Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, Sam Heughan!



Wishing a wonderful 34th birthday to Sam Heughan!



He's going to be AMAZING as Jamie Fraser in the OUTLANDER TV series!

Monday, April 28, 2014

New release date for German edition



Attention German fans!  The publication of the German edition of Diana Gabaldon's WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, titled EIN SCHATTEN VON VERRAT UND LIEBE, has been delayed until 21 July 2014.

The official announcement was posted today on Diana Gabaldon's German website. Please read the full explanation, from Diana Gabaldon and Barbara Schnell, her German translator.

I know Barbara worked very, very hard to get the translation finished on time.  I'm sure a lot of German fans will be disappointed by the delay, but this decision was made by the publisher, and it's not something that either Diana or Barbara have any control over.

Please help spread the word to any German fans you may know. Thanks.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

What do you do when a new Gabaldon book comes out?



With the publication of Diana Gabaldon's WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD only a few weeks away, I thought this would be a good time to talk about how we plan to celebrate its release.

What do you do when a new OUTLANDER book is published?  Take a couple of days off from work?  Lock yourself in the bedroom and tell your family to fend for themselves while you're immersed in the book?  Stop following OUTLANDER fan-sites for fear of encountering spoilers?



Do you turn to the last page first? (Personally, I wouldn't ever do that, but I know there are some people who prefer to read books that way.) Do you read quickly the first time, to find out what happens, then do a slower re-read to catch all the details -- or do you try to read as slowly as you can, the first time?

If you have a particular routine or ritual that you've used in the past, we'd like to hear about it! If this is your first experience waiting for a brand-new Diana Gabaldon book, what are your plans?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Friday Fun Facts - 4/25/2014



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



1) This photo, from Wikipedia, shows what elderberries look like.
I drew in my skirts to keep them away from a big elderberry bush, and stooped to look at the fruit. It was dark red, but not yet showing the blackish tinge of true ripeness.

“Two more days,” I said. “If we were going to use them for medicine, we’d pick them now. I want them for wine, though, and to dry like raisins--and for that, you want them to have a lot of sugar, so you wait until they’re nearly ready to drop from their stems."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 45, "Fifty-Fifty". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
If you want to try making elderberry wine at home, here's a recipe.



2) This is Stirling Castle, one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland. (Photo credit: Ruairidh212, on Flickr.)
"Madame!” I turned at the cry, to find Fergus at my elbow, beaming up at me, a square-toothed grin on his sallow face.

“Madame! Is it not wonderful? Milord has received pardon for his men—a messenger came from Stirling this morning, with the order to release them, and we are ordered at once to join milord at Stirling!”

I hugged him, grinning a bit myself. “That is wonderful, Fergus.” A few of the men had noticed me, and were beginning to turn to me, smiling and plucking at each other’s sleeves. An air of exhilaration and excitement filled the small room.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 42, "Reunions". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Most of the present buildings in the castle date from the 16th century. Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned as an infant in the chapel at Stirling in 1543, and spent her early childhood in the castle. (Look here for more information.)



This is one of the magnificent unicorn tapestries I saw when I visited Stirling Castle on the Celtic Journeys OUTLANDER Tour in 2012. This video gives you an overview of the newly restored castle.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Stirling Castle, and would definitely recommend it to anyone planning a trip to Scotland! For more about Stirling Castle, look here and here.



3) The Carmina Gadelica is a collection of Celtic prayers, blessings, and charms compiled by Alexander Carmichael (1832-1912; pictured above) in the late 19th century. As Roger explained in ECHO:
[He] went on to tell them about the Reverend Carmichael, who had combed the Highlands and the Isles in the nineteenth century, talking with people, urging them to sing him their songs and tell him their ways, collecting “hymns, charms, and incantations” from the oral tradition wherever he could find them, and had published this great work of scholarship in several volumes, called the Carmina Gadelica.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Ley Lines". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Some of the prayers are really quite beautiful. Here, for example, is a Celtic prayer from the Carmina Gadelica, Volume III, that appears in FIERY CROSS. I like this one a great deal.

