• “The smartest historical sci-fi adventure-romance story ever written by a science Ph.D. with a background in scripting 'Scrooge McDuck' comics.”—Salon.com
  • A time-hopping, continent-spanning salmagundi of genres.”
    —ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

The Great American Read with PBS!


PBSGreatAmericanReadLogoPBS would like me to remind you about The Great American Read—which I’m delighted to do. The Great American Read is a “new television series, competition and nationwide campaign which explores the power of books and the joy of reading through the lens of America’s 100 best-loved novels, as voted on by the public.”

Outlander-cover-mediumThank you, PBS, and all the readers across the U.S.A. who chose OUTLANDER in the initial survey as one of the 100 most-loved American novels!

The Great American Read program series was launched on PBS on May 22, 2018 when the list of 100 favorite books was revealed in the first two-hour broadcast episode.

Over the summer and into the fall, you will have time to read all 100 books if you choose. Plus you are invited to vote daily and help choose America’s favorite novel from the list of 100! Online voting began on May 22, and will end on October 18, 2018 at midnight (Pacific Time).

Print a checklist of the 100 books.

I should mention—because I got it wrong last time I posted a reminder—that you may vote for any number of books from the list on any given day—you just can’t vote more than once per day for any single book.

Five one-hour ‘themed’ episodes will be aired in the fall which examine concepts common to the groups of books on the list.

During The Great American Read series finale—to be aired on PBS on October 22—results of the nationwide vote to choose America’s best-loved book (or book series) will be announced!



Vote Using The PBS Website:

So, should you feel moved to vote for your favorite book(s), one method is to visit the PBS voting webpage. With this method, you can vote for multiple favorite books each day! (Only one vote per day per favorite book…)

Vote-Outlander-PBS-nobutton

  1. Go to: https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/vote/

    At some point during the first time you vote, you will be asked to log in. You may use your email address, your Facebook or Google login, or your PBS member account. (Logins are required so that PBS may limit voting to only once per day pr person per book, and to readers in the U.S.A.) After this first login, voting using the website should be only a few clicks if using the same phone, tablet, or computer.

  2. Scroll down through the 100 books with images of their covers and click on your favorite(s) to vote. To vote for OUTLANDER, scroll down until you see it listed (with the exaple cover shown at right). Note that on this PBS voting webpage, the text on the icon for OUTLANDER says “Outlander (series)”.
  3. Click on the “Vote” button.

    Once you vote on a book on the PBS voting webpage, a confirmation window will appear.

  4. Click on the “Confirm” button to finish casting your vote for a book.

    If you don’t confirm, your vote won’t be counted!

  5. You may vote for multiple books each day, repeating the steps above.


Vote Using Facebook or Twitter:

Or you may vote for OUTLANDER using your Facebook or Twitter account using this special hashtag:

#VoteOUTLANDER

in a new entry you have created and posted.

To vote for your other favorite books on social media, download a list of voting hashtags (PDF format) for all 100 books.


Need more information? Click here for full voting details from the PBS website, or see the links below.

Thanks for your attention! Happy reading!

-Diana



More Information on The Great American Read:

PBS-GreatAmericanRead-windowFrom the PBS website:

“THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series on the PBS network in the U.S.A. that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in an initial national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience. The television series features entertaining and informative documentary segments, with compelling testimonials from celebrities, authors, notable Americans and book lovers across the country.

“The series is the centerpiece of an ambitious multi-platform digital, educational and community outreach campaign, designed to get the country reading and passionately talking about books.”



Links:


This post was last updated on Thursday, May 31, 2018 at 3:20 a.m. (PT). by my Webmistress.

Season 3 Global Release Dates


Season 3 Release Dates In DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Formats

Season3-Collector-EditionSony International, the distributor for the Starz Outlander TV series, has sent me the following release dates for Season 3 in DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital formats:

March 5, 2018: U.K. and Germany

March 7, 2018: Australia and New Zealand

April 9, 2018: Norway, Sweden, Finland, and South Africa

April 10, 2018: U.S.A. and Canada (Canada: English & French-speaking)

April 11, 2018:: France, Czech Republic, and Taiwan

April 12, 2018: Denmark

April 13, 2018: Spain

April 17, 2018: Hong Kong

April 18, 2018: Belgium (French-speaking)

May 7, 2018: Greece

May 30, 2018: Brazil

Release dates for other countries and areas are to be announced. Updates to this list will be added as soon as available.

For digital downloads and streaming of Season 3, please contact your favorite digital services after the release dates listed to determine availability in your area. See my Where and How To Watch page for more information.

The cover for the Blu-Ray Collector’s Edition of Season 3 (U.S.A. edition) is shown in the image above, which goes on sale on April 10, 2018.

Note that all release dates are decided upon and announced by Sony International, the distributor for the Starz Outlander TV series. Neither I nor my Webmistress have any say in—or control over—when the DVDs will be for sale in any country or region.

Enjoy!

Sneak Peek on April 3rd!


OK…. So, how many of y’all might be available April 3rd to join me and Toni in L.A. for a Sneak Peek of the Season Three DVD set? (Note that it’s free, but limited seating—RSVP!)

Click on the image below to view the invitation in higher resolution, or see event details below the image:

sneek-peek

Event details:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018 – CULVER CITY, CA (L.A. Area)

Sneak Peek Fan Event for Outlander Season Three Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray Set with Author Diana Gabaldon and Executive Producer Toni Graphia.

RSVP required! Limited seating!

To RSVP, send an email to: OutlanderRSVP@mprm.com

RSVP EARLY TO SECURE A SEAT! SEATING IS LIMITED!

After you send your RSVP by email, the organizers of the event will contact you by replying to your email.

Make sure the email account you use is in YOUR NAME! Or that you include your name in the body of the email. If you obtain a spot at the event, you will need a driver’s license or state picture ID with your name on it to be admitted. The name on your email and the name on your ID have to match for you to be admitted.

Check-in: 4:30 p.m.
Program starts: 5:00 p.m.

Event Host:
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Event Venue:
Sony Pictures Studios
Jimmy Stewart Building
10202 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232

Special features screening with Q & A, followed by a light reception.

All attendees must be over 21 years old.

Note that the limited edition Blu-Ray set of Season 3 will be available for purchase in the U.S. on April 10, 2018.

For my other upcoming events, please see my appearances webpage.


In The Greenhouse (“A Fugitive Green”)


Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLInes, #HappyVernalEquinox, #HalandMinnie, #AndMrBloomer, #inthePrinceofWalessgreenhouse, #springhassprung!, #AFugitiveGreen

[Excerpt from “A Fugitive Green” — in SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL, Copyright © 2017 by Diana Gabaldon. And many thanks to Louise Hudson for the Scottish bees on thistle!]

BeesOnThistle-LHudsonA flash of red caught her eye through the trees, and for an instant, she thought he was an exotic bird, lured by the astonishing abundance of peculiar fruits. Then she heard voices, though, and a moment later he stepped out into the wide graveled patch where the pathways intersected. A soldier, in what must be full-dress uniform—a blaze of scarlet and gold, with shining black boots to the knee and a sword at his belt.

He wasn’t tall; in fact, he was rather slight, with a fine-boned face seen in profile as he turned to say something to his companion. He stood very straight, though, shoulders square and head up, and there was something about him that reminded her of a bantam cock—something deeply fierce, innately proud, and completely unaware of its relative size; quite ready to take on all comers, spurs first.

