Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, everyone!

As we prepare to ring in 2020, it's time for another annual tradition here on Outlandish Observations: an old-fashioned Hogmanay celebration, as they might have celebrated it on Fraser's Ridge 250 years ago.
A firstfoot was to bring gifts to the house: an egg, a faggot of wood, a bit of salt--and a bit of whisky, thus insuring that the household would not lack for the necessities during the coming year.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 35, "Hogmanay". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I can't participate in a first-footing myself, even if I lived in Scotland (redheads being considered extremely bad luck on such an occasion), but I'd like to share these small tokens with you anyway.

Many of you will remember the Hogmanay celebration in OUTLANDER Episode 308 ("First Wife"), a very festive occasion celebrated with plenty of food, music, and dancing.

Here's an article about Hogmanay Traditions in Scotland. From what I can tell, the Hogmanay celebrations in Edinburgh are an even bigger deal than New Year's Eve in New York's Times Square.

Happy New Year, and best wishes to all of you in 2020! It's going to be an amazing year for OUTLANDER fans, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Year in Review

2019 was a relatively quiet year in OUTLANDER fandom, but there were still a number of notable events. Here are some of the highlights of the past year:

January 2 - 2019 opened on a sad note, as Diana Gabaldon's beloved dachshund, JJ, died as the result of an injury.

January - early February - The Great Thread Explosion of 2018-19 (aka Season 4 discussions on TheLitForum.com, where I manage the Diana Gabaldon section) comes to an end at last. My Season 4 episode recaps are here if you're interested:

Episode 401: America the Beautiful
Episode 402: Do No Harm
Episode 403: The False Bride
Episode 404: Common Ground
Episode 405: Savages
Episode 406: Blood of My Blood
Episode 407: Down the Rabbit Hole
Episode 408: Wilmington
Episode 409: The Birds and the Bees
Episode 410: The Deep Heart's Core
Episode 411: If Not For Hope
Episode 412: Providence
Episode 413: Man of Worth

March 14 - Diana Gabaldon receives a special “International Contribution to Scottish Tourism” award from VisitScotland at the Scottish Thistle Awards.

April 8 - Season 5 filming begins!

April 27 - My mom and I went to see Diana Gabaldon at an appearance in Burlington, NC. It really was a perfect day, and I was delighted to come away with this wonderful photo of the two of us!

May 24 - Adso joins the cast of OUTLANDER Season 5!

May 27 - OUTLANDER is finally available on Netflix in the US. (As of right now they only have Seasons 1-3 available.)

May 28 - The OUTLANDER Season 4 Blu-ray and DVD are released in the US.

July 14 - I posted my ABC's of Young Ian, the latest in a series of blog posts looking at the major characters in the OUTLANDER series. The idea is to list one word pertaining to the character for each letter of the alphabet, along with a brief explanation. Hope you enjoy it!

July 23 - The standalone e-book edition of Diana Gabaldon's story, "Past Prologue", co-written with Steve Berry, is now available in the US and Canada. This is a terrific story with lots of potential for speculation, and I'm glad more people will have access to it now. Highly recommended! Look here for more information.

August 22 - Diana Gabaldon made some intriguing comments about the shape of Book 9, GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE. She says it's shaped like a snake.

August 28 - Congratulations to Diana Gabaldon and her family on the birth of her second grandchild, Leo! His mother is Diana's younger daughter, Jenny.

August 29 - STARZ announces the premiere date for OUTLANDER Season 5: Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020!

September 14 - Sam Heughan wins a Saturn Award for Best Actor in a Television Series. He's been nominated five times but this is his first time winning the award. Congratulations!

October 7 - Diana Gabaldon announces that she has written an episode of OUTLANDER Season 5! This will be Episode 511, the next-to-last episode of the season, and we don't know anything yet about what will be in it. (Yes, of course she's still working hard on finishing BEES! She always says she likes to work on multiple projects at once, to keep from getting writer's block.)

October 15 - THE MAKING OF OUTLANDER: The Official Guide to Seasons Three & Four, by Tara Bennett, is now available!

November 22 - Last day of filming for OUTLANDER Season 5! They started on April 8, 2019, so it took a little more than 7 months to film 12 episodes, not counting the post-production work that will take several more months to finish.

November 30 - Very sad news. My mother, Helene Henry, passed away at the age of 82, after a short illness. She died at home, with her family around her, and it was very peaceful at the end. She just quietly stopped breathing. I am heartbroken and still grieving, but comforted by all the kind words of support from OUTLANDER fans. Many thanks to all of you who've offered condolences! Here's my blog post about my mom and OUTLANDER.

December 25
- STARZ releases the new opening credit sequence for OUTLANDER Season 5!

Thanks to ALL of you who take the time to visit Outlandish Observations, and I wish you all the best in 2020!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Season 5 opening credit sequence (SPOILERS!)

STARZ has released the new opening credit sequence for OUTLANDER Season 5!

What do you think?

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Christmas quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books

Here are some Christmas-themed quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books. This is an annual tradition here on Outlandish Observations, and I hope you enjoy them. Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating this week!


If you haven't read all of Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER books, you may find SPOILERS below! Read at your own risk.

1) It's hard to imagine, from our 21st-century perspective, anyone losing track of the date this close to Christmas. But Roger had a lot of other things on his mind....
"What's the occasion? For our homecoming?"

She lifted her head from his chest and gave him what he privately classified as A Look.