REST BENEDICTION
Bless to me, O God, the moon that is above me.
Bless to me, O God, the earth that is beneath me,
Bless to me, O God, my wife and my children,
And bless, O God, myself who have care of them;

Bless to me my wife and my children,
And bless, O God, myself who have care of them.
Bless, O God, the thing on which mine eye doth rest.
Bless, O God, the thing on which my hope doth rest,
Bless, O God, my reason and my purpose.
Bless, O bless Thou them. Thou God of life ;
Bless, O God, my reason and my purpose,
Bless, O bless Thou them. Thou God of life.

Bless to me the bed-companion of my love.
Bless to me the handling of my hands.
Bless, O bless Thou to me, O God, the fencing of my defence.
And bless, O bless to me the angeling of my rest ;
Bless, O bless Thou to me, O God, the fencing of my defence.
And bless, O bless to me the angeling of my rest.
"Soul Peace" and "Soul Leading" (prayers that Jamie recommends to young Ian in VOYAGER) are listed in Volume I, as is the blessing Claire recites just before leaving Jamie in DRAGONFLY ("The Battle to Come").

There are a great many other Celtic prayers, charms, and blessings listed in the Carmina Gadelica.  Look here for volumes I and II, and here for volume III.



4) Portable writing desks were common in the 18th century. This is Thomas Jefferson's portable writing box (his own design), on which he drafted the Declaration of Independence. (Photo credit: DeepThirteen1967, on Flickr).  You may recall that Jamie also had one, in THE FIERY CROSS:
"Can he write, Sassenach?” Jamie had paused by the wagon, and noticed the impasse in progress.

“Write? Write what?” I asked in surprise, but he was already reaching past me, digging out the battered portable writing-desk he carried when traveling.

“Love letters?” Jamie suggested, grinning down at me. “Or sonnets, maybe?” He tossed the lap-desk to Roger, who caught it neatly in his arms, even as I yelped in protest.

“But perhaps before ye compose an epic in William Tryon’s honor, Roger Mac, ye might oblige me wi’ the tale of how our mutual kinsman came to try and murder ye, aye?”

Roger stood stock-still for a moment, clutching the desk, but then gave Jamie a lopsided smile, and nodded slowly.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 75, "Speak My Name". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


I saw this portable writing desk on display in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. I could definitely see Lord John using something like this in the field!

For more about the history of portable writing boxes in the 18th century, look here.



5) In honor of Diana Gabaldon's upcoming visit to Disneyland, here's the Mickey Mouse Club theme song, from the 1950's TV show. I can easily imagine Brianna watching this show as a child.
"And there are cartoon characters--I told you about cartoons--walking around. You can go up and shake hands with Mickey Mouse, or--”

“With what?”

“Mickey Mouse.” She laughed. “A big mouse, life-size--human-size, I mean. He wears gloves.”

“A giant rat?” he said, sounding slightly stunned. “And they take the weans to play with it?”

“Not a rat, a mouse,” she corrected him. “And it’s really a person dressed up like a mouse.”

“Oh, aye?” he said, not sounding terribly reassured.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 52, "M-I-C-". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
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!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Great news from Diana Gabaldon!

Two big reasons for Diana Gabaldon's fans to celebrate today:


[UPDATE 4/25/2014 6:53 am: here's a post from Diana on Facebook with more details.]


Congratulations, Diana!!

For more information, see my FAQ pages here:

WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD FAQ
"The Space Between" FAQ

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

REPOST: Davina Porter interview

Davina Porter is back in the recording studio this week, beginning work on the audio version of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD! Let's all wish her the best of luck over the next several weeks.  I can't wait to hear the audio version of the book!

In honor of the occasion, I thought I'd repost a very interesting two-part interview from 2009, with Davina Porter and her husband, Gus, in which Davina talks in detail about her work.  Be sure to watch both parts!

Part 1:



Part 2 (you may want to skip the first bit; the part relating to her work starts around 2:20)



I was quite amused to hear her reaction, in part 2, to the fact that she'd messed up Donner's voice in ABOSAA (making him sound like a Liverpudlian instead of a Native American). Oh, well, we can hope she'll be more careful with the minor characters in MOHB!

Hope you enjoy this as much as I did! For more about Davina Porter, look here.  And if you haven't yet listened to the OUTLANDER audiobooks, I highly recommend them!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Which OUTLANDER character are you?

I just saw this and couldn't resist passing it along.

Which OUTLANDER character are you?



