Friday, August 31, 2018

OUTLANDER Season 4 key art!

STARZ released the official OUTLANDER Season 4 "key art" today! This is the promotional image that will be used to advertise Season 4.

Here are a few of my first impressions:

- The mountains in the background could certainly be North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains, though they don't look blue in this light. (For comparison purposes, here's a photo of the mountains near Asheville, NC, not too far from where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located.) That's not a complaint. Given the overall effect they were going for, it wouldn't make sense to show the mountains in full sunlight. They are definitely recognizable, though, which counts for a lot, if you ask me.

- Jamie has traded his sword and dirk for a musket. That's very appropriate!

- J&C are holding hands. <g> That signals to me that all's right with their relationship this season, that there won't be so much conflict between them as we've seen in the past. (At least I hope so!)

- The overcast skies are somewhat foreboding. There's danger ahead.  "Brave the New World" gives that impression, too -- settling in North Carolina will be a risky venture, full of unknown dangers and situations they've never faced before. The whole picture does a good job of portraying that.

- My sense is that they're looking toward the future -- but they're also standing on a precipice, and it could collapse at any moment. IMHO that's not a bad image for this point in the story, where they are starting on this phase of their lives with hope and optimism, but also with the knowledge that war will be coming within a few short years.

Kudos to the STARZ team!  I think they did a good job with this. What do the rest of you think?

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Interview with Diana Gabaldon, Part 2

Here's Part 2 of my interview with Diana Gabaldon.  (You can see Part 1 here.)

I'm not a writer of fiction, but I love it when Diana explains various writing techniques. So I thought it would be interesting to explore this particular one. I was astounded, and very grateful, that Diana replied in such detail!

Be sure to click on the links about halfway through this post to read the examples from the text.


If you haven't read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD (Book 8 of the OUTLANDER series), you may encounter spoilers below.

I was listening recently to the section of MOHB that deals with the Battle of Monmouth. It must be quite a challenge to write a complex series of scenes like that, with so many moving parts and different characters involved. Are there specific techniques that you use in writing battle scenes in particular, to give a sense of immediacy or heighten the dramatic tension?

Managing a complex situation in fiction comes down essentially to Point of View.  You have to know whose head you’re in, and stay firmly there. Until you change to a different point-of-view character, that is…

Who the point-of-view character is determines what kind of detail will be available to you, and guides the shape and flow of those periods of the text that belong to that specific character.

For example (as you mention the Battle of Monmouth section of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD), the first thing I considered was whose viewpoint(s) to use in depicting it.  I’d read several accounts of the battle, including a very detailed step-by-step description provided by one of Osprey’s Men-at-War books, so I knew the general character of the battle:  it was a huge military encounter, involving more than 10,000 troops on either side, multiple commanders, and a ragged, rolling terrain that didn’t accommodate the standard eighteenth-century military formations and positioning At All.

(No one chose the ground on which to fight; that particular stretch of farmland was just where Washington’s troops caught up with General Clinton’s troops, who were retreating from Philadelphia with a large number of fleeing Loyalists (and their property) under the army’s protection.)

It was also a very long battle, fought from slightly before daybreak until well after dark, on one of the hottest days known (temperatures were estimated--ex post facto--at over a hundred degrees during the hottest part of the day). And it was an indecisive battle: neither side “won”--the British withdrew with their dependents and baggage trains and retired toward New York (which is what they’d been doing when the Americans attacked), and the Americans staggered back to their camps to recover, tend the wounded, and bury their dead. The significance of the battle, though, was subtle but Very Important--the Americans didn’t lose. This discomfited the British extremely, and heartened the Americans to an equal degree, enabling Washington to pursue his campaign.

OK, so we have a very complex mess to describe. Obviously, no one person could possibly see enough of the battle to have any idea how it was going, let alone what strategy was in use. So I knew from the start that I’d need more than one viewpoint character, and could then switch among them as needed to give their separate takes on what was happening to them, and the reader would get both the necessary information as to what was happening overall, and the sense of chaos and struggle that marked the day.

Obviously, Jamie Fraser had to be one of those characters; he’s a central figure of the story, and he’s a trained and very experienced soldier. So I contrived a way for him to be in command of a sizable (though informal) company of militia during the battle. Militia companies were normally fairly small bands of thirty to fifty men, who signed up for short enlistments and returned to their farms or businesses when the enlistment period ran out, and a great many militia companies joined the American army just before this battle--not all of them were documented, and thus it was entirely plausible for the temporarily-appointed General Fraser to be in command of several.