The thought entertained her so much that it was a moment before she noticed his interlocutor. The companion wasn’t dressed as a soldier, but was certainly very fine, too, in gold velvet, with a blue satin sash and some large medallion pinned to his chest—the Order of something-or-other, she supposed. He did, however, strongly resemble a frog, wide-lipped and pale, with rather big, staring eyes.

The sight of the two of them, rooster and frog, engaged in convivial conversation, made her smile behind her fan, and she didn’t notice the gentleman who had come up behind her until he spoke.

“Are you fond of opuntiod cacti… madame?”

“I might be, if I knew what they were,” she replied, swinging round to see a youngish gentleman in a plum-colored suit gazing at her intently.

“Um… Actually, I prefer succulents,” she said, giving the agreed-upon countersign. She cleared her throat, hoping she remembered the word. “Particularly the, um, Euphorbias.”

The question in his eyes vanished, replaced by amusement. He looked her up and down in a manner that might in other circumstances have been insulting. She flushed, but held his gaze and raised her brows.

“Mr. Bloomer, I presume?”

“If you like,” he said, smiling, and offered her his arm. “Do let me show you the Euphorbias, Miss…. ?”

sevenstones-cover1A moment of panic; who should she be, or admit to being?

“Houghton,” she said. “Lady Bedelia Houghton.”

“Of course you are,” he said, straight-faced. “Charmed to make your acquaintance, Lady Bedelia.”

He bowed slightly, she took his arm, and together they walked slowly into the wilderness.

There were several glasshouses, linked together, and they passed through minor jungles of philodendrons—but philodendrons that had never graced anything so plebeian as a morning room, with ragged leaves each half as large as Minnie herself, a thing with great veined leaves the color of green ink and the look of watered silk—

“They’re rather poisonous, philodendrons,” Mr. Bloomer said, with a casual nod. “All of them. Did you know?”

“I shall make a note of it.”

And then trees—ficus, Mr. Bloomer informed her (perhaps he hadn’t chosen his alias at random, after all)—with twisted stems and thick leaves and a sweet, musty smell, some of them with vines that climbed the ficus’s trunk with convulsive force, sturdy rootlike hairs clinging to the thin bark. And then, sure enough; the bloody Euphorbias, in person.

She hadn’t known things like that existed. Many of them didn’t even look like proper plants—and some that did were strange perversions of the plant kingdom, with thick bare stems studded with cruel thorns, things that resembled lettuce—but a ruffled white lettuce with dark red edgings that made it look as though someone had used it to mop up blood—

“They’re rather poisonous, too, the Euphorbias, but it’s more the sap. Won’t kill you, but you don’t want to get it in your eyes.”

“I’m sure I don’t.” Minnie took a better grip on her parasol, ready to unfurl it in case any of the plants should take it into mind to spit at her; several of them looked as though they’d like nothing better.

“They call that one ‘Crown of Thorns,’” Mr. Bloomer said, nodding at one particularly horrid thing with long black spikes sticking out in all directions. “Apt.” He noticed her expression at this point, and smiled, tilting his head toward the next house. “Come along; you’ll like the next collection better.”

“Oh,” she said, in a small voice. Then, “OH!” much louder. The new glasshouse was much bigger than the others, with a high, vaulted roof that filled the air with sun and lit the thousand—at least!—orchids that sprang from tables and spilled from trees in cascades of white and gold and purple and red, and…

“Oh, my.” She sighed in bliss, and Mr. Bloomer laughed.

They weren’t alone in their appreciation. All of the glasshouses were popular; there had been a fair number of people exclaiming at the spiny, the grotesque, and the poisonous—but the orchid house was packed with guests and the air was filled with a hum of amazement and delight.

Minnie inhaled as much as she could, sniffing. The air was scented, with a variety of fragrances, enough to make her head swim.

“You don’t want to smell that one.” Mr. Bloomer, guiding her from one delight to the next, put out a shielding hand toward a large pot of rather dull green orchids with thick petals. “Rotting meat.”

She took a cautious sniff and recoiled.

“And why on earth would an orchid want to smell like rotting meat?” she demanded.

He gave her a slightly queer look, but smiled.

“Flowers put on the color and scent they require to attract the insects who pollinate them. Our friend the Bulbophyllum there—” he nodded at the green things, “—depends upon the services of carrion flies. Come, this one smells of coconut—have you ever smelt a coconut?”


This excerpt was also posted on my official Facebook page on Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

Four Days in Paris!


Sunday, March 18, 2018

2018-03-18-Diana-ParisBkFest1Had a wonderful four days with fans in Le Paris! (Or is it La Paris? I learned to read French in graduate school—lo, these many years ago… and can still read newspapers, signs and the descriptive cards next to Museum exhibits. After several days listening to French, I can understand about half of what people are saying. Unfortunately, I have NO grammar, so can’t talk back to them, save for things like “C’est fini!” and “C’est mon plaisir.”)

Paris-Book-Fair-logoSigned books at the Paris Book Fair for five and a half hours straight today, with minor interruptions for interviews with bloggers. (And before you ask, en masse (see, that’s French!), no, thanks for asking but I don’t have carpal tunnnel—you don’t move your wrist at all when signing your name (try it and see). My index and middle finger are stiff, (I did four hours at the PBF on Friday, then signed at two local bookstores yesterday—FNAC and the fabulous La Griffe Noir), but it’s actually your forearm tendons that take the brunt of heavy-duty signing. After three or four hundred books, if you placed your hands on my forearms, you’d notice that the right one is about four degrees warmer than the left!

Met wonderful people from everywhere: Mumbai, Goa, Lisbon, the Netherlands, Normandy, Lorraine,Spain (was pleased to be able to speak Spanish in front of my hosts from J’ai Lu (French publisher)—not a monoglot American!), who loaded me with wonderful gifts that I can’t possibly cram in my suitcase; will have to ship most things home, but plan to take ALLLLLL the chocolate and wine with me… (Merci beaucoup!)

Tomorrow, I have the morning off, so Doug and I can go see a museum or stroll the Champs Élysées (in the falling snow and sub-freezing temperatures)—I managed a quick dart into L’Orangerie Friday morning, to see Monet’s beautiful elliptical rooms of water lilies (and several more fantastic Impressionists and slightly post-Impressionists downstairs), but Paris has a LOT of great museums.

Then in the afternoon, we catch a train to Nancy, where we’ll do a signing at (I think) 5:00 p.m., and come home late. Tuesday, though, is completely free, so planning what to do with our time…

And to answer all the eager questions about when is the next book coming out… as I said to the thousands of people I’ve seen this week: “You know, you’ve got a choice: You can have the next book faster, or you can look at me. <pause> Are you looking at me?”

In other words, it’s great fun to come and talk to people, see great cities and eat wonderful food (even if you don’t get any of it until supper…. I highly recommend the Plume restaurant, btw; fantastic Beef Wok tonight! And Mipi (Neapolitan Mini-Pizzas, last night))—but that’s why I DON’T accept most of the zillion (not exaggerating; it’s definitely at least that many) lovely invitations I get. Tonight is the first night in five days that I’ve been able to get up in the middle of the night and do a little work. So now I’m going to go do that…. Á bientot!

P.S. Check out my new essay: “One Word Speaks Volumes (Themes of the Books)” which discusses one-word descriptions of the novels in my OUTLANDER series.