I got Claire. What about the rest of you?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Friday Fun Facts - 4/18/2014



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



1) This is a cap made by the Tuscarora, Native Americans who lived in North Carolina in the 18th century. (Photo credit: North Carolina Museum of History).  It's made in the style of a Scotsman's bonnet, evidence that the Tuscarora traded with the settlers who lived nearby.




The pair of signs pictured above commemorate those killed on both sides in the Tuscarora War of 1711-13. (Photo credits: top: Bryan, on Flickr; bottom: loo% noble savage & pope, on Flickr.)
The Tuscarora War, [Myers] explained, had been a short-lived but brutal conflict some forty years before, brought on by an attack upon some backcountry settlers. The then governor of the colony had sent troops into the Tuscarora villages in retaliation, and the upshot was a series of pitched battles that the colonists, much better armed, had won handily--to the devastation of the Tuscarora nation.

Myers nodded toward the darkness.

“Ain’t no more than seven villages o’ the Tuscarora left, now--and not above fifty or a hundred souls in any but the biggest one.” So sadly diminished, the Tuscarora would quickly have fallen prey to surrounding tribes and disappeared altogether, had they not been formally adopted by the Mohawk, and thus become part of the powerful Iroquois League.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 14, "Flee from Wrath to Come". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information about the Tuscarora in Colonial North Carolina, look here and here.  The map here is also quite informative.



2) A whirligig was an 18th century punishment device.  Lord John and Percy saw one in LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE:
"This--what’s it called?”

“A whirligig.” A cylindrical cage made of slats, with a door in one side. It was used for minor punishments, lateness or missing equipment. “You put a man inside, and two men spin it round.”

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "Shame". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
The Whirligig, which was also known as the Whirl Gig or even the Pritty Whim, was a cage-like contraption in the form of a tube, large enough to fit one person and suspended on a couple of swivels at the top and bottom.  The offender was placed inside and the cage spun round at great speed by a couple of soldiers for a set period of time. The result was that the person became very giddy and extremely sick. A certain Mrs Malhone would have been able to confirm this. She ‘was committed for proper reasons to the whirligig during two hours. It gave great pleasure to the spectators.’
I think it would be hard to take more than a few minutes in a device like that, let alone several hours!



3) This is a medicinal herb called valerian, scientific name, Valeriana officinalis. (Photo credit: Anita363, on Flickr.)

According to A MODERN HERBAL (published in 1931, and one of Diana Gabaldon's reference sources):
The drug allays pain and promotes sleep. It is of especial use and benefit to those suffering from nervous overstrain, as it possesses none of the after-effects produced by narcotics.
Claire is very familiar with the medicinal uses of valerian, as we saw in this scene from DRUMS OF AUTUMN, when Lord John and Young Ian had the measles:
I rose and went to the cupboard. I took down three jars: catmint, valerian, and wild ginger. I took down the marble mortar and tipped the dried leaves and root chunks into it. A drop of water fell from the kettle, hissing into steam.

“What are you doing?” Lord John asked.

“Making an infusion for Ian,” I said, with a nod toward the trundle. “The same I gave you four days ago.”

“Ah. We heard of you as we traveled from Wilmington,” Grey said. His voice was casual now, making conversation. “You are well known in the countryside for your skills, it would appear.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 28, "Heated Conversation". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
From WebMD:
People use valerian to relieve anxiety, depression, and poor sleep, and also to ease menstrual and stomach cramps. Valerian has a mild calming effect that does not usually result in sleepiness the next day. As a sleep aid, valerian seems to be most effective for people who have trouble falling asleep and who consider themselves to be poor sleepers. It also has had good results for people who wake up during the night.
Have any of you tried it?



4) The photo above shows what a tarantula looks like. (Photo credit: Nick Hobgood, on Flickr.)
I returned from one of these expeditions on the afternoon of the third day, with several large lily-roots, some shelf fungus of a vivid orange, and an unusual moss, with a live tarantula--carefully trapped in one of the sailor’s stocking caps and held at arm’s length--large and hairy enough to send Lawrence into paroxysms of delight.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 52, "A Wedding Takes Place". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
According to this site,
Despite their fearsome appearance, tarantulas are not threatening to humans. Their venom is milder than a honeybee, and though painful, their bites are not harmful. In fact, tarantulas have become a popular pet for arachnophiles around the world.
Here's an Animal Planet video about tarantulas. For more information about tarantulas, look here and here.