"For Christmas," she said.

"What?" He groped blankly, trying to count the days, but the events of the last three weeks had completely erased his mental calendar. "When?"

"Tomorrow, idiot," she said with exaggerated patience.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 33, "Home for Christmas". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The photo above shows 18th-century style Christmas decorations at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia.

2) Here's a quote from one of my favorite scenes in DRUMS OF AUTUMN, when Claire comes to find Jamie in the snow:
"What if I tell you a story, instead?"

Highlanders loved stories, and Jamie was no exception.

"Oh, aye," he said, sounding much happier. "What sort of story is it?"

"A Christmas story," I said, settling myself along the curve of his body. "About a miser named Ebenezer Scrooge."

"An Englishman, I daresay?"

"Yes," I said. "Be quiet and listen."

I could see my own breath as I talked, white in the dim, cold air. The snow was falling heavily outside our shelter; when I paused in the story, I could hear the whisper of flakes against the hemlock branches, and the far-off whine of wind in the trees.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Night on a Snowy Mountain". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The illustration above, showing Scrooge with Marley's ghost, comes from the 1843 edition of Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

3) I think it's interesting--and rather sad--that Lord John should seek out Nessie, rather than the company of his own family, on Christmas Eve. You may recall that he brought her a box of sugar plums, like the ones pictured above.
“Aye, well, it is Christmas Eve,” she said, answering his unasked question. “Any man wi’ a home to go to’s in it.” She yawned, pulled off her nightcap, and fluffed her fingers through the wild mass of curly dark hair.

“Yet you seem to have some custom,” he observed. Distant singing came from two floors below, and the parlor had seemed well populated when he passed.

“Och, aye. The desperate ones. I leave them to Maybelle to deal with; dinna like to see them, poor creatures. Pitiful. They dinna really want a woman, the ones who come on Christmas Eve--only a fire to sit by, and folk to sit with.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 24, "Joyeux Noel". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) The next quote is a reminder that Christmas was viewed differently back then than we think of it today. But of course many of today's Christmas traditions date from the 19th century or later:
Catholic as many of them were--and nominally Christian as they all were--Highland Scots regarded Christmas primarily as a religious observance, rather than a major festive occasion. Lacking priest or minister, the day was spent much like a Sunday, though with a particularly lavish meal to mark the occasion, and the exchange of small gifts.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5) Speaking of Christmas traditions, here's one, from THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
They’d brought down the Yule log to the house that afternoon, all the household taking part, the women bundled to the eyebrows, the men ruddy, flushed with the labor, staggering, singing, dragging the monstrous log with ropes, its rough skin packed with snow, a great furrow left where it passed, the snow plowed high on either side.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 43, "Succession". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

6) And what would the holidays be without sweets? <g> Check out Outlander Kitchen's recipe for molasses toffee, as described in this scene from THE FIERY CROSS:
With a certain amount of forethought, Mrs. Bug, Brianna, Marsali, Lizzie, and I had made up an enormous quantity of molasses toffee, which we had distributed as a Christmas treat to all the children within earshot. Whatever it might do to their teeth, it had the beneficial effect of gluing their mouths shut for long periods, and in consequence, the adults had enjoyed a peaceful Christmas.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 34, "Charms". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) Quakers don't have any special Christmas celebrations, but there's no denying that Denny and Rachel Hunter found Christmas, 1777, a particularly memorable occasion, thanks to Dottie!
"Well, that is odd,” Rachel said, turning to look first at her brother, and then at the small clock that graced their rooms. “Who goes a-visiting at nine o’clock on Christmas night? It cannot be a Friend, surely?” For Friends did not keep Christmas and would find the feast no bar to travel, but the Hunters had no connections--not yet--with the Friends of any Philadelphia meeting.

A thump of footsteps on the staircase prevented Denzell’s reply, and an instant later the door of the room burst open. The fur-clad woman stood on the threshold, white as her furs.

“Denny?” she said in a strangled voice.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 86, "Valley Forge". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

8) I love this quote, even though things didn't turn out the way Roger had expected. (The photo above, by krbnah on Flickr, shows Inverness at Christmas, 2009.)
She'd wanted to go to the Christmas Eve services. After that...

After that, he would ask her, make it formal. She would say yes, he knew. And then...

Why, then, they would come home, to a house dark and private. With themselves alone, on a night of sacrament and secret, with love newly come into the world. And he would lift her in his arms and carry her upstairs, on a night when virginity's sacrifice was no loss of purity, but rather the birth of everlasting joy.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 17, "Home for the Holidays". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Wishing all of you the best in this holiday season!

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Episode 501 opening scene will be shown on STARZ tonight!

For those of you in the US: STARZ will be giving fans a sneak peek at the opening scene of OUTLANDER Episode 501 at 8pm ET tonight, December 15, 2019. It's only four minutes long, so you may want to set your DVR so you don't miss it!

Two more months until we get to see the entire episode. Season 5 premieres on February 16, 2020.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Sad news

My mother, Helene Henry, died on Saturday, November 30, 2019, after a short illness.  She was 82 years old. She died at home, with her family around her, and it was very peaceful at the end. She just quietly stopped breathing.