This blog was posted on my official Facebook Page on Sunday, March 18, 2018.

Roger Wakes In A New Old Place (BEES)


On March 6th, 1988, I started writing a book for practice. That turned out to be OUTLANDER, and now look where we are….! So in honor of the occasion <cough>, here is (what I think will be) Roger’s first scene from BEES…

Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLines, #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGone, #BookNine, #Nopenopenopitynopenopenope, #Illtellyouwhenitsdone, #InHonorOf30YEARSDoingThisStuff, #RogerWakesUpInANewOldPlace, #MinorSpoilers

2018-03-bee-SueGraftonSheer exhaustion made Roger sleep like the dead, in spite of the fact that the MacKenzies’ bed consisted of two ragged quilts that Amy Higgins had hastily dragged out of her piecework bag, these laid over a week’s worth of the Higginses’ dirty laundry, and the MacKenzies’ outer clothing as blankets. It was a warm bed, though, with the heat of the smoored fire on one side, and the body heat of two children and a snuggly wife on the other, and he fell into sleep like a man falling down a well, with time for no more than the briefest prayer—though a profound one-—of gratitude.

We made it. Thanks.

He woke to darkness and the smell of burnt wood and a freshly-used chamber-pot, feeling a sudden chill behind him. He had lain down with his back to the fire, but had rolled over during the night, and now saw the sullen glow of the last embers a couple of feet from his face, faint crimson veins in a bank of charcoal and gray ash. He put a hand behind him; Brianna was gone. There was a vague heap that must be Jem and Mandy at the far side of the quilt and the rest of the cabin was still somnolent, the air thick with heavy breathing.

“Bree?” he whispered, raising himself on one elbow. She was close—a solid shadow with her bottom braced against the wall by the hearth, one foot raised as she pulled on a stocking.

She put down the foot and crouched beside him, fingers brushing his face.

“I’m going hunting with Da,” she whispered, bending close. “Mama will watch the kids, if you have things to do today.”

“Aye. Where did ye get—” he ran a hand down the side of her hip; she was wearing a thick hunting shirt and loose breeches, much patched; he could feel the roughness of the stitching under his palm.

“They’re Da’s,” she said, and kissed him, the tinge of ember-light glisking in her hair. “Go back to sleep. It won’t be dawn for another hour.”

He watched her step lightly through the bodies on the floor, boots in her hand, and a cold draft snaked through the room as the door opened and closed soundlessly behind her. Bobby Higgins said something in a sleep-slurred voice, and one of the little boys sat up, said “What?” in a clear, startled voice and then flopped back into his quilt, dormant once more.

The fresh air vanished into the comfortable fug and the cabin slept. Roger didn’t. He lay on his back, feeling peace, relief, excitement and trepidation in roughly equal proportions.

They really had made it.

All of them. He kept counting them, compulsively. All four of them. Here, and safe.

Fragmented memories and sensations jostled through his mind; he let them flow through him, not trying to stay them or catch more than an image here and there: The feel of a small gold bar in his sweaty hand, the lurch of his stomach when he’d dropped it and it slid out of his reach across the tilting deck. The warm steam of parritch with whisky on it, fortification against a freezing Scottish morning. Brianna hopping carefully down a flight of stairs on one foot, the bandaged one lifted and the words of “My Dame Hath a Lame, Tame Crane” coming irresistibly to his mind. The smell of Buck’s hair, acrid and unwashed, as they embraced each other on the edge of a dock and a final farewell. Cold, endless days and nights in the lurching hold of the Constance on their way to Charles Town, the four of them huddled in a corner, deafened by the smash of water against the hull, too seasick to be hungry, too exhausted anymore even to be terrified, hypnotized instead by the rising water in the hold, watching it inch higher, splashing them with each sickening roll, trying to share their pitiful store of body heat to keep the kids alive…

He let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding, put his hands on the solid wooden floor to either side, closed his eyes and let it all drain away.

No looking back. They’d made their decision, and they’d made it here. To sanctuary.

So now, what?

He’d lived in this cabin once, for a long time. Now he supposed he’d build a new one; Jamie had told him last night that the land Jamie had given him was still his, registered in his name.

A small glow of anticipation rose in his heart. The day lay before him; what should he do first?

“Daddy!” a voice with a lot of spit whispered loudly in his ear. “Daddy, I haveta go potty!”

He sat up smiling, pushing tangled cloaks and shirts out of the way. Mandy was hopping from foot to foot in agitation, a small black chickadee, solid against the shadows.

“Aye, sweetheart,” he whispered back, and took her hand, warm and sticky. “I’ll take ye to the privy. Try not to step on anybody.”

[end section]

[And many thanks to Sue Gunston for the lovely bee photo!]

Click to visit my official webpage for GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE for links to information and more Daily Lines (excerpts).


I first posted this excerpt (Daily Lines) on my official Facebook page and my official Twitter feed on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. You may share the URL (link above) to this excerpt, but please do not copy and paste the entire text and post it elsewhere. Thank you. -Diana

This text is copyright © 2018 by Diana Gabaldon. All Rights Reserved. This blog post was last updated on Wednesday, March 7, 2018, at 7:10 a.m. (PT) by Diana’s Webmistress.

“Bear” (BEES)


Below is a new excerpt from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, which will be book nine in my OUTLANDER series of novels.

Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLines, #GoTELLTheBEESThatIAmGONE, #BookNine, #goingnicelythankyou, #NOitsnotdone, #Illtellyouwhenitis, #readthenovellas

Egyptian-thingieJamie and Brianna came back in mid-afternoon, with two brace of squirrels, fourteen doves, and a large piece of stained and tattered canvas which, unwrapped, revealed something that looked like the remnants of a particularly grisly murder.

“Supper?” I asked, gingerly poking at a shattered bone sticking out of the mass of hair and slick flesh. The smell was iron-raw and butcherous, with a rank note that seemed familiar, but decay hadn’t yet set in to any noticeable degree.

“Aye, if ye can manage, Sassenach.” Jamie came and peered down at the bloody shambles, frowning a little. “I’ll tidy it up for ye. I need a bit o’whisky first, though.”

Given the blood-stains on his shirt and breeks, I hadn’t noticed the equally stained rag tied round his leg, but now saw that he was limping. Raising a brow, I went to the large basket of food, small tools, and minor medical supplies that I lugged up to the house site every morning.

“From what’s left of it, I presume that is—or was—a deer. Did you actually tear it apart with your bare hands?”

Brianna snickered.

“No, but the bear did.” She exchanged complicit glances with her father, who hummed in his throat.

“Bear,” I said, and took a deep breath. I gestured at his shirt. “Right. How much of that blood is yours?”

“No much,” he said tranquilly, and sat down on the big log. “Whisky?”

I looked sharply at Brianna, but she seemed to be intact. Filthy, and with green-gray bird-droppings streaked down her shirt, but intact. Her face glowed with sun and happiness, and I smiled.

“There’s whisky in the tin canteen hanging over there,” I said, nodding toward the big spruce at the far side of the clearing. “Do you want to fetch it for your father while I see what’s left of his leg?”

“Sure. Where are Mandy and Jem?”

“When last seen, they were playing by the creek with Aidan and his brothers. Don’t worry,” I added, seeing her lower lip suck suddenly in. “It’s very shallow there and Fanny said she’d go and keep an eye on Mandy while she’s collecting leeches. Fanny’s very dependable.”