So, Jamie would naturally see combat, both personally and as a commander. He’d be in communication with other commanders, and would know the proposed strategy, as well as specific moving goals as the battle was going on. And he’d be interacting with the soldiers under his command and responding to emergencies.  [NB:  Notice, through these examples, the sort of details that each character is conscious of and how they respond to them.]

Example #1 (Jamie in the cider orchard)

Then, of course, I wanted Claire. Both because she’d never leave Jamie on a battlefield alone again, and because as a surgeon, she’d have a completely different view of the battle. She’d be handling the wounded who came off the field, in a series of medical procedures/emergencies, but would also have a general sense of the battle as a whole, gained from the things the wounded men told her while she was treating them.

Example #2 (Claire tending the wounded at Tennent Church)

But we can’t overlook the other side of the conflict. What’s going on, on the British side? Well, we have a choice of POV characters on that side:  William, Lord John, and Hal. I used both William and Lord John (Lord John’s thread has been running through the whole book and the punch in the eye Jamie gave him at the beginning is affecting what happens to him throughout the battle and its aftermath). But while Jamie and Claire are carrying out fairly orthodox roles in the battle--a general in command/soldier on the field and a combat medic at a static aid station on the edge of the conflict--William and Lord John aren’t.

William’s been relieved of duty and Lord John is essentially trying to stay alive long enough to reach the British lines. Both of them, in storytelling terms, can drop in or pass through just about any situation I need or want. They aren’t compelled to follow orders or fight through a set conflict; we get a revolving set of pictures of the British side of the conflict and its various personalities from them.

And finally, there’s Ian Murray, Jamie’s nephew. He’s a scout for the American side, so is not fighting on the ground, but--like William and Lord John--can occur just about anywhere during the battle. And like William and Lord John, he’s fighting a personal battle (whereas Jamie and Claire are fighting the more usual kind of battle involving troops and military movements).

So Jamie and Claire are providing a more or less structured view of things, while William, John and Ian are giving us the smaller, vivid glimpses that add both to the overall picture of the situation and to the encompassing sense of chaos. Or at least we hope that’s what happened…

And to close this exegesis <g>--note that each character involved in this battle has his or her own arc within the battle: how they enter the battle, what happens to them, what decisions they make and what actions they take--and finally, how (and how altered) they emerge at the end of the fight.

Many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for taking the time for this very interesting interview! I really appreciate it.

Part 1 of the interview is here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Outlandish Observations is 10 years old!

Outlandish Observations turns 10 years old today!!

I started this blog on August 28, 2008, with two goals in mind. 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 (now and the Ladies of Lallybroch fan-site.  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>

Special thanks to all of my followers on the Outlandish Observations Facebook page! Last year at this time I had 9,604 followers on Facebook. Today that number is 10,876, an increase of 13.24%! I'm delighted that so many new people have found my site in recent months. Welcome! 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, that is now being brought to life on TV.

I'm delighted to see so many new people discovering OUTLANDER as a result of the TV series!  In case you're wondering, yes, I will be posting weekly recaps of the Season 4 episodes once the show resumes in November, just as I've done for the first three seasons. Look here for my episode recaps.

In celebration of this 10th anniversary, I have a special treat for all of you: my first-ever interview with Diana Gabaldon! I did my best to come up with questions that are somewhat different from the sorts of things that everybody always asks her, and I am just DELIGHTED with her responses! (The photo above is from our first meeting, at a book-signing in Maryland in 2009.)

Part 1 of the interview is here.  Part 2 is here. Hope you enjoy it!

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


Interview with Diana Gabaldon, Part 1

In celebration of the 10th anniversary of Outlandish Observations, I'm very pleased to bring you my first-ever interview with Diana Gabaldon!

Frankly, the idea of interviewing Diana Gabaldon was a little nervewracking for me at first, even though I've known her online since 2007 and we interact almost daily on (formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community).  I've never interviewed anyone before, and it took me a while to decide what questions to ask. I did my best to come up with questions that are somewhat different from the usual things people always ask her.  I'm just DELIGHTED with her answers, and I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I did!

