Tuesday, July 23, 2019

"Past Prologue" standalone e-book is now available!

Diana Gabaldon's story, "Past Prologue", co-written with Steve Berry, is now available as a standalone e-book in the US and Canada!

This story, originally published in 2017 in an anthology called MATCHUP, features both Steve Berry's character Cotton Malone, and....Jamie Fraser!

You can download it here:

Barnes & Noble

The e-book costs only 99 cents in the US, $1.99 in Canada. Well worth it, in my opinion, for a terrific story with plenty for OUTLANDER fans to speculate about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and I think it's a must-read for OUTLANDER fans! Just like "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows", this story packs a lot of action and a great deal of intriguing fodder for speculation into a small space, and I thought it was a very entertaining ride. Highly recommended!

If you're a little nervous about the fact that this story was co-written with another author, really, don't worry about it! From the very first lines of "Past Prologue", Diana Gabaldon's "voice" comes through very clearly.

I was wondering how much of the story Diana Gabaldon actually wrote, so I asked her for more details. As she explained on Facebook on June 13, 2017:
Steve and I brainstormed a bit over the phone as to what kind of scenario might work as the general premise and circumstance of the story.  Then I actually wrote it, engineering the plot and action, defining/creating all the minor characters, and doing all of the dialogue involving Jamie.  (For Cotton Malone, I roughed in dialogue and/or put in things in square brackets, like "[witty remark indicating that he doesn't believe her but is sexually attracted to her.]".)    Understanding being that Steve would adjust any of Cotton's dialogue or action in accordance with the character--so essentially, we each did our own character's dialogue.  I did the original dialogue for the other characters, and Steve tweaked it where necessary.

     So I drafted the whole story, then Steve went through and refined/tightened the plot, did Cotton's dialogue and action, and moved the narrative writing slightly more toward a thriller style (though you'll still see my voice throughout).

      I went through Steve's version and tweaked a few things, and then he did the final pass--in which he decided to shift the whole thing into the present tense.  I'm fine with that--but it's probably the biggest change people will see from my style, as I don't think I've ever written anything in present tense.

     But you'll see Jamie as written by me alone (bar the tense <g>), and Cotton as per Steve.  (Now, I will warn you that we constructed the story with Cotton as the main protagonist, because Jamie doesn't time-travel, so you'll see more of him--but you will get an interesting addition to Jamie's part of the Outlander story.)
I'm glad more people will have access to this story now. Please help spread the word to anyone you know who might be interested.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

OUTLANDER quotes to cool you off

Considering that many parts of the US are suffering a brutal heat wave this week, I thought it might be a good time to share a few winter pictures that remind me of the OUTLANDER books, in an attempt to help us stay cool.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

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

1) Grandfather Mountain, NC, near where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located.  (Photo credit: akunkle99, on Flickr.)
The snow was falling thicker and faster, and I felt some uneasiness. If it covered his tracks before I found him, how would I find my way back to the cabin?

I looked back, but could see nothing behind me but a long, treacherous slope of unbroken snow that fell to the dark line of an unfamiliar brook below, its rocks poking up like teeth. No sign of the cheerful plume of smoke and sparks from our chimney. I turned slowly round in a circle, but I could no longer see the falls, either.

“Fine,” I muttered to myself. “You’re lost. Now what?” I sternly quelled an incipient attack of panic, and stood still to think. I wasn’t totally lost. I didn’t know where I was, but that wasn’t quite the same thing. I still had Jamie’s trail to guide me--or would have, until the snow covered it. And if I could find him, he presumably could find the cabin.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 21, "Night on a Snowy Mountain". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

2) Ashness Bridge, the Lake District, England, near where Helwater is supposed to be located. (Photo credit: Mark & Sue, on Flickr.)
It was so cold out, he thought his cock might break off in his hand--if he could find it. The thought passed through his sleep-mazed mind like one of the small, icy drafts that darted through the loft, making him open his eyes.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 1, "April Fool". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)  

3) This picture shows a cabin built around 1820 near Grandfather Mountain, NC (very close to where Fraser's Ridge is supposed to be located).  This is very much the way I picture the original cabin on the Ridge. Just imagine trying to stay warm in a little cabin like that through the bitter winters of the 1770s, with a small child to care for:
[W]hen I got up this morning, the water in the basin was so cold I had to warm water in a pan on the fire before I washed Jemmy.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 18, "Vroom!". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

