Saturday, March 29, 2014

Canadian version of OUTLANDER trailer!

Here's the Canadian version of the OUTLANDER trailer, with new music!

The OUTLANDER TV series will air on Showcase in Canada, but we still don't have a premiere date.

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

Friday, March 28, 2014

Friday Fun Facts - 3/28/2014

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

*** PLEASE NOTE: I'm currently running a Friday Fun Facts Contest!  Deadline for entries is midnight ET on Saturday, April 5. Look here for details. ***

1) The photo above shows a firefly, from the family Lampyridae. (Photo credit: Huffington Post)
Fireflies lit the grass, the trees, and floated through the heavy air in a profusion of cool green sparks. One lighted on Brianna’s knee; she watched it pulse, on-off, on-off, and listened to her husband telling her he meant to be a minister.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 52, "M-I-C-". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What makes fireflies light up? From Wikipedia:
Light production in fireflies is due to a type of chemical reaction called bioluminescence. This process occurs in specialized light-emitting organs, usually on a firefly's lower abdomen.
It's thought to be used in the selection of a mate.

Here's a brief video about fireflies.  For more about fireflies, look here and here.

2) Black hellebore (scientific name Helleborus niger) has been used since ancient times as an abortifacient, among other things. (Photo credit: Chaufglass, on Flickr.)
"Barberry leaves, three handfuls in a decoction, steeped overnight, poured over half a handful of black hellebore." I laid the list of ingredients down on the inlaid table as though it were slightly slimy to the touch. "I got it from Madame Rouleaux. She's the best of the angel-makers, but even she says it's dangerous. Louise, are you sure you want to do this?"

Her round pink face was blotched, and the plump lower lip had a tendency to quiver.

"What choice do I have?" She picked up the recipe for the abortifacient and gazed at it in repulsed fascination.

"Black hellebore," she said, and shuddered. "The very name of it sounds evil!"
"Well, it's bloody nasty stuff," I said bluntly. "It will make you feel as though your insides are coming out. But the baby may come, too. It doesn't always work."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 13, "Deceptions". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
A MODERN HERBAL, a 1931 book that Diana Gabaldon uses as a reference, describes the medicinal uses of hellebore as follows:
The drug possesses drastic purgative, emmenagogue and anthelmintic properties, but is violently narcotic. It was formerly much used in dropsy and amenorrhoea, and has proved of value in nervous disorders and hysteria. It is used in the form of a tincture, and must be administered with great care. Applied locally, the fresh root is violently irritant.
For more information about black hellebore, look here and here.

3) A fleam was a device used for centuries in the practice of bloodletting. (Photo credit: 
[Brianna] raised the fleam and made a large, slow sign of the cross with it, looking from side to side, to be sure she had the attention of all the onlookers. She did; they were agog. Towering over most of the gawkers, blue eyes narrowed in concentration, she reminded me strongly of Jamie in some of his more bravura performances. I could only hope she was as good at it as he was.

"Bless this blade, for the healing of your servant," she said, casting her eyes up to heaven, and holding the fleam above the fire in the manner of a priest offering the Eucharist. Bubbles were rising through the water, but it hadn't quite reached the boil.

"Bless its edge, for the drawing of blood, for the spilling of blood, for letting of poison from the body of your most humble petitioner."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 3, "Bilious Humours". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site, George Washington died as a result of excessive bloodletting:
On December 13, 1799, George Washington awoke with a bad sore throat and began to decline rapidly. A proponent of bloodletting, he asked to be bled the next day, and physicians drained an estimated 5 to 7 pints in less than 16 hours. Despite their best efforts, Washington died on December 17, leading to speculation that excessive blood loss contributed to his demise.

Here's another example of an 18th century fleam, engraved with the initials WAS. (Photo credit:

4) This month marks the 244th anniversary of the Boston Massacre, which took place on March 5, 1770. Here is Paul Revere's famous engraving depicting the massacre.  Click on the picture to see a larger view.

Here is Lord John's account of the events, from A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
Boston is by all Accounts a perfect Hellhole of republican Sentiment, with so-called "Marching Societies" at large in the Streets in every Weather, these being no more than an Excuse for the Assembly of Mobs, whose chief Sport is the tormenting of the Troops quartered there.


A Patrol of five Soldiers was so beset one Evening, pursued not only by insults of the grossest Nature, but by hurled Stones, Clods of Earth and Dung, and other such Rubbish. Such was the Press of the Mob around them that the Men feared for their Safety, and thus presented their Weapons, in hopes of discouraging the raucous Attentions rained upon them. So far from accomplishing this Aim, the Action provoked still greater Outrages from the Crowd, and at some Point, a Gun was fired. No one can say for sure whether the Shot was discharged from the Crowd, or from one of the Soldier's Weapons, let alone whether it were by Accident or in Deliberation, but the Effect of it...well, you will have sufficient Knowledge of such Matters to imagine the Confusion of subsequent Events.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Victim of a Massacre". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It seems only natural that Lord John, a career soldier and former Lieutenant-Colonel in the British Army, would be outraged at the ill-treatment of British soldiers in Boston, and sympathetic to the plight of Bobby Higgins, who was convicted of manslaughter and branded as punishment.  I have always been quite entertained by the notion that Bobby Higgins would have met John Adams, who defended the British soldiers at their trial.