We buried her yesterday.  Her obituary is here. I am heartbroken, of course, and still in a state of shock at how quickly it all happened, in the space of less than a month.
“It’s like—there are all these things I don’t even know!” [Brianna] said, pacing with quick, angry steps. “Do you think I remember what I looked like, learning to walk, or what the first word I said was? No, but Mama does! And that’s so stupid, because what difference does it make, it doesn’t make any difference at all, but it’s important, it matters because she thought it was, and…oh, Roger, if she’s gone, there won’t be a soul left in the world who cares what I’m like, or thinks I’m special not because of anything, but just because I’m me! She’s the only person in the world who really, really cares I was born, and if she’s gone…” She stood still on the hearthrug, hands clenched at her sides, and mouth twisted with the effort to control herself, tears wet on her cheeks. Then her shoulders slumped and the tension went out of her tall figure.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "All Hallows' Eve". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I understand this feeling now, in a deep, visceral way that I didn't before. My situation is somewhat different, of course, in that my brother and sister are here, helping to support each other through our grief, reminiscing, laughing over shared memories and family stories, and they will still be around for many years to come. I know I'm not alone. But my mother's death has hit me much harder than my father's did three years ago. So I thought it might help to write a little about my mom and OUTLANDER, as a way to remember the happier times.

Mom was indirectly responsible for my discovering Diana Gabaldon's books in the first place, because I originally bought OUTLANDER in 2006 with a Barnes & Noble gift card she had given me for my birthday.  She wasn't a fan of the books herself (her literary tastes ran more toward mysteries than Big Fat Historical Novels or time-travel stories), and she worried sometimes about the way OUTLANDER fandom had a tendency to take over my life, especially during "thread explosions" on Compuserve (now TheLitForum.com) after a new book or a new episode of the TV show came out.

But all my life she supported anything I really wanted to do, and eventually she stopped giving me the "Oh, that again?" look whenever I talked about the books. (I'm sure many of you are familiar with that look. <g>)  In July, 2012, Mom traveled to Scotland with me and my sister Alice on Judy Lowstuter's Celtic Journeys OUTLANDER Tour. That was the trip of a lifetime for me, no question about it, and I was so glad that Mom was able to share it with me!

At Loch Lomond.

Mom at Stirling Castle.

In April, 2019, Mom and I went to see Diana Gabaldon at an appearance in Burlington, NC. She was very reluctant to draw attention to herself, so when I introduced her to Diana, I said only, "This is my mom."  Now, in retrospect, I'm glad they had a chance to meet, however briefly. Mom wrote afterward in an email to my brother and sister, "I had a good time and especially happy to see Karen in her element, a smile on her face during Diana's talk and afterwards as she viewed those wonderful photos."

When my mom saw this photo of Diana and me, immediately after the book-signing, she said at once, "That's the money shot!" It was a perfect day, and I'm so glad that I got to share it with her.

Losing a beloved parent is so hard! My mom and I were very close. But I'm satisfied that I did everything I possibly could to care for her in her final days.

Goodbye, Mom!  I'll love you forever.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

November poll results

Here are the results of the November poll, which asked the question, "How long have you been reading Diana Gabaldon's books?"
  • 6.04% - Less than 6 months
  • 7.66% - 6 months to 1 year
  • 6.13% - 1-2 years
  • 20.74% - 2-5 years
  • 14.34% - 5-10 years
  • 7.94% - 10-15 years
  • 6.76% - 15-20 years
  • 9.83% - 20-25 years
  • 5.86% - 25+ years
  • 13.26% - Since OUTLANDER was first published.
  • 0.27% - I read excerpts of her work on Compuserve before OUTLANDER was published.
  • 0.63% - I haven't read any of Diana Gabaldon's books, but I've watched the OUTLANDER TV series.
  • 0.54% - Other
There were 1109 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

It's been 13 years for me. I discovered OUTLANDER in November 2006.

Please take a moment to vote in the December poll, which asks, "What's your favorite gift from the OUTLANDER books?" (SPOILER WARNING: Some of the poll choices contain spoilers if you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books.)

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who are celebrating today! Here are some Thanksgiving-themed quotes from the OUTLANDER books. This has become an annual tradition here on Outlandish Observations, and I hope you enjoy them!


If you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, you will encounter spoilers below! Read at your own risk.

1) Roger and Brianna, hunting turkeys:
"What a thing," he said. He held it at arm's length to drain, admiring the vivid reds and blues of the bare, warty head and dangling wattle. "I don't think I've ever seen one, save roasted on a platter, with chestnut dressing and roast potatoes."

He looked from the turkey to her with great respect, and nodded at the gun.

"That's great shooting, Bree."

She felt her cheeks flush with pleasure, and restrained the urge to say, "Aw, shucks, it warn't nothin'," settling instead for a simple, "Thanks."

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "Shooting Lessons". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love this scene, especially for Roger's reaction. He's a little taken aback by her shooting skills, but his ego doesn't seem to be threatened by the fact that she's better at hunting (providing food for the family) than he is.

2) Claire and Jamie receiving gifts from the local Native Americans, very much in the spirit of the Pilgrims' first Thanksgiving:
Once the official introductions were over, Nacognaweto motioned to Berthe, who obediently brought out the large bundle she had carried, and opened it at my feet, displaying a large basket of orange and green-striped squash, a string of dried fish, a smaller basket of yams, and a huge pile of Indian corn, shucked and dried on the cob.

“My God,” I murmured. “The return of Squanto!”