“Mm-hm.” Bree still looked dubious, but I could see her fighting down her maternal impulse to go scoop Mandy out of the creek immediately. “I know I met her last night, but I’m not sure I remember Fanny. Where does she live?”

“With us,” Jamie said, matter-of-factly. “Ow!”

“Hold still,” I said, holding the puncture wound below his knee open with two fingers while I poured saline solution into it. “You don’t want to die of tetanus, do you?”

“And what would ye do if I said yes, Sassenach?”

“The same thing I’m doing right now. I don’t care if you want to or not; I’m not having it.”


Click to visit my BEES webpage which has information and links to more excerpts from this new book.


This excerpt was also posted on my official Facebook page on January 19, 2018.

“A Small Gift In Honor of My Birthday” (BEES)


Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLines, #GoTELLTheBEESThaIAmGONE, #BookNine, #ASmallGiftInHonorofMyBirthday, #ThankYouAll #VERYMuch

2018-01-11-DG-flowers“Lie down,” I said firmly, and pointed to my lap.

“Nay, I’ll be f—”

“I don’t care whether you’re fine or not,” I said. “I said, lie down.”

“I’ve work to—”

“You’ll be flat on your face in another minute,” I said. “Lie. Down.”

He opened his mouth, but a spasm of pain made him shut his eyes, and he couldn’t locate any words with which to argue. He swallowed, opened his eyes, and sat down beside me, very gingerly. He was breathing slowly and shallowly, as though drawing a deep breath might make things worse.

I stood up, took his shoulders and turned him gently so I could reach his plait. I undid his ribbon and unraveled the thick strands of auburn hair. It still was mostly red, though soft white threads caught the light here and there.

“Down,” I said again, sitting and pulling his shoulders toward me. He moaned a little, but stopped resisting and lowered himself very slowly, ’til his head rested heavy in my lap. I touched his face, my fingers feather-light on his skin, tracing the bones and hollows, temples and orbits, cheekbones and jaw. Then I slid my fingers into the soft mass of his hair, warm in my hands, and did the same to his scalp. He let out his breath, carefully, and I felt his body loosen, growing heavier as he relaxed.

“Where does it hurt?” I murmured, making very light circles round his temples with my thumbs. “Here?”

“Aye… but…” He put up a hand, blindly, and cupped it over his right eye. “It feels like an arrow—straight through into my brain.”

“Mmm.” I pressed my thumb gently round the bony orbit of the eye, and slid my other hand under his head, probing the base of his skull. I could feel the muscles knotted there, hard as walnuts under the skin. “Well, then.”

I took my hands away and he let his breath out.

“It won’t hurt,” I reassured him, reaching for the jar of blue ointment.

“It does hurt,” he said, and squinched his eyelids as a fresh spasm seized him.

“I know.” I unlidded the jar, but let it stand, the sharp fragrance of peppermint, camphor and green peppercorns scenting the air. “I’ll make it better.”

He didn’t make any reply, but settled himself as I began to massage the ointment gently into his neck, the base of his skull, the skin of his forehead and temples. I couldn’t use the ointment so close to his eye, but put a dab under his nose, and he took a slow, deep breath. I’d make a cool poultice for the eye when I’d finished. For now, though…

“Do you remember,” I said, my voice low and quiet. “Telling me once about visiting Bird Who Sings in the Morning? And how his mother came and combed your hair?”

“Aye,” he said, after a moment’s hesitation. “She said… she would comb the snakes from my hair.” Another hesitation. “She… did.”

Clearly he did remember—and so did I recall what he’d told me about it. How she’d gently combed his hair, over and over, while he told her—in a language she didn’t speak—the trouble in his heart. Guilt, distress… and the forgotten faces of the men he’d killed.

There is a spot, just where the zygomatic arch joins the maxilla, where the nerves are often inflamed and sensitive….yes, just there. I pressed my thumb gently up into the spot and he gasped and stiffened a little. I put my other hand on his shoulder.

“Shh. Breathe.”

His breath came with a small moan, but he did. I held the spot, pressing harder, moving my thumb just a little, and after a long moment, felt the spot warm and seem to melt under my touch. He felt it too, and his body relaxed again.

“Let me do that for you,” I said softly. The wooden comb he’d made me sat on the little table beside the jar of ointment. With one hand still on his shoulder, I picked it up.

“I… no, I dinna want…” But I was drawing the comb softly through his hair, the wooden teeth gentle against his skin. Over and over, very slowly.

I didn’t say anything for quite some time. He breathed. The light came in low now, the color of wildflower honey, and he was warm in my hands, the weight of him heavy in my lap.

“Tell me,” I said to him at last, in a whisper no louder than the breeze through the open window. “I don’t need to know, but you need to tell me. Say it in Gaelic, or Italian or German—some language I don’t understand, if that’s better. But say it.”

His breath came a little faster and he tightened, but I went on combing, in long, even strokes that swept over his head and laid his hair untangled in a soft, gleaming mass over my thigh. After a moment, he opened his eyes, dark and half-focused.

“Sassenach?” he said softly.

“Mm?”

“I dinna ken any language that I think ye wouldna understand.”

He breathed once more, closed his eyes, and began haltingly to speak, his voice soft as the beating of my heart.

Click here to visit my BEES webpage.


I also posted this excerpt (“Daily Lines”) from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, Book Nine of my OUTLANDER series of novels, on my official Facebook page on January 11, 2018.

Happy Holidays 2017!


Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLines, #DRUMSofAUTUMN, #Solstice, #KeepingEachOtherWarm

MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHAG SAMEACH, JOYFUL KWANZAA, BLESSED SOLSTICE and/or a DELIGHTFUL WINTER SEASON to all of you!

-Diana

[Excerpt is from DRUMS OF AUTUMN. Copyright © 1996 by Diana Gabaldon]

Drums-holiday-blogJamie’s hair and shoulders were lightly dusted with snow, and flakes were settling on the exposed backs of his legs. I pulled the hem of his cloak down, then brushed the snow away from his face. His cheek was nearly the same color as the big wet flakes, and his flesh felt stiff when I touched it.

Fresh alarm surged through me as I realized that he might be a lot closer to freezing already than I had thought. His eyes were half closed, and cold as it was, he didn’t seem to be shivering much. That was bloody dangerous; with no movement, his muscles were generating no heat, and what warmth he had was leaching slowly from his body. His cloak was already heavy with damp; if I allowed his clothes to become soaked through, he might very well die of hypothermia right in front of me.

“Wake up!” I said, shaking him urgently by the shoulder. He opened his eyes and smiled drowsily at me.

“Move!” I said. “Jamie, you’ve got to move!”

“I can’t,” he said calmly. “I told ye that.” He shut his eyes again.

I grabbed him by the ear and dug my fingernails into the tender lobe. He grunted and jerked his head away.

"Wake up," I said peremptorily. "Do you hear me? Wake up this moment! Move, damn you! Give me your hand."

I didn’t wait for him to comply, but dug under the cloak and seized his hand, which I chafed madly between my own. He opened his eyes again and frowned at me.

"I’m all right," he said. "But I’m gey tired, aye?"

"Move your arms," I ordered, flinging the hand at him. "Flap them, up and down. Can you move your legs at all?"