You can learn more about the Boston Massacre at the official site of the Boston Massacre Historical Society.

5) Many of you will be familiar with mercury, used in old-fashioned thermometers as well as fluorescent lightbulbs. In the 18th century, it was known as quicksilver. (Photo credit:
"Three Bourbon cousins,” Raymond murmured to himself. He shepherded one of the drops toward another; as the droplets touched, they merged at once, a single shining drop springing into rounded life as though by magic. The prodding finger urged another droplet inward, and the single drop grew larger. “One blood. But one interest?”

The finger struck down again, and glittering fragments ran over the tabletop in every direction.

“I think not, madonna,” Raymond said calmly.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "La Dame Blanche". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Mercury was widely used in the 18th century as a treatment for syphilis, giving rise to the saying, "One night with Venus, a lifetime with Mercury." It's also highly toxic.  From Wikipedia:
Symptoms [of mercury poisoning] typically include sensory impairment (vision, hearing, speech), disturbed sensation and a lack of coordination. The type and degree of symptoms exhibited depend upon the individual toxin, the dose, and the method and duration of exposure.
For more about mercury, look here.

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

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Update on the Friday Fun Facts Contest!

Thanks to everyone who's sent in entries for my Friday Fun Facts Contest so far!  The initial response was very positive, but I've received no new entries in a few days.  I don't know whether that means nobody else wants to participate, or people have forgotten about it, or it's a busy time of year and everybody's waiting until the last minute -- but I thought I'd post this reminder, just in case.

The prize is an autographed copy of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD!

All you have to do is send an email to, with the subject "FFF Contest", listing 5 of your favorite Friday Fun Facts. 

Please select the items from one of these two lists:

Friday Fun Facts Subject Index
Friday Fun Facts Index by Book

And keep in mind that I'm looking for specific items from the list, not broad categories.

The contest ends on Saturday, April 5, at midnight Eastern Time.  For more information, see the contest announcement here.  Please pass the word to anyone else you know who may be interested. Thanks!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Friday Fun Facts - 3/21/2014

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

*** This is the 100th FFF post since I started posting them in January, 2012.  In celebration of this milestone, I'm currently running a Friday Fun Facts Contest!  Deadline for entries is midnight ET on Saturday, April 5. Look here for details. ***

1) A jabot, like the one shown above, is a type of men's neckwear that was popular in the 18th century. (Photo credit:
A Highlander in full regalia is an impressive sight--any Highlander, no matter how old, ill-favored, or crabbed in appearance. A tall, straight-bodied, and by no means ill-favored young Highlander at close range is breath-taking.

The thick red-gold hair had been brushed to a smooth gleam that swept the collar of a fine lawn shirt with tucked front, belled sleeves, and lace-trimmed wrist frills that matched the cascade of the starched jabot at the throat, decorated with a ruby stickpin.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "A Marriage Takes Place". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a site that explains how to put on a lace jabot. If you want to try making your own jabot, this site has detailed instructions.

For more about jabots and other 18th-century neckwear, look here.

2) Green Eggs and Ham, a book for beginning readers by Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel), was published in 1960.  The bit where Claire and Bree quote from it in THE FIERY CROSS always makes me giggle.
"Could you, would you, in a box?" I murmured under my breath, half unhinged by the waiting. "Could you, would you, with a fox?" Jamie had taken off his hat, and the sun shone bright on his ruddy hair. Bree gave a strangled giggle, as much shock as amusement.

"He could not, would not, with a mob," she murmured back. "Could not, would the job?"
"He can, though," I said, sotto voce. "And I'm very much afraid he will."
(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63, "The Surgeon's Book I". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
From Wikipedia:
The vocabulary of the text consists of just fifty different words and was the result of a bet between Seuss and Bennett Cerf (Dr. Seuss's publisher) that Seuss (after completing The Cat in the Hat using 225 words) could not complete an entire book using so few words.

3) Cairngorm is a type of smoky quartz from the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland. (Photo credit:  According to this site,
In Scotland, smoky quartz of a rich caramel yellowish brown has been used as a gemstone for centuries and carries the special title of "cairngorm." having been found and mined in the Cairngorm Mountains in the Scottish Highlands and it is the national stone of Scotland.

Here's another look at cairngorm stones. (Photo credit:  Cairngorm brooches were popular in the Victorian era. Jocasta wore one at the Gathering in THE FIERY CROSS:
Were it not for the earth and grass underfoot, Roger thought, he would scarcely know they were not in Mrs. Cameron’s drawing room at River Run. She was wrapped in a woolen arisaid, but even that was fastened by a handsome cairngorm brooch.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 11, "Pride". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information about cairngorm gemstones, look here and here.