5) This is the Lake Isle of Innisfree, in Lough Gill, County Sligo, Ireland. (Photo credit: alanaplin, on Flickr.)
The cabin’s clearing was still filled with sunlight, though, filtered through a yellow blaze of chestnut trees. Claire was in the palisaded garden, a basin on one hip, snapping beans from poled vines. Her slender figure was silhouetted dark against the sun, her hair a great aureole of curly gold.

“Innisfree,” Brianna said involuntarily, stopping dead at the sight.

“Innisfree?” Jamie glanced at her, bewildered.

She hesitated, but there was no way out of explaining.

“It’s a poem, or part of one. Daddy always used to say it, when he’d come home and find Mama puttering in her garden--he said she’d live out there if she could. He used to joke that she--that she’d leave us someday, and go find a place where she could live by herself, with nothing but her plants.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Whisky in the Jar". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


Here's another view.  (Photo credit: Steve Rose NYC, on Flickr.)  The poem Brianna was referring to, The Lake Isle of Innisfree, by William Butler Yeats, was first published in 1890.
I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;
Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.
You can hear actor Anthony Hopkins reciting this poem here. (Thanks to Bev C. on Compuserve for the link!)

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, April 16, 2014

IT'S DONE!!



Diana Gabaldon posted this on Twitter a few minutes ago.



CONGRATULATIONS!!

Please note, this means Diana is done with the writing, but there are still a LOT of steps remaining in the production process, between now and the publication date in June. Copy-editing, reading galley proofs, etc., etc. Still, this is a HUGE accomplishment for Diana, to say the least -- and very exciting for all of us who are eagerly waiting for the book!



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

Culloden anniversary



Today is the 268th anniversary of the Battle of Culloden, which took place on April 16, 1746.



I like this video very much. (The song is "The Ghosts of Culloden", performed by Isla Grant.)

Diana Gabaldon noted in her blog post about her 2008 visit to Culloden that she saw the place where Jamie woke after the battle, thinking he was dead.  When I asked her on Compuserve if she recalled where that was, exactly, she said,
Jamie made it almost to the second government line.  He woke in a little swale or dip (you recall he was lying in water), about forty feet off the path that leads from the Visitors Centre--maybe a couple of hundred yards beyond the VC itself.
The photo below shows the area where the government lines were, marked with a red flag.



I was lucky enough to be able to visit Culloden in 2012.  It's an amazing place, and the Visitors Centre is very well done.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"The Space Between" e-book is now available!



Diana Gabaldon's novella, "The Space Between" (the story of Young Ian's brother Michael, Marsali's sister Joan, and the Comte St. Germain) is now available as a standalone e-book in the US and Canada!  It's only $1.99, and it's available for Kindle, Nook, and probably other e-readers as well.

Please note, if you live outside the US and Canada, this standalone e-book may not be available, due to the complexities of international publishing rights.  If you're wondering whether it's available where you live, the best thing to do is check the usual online sites where you purchase e-books.

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 now!

If you have comments or questions about the story, or if you want to tell Diana Gabaldon what you thought about it, there's a thread on Compuserve here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Final Frenzy update!



Diana Gabaldon is getting very close to the end of the Final Frenzy of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD!

This is the stage where she's spending pretty much ALL her waking hours writing.  She says she expects to be done with Section 7 (the last section of the book) later this week!!  As for what happens next, she described it on Compuserve this way:
Actually, the writing will be succeeded by two weeks of Further Frenzy, but composed of the last bits of answering copy-edits (of the stuff I'm writing right now) and reading the first-pass galleys (which have to be completely done and returned on the 26th).  After which, I'm on call for jury duty for a week. <wry g>  Should be relaxing...

Then several things happen in May--a luncheon on the 6th, a Conversation with George RR [Martin] on the 10th (in Albuquerque), a book festival in Shuswap <g>, followed by a week of promotional Stuff (that I can't talk about, but no, it's not the start date for the series) for Sony.  _THEN_ we get to go to Disneyland. <g>  Can't wait!