(The photo above is from my first meeting with Diana, at a book-signing in Maryland in 2009.)

You've published a number of novellas and shorter pieces in the last few years. What do you see as the advantages of the shorter format, for you as a writer?

They're shorter. <g> I.e., I can finish one in much less time than the four to five years it takes for one of the Big Books. Basically, it's a bit of a mental vacation to deal with something that's very interesting, but on a smaller scale--and offers a quicker gratification in completing it. The novellas offer me the opportunity to go explore the byways of minor characters and interesting storylines that lie outside either the temporal or the logistical reach of the Big Books.

Do you still write in "pieces" when you're working on a novella or short story, or is it more of a straight-line process?

I always write in disconnected pieces, no matter what I’m writing; that’s just how my mind works. (I had one interviewer recently pause for a long moment after I’d answered one of her questions--obviously thumbing down her list--and then say, “I had a lot more questions, but you seem to have answered most of them already, while you were answering the one I asked you.” I apologized <g>, and explained that I inherited my digressive story-telling from my father--he’d begin (usually at the dinner table) with a recollection of someone from his past, and would start telling you a story about them--but every second paragraph or so, something he’d said would start a digression that added social context or personal opinion or associated history or data on location, and then without missing a beat, the story would swerve back onto its main track--until the next digression a minute later.) As I always tell people, “There’s a reason why I write long books; it’s because I like digression.”

You've made very effective use of Twitter and Facebook in recent years, and many fans are addicted to your #DailyLines. How has the rise of social media affected the way you interact with your readers and fans? With your busy schedule, where do you find the time?

Well, social media has sort of grown up around me. Back in 1985, I first went “online” (a concept that really didn’t exist in the popular consciousness yet) when I got an assignment to write a software review for BYTE magazine, and they sent with the software a disk for a trial membership with CompuServe (aside from government services like DARPA, “online” in the mid-80’s basically consisted of three “information services”: Delphi, Genie and CompuServe), so I could poke into the support forum the software vendors had set up there, and mention it in my review.

After writing the review, I had a few hours of free connect time left (in a time when you were charged $30 an hour for using CompuServe—at 300 baud, dial-up), and so I started poking around to see what else was available. I stumbled into the CompuServe Literary Forum.

This was not (as people sometimes assume) a writer’s group. It was a group of people who liked books. There were a few writers there, of course, both established and aspiring, but the main focus was simply on books: reading, impact, thinking in response to reading--and it was also just a fertile ground in which enormous, digressive and fascinating conversations could flourish (there was one truly remarkable conversation that became known as “the Great Dildo Thread,” that went on for months…).

Anyway, that was where social media (which didn’t exist as a concept yet, though plainly it existed in fact) and I met. The next step was my website, established in 1994 (I think I was the first author to build a website for readers--and my eternal thanks to Rosana Madrid Gatti, who generously did the hard work of making and running the site; I sent her material and she’d post it for me (this was a looong time before WordPress and other blogging software made it possible for anybody to communicate directly with the world online).

I did the website mostly in response to reader’s enthusiasm; I got a LOT of mail (regular letters) about the books, from people being complimentary, asking questions, taking issue with various aspects--but all of them wanted to know more: why did Claire do this, where did I find out about botanical medicine, did people really do that…and most particularly--when was the next book coming out.

So the website was a means of answering reader questions--both for the readers who had asked those questions, and for the entertainment of other readers who perhaps hadn’t thought of those questions, but would be interested in the answers. The benefit of only having to type an answer once (many people naturally ask the same questions) was obvious--as was the benefit of being able to inform people of pub dates, book-signings, etc.

So, knowing the benefits of such a channel, when other channels became available--AOL, for instance--I’d use them, at least briefly, and see whether they seemed helpful. Some were, some weren’t--I never bothered with MySpace, and in fact, it took some time for me to try Facebook (which I still use sparingly; I never go anywhere on Facebook other than my own page, and it’s what they call a “celebrity” page, which means that I don’t take “friend” requests. Nor, I’m afraid, can I read the private messages that people kindly leave me there--at the moment, the page has more than 700,000 members (or whatever you call regular visitors), and if only one percent of them send me messages…that’s 7,000 messages. There’s no way I can even read that many messages, let alone respond to them.