4) The Westminster Confession of Faith, published in 1647, is the "subordinate standard" (second only to the Bible) of the Presbyterian Church.  According to this site:
The Confession was commissioned from an assembly of 121 Puritan clergymen meeting in Westminster Abbey, called the Westminster Assembly, which was convened in 1643 for the purpose of drafting official documents for the reformation of the Church of England. This was done in fulfillment of a Solemn League and Covenant made with the Scottish parliament and people in the same year, to the effect that the episcopal Anglican establishment, which for many years had harassed and persecuted the Presbyterian Scottish church, should be abolished even in England, and replaced with a Presbyterian establishment which would constantly adhere to Calvinistic standards of doctrine and worship. It was only under such terms that the Scots were willing to join the parliamentary forces in their war against the King.
You can see the full text (in English and Latin) here.

From Chapter XXIX:
VI. That doctrine which maintains a change of the substance of bread and wine, into the substance of Christ's body and blood (commonly called transubstantiation) by consecration of a priest, or by any other way, is repugnant, not to Scripture alone, but even to common-sense and reason; overthroweth the nature of the sacrament; and hath been, and is the cause of manifold superstitions, yea, of gross idolatries.
From Chapter III:
III. By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others foreordained to everlasting death.
Roger explained his dilemma to Brianna this way:
"Well, see, to be a Presbyterian minister, I'd need to be able to swear that I accepted everything in the Westminster Confession. I did, when I--well, before."

He'd come so close, he thought. He'd been on the eve of ordination as a minister when fate had intervened, in the person of Stephen Bonnet. Roger had been compelled to drop everything, to find and rescue Brianna from the pirate's lair on Ocracoke. Not that he regretted doing it, mind.... She paced beside him, red and long-limbed, graceful as a tiger, and the thought that she might so easily have vanished from his life forever--and that he'd never have known his daughter....

He coughed and cleared his throat, abstractedly touching the scar.

"Maybe I still do. But I'm not sure. And I have to be."

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

5) Here's a video of Tha Mo Leabaidh 'san Fhraoch (In the Heather's My Bed), performed in Gaelic by The Lochies.  This song was written by Dugald Roy Cameron, circa 1747.

You may remember that this is the song to which Jamie and Laoghaire danced at Hogmanay:
"Your sister says you’re a bonny dancer,” she said, still shy, but determined.

"It will ha’ been some time since I tried,” he said, feeling shy himself, and painfully awkward, though the fiddle music ached in his bones and his feet twitched at the sound of it.

“It’s ‘Tha mo Leabaidh ’san Fhraoch’--‘In the Heather’s my Bed’--you’ll ken that one. Will ye come and try wi’ me?” She had held out a hand to him, small and graceful in the half-dark. And he had risen, clasped her outstretched hand in his own, and taken his first steps in pursuit of himself.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 37, "What's in a Name". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see the lyrics (in Gaelic and English) here.  I think it's a beautiful song, even though I don't speak Gaelic.

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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Friday Fun Facts Contest!

This week's Friday Fun Facts post will be the 100th installment since I started posting the FFF on January 27, 2012.  (Not bad for something I started more or less on a whim! <g>)  Thanks VERY much to everyone who's commented on my FFF posts over the past 100 weeks.  I really appreciate your support!

In celebration of this milestone, I've decided to have a little contest.

[UPDATE 4/6/2014 11:42 am: The contest has ended. You can see the results here.]

The Rules:

The object of this game is to come up with your own "Best of the Friday Fun Facts" list.

1) Pick 5 items from previous Friday Fun Facts posts that you particularly enjoyed. Items must be found on one of the following lists:

Friday Fun Facts Subject Index
Friday Fun Facts Index by Book

You can choose from any category. There are no right or wrong answers here; this is just an opportunity to share some of your favorites.

2) Write the items down in an email, like this:

My favorite Friday Fun Facts are:

1) _________________________
2) _________________________
3) _________________________
4) _________________________
5) _________________________

(Optional, but definitely appreciated: include a brief description of why you picked each item.)

3) Email your entry to Please use the subject line "FFF Contest", and don't forget to include your name!  (One entry per person, please!)

4) All entries must be received by midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, April 5, 2014. The winner of the contest will be selected by a random drawing on Sunday, April 6th.

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

The Prize:

The winner will receive an autographed copy of Diana Gabaldon's upcoming novel, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, upon its publication on June 10, 2014. I will arrange to have the book shipped to you from the Poisoned Pen bookstore in Arizona.

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

PLEASE NOTE: I will acknowledge each entry as it's received with a reply by email within 24 hours.   If you sent in an entry but you did NOT get a reply back from me, please re-send it and make sure that you put "FFF Contest" in the subject line, so I will know it's for the contest.  Thanks.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Stop the proposed housing development near Culloden!

Have you heard about the proposed housing development to be built within 400 meters of Culloden Battlefield?  It's causing quite a controversy in Scotland.  Diana Gabaldon doesn't usually comment on things like this in public, but she came out against the project in an interview published today in The Scotsman.
"I normally refrain from talking either politics or religion in public, particularly the politics of a country not my own, but this is a matter of history, heritage and respect for both.

“Having walked the battlefield at Culloden many times over the last 25 years, knowing what happened there and having felt the desperate sorrow of the place, I find it incomprehensible that anyone who’d set foot there could contemplate such a crass intrusion.”
I've visited Culloden myself, and I completely agree!