4) The photo above shows Corrimony Cairn, where General Simon Fraser of Balnain was buried. (Photo credit: Jock Watson on Trover)
It was a long walk from the farmhouse at Balnain. As it was early January in Scotland, it was also wet and cold. Very wet. And very cold. No snow--and I rather wished there had been, as it might have discouraged Hugh Fraser’s insane notion--but it had been raining for days, in that dismal way that makes hearths smoke, and even clothes that have not been outside grow damp, and drives the chill so far into your bones that you think you’ll never be warm again.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 75, "Sic Transit Gloria Mundi". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

5) Icicles in Boone, NC, in the vicinity of Fraser's Ridge. (Photo credit: eightylbs, on Flickr.)
January 21 was the coldest day of the year. Snow had fallen a few days before, but now the air was like cut crystal, the dawn sky so pale it looked white, and the packed snow chirped like crickets under our boots. Snow, snow-shrouded trees, the icicles that hung from the eaves of the house--the whole world seemed blue with cold.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 111, "January Twenty-First". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

6) Soldiers' quarters at Valley Forge, PA. (Photo credit: paulbradyphoto, on Flickr.)
Valley Forge looked like a gigantic encampment of doomed charcoal-burners. The place was essentially a wood lot, or had been before Washington’s soldiers began felling everything in sight. Hacked stumps were everywhere, and the ground was strewn with broken branches. Huge bonfires burned in random spots, and piles of logs were stacked everywhere. They were building huts as fast as possible--and none too soon, for snow had begun falling three or four hours before, and the camp was already blanketed with white.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 86, "Valley Forge". Copyright© 2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Hope all of you in the US stay cool over the next few days!

P.S. to those of you in the Southern Hemisphere: No, I haven't forgotten about you! Here's my collection of OUTLANDER Quotes to Keep You Warm.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

ABC's of Young Ian

ABC's of Young Ian Murray

I borrowed this idea from a writer's exercise that was posted on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community (now TheLitForum.com) a few years ago. The idea is to list one word pertaining to the character for each letter of the alphabet, along with a brief explanation. Here's my alphabet for Young Ian Murray.

All quotes from the OUTLANDER books are copyright © Diana Gabaldon, of course.

* * * SPOILER WARNING!! * * *

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








A for Adventurous. Ian has never been the sort of person who is content to stay at home. He's always been a wanderer, and evidently was from an early age, as his father recalls:
“Aye, well, he’s always been forward,” Ian answered resignedly. “Learnt to walk before he could stand, and was forever tumblin’ into the fire or the washpot or the pigpen or the cowbyre.”

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 27, "Up in Flames". Copyright ©1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
B for Bruja, the ship that took him to Jamaica, where he was held captive by Geillis Abernathy.  Also for Brianna, his beloved cousin.

C for the Conflict between the Mohawk and Scottish sides of his nature.
“They took me to the stream, scrubbed me wi’ sand to take away the white blood. They gave me my name--Okwaho’kenha--and said I was Mohawk. But I wasna, not really.”

He sighed deeply again, and she put a hand on his back, feeling the bumps of his backbone press through the leather of his shirt. He didn’t eat nearly enough, she thought.

“But I wasna what I had been, either,” he went on, sounding almost matter-of-fact. “I tried to be what they wanted, ken? So I left off praying to God or the Virgin Mother, or Saint Bride. I listened to what Emily said, when she’d tell me about her gods, the spirits that dwell in the trees and all. And when I went to the sweat lodge wi’ the men, or sat by the hearth and heard the stories ... they seemed as real to me as Christ and His saints ever had.”

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

D for his beloved Dog, Rollo, whom he won in a game of Dice. Rollo was Ian's constant companion for so many years, it's still hard to believe that he's gone.

E for Emily, Ian's nickname for his Mohawk wife, Wakyo’teyehsnonhsa, or Works With Her Hands. She was the first woman he ever truly loved, and he felt her loss deeply, long after he had left Snaketown forever.

F for Neil Forbes, whose ear he cut off in ABOSAA, in revenge for Forbes having kidnapped Brianna.

G for the Guilt he felt when he thought he'd killed the intruder in the printshop in Edinburgh, and later when he killed Mrs. Bug by accident.
“It wasn’t your fault,” I said gently.

