Photo credit: CoasterMadMatt, on Flickr.)
Besides the row of casks, there were a number of wooden crates stacked near the center of the room, against an odd little chunk of wall that stood by itself, rising some five feet out of the cellar floor, running back into the darkness.

I had heard of this feature of the tavern when we had stayed in Edinburgh twenty years before with His Highness Prince Charles, but what with one thing and another, I had never actually seen it before. It was the remnant of a wall constructed by the city fathers of Edinburgh, following the disastrous Battle of Flodden Field in 1513. Concluding--with some justice--that no good was likely to come of association with the English to the south, they had built a wall defining both the city limits and the limit of the civilized world of Scotland. Hence “The World’s End,” and the name had stuck through several versions of the tavern that had eventually been built upon the remnants of the old Scots’ wishful thinking.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "House of Joy". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about the history of the World's End, look here.

2) Here's a video of the Delta Rhythm Boys singing "Dry Bones". This song was a big hit in the 1950's, so it makes sense that Joe Abernathy would be familiar with it.
"Oh, de headbone connected to de...neckbone," Joe sang softly, laying out the vertebrae along the edge of the desk. His stubby fingers darted skillfully among the bones, nudging them into alignment. "De neckbone connected to de...backbone..."

"Don't pay any attention to him," I told Horace. "You'll just encourage him."

"Now word...of de Lawd!" he finished triumphantly.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Diagnosis". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see the lyrics here.

3) This is a medal depicting St. Dismas, also known as the "Good Thief" or the "Penitent Thief", one of the two men crucified along with Jesus.  According to this site.
Saint Dismas is known as the patron saint of second chances, prisoners, criminals, reformed thieves, persons on death row, and people who have made mistakes and seek forgiveness.
He sounds like the perfect patron saint for Fergus, doesn't he?
"I might perhaps have a small house built by Hogmanay,” [Fergus] murmured to himself. “Then I could send for Marsali and the child in the spring.” His hand went automatically to the vacant spot on his chest, where the greenish medal of St. Dismas had hung since his childhood.

He had come to join us in Georgia, leaving his young and pregnant wife behind in Jamaica, under the care of friends. He assured me that he had no fear for her safety, however, for he had left her also under the protection of his patron saint, with strict instructions not to remove the battered medal from around her neck until she was safely delivered.

I wouldn’t myself have thought that mothers and babies fell into the sphere of influence of the patron saint of thieves, but Fergus had lived as a pickpocket for all his early life, and his trust in Dismas was absolute.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Man of Worth". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) This photo shows Britain's King George VI visiting troops during the Battle of Britain, Sept. 26, 1940.  Here's a bit from ECHO where Claire tells Roger about meeting him:
"I saw him once, you know." [Claire's] voice was muffled; she had turned away from him, probing under the drooping branches of a rhododendron.

"Saw him? Who?"

"The King." She found something; he heard the rustle of leaves as she tugged at it, and the snap of the breaking stem.

"He came to Pembroke Hospital, to visit the soldiers there. He came and spoke separately to us--the nurses and doctors. He was a quiet man, very dignified, but warm in his manner. I couldn't tell you a thing that he said. But it was...remarkably inspiring. Just that he was there, you know."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "The Minister's Cat". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

You may recall that King George VI was the subject of the Oscar-winning 2010 movie, "The King's Speech".  (Terrific movie, by the way.)  Here he is in 1939, addressing the nation on the outbreak of war.  (Photo credit: BBC)

5) This diagram shows the difference between normal airflow and obstructive sleep apnea.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.

As Marsali explained in a letter to her mother, Laoghaire:
I must ask you to do something for love of me and my children. The trouble is with Henri-Christian. Because of his oddness of form, he has always had some trouble in  breathing, particularly when suffering from the catarrh, and has snored like a grampus since he was born. Now he has taken to stopping breathing altogether when he sleeps, save he is propped up with cushions in a particular position. Mother Claire had looked in his throat when she and Da saw us in New Bern and said then that his adenoids--this being something in his throat--were overlarge and might give trouble in future. (Germain has these, also, and breathes with his mouth open a good deal of the time, but it is not a danger to him as it is to Henri-Christian.)