Everyone gave me a blank look, and I hastened to smile and make exclamations--thoroughly heartfelt--of joy and pleasure over the gifts. It might not get us through the whole winter, but it was enough to augment our diet for a good two months.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 20, "The White Raven". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

3) Jocasta and Duncan's wedding feast:
"Can ye not decide where to begin, Sassenach?" He reached down and took the empty wineglass from her hand, taking advantage of the movement to come close against her back, feeling the warmth of her through his clothes.

She laughed, and swayed back against him, leaning on his arm. She smelled faintly of rice powder and warm skin, with the scent of rose hips in her hair.

"I'm not even terribly hungry. I was just counting the jellies and preserves. There are thirty-seven different ones--unless I've missed my count."

He spared a glance for the table, which did indeed hold a bewildering array of silver dishes, porcelain bowls, and wooden platters, groaning with more food than would feed a Highland village for a month.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 46, "Quicksilver". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Most major holiday dinners give me this same feeling, although I can't say I've ever seen thirty-seven different varieties of *anything* at one meal before. <g>

4) The "hearth blessing" on Fraser's Ridge:
We blessed the hearth two days later, standing in the wall-less cabin. Myers had removed his hat, from respect, and Ian had washed his face. Rollo was present, too, as was the small white pig, who was required to attend as the personification of our "flocks," despite her objections; the pig saw no point in being removed from her meal of acorns to participate in a ritual so notably lacking in food.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 19, "Hearth Blessing". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Considering how successful that little homestead on the Ridge would prove to be, I think there must have been something extra-powerful in that blessing. <g> And I love the mention of the little white piglet, who will grow up to become the infamous White Sow. If this blessing was intended to ensure fertility on the part of that sow, it succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

5) The Selkirk Grace:
[Hamish] glared round the table to insure that everyone was in a properly reverential attitude before bowing his own head. Satisfied, he intoned,

"Some hae meat that canna eat,
And some could eat that want it.
We hae meat, and we can eat,
And so may God be thankit.

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 6, "Colum's Hall". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Happy Thanksgiving! (And to those of you outside the U.S., best wishes for the holiday season.)  If you're looking for OUTLANDER-related food ideas, check out this OUTLANDER Thanksgiving Feast posted by Theresa Carle-Sanders, author of the OUTLANDER Kitchen cookbook.

Saturday, November 23, 2019

OUTLANDER Season 5 filming has completed!

Filming has completed for OUTLANDER Season 5! They started on April 8, 2019, so it took a little more than 7 months to film 12 episodes, not counting the post-production work that will take several more months to finish.

Congratulations to the whole cast and crew, and I hope they enjoy some well-deserved rest!

For those of you who don't know, Season 5 premieres on STARZ on Sunday, Feb. 16, 2020.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

What a nice surprise!

The last week or so has been very tough for me, with a lot of stress and upheaval in my personal life, for reasons I'd rather not go into right now.  So you can imagine my surprise and delight when I got home yesterday and saw a new thread (discussion) on TheLitForum.com titled "A Salute To Karen, Bumblebee Herder Extraordinaire" (!)

Diana Gabaldon refers to what I do on the forum (where I have been Section Leader, aka moderator, of the DG section since 2008) as "herding bumblebees", an expression that always makes me smile.

So I was reading through the replies to that post this morning, and I saw this:

Wow!  Wasn't that sweet of her?  I will treasure this comment. It means so much to me that she values and appreciates everything I do on the forum and for the OUTLANDER fan community.

Thank you, Diana!!

Friday, November 1, 2019

October poll results

Here are the results of the October poll, which asked the question, "What do you think of the Lord John books and stories?"
  • 41.15% - I love them!
  • 18.29% - I enjoy them, but I prefer to read about Jamie and Claire.
  • 7.55% - They're an integral part of the overall series.
  • 7.16% - I haven't read the Lord John books, but I enjoy watching David Berry play him on the TV show.
  • 6.76% - They add a lot of depth to his character.
  • 6.16% - I started reading them after seeing what a major role he played in the main OUTLANDER series.
  • 3.38% - I haven't read any of them yet, but I'm planning to.
  • 2.19% - I like seeing a different side of 18th century life than we get in the OUTLANDER books.
  • 2.19% - I think they're boring.
  • 1.39% - I wish Diana would quit writing about him.
  • 0.80% - I'm not interested in reading about a gay character.
  • 0.20% - I'm new to OUTLANDER and haven't encountered Lord John yet.
  • 2.78% - Other
There were 503 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

Please take a moment to vote in the November poll, which asks, "How long have you been reading Diana Gabaldon's books?"

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Here are some Halloween-themed quotes from Diana Gabaldon's books and stories. Hope you enjoy them!


If you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, there are SPOILERS below! Read at your own risk.

1) Roger's thoughts, on the eve of Claire's departure through the stones to find Jamie:
Hallowe'en had always seemed to him a restless night, alive with waking spirits. Tonight was even more so, with the knowledge of what would happen in the morning. The jack o'lantern on the desk grinned in anticipation, filling the room with the homely scent of baking pies.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "All Hallows' Eve". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) This is one of my favorites from AN ECHO IN THE BONE:
Now there was nothing out there but the black of a moonless Highland night. The sort of night when Christians stayed indoors and put holy water on the doorposts, because the things that walked the moors and the high places were not always holy.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 72, "The Feast of All Saints". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Claire and Roger on Halloween night, 1968. If you're not familiar with the story Roger is referring to, look here.
"No, I never could sleep on All Hallows'. Not after all the stories my father told me; I always thought I could hear ghosts talking outside my window."