If you want to add your support to the fight against this housing project, please sign the petition at

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Memorable Irish characters in Diana Gabaldon's books

I don't have a drop of Irish blood myself, but I'm reliably informed that everybody's Irish on St. Patrick's Day!  So, in celebration of the day, here are my top 10 most memorable Irish characters from Diana Gabaldon's books, in alphabetical order:

1) Bernard Adams.  You may remember that Lord John gouged his eye out at the end of BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.  He later confessed to the murder of Lord John's father, the Duke of Pardloe.

2) Stephen Bonnet. One of Diana's most memorable villains.  I think Brianna gave him a more merciful death than he deserved.

3) Father Donahue, the priest who baptizes Germain, Jemmy, and Joan in FIERY CROSS.  He seemed a very pragmatic, adaptable sort of person, perfectly willing to baptize the children with whisky instead of water if that was the only option available.  (And IMHO he gets extra points for managing to keep a straight face while listening to Jamie's confession involving Claire and the butter churn. <g>)

4) Father Michael FitzGibbons, abbot of Inchcleraun monastery, Ireland.  The abbot is a decent man (despite his desire to get Jamie involved in the Jacobite scheme), with a curiosity about the natural world that I was surprised to see in a priest.

5) Jeffries, the Dunsanys' coachman in VOYAGER.  Besides Jamie, and Lord and Lady Dunsany, he's the only other eyewitness to the death of the Eighth Earl of Ellesmere.  I wonder if we'll see him again in a future book?

6) Aloysius O'Shaughnessy Murphy.  Ship's cook aboard the Artemis, in VOYAGER. He makes a truly memorable (or should we say infamous?) turtle soup! <g>

7) The O'Higgins brothers, Rafe and Mick, who helped to smuggle Percy Wainwright out of prison near the end of BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE.  They played only a relatively minor role in that book, but I thought they were pretty entertaining.

8) Tobias Quinn.  He was certainly a memorable character in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, although I found him somewhat irritating and a nuisance most of the time.  I liked his sense of humor.

9) Finbar Scanlon. The apothecary in LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER.  Among other things, he cured Maria Mayrhofer of syphilis by deliberately infecting her with malaria.

10) Gerald Siverly.  He saved Lord John's life in "The Custom of the Army", but that's his only redeeming quality, as far as I'm concerned.  He was a very memorable villain in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER!

Have a wonderful St. Patrick's Day, everybody!

New OUTLANDER trailer!

STARZ has released a new trailer for the OUTLANDER TV series! Just a few quick comments:

1) Without the distraction of dialogue (voice-over or otherwise), I found that the Scottish scenery really stands out in this trailer.  Craigh na Dun looks exactly as I've always imagined it, and the rest of the Highland scenery is really beautiful.

2) I love the shot of J&C at about 20 seconds into it. <g>

3) This one is for the fans. <g> Why? Because it assumes familiarity with the storyline and the characters, with very little in the way of explanation.

It looks great and I can't wait to see more!

Here is the link to the slow-motion version of this video, if you want to take a closer look.

The previous OUTLANDER trailer videos are here and here.

Note that this trailer says only "COMING THIS SUMMER".  We don't know specifically when the premiere date will be, but I promise I'll post it here as soon as we hear any news!  For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, see my FAQ page here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Friday Fun Facts - 3/14/2014

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

1) This painting shows an 18th-century sailing ship illuminated by St. Elmo's fire.
My hair, like my skirts, was drying in the wind; the strands of it danced on my head, pulling at the roots. As it dried, I felt the crackle of static electricity where my hair brushed my cheek. There was a sudden movement among the sailors around me and I looked up, to see the spars and rigging above coated in the blue phosphorescence of St. Elmo’s fire.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63, "Out of the Depths". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
What exactly is St. Elmo's fire?  From Wikipedia:
Physically, St. Elmo's fire is a bright blue or violet glow, appearing like fire in some circumstances, from tall, sharply pointed structures such as lightning rods, masts, spires and chimneys, and on aircraft wings. St. Elmo's fire can also appear on leaves, grass, and even at the tips of cattle horns. Often accompanying the glow is a distinct hissing or buzzing sound. It is sometimes confused with ball lightning.
For more information on the phenomenon, look here and here.

2) Henri Rousseau (1844-1910) was a French Post-Impressionist painter. I had never heard of him before I read DRUMS OF AUTUMN:
As I watched, a great head broke water in the middle of the stream, water purling back from the pointed snout. There was a fish struggling in Rollo’s jaws; the flap and gleam of its scales showed briefly as he shook his head violently to break its back. The huge dog swam slowly to the shore, shook his coat briefly, and stalked away, his evening meal dangling limp and shimmering from his jaws.

He paused for a moment on the far edge of the creek, looking at me, the ruff of his hackles a dark shadow framing yellow eyes and gleaming fish. Like a primitive painting, I thought; something from Rousseau, with its contrast of utter wildness and complete stillness.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "In Which We Meet a Ghost". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The painting shown above is called "Jungle with Lion".  Click on the image for a bigger view.

Here's a collection of Rousseau's paintings.

3) This is a pair of silver shoe buckles that belonged to Flora MacDonald in the 1770s. She gave them to a friend in North Carolina shortly before she returned to Scotland. I saw them on display at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh, NC.

