ECHO's shape: It's a caltrop

Diana Gabaldon mentioned yesterday on Compuserve that she thinks she's seen the "shape" of AN ECHO IN THE BONE.

It's a caltrop.

This has sparked a very interesting discussion on Compuserve, regarding all the various meanings of the word, and what you can do with an object shaped like that. I would encourage you to check it out.

Oh, and this relates back to my blog entry about Diana's strange and unusual words, because I'd never heard of the word caltrop until I read DRUMS OF AUTUMN. Remember the scene where Claire is walking around barefoot in the strawberry field and steps on something sharp?

I had stepped on some sort of cocklebur; half a dozen vicious caltrops were stuck in my bare sole, blood drops welling from the tiny punctures. Precariously balanced on one foot, I tried to pick them out, cursing under my breath.

(From Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon, Chapter 16 ("The First Law of Thermodynamics"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)

I think this is a fascinating shape that has a lot of potential for great storytelling.

Feel free to speculate here about what it means <g>, just please don't discuss anything you may have read in an excerpt. I'm still trying to avoid hearing anything about the plot of ECHO. Thanks. Also please keep in mind, this isn't necessarily set in stone! A few weeks ago, Diana mentioned a slightly different shape for ECHO. So it evolves over time, and it might change again.

UPDATE 2/6/09 6:30 pm: Diana announced today that the U.S. cover will be black with a caltrop on it. Look here for a picture of the proposed cover art. I think it looks fantastic! If you want to comment, my latest blog entry on the subject is here.


Jari Backman said...


It really is interesting. I re-listened to her Podcast #11, where she talked about these.

And interesting, LJBB had the shape of a pyramid. You could say that it is actually opposite to caltrop, but works a bit similarly. When you throw it, it will stay one corner up and be supported by the sides.

And there surely aren't any twists [g].

I noticed earlier that you managed to put a g between < and > marks. My machine complains that it is not acceptable HTML?

Karen Henry said...


I didn't know BOTB was shaped like a pyramid. You're right, it's very similar.

The trick to getting the < and > to show up is that you have to type them as follows:

&lt; for <
&gt; for >

For example, &lt;g&gt; will display as <g>.

Neat trick, don't you think?


Anonymous said...

I think it is very interesting to "see" the shape of the books as described by Diana...notice, in her link to a caltrop, that there is a corkscrew or twist in the center of the caltrop. This leads me to visual the interconnecting threads of story woven together, ending in hooks to keep up waiting for more. She is so creative!

Jari Backman said...


Thank you. Didn't realize that you can 'cheat' in this way <g>

And you had to know, how you explain the & letter without 'magic' <vbg>

Karen Henry said...

Diana has posted a new blog entry talking about the shape of the books, including some more discussion of caltrops:

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