She smiled, coming into the firelight. "And what did they say?"

"'See'st thou this great gray head, with jaws which have no meat?' " Roger quoted. "You know the story? The little tailor who spent the night in a haunted church, and met the hungry ghost?"

"I do. I think if I'd heard that outside my window, I'd have spent the rest of the night hiding under the bedclothes."

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 22, "All Hallows' Eve". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) I couldn't resist including a bit of Duncan's ghost story here:
"He said it was a figure like a man, but with no body," Duncan said quietly. "All white, like as it might have been made of the mist. But wi' great holes where its eyes should be, and empty black, fit to draw the soul from his body with dread."

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "A Hanging in Eden". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
5) Roger's father, Jerry MacKenzie, on a long-ago Halloween night:
“Damn,” said the fair one, softly. “There’s a light.”

There was; a single light, bobbing evenly over the ground, as it would if someone carried it. But look as he might, Jerry could see no one behind it, and a violent shiver ran over him.

Uisge,” said the other man under his breath. Jerry knew that word well enough--spirit, it meant. And usually an ill-disposed one. A haunt.

“Aye, maybe.” The dark man’s voice was calm. “And maybe not. It’s Samhain, after all."

(From "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows", by Diana Gabaldon, in SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL. Copyright© 2010 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
6) Even wee Jemmy is affected by stories of "things that go bump in the night".
"Scared? Of what?" A little more gently, she pulled the shirt off over his head.

"The ghost."

"What ghost?" she asked warily, not sure yet how to handle this. She was aware that all of the slaves at River Run believed implicitly in ghosts, simply as a fact of life. So did virtually all of the Scottish settlers in Cross Creek, Campbelton, and the Ridge. And the Germans from Salem and Bethania. So, for that matter, did her own father. She could not simply inform Jem that there was no such thing as a ghost--particularly as she was not entirely convinced of that herself.

"Maighistear arsaidh's ghost," he said, looking up at her for the first time, his dark blue eyes troubled. "Josh says he's been walkin'."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 99, "Old Master". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
7) Claire meets Otter-Tooth's ghost:
He was tall, and he was naked. Beyond a breechclout, he wore nothing but paint; long stripes of red down arms and legs and torso, and his face was solid black, from chin to forehead. His hair was greased and dressed in a crest, from which two turkey feathers stiffly pointed.

I was invisible, completely hidden in the darkness of my refuge, while the torch he held washed him in soft light, gleaming off his hairless chest and shoulders, shadowing the orbits of his eyes. But he knew I was there
I didn’t dare to move. My breath sounded painfully loud in my ears. He simply stood there, perhaps a dozen feet away, and looked straight into the dark where I was, as though it were the broadest day. And the light of his torch burned steady and soundless, pallid as a corpse candle, the wood of it not consumed.

I don’t know how long I had been standing there before it occurred to me that I was no longer afraid. I was still cold, but my heart had slowed to its normal pace, and my bare toes had uncurled.

“Whatever do you want?” I said, and only then realized that we had been in some sort of communication for some time. Whatever this was, it had no words. Nothing coherent passed between us--but something passed, nonetheless.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23, "The Skull Beneath the Skin". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
8) Lord John's encounter with a zombie:
Bloody hell, where was the man? If it was a man. For even as his mind reasserted its claim to reason, his more visceral faculties were recalling Rodrigo's parting statement: Zombie are dead people, sah. And whatever was here in the dark with him seemed to have been dead for several days, judging from its smell.

He could hear the rustling of something moving quietly toward him. Was it breathing? He couldn't tell, for the rasp of his own breath, harsh in his throat, and the blood-thick hammering of his heart in his ears.

(From "A Plague of Zombies" by Diana Gabaldon, in SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL. Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
9) And finally, on a lighter note, here's Mandy, age three:
Mandy bounced a little on her booster seat, leaning to peer out the window. She was wearing the Halloween mask Bree had helped her make, this being a mouse princess: a mouse face drawn with crayons on a paper plate, with holes pierced for eyes and at either side for pink yarn ties, pink pipe cleaners glued on for whiskers, and a precarious small crown made with cardboard, more glue, and most of a bottle of gold glitter.

Scots celebrated Samhain with hollowed-out turnips with candles in them, but Brianna had wanted a slightly more festive tradition for her half-American children. The whole seat sparkled as though the car had been sprinkled with pixie dust.

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 28, "Warmer, Colder". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Happy Halloween / Samhain / All Hallows' Eve to all of you! If you happen to go near any stone circles in the next couple of days, be sure to carry a wee gemstone with you, just in case! You never know what might happen....

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Happy Birthday, Claire!

Wishing a very happy 101st birthday (believe it or not!) to our favorite time-traveling Sassenach, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser!  She was born on October 20, 1918.

If you're on Twitter, please join fans worldwide in celebrating Claire's birthday with the hashtag #HappyBdaySassenach.
"Happy Birthday, Sassenach,” he said.

It took me completely by surprise and I just stared stupidly at him for a moment. “What?” I managed at last.

“I said ‘Happy Birthday.’ It’s the twentieth of October today."

(From OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "Thou Shalt Not Suffer a Witch to Live". Copyright© 1991 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
And for this year in particular, some of you may recall this quote from THE FIERY CROSS:
“When I am a hundred and one, and you’re ninety-six, I’ll invite you to my bed--and we’ll see which one of us rises to the occasion, hmm?”

