• “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.”
  • “These books have to be word-of-mouth books because they're too weird to describe to anybody.”
    —Jackie Cantor, Diana's first editor

A Chronology of the OUTLANDER series

Chronology of the Outlander series

The Outlander series includes three kinds of stories:

The Big, Enormous Books that have no discernible genre (or all of them);

The Shorter, Less Indescribable Novels that are more or less historical mysteries (though dealing also with battles, eels, and mildly deviant sexual practices);


The Bulges—These being short(er) pieces that fit somewhere inside the story lines of the novels, much in the nature of squirming prey swallowed by a large snake. These deal frequently—but not exclusively—with secondary characters, are prequels or sequels, and/or fill some lacuna left in the original story lines.

Now. Most of the shorter novels (so far) fit within a large lacuna left in the middle of VOYAGER, in the years between 1757 and 1761. Some of the Bulges also fall in this period; others don’t.

So, for the reader’s convenience, here is a detailed Chronology, showing the sequence of the various elements in terms of the storyline. _However, it should be noted that the shorter novels and novellas are all designed suchly that they may be read alone_, without reference either to each other or to the Big, Enormous Books—should you be in the mood for a light literary snack instead of the nine-course meal with wine-pairings and dessert trolley.

OUTLANDER (novel)—If you’ve never read any of the series, I’d suggest starting here. If you’re unsure about it, open the book anywhere and read three pages; if you can put it down again, I’ll give you a dollar. (1946/1743)

DRAGONFLY IN AMBER (novel)—It doesn’t start where you think it’s going to. And it doesn’t end how you think it’s going to, either. Just keep reading; it’ll be fine. (1968/1744-46)

VOYAGER (novel)—This won an award from EW magazine for “Best Opening Line.” (To save you having to find a copy just to read the opening, it was: “He was dead. However, his nose throbbed painfully, which he thought odd, in the circumstances.”) If you’re reading the series in order, rather than piecemeal, you do want to read this book before tackling the novellas or the Lord John novels. (1968/1766-67)

LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS/”Lord John and the Hellfire Club” (novella)—Just to add an extra layer of confusion, The Hand of Devils is a collection that includes three novellas. The first one, “Lord John and the Hellfire Club,” is set in London in 1757, and deals with a red-haired man who approaches Lord John Grey with an urgent plea for help, just before dying in front of him. [Originally published in the anthology Past Poisons, ed. Maxim Jakubowski, 1998.]

LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER (novel)—Set in London, in 1758, this is a historical mystery steeped in blood and even less-savory substances, in which Lord John meets (in short order) a valet, a traitor, an apothecary with a sure cure for syphilis, a bumptious German, and an unscrupulous merchant prince.

LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS/”Lord John and the Succubus” (novella)— The second novella in the Hand of Devils collection finds Lord John in Germany in 1758, having unsettling dreams about Jamie Fraser, unsettling encounters with Saxon princesses, night-hags, and a really disturbing encounter with a big, blond Hanoverian graf. [Originally published in the anthology Legends II, ed. Robert Silverberg, 2004.]

LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE (novel)—The second full-length novel focused on Lord John (but it does include Jamie Fraser) is set in 1759, deals with a twenty-year-old family scandal, and sees Lord John engaged at close range with exploding cannon and even more dangerously explosive emotions.

LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS/”Lord John and the Haunted Soldier” (novella)—The third novella in this collection is set in 1759, in London and the Woolwich Arsenal. In which, Lord John faces a court of inquiry into the explosion of a cannon, and learns that there are more dangerous things in the world than gunpowder.

“The Custom of the Army” (novella)—Set in 1759. In which his lordship attends an electric-eel party in London and ends up at the Battle of Quebec. He’s just the sort of person things like that happen to. [Originally published in Warriors, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2010.]

THE SCOTTISH PRISONER (novel)—This one’s set in 1760, in the Lake District, London, and Ireland. A sort of hybrid novel, it’s divided evenly between Jamie Fraser and Lord John Grey, who are recounting their different perspectives in a tale of politics, corruption, murder, opium dreams, horses, and illegitimate sons.

“Plague of Zombies” (novella)—Set in 1761, in Jamaica, when Lord John is sent in command of a battalion to put down a slave rebellion and discovers a hitherto unsuspected affinity for snakes, cockroaches, and zombies. [Originally published in Down These Strange Streets, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2011.]

DRUMS OF AUTUMN (novel)—This one begins in 1766, in the New World, where Jamie and Claire find a foothold in the mountains of North Carolina, and their daughter, Brianna, finds a whole lot of things she didn’t expect, when a sinister newspaper clipping sends her in search of her parents. (1968-1969/1766-67)

THE FIERY CROSS (novel)—The historical background to this one is the War of the Regulation in North Carolina (1767-1768), which was more or less a dress rehearsal for the oncoming Revolution. In which Jamie Fraser becomes a reluctant Rebel, his wife, Claire, becomes a conjure-woman and runs into a ghost. Something Much Worse happens to Brianna’s husband, Roger, but I’m not telling you what. This won several awards for “Best Last Line,” but I’m not telling you that, either. (Mid-1760s)

A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES (novel)—Winner of the 2006 Corine International Prize for Fiction, and a Quill Award (this book beat novels by both George R. R. Martin and Stephen King, which I thought Very Entertaining Indeed). All the books have an internal “shape” that I see while I’m writing them. This one looks like the Hokusai print titled “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” Think tsunami—two of them. (Early to mid-1770s/1970-71)

AN ECHO IN THE BONE (novel)—Set in America, London, Canada, and Scotland. The book’s cover image reflects the internal shape of the novel: a caltrop. That’s an ancient military weapon that looks like a child’s jack with sharp points; the Romans used them to deter elephants, and the Highway Patrol still uses them to stop fleeing perps in cars. This book has four major story lines: Jamie and Claire; Roger and Brianna (and family); Lord John and William; and Young Ian, all intersecting in the nexus of the American Revolution—and all of them with sharp points. (1777-1778/1972)

WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD (novel)—The eighth of the Big Enormous Books, this will probably be published in 2013. It begins where An Echo in the Bone leaves off, in the summer of 1778 (and the autumn of 1973—or possibly 1974, I forget exactly).

