Friday, August 28, 2015

Outlandish Observations is 7 years old!

Seven years ago today, I started Outlandish Observations!

I had two goals in mind when I started this blog. The first was simply to learn about blogging. The second was to create a central repository for news and information for OUTLANDER fans, a place where people could go to find answers to commonly asked questions, links to other OUTLANDER-related sites, and the latest information on Diana Gabaldon's new and upcoming releases.

To say that this blog has succeeded far beyond my wildest imaginings is a severe understatement! In the beginning, I never expected anyone to visit my site except a few dozen of my friends from the Compuserve Books and Writers Community and LOL.  I didn't talk about it on Compuserve for the first couple of years, because I was very reluctant to draw attention to it where Diana Gabaldon could see -- which seems silly in retrospect, but it's true.  Suffice it to say that I did get over that shyness, eventually. <g>

Since the premiere of the OUTLANDER TV series, daily traffic on my site has gone way, way up! The average number of daily visitors over the past year was 1,405, compared to 848 the previous year (an increase of 65.7%!)

Special thanks to all of my followers on the Outlandish Observations Facebook page! Last year at this time I had 5,455 followers on Facebook. Today that number is 7,063, an increase of 29.5%! I'm amazed and delighted that so many new people have found my site in recent months. Welcome, and I hope you take some time to look around and see what else is available here.

Outlandish Observations was one of the first successful OUTLANDER-related blogs. These days there are dozens and dozens of fan-sites, Facebook groups, and so on. The more the merrier, as far as I'm concerned! <g> I'm proud to be a part of such a thriving, creative, and enthusiastic worldwide community of fans, united in our passion for these books and characters and this amazing story Diana Gabaldon has created.

I'm delighted to see so many new people discovering OUTLANDER as a result of the TV series! Here are the links to my Season 1 episode recaps, for those of you who may have missed them:

Episode 101: "Sassenach"
Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
Episode 103: "The Way Out"
Episode 104: "The Gathering"
Episode 105: "Rent"
Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
Episode 107: "The Wedding"
Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"
Episode 109: "The Reckoning"
Episode 110: "By the Pricking of My Thumbs"
Episode 111: "The Devil's Mark"
Episode 112: "Lallybroch"
Episode 113: "The Watch"
Episode 114: "The Search"
Episode 115: "Wentworth Prison"
Episode 116: "To Ransom a Man's Soul"

No question about it, this is a very exciting time for OUTLANDER fans everywhere! It's quite a challenge to keep up with everything that's going on these days, and I hope you're finding this site helpful.

Many, many thanks to all of you who've visited Outlandish Observations over the past seven years. It's been an amazing journey, and I'm so glad you've come along for the ride.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Diana Gabaldon talks about writing her OUTLANDER script!

Diana Gabaldon has posted a very long and detailed explanation on her Facebook page about the process of writing a script for the OUTLANDER TV series.  (She is writing episode 211, the third-to-last episode of Season 2.)

I found it fascinating, and I would really encourage all of you to take the time to read the whole thing!

Sunday, August 23, 2015


Looking for something new to add to your OUTLANDER book collection?

Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDISH COMPANION Volume 1 (Revised and Updated Edition) was published on March 31, 2015.  If you haven't read it already, I would definitely recommend it!

The OUTLANDISH COMPANION Volume 2 will be published on October 27, 2015.  It's available for pre-order from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

For more information about both of these books, please see my OUTLANDISH COMPANION FAQ page.  I hope you find it useful.  Please pass the link on to any other OUTLANDER fans you may know.  Thanks!

Monday, August 17, 2015

7,000 followers on Facebook!

I'm celebrating a blogging milestone today: My Outlandish Observations Facebook page now has 7,000 followers!!

THANK YOU ALL!! I really appreciate your support!

OUTLANDER and online clicking contests

The latest OUTLANDER voting frenzy (the RadioTimes "SciFi Champion" contest) reached new heights of absurdity in recent days, with a round pitting Sam Heughan against Caitriona Balfe (!)

Asking fans to choose between Sam and Caitriona is sort of like asking which of your children is your favorite, and it just seems like a waste of time and effort to me.  (For what it's worth, it appears Sam won that round.)

I can think of several reasons why these contests keep popping up:

1) It's good publicity for the show and the actors.

2) They help keep up the fans' interest and excitement during #Droughtlander.

3) They might help STARZ attract more subscribers.

4) They generate massive numbers of clicks (and presumably advertising revenue) for the sponsoring site.

I'm cynical enough to think that the last reason outweighs all the others, but I could be wrong.

Some of you may remember Audible's 2012 Tournament of Audiobooks, where FIERY CROSS made it to the final round, but then it turned into such a frenzy of clicking (on both sides) that Diana Gabaldon very graciously conceded the race, rather than have her fans waste hours and hours of their time in a futile effort to catch up.

