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!

*** SPOILER WARNING! *** 

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.
Amen."

(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!

*** SPOILER WARNING!! ***

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....