“A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” (short story (no, really, it is))— Set (mostly) in 1941–43, this is the story of What Really Happened to Roger MacKenzie’s parents. [Originally published in the anthology Songs of Love and Death, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, 2010.]

“The Space Between” (novella)—Set in 1778, mostly in Paris, this novella deals with Michael Murray (Young Ian’s elder brother), Joan MacKimmie (Marsali’s younger sister), the Comte St. Germain (who is Not Dead After All), Mother Hildegarde, and a few other persons of interest. The space between what? It depends who you’re talking to. [To be published in early 2013 in the anthology The Mad Scientist’s Guide to World Dominiation, ed. John Joseph Adams.]

“Virgins” (novella)—Set in 1740, in France. In which Jamie Fraser (aged nineteen) and his friend Ian Murray (aged twenty) become young mercenaries. [To be published in late 2012, in the anthology Dangerous Women, eds. George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.]


You can read the short novels and novellas by themselves, or in any order you like. I would recommend reading the Big, Enormous Books in order, though.

P.S. There are a couple of other books to note here, though they don’t fit conveniently into the Chronology above:

THE EXILE (graphic novel) – written by me, and illustrated by the delightful artist Hoang Nguyen, this is OUTLANDER from Jamie’s point of view. Since there are lots of things that Claire (the outlander) didn’t see, didn’t understand, or was purposely left out of, this book shows you some of what she missed.

THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION – This is a non-fiction book, supplying background, trivia, commentary and general Stuff on the first four novels of the series. There are detailed synopses (for those who don’t want to re-read the whole series when a new book comes out, but would like to refresh their memories), articles on how I work, do research, develop characters, etc., a detailed bibliography of the main references I used while writing the first four books, a Cast of Characters listing—in case you don’t recall immediately who someone is—a Gaelic pronunciation guide and glossary, appendices on Poetry and Quotations used in the books, and so on. [There is a second COMPANION in the works, this one meant to cover the next four books in the main series, as well as the shorter novels and stories listed above. With luck, this will be out shortly after WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD is published.]

Share This


Copyright © 2012 Diana Gabaldon

[This is a short piece that I wrote on request for a Canadian magazine called Chatelaine, earlier this year. I have the reprint rights back, though, and since a Twitter acquaintance recently expressed a desire to “write smut”—I thought I’d at least provide him with the basics.]

Where most beginning writers screw up (you should pardon the expression) is in thinking that sex scenes are about sex. A good sex scene is about the exchange of emotions, not bodily fluids. That being so, it can encompass any emotion whatever, from rage or desolation to exultation, tenderness, or surprise.

Lust is not an emotion; it’s a one-dimensional hormonal response. Ergo, while you can mention lust in a sex-scene, describing it at any great length is like going on about the pattern of the wall-paper in the bedroom. Worth a quick glance, maybe, but essentially boring.

So how do you show the exchange of emotions? Dialogue, expression, or action—that’s about the limit of your choices, and of those, dialogue is by far the most flexible and powerful tool a writer has. What people say reveals the essence of their character.


"I know once is enough to make it legal, but…" He paused shyly.

"You want to do it again?"

"Would ye mind verra much?"

I didn’t laugh this time, either, but I felt my ribs creak under the strain.

"No," I said gravely. "I wouldn’t mind."

Now, you do, of course, want to make the scene vivid and three-dimensional. You have an important advantage when dealing with sex, insofar as you can reasonably expect that most of your audience knows how it’s done. Ergo, you can rely on this commonality of experience, and don’t need more than brief references to create a mental picture.

You want to anchor the scene with physical details, but by and large, it’s better to use sensual details, rather than overtly sexual ones. (Just read any scene that involves a man licking a woman’s nipples and you’ll see what I mean. Either the writer goes into ghastly contortions to avoid using the word "nipples"—"tender pink crests" comes vividly to mind—or does it in blunt and hideous detail, so that you can all but hear the slurping. This is Distracting. Don’t Do That.)

So how _do_ you make a scene vivid, but not revoltingly so? There’s a little trick called the Rule of Three: if you use any three of the five senses, it will make the scene immediately three-dimensional. (Many people use only sight and sound. Include smell, taste, touch, and you’re in business.)


The road was narrow, and they jostled against one another now and then, blinded between the dark wood and the brilliance of the rising moon. He could hear Jamie’s breath, or thought he could—it seemed part of the soft wind that touched his face. He could smell Jamie, smell the musk of his body, the dried sweat and dust in his clothes, and felt suddenly wolf-like and feral, longing changed to outright hunger.

He wanted.

In essence, a good sex scene is usually a dialogue scene with physical details.


"I’ll give it to ye," he murmured, and his hand moved lightly. A touch. Another. "But ye’ll take it from me tenderly, a nighean donn.”

"I don’t want tenderness, damn you!"

"I ken that well enough," he said, with a hint of grimness. "But it’s what ye’ll have, like it or not."

He laid me down on his kilt, and came back into me, strongly enough that I gave a small, high-pitched cry of relief.

"Ask me to your bed," he said. "I shall come to ye. For that matter—I shall come, whether ye ask it or no. But I am your man; I serve ye as I will."

And finally, you can use metaphor and lyricism to address the emotional atmosphere of an encounter directly. This is kind of advanced stuff, though.


He’d meant to be gentle. Very gentle. Had planned it with care, worrying each step of the long way home. She was broken; he must go canny, take his time. Be careful in gluing back her shattered bits.