Shoe buckles in the 18th century were constructed somewhat differently than their modern counterparts.  This diagram shows the parts of a typical 18th-century shoe buckle, worn by both men and women. According to Wikipedia:
Separate buckles remained fashionable until they were abandoned along with high-heeled footwear and other aristocratic fashions in the years after the French Revolution although they were retained as part of ceremonial and court dress until well into the 20th century.
18th-century shoe buckles were designed to be easily removable, as we saw in this scene from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, where Lord John and Tom Byrd are getting Jamie properly outfitted for his first visit to the Beefsteak in London:
"Will those do for the Beefsteak, do you think, me lord?” [Tom Byrd] squinted doubtfully at the shoes on Jamie’s feet, these being the sturdy objects borrowed from Lady Joffrey’s chairman. They had been buffed and polished to the limits of the bootboy’s capability but were not intrinsically fashionable.

Grey joined Tom’s scrutiny and lifted one shoulder in a shrug.

“Change the buckles, and they’ll do. Take the silver-gilt ones from my brown calfskin court shoes. Mr. Fraser?” He motioned delicately at Jamie’s feet, and Jamie obligingly stepped out of the objects in question, allowing Tom to take them away.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "The Belly of a Flea". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see step-by-step instructions for attaching 18th-century shoe buckles here. If you want to see the process in more detail, here's a video explaining exactly how it's done.

4) The blind cave fish (scientific name Astyanax mexicanus) is a type of Mexican tetra that lives in caves in Central America. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
Lying in the center of the cloth was a small dried fish, much like those darting about in the spring, save that this one was pure white. It was also blind. On either side of the blunt head, there was a small swelling where an eye should have been, but that was all.


I peered more closely at the fish, which Stern was examining with the rapt joy of the born naturalist. The skin was very thin, and so transparent that the shadows of the internal organs and the knobbly line of the vertebrae were clearly visible, yet it did have scales, tiny and translucent, though dulled by dryness.

“It is a blind cave fish,” Stern said, reverently stroking the tiny blunt head. “I have seen one only once before, in a pool deep inside a cave, at a place called Abandawe."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 50, "I Meet a Priest". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

Here's another view of a blind cave fish. (Photo credit: Chris Bell, on Flickr.)  If you're wondering what would cause an entire species of fish to evolve without eyes, check out this article from December, 2013, about a new and controversial theory regarding the evolution of these fish.

5) Long before Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to "The Star-Spangled Banner", there was a popular 18th-century song called "To Anacreon in Heaven". You may remember this scene near the beginning of DRUMS OF AUTUMN:
A clear tenor voice, wobbly with drink, but sweet nonetheless, was singing a familiar tune, audible over the babble of talk.
"To Anacreon in heav'n, where he sat in full glee,
A few sons of harmony sent a petition,
That he their inspirer and patron would be!
When this answer arrived from the jolly old Grecian:
'Voice, fiddle, and flute,
No longer be mute!
I'll lend you my name and inspire you to boot.'"
The singer's voice cracked painfully on "voice, fiddle, and flute," but he sang stoutly on, despite the laughter from his audience. I smiled wryly to myself as he hit the final couplet,
"'And, besides, I'll instruct you like me to entwine,
The Myrtle of Venus with Bacchus's vine!'"
(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "A Hanging in Eden". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
You can see the lyrics here.  This tune, which became the official song of the Anacreontic Society (an 18th-century gentleman's club), was composed by John Stafford Smith, and first published in 1778.

I love that little scene in DRUMS, particularly the bit where the singer's voice cracks at precisely the same point in the song that gives modern singers trouble. <g>  (Some things never change....)

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!

Monday, March 10, 2014

"The Space Between" standalone e-book coming April 15!

Diana Gabaldon's novella, "The Space Between" (the story of Young Ian's brother Michael, Marsali's sister Joan, and the Comte St. Germain) will be released as a standalone e-book on April 15, 2014 in the US and Canada.  It will sell for $1.99, and it will be available for Kindle, Nook, etc.

Here are the pre-order links:

Kindle edition

Nook edition

I'm looking forward to adding this e-book to my collection!

Please note, this standalone e-book is going to be available ONLY in the US and Canada, due to international rights issues.

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.

"The Space Between" is a very enjoyable story, with lots of potential for speculation, and I'm glad that more people will have access to it soon.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Celtic Journeys OUTLANDER Tour Contest!

Judy Lowstuter of Celtic Journeys Tours is running a contest on Facebook, and the prize is very generous: two seats on the 2015 OUTLANDER Tour of Scotland!  Here are the details:

Celtic Journeys LLC is giving away two seats on the popular Outlander Tour(R) for 2015. This is a 7-night, fully escorted tour of the Scottish Highlands, following the path of Jamie and Claire from Diana Gabaldon's award-winning and world-famous Outlander series.

HOW TO ENTER - ONE entry per person

1. On Facebook "Like" Celtic Journeys, LLC page. NOTE: Celtic Journeys LLC is the same company as Celtic Journeys U S, but you have to Like the Celtic Journeys LLC page.
2. On a 3" x 5" paper, write your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail address.
3. Go to and find where Judy was standing (in 2002) that inspired the first Outlander Tour(R) in 2004.
4. Write that location on the entry paper.
5. Put it into an envelope and mail (yes, snail mail) to Celtic Journeys LLC, 7109 Village Drive, Annandale, VA 22003-3135 USA

Entry is open to everybody in any country in the world.