I am in mortal terror that Henri-Christian will stop breathing one night and no one will know in time to save him. We take it in turns to sit up with him, to keep his head just right and to wake him when he stops breathing, but I do not know how long we can contrive to keep it up.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 82, "Dispositions". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to,
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)....occurs when there are repeated episodes of complete or partial blockage of the upper airway during sleep. During a sleep apnea episode, the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the obstructed airway and pull air into the lungs. Breathing usually resumes with a loud gasp, snort, or body jerk. These episodes can interfere with sound sleep. They can also reduce the flow of oxygen to vital organs and cause irregular heart rhythms.
Here's a video of a three-year-old boy with OSA.  Watching this, you get a much better sense of how frightening it must have been for Marsali!

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, January 21, 2014

January 21st

Today is January 21st.  I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't think of today's date without remembering the newspaper clipping about the fire that was supposed to take place on January 21, 1776.
It is with grief that the news is received of the deaths by fire of James MacKenzie Fraser and his wife, Claire Fraser, in a conflagration that destroyed their house in the settlement of Fraser’s Ridge, on the night of January 21 last. Mr. Fraser, a nephew of the late Hector Cameron of River Run plantation, was born at Broch Tuarach in Scotland. He was widely known in the colony and deeply respected; he leaves no surviving children.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "Spark of an Ancient Flame". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And it was certainly a memorable day, even though things didn't turn out as they expected.
January 21 was the coldest day of the year. Snow had fallen a few days before, but now the air was like cut crystal, the dawn sky so pale it looked white, and the packed snow chirped like crickets under our boots. Snow, snow-shrouded trees, the icicles that hung from the eaves of the house--the whole world seemed blue with cold. All of the stock had been put up the night before in stable or barn, with the exception of the white sow, who appeared to be hibernating under the house.

I peered dubiously at the small, melted hole in the crust of snow that marked the sow’s entrance; long, stertorous snores were audible inside, and a faint warmth emanated from the hole.

“Come along, mo nighean. Yon creature wouldna notice if the house fell down atop her.” Jamie had come down from feeding the animals in the stable, and was hovering impatiently behind me, chafing his hands in the big blue mittens Bree had knitted for him.

“What, not even if it was on fire?” I said, thinking of Lamb’s “Essay on Roast Pork.” But I turned obligingly to follow him down the trampled path past the side of the house, then slowly, slipping on the icy patches, across the wide clearing toward Bree and Roger’s cabin.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 111, "January Twenty-First". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I found the image above on  I think it's just perfect for today, given the significance of this date in OUTLANDER history.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

OUTLANDER makes the NY Times Bestseller List!

Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER is #12 on the NY Times Combined Print and E-Book Bestseller List this week! <g>  Congratulations, Diana!

It took 23 years, but as Diana says, "Better late than never."  Here's her reaction on Compuserve to the news.

I think we're going to see OUTLANDER on the list many more times before this year is over.  Especially if and when they release a "Special TV Series Edition"! <g>

Friday, January 17, 2014

Friday Fun Facts - 1/17/2014

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

1) Blackthorn berries (Prunus spinosa), also known as sloe berries, are common in Europe, emerging in late autumn after the first frost of the year.
[Jamie] upended his game bag and let the three rabbits fall onto the table in a limp tumble of gray fur and crumpled ears. “And blackthorn berries,” he added, tipping out the contents of the dun bonnet, now stained inside with the rich red juice.

Jenny’s eyes brightened at the sight. “Hare pie,” she declared. “There’s no currants, but the berries will do even better, and there’s enough butter, thank God."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 5, "To Us a Child is Given". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
The blackthorn has an ominous image. The thorns of the blackthorn were used for pricking wax images for cursing. Witches were thought to carry black rods of blackthorn which could cause miscarriages. When witches were burned blackthorn sticks were thrown onto the fire. The sorcerer Major Weir was burned at the stake in 1670 with a blackthorn rod, which was described as the chief agent of his magic. Some traditions say that Christ's crown of thorns was made from blackthorn. The shillelagh, or Irish club is made from the dense, heavy blackthorn. The usher of the house of lords and the Order of the Garter is called Blackrod because he knocks on the doors of the house of parliament with a blackthorn rod to demand its opening.
For more information, look here.

2) This photo shows Entamoeba histolytica, the organism that causes amoebic dysentery.  This is the illness that infected many of the people on Fraser's Ridge in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.
"There.” I stepped back, motioning Malva to come and look. “Do you see it? The big, clear thing in the middle, lobed, with the little flecks in it?”