And then he came to her and discovered that she wished no part of gentleness, of courting. She wished directness. Brevity and violence. If she was broken, she would slash him with her jagged edges, reckless as a drunkard with a shattered bottle.

She raked his back; he felt the scrape of broken nails, and thought dimly that was good—she’d fought. That was the last of his thought; his own fury took him then, rage and a lust that came on him like black thunder on a mountain, a cloud that hid all from him and him from all, so that kind familiarity was lost and he was alone, strange in darkness.

Like that.

Deal with Sony Pictures for Adaptation of OUTLANDER for Cable TV Series



and here

and here

etc., etc., etc., as the King of Siam might put it. [g]

Really, if you Google “Ron D. Moore OUTLANDER”, you’ll find a _lot_ of announcements like these. most of them reasonably accurate.

A Brief Footnote on Tidiness

I’m as fascinated by y’all’s responses to my bookshelves as y’all are by the books, etc. [g] It seems to be about 20:1 in terms of “OMG, this looks just like my shelves!/I love it!” vs. “What a mess!/How can you FIND anything!/Let me come and organize that for you!”

I appreciate both schools of thought—and my sincere thanks to the kind souls who think I would do better (in some undefined way), if my books were alphabetized, sorted by color, arranged by height, or generally tidied into a visually pleasing (to them) formation that has nothing to do with what’s actually _in_ the books.

Now, putting aside any of my private opinions regarding the psychology that causes people to value Tidiness Uber Alles, tidiness _qua_ tidiness has two possible aspects that recommend it as a virtue: aesthetics and/or function.

As to aesthetics, I’ll just note that there are people who like Gustav Klimt and there are people who like Mondrian, and leave it at that. [g] Aesthetics rests on the perception of pattern, and there are patterns in total chaos (this is the basis of chaos theory). Some people like simpler patterns, some like more complex ones, and that’s fine.

Now function. That’s the “How can you FIND anything in there?” response, which assumes that in fact, I can’t find anything _unless_ the books are filed according to an arbitrary pattern that the observer personally finds aesthetically appealing. OK, this is conflating the two aspect virtues of tidiness, which do not necessarily operate in correlation with each other.

For an alphabetized reference system to be useful, the user has to know that the book s/he wants is written by a specific author. This in turn means that the user has to have read every word in all of the books to hand (so as to know what’s in them), and to be sufficiently familiar with them as to recognize almost any author’s content. If I had twenty books, I could do that, [g] though there wouldn’t be much point to it.

As it is…let me illustrate, briefly, how I work and how I use reference books. (This is, btw, my core reference collection. The books I read for pleasure—mostly fiction—are mostly alphabetized by author, because in that case, I’m usually looking for a specific author, not for specific content. They’re in several different collections/locations, though; not in this set of shelves.)

As I work my way into a new novel (the one I’m writing, I mean), I begin to pick up certain books—either from the extant collection, or new acquisitions—that I think _might_ be useful as background or specific references for that project. I’ll put these references on a shelf by themselves, and add occasionally to this mini-core collection, as new thoughts occur to me or as I come across new relevant reference books. One book that’s been on the mini-core shelf for the last several Jamie and Claire books is THE ALMANAC OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. This helpful reference lists and briefly describes a huge variety of the events—large and small—that occurred during the Revolution, organized by date.

I use the ALMANAC not only to check dates, but to choose historical events that a) have intrinsic interest or importance historically, b) have or can have _fictional_ or dramatic significance to the people in my story, and c) are plausible to use in a geographical or chronological sense.

Now, I left everyone in the 18th-century part of the story in Philadelphia at the end of AN ECHO IN THE BONE, in mid-July of 1778. Ergo, even though many interesting historical events occurred in 1778, a lot of them were much later in the year and/or weren’t anywhere near Philadelphia. (In some cases, I could begin a new book substantially later than where the last one stopped, but owing to the spectacular triple cliff-hanger at the end of ECHO, I pretty much have to resolve those cliff-hangers in WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, and therefore MOBY (MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD = MOHB = MOH-B = MOBY. Geddit?) pretty much has to start where ECHO ended.)

So what happened in or near Philadelphia in the middle of July, 1778? Three very interesting things, according to the ALMANAC: 1) the British troops started to withdraw from their occupation of Philadelphia on July 15th, 2) Benedict Arnold became the military governor of Philadelphia for the Continental army on July 18th, and 3) the Battle of Monmouth took place near Philadelphia (well, near enough) on July 28th.

These events can all serve my purposes. So I need to know a few things, as I work. I need to know who the commander-in-chief of the British forces in Philadelphia was, what his personality and background were, and (insofar as possible) what he looked like. I need to know where Benedict Arnold was in terms of his personal political arc at that time. And I need to know what the location, order of battle, chief historical personalities present, and outcome of the battle of Monmouth was.

Let’s start with the battle. If you look at the original photo of my bookshelves (at the head of the previous post), just above and behind Otis’s right ear, you’ll see a book with a yellow cover, on which the word “BATTLES” is clearly visible. I have no idea who wrote this book; it isn’t important. What _is_ important is that it’s an encyclopedia of historical battles throughout the ages. What’s also important is that it’s standing with five other encyclopedias of battle. And it’s standing on _that_ shelf, because that’s where the general-purpose military books—encyclopedias of battle, treatises on weapons and artillery techniques, Osprey Men at War books dealing with the history and equipment of relevant regiments, a novel on the siege of Havana, two books on dueling, and THE MILITARY EXPERIENCE IN THE AGE OF REASON (a survey of the military structures and operations in effect across Europe in the 18th century)—are. So when I want to know the general information about a battle (where was it, what happened, who was fighting, who won), I go to that shelf.