The winning entry will be drawn from correct entries in the presence of a notary.
The winner will be announced on May 1, 2014 and winner will be notified by phone and e-mail.
The prize is for all elements of the land tour only; airfare is NOT included.
The prize has no cash value.
The prize isn't transferrable. If you win and you don't go, the prize is forfeited.
Only entries that are received by mail will be accepted.

The contest was inspired by Diana's generosity and kindness to her fans over the years. Thanks Diana! And good luck to all entrants.

As some of you may recall, I went on the Celtic Journeys OUTLANDER Tour with my mom and my sister in July 2012, and we had a FABULOUS time!  Here I am at Culloden.  You can see my blog posts about the tour here.

Please note:  I'm not affiliated with Celtic Journeys in any way, although Judy is a friend of mine.  I'm just helping to get the word out about the contest.  If you have any questions about the tour or the contest, please contact Judy Lowstuter at  And good luck!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

How do you say Colum and Dougal?

Here's the 5th lesson in the STARZ video series, "How to Speak OUTLANDER". Enjoy!

This one features Colum (played by Gary Lewis) and Dougal (played by Graham McTavish).  I can't wait to see them in the TV show!

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

Speak OUTLANDER: Sassenach

Speak OUTLANDER: Craigh na Dun

Speak OUTLANDER: Mo nighean donn

Speak OUTLANDER: Laoghaire and Geillis

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

Friday, March 7, 2014

Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #5

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) There really are white deer, just as Lord John described them in AN ECHO IN THE BONE:
“In the evenings, quite often, deer come out of the forest to feed at the edges of the lawn. Now and then, though, I see a particular deer. It’s white, I suppose, but it looks as though it’s made of silver. I don’t know whether it comes only in the moonlight or whether it’s only that I cannot see it save by moonlight--but it is a sight of rare beauty.”

His eyes had softened, and I could see that he wasn’t looking at the plaster ceiling overhead but at the white deer, coat shining in the moonlight.

“It comes for two nights, three--rarely, four--and then it’s gone, and I don’t see it again for weeks, sometimes months. And then it comes again, and I am enchanted once more.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 95, "Numbness". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I didn't realize that white deer actually existed, until I saw this video, which shows several white deer in Wisconsin. They're really quite beautiful, mysterious and exotic-looking creatures.

2) The legend of the Dunbonnet in VOYAGER is based on a real historical figure, a laird named James Fraser. <g>
James Fraser, 9th of Foyers, was on very friendly terms with Simon, 13th Lord Lovat, later to be executed for his part in the 1745 Rising, and on that account, Foyers joined Lovat in supporting Prince Charles during his short reign in Edinburgh as King James VIII.


Foyers was excluded from the Act of Parliament pardoning treasonable offences committed in the rebellion, and was forced to live in hiding for seven years after the rebellion. One of his favourite haunts was a cave, a mile to the west of the Falls of Foyers. One day, on looking out of the cave, the laird saw a Red Coat secretly following a girl bringing food for him and, as to avoid capture was a matter of life and death to him, the laird shot the soldier who was buried where he fell. So Foyers's whereabouts could be kept secret, the inhabitants used to speak of him by the nickname "Bonaid Odhair" (Dun Coloured Bonnet).
The photo above comes from Alastair Cunningham's Living with Clans and Castles blog. This is the view from the inside of a cave near Foyers that Cunningham visited in 2007. It seems to match the description of Jamie's cave pretty well.
It was barely eight feet long, but the far end was lost in shadow. She lifted her chin, seeing the soft black stains that coated the rock to one side by the entrance.

“That’s where my fire was—when I dared have one.” His voice sounded strange, small and muffled, and he cleared his throat.

“Where was your bed?”

“Just there by your left foot.”

“Did you sleep with your head at this end?” She tapped her foot on the graveled dirt of the floor.

“Aye. I could see the stars, if the night was clear. I turned the other way if it rained.” She heard the smile in his voice and put her hand along his thigh, squeezing.

“I hoped that,” she said, her own voice a little choked. “When we learned about the Dunbonnet, and the cave... I thought about you, alone here--and I hoped you could see the stars at night."

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 79, "The Cave". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) This is an Iroquois mask of the type used by the False Face Society. As Ian explained to Brianna in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES:
After this second loss, the Medicine Society had taken the two of them to a private hut, there to sing and beat drums and to dance in huge painted masks, meant to frighten away whatever evil entities might be hampering Ian’s spirit--or unduly strengthening Emily’s.

"I wanted to laugh, seeing the masks," Ian said. He didn’t turn round; yellow leaves spangled the shoulders of his buckskin and stuck in his hair. "They call it the Funny-Face Society, too--and for a reason. Didna do it, though."

"I don’t...suppose Em-Emily laughed." He was going so fast that she was pressed to keep up with him, though her legs were nearly as long as his own.

"No," he said, and uttered a short, bitter laugh himself. "She didna."