Do you participate in these OUTLANDER-related online contests, like the Radio Times contest or the Ewwys?  If not, why not?  If a contest allows unlimited repeat voting, how many times do you personally vote?  (Just once, or a handful of times, or hundreds of times?)  Do you encourage other fans to vote?  I'd like to hear what you think (pro or con).  Please leave a comment here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page.

Personally, I don't participate in these online "click-fests".  It's OK with me if others enjoy them, but I have better things to do with my time.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

OUTLANDER Soundtrack Vol. 2 coming Sept. 25!

Volume 2 of the OUTLANDER Soundtrack, featuring music by Emmy-nominated composer Bear McCreary, will be released on September 25, 2015.

You can pre-order from Amazon or iTunes.  (Note to those of you outside the US: I have no information on international availability.)

Here's a preview of the extended version of the "Skye Boat Song" (OUTLANDER's opening theme music) which will be included in Volume 2.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Best of the Friday Fun Facts: DRAGONFLY IN AMBER

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.

As we wait for OUTLANDER Season 2, I thought it might be fun to take a closer look at DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, so this week's collection is taken entirely from that book.  Hope you enjoy it!

1) Remember the scene in DRAGONFLY where Jamie and Fergus are playing with a ball-and-cup toy called a bilboquet?
Jamie was lying on the carpet in the sitting room when I came back to the house, with a small boy sitting cross-legged on the floor beside him. Jamie was holding a bilboquet in one hand, and had the other poised over one eye.

“Of course I can,” he was saying. “Anyday and twice on Sundays. Watch.”

Placing the hand over his eye, he fixed the other piercingly on the bilboquet and gave the ivory cup a toss. The tethered ball leaped from its socket into an arc, and dropped as though guided by radar, landing back in its cup with a snug little plop.

“See?” he said, removing the hand from his eye. He sat up and handed the cup to the boy. “Here, you try it."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "L'Hopital des Anges". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I saw this in a gift shop in Colonial Williamsburg in 2008. Naturally, the moment I saw it, I decided I had to have one. It's not nearly as easy as it looks! <g>  Here's a quick demo.

The bilboquet shown above may not look exactly like the French version mentioned in DRAGONFLY, but the basic idea is the same. If you want to try it yourself, you can order one here

2) This is what foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) looks like.  According to Wikipedia,
The scientific name means "finger-like" and refers to the ease with which a flower of Digitalis purpurea can be fitted over a human fingertip.
The entire foxglove plant is toxic, including its roots and seeds, but its medicinal benefits have been known for centuries.
The use of D. purpurea extract containing cardiac glycosides for the treatment of heart conditions was first described in the English-speaking medical literature by William Withering, in 1785....It is used to increase cardiac contractility...and as an antiarrhythmic agent to control the heart rate, particularly in the irregular (and often fast) atrial fibrillation. Digitalis is hence often prescribed for patients in atrial fibrillation, especially if they have been diagnosed with congestive heart failure.
Claire treated Alex Randall with digitalis in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, when he was dying of consumption.
I couldn’t bear the look of his chest, heaving under its impossible burden, and I gently closed his shirt and fastened the tie at the neck. One long, white hand grasped mine.

"How long?" he said. His tone was light, almost unconcerned, displaying no more than a mild curiosity.

“I don’t know,” I said. “That’s the truth. I don’t know."

"But not long," he said, with certainty.

"No. Not long. Months perhaps, but almost surely less than a year."

"Can you...stop the coughing?"

I reached for my kit. "Yes. I can help it, at least. And the heart palpitations; I can make you a digitalin extract that will help." I found the small packet of dried foxglove leaves; it would take a little time to brew them.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 39, "Family Ties". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
For more about foxglove, look here and here.

Vintage Fan: 18th Century French c1750 - Pastorelle in the style of Watteau with skin mount, stick mother of pearl, finely pierced, carved and embossed with a sacrificial scene in gold

3) The fan was an important fashion accessory for upper-class ladies in the 18th century. The one above is from France, circa 1750. (Photo credit: CharmaineZoe, on Flickr.  Click on the photo for a bigger view.)
"Men,” I told him, “have no notion of fashion. But not to worry. The seamstress says that’s what the fan is for.” I flipped the matching lace-trimmed fan open with a gesture that had taken fifteen minutes’ practice to perfect, and fluttered it enticingly over my bosom.

Jamie blinked meditatively at this performance, then turned to take my cloak from the wardrobe.

“Do me the one favor, Sassenach,” he said, draping the heavy velvet over my shoulders. “Take a larger fan."