She frowned, squinting one-eyed into the ocular, then drew in her breath in a gasp of triumph.

“I see it plain! Like a currant pudding someone’s dropped on the floor, no?"

"That’s it,” I said, smiling at her description in spite of the general seriousness of our investigation. “It’s an amoeba--one of the bigger sorts of microorganisms. And I very much think it’s our villain.”

We were looking at slides made from the stool samples I had retrieved from all the sick so far--for Padraic’s family was not the only one affected. There were three families with at least one person ill with a vicious bloody flux--and in all of the samples I had looked at so far, I had found this amoebic stranger.

“Is it really?” Malva had looked up when I spoke, but now returned to the eyepiece, absorbed. “However can something so small cause such a stramash in something so big as a person?”

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 62, "Amoeba". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
From Wikipedia:
The common symptoms of amoebic dysentery may include violent diarrhea, often accompanied with blood and/or mucus in the foul-smelling stools, severe colitis, frequent flatulence (gas and abdominal bloating), dehydration (can be prevented by drinking large amounts of vital liquids or any medication that can stop dehydration) and sometimes severe abdominal cramps and tenderness on the stomach, slight weight loss, moderate anemia, (an effect of the bloody stools) moderate fever, mild fatigue (an effect of dehydration) and mild chills.
Here is a diagram showing the life cycle of E. histolytica:

An outbreak of amoebic dysentery at the 1933 World's Fair in Chicago infected about 1,000 people.  I was interested to hear this, because my paternal grandparents met at that World's Fair. <g>

For more about amoebic dysentery, look here.

3) You will, of course, remember HMS Porpoise, the plague ship in VOYAGER.
"It’s persecution!” Jamie said indignantly. He stood behind me, looking over the rail of the Artemis. Kingston Harbor stretched to our left, glowing like liquid sapphires in the morning light, the town above half-sunk in jungle green, cubes of yellowed ivory and pink rose-quartz in a lush setting of emerald and malachite. And on the cerulean bosom of the water below floated the majestic sight of a great three-masted ship, furled canvas white as gull wings, gun decks proud and brass gleaming in the sun. His Majesty’s man-of-war Porpoise.

“The filthy boat’s pursuing me,” he said, glaring at it as we sailed past at a discreet distance, well outside the harbor mouth. “Everywhere I go, there it is again!”

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 57, "Promised Land". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Porpoises are small cetaceans, similar to dolphins, of the family Phocoenidae.  The photo above shows harbor porpoises in San Francisco Bay.  Click on the photo for a bigger view. (Photo credit: NPR)

How can you tell the difference between a porpoise and a dolphin?  The main difference is the shape of the teeth, as this site explains.

4) Stephan von Namtzen told Lord John about Frederick II, later known as Frederick the Great, who was King of Prussia from 1740–1786. (The town of King of Prussia, PA, is named after him.)
“When he was a young man, his father--the old king, you know?--obliged him to join the army, though he disliked it intensely. A horror of bloodshed. But he formed a deep attachment to another young soldier, and the two decided to flee the country together.”

“They were caught--of course,” Grey said, a sudden hollow opening behind his breastbone.

“Of course.” Stephan nodded. “They were brought back, both charged with desertion and treason, and the old king had Friedrich’s lover beheaded in the courtyard--Friedrich himself forced to watch from a balcony above. He fainted, my father said, even before the sword fell.”

Grey’s own face felt suddenly cold, his jaw prickling with sweat. He swallowed hard, forcing down a sense of dizziness.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "Drinking with Dachshunds". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
This is a true story.  From Wikipedia:
The young prince was interested primarily in music and philosophy rather than the arts of war. He defied his authoritarian father, Frederick William I, and sought to run away with his close friend Hans Hermann von Katte. They were caught and the king nearly executed his son for "desertion"; he did force Frederick to watch the execution of Hans.
For more about Frederick the Great, look here.

5) This is an example of a stomacher from the 1760's.  (Photo credit: Kyoto Costume Institute.)  According to Wikipedia,
A stomacher is a decorated triangular panel that fills in the front opening of a woman's gown or bodice. The stomacher may be boned, as part of a corset, or may cover the triangular front of a corset. If simply decorative, the stomacher lies over the triangular front panel of the stays, being either stitched or pinned into place, or held in place by the lacings of the gown's bodice.