“I know,” he said, and swallowed. “But I dinna see how I can live.” He wasn’t dramatic about it at all; his voice was simply bewildered. Rollo licked his hand, and his fingers sank into the dog’s ruff, as though for support.

“What can I do, Auntie?” He looked at me, helpless. “There’s nothing, is there? I canna take it back, or undo it. And yet I keep looking for some way that I can. Something I can do to make things right. But there’s … nothing.”

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 3, "Life for Life". Copyright ©2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
H for his "half-homely" features. Also for his skill as a Hunter, which saved Roger and Jemmy's lives when they faced a wild boar near the end of THE FIERY CROSS:
Then the boar’s front legs gave way and it fell to its knees. It wobbled, eyes glazing, and collapsed onto its side, the shaft of an arrow poking up, looking frail and inconsequential by comparison to the animal’s bulk.

Jemmy was squirming and crying underneath him. [Roger] sat up slowly, and gathered the little boy up into his arms. He noticed, remotely, that his hands were shaking, but he felt curiously blank. The torn skin on his palms stung, and his knee was throbbing. Patting Jemmy’s back in automatic comfort, he turned his head toward the wood and saw the Indian standing at the edge of the trees, bow in hand.

(From THE FIERY CROSS by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 108, "Tulach Ard". Copyright ©2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I for Iseabeil, Ian's stillborn first daughter, and also for his father, Ian the Elder.

J for Ian's mother, Jenny Fraser Murray. Owing to circumstances beyond their control, Ian had little contact with his mother as a teenager and a young man, and I was glad to see them reunited.

K for the Kahn'yen'kehaka, or Mohawk. The time Ian spent living with them changed his life profoundly, in many ways.

L for Lallybroch, where he grew up. Also for Latin. Ian wasn't much of a student of languages as a teenager, but he recalled enough to be able to communicate with Lord John when they were being held prisoner by the British army in MOHB.

M for the Mammoth skeleton that Ian takes Brianna to see in ABOSAA. If the one Ian found was anything like the specimen pictured above (from Wikipedia), no wonder they were awestruck by its sheer size! I liked the fact that Ian chose to share this discovery with Brianna; the journey to see it added a lot of depth to their relationship. Ian confides in Bree when he cannot share what he's thinking or feeling with anyone else.

N for Nephew. Jamie bonded with his youngest nephew in the middle of a life-and-death crisis when the Redcoats burst into the house not long after he was born.
[Baby] Ian gave evidence of his living state by kicking his legs with considerable vigor against his uncle’s ribs and emitting a series of small snuffling grunts, which fortunately went unheard in the commotion outside.


Jamie rather thought the Captain was inquiring as to the location of the infant’s body. He clutched the body in question closer, joggling it in an attempt to prevent any disposition on its part to cry. His other hand went to the hilt of his dirk, but it was a vain gesture; it was doubtful that even cutting his own throat would be of help, if the wardrobe were opened.

Baby Ian made an irascible noise, suggesting that he disliked being joggled. With visions of the house in flames and the inhabitants slaughtered, the noise sounded as loud to Jamie as his elder nephew’s anguished howls.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 5, "To Us a Child is Given". Copyright ©1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
O for Okwaho, Rollo's Mohawk name, and also for Oggy, the nickname Ian and Rachel gave their unborn son.

P for Perceptive. Even as a teenager, Ian helped to mend Jamie and Claire's relationship more than once, as when they first arrived in Snaketown in DRUMS:
“But you think he thinks I’m angry at him?”

“Oh, anyone could see ye are, Auntie,” he assured me earnestly. “Ye dinna look at him or speak to him save for what ye must--and,” he said, clearing his throat delicately, “I havena seen ye go to his bed, anytime this month past.”

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 53, "Blame". Copyright ©1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Q for Questions. Newly arrived in the Colonies, Ian was intensely curious about everything he saw.

R for Rachel Hunter. I think Ian and Rachel were very lucky to find one another. Rachel is a strong-willed woman with a mind of her own, just like Ian's mother Jenny, but she also makes it very clear that she accepts Ian for who he is, even when he's committed acts of violence that go against everything she believes as a Quaker.
“I think we can’t wait any longer to be married, Ian,” she said softly. “I will not have thee face such things alone. These are bad times, and we must be together.”

He closed his eyes and all the air went out of him. When he drew breath again, it tasted of peace.