Twitter also proved to be very useful; it provides instant access to a lot of people--and more valuable than that, it provides organic replication. If you post something interesting, many, many more people will see it, beyond the people who actually follow you. And it’s very good for making short-term announcements or asking urgent questions, because somewhere in the world, the person who can answer that question is awake and reading Twitter. <g>

What's the most challenging, or frustrating, or difficult part of your role as consultant on the TV series? (I understand there are things you can't talk about, but can you comment on this in general?)

Well, frustrations are of two types: 1) when a scriptwriter has done something that I think is not consistent with a character’s…er, character, and I can’t get them (“them” meaning not just the scriptwriter, but the production team in general) to change it, and 2) when they’ve shot something absolutely beautiful, in terms of acting, honesty, emotion, etc.--and then cut it out of the finished episode.

What's the most fun part?

The fun lies in seeing something remarkable evolve from a huge number of component parts, day by day by day. It’s like watching a forest grow in stop-motion time that speeds everything up.

Would you be interested in writing another script for the TV show, after BEES is done?

Yes, I would. It was a deeply interesting (if occasionally frustrating) experience. Script-writing is a very collaborative process, in which the script writer ultimately does not have complete control over the final product, which may have been rewritten several times by different people. That’s a very different experience from being a solitary god, as novelists are. <g> But it’s a fascinating experience, both in the consultation and writing (and revision and revision and revision…) and in the eventual final result: the filming. Filming is long, tedious, hard work--but very entertaining.

As the OUTLANDER TV series approaches its fourth season, we're starting to see many more readers who've found your books as a result of the TV show. Aside from the effect on book sales (which must be considerable <g>), I'm interested to hear what you think about that. Do you find that people who found the TV show first tend to have different expectations, or different reactions to the books?

People who’ve read the books first definitely have different reactions to the show <g>, but I don’t think the reverse is really true. I haven’t heard a lot of show-first people express any sense of shock or disapproval as to things happening in the books--they expect to see an expanded version of the story, with a lot more detail and more storylines, and that’s what they get.

Many OUTLANDER fans, including myself, have re-read (or re-listened to) your books many, many times. Do you have a favorite author or authors whose books you re-read often, and if so, what is it about those books that makes them stand up well to re-reading?

Yes, dozens. Right now, I’m re-reading all of Dorothy L. Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey novels, for probably the twentieth time. (I continue to enjoy them, but to be honest, I’m re-reading them now because I can put them down easily in order to work.)

James Lee Burke would be another one, though I haven’t re-read his Dave Robicheaux novels as often as Sayers.

And then there are Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels--I’ve read the series maybe three times, but listened to it on audio probably twenty times, at least--the reader, Patrick Tull, is fantastic, and the story always holds my interest while dog-walking or gardening.

Like these, all the books I feel are worth re-reading depend on unique and engaging individuals. I like to spend time with these people (and on a lower level, I enjoy seeing just _how_ the author did what they did; knowing as much now as I do about the craft of writing, it’s hard to avoid seeing the techniques in use--a book that can suck me in sufficiently that I _don’t_ notice the engineering is definitely one I can re-read).

Many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for taking the time to answer my questions! Part 2 of this interview, in which Diana explains her writing process in more detail, is here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

OUTLANDER panel at NY Comic Con Oct. 6

STARZ announced yesterday that the OUTLANDER panel at NY Comic Con will take place on Oct. 6 at 5:30 pm.

The panel will include Ronald D. Moore, Maril Davis, Sam Heughan, Caitriona Balfe, Richard Rankin, and Sophie Skelton.

Diana Gabaldon will not be attending. Apparently she wasn't invited, although she's attended these events every year since the series began in 2014.

It does seem pretty rude that they didn't even let her know she wouldn't be included on this year's panel.

Have they lost sight of the fact that without Diana Gabaldon, there would be no OUTLANDER, books or show?

UPDATE 8/23/2018 7:10 pm: Here's a follow-up tweet from Diana Gabaldon:

I'm sure there will be a video of this panel, for those of us who can't be there in person.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Interview with Diana Gabaldon coming soon!

A couple of months ago, I asked Diana Gabaldon if I could interview her for Outlandish Observations, and she said, "Sure! I'm sure you'd have great questions."

Yesterday afternoon I got an email back from her with very detailed answers to my questions! I am just delighted with her responses, and I can't wait to share them with all of you! It's going to take some time to organize the material in a format that's suitable for posting -- I'll probably have to split it into several parts -- but I'm planning to post it the week of August 28th, in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Outlandish Observations. Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL is out in paperback!

