• “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

Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games: Dingbats and Whale Penises

Had a wonderful (if very busy!) time at Fergus last weekend! Thanks to everyone who came, and my apologies to all the Very Patient People who waited in line for _hours_. (Not that I was slow signing, but there were a heck of a lot of people, and many of them took me at my word when I said I’d sign anything they felt like lugging through the fairgrounds. {g})

And speaking of such Patient People, here’s a charming blog post from MichelleK’s anotherlookbookreview, on her own Fergus Experience. {g}

I had a good time speaking to y’all–and for those who asked about the whale penises {cough}–

I was explaining about what-all goes on with a book _after_ I deliver the manuscript (and why the book doesn’t appear instantly on the shelves the moment I finish writing it), and had got to the part about the book designer–that wonderful person who decides what the pages will look like, what typeface will be used, how wide the margins are, how the lines are spaced, where the page number appears….and what dingbat to use to delineate one scene from another. A dingbat is a symbol that’s used generally as a spacer or placeholder in the text; you might see asterisks, curlicues, or some other scenic bit–there are a lot of them, but the same dingbat has been used in all my books as a spacer between scenes. It’s a graceful sort of thick curvy shape, which my beloved first editor invariably referred to as a “whale penis.”

That’s because, around the time the first book was being laid out, I happened to tell her the story of what happened when my eldest daughter’s fourth-grade teacher asked me to come and talk to the class–not about writing, but about marine biology. (I used to be a marine biologist, briefly, at one point in my scientific incarnation.)

Well, we were getting along nicely, the fourth-graders and me, talking about pelagic (free-swimming) and sessile (fixed in place) organisms, when one intelligent lad asked me, “If barnacles are stuck in one place, how do they mate?” So I explained–they shed their gametes into the water, where they fertilize and develop into free-swimming forms, which then settle down and stick to the substrate. This evidently started a train of thought, though, because the kid’s next question was “Do whales have penises?”

“Indeed they do,” I said. Which led naturally to the next question. (About six feet) And the next–why don’t you ever see a whale’s penis at Seaworld? “Well, they’re retractable,” I said. “You know–drag.”

At this point, I observed the teacher in the back of the room, who had evidently turned into a pillar of salt. Oddly enough, I was never invited back to talk to the students about marine biology.

But that’s the story of the whale penises.

And yes, I _will_ put up the excerpt that made a tent full of two hundred people gasp out loud–but not tonight. {g}

One nice gentleman took a brief video of me signing, and I’ll _try_ posting a link to that here, but no guarantees. (I have my laptop working momentarily and wanted to take advantage of the ability to upload pictures.)

Thanks to Lynn Boland Richardson, Warren Trask, and the other amazing people who organize the Fergus Festival–this was their 66th anniversary, and a great time had by all!

And many thanks also to Iwona, who sent me the photos here, of me with her son’s fiancee, Natasha, her daughter, Farida, and herself–in the bottom photo, with me and my husband, Doug.

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Yes, I’ll be at DragonCon!

Title: Whiskey, Haggis, & Madmen: Myths & Reality of the Scottish Highlands
Description: The stories that made Scotland famous: why kilts, why Braveheart was an inspiring fairy tale, and how the Scots invented everything. Yes, everything.
Time: Sat 08:30 pm Location: International C – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

——————-
Title: An Hour with Diana Gabaldon
Description: The best-selling author discusses her time-traveling Outlander series, and more!
Time: Sun 07:00 pm Location: International C – Westin (Length: 1 Hour)

I will be at DragonCon, appearing on Saturday (Sept. 3), and Sunday (Sept.4).

If my cut and paste worked, details are above! (hardware difficulty has me doing this on an iPad–not ideal.)

Fergus Scottish Festival and Highland Games

Made it to Canada last night! Getting ready for the Tattoo tonight at the Fergust Scottish Festival and Highland Games (I’m not performing at the Tattoo–this is mostly pipes and drums, “heavy” event exhibitions (like caber-tossing), the calling of the clans, and singing, none of which I’m qualified to do), and for the various talks/readings and signings I’ll be doing tomorrow.

Thought I should post the times–now that I have them–for the talks/signings:

I’ll be in what they call the Geneaology Tent (this is the biggest tent–other than the whisky tent–on the grounds; hard to miss), doing talks at 9:30 AM and 2:00 PM on Saturday, and at 10:30 AM and 2:30 PM on Sunday. All talks will be followed by book-signing (usually I just sign madly until it’s time for the next talk).

I’m happy to sign any books you want to bring, but there will also be an onsite bookstore selling books–they told me last night that they’ve stocked 2000 copies of the 20th anniversary edition of OUTLANDER–I kind of hope they brought a few other titles, too–but that’s pretty cool. Not much chance of a shortage, I mean. {g}

Check out the Festival website at http://www.fergusscottishfestival.com/ and if you’re in driving distance, I’ll see you there tomorrow!