He sighed wearily, as though dragging himself out of a sticky bog, and muttered something under his breath in Gaelic, but very slowly he began to move his arms back and forth. With more prodding, he succeeded in flexing his ankles— though any further movement caused instant spasms in his back— and with great reluctance, began to waggle his feet.

He looked rather like a frog trying to fly, but I wasn’t in any mood to laugh. I didn’t know whether he was actually in danger of freezing or not, but I wasn’t taking any chances. By dint of constant exhortation, aided by judicious pokings, I kept him at this exercise until I had got him altogether awake and shivering. In a thoroughly bad temper, too, but I didn’t mind that.

"Keep moving," I advised him. I got up with some difficulty, having grown quite stiff from crouching over him so long. "Move, I say!" I added sharply, as he showed symptoms of flagging. "Stop and I’ll step square on your back, I swear I will!"

I glanced around, a little blearily. The snow was still falling, and it was difficult to see more than a few feet. We needed shelter— more than the rock alone could provide.

"Hemlock," he said between his teeth. I glanced down at him, and he jerked his head toward a clump of trees nearby. "Take the hatchet. Big… branches. Six feet. C-cut four." He was breathing heavily, and there was a tinge of color visible in his face, despite the dim light. He’d stopped moving in spite of my threats, but his teeth were clenched because they were chattering— a sign I rejoiced to see.

I stooped and groped beneath his cloak again, this time searching for the hatchet belted round his waist. I couldn’t resist sliding a hand under him, inside the neck of his fringed woolen hunting shirt. Warm! Thank God, he was still warm. His chest felt superficially chilled from its contact with the wet ground, but it was still warmer than my fingers.

"Right," I said, taking my hand away and standing up with the hatchet. "Hemlock. Six-foot branches, do you mean?"

He nodded, shivering violently, and I set off at once for the trees he indicated.

Inside the silent grove, the fragrance of hemlock and cedar enfolded me at once in a mist of resins and turpenes, the odor cold and sharp, clean and invigorating. Many of the trees were enormous, with the lower branches well above my head, but there were smaller ones scattered here and there. I saw at once the virtues of this particular tree— no snow fell under them; the fanlike boughs caught the falling snow like umbrellas.

I hacked at the lower branches, torn between the need for haste and the very real fear of chopping off a few fingers by accident; my hands were numb and awkward with the cold.

The wood was green and elastic and it took forever to chop through the tough, springy fibers. At last, though, I had four good-sized branches, sporting multiple fans of dense needles. They looked soft and black against the new snow, like big fans of feathers; it was almost a surprise to touch them and feel the hard, cold prick of the needles.

I dragged them back to the rock, and found that Jamie had managed to scoop more leaves together; he was almost invisible, submerged in a huge drift of black and gray against the foot of the rock.

Under his terse direction I leaned the hemlock branches fan-up against the face of the rock, the chopped butt ends stuck into the earth at an angle, so as to form a small triangular refuge underneath. Then I took the hatchet again and chopped small pine and spruce branches, pulled up big clumps of dried grass, and piled it all against and over the hemlock screen. Then at last, panting with exertion, I crawled into the shelter beside him.

I nestled down in the leaves between his body and the rock, wrapped my cloak around both of us, put my arms around his body, and held on hard. Then I found the leisure to shake a bit. Not from cold— not yet— but from a mixture of relief and fear.

He felt me shivering, and reached awkwardly back to pat me in reassurance.

"It will be all right, Sassenach," he said. "With the two of us, it will be all right."

"I know," I said, and put my forehead against his shoulder blade. It was a long time before I stopped shaking, though,

"How long have you been out here?" I asked finally. "On the ground, I mean?"

He started to shrug. Then stopped abruptly, groaning.

"A good time. It was just past noon when I jumped off a wee crop of rock. It wasna more than a few feet high, but when I landed on one foot, my back went click! And next I knew, I was on my face in the dirt, feelin’ as though someone had stabbed me in the spine wi’ a dirk."

It wasn’t warm in our snug, by any means; the damp from the leaves was seeping in and the rock at my back seemed to radiate coldness, like some sort of reverse furnace. Still, it was noticeably less cold than it was outside. I began shivering again, for purely physical reasons.

Jamie felt me, and groped at his throat.

"Can ye get my cloak unfastened, Sassenach? Put it over ye."

It took some maneuvering, and the cost of a few muffled oaths from Jamie as he tried to shift his weight, but I got it loose at last, and spread it over the two of us. I reached down and laid a cautious hand on his back, gently rucking up his shirt to put my hand on cool, bare flesh.

"Tell me where it hurts," I said. I hoped to hell he hadn’t slipped a disc; hideous thoughts of his being permanently crippled raced through my mind, along with pragmatic considerations of how I was to get him off the mountain, even if he wasn’t. Would I have to leave him here, and fetch food up to him daily until he recovered?

"Right there," he said, with a hiss of indran breath. "Aye, that’s it. A wicked stab just there, and if I move, it runs straight down the back o’ my leg, like a red-hot wire."

I felt very carefully, with both hands now, probing and pressing, urging him to try to lift one leg, right, now the other knee… no?

"No," he assured me. "Dinna be worrit, though, Sassenach. It’s the same as before. It gets better."

"Yes, you said it happened before. When was that?"

He stirred briefly and settled pressing back against my palms with a small groan.

"Och! Damn that hurts. At the prison."

"Pain in the same place?"

"Aye."

I could feel a hard knot in the muscle on his right side, just below the kidney, and a bunching in the erector spinae, the long muscles near the spine. From his description of the prior occurrence, I was fairly sure it was only severe muscle spasm. For which the proper prescription was warmth, rest, and anti-inflammatory medication.

Couldn’t get much further away from those conditions, I thought with some grimness.

"I suppose I could try acupuncture," I said, thinking aloud. "I’ve got Mr. Willoughby’s needles in my pouch, and—"

"Sassenach," he said, in measured tones. "I can stand fine bein’ hurt, cold, and hungry. I willna put up wi’ being stabbed in the back by my own wife. Can ye not offer a bit of sympathy and comfort instead?"

I laughed, and slid an arm around him, pressing close against his back. I let my hand slide down and rest in delicate suggestion, well below his navel.

"Er… what sort of comfort did you have in mind?"

He hastily grasped my hand, to prevent further intrusions.

"Not that," he said.

"Might take your mind off the pain." I wiggled my fingers invitingly, and he tightened his grip.

"I daresay," he said dryly. "Well, I’ll tell ye, Sassenach— once we’ve got home, and I’ve a warm bed to lie in and a hot supper in my belling, that notion might have a good bit of appeal. As it is, the thought of— for Christ’s sake, have ye ot the slightest idea how cold your hands are, woman?"

I laid my cheek against his back and laughed. I could feel the quiver of his own mirth, though he couldn’t laugh aloud without hurting his back.

At last we lay silent, listening to the whisper of falling snow. It was dark under the hemlock boughs, but my eyes were adapted enough to be able to see patches of the oddly glowing snow-light through the screen of needles overhead. Tiny flakes came through the open patches; I could see it in some places, as a thin cloud of white mist, and I could feel the cold tingle as it struck my face.

Jamie himself was no more than a humped dark shape in front of me, though as my eyes became accustomed to the murk, I could see the paler stalk where his neck emerged between his shirt and his queued hair. The queue itself lay cool and smooth against my face; by turning my head only a bit, I could brush it with my lips.