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 40, "Duncan's Secret". Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
In celebration of Claire's birthday, I'm reposting my "ABC's of Claire Fraser", which I first posted here in October, 2011. I got the idea from a writing exercise posted a few years ago on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community (now TheLitForum.com), which is the online forum where Diana Gabaldon hangs out. The idea is to list one word pertaining to the character for each letter of the alphabet, along with a brief explanation. 

All quotes from the OUTLANDER books are copyright (c) Diana Gabaldon, of course.


If you have not read all of the OUTLANDER books, you will find SPOILERS below. Read at your own risk!

A - Adaptability.  This is one of Claire's greatest strengths, in my opinion.  Many of us would have a great deal of difficulty adjusting to life in the 18th century.  Claire adapts relatively quickly, and we rarely see her thinking about missing the conveniences of the 20th century.

B - Bravery. "Ye were always bolder than was safe; now ye're fierce as a wee badger." (A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, Chapter 20, "Dangerous Gifts")  Whether it's killing a wolf with her bare hands in OUTLANDER, or surviving the ordeal of being abducted and raped in ABOSAA, Claire never, ever gives up, and I find much to admire in that.

C - Cat.  Adso, to be precise. <g>  Claire loves that wee cheetie, and the scene in ECHO where Claire says goodbye to Adso was just heartbreaking.

D - Diagnosis.  Joe Abernathy called her the "best diagnostician I ever saw".

E - Eyes.  One of Claire's most striking features.  "They're the color of verra fine whisky, wi' the sun shining through them from behind.  I thought this morning they looked like sherry, but I was wrong.  Not sherry. Not brandy.  It's whisky.  That's what it is." (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 6, "Making Waves")

F - Face.  Claire's "glass face" -- her inability to hide what she's thinking or feeling from other people -- often gets her into trouble.

G - Garden. "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." (DRUMS OF AUTUMN, Chapter 43, "Whisky in the Jar")

H - Hair.  Claire's wild, unruly hair could almost be considered a character in its own right.  It reflects her personality extremely well, and it's one of the things Jamie likes best about her.

I - Intelligence.  Claire has a quick mind, and doesn't suffer fools gladly.  (She's much like Diana Gabaldon in that respect, actually.)

J - James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. <vbg>

K - Knitting.
  One of the very few things that Claire does not do well with her hands.

L - Lallybroch.
  Claire felt she'd found a home there, for the first time in her life.

M - Mother.
  Not just to Bree, but also to Faith, her stillborn first child.  "You are my baby, and always will be.  You won't know what that means until you have a child of your own, but I tell you now, anyway--you'll always be as much a part of me as when you shared my body and I felt you move inside.  Always."  (VOYAGER, Chapter 42, "The Man in the Moon")

N - Nurse. 
Also surgeon, midwife, physician, herbalist, conjure-woman -- Claire is a healer, first and foremost.

O - Outlander
, or, as the Scots say, Sassenach.  "He liked the strangeness of her, the Englishness.  She was his Claire, his Sassenach." (FIERY CROSS, Chapter 18, "No Place Like Home")

P - Practicality.
  Claire is perfectly willing to cast aside society's conventions of what is considered proper attire for a woman, in favor of something more practical.  "I am improvising a brassiere," I said with dignity.  "I don't mean to ride sidesaddle through the mountains wearing a dress, and if I'm not wearing stays, I don't mean my breasts to be joggling all the way, either.  Most uncomfortable, joggling."  (DRUMS OF AUTUMN, Chapter 13, "An Examination of Conscience")

Q - Quentin Lambert Beauchamp.
Claire's beloved Uncle Lamb, who raised her from the age of five.

R - Ruthlessness. 
I think this is one of the qualities that makes Claire a good surgeon:  "[The] detachment of mind in which I could balance on that knife-edge between ruthlessness and compassion, at once engaged in utmost intimacy with the body under my hands and capable of destroying what I touched in the name of healing." (AN ECHO IN THE BONE, Chapter 62, "One Just Man")

S - Stubbornness. 
Claire is at least a match for Jamie in this respect, and gives as good as she gets.

T - Time-travel.
  The catalyst for this whole amazing adventure. <g>

U - Unladylike language.
  Claire's use of expressions like "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ" and "bloody f*cking hell" frequently scandalizes the 18th-century people around her, but to me, this is an integral part of her character.

V - Vitamins. 
"Well-nourished, is what I am," I retorted.  "Half the people on your estate are suffering from mild scurvy, and from what I've seen on the road, it's even worse elsewhere.  It's vitamin C that prevents scurvy, and apples are full of it."  (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, Chapter 36, "Prestonpans") 

W - White
.  Claire's Indian name is White Raven, and she's been called many similar things over the years, including the White Witch and La Dame Blanche ("White Lady").  I'm intrigued by Nayawenne's prediction that Claire will come into her full power when her hair turns white, but I guess we'll just have to wait and see about that. <g>

X - eXperiments. 
From home-grown penicillin to gallberry ointment for the treatment of malaria, Claire is always experimenting with new ways to help her patients.

Y - Youthful.
  Claire looks much younger than other women her age in the 18th century, owing to the influence of genes, hygiene, and good nutrition.

Z - Zero.
  The number of times Book Claire has traveled though the stones using gemstones for protection.

As you can see just from these brief examples, Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp Randall Fraser is a remarkably complex, multifaceted character.  Many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for creating such an unforgettable character, and also to Caitriona Balfe, who is doing an AMAZING job bringing Claire to life on TV!