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "The Splendors of Versailles". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

This exquisitely detailed 18th century French fan is an example of a style called "brisé", painted scenes placed on individual ivory sticks, held together by an interlacing ribbon.  Click on the photo to see more close-up views. (Photo credit: Paris Chateau)

Look here for some interesting information about the "language of the fan" in the 18th century.  For more information about the types of fans used in the 18th century, look here.

4) Remember the skeletons that Jamie and Claire found in a cave in France, with their arms locked about one another?  I was stunned to learn that there really was such a Neolithic couple, discovered in a cave in Italy in 2007 -- a full fifteen years after DRAGONFLY was published!  I think the picture above is just amazing.
"There." He pointed to a spot near the cavern entrance. The rocks there were brown with dust and age, but not rusty with water and erosion, like those deeper in the cave.

"That was the entrance, once," he said. "The rocks fell once before, and sealed this place." He turned back and rested a hand on the rocky outcrop that shielded the lovers from the light.

"They must have felt their way around the cave, hand in hand," I said. "Looking for a way out, in the dust and the dark."

"Aye." He rested his forehead against the stone, eyes closed. "And the light was gone, and the air failed them. And so they lay down in the dark to die."  The tears made wet tracks through the dust on his cheeks. I brushed a hand beneath my own eyes, and took his free hand, carefully weaving my fingers with his.

He turned to me, wordless, and the breath rushed from him as he pulled me hard against him. Our hands groped in the dying light of the setting sun, urgent in the touch of warmth, the reassurance of flesh, reminded by the hardness of the invisible bone beneath the skin, how short life is.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 29, "To Grasp the Nettle". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I asked Diana Gabaldon once on Compuserve if she had any comments about this story of the Neolithic couple found in the cave in 2007, and she said, "I saw a similar picture (though I don't recall where that particular cave was) in a National Geographic magazine, lo, these many years ago, and it stuck in my mind--as such a thing naturally would."

5) Rose madder is a red pigment made from the roots of a plant called Rubia tinctorum.  It has been used since ancient times to make red dyes, and in fact, rose madder was used to dye British soldiers' uniform coats from the late 17th century until about 1870.

I thought the use of it in DRAGONFLY was pretty clever:
And should any doubt remain, the madder-stained urine gave an absolutely perfect illusion of a man pissing blood as the smallpox attacked his kidneys.

“Christ!” Jamie had exclaimed, startled despite himself at the first demonstration of the herb’s efficacy.

“Oh, jolly good!” I said, peering over his shoulder at the white porcelain chamber pot and its crimson contents. “That’s better than I expected.”

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "The Best-Laid Plans of Mice and Men...". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I was surprised to learn that it is traditional in the country of Georgia to dye Easter eggs a deep blood-red color using rose madder, as shown in the photo above.

I hope you enjoyed this 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
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #5
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #6
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #7
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #8
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #9
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #10
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #11
Best of the Friday Fun Facts: Collection #12

Look here to see all of my Friday Fun Facts blog posts.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

One year later!

Today is the first anniversary of OUTLANDER's official premiere on STARZ, on August 9, 2014.

Diana Gabaldon said on Twitter recently that this has been "One Weird Year" <g>, and I wholeheartedly agree with that!

I thought it might be fun to talk about how things have changed since the TV series premiered.

How has the TV series affected your life personally, or OUTLANDER fandom in general, or your experience of reading the books? Have you gotten friends or family members to watch the series? Did you discover Diana Gabaldon's books as a result of the TV show? Have you attended any of Sam or Caitriona's public appearances? Do you picture the actors now when you read or listen to the books? etc. etc.

Here are a few of my own reactions:

1) I have been AMAZED ("astounded" might be a better word) at how fast the OUTLANDER fan community has grown since the series premiered. The average number of daily visitors to my Outlandish Observations blog over the past year is twice what it was the year before.  (Thank you all!)

2) I'm delighted with the way the TV-series discussions on Compuserve turned out! Keeping up with all the posts during both parts of Season 1 was a huge challenge for me personally, and it really did turn into a full-time job for a while, but it was totally worth it.

3) I have an almost-life-size cardboard Jamie in my house, something that most assuredly would never have happened without the TV series. <g>

Once again, I want to take the opportunity to say a heartfelt THANK YOU!! to Diana Gabaldon, Ron Moore, Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, and everyone else involved in the production!

What about the rest of you? Feel free to leave a comment here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

OUTLANDER marks a full year on the NY Times Bestseller List!

Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER has now been on the New York Times Bestseller List for 52 straight weeks! Congratulations, Diana!!  That's quite an accomplishment!

Here's the latest list of mass-market paperback bestsellers. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to see OUTLANDER.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Diana Gabaldon is writing a new novella!

Diana Gabaldon mentioned on Goodreads the other day that she is writing a new novella!

As soon as I saw the reference in that post to "18th century bookselling and spies", I thought of Hal's wife Minnie in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, and this pair of scenes.