The photo above, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, shows an embroidered stomacher, circa 1700-1750.
Phaedre murmured assent and left the tent, pausing only to shake out the blue thing she had been sewing and fold it carefully over her stool. It was a decorated stomacher for Brianna’s wedding dress, [Roger] saw, done with an elegant lacing of ribbons. He had a sudden vision of Brianna’s white breasts, swelling above a low neckline of dark indigo, and returned to the conversation at hand with some difficulty.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Pride". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's an article about the history of stomachers.  You can see more stomacher photos 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!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Here's one for the guys

If you're a male fan of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER or Lord John books, and you spend any time online on Twitter, Facebook, or various fan-sites, it must seem as though you're vastly outnumbered!  At Diana's public appearances and book-signings, the audience tends to be 99% female.  (At least in my experience.)

We KNOW the guys are out there somewhere!  Diana often talks about letters and emails she's received from her male readers.  Jari Backman, a male fan from Finland who is very knowledgeable about the dates in the OUTLANDER books, helped me with the "Notable Dates This Month" feature on my blog.  (Check out Jari's OUTLANDER fan site.)

OutManders is a new fan group devoted to helping male OUTLANDER fans connect with one another.  You can follow OutManders on Twitter.  They've also started a new Facebook page recently.

If you're a male reader of Diana Gabaldon's books, or you know someone who is, please support OutManders and make your voices heard! Thanks.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Diana Gabaldon talks about her upcoming cameo!

Here's a brief clip from Access Hollywood where Diana Gabaldon talks about her upcoming cameo on the OUTLANDER TV series, to be filmed in February!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Last night on Compuserve...

Here's an exchange of messages between me and Diana Gabaldon on Compuserve last night.  As you read this, keep in mind she enjoys messing with our minds!  (And it's not my fault, I swear. <g>)

Message # 79575.1

I think the most interesting answer you gave to any of the questions on Saturday was the one where you were talking about the psychology of the characters (sorry, I'm paraphrasing, because I've only watched this part of the live stream once) -- about how you like to sort of strip a character down to his basic nature and "see what he's made of" by seeing how he reacts.  You've done this over and over again -- Jamie after Wentworth, Roger after the hanging, and so on.  And so when I heard you say, "And I have no qualms about doing that", my instant reaction was (and I did say this out loud to the screen! <g>)  "That's EXACTLY why I'm worried about what might happen in MOHB!"  Because of the unpredictability of your plots, and your willingness to let horrific things happen to your characters.  That's what makes these books such an emotional roller-coaster ride, especially on the first reading -- that feeling that absolutely anything might happen, that (just as in real life) there are no guarantees.

We have talked here before about writers "throwing rocks at their characters".  I guess it's William's turn next.... <g>

Message # 79575.3
Dear Karen--

   Oo.  Just when I read this, a little ripple went up my spine, because I realized what the Necessary (Horrible) Thing was that had to happen to resolve (or, um, not, as the case may be...) a particular situation.

   Just remember when you read it--it's All Your Fault.  <g>  (Not really; your comment just triggered a thought that was hanging there; it would have come to me sooner or later anyway.)
Message # 79575.8

Oh, no! What on earth did I say?? <laughing nervously>

Note to self:

1) Don't give her ideas! (Oops.)

2) Be careful what you wish for!

3) Fuirich agus chi thu. (Right. Like I'm going to be able to sleep peacefully tonight, knowing I inadvertently put some really devious idea in your head? Great. Thanks a lot. <wry g>)

You know I'm always glad to help, but I have a feeling I'm going to regret it, just this once!


P.S. to everybody else: It's not my fault, I swear it's not! <g>
Message # 79575.9
Dear Karen--

  It's OK, don't worry. <g>  Like I said, I would have figured it out eventually in any case; what you said just made a couple of waiting puzzle pieces snap together.
Message # 79575.11

Well, that's better. <g> I'm in favor of anything that helps you make progress toward finishing the book!

Naturally I have NO idea what she's planning, but I thought this exchange was too good not to share!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

In case you missed it

Here is the link to the recording of the live event in LA on January 11, 2014, featuring Diana Gabaldon, Ron Moore, Sam Heughan, and Caitriona Balfe.  It's about an hour and a half long, and it's terrific!

The trailer shown during the live event is available on YouTube here.

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

Saturday, January 11, 2014

First official OUTLANDER trailer!