"What time do you think it is?" I asked. I had no idea, myself; I had left the house well after dark, and spent what seemed an eternity looking for him on the mountain.

"Late," he said. "It will be a long time before the dawn, though," he added, answering my real question. "It’s just past the solstice, aye? It’s one of the longest nights of the year."

"Oh, lovely." I said, in dismay. I wasn’t warm, by any means—I still couldn’t feel my toes—but I had stopped shivering. A dreadful lethargy was stealing over me, my muscles yielding to fatigue and cold. I had visions of the two of us freezing peacefully together, curled up like hedgehogs in the leaves. They did say it was a comfortable death, but that didn’t make the prospect any more appealing.

Jamie’s breathing was getting slower and deeper.

"Don’t go to sleep!" I said urgently, poking him in the armpit.

"Agh!" He pressed his arm tight to his side, recoiling. "Why not?"

"We mustn’t sleep; we’ll freeze to death."

"No, we won’t," he said crossly. "It’s snowing outside; we’ll be covered over soon."

"I know that," I said, rather cross in my turn. "What’s that got to do with it?"

He tried to turn his head to look at me, but couldn’t, quite.

"Snow’s cold if ye touch it," he explained, striving for patience, "but it keeps the cold out, aye? Like a blanket. It’s a great deal warmer in a house that’s covered wi’ snow than one that’s standing clean in the wind. How d’ye think bears manage? They sleep in the winter, and they dinna freeze."

"They have layers of fat," I protested. "I thought that kept them warm."

"Ha ha," he said, and reaching back with some effort, grabbed me firmly by the bottom. "Well, then, ye needna worry a bit, he?"

With great deliberation I pulled down his collar, stretched my head up, and licked the back of his neck, in a lingering swipe from nape to hairline.

"Aaah!" He shuddered violently, making a sprinkle of snow fall from the branches above us. He let go of my bottom to scrub at the back of his neck.

"That was a terrible thing to do!" he said, reproachful. "And me lyin’ here helpless as a log!"

"Bah, humbug," I said. I nestled closer, feeling somewhat reassured. "You’re sure we aren’t going to freeze to death, then?"

"No," he said. "But I shouldna think it likely."

"Hm," I said, feeling somewhat less reassured. "Well, perhaps we’d better stay awake for a bit, then, just in case?"

"I wilna wave my arms about anymore," he said definitely. "There’s no room. And if ye stick your icy wee paws in my breeks, I swear I’ll throttle ye, bad back or no."

"All right, all right," I said. "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 out 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.

I knew the story very well; it had been part of our Christmas ritual, Frank’s and Brianna’s and mine. From the time Bree was five or six, we had read A Christmas Carol every year, starting a week or two before Christmas, Frank and I taking it in turns to read to her each night before bed.

"And the specter said, ‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past…’"

I might not be freezing to death, but the cold had a strange hypnotic effect nonetheless. I had gone past the phase of acute discomfort and felt now slightly disembodied. I knew my hands and feet were icy, and my body chilled half through, but it didn’t seem to matter anymore. I floated in a peaceful white mist, seeing the words swirl round my head like snowflakes as I spoke them.

"…and there was dear old Fezziwig, among the lights and music…"

I couldn’t tell whether I was gradually thawing or becoming colder. I was conscious of an overall feeling of relaxation, and an altogether peculiar sense of déjà vu, as though I had once before been entombed, insulated in snow, snug despite desolation outside.

As Bob Cratchit bought his meager bird, I remembered. I went on talking automatically, the flow of the story coming from somewhere well below the level of consciousness, but my memory was in the front seat of a stalled 1956 Oldsmobile, its windscreen caked with snow.

We had been on our way to visit an elderly relative of Frank’s, somewhere in upstate New York. The snow came on hard, halfway there, howling down across the icy roads with gusts of wind. Before we knew where we were, we had skidded off the road and halfway into a ditch, the windscreen wipers slashing futilely at the pelting snow.

There was nothing to be done but wait for morning, and rescue. We had had a picnic hamper and some old blankets; we brought Brianna up into the front seat between us, and huddled all together under coats and blankets, sipping lukewarm cocoa from the thermos and making jokes to keep her from being frightened.

As it grew later, and colder, we huddled closer, and to distract Brianna, Frank began to tell her Dickens’s story from memory, counting on me to supply the missing bits. Neither of us could have done it alone, but between us, we managed well. By the time the sinister Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come had made his appearance, Brianna was snuggled sound asleep under the coats, a warm, boneless weight against my side.

There was no need to finish the story, but we did, talking to each other below the words, hands touching below the layers of blankets. I remembered Frank’s hands, warm and strong on mine, thumb stroking my palm, outlining my fingers. Frank had always loved my hands.

The car had filled with the mist of our breathing, and drops of water ran down inside the white-choked windows. Frank’s head had been a dark cameo, dim against the white. He had leaned toward me at the last, nose and cheeks chilled, lips warm on mine as he whispered the last words of the story.

"’God bless us, every one,’" I ended, and lay silent, a small needle of grief like an ice splinter through my heart. It was quiet inside the shelter, and seemed darker; snow had covered over all the openings.

Jamie reached back and touched my leg.

"Put your hands inside my shirt, Sassenach," he said softly. I slid one hand up under his shirt in front, to rest against his chest, the other up his back. The faded whip marks felt like threads under his skin.

He laid his hand against mine, pressing it tight against his chest. He was very warm, and his heart beat slow and strong under my fingers.

"Sleep, a nighean donn,"" he said. "I wilna let ye freeze."


This excerpt (“Daily Lines”) was also posted on my official Facebook page on December 21, 2017.

“A Hunting We Will Go” (BEES)


From Friday, November 24, 2017 (The Day After Thanksgiving):

2017-11-24-Diana-grbaby-pupsI finished carving and scavenging the turkey carcass around 1:30 a.m. last night. (Not that I was working all the time up to then. <g> The festivities wound down around 5:30 p.m., and everyone subsided into a digestive meditation, emerging periodically for a piece of pie or a handful of Moose Munch. Everybody fell asleep around 9 p.m., including me and the dogs.)

Below is a new Excerpt (“Daily Lines”) from GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, nicknamed “BEES,” the ninth book in my Outlander series of major novels. I am currently writing and doing research for BEES.

Happy Holidays!

-Diana


Please note that the Excerpt below may contain SPOILERS…

Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLines, #ForThanksgiving, #FamilyAndFood, #NoFootball, #BriannaAndJamie, #AHuntingWeWillGo

2017-11-DG-Santa-Fe-cottonwoodIt was a steep climb, and she found herself puffing, sweat starting to purl behind her ears in spite of the cool day. Her father climbed, as ever, like a mountain goat, without the slightest appearance of strain, but—to her chagrin—noticed her struggling and beckoned her aside, onto a small ledge.

“We’re in nay hurry, a nighean,” he said, smiling at her. “There’s water here.” He reached out, with an obvious tentativeness, and touched her flushed cheek, quickly taking back his hand.

“Sorry, lass,” he said, and smiled. “I’m no used yet to the notion that ye’re real.”

“I know what you mean,” she said softly, and swallowing, reached out and touched his face, warm and clean-shaven, slanted eyes deep blue as hers.