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

According to this site,
Members of the society put on the false faces to visit the lodge of a sick man who has declared himself in need of a cure. With their masks on, and shaking rattles made of turtle shells, the members who are to effect the cure creep towards the sick man's home speaking a nasal "language" . They scrape their rattles against the door, and enter the house, continuing to shake the rattles. Then ashes and tobacco are used in a ritual meant to drive away the cause of the patient's illness. Anyone who is cured becomes a member of the society, or a man or a woman may join if he or she has a dream signifying that it is necessary to become a member.
Here is another site with more information about the masks.

4) The photos above show a couple of examples of an 18th-century architectural form known as a folly.  The top one is a folly in Stowe, England, called the Temple of Ancient Virtue, built in 1734.  The bottom one is the Temple of Pan, in Osterley, England, built in 1720. (Photo credits: curry15 and Kevin Boyd, on Flickr.  Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

What exactly is a folly?  From Wikipedia:
At best, some general guidelines can be produced, all of which have exceptions.
  • [Follies] have no purpose other than as an ornament. Often they have some of the appearance of a building constructed for a particular purpose, but this appearance is a sham.
  • They are buildings, or parts of buildings. Thus they are distinguished from other garden ornaments such as sculpture.
  • They are purpose-built. Follies are deliberately built as ornaments.
  • They are often eccentric in design or construction. This is not strictly necessary; however, it is common for these structures to call attention to themselves through unusual details or form.
  • There is often an element of fakery in their construction. The canonical example of this is the sham ruin: a folly which pretends to be the remains of an old building but which was in fact constructed in that state.
  • They were built or commissioned for pleasure.
Here's a description of the folly at Helwater:
The folly, a miniature Greek temple, had been erected by some forgotten architect, and while the site had much to recommend it in summer, being surrounded by copper beeches and with a view of the lake, it was an inconvenient distance from the house, and no one had visited it in months. Dead leaves lay in drifts in the corners, one of the wooden lattices hung from a corner nail, having been torn loose in a winter storm, and the white pillars that framed the opening were thick with abandoned cobwebs and spattered with dirt.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "Fridstool". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about follies, look here.  You can see many more photos of England's follies here. And here is another page with wonderful photos of follies. (Thanks to Sandy on Compuserve for the link!)

5) Many of you will remember the song that Ian was so fond of in A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES.  It's an old Scottish ballad called "Eppie Morrie".
"...And put a pistol to his breest, his breest,” Young Ian chanted, “Marry me, marry me, minister, or else I’ll be your priest, your priest--or else I’ll be your priest!”

“Of course,” Roger said, dropping the song, in which a bold young man named Willie rides with his friends to abduct and forcibly marry a young woman who proves bolder yet, “we’ll hope ye prove a wee bit more capable than Willie upon the night, aye, Joseph?”

Mr. Wemyss, scrubbed, dressed, and fairly vibrating with excitement, gave him a glance of complete incomprehension. Roger grinned, tightening the strap of his saddlebag.

“Young Willie obliges a minister to marry him to the young woman at gunpoint,” he explained to Mr. Wemyss, “but then, when he takes his stolen bride to bed, she’ll have none of him--and his best efforts will not avail to force her.”

“And so return me, Willie, to my hame, as virgin as I came, I came--as virgin as I came!” Ian caroled.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 85, "The Stolen Bride". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.) 
The video above features Karan Casey singing "Eppie Morrie".  You can see the lyrics here.

I hope you enjoyed this 5th 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
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #4

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

UK publication date is June 5!

Good news for OUTLANDER fans in the UK!  According to the website of Orion Books (Diana Gabaldon's UK publisher), WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD will be published on 5 June 2014!

In other words, the UK edition is scheduled to be published...

2 days before the OUTLANDER Fan Retreat in Seattle.
4 days before the publication date for the German edition.
5 days before the book comes out in the US and Canada.

I asked Diana Gabaldon on Compuserve whether that June 5 date is accurate, and here is her verbatim reply.
"Always assuming they can finish production and shipping by then, yes."
Even though it's only a matter of a few days, I'm actually glad that the readers in the UK will get the book first this time, considering that they had to wait four months for AN ECHO IN THE BONE to be published in the UK, after it came out in the US in 2009.

Please note, I have no information about the publication date for Australia or New Zealand or any other countries other than those listed above!

For more information about WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, please see my FAQ page here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Diana Gabaldon's US book-tour schedule!

Diana Gabaldon has posted the schedule for her US book-tour for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD on Twitter here.

Please note her comments at the top of the post:
NB 1: _I_ don't pick the dates or places; Random House does that. I go where they tell me. <g>

NB 2: No, I can't squeeze in extra cities, alas.
I have no information beyond what Diana posted on Twitter. If you have questions, please contact the organizers for the individual events.

My mom and I are hoping to be at the book-signing in Philadelphia on June 17. <g>  Hope to see some of you there!

Finally, in case you missed it, Diana's Canadian book-tour schedule is here.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The 9 Stages of Waiting for the Next Book

I think this article from the Huffington Post pretty much nailed it!

The 9 Agonizing Stages Of Waiting For The Next Book In A Series To Come Out

98 more days to go until WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD comes out!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Diana Gabaldon's Canadian book-tour dates!