Happy Birthday, Claire!

Here are the other posts in my ABC's series. Hope you enjoy them!

ABC's of Jamie Fraser
ABC's of Roger
ABC's of Brianna
ABC's of Lord John Grey 
ABC's of Young Ian

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

THE MAKING OF OUTLANDER: The Official Guide to Seasons 3 and 4

THE MAKING OF OUTLANDER: The Official Guide to Seasons Three & Four, by Tara Bennett, is now available!

Just like the first volume, published in 2016, this is a "coffee-table" size book, offering a detailed behind-the-scenes look at Seasons 3 and 4 of the OUTLANDER TV series.

From the publisher's description on Amazon:
Picking up where The Making of Outlander: Seasons One & Two left off, this lavishly illustrated collectors’ item covers seasons three and four, bringing readers behind the scenes and straight onto the set of the show. You’ll find exclusive interviews with cast members, including detailed conversations with Caitriona Balfe and Sam Heughan (on-screen couple and real-life friends), as well as the writers, producers, costume designers, set decorators, technicians, and more whose hard work and cinematic magic bring the world of Outlander to life on the screen.
You can order it here:

Barnes & Noble

It's a great way to pass the time during #Droughtlander, and I'm sure it would make a wonderful holiday gift for fans of the TV show.  Please help spread the word to anyone you know who may be interested!

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Diana Gabaldon has written an episode of Season 5!

Diana Gabaldon announced yesterday that she has written an episode of OUTLANDER Season 5!

She will not be going to Scotland for the filming of her episode, though.

This will be the next-to-last episode of Season 5, and I can't wait to see it!

What do you think might be included in it?

Saturday, October 5, 2019

New Season 5 trailer!

Here's the latest OUTLANDER Season 5 trailer. I think it looks great!

OUTLANDER panel at NY Comic Con

There will be an OUTLANDER panel at NY Comic Con TODAY (Saturday, October 5th) at 5:30 pm ET.

Diana Gabaldon will be there, along with Ron Moore, Maril Davis, Sam, Cait, Duncan Lacroix, Maria Doyle Kennedy, and David Berry.

UPDATE 10/8/2019 7:08 am:

Here's a video of the panel discussion, which runs about an hour. There is a new Season 5 trailer shown near the beginning of the video.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

September poll results

Here are the results of the September poll, which asked the question, "What are you doing to pass the time during #Droughtlander?"
  • 15.67% - Reading (or re-reading) Diana Gabaldon's books.
  • 10.07% - Reading books by other authors.
  • 5.22% - Listening to the OUTLANDER audiobooks.
  • 4.85% - Reading #DailyLines from BEES.
  • 4.48% - Watching Seasons 1-4 again.
  • 4.10% - Pursuing other hobbies or interests not related to OUTLANDER.
  • 3.54% - Following various OUTLANDER fan-sites, including Outlandish Observations.
  • 3.17% - Devouring any information I can find (trailers, photos, interviews, etc.) about Season 5.
  • 1.31% - Focusing on family, work, or other commitments.
  • 42.91% - All of the above.
  • 4.66% - Other
There were 536 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

Please take a moment to vote in the October poll, which asks, "What do you think of the Lord John books and stories?"

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Favorite quotes from AN ECHO IN THE BONE

Today is the 10th anniversary of the publication of Diana Gabaldon's novel, AN ECHO IN THE BONE, Book 7 of the OUTLANDER series, which was released in hardcover on September 22, 2009.

In honor of the occasion, I thought it would be a good opportunity to share some of my favorite quotes from that book.

All of the quotes below are taken from AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright © 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

If you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, you will find spoilers below! Read at your own risk.

Chapter 5, "Morality for Time-Travelers"
“You can teach kids not to cross the street alone,” Bree had pointed out. “Surely you can teach them to stay the heck away from standing stones.”

He’d agreed, but with substantial mental reservations. Small kids, yes; you could brainwash them into not sticking forks in the electric outlets. But as they became teenagers, with all that inchoate yearning for self-discovery and things unknown? He recalled his own teenaged self much too vividly. Tell a teenaged boy not to stick forks in the outlet, and he’d be off rifling the silverware drawer the minute your back was turned. Girls might be different, but he doubted it.
Raising kids who happen to be time-travelers poses unique challenges, to say the least! I think Roger is right to be concerned about it.

Chapter 16, "Unarmed Conflict"
“Would you care to explain to me exactly which aspects of plant inspection require a penis?”
I love this line. Go Bree!

Chapter 18, "Pulling Teeth"
“For a long time,” [Fergus] said at last, “when I was small, I pretended to myself that I was the bastard of some great man. All orphans do this, I think,” he added dispassionately. “It makes life easier to bear, to pretend that it will not always be as it is, that someone will come and restore you to your rightful place in the world.”

He shrugged.

“Then I grew older, and knew this was not true. No one would come to rescue me. But then—” He turned his head and gave Jamie a smile of surpassing sweetness.

"Then I grew older still, and discovered that, after all, it was true. I am the son of a great man."

The hook touched Jamie’s hand, hard and capable.

“I wish for nothing more.”
One of the best Fergus moments in the entire series. Just wonderful!