Now, I have much more specific references that deal with the American Revolution, and there are a couple of _very_ detailed books that will give me maps and exhaustive descriptions of the Battle of Monmouth (those are in the smaller bookshelf, which you haven’t seen, and which contains most of the American Revolution-specific references)—but there’s no point reading through all that until/unless I decide that I really want to use that battle. So I start with the general reference, which tells me—among other things—that General Washington commanded the American and allied troops at that battle. Cool. Jamie/Claire et al haven’t yet met George Washington, but this might be a good opportunity.

So…if, say, Jamie is going to meet George Washington, what do I (as his amanuensis) need to know about GW? I need to know what he looks like, what his overall impression (as in personality) was, and how he talked. Where will I find that sort of information? In fact, I found what color his eyes were by googling that question, but other specific information is on my mini-core shelf, in the form of ANGEL IN THE WHIRLWIND, an excellent biography of GW by an author whose name I don’t know and don’t need to know, because I know exactly where that book is.

_Vide_: [Excerpt from MOBY]

“ Jamie ducked under the lintel after Dan and found himself in a dark, shabby room that smelled of cabbage-water, grime, and the sharp reek of urine. There was one window, its shutters left open for air, and the sunlight coming in silhouetted the cropped head of a large man sitting at the table, who raised his head at the opening of the door.

“General Morgan,” he said, in a soft voice touched with the drawl of Virginia. “Have you brought me good news?”

“That’s just what I brought you, General,” auld Dan said, and shoved Jamie ahead of him toward the table. “I found this rascal on the road, and bade him come along. This’ll be Colonel Fraser, who I’ve told you of before. Just come back from Scotland, and the very man you need.”

The big man had risen from the table, and put out a hand, smiling—though he smiled with his lips pressed tight together, as though afraid something might escape. The man was as tall as Jamie himself, and he found himself looking straight into sharp gray-blue eyes that took his measure in the instant it took to shake hands.

“George Washington,” the big man said. “Your servant, sir.”

“James Fraser,” Jamie said, feeling mildly stunned. “Your…most obedient. Sir.”

“Sit with me, Colonel Fraser.” The big Virginian gestured toward one of the rough benches at the table. “My horse pulled up lame, and my slave’s gone to find another. No notion how long it may take him, as I require a good sturdy beast to bear my weight, and those are thin on the ground these days.” He looked Jamie up and down with frank appraisal; they were much of a size. “I don’t suppose you have a decent horse with you, sir?”

OK. Going back to the original set of questions, plainly I need to know the particulars of Benedict Arnold’s actions, context, and state of mind when he took over as military governor of Philadelphia. Fine. In the mini-core collection is BENEDICT ARNOLD, a very detailed and excellent biography whose author I could check by looking at the spine, but I don’t care who wrote it, only that I can find it when I need it.

_Vide_: [Excerpt from MOBY]

“ I thought I could manage the three blocks to the livery stable without incident, but at the corner of Market Street and Seventh, I was hailed by a familiar voice from a carriage window.

“Mrs. Fraser? I say, Mrs. Fraser!”

I looked up, startled, to see the hawk-nosed face of Benedict Arnold smiling down at me. His normally fleshy features were gaunt and lined, and his usually ruddy complexion had faded to an indoor pallor, but there was no mistaking him.

“Oh!” I said, and made a quick bob. “How nice to see you, General!”
My heart had sped up. I’d heard from Denny Hunter that Arnold had been appointed military governor of Philadelphia, but hadn’t expected to see him so soon—if at all.

I should have left it there, but couldn’t help asking, “How’s the leg?” I knew he’d been badly injured at Saratoga—shot in the same leg that had been wounded a short time before, and then crushed by his horse falling with him in the storming of Breymann’s Redoubt—but I hadn’t seen him then. The regular army surgeons had attended him, and from what I knew of their work, I was rather surprised that he was not only alive, but still had two legs.

His face clouded a bit at that, but he continued to smile.

“Still present, Mrs. Fraser. If two inches shorter than the other. Where are you going this morning?” He glanced automatically behind me, registering my lack of a maid or companion, but didn’t seem disturbed by it. He’d met me on the battlefield, and knew me—and appreciated me—for what I was.

I knew what he was, too—and what he would become.

The hell of it was that I _liked_ the man.”

And, not by serendipity, but by the fact that historical events form a logical nexus when people are writing about them _ex post facto_, the ALMANAC, ANGEL IN THE WHIRLWIND, and BENEDICT ARNOLD all mention that General Clinton had taken command of the British troops in Philadelphia at the time of the withdrawal, and our friend Wikipedia supplies me with a painting of the general and his birthdate (so I know how old he is in 1778. He was 48, if you’re curious; of an age to think Claire very charming).

Now, if Claire—it has to be Claire, for logistical reasons—is going to talk to General Clinton, I need to know a few other things, like what she’d be wearing and how she would travel. The bottom shelf of the second bay of my shelves has the large pictorial books on historical costume, while DRESS IN 18th CENTURY EUROPE is among the books on social/cultural English/European background—these being just to the right of the encyclopedias of battle.

_Vide_: [Excerpt from MOBY]

“ By the time we’d got my hair done up in something resembling order, corralled in a cap-like snood and pinned respectably under a broad-brimmed woven straw hat, I’d come up with at least a rough notion what to tell General Clinton. _Stick to the truth as far as possible_. That was the first principle of successful lying, though it had been some time since I’d been last obliged to employ it.

Well, then. A messenger had come for Lord John—one had—bringing a note—he did. I had no idea what was in the note—totally true. Lord John had then left with the messenger, but without telling me where they were going. Also technically true; the only variance being that it had been a different messenger. No, I hadn’t seen in which direction they had gone; no, I didn’t know whether they had walked or ridden—Lord John’s saddle-horse was kept at Davison’s livery on Walnut Street, two blocks away.