But yes, having the writing finished will be a Big, BIG Thing.
Sending her lots of positive writing vibes and plenty of virtual Diet Coke to get her through these last few days of the Final Frenzy!

(And yes, she will certainly announce it publicly when the book is DONE. <g>  Stay tuned!)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Two new videos, and some exciting news!

Check out this new book trailer video about WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD!  I think it's very cool.



Here is Lesson #7 in the "How to Speak OUTLANDER" video series from STARZ. This week's phrase is the Fraser clan motto, "Je suis prest".



Finally, on a personal note: I'm delighted to announce that my mom and I got tickets yesterday to Diana Gabaldon's appearance in Philadelphia on June 17!  We were very lucky; the auditorium seating sold out about ten minutes after tickets went on sale at 10 am.  (They have an overflow seating area where they will be doing a video simulcast of the event, and tickets for that may still be available. Look here for more information.)

This will be my fourth time seeing Diana in person. I can't wait! Hope to see some of you there. <g>  For more information about Diana's book-tour schedule, look here.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #6



Here are this week's Friday Fun Facts about Diana Gabaldon's books.  This is a collection of some of the most popular items from the contest I held recently.

Hedgehog

1) Looking at the spines covering this European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), it certainly seems as though mating would be uncomfortable, to say the least!
"If you’ll not let me be spiritual about it, you’ll have to put up wi’ my baser nature. I’m going to be a beast.” He bit my neck. “Do ye want me to be a horse, a bear, or a dog?”

“A hedgehog.”

“A hedgehog? And just how does a hedgehog make love?” he demanded.

No, I thought. I won’t. I will not. But I did. “Very carefully,” I replied, giggling helplessly. So now we know just how old that one is, I thought.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "We Meet a Beggar". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's a brief BBC video about the mating habits of hedgehogs, narrated by David Attenborough.



For more about hedgehogs, look here.



2) The objects shown above are gaberlunzie badges, like the ones carried by Jamie's friend Hugh Munro. The one on the left is from Huntly Parish, Scotland, and the one on the right comes from Old Aberdeen. (Click on the pictures to enlarge them.)
At one point, Jamie jabbed a thumb at the rectangular bits of lead that adorned Munro's strap.

"Gone official, have ye?" he asked. "Or is that just for when the game is scarce?" Munro bobbed his head and nodded like a jack-in-the-box.

"What are they?" I asked curiously.

"Gaberlunzies."

"Oh, to be sure," I said. "Pardon my asking."

"A gaberlunzie is a license to beg, Sassenach," Jamie explained. "It's good within the borders of the parish, and only on the one day a week when begging's allowed. Each parish has its own, so the beggars from one parish canna take overmuch advantage of the charity of the next."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "We Meet a Beggar". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


3) Here's a video showing how to put on a great kilt, or belted plaid.  And here are step-by-step instructions, with pictures.  (Please note, I can't vouch for the accuracy or the authenticity of either of the methods shown!)

Even Roger seemed to have some difficulty with this:
"All right," he said with resignation. "Laugh if ye must." Getting into a belted plaid wasn't the most dignified thing a man could do, given that the most efficient method was to lie down on the pleated fabric and roll like a sausage on a girdle. Jamie could do it standing up, but then, the man had had practice.

His struggles--rather deliberately exaggerated--were rewarded by Brianna's giggling, which in turn seemed to have a calming effect on the baby. By the time Roger made the final adjustments to his pleats and drapes, mother and child were both flushed, but happy.

Roger made a leg to them, flourishing, and Bree patted her own leg in one-handed applause.

"Terrific," she said, her eyes traveling appreciatively over him. "See Daddy? Pretty Daddy!" She turned Jemmy, who stared openmouthed at the vision of male glory before him and blossomed into a wide, slow smile, a trickle of drool hanging from the pouting curve of his lip.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "The Bard". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Diana Gabaldon has said that the actors in the OUTLANDER TV series will be wearing this type of belted plaid. And if you look closely at Pocket Jamie, you can see that very clearly.



4) The photo above, from Wikipedia, shows what a bodhran looks like. And here is what a bodhran sounds like, when played by an expert.



Thanks very much to my sister Alice, who found this video several years ago. The performer's name is John Joe Kelly, and I think he's terrific!
I sat up, listening hard.  It was a drum with a sound like a beating heart, slow and rhythmic, then trip-hammer fast, like the frantic surge of a hunted beast.