Diana Gabaldon's story collection, SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL, is now available in trade paperback format (that's the large size paperback) in the US!

You can order here:

Barnes & Noble
Poisoned Pen (autographed copies)

SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL is a collection of seven novellas that take place in the OUTLANDER universe:

"The Custom of the Army"
"A Plague of Zombies"
"A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows"
"The Space Between"
"A Fugitive Green"

The first five of these stories were previously published in other anthologies and as standalone e-books, but "A Fugitive Green" and "Besieged" are available only in this collection.

For more information about this book, see my SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL FAQ page.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

OUTLANDER Season 4 premieres November 4!

STARZ released a new promo video on Facebook yesterday, similar to the Season 4 trailer we saw a few days ago. At the very end of the video, it clearly shows a premiere date of November 4.

We have known for a long time that Season 4 would premiere in November, but the exact date has been a matter for speculation until now.  I should point out that this date has not yet been confirmed in a press release or any other official announcement by STARZ, and nothing has been announced on the official OUTLANDER Facebook or Twitter accounts. The only evidence we have of this date is in the video on the STARZ Facebook page.

But assuming that this does turn out to be the real premiere date, that means we only have three more months to wait until #Droughtlander will finally be over!

Friday, August 3, 2018

STARZ TV tie-in paperback edition of DRUMS OF AUTUMN will be out Oct. 16

The STARZ TV tie-in paperback edition of DRUMS OF AUTUMN will be released in the US on October 16, 2018.

Like the previous STARZ tie-in editions, this paperback features the actors from the TV series on the cover, but the text of the book will be the same.

You can pre-order here:


Barnes & Noble

Poisoned Pen (autographed copies -- this is Diana Gabaldon's local independent bookstore, and they ship all over the world)

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Who is your favorite villain in the OUTLANDER series?

The August poll on Outlandish Observations asks the question, "Who is your favorite villain in the OUTLANDER series?"

Please note, by "favorite", I don't necessarily mean the one you like the best. It could be a character you love to hate, or the character who makes the most effective antagonist in the story, or the one who makes you mutter, "Go AWAY!" when you see him on the screen in the TV series. (That last reaction is how I feel whenever Black Jack Randall appears.) You get the idea, I'm sure.

Please take a moment to vote, and feel free to leave a comment here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page explaining your choice. Thanks!

July poll results

Here are the results of the July poll, which asked the question, "What do you think of the Lord John books and stories?"

There were 604 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!
  • 30.79% - I love them!
  • 17.72% - I enjoy them, but I prefer to read about Jamie and Claire.
  • 11.26% - They add a lot of depth to his character.
  • 11.09% - They're an integral part of the overall series.
  • 6.95% - I started reading them after seeing what a major role he played in the main OUTLANDER series.
  • 5.46% - I'm not interested in reading them.
  • 5.13% - I haven't read any of them yet, but I'm planning to.
  • 3.31% - I think they're boring.
  • 2.81% - I like seeing a different side of 18th century life than we get in the OUTLANDER books.
  • 0.99% - I wish Diana would quit writing about him.
  • 0.99% - I'm not interested in reading about a gay character.
  • 0.66% - I'm new to OUTLANDER and haven't encountered Lord John yet.
  • 2.84% - Other
Here are the responses for "Other":
  • I want to finish the outlander series before i'll consider lord johns series
  • He and Jamie are my favs.
  • They add depth to all of the characters and their relationships
  • 3, 4, 5, 6
  • I haven't read them and don't know if I will.
  • I love them/him AND they add a lot of depth to his character.
  • I loved Scottish Prisoner but the others are just a soso like.
  • liked some, not others as much
  • I LOVE HIM !!!! Way better than Jamie and Claire. He's outstanding! The Best!!!
  • Read some, don't care for them
  • another view into choices of human sexuality
  • insight into his character...and integral part ❤️
  • Fell in love with the character from the get-go.
  • Just never picked them up.
  • Absolutely love them! Wish there were more!!!
  • I love them, the added depth & want more LJ!
  • I only read the ones with Jamie in them.
Please take a moment to vote in the August poll, which asks, "Who is your favorite villain in the OUTLANDER series?"