That sounded well. If General Clinton chose to make inquiries, I was reasonably sure he’d discover the horse still in its stall, and thus conclude that John was somewhere in the city. He would also presumably lose interest in me as a source of information, and send soldiers round to whatever haunts a man such as Lord John Grey might be supposed to be visiting.

And with any luck at all, by the time the General had exhausted such possibilities as Philadelphia offered, John would be back and could answer his own damn questions.”

Beginning to see how this works? For me, that is. I imagine some of the tidier-minded writers of historical fiction actually spend years poring through their references, tidily transferring bits of information to index cards (or their electronic equivalent) so that they could instantly look up “women’s clothing,” “Revolutionary War battles,” “George Washington, physical appearance,” and the like.

If that suits the way they work, great. Anything that helps you get words on the page is the right thing to do. This is just how _I_ do it.


I get a lot of questions about what I read, what resources I find "useful," how much research I do, etc., etc. And when interviewers come to talk to me at home, they always want to see my office, and frequently spend half an hour or more browsing my bookshelves in fascination. So I thought y’all might want to have a peek, too.

(One question I often get is about how I organize my material. It is to larf, as John Lennon so eloquently put it. I have two—no, three—ways of organizing research material. The books live in bookshelves. Loose papers, maps, reprinted emails, etc. go into one of three zippered… things. (I can’t really describe them; they’re about the size of small briefcases, but made of nylon fabric, mesh on one side, and they zip on three sides.) The red one holds all the printed miscellanea for the contemporary mystery that I’ll eventually get round to finishing, the black one has stuff about the Lord John stories’ background—maps of London, a guide to the geology of Jamaica, that sort of thing—and the blue one has Stuff that might at some point be useful to the Big Book— MOBY, at the moment— under construction. Interesting websites and material people email me ends up either as a site bookmark or in a catch-all folder/directory called "JRESRCH.") And, um… that’s about it, really.

I do group books among and within bookshelves, though. This is a small office, so there are only two sets of shelves up here: the huge, built-in set of four bays that my husband got me for an anniversary present in 1993 or so, and a much smaller one that got added during a renovation a couple of years ago. Downstairs, in the lower office, two walls are lined with built-in shelves, but a lot of those books are the family "core" library—classics and series that anybody might want to read anytime. (It has got my collection of ghost stories, the field guides, and the natural history references, too, though.)

Anyway, it’s the big bookshelf in my upper office that mostly fascinates people, so I thought I’d show you that, for starters. Above is the overview, guarded by Otis (my son’s pug, who visits often and likes that chair).

And here’s a closeup of the top shelf, upper left:

This is the larger part of my collection of herbals (which continues on to the next shelf). You’ll note that I plainly need a third (and possibly a fourth) shelf for these, but there’s no place to add more up here. I need to weed through these, and move the less-useful references out to one of the tertiary bookcases in one of the (adult, moved-out) kids’ bedrooms.

The books in this class that are/have been most useful are generally the field guides, which tell me where things grow, which plants are native and which are introduced species, which are edible, poisonous, or medicinal. THE PETERSON FIELD GUIDE TO MEDICINAL PLANTS, Eastern/Central region is the main guide to American herbs, while the Hamlyn GUIDE TO MEDICINAL PLANTS OF GREAT BRITAIN is… well, the British equivalent. Both of these books have indices that include diseases and symptoms, with listings for which herbs are or have been used for treatment of same.

Mrs. M. Grieves’ A MODERN HERBAL (published in 1931; the edition I have is an unabridged 1971 Dover reprint) is a much more detailed and more scholarly reference that includes the chemical analyses of many plants’ active principles, as well as historical and cultural notes on usage. The illustrations are not of the quality you’d find in a more modern production, being mostly line-drawings, but still helpful.

Nicholas Culpeper’s CULPEPER’S COMPLETE HERBAL (published in 1647) is the oldest one I have; less directly useful, but still interesting to see just how far back some of the common herbal medicines were known, as well as to see the theoretical/philosophical basis underlying some of the treatments.

And Paul Beyerl’s THE MASTER BOOK OF HERBALISM gives a thumbnail of each of many commonly useful herbs, with preparation and treatment details—but does so from a Magickal point of view, including information like the phases of the moon and how to use certain herbs in conjunction with various gem stones. (You’ll notice that the few gem magic books I have are also mostly in this section.)

As for the inspirational artifacts… <g>

Moving from left to right:

Basket full of letter-openers. In practice, I usually open letters with a steak-knife (or a pair of poultry shears, for particularly intransigent parcels), as I’m generally reading the mail at the kitchen table. Kindly intentioned people often give me letter-openers (and very beautiful hand-made bookmarks, which—alas—I don’t use, either. If reluctantly compelled to stop reading a book, I normally set it face-down, open to the page I abandoned), though, and I also inherited a couple of these from my father, who didn’t use letter-openers, either, preferring a thumbnail, but kept an ornamental one on his desk for show.

Ferocious dinosaur, made by my son, aged about six at the time. (He’s now 28 and a published novelist in his own right. Sam Sykes, esteemed author of THE TOME OF THE UNDERGATES, BLACK HALO, and— coming in September from Pyr Books (US) and Orion (UK)—THE SKYBOUND SEA.)

Sticks. Mind, these are not just any old sticks. They’re twigs from a silver birch tree, growing on the edge of Alamance Creek in North Carolina. I picked them up during a brief research trip, and used them to evoke the whole sense of vegetation, atmosphere, and weather in parts of THE FIERY CROSS.

Replica of an 18th-century ink-well and tray, given to me by a good friend, John L. Myers (also a writer—of gay crime fiction (the novel HOLY FAMILY), as well as daily prayers and contemplations (at www.sacredpauses.com)). The quill in the inkwell is a raven’s wing-feather (the original goose-quill that came with the inkwell is over in the basket with the letter-openers), and the very large feather is—I think; I lose track of which feathers came from where (this is another thing people give me fairly often, but I do actually use them)—from a golden eagle, given to me in 1974 by a friendly zoo-keeper (now deceased) at the San Diego Zoo (I was doing a small research project there); it came from one of the captive birds at the zoo. If that’s not what it is, it’s a turkey feather.