I could have told them that Indians never used drums as weapons; Celts did.  It was the sound of a bodhran.

What next? I thought, a trifle hysterically, bagpipes?

It was Roger, certainly; only he could make a drum talk like that.  It was Roger, and Jamie was nearby.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, chapter 28, "Curses". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


5) Here's an astrolabe from the collection of the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England. Click on the photo to see a bigger view.
It was a flat golden disk, about four inches across. Goggling in astonishment, I could see that the rim was slightly raised, like that of a plate, and printed with tiny symbols of some kind. Set into the central part of the disk was an odd pierced-work arrangement, made of some silvery metal. This consisted of a small open dial, rather like a clock-face, but with three arms connecting its outer rim to the center of the bigger, golden disk.

The small silver circle was also adorned with printed arcana, almost too fine to see, and attached to a lyre-shape which itself rested in the belly of a long, flat silver eel, whose back curved snugly round the inner rim of the golden disk. Surmounting the whole was a gold bar, tapered at the ends like a very thick compass needle, and affixed with a pin that passed through the center of the disk and allowed the bar to revolve. Engraved in flowing script down the center of the bar was the name "James Fraser."

"Why, whatever in the name of Bride will that be?" Mrs. Bug, naturally, recovered first from her surprise.

"It's a planispheric astrolabe," Jamie answered, recovered from his surprise, and sounding almost matter-of-fact.

"Oh, of course," I murmured. "Naturally!"

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 77, "A Package From London". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here's some more information about astrolabes, including how to tell time using an astrolabe and instructions on how to make your own astrolabe.

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.

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
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #5

Thursday, April 10, 2014

OUTLANDER Casting: Steven Cree as Ian Murray!



Scottish actor Steven Cree has been cast as Jamie Fraser's best friend, Ian Murray, in the OUTLANDER TV series!

Here's the official press release from STARZ.

The casting people have done an excellent job, as usual.  I think Steven Cree will do just fine as Ian.  He has a gentle voice, and a good-humored face.  And Sam Heughan commented on Twitter that he's known Steven for years.  I think it's good that Sam and Steven already know each other; that's bound to help them make Jamie and Ian's friendship even more real and convincing on-screen.
In spite of the limp, he moved youthfully. In fact, as he drew near to the arbor,  I could see that he was only in his twenties. He was tall, nearly as tall as Jamie, but much narrower through the shoulder, thin, in fact, nearly to the point of skinniness.

He paused at the entrance to the arbor, leaning heavily on the lattice, and looked in at me with interest. Thick brown hair fell smoothly over a high brow, and deepset brown eyes held a look of patient good humor.

The voices of Jamie and his sister had risen while I waited outside. The windows were open to the warm weather, and the disputants were quite audible from the arbor, though not all the words were clear.

"Interfering, nosy bitch!" came Jamie's voice, loud on the soft evening air.

"Havena the decency to..." His sister's reply was lost in a sudden breeze.

The newcomer nodded easily toward the house.

"Ah, Jamie's home, then."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 26, "The Laird's Return". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I can't wait to see that scene on TV! <g>

You can see Steven Cree's showreel on Vimeo here. And here's an audio recording of his voice.

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

Salon.com article mentions OUTLANDER



Here's an interesting article from Salon.com about readers' preconceived notions about genre:
...all of us, as readers, have stubborn ideas about what kinds of books we’re going to like, and at least some of the time we’re dead wrong.
The article is actually more about Game of Thrones than OUTLANDER, but it contains a link to the 1999 Salon piece about the OUTLANDER series, which is definitely worth reading if you haven't seen it before.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Special offer for UK fans!



Here's a special offer for OUTLANDER fans in the UK!

If you pre-order the hardcover edition of Diana Gabaldon's upcoming novel, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, you'll receive a copy of the special limited-edition excerpt booklet, containing the first seven chapters of the new book!

And yes, it's true that UK fans will get their hands on the book first.  WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD will be published in the UK on 5 June 2014, which is five days before it comes out in the US.

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

Audiobook available for pre-order!



The audio version of Diana Gabaldon's upcoming novel, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, is now available for pre-order!  It's currently listed on Amazon.com for $42.87.