Here's the trailer for the OUTLANDER TV series that was shown at the fan event on January 11th in Los Angeles. I think it's fantastic!

If you want to discuss this trailer in detail, there's a thread on Compuserve here.

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

Happy Birthday, Diana!

Please join me in wishing Happy Birthday to Diana Gabaldon!! She turns 62 today.

And look who's helping Diana to celebrate her birthday! <g> I really can't imagine a better birthday present to Diana from the STARZ people than the opportunity to meet Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe in person for the first time.  What a thrill that must have been for her!  (The photo comes from Diana's Facebook page.  You can see her reaction here.)

I hope all of you who are going to the #OutlanderInvadesLA event today have a WONDERFUL time!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Access Hollywood interview with Sam and Caitriona

Here's a wonderful two-part Access Hollywood interview with Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe, talking about OUTLANDER fans, their impressions of Jamie and Claire, and their experiences so far on the OUTLANDER TV series.  I thoroughly enjoyed this, and I think you will, too! Be sure to watch both parts.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Friday Fun Facts - 1/10/2014

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

1) This is St. Finbar's Roman Catholic Church.  It's located in Brooklyn, NY, not in Boston, but I like to think that Claire and Frank's parish church might look something like this.  (Photo credits: Top: missapril1956 on Flickr. Bottom: gkjarvis on Flickr.)
"St. Finbar?" Frank had said incredulously. "There isn't such a saint. There can't possibly be."   

"There is," I said, with a trace of smugness. "An Irish bishop, from the twelfth century."

"Oh, Irish," said Frank dismissively. "That explains it."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 3, "Frank and Full Disclosure". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
There is, in fact, a famous Irish saint by that name, but St. Finbar lived in the 6th century, not the 12th.  (Claire is far from an expert on the lives on the saints, so I think she just misspoke.)  St. Finbar is the patron saint of the city of Cork, Ireland.

2) Snuff is a form of powdered, smokeless tobacco.
Sir Percival paused to remove a snuffbox from his pocket, a pretty thing enameled in green and gold, with cherubs on the lid.

“I really should not advise a trip to the north just now,” he said, opening the box and concentrating on its contents. “Really I should not. The weather is like to be inclement at this season; I am sure it would not suit Mrs. Malcolm.” Smiling at me like an elderly angel, he inhaled a large pinch of snuff and paused, linen handkerchief at the ready.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 27, "Up in Flames". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The enameled snuffbox shown above comes from London, circa 1720. (Photo credit:

The painting above shows an 18th-century man taking snuff.  From Wikipedia:
By the 18th century, snuff had become the tobacco product of choice among the elite. Snuff use reached a peak in England during the reign of Queen Anne (1702–14)....Prominent snuff users included Pope Benedict XIII, who repealed the smoking ban set by Pope Urban VIII; King George III's wife Queen Charlotte, referred to as 'Snuffy Charlotte', who had an entire room at Windsor Castle devoted to her snuff stock; and King George IV, who had his own special blends and hoarded a stockpile of snuff.
You can see more photos of 18th-century snuff boxes here.

3) You may recall the scene in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE where Lord John tells Percy about his father's experiences during the South Sea bubble:
Within the previous five years, the price of South Sea shares had risen, from ten pounds to a hundred, then dizzyingly, from a hundred to a thousand within a year, driven up by rumor, greed--and not a little calculated chicanery on the part of the company's directors. The duke sold his shares at this pinnacle.

"And a week--one week--later, the slide began." It had taken most of a year for the full devastation of the great crash to become evident. Several great families had been ruined; many lesser folk all but obliterated. And the public outcry toward those seen to be responsible...

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Chisping". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  
The painting above, by 19th-century artist Edward Matthew Ward, illustrates the frenetic trading activity in London in 1720, at the height of the stock-market craze. (Click on the photo for a bigger view.)  From Wikipedia:
A considerable number of persons were ruined by the share collapse, and the national economy greatly reduced as a result. The founders of the scheme engaged in insider trading, using their advance knowledge of when national debt was to be consolidated to make large profits from purchasing debt in advance. Huge bribes were given to politicians to support the Acts of Parliament necessary for the scheme. Company money was used to deal in its own shares, and selected individuals purchasing shares were given loans backed by those same shares to spend on purchasing more shares.
For more about the South Sea bubble, look here and here.