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 92, "I Will Not Have Thee Be Alone". Copyright ©2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
S for Swiftest of Lizards, Emily's eldest child, whom we met in AN ECHO IN THE BONE. According to Tewaktenyonh, the old Mohawk woman, the boy is the child of Ian's spirit, meaning that the Mohawk consider him Ian's son, no matter who his biological father might be. I was very moved by that, and I hope we'll see Swiftest of Lizards again some day.

T for the Tattoos on Ian's face that mark him forever as one of the Kahn'yen'kehaka, even after he returns to the Ridge.

U for his beloved Uncle, James Alexander Malcolm MacKenzie Fraser. Jamie's relationship to Ian runs much deeper than uncle to nephew. In the Highland tradition, they are foster-father and foster-son, and they have a close and loving relationship. I really enjoy watching their interactions over the course of the series, as Young Ian grows into manhood.

V for Violence. When he or his loved ones are threatened, Ian tends to react with startling violence, as when he killed "Mr. X", the would-be blackmailer, in ECHO.
“Don’t--” I began, turning to Jamie, but never got to finish. I saw the expression change on Jamie’s face, saw him leap toward the man--and whirled just in time to see Ian materialize out of the darkness behind the blackmailer and put a sinewy arm round his throat.

I didn’t see the knife. I didn’t have to; I saw Ian’s face, so intent as almost to be expressionless--and I saw the ex-overseer’s face. His jaw dropped and the whites of his eyes showed, his back arching up in a futile attempt at escape.

Then Ian let go, and Jamie caught the man as he began to fall, his body gone suddenly and horribly limp.

(From AN ECHO IN THE BONE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 68, "Despoiler". Copyright ©2009 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
It will be interesting to see if his marriage to Rachel makes him less willing to use violence in such situations.

W for Wolf's Brother, or Okwaho’kenha, Ian's Mohawk name. I like the fact that the name they gave him reflects his very close relationship with Rollo.

X for eXile. Kidnapped from Scotland at the age of fourteen, forced to give up all contact with his white relatives during the time he lived as a Mohawk, and then settling on Fraser's Ridge, an ocean away from Lallybroch, Ian has spent much of his life apart from his family and loved ones.

Y for Youngest. Ian is the youngest of Jenny and Ian Murray's seven children. Also for Yeksa'a, his stillborn daughter.

Z for Zero. The number of times Ian had encountered a skunk before coming to America. He learned the hard way that it's better to leave them alone!
“Ian,” I said, taking refuge behind Jamie. “Call off your dog. Skunks are dangerous.”

“They are?” Jamie turned a look of puzzlement on me. “But what--”

“Polecats only stink,” I explained. “Skunks--Ian, no! Let it alone, and come inside!” Ian, curious, had reached out and prodded the skunk with his poker. The skunk, offended at this unwarranted intimacy, stamped its feet and elevated its tail.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 10, "Jocasta". Copyright ©1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I hope you enjoyed these! Are there other aspects of Ian's character, or other incidents in his life, that you'd like to add to this list? I'm sure there are things I left out. What do you think of Ian's character, in the books or show? Please leave a comment here or on my Outlandish Observations Facebook page.

Here are the other posts in this series:

ABC's of Jamie Fraser
ABC's of Claire Fraser
ABC's of Roger
ABC's of Brianna
ABC's of Lord John Grey
ABC's of the OUTLANDER TV Series 

Monday, July 1, 2019

June poll results

Here are the results of the June poll, which asked the question, "Have you tried to get other people to read the OUTLANDER books, or watch the TV series?"
  • 24.24% - Many times!
  • 22.59% - I got one or more of my close friends or family members addicted.
  • 20.94% - All of the above.
  • 10.12% - I've tried, but so far without success.
  • 8.00% - Of course! I enjoy being an OUTLANDER ambassador.
  • 4.47% - I've been spreading the word about the TV series and trying to get people to watch.
  • 3.53% - I've given copies of OUTLANDER to my friends or coworkers.
  • 2.35% - No, I haven't tried.
  • 2.12% - I've recommended OUTLANDER to strangers in the bookstore or library.
  • 1.18% - I've recommended the books on Facebook, Goodreads, or other online sites.
  • 0.47% - I got my book club to read OUTLANDER.
There were 425 responses to this month's poll. Thanks very much to everyone who participated!

Please take a moment to vote in the July poll, which asks, "How did you discover the OUTLANDER books?"