The tray is filled with dried roses. Each of my daughters, at some point in her adolescence, gave me roses. I kept them.

The small ceramics of the housefly, the panda and the chubby baby’s head were gifts made by my sister—the baby was done from a notorious photograph of my son; the one the family refers to as "you know, the one of Sam as Mr. Potato-head…."

The small basket is full of stamps, though I find that I seldom need one anymore, in these days of ubiquitous emails and the Invaluable Susan, the assistant my husband and I share, who hauls anything outgoing over to the mail-place.

The little statue of the young Virgin was given to me in 6th grade, as a classroom prize of some kind. I was a confirmed teacher’s pet through high-school. Not very popular, as one might expect.

The white unfired ceramic is a memorial paw-print, sent to me by the kindly people at the animal hospital after my first beloved dachshund, Gus, died. [Below are the present incumbents, Homer and JJ, who also like the office chair and ottoman. (Photo of pups taken by Loretta, my Webmistress.)]

My husband gave me the Disney Cheshire Cat as a souvenir of a family trip to Disneyland.

And the things over to the right are the sort of little bags that people put small gifts of jewelry, scented oil, or knicks-knacks in. I keep thinking they’re bound to be useful one of these days.

More on this topic: "A Brief Footnote on Tidiness," my blog from July 12, 2012, and "Inspiration and Bookshelves," my blog from September 5, 2015.

THE BACKSIDE OF BEYOND, and other ways of describing nowhere

When you start wondering where a figure of speech came from, you sometimes find yourself on dark literary backroads, if not actually in BF Egypt.

It was during a search for the town of Waldo, New Mexico that my husband described our extremely rural surroundings as “BF Egypt.” And such is the nature of our car conversations on these occasions, I was shortly whipping out my iPhone in an effort to discover just why “B*** F*** Egypt” (to use the full (more or less) expression) should be a common idiom for the backside of beyond.

It was an entertaining search, during which we discovered that all kinds of cultures have an idiom that pretty much means, “Out in the sticks,” if not absolutely, “Farther away than nowhere.” The British do not use “BF Egypt,” which seemed odd in light of their expeditionary and exploratory history in the desert regions. Still, they do seem aware of their adventurous heritage: current British idiom is “in the bundu”—“bundu” being an African word (specific ethnicity unknown) meaning…well, BF Egypt.

Here (courtesy of Wikipedia and its many contributors) is a partial list of popular idioms meaning “a very remote (not to say culturally backward and/or with inhabitants given to deviant sexual practices) place”:

• Anytown, USA and Dullsville in the USA.

• Auchterturra in Scotland, and Glenboggin, which has its own official website.[30]

• Back o’ Bourke in Australia (unspecified remote place). Bourke, New South Wales was the terminus of the railway line from Sydney, thus the start of the real Outback.

• Bally-Go-Backwards in Ireland (unspecified remote small country town).

• Black Stump or also Albuquerque in Australia and New Zealand (“beyond the black stump” indicates an extremely remote location).

• Up the Boohai (approximately “boo-eye”) in New Zealand, occasionally given as, Up the Boohai hunting pukeko with a long handled shovel. The Boohai is a fictitious river. It is used to indicate that the answerer does not wish to respond to any question involving “where?”. Up the Boohai can also indicate that plans are apparently ruined or an item is extremely non-functional.

• The Boondocks (or the Boonies).

• BFE or Bumblefuck, Egypt (also Bumfuck, Egypt, Butt Fuck, Egypt, or Beyond Fucking Egypt) refers to an unspecified remote location or destination, assumed to be arduous to travel to, unpleasant to visit and/or far away from anything of interest to the speaker (e.g. “Man, you parked way the hell out in BFE”). In Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey, this is often referred to as Japip or East Jabip/Jabib. In the Chicago metropolitan area, the term was coined to refer to the region in downstate Illinois known as “Little Egypt”, centered in Cairo, Illinois, for being the furthest from the urban center in both distance and way of life. Bumfuck is also military slang for a remote, hard to get to military base. Has been also rendered as Bumfuck, Iowa or Bumfuck, Wyoming or Bumfuck, Idaho. Bumblefuck, Missouri was popularized by the 1988 movie Rain Man.

• Buttcrack or Upper Buttcrack (usually a New England state).

• Crackerland and Jerkwater (from the 1982 film First Blood, small hometowns of typical US Army recruits).

• East Cupcake.

• East Jahunga.

• East Jesus.

• Four-Fifths of Fuck-All.

• Dog River, Armpit, or Moose Fuck in Canada.

• Hay and Hell and Booligal, an Australian colloquialism for anyplace hot and uncomfortable; made famous by Banjo Patterson’s humorous poem of that title. (Hay and Booligal are actual New South Wales communities in the Riverina.)

• Hickville is used to describe a small farming town. (Hick comes from hillbilly.)

• Loamshire for a rural county in England (and the Loamshires for a regiment based in that county).

• Outer Mongolia used to represent a far and distant land relatively unknown to the average person; also rendered as the imaginary country of Outer Congolia

• Peoria refers to provincial mainstream cities or towns in the US; typically used in expressions like “Will it play in Peoria?”

• Podunk in the USA.

• Sainte-Clotilde-de-Rubber-Boot in Quebec, Canada.

• The Sticks refers to a remote rural location (US + UK)

• Timbuktu is often used to refer to an unspecified but remote place.

• Tipperary can still be used to denote anywhere that is “a long way from home”.

• Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein used to refer to a typical South African small rural town.

• Ultima Thule can mean “beyond the borders of the known world” or a far-north island.