4) I had never heard of a rat satire before I read DRAGONFLY IN AMBER:
[Roger] pulled out a carton labeled JACOBITES, MISCELLANEOUS, and carried it to the table, singing,

“Ye rats, ye are too many,
If ye would dine in plenty,
Ye mun go, ye mun go."

Lowering the box with a thump, he bowed in response to Brianna’s giggling and turned back to the stacks, continuing in stentorian voice.

"Go to Campbell’s garden,
Where nae cat stands warden,
And the kale, it grows green.

Go and fill your bellies,
Dinna stay and gnaw my wellies--
Go, ye rats, go!"

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Culloden". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The following explanation comes from a book called SUPERSTITIONS OF THE HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS OF SCOTLAND, published in 1900 by John Gregorson Campbell:
When a place is infested to a troublesome extent with rats or mice, and all other means of getting rid of the pests have failed, the object can be accomplished by composing a song, advising them to go away, telling them where to go, and what road to take, the danger awaiting them where they are, and the plenty awaiting them in their new quarters. This song is called the Rat (or Mouse) Satire, and if well composed the vermin forthwith take their departure.
An example of a Gaelic rat satire, along with some entertaining commentary on the genre, can be found here, in 'TWIXT BEN NEVIS AND GLENCOE, by Alexander Stewart, published in 1885.

5) The ostrich (Struthio camelus) is the largest species of bird, well over 6 feet tall, weighing 220-250 lbs. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
"What I have told you is not impossible, is it?”

I considered that one for a moment.

“Not technically impossible,” I conceded. “But certainly implausible."

"Have you ever seen an ostrich?" he asked, and, without inquiring, poured more brandy into my glass.

"Yes. Why?"

"You must admit that ostriches are frankly implausible," he said. "But clearly not impossible."

"One to you," I conceded. "But I do think that Fergus being the lost heir to the Comte St. Germain's fortune is slightly more implausible than an ostrich. Particularly if you consider the part about the marriage license. I mean...a lost legitimate heir? It is France we're talking about, isn't it?"

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 74, "Twenty-Twenty". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo below shows the size of an ostrich egg compared to a hen's egg.  (Implausible, definitely!  But not impossible.)

Here's a brief video of an ostrich mating ritual. (The male is the one with the black feathers.)

For more about ostriches, 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!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

OUTLANDER Invades LA on Saturday!

As many of you know, STARZ is holding a big OUTLANDER fan event on Saturday, January 11, in Los Angeles, featuring Diana Gabaldon, Ron Moore, Sam Heughan, and Caitriona Balfe.

It's going to be a very exciting day for OUTLANDER fans!  And it also happens to be Diana Gabaldon's birthday. <g> (She turns 62 on January 11th.)  I really can't think of a better birthday present to Diana from the STARZ people, than to have this opportunity to meet Sam and Caitriona in person for the first time. What a thrill that's going to be, for her as well as for the fans!

To kick off the celebrations, a number of OUTLANDER fans are planning a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #OutlanderInvadesLA, which will take place from 11am - 1pm ET on Saturday (8am - 10am Pacific, 4pm-6pm in the UK).  According to one of the event organizers (@Reader_DG on Twitter):
The purpose of this Twitter Party is to get #OutlanderInvadesLA to trend in the US and as many other countries as possible but, more than that, to inspire people to seek out more information by giving them meaningful glimpses into all things Outlander by tweeting cast photos, the Starz promotional videos released to date, links to interviews with Diana and the cast members, memes with great quotes and quotes from the books.
You can find more information about the #OutlanderInvadesLA Twitter campaign here.  I plan to participate, and I hope many of you will, too.  Even if you're not on Twitter, you can read the posts here.

I'm not going to be at the LA event myself, but I plan to watch the live-streaming video starting at 7 pm ET (4 pm Pacific time).  STARZ has said the live feed will be available internationally. 

[UPDATE 1/11/2014 2:04pm - Here is the link to the live-streaming video.]

I hope all of you who are going to LA have a WONDERFUL time!  The rest of us will be with you in spirit. <g>

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

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

OUTLANDER e-book on sale for $1.99!

The e-book version of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER is on sale this week for only $1.99!

Kindle edition

Nook edition

This is a great deal, so get it while you can!