“Och,” he said under his breath, and gently brought her into his arms. She hugged him tight and they stood that way, not speaking, listening to the cry of ravens circling overhead and the trickling of water on rock.

“[Come and drink, a nighean, [Gaelic]]” he said, letting go as gently as he’d grasped her, and turning her toward a tiny freshet that ran down a crevice between two rocks. Come and drink.

The water was icy and tasted of granite and the faint turpentine tang of pine needles.

She’d slaked her thirst and was splashing water on her flushed cheeks when she felt her father make a sudden movement. She froze at once, cutting her eyes at him. He also stood frozen, but lifted both eyes and chin a little, signaling to the slope above them.

She saw—and heard—it then, a slow crumble of falling dirt that broke loose and hit the ledge beside her foot with a tiny rattle of pebbles. This was followed by silence, except for the calling of the ravens. That was louder, she thought, as though the birds were nearer. They see something, she thought.

They were nearer. A raven swooped suddenly, flashing unnervingly near her head, and another screamed from above.

A sudden boom from the outcrop overhead nearly made her lose her footing, and she grabbed a handful of sapling sticking out of the rock-face by reflex. Just in time, too, for there was a thump and a slithering noise above and at what seemed the same instant, something huge fell past in a shower of dirt and gravel, bouncing off the ledge next to her in an explosion of breath, blood and impact before landing with a crash in the bushes below.

“Blessed Michael defend us,” said her father in Gaelic, crossing himself. He peered down into the thrashing brush below—Jesus, whatever it was, was still alive—then up.

“[Mohawk!]” said an impassioned male voice from above. She didn’t recognize the word, but she did know the voice and joy burst over her.

“Ian!” she called. There was total silence from above, save for the ravens, who were getting steadily more upset.

“Blessed Michael defend us,” said a startled voice in Gaelic, and an instant later, her cousin Ian had dropped onto their narrow ledge, where he balanced with no apparent difficulty.

“It is you!” she said. “Oh, Ian!”

“[Cousin!]” He grabbed her and squeezed tight, laughing in disbelief. “God, it’s you!” He drew back for an instant for a good look to confirm it, laughed again in delight, kissed her solidly and re-squeezed. He smelled like buckskin, porridge and gunpowder and she could feel his heart thumping against her own chest.

She vaguely heard a scrabbling noise and as they let go of each other, realized that her father had dropped off the ledge and was half-sliding down the scree below it, toward the brush where the deer—it must have been a deer—had fallen.

He halted for a moment at the edge of the brushy growth—the bushes were still thrashing, but the movements of the wounded deer were growing less violent—then drew his dirk and with a muttered remark in Gaelic, waded gingerly into the brush.

“It’s all rose-briers down there,” Ian said, peering over her shoulder. “But I think he’ll make it in time to cut the throat. A Dhia, it was a bad shot and I was afraid I—but what the dev—I mean, how is it ye’re here?” He stood back a little, his eyes running over her, the corner of his mouth turning up slightly as he noted her breeches and leather hiking shoes, this fading as his eyes returned to her face, worried now. “Is your man not with you? And the bairns?”

“Yes, they are,” she assured him. “Roger’s hammering things and Jem’s helping him and Mandy’s getting in the way. As for what we’re doing here…” The day and the joy of reunion had let her ignore the recent past, but the ultimate need of explanation brought the enormity of it all suddenly crashing in upon her.

“Dinna fash, cousin,” Ian said swiftly, seeing her face. “It’ll bide. D’ye think ye recall how to shoot a turkey? There’s a band o’ them struttin’ to and fro like folk dancing Strip the Willow at a ceilidh, not a quarter-mile from here.”

“Oh, I might.” She’d propped the fowling piece against the cliff-face while she drank; the deer’s fall had knocked it over and she picked it up, checking; the fall had knocked the flint askew, and she re-seated it. The thrashing below had stopped, and she could hear her father’s voice, in snatches above the wind, saying the gralloch prayer.

“Hadn’t we better help Da with the deer, though?”

“Ach, it’s no but a yearling buck, he’ll have it done before ye can blink.” Ian leaned out from the ledge, calling down. “I’m takin’ Bree to shoot turkeys, a mathair-braither…!”

Dead silence from below, and then a lot of rustling and Jamie’s disheveled head poked suddenly up above the rose-briers. His hair was loose and tangled, his face was deeply flushed and bleeding in several places, as were his arms and hands, and he looked displeased.

“Ian,” he said, in measured tones, but in a voice loud enough to be easily heard above the forest sounds. “Mac Ian…mac Ian…!”

“We’ll be back to help carry the meat!” Ian called back. He waved cheerily, and grabbing the fowling piece, caught Bree’s eye and jerked his chin upward. She glanced down, but her father had disappeared, leaving the bushes swaying in agitation.

She’d lost much of her eye for the wilderness, she found; the cliff looked impassible to her, but Ian scrambled up as easily as a baboon, and after a moment’s hesitation, she followed, much more slowly, slipping now and then in small showers of dirt as she groped for the holds her cousin had used.

“Ian mac Ian mac Ian?” she asked, reaching the top and pausing to empty the dirt out of her shoes. Her heart was beating unpleasantly hard. “Is that like me calling Jem Jeremiah [what are his middle names?] MacKenzie when I’m annoyed with him?”

“Something like,” Ian said, shrugging. “Ian, son of Ian, son of Ian… the notion is to point out ye’re a disgrace to your forefathers, aye?” He was wearing a ragged, filthy calico shirt, but the sleeves had been torn off, and she saw a large white scar in the shape of a four-pointed star on the curve of his bare brown shoulder.

“What was that?” she said, nodding at it. He glanced at it, and made a dismissive gesture, turning to lead her across the small ridge.

“Ach, no much,” he said. “An Abenaki bastard shot me wi’ an arrow, at Monmouth. Denny cut it out for me a few days after—that’s Denzell Hunter,” he added, seeing her blank look. “Rachel’s brother. He’s a doctor, like your mam.”

“Rachel!” she exclaimed. “Da said you got married—Rachel’s your wife?”

A huge grin spread across his face.

“She is,” he said simply. “Taing do Dhia…” Then looked quickly at her to see if she’d understood.

“I remember ‘Thanks be to God,’” she assured him. “And quite a bit more. Roger spent most of the voyage from Scotland refreshing our Gaidhlig. Did Da also tell me Rachel’s a Quaker?” she asked, stretching to step across the stones in a tiny brook.

“Aye, she is.” Ian’s eyes were fixed on the stones, but she thought he spoke with a bit less joy and pride than he’d had a moment before. She left it alone, though; if there was a conflict—and she couldn’t quite see how there wouldn’t be, given what she knew about her cousin and what she thought she knew about Quakers—this wasn’t the time to ask questions.

Not that such considerations stopped Ian.

“From Scotland?” he said, turning his head to look back at her over his shoulder. “When?” Then his face changed suddenly, as he realized the ambiguity of “when,” and he made an apologetic gesture, dismissing the question.

“We left Edinburgh in late June,” she said, taking the simplest answer for now. “I’ll tell you the rest later.”

He nodded, and for a time they walked, sometimes together, sometimes with Ian leading, finding deer trails or cutting upward to go around a thick growth of bush. She was happy to follow him, so she could look at him without embarrassing him with her scrutiny.