Fans of the OUTLANDER audiobooks will be delighted to hear that this audiobook will be narrated by Davina Porter.  She's a marvelous reader, and she does a wonderful job with all the accents.  I can't wait to add this audiobook to my collection!

PLEASE NOTE:

1) The listing says 33 hours, but that is only an ESTIMATE!  Diana Gabaldon is not quite finished writing the book (although she expects to be done within the next several weeks), and even she does not know yet how long the finished version of the audiobook might be.  So we can expect that estimated recording time to change in the coming weeks.

2) The estimated release date for the audio version is June 10, 2014, the same day that the print and e-book versions will be published in the US and Canada.  This date is also subject to change, but Diana Gabaldon has said repeatedly that Recorded Books will make every effort to get the audiobook out as close as possible to the hardcover publication date.

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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Friday Fun Facts Contest Results!



Here are the results of the Friday Fun Facts Contest!  I received a total of 112 entries in the contest.  Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

The winning entry, chosen with the random number generator at random.org, was submitted by Ed Buffum.  He chose the following items:
  1. How to put on a great kilt
  2. Sporran
  3. Ant rafts
  4. Chambered nautilus
  5. Nuckelavee
Congratulations, Ed! I've sent you an email requesting your mailing address, so I can arrange to have your autographed copy of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD mailed to you when it's published in June.

I really enjoyed seeing everyone's choices, and the reasons why people chose those particular items.  Here are the top 15 items, in order of popularity:

How to put on a great kilt
Gaberlunzies
Forget-me-nots
Hedgehogs mating
Astrolabe
Hairstyle with sailing ship
Beauty marks
Dragonfly in amber
Ley lines
Bodhran
Dunbonnet's cave
Munro bagging
Friesian horses
Kelpies and waterhorses
Aga cooker

I've learned a tremendous amount from the Friday Fun Facts, as I'm sure many of you have, as well. Thanks so much to all of you who've commented on my FFF posts over the last two years, both here and on Compuserve, Facebook, and Twitter. I appreciate that very much.

And last but definitely not least, MANY thanks to Diana Gabaldon, for putting all these fascinating little bits in the books in the first place!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Last day to enter the FFF Contest!



Thanks to everyone who's entered my Friday Fun Facts Contest!  If you haven't yet sent in your entry, time is running out!  The contest ends TODAY (April 5), at midnight Eastern Time.

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

All you have to do is send an email to contest@outlandishobservations.com, 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.

For more information, see the contest announcement here.  The winner will be announced on Sunday.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Friday Fun Facts - 4/4/2014



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

*** PLEASE NOTE: I'm currently running a Friday Fun Facts ContestDeadline for entries is midnight Eastern Time on Saturday, April 5. The winner will be announced on Sunday. Look here for details. ***

In honor of Tartan Day, which is coming up on Saturday, this edition of the Friday Fun Facts is devoted to All Things Scottish!



1) The thistle is Scotland's national flower.  (Photo credit: Valentina, on Flickr.)  From Wikipedia:
Prickles often occur all over the plant – on surfaces such as those of the stem and flat parts of leaves. These are an adaptation that protects the plant against herbivorous animals, discouraging them from feeding on the plant.
According to this site,
Legend has it that at some point during [the invasion of Scotland by the Norse in 1263] the Norsemen tried to surprise the sleeping Scottish Clansmen. In order to move more stealthily under the cover of darkness the Norsemen removed their footwear. But as they crept barefoot they came across an area of ground covered in thistles and one of Haakon's men unfortunately stood on one and shrieked out in pain, thus alerting the Clansmen to the advancing Norsemen.
The thistle has been a national symbol of Scotland ever since. It first appeared on Scottish coins in 1470, during the reign of King James III.



Here's a close-up view. (Photo credit: Craigfaelossie, on Flickr.)
Reaching, he took the package from my lap and tore away the wrapping, revealing a wide silver band, decorated in the Highland interlace style, a small and delicate Jacobean thistle bloom carved in the center of each link.

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

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "Return to Leoch". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And of course, there is a thistle on the cover of the US and Canadian editions of OUTLANDER.  Very appropriate! <g>



2) The sgian dubh is a small knife, traditionally worn in a Highlander's stocking.  The photo above shows a reproduction of a late-18th-century sgian dubh, with a 3 1/2-inch blade.
"Jamie,” I said. My voice was hoarse with sleep and swallowed tears. “Jamie. I want you to mark me.”