Chapter 32, "A Flurry of Suspicion"
I’m not dead. Wish I were. Bath is vile. I am daily wrapped in canvas and carried off like a parcel to be sunk in boiling water that smells of rotten eggs, then hauled out and forced to drink it, but Minnie says she will divorce me by petition in the House of Lords on the grounds of insanity caused by immoral acts if I don’t submit. I doubt this, but here I am.
This is one of my favorite Hal quotes. He really has a way with words!

Chapter 62, "One Just Man"
“How dare you do that to me? You think I haven’t got anything better to do with my life than trot round after you, sticking pieces back on?” I was frankly shrieking at him by this time.

To my increased fury, he grinned at me, his expression made the more rakish by the half-closed eye.

“Ye’d have been a good fishwife, Sassenach,” he observed. “Ye’ve the tongue for it.”

“You shut up, you f*cking bloody—”

“They’ll hear you,” he said mildly, with a wave toward the party of Continental soldiers making their way down the slope toward us.

“I don’t care who hears me! If you weren’t already hurt, I’d—I’d—”

“Be careful, Sassenach,” he said, still grinning. “Ye dinna want to knock off any more pieces; ye’ll only have to stick them back on, aye?”

“Don’t bloody tempt me," I said through my teeth, with a glance at the sword I had dropped.
I love it when Jamie teases Claire. But it's that last line that makes me laugh out loud.

Chapter 68, "Despoiler"
“Ever heard of coup de foudre, Sassenach? It didna take me more than one good look at you.”
This is a terrific line. I hadn't heard the term before I read ECHO, but having looked up the definition, now I'm sure I won't ever forget it. Boy, is that ever appropriate!

Chapter 79, "The Cave"
“Have ye ever been in the slightest doubt that I need ye?” he demanded.

It took roughly half a second of thought to answer this.

“No,” I replied promptly. “To the best of my knowledge, you needed me urgently the moment I saw you. And I haven’t had reason to think you’ve got any more self-sufficient since."
This is one of my favorite exchanges between Jamie and Claire in the whole book. It's impossible to read this without thinking of their first meeting in OUTLANDER, when Claire tended his dislocated shoulder.

Chapter 84, "The Right of It"
“Where d’ye think he is now?” Jenny said suddenly. “Ian, I mean.”

He glanced at the house, then at the new grave waiting, but of course that wasn’t Ian anymore. He was panicked for a moment, his earlier emptiness returning--but then it came to him, and, without surprise, he knew what it was Ian had said to him.

On your right, man.” On his right. Guarding his weak side.

“He’s just here,” he said to Jenny, nodding to the spot between them. “Where he belongs.”
I just LOVE this bit, with the deliberate "echo" of Ian's line in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, which has long been my favorite Ian quote of the whole series.

Chapter 94, "The Paths of Death"
Like forgiveness, it was not a thing once learned and then comfortably put aside but a matter of constant practice--to accept the notion of one’s own mortality, and yet live fully, was a paradox worthy of Socrates.
At the time ECHO was published, Diana Gabaldon suggested that a possible one-word theme of this book is "mortality". I don't think that theme is stated as succinctly, or as eloquently, anywhere else in the book.

Chapter 103, "The Hour of the Wolf"
“Thee is a wolf, too, and I know it. But thee is my wolf, and best thee know that.”
How wonderful for Ian that he's found a woman who loves and appreciates him for who he is! Rachel is a terrific character, and I thought this was just the right note on which to end the book.

What about the rest of you?  What are your favorite lines or scenes from AN ECHO IN THE BONE?

Congratulations to Diana Gabaldon on ECHO's 10th anniversary!

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Vote for OUTLANDER in the People's Choice Awards!

OUTLANDER has been nominated as "The Bingeworhty Show of 2019" in the 2019 People's Choice Awards!

Voting ends October 18. Go here to vote.

You can see the full list of nominees here.

Monday, September 2, 2019

What are you doing to pass the time during #Droughtlander?

Waiting for Diana Gabaldon's next book, or the next season of the OUTLANDER TV series, is always hard. For many fans, this #Droughtlander can seem endless, and we all have different ways to cope with it.

I'm curious about what you've been doing to pass the time while we wait. Are you reading (or re-reading) the OUTLANDER books? Watching the DVDs? Constantly scanning social media for the slightest mention of Season 5 news? Or are you taking a break from OUTLANDER fandom for a while?

I've been relaxing and focusing on other things, but of course I'm still "herding the bumblebees" in Diana Gabaldon's section of TheLitForum.com (formerly the Compuserve Books and Writers Community).

What about the rest of you? Please take a moment to vote in the September poll, and feel free to leave a comment here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page, letting us know how you voted or sharing your favorite coping strategies for getting through #Droughtlander. Thanks!

The Gaelic expression shown above, "Fuirich agus chi thu", means "Wait and see", and it's one of Diana Gabaldon's favorite phrases.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

August poll results

Here are the results of the August poll, which asked the question, "What's your favorite way to enjoy OUTLANDER?"
  • 15.07% - Reading the books in hardcover.
  • 13.89% - Reading the e-books.
  • 12.84% - Reading the books in paperback.
  • 11.01% - Watching the OUTLANDER TV series.
  • 9.70% - It depends on the situation, or what mood I'm in.
  • 9.57% - Listening to the audiobooks.
  • 1.57% - Listening to the audiobook and following along in the text at the same time.
  • 21.63% - All of the above.
  • 4.72% - Other
There were 763 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

Please take a moment to vote in the September poll, which asks, "What are you doing to pass the time during #Droughtlander?"