He’d changed—no great wonder there—still tall and very lean, but hardened, a man grown fully into himself, the long muscles of his arms clear-cut under his skin. His brown hair was darker, plaited and tied with a leather thong, and adorned with what looked like very fresh turkey feathers bound into the braid. For good luck? She wondered. He’d picked up the bow and quiver he’d left at the top of the cliff, and the quiver swung gently now against his back.

But the expression of a well-made man appears not only in his face, she thought, entertained. It is in his limbs and joints also, it is curiously in the joints of his hips and wrists, It is in his walk, the carriage of his neck, the flex of his waist and knees, dress does not hide him. The poem had always summoned Roger for her, but now it encompassed Ian and her father as well, different as the three of them were.

As they rose higher and the timber opened out, the breeze rose and freshened, and Ian halted, beckoning her with a small movement of his fingers.

“D’ye hear them?” he breathed in her ear.

She did, and the hairs rippled pleasantly down her backbone. Small, harsh yelps, almost like a barking dog. And farther off, a sort of intermittent purr, something between a large cat and a small motor.

“Best take off your stockings and rub your legs wi’ dirt,” Ian whispered, motioning toward her woolen stockings. “Your hands and face as well.”

She nodded, set the gun against a tree, and scratched dry leaves away from a patch of soil, moist enough to rub on her skin. Ian, his own skin nearly the color of his buckskins, needed no such camouflage. He moved silently away while she was anointing her hands and face, and when she looked up, she couldn’t see him for a moment.

Then there was a series of sounds like a rusty door hinge swinging to and fro, and suddenly she saw him, standing stock still behind a [tree] some fifty feet away.

The forest seemed to go dead for an instant, the soft scratchings and leaf-murmurs ceasing. Then there was an angry gobble and she turned her head as slowly as she could, to see a tom turkey poke his pale blue head out of the grass and look sharp from side to side, wattles bright red and swinging, looking for the challenger.

She cut her eyes at Ian, his hands cupped at his mouth, but he didn’t move or make a sound. She held her breath and looked back at the turkey, who emitted another loud gobble—this one echoed by another tom at a distance. The turkey she was watching glanced back toward that sound, lifted his head and yelped, listened for a moment, and then ducked back into the grass. She glanced at Ian; he caught her movement and shook his head, very slightly.

They waited for the space of sixteen slow breaths—she counted—and then Ian gobbled again. The tom popped out of the grass and strode across a patch of open, leaf-packed ground, blood in his eye, breast feathers puffed and tail fanned out to a fare-thee-well. He paused for a moment to allow the woods to admire his magnificence, then commenced strutting slowly to and fro, uttering harsh, aggressive cries.

Moving only her eyeballs, she glanced back and forth between the strutting tom and Ian, who timed his movements to those of the strutting turkey, sliding the bow from his shoulder, freezing, bringing an arrow to hand, freezing, and finally nocking the arrow as the bird made its final turn.

Or what should have been its final turn. Ian bent his bow and in the same movement, released his arrow and uttered a startled, all-too-human yelp as a large, dark object dropped from the tree above him. He jerked back and the turkey barely missed landing on his head. She could see it now, a hen, feathers fluffed in fright, running with neck outstretched across the open ground toward the equally startled tom, who had deflated in shock.

By reflex, she seized her shotgun, brought it to bear and fired. She missed, and both turkeys disappeared into a patch of ferns, making noises that sounded like a small hammer striking a wood block.

The echoes died away and the leaves of the trees settled back into their murmur. She looked at her cousin, who glanced at his bow, then across the open ground to where his arrow was sticking absurdly out from between two rocks. He looked at her, and they both burst into laughter.

“Aye, well,” he said philosophically. “That’s what we get for leavin’ Uncle Jamie to pick roses by himself.”

[end section]

Visit my official BEES webpage for more “Daily Lines” (aka “Excerpts”) and other information about Book Nine!


Selected Social-Media Questions and Comments, and My Responses:

Comments posted on Social Media about this BEES excerpt—and questions for me—are in italics, followed by my replies:

Jeremiah Alexander Ian Fraser MacKenzie (A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, page 978).

Thank you! I knew some kind soul would save me the trouble of looking it up. <g>

Thanks for all these appetizers, Diana, I’m always happy to read them. You are awesome. <3 I wish you and your family a HAPPY THANKSGIVING. How do you celebrate it this year?

Fruit-stuffed turkey and a lovely new soup (butternut/roasted tomato/garlic with red ginger)—and a rousing Cornhole tournament on the back patio!

WOW! A perfect treat on this Black Friday early morning, reminding me how simple life used to be back then! I’m still up from some midnight shopping. I hope to get a few hours of sleep before my kids wake up. I hope your Thanksgiving dinner was a success.

Yeah, if you have to hunt your own food (and cook it in an open hearth), life gets pretty simple. It’s not the same things as “easy,” mind <g>, but it’s very straight-forward.

“What are his middle names?” And yet you keep writing! I would’ve been obsessed and not continued to write until I found out… which explains why you have many books published and I have many unfinshed ones… lol. Thanks for this Turkey Day Treat!!! Made my night!!!!!

Well, he has middle names—I just didn’t recall them at the moment, but I knew somebody would pop up with them (and sure enough, they did. <g>…). But yes, I normally do just put in square empty brackets — […] — when there’s something that needs to be looked up, and take care of that later.

I’m not quite sure if I love or hate you… Every time I read a new bit (of BEES), I get more eager to read the whole thing. And (unfortunately) I am not really blessed with al lot of patience.

Well… luckily it doesn’t really matter whether you have the gift of patience or not. <g&rt;

Does Jamie ‘talk’ to Bree when she goes back to her time, like he ‘talked’ to Claire when in need? I am imagining that hunting would be a reminder of her absence. The way he reached out to make physical contact with her face reminds me of when Claire came back to him in the print shop.

I don’t think so. He loves Bree with all his heart—but Claire is his heart.

Were Ian and Rachel away from the Ridge? They weren’t at the “feast” when the MacKenzies came back? Or does this take place before that?

Only the people who live quite near the original cabin and new “Big House” site would have heard/spread the news. Fraser’s Ridge covers a lot of ground, and the clustering of homesteads depends on the terrain. Ian and Rachel have a very fine piece of land, but it’s located about a mile from the Big House. They wouldn’t have heard until morning—and I imagine Ian was out hunting already when the news came.

It truly amazes me how you write so well and so vivid about places and things that you may have not seen or done such as turkey hunting in North Carolina. I guess it doesn’ hurt that you are very talented and spend a lot of time researching. You make every part of your works so real to the rest of us. You will definitely always be a literary great.

YouTube and Google are a godsend to a writer, believe me. So far, I’ve looked up turkey-hunting, possum-hunting, frog-gigging, alligator hunting and How to Amputate a Leg, among other picturesque things.

Deer hunting season started this week in central Alabama. We live in a rural, heavily wooded area. Those trees are alive with hunters this week with the frequent pop of gunfire. I have found it most annoying this week as it upsets our dog and cats and wakes us all up at night too. Your account of deer and turkey hunting and Ian and Bree’s reunion changes my perspective of those faceless hunters in my nearby woods. I hope Jamie is okay down there picking roses!

He’s not alone…


The questions and comments above were posted originally on Social Media my official Facebook or Twitter accounts).

Image captions: Relaxing with my grandson and two of our family’s dogs. And then a photo that I took of a big old Cottonwood tree in Santa Fe.

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