• Upper Rubber Boot in Ontario, Canada.

• Woop Woop, Upper Woop Woop, Oodnawoopwoop, or Wopwops in Australia and New Zealand (often “out Woop Woop” as in, “they live out Woop Woop somewhere”, and used when referring to people who live in a country area unfamiliar to the speaker).

• Waikikamukau (pronounced “Why kick a moo-cow”) in New Zealand.

Oh, Waldo, New Mexico? It’s way the heck out in BF Egypt. [g]*

*Actually, Waldo is even farther away than that. One of New Mexico’s small ghost-towns, the entire place was bought up by a salvager in the 1950’s and completely carted away. Nothin’ much left.

[This photo from www.ghosttowns.com, which has the complete story of Waldo.]


The German version of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER (now called, for some inscrutable German reason, DIE FACKELN DER FREIHEIT (“The Torches of Freedom”. Don’t ask me, I have _no_ idea…)) is now out!

And…the trade paperback edition of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER is now out in the US and—I hope—Canada!

IF you’d like a signed copy (of either of these, or anything else, for that matter [g])…please go to www.poisonedpen.com. You can order any of my books there, and if you’d like a signature or personal inscription, just note that in the “Instructions” box on the order page. (If you’re looking for one of the foreign editions, you may need to email patrick@poisonedpen.com. They do have a few non-English editions of this and that, but I don’t think these are listed on the website.)

Hope you’ll enjoy THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, in the language of your choice! [g]

Copyright 2011 Diana Gabaldon

John Grey leaned against a tree, a little distance away, enjoying the sense of temporary invisibility. He’d wondered how he’d feel, seeing Jamie Fraser in the flesh again, and was relieved to find that the episode in the stable at Helwater now seemed sufficiently distant that he could put it aside. Not forget it, unfortunately, but not have it be uppermost in his mind, either.

Now Fraser bent his head to one side, listening to something said to him by a thin, curly-headed man beside him, though without taking his eyes off the stage. The sight of the curls brought Percy briefly to mind, but Percy, too, was in the past, and he shoved the thought firmly down.

He hadn’t consciously thought what he’d say, or how he might start the conversation, but when the play ended, he found himself upright and walking fast, so as to come onto the path slightly in front of Fraser as he turned back toward the edge of the park.

He had no notion what had led him to do this, to let the Scot make the first move, but it seemed natural, and he heard Fraser snort behind him, a small sound with which he was familiar; it signified something between derision and amusement.

“Good afternoon, Colonel,” Fraser said, sounding resigned as he swung into step beside Grey.

“Good afternoon, Captain Fraser,” he replied politely, and felt rather than saw Fraser’s startled glance at him. “Did you enjoy the show?”

“I thought I’d gauge how long my chain is,” Fraser said, ignoring the question. “Within sight o’ the house, is it?”

“For the moment,” Grey said, honestly. “But I did not come to retrieve you. I have a message from Colonel Quarry.”

Fraser’s wide mouth tightened involuntarily.

“Oh, aye?”

“He wishes to offer you satisfaction.”

“What?” Fraser stared at him blankly.

“Satisfaction for what injury you may have received at his hands,” Grey elaborated. “If you wish to call him out—he’ll come.”

Fraser stopped dead.

“He’s offering to fight a duel with me. Is that what ye’re saying?”

“Yes,” Grey said patiently. “I am.”

“Jesus God.” The big Scot stood still, ignoring the flow of pedestrians—all of whom gave him a wide, side-glancing berth—and rubbing a finger up and down the bridge of his nose. He stopped doing this and shook his head, in the manner of one dislodging flies.

“Quarry canna think ye’d let me. You and his grace, I mean.”

Grey’s heart gave a slight jerk; Christ, he was thinking about it. Seriously.

“I personally have nothing to say regarding the matter,” he said politely. “As for my brother, he said nothing to me that indicated he would interfere.” Since he hadn’t had a chance. Christ, what would Hal do if Fraser did call Harry out? Besides kill Grey himself for not preventing it, that is.

Fraser made a thoroughly Scotch sort of noise in his throat. Not quite a growl, but it lifted the hairs on Grey’s neck, and for the first time, he began to worry that Fraser just might send back a challenge. He hadn’t thought—he’d thought Fraser would be startled by the notion, but then—he swallowed, and blurted,
“Should you wish to call him out, I will second you.”

Whatever Fraser had thought of Quarry’s original offer, Grey’s startled him a good deal more. He stared at Grey, blue eyes narrowed, looking to see whether this was an ill-timed joke.

His heart was thumping hard enough to cause small sparks of pain on the left side of his chest, even though the wounds there were long since healed. Fraser’s hands had curled into fists, and he had a sudden, vivid recollection of their last meeting, when Fraser had come within a literal inch of smashing in his face with one of those massive fists.

“Have you ever been out—fought a duel, I mean—before?”

“I have,” Fraser said shortly.

The color had risen in the Scot’s face. He was outwardly immobile, but whatever was going on inside his head was moving fast. Grey watched, fascinated.

That process reached its conclusion, though, and the big fists relaxed—consciously—and Fraser uttered a short, humorless laugh, his eyes focusing again on Grey.

“Why?” he said.

“Why, what? Why does Colonel Quarry offer you satisfaction? Because his sense of honor demands it, I suppose.”

Fraser said something under his breath in what Grey supposed to be Erse. He further supposed it to be a comment on Quarry’s honor, but didn’t inquire. The blue eyes were boring into his.

“Why offer to second me? D’ye dislike Quarry?”

“No,” Grey said, startled. “Harry Quarry’s one of my best friends.”

One thick, ruddy brow went up.

“Why would ye not be his second, then?”

Grey took a deep breath.

“Well…actually…I am. There’s nothing in the rules of duello preventing it,” he added. “Though I admit it’s not usual.”

Fraser closed his eyes for an instant, frowning, then opened them again.