Diana Gabaldon has posted the schedule for her Canadian book-tour for WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD on her blog here.

I have no information beyond what's in the blog post. If you have questions, please contact the organizers for the individual events.

(The US book-tour schedule is here.)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Poll results...then and now

Here are the results of the February poll, which asked the question, "What do you think about the upcoming OUTLANDER TV series on STARZ?"
  • 56.48% - Very excited! I can't wait!
  • 19.09% - I don't have STARZ now, but I plan to order it so I can watch this series.
  • 6.05% - I'd like to watch it, but STARZ isn't available where I live.
  • 4.46% - I can't afford to pay for a STARZ subscription.
  • 3.98% - I will wait for the DVDs, or watch on Netflix or a similar service.
  • 3.02% - Cautiously optimistic.
  • 1.59% - I'm worried that they will change the story or the characters.
  • 0.40% - I'm not interested in an OUTLANDER TV series.
  • 0.24% - I'm disappointed that Diana Gabaldon will not be writing the scripts.
  • 0.24% - I'll probably watch at least part of it.
  • 0.24% - What OUTLANDER TV series? I haven't heard anything about it.
  • 4.22% - Other
There were 1257 responses to this poll.  Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

Here are the results for "Other":
  • Don't have money for Starz but finding it because I have to watch it
  • combo of Excited & Can't wait! Can't afford STARZ & will have to wait for DVDs
  • Starz ist not available here, but I will try to watch via internet
  • Trying to reconfigure my budget. I don't want to miss it.
  • My dvr is ready to go. Just waiting for the premiere. Will watch everyday!
  • Can't afford stars will be dying while waiting for DVD/netflix
  • We don't have cable. Maybe it will be on Netflix?
  • I am very excited and it will be shown on Showcase in Canada
  • Not much of a TV watching person, but maybe when I can get it on my ROKU Player.
  • Cautiously optimistic AND might wait for DVD or Netflix AND even small issues hr
  • Picked up my first copy of Outlander, summer of 1991. I'm absolutely thrilled!
  • It depends what way we can access it in Australia
  • I'm in Canada and will be watching on Showcase
  • I'm mailbombing the Swedish television to buy the series to Sweden...
  • Hoping it's on Jetflicks or I'll have to wait for Netflix - oh the agony!
  • Starz not available in Germany, will wait for DVDs, not matter what the costs!
  • Hope they provide subtitles or captioned when they come out in DVD or Bluray
  • Hoping fans in the UK will be able to watch it at the same time as US fans!
  • I'm embarraassed about how excited I am about the series and the upcoming book.
  • I can't wait! It will be shown on "Showcase" channel in Canada.
  • I ordered STARZ just last week, specifically for Outlander
  • Will watch, waiting for it to be picked up in Australia.
  • I plan to buy the dvd's the minute they become available!
  • I'm hoping it will run on Amazon so I can purchase episodes right away!
  • Pray we get it in London Ontario Canada through Rogers anybody know if we get it
  • Starz is not available, but I will wait for it to come on Netflix.
  • Excruciating exercise in patience! I can't stop tingling.
  • Excited, worried, and can't afford Starz. :(
  • Waiting with bated breath for news of it being screened in the UK,.
  • Can't wait! Planning a Premier Party, too!
  • Very excited & will probably watch on Netflix or similar sec
  • Inccredibly disappointed STARZ doesn't offer a streaming only subscription
  • Thrilled! Convinced it will be the best thing to hit the air EVER!
  • So beyond excited!!!!
  • Already have STARZ & can't wait!
  • I'm very excited AND am not able to afford Starz
  • I ordered Starz 3 months ago so when the trailers started playing, I'd have it.
  • Want to watch Outlander bad, but don't have STARZ.
  • If it's an option, I'll buy the individual shows from itunes
  • When does it start? I don't get stars but will find it
  • Totally excited that it is available on Showcase in Canada.
  • I live in Western Australia - how ill I be able to see it - DVD?
  • Ordered Starz as soon as I heard about it, 8 months in advance!
  • i have stars cant wait
  • I will find a way to see it, lol...and I can wait if I have to for dvd
  • Obsessed with it. Cannot wait! hehe did not think Very exited covered it :)
  • Very Excited! Couldn't wait, ordered STARZ for the trailer!
  • I wish Karen Henry with her lovely red hair had a cameo! :-) [Thank you, whoever you are! <g>]
  • Vewery frustrated cos not available in the UK!!
  • Cautious but not overly optimistic.
  • Loved Cait's comments, the books are always there, this is just something else).
  • SO EXCITED! Hosting a party for friends & co-workers who don't get STARZ!
I thought it would be interesting to compare this month's results with the poll I ran in June 2013 on the same topic. Click on the image for a bigger view.

The first time I ran this poll, we knew very little about the TV series other than the fact that it would be 16 episodes on STARZ, and many fans were understandably wary. What a difference eight months makes!  (For more about the OUTLANDER TV series, see my FAQ page here.)

Please take a moment to vote in the March poll, which is all about pre-ordering WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.  If you are viewing this site on a mobile device, go here to see the poll.