PLEASE NOTE:  I am not sure if this deal is available outside the US.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Winter pictures

Considering that many parts of the US are suffering bitterly cold temperatures this week, I thought it might be a good time to share a few winter pictures that remind me of the OUTLANDER books, along with some of my favorite winter quotes. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

1) Grandfather Mountain, NC, near where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located.  (Photo credit: akunkle99, on Flickr.)
The snow was falling thicker and faster, and I felt some uneasiness. If it covered his tracks before I found him, how would I find my way back to the cabin?

I looked back, but could see nothing behind me but a long, treacherous slope of unbroken snow that fell to the dark line of an unfamiliar brook below, its rocks poking up like teeth. No sign of the cheerful plume of smoke and sparks from our chimney. I turned slowly round in a circle, but I could no longer see the falls, either.

“Fine,” I muttered to myself. “You’re lost. Now what?” I sternly quelled an incipient attack of panic, and stood still to think. I wasn’t totally lost. I didn’t know where I was, but that wasn’t quite the same thing. I still had Jamie’s trail to guide me--or would have, until the snow covered it. And if I could find him, he presumably could find the cabin.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Night on a Snowy Mountain". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)   

2) Ashness Bridge, the Lake District, England, near where Helwater is supposed to be located. (Photo credit: Mark & Sue, on Flickr.)
It was so cold out, he thought his cock might break off in his hand--if he could find it. The thought passed through his sleep-mazed mind like one of the small, icy drafts that darted through the loft, making him open his eyes.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "April Fool". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  

3) The Plains of Abraham, Quebec (where William spent the winter of 1776-77).  You can see in the center of the photo one of the old cannons left from the 1759 battle described in "The Custom of the Army".  (Photo credit: Francesco Santini, on Flickr.)
The Snow is deep, more may come at any Moment, and Business must be urgent indeed which could compel a man to venture any Distance. I am of course somewhat disturbed at Captain Randall-Isaacs's abrupt Departure, curious as to what might have happened to cause it, and somewhat anxious as to his Welfare. This does not seem a Situation in which I would be justified in ignoring my Orders, however, and so...I wait.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Joyeux Noel". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) Icicles in Boone, NC, in the vicinity of Fraser's Ridge. (Photo credit: eightylbs, on Flickr.)
January 21 was the coldest day of the year. Snow had fallen a few days before, but now the air was like cut crystal, the dawn sky so pale it looked white, and the packed snow chirped like crickets under our boots. Snow, snow-shrouded trees, the icicles that hung from the eaves of the house--the whole world seemed blue with cold.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 111, "January Twenty-First". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5) Soldiers' quarters at Valley Forge, PA. (Photo credit: paulbradyphoto, on Flickr.)
Valley Forge looked like a gigantic encampment of doomed charcoal-burners. The place was essentially a wood lot, or had been before Washington’s soldiers began felling everything in sight. Hacked stumps were everywhere, and the ground was strewn with broken branches. Huge bonfires burned in random spots, and piles of logs were stacked everywhere. They were building huts as fast as possible--and none too soon, for snow had begun falling three or four hours before, and the camp was already blanketed with white.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 86, "Valley Forge". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Hope all of you in the US stay warm and safe over the next few days!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Friday Fun Facts - 1/3/2014

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

1) This is what heather (Calluna vulgaris) looks like when it's in bloom. (Photo credit: foxypar4, on Flickr.)
"Heather,” Roger said. “It’s more common in the summer, when the heather is blooming--then you’ll see heaps like that in front of every clan stone. Purple, and here and there a branch of the white heather--the white is for luck, and for kingship; it was Charlie’s emblem, that and the white rose.”

“Who leaves them?” Brianna squatted on her heels next to the path, touching the twigs with a gentle finger.

"Visitors.” Roger squatted next to her. He traced the faded letters on the stone--FRASER. “People descended from the families of the men who were killed here. Or just those who like to remember them.”

She looked sidelong at him, hair drifting around her face. “Have you ever done it?”

He looked down, smiling at his hands as they hung between his knees.

“Yes. I suppose it’s very sentimental, but I do.”

Brianna turned to the thicket of moor plants that edged the path on the other side.

“Show me which is heather,” she said.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 4, "Culloden". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

From Wikipedia:
Heather is seen as iconic of Scotland, where the plant grows widely. When poems like Bonnie Auld Scotland speak of "fragrant hills of purple heather', when the hero of Kidnapped flees through the heather, when heather and Scotland are linked in the same sentence, the heather talked about is Calluna vulgaris.
I like the story about heather found here:
The heather thought about the poor soil, the wind and the rain -- and wasn’t very sure that she could do a good job. But turning to God she replied that if he wanted her to do it, she would certainly give it a try.