“I see,” he said, very dry. “So was I to kill him, ye’d be obliged to fight me? And if he killed me, ye’d fight him? And should we kill each other, what then?”

“I suppose I’d call a surgeon to dispose of your bodies and then commit suicide,” Grey said, a little testily. “But let us not be rhetorical. You have no intent of calling him out, do you?”

“I’ll admit the prospect has its attractions,” Fraser said evenly. “But ye may tell Colonel Quarry I decline his offer.”

“Do you wish to tell him that yourself? He’s still at the house.”

Fraser had begun to walk again, but stopped dead at this. His gaze shifted toward Grey in a most uncomfortable way, rather like a large cat making a decision regarding the edibility of some small animal in its vicinity.

“Um…if you do not choose to meet him,” Grey said carefully, “I will leave you here for a quarter of an hour, and make sure that he is gone before you return to the house.”

Fraser turned on him with such sudden violence as to make him steel himself not to step backward.
“And let the gobshite think I am afraid of him? Damn you, Englishman! Dare ye to suggest such a thing? Were I to call someone out, it would be you, mhic a diabhail—and ye know it.”

He whirled on his heel and stalked toward the house, scattering loungers like pigeons before him.

MUST-READ for NURSES! Quite an honor!

I was Charmed to be informed that the Licensed Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse site has chosen OUTLANDER as one of its (Fiction) Must-Read books for Nurses! Thanks so much to you, and all the nursing profession!

The SCOTTISH PRISONER now out in paperback!

THE SCOTTISH PRISONER is out TODAY (well, yesterday…sort of…I work late, OK?) in trade paperback, for the US and Canada! (It came out in paperback already in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.)

Besides the story—half Jamie, half Lord John (and below is the beginning of the book)—this book also includes several preview excerpts from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, the next upcoming OUTLANDER novel. Some of you will already have seen some of these excerpts, some of you won’t. FYI, the excerpts include:

  • Claire, Jenny and Mrs. Figg
  • William meets a Whore
  • What happened to Lord John after Jamie said, “Oh? Why?” And
  • What Happened to Jem in the Tunnel

And here is the beginning of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:

SECTION I: The Fate of Fuses

Chapter 1: April Fool

Helwater, the Lake District
April 1, 1760

It was so cold out, he thought his cock might break off in his hand—i. 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.

He could find it now; had waked with his fist wrapped round it and desire shuddering and twitching over his skin like a cloud of midges. The dream was wrapped just as tightly round his mind, but he knew it would fray in seconds, shredded by the snores and farts of the other grooms. He needed her, needed to spill himself with the feel of her touch still on him.

Hanks stirred in his sleep, chuckled loudly, said something incoherent, and fell back into the void, murmuring, “Bugger, bugger, bugger…”

Jamie said something similar under his breath in the Gaelic, and flung back his blanket. Damn the cold.

He made his way down the ladder into the half-warm, horse-smelling fug of the barn, nearly falling in his haste, ignoring a splinter in his bare foot. He hesitated in the dark, still urgent. The horses wouldn’t care, but if they noticed him, they’d make enough noise, perhaps, to wake the others.

Wind struck the barn and went booming round the roof. A strong chilly draft with a scent of snow stirred the somnolence, and two or three of the horses shifted, grunting and whickering. Overhead, a murmured “‘ugger” drifted down, accompanied by the sound of someone turning over and pulling the blanket up round his ears, defying reality.

Claire was still with him, vivid in his mind, solid in his hands. He could imagine that he smelled her hair in the scent of fresh hay. The memory of her mouth, those sharp white teeth …he rubbed his nipple, hard and itching beneath his shirt, and swallowed.

His eyes were long accustomed to the dark; he found the vacant loose-box at the end of the row and leaned against its boards, cock already in his fist, body and mind yearning for his lost wife.

He’d have made it last if he could, but he was fearful lest the dream go altogether and he surged into the memory, groaning. His knees gave way in the aftermath and he slid slowly down the boards of the box into the loose piled hay, shirt rucked round his thighs and his heart pounding like a kettle drum.

Lord, that she might be safe, was his last conscious thought. She and the child.

Copies of the trade paperback version of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER are available from:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | The Poisoned Pen | Random House

Click here for information on hardback and e-book formats.


THE METHADONE LIST – Good Crime Fiction by a Couple of Roberts What I Know: Rob Byrnes and Robert Dugoni

I was amused, but pleased, to have my novella, “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” recently nominated for an Edgar award by the Mystery Writers of America, for “Best Short Mystery Story” of 2011. Given that that particular story is not exactly a mystery, and certainly isn’t short [g], I didn’t really expect to win (which was a good thing, since I didn’t), but certainly was flattered to be nominated.

And I did have a tax-deductible reason to go to New York (for the awards dinner), where I had the double pleasure of seeing my husband in his tux (he wears it about once every three years) and of meeting a number of mystery-writing friends that I see too rarely. Among these was the talented Rob Byrnes, who writes gay crime caper novels (there’s a niche-market for you…). I’ve known Rob for years, and have read and enjoyed several of his books (I’m not sure, but I think I appear as a mention in one of the early ones—I was in the first draft, at least…). Think Donald Westlake with good dress-sense. His latest is HOLY ROLLERS, in which The Gang That Can’t Do Anything Straight sets out to steal $7 million dollars from the Virginia Cathedral of Love.

[That's Rob in the middle in the photo above. I don't know who the other gent is, but it's not Robert Dugoni.]

AND there’s my good friend Robert Dugoni, whose publisher has just this minute launched a wonderful promotion for his books, with his bestseller MURDER ONE available as an ebook—as of today—for $1.99. Bob writes prose as taut as a trampoline, and has plots like an octopus running an obstacle course. If thrillers are your thing, I strongly recommend him.

[This is Bob Dugoni.]