“What?” he said, startled.

The tiny sgian dhu he carried in his stocking was lying within reach, its handle of carved staghorn dark against the piled clothing. I reached for it and handed it to him.

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

His hand was over mine where it rested on the knife’s hilt. After a moment, he squeezed it and nodded. He hesitated for a moment, the razor-sharp blade in his hand, and I offered him my right hand.

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


This photo shows how the sgian dubh is traditionally worn, tucked inside the stocking. (Photo credit: M&J Hos, on Flickr.)  For more information, look here.



3) This is the Kirk of the Canongate, located near the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. (Photo credit: Son of Groucho, on Flickr.)  According to the kirk's website,
The Canongate kirkyard is the resting place of several Edinburgh notables including the economist Adam Smith, the philosopher and Smith’s biographer Dugald Stewart, Agnes Maclehose (the “Clarinda” of Robert Burns), David Rizzio, the murdered private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the poet Robert Fergusson, whose statue in bronze by David Annand stands outside the kirk gate.



You may recall that Jamie and Claire encountered Colum MacKenzie there, shortly before Colum's death. (Photo credit: Oscar Palmer, on Flickr.)
We found Colum in the kirkyard, sitting on a stone bench where the late afternoon sun could warm his back. His blackthorn stick lay on the bench beside him, and his short, bowed legs dangled a few inches above the ground. Shoulders hunched and head bowed in thought, at a distance he looked like a gnome, a natural inhabitant of this man-made rock garden, with its tilted stones and creeping lichens.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 37, "Holyrood". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


4) This is John Loudon McAdam (1756-1836), a Scottish engineer and road-builder who invented a process for building a smooth, durable road surface, which became known as "macadam".
McAdam discovered that as long as the roadbed remained dry, it could handle any amount of traffic, in any kind of weather -- while wagon-wheels and horses' hooves constantly pressing crushed gravel into the road actually made it firmer and stronger. The macadamized road, as it became known, soon criscrossed most of England and parts of southern Scotland, as it allowed wagons and carriages to travel as fast as horses could pull them.

(From HOW THE SCOTS INVENTED THE MODERN WORLD by Arthur Herman, chapter 12, "Scots in Science and Industry". Copyright© 2001 by Arthur Herman.)
Remember Claire telling Jamie about this?
"The roads will be paved then; not cobbled, covered with a hard, smooth stuff--invented by a Scotsman called MacAdam, in fact.”

He grunted slightly with amusement.

“So there will be Scots in America, then? That’s good."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "In Which We Meet a Ghost". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The modern word "tarmac", short for "tar and macadam", has its roots in McAdam's process.



This illustration shows a construction crew building the first macadam road in the US, in Maryland in 1823.



5) Here's "Flower of Scotland", performed by the Corries, circa 1975.  This song, Scotland's unofficial national anthem, was written by Roy Williamson of the Corries in 1967.  I love the scene in THE FIERY CROSS where Roger performs this song for the people on the Ridge.
It was a solemn song, that one, and melancholy. But not a song of grief, for all that; one of remembrance, of pride and determination. It wasn't even a legitimately ancient song--Roger knew the man who'd written it, in his own time--but Jamie had heard it, and knowing the history of Stirling and Bannockburn, strongly approved the sentiment.

"And stood against him,
Proud Edward's army,
And sent him homeward
Tae think again."


The Scottish members of the crowd let him sing alone through the verse, but voices lifted softly, then louder, in the refrain.

"And sent him ho-omeward...
Tae think again!"


(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Playing with Fire". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more information about the historical background of the song, look here.  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!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Friday Fun Facts Contest ends Saturday!



Thanks to everyone who's entered my Friday Fun Facts Contest!  I've received 64 entries so far, and I'm really enjoying seeing what everyone's favorite FFF items are. I'm still hoping that more people will participate. If you haven't yet sent in your entry, time is running out!  The contest ends on Saturday, April 5, at midnight Eastern Time.

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

All you have to do is send an email to contest@outlandishobservations.com, 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.

For more information, see the contest announcement here.  Please pass the word to anyone else you know who may be interested. Thanks!