God was very pleased.

He was so pleased in fact that he decided to give the heather some gifts as a reward for her willingness to do as he had asked. Firstly he gave her the strength of the oak tree -- the bark of the heather is the strongest of any tree or shrub in the whole world. Next he gave her the fragrance of the honeysuckle -- a fragrance which is frequently used to gently perfume soaps and potpouris. Finally he gave her the sweetness of the rose -- so much so that heather is one of the bees' favourite flowers.

And to this day, heather is renowned especially for these three God given gifts.
For more about heather, look here.

2) The photo above shows a pair of dueling pistols, circa 1760. (Click on the photo for a bigger view.)
Someone spoke and he began to walk--he thought he was walking--until an outthrust arm stopped him, and he turned in answer to someone pointing urgently behind him.

Oh, hell, he thought wearily, seeing Nicholls’s arm come down. I don’t care.

He blinked at the muzzle flash—the report was lost in the shocked gasp from the crowd—and stood for a moment, wondering whether he’d been hit. Nothing seemed amiss, though, and someone nearby was urging him to fire.

Frigging poet, he thought. I’ll delope and have done. I want to go home. He raised his arm, aiming straight up into the air, but his arm lost contact with his brain for an instant, and his wrist sagged. He jerked, correcting it, and his hand tensed on the trigger. He had barely time to jerk the barrel aside, firing wildly.

(From "The Custom of the Army" by Diana Gabaldon, in A TRAIL OF FIRE. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Lord John was obviously very familiar with the code duello, the rules that governed dueling.  Here's an interesting article about the history of dueling.

3) This photo shows what quince jelly looks like. (Photo credit: Karen S. Burns-Booth at
"God, they did it in public,” he said, with a reminiscent shudder. “Two of them, on the table. Right between the saddle of mutton and the boiled potatoes. With the quince jelly.”

“Mon dieu,” said the newly returned maid, setting down the fresh bathcan long enough to cross herself.

“You be quiet,” I said, scowling at her.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Possession". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Quince (Cydonia oblonga) is a pear-like fruit, used to make jams, jellies, and marmalade. (Photo credit: br@mbly, on Flickr.)  For more about quince, look here and here.

4) I had never heard of smooring a fire until I read Diana Gabaldon's books, but it's a very ancient custom. (Photo credit: Fashionable Frolick, on Flickr.)

You may remember Mrs. Bug's comments about smooring a fire, from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
"Why, often I’ve spent an hour and more, trying to catch a spark in damp tinder--in Scotland, ’specially, since nothing’s ever dry in the winter there. Whyever d’ye think folk go to such trouble, a-smooring the fire?”                             

This caused a spirited discussion of the best way in which to smoor a fire for the night, including an argument over the proper blessing to be said while doing so, and this lasted long enough for me to have coaxed the brazier into a decent glow and set a small kettle in it for tea-making.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Laminaria". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)   
The Carmina Gadelica lists four different blessings to be said when smooring a fire for the night: here, here, here, and here.

5) This painting, "The Massacre of Glencoe", by 19th-century artist James Hamilton, depicts the aftermath of the massacre that took place on February 13, 1692, when the surviving members of the MacDonald clan fled for their lives in the middle of a snowstorm.
"Well, that's verra sound reasoning on your part, Sassenach," he said, sounding mildly surprised that I was capable of reason. "Or would be," he added, "did Colum not have guards posted all round the castle and scattered through the woods. He'd hardly leave the castle unprotected, and the fighting men of the whole clan inside it. Granted that stone doesna burn so well as wood..."

I gathered he was referring to the infamous Glencoe Massacre, when one John Campbell, on government orders, had put thirty-eight members of the MacDonald clan to the sword and burned the house above them. I calculated rapidly. That would have been only fifty-some years before; recent enough to justify any defensive precautions on Colum's part.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 10, "The Oath-Taking". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)   

This photo, from Wikipedia, shows the memorial to the victims of the massacre.

You may be familiar with the song, "The Massacre of Glencoe".  I like this version, sung by John McDermott, because of the gorgeous views of the scenery around Glencoe.  (You can see the lyrics 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!