First, from Lord John's point of view:
"Minnie," [Hal] said.

"What?" Grey said, uncomprehending. His sister-in-law was a kind, pretty woman, who managed his difficult brother with great aplomb, but what--

"My secret weapon," Hal admitted, still smiling at whatever thought amused him. "Her father was Raphael Wattiswade."

"I've never heard of Raphael Wattiswade."

"You weren't meant to," his brother assured him, "and neither was anyone else. Wattiswade was a dealer in rare books--traveled to and from the Continent regularly, under the name Andrew Rennie. He was also a dealer in intelligence. A spymaster...who had no sons."

Grey looked at his brother for a moment.

"Tell me," he begged, "that her father did not employ Minnie as a spy."

"He did, the scrofulous old bugger," Hal replied briefly. "I caught her in my study one night during a party, magicking the locked drawer of my desk. That's how I met her."

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 2, "Erse". Copyright ©2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And then, from Jamie's point of view:
He’d known her as Mina Rennie; God knew what her real name was. She’d been the seventeen-year-old daughter of a bookseller in Paris who dealt in information and more than once had carried messages between her father and Jamie, during his days of intrigue there before the Rising. Paris seemed as distant as the planet Jupiter. The distance between a young spy and a duchess seemed even greater.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 8, "Debts of Honor". Copyright ©2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
So it sounds like we will get to see more of Minnie and her mysterious father -- and we may also learn how Jamie became acquainted with them during the time that he and Claire were living in Paris, in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER.

I think Minnie is an intriguing character, and I'm looking forward to learning more about her.

This as-yet-untitled story is a novella (a shorter piece, like "The Space Between" or "The Custom of the Army"), not a full-length book.  And that's all I know about it.  I'll post more details as they become available.

In case you're wondering, yes, of course Diana Gabaldon is also working on Book 9!  As well as the script for episode 211 of the OUTLANDER TV series.  She says she prefers to work on multiple projects at once, because it keeps her from getting writer's block.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Diana Gabaldon explains the book production process

Diana Gabaldon is in the very final stages of working on the OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume 2, which will be published on October 27, 2015.

Here's her explanation of what the production process involves. I think you'll agree that it's exhausting just to read about! (Yes, I was the one who suggested that she repost this, and I'm thrilled to be called "delightful"!)

For more information about the OUTLANDISH COMPANION books, please see my OUTLANDISH COMPANION FAQ page.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

July poll results

Here are the results of the July poll, which asked the question, "What's your favorite way to read or listen to Diana Gabaldon's books?"
  • 21.17% - Reading the books in paperback.
  • 20.87% - Reading on my Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader.
  • 17.96% - Reading the books in hardcover.
  • 8.45% - Reading on my iPhone, iPad, or similar device.
  • 8.45% - Listening to the audiobooks on my iPod, smartphone, or other portable device.
  • 4.17% - It depends on the situation, or what mood I'm in.
  • 2.91% - Listening to the audiobook and following along in the text at the same time.
  • 2.14% - Listening to the CDs.
  • 9.71% - All of the above.
  • 1.55% - I haven't read the books, but I've watched the OUTLANDER TV series.
  • 2.62% - Other
Here are the responses for "Other":
  • braille audio
  • Watching the DVD
  • All of the above and TV!
  • First time through - I read hardcover - then audio - later paperback...
  • I first read a new book in hardback and then have paperbacks for re-reading.
  • I switch - reading on iPad & listening on Audible
  • Read most of them as ebooks but book 7 & 8 read in hardcover.
  • whatever I have on hand when I need a Jamie and Claire fix!
  • Read the series before electronics, but would use my kindle now.
  • side by side in bed with my husband
  • Paperbacks or Kindle. Although I do have MOBY in hardback.
  • no audio books, but everything else
  • Until e-readers, I began the series in hardback. Loved it, bought 5 in ppbk.
  • I read on my iPad and switch to the audiobook version when I am on the go
  • reading the books in any form. I can't get into the audio books. I
  • And watched on Starz. Great show follows book pretty well.
  • No distinction but def'ly book form.
  • I listen to Audiobooks with Davina Porter
  • listening on my ipod or reading on my Kindle
  • On my nook or my phone
  • Either paperback or hardcover.
  • Reading the books in the large paperback version.
  • reading the books first, then listening to Davina Porter reading them to me! :-)
  • Any printed version.
  • 1, 2 & 3
  • I also like to buy a used paperback, separate sections, and take one or more wit
  • I hat to step away from the books in order to enjoy the TV show.
There were 1030 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated! I didn't vote in the poll myself, but I've been addicted to the OUTLANDER audiobooks for years.

Please take a moment to vote in the August poll, which asks how long you've been reading Diana Gabaldon's books. Thanks!