(Yes, I will have excerpts to read, from SCOTTISH PRISONER and BOOK EIGHT. Just figuring out which ones I can safely read over a microphone to an audience of several hundred innocent passersby…)

ABERDEEN = Sex Capitol of Scotland (who knew?)

Which is to say that our hotel was apparently _the_ hotel in Aberdeen for wedding nights, anniversaries, and less-licit occasions. The wallpaper in the halls is hot pink, with black-lace flocked appliques–it looks like naughty underwear–and the rooms are done in a tasteful mixture of dark tartan and black velour, with a suggestive tray holding two goblets and a bottle of wine (with a label reading “L13.95″ round the neck. (In case this is insufficient stimulus, Reception sends a fresh bottle of champagne upstairs to the rooms every ten minutes or so.) The bar downstairs runs “Superman” on a continuous loop, and people loll in the couches in couples, thumb-wrestling and fondling each other’s thighs (whilst the strait-laced Americans sit primly sipping white wine and watching the debauchery in fascination).

Beyond the entertainment of our accommodations, we had a great time in Aberdeen. Got to have dinner with Mike Gibb (lyricist and playwright for OUTLANDER: The Musical) and his lovely wife, Norma, and take part in Aberdeen’s Tartan Day. I got to walk in the parade with a lot of people dressed up in suits of armor and/or costumed as the Archbishop, carrying a scroll purporting to be the Declaration of Arbroath, whose most famous line I’m sure you’ve all seen:

“For as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom — for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.”

Also did a book-signing, courtesy of Waterstone’s, who are always hugely gracious and kind to me—so nice to meet so many readers, not only from Scotland, but from Poland, the Netherlands, and even Brazil!

In the interstices of all this frolicking, I also got to watch Mike’s new short play—commissioned for the occasion—“Red Harlaw,” commemorating the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Harlaw, fought in July of 1411.

It was a great piece—very powerful and moving; kudos to Mike, and to the cast: Mark Kydd, Michelle Bruce, and Allan Scott-Douglas (you’ll recognize Michelle and Allan as singers on the OUTLANDER: The Musical CD). That’s them above, in St. Nicholas’s Church, where the show was performed.

In re Mr. Scott-Douglas, I’d promised him that if he could get a new photograph of us together next time we met, I’d replace the infamous one of him as Big Bird in an earlier blog post {g}—and am happy to report that he seized the opportunity (nothing like motivation) at the reception held by the Lord Provost at Aberdeen’s amazing historical Townhouse (aka City Hall, but much posher, with paintings of previous Lord Provosts, red and gold wallpaper, and crystal chandeliers). Many thanks to the Lord Provost, who was entirely charming!

We bade Aberdeen—and the hot-pink wallpaper—adieu day before yesterday, though, and via planes, trains, and automobiles, made our arduous way to London, where we are at present. Spent the day at the City of London Museum, St. Paul’s cathedral, and out having a wonderful dinner with my delightful UK editor and his wife. More about London (and more bits of Scotland) anon—but now it’s the middle of the night, and I need to sleep.

Good night!

Loch Ness, Naked Man

I don’t know why _I_ never see naked men emerging from bodies of water. Not looking at the right moment, I suppose.

Doug and I had a lovely dinner on the 19th at Castle Stuart (which sort of has to be seen to be believed), with Alastair Cunningham and his merry tour group of Australians, all of whom _had_ been looking at the right moment, earlier in the day, when they paused to have a look for Nessie and instead beheld a local gentleman emerging from the loch “in all his glory,” as one lady put it. “I couldn’t believe it; it was only _that_ long!” (fingers held about two inches apart). (Well, Loch Ness _is_ very cold, after all.)

The one drawback to Castle Stuart is its internet connections; as the castle was built in 1625, it’s rather impervious to modern wiring (though they did somehow manage to do remote-controlled fires. Really—you point a little box at the fireplace and poof! Fire. Push the button and it burns higher, push the other one and it burns lower. Click again, and poof! It goes out).

After leaving Castle Stuart, we took up with independent tour guide Hugh Allison (whom I met many years ago, when he was working at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre) for a four-day journey around the north and west of Scotland, to places we’d never been. And _what_ places!

[Isle of Stroma - image from Wikipedia]

Orkney, for one. We took the ferry from the mainland, going past the Isle of Stroma—where the entire population emigrated en masse in the 1960′s, leaving their houses deserted. Eerie place, but well populated with puffins, who whirled off the island like a hurricane of fish-eating autumn leaves, some couple of thousand of them wheeling round the ferry, close enough to see their amazing bills.

[Image courtesy of The Royal Society for the Preservation of Birds - www.rspb.org]

I’ll tell you more about all the cool things we’ve seen—Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar, Maeshowe, etc.—but right now it’s the middle of the night at Culloden House, and we’re leaving in the morning to drive to Edinburgh (pausing to walk the battlefield at Sheriffsmuir on the way), and I wanted to post the information about Tartan Day in Aberdeen, coming up THIS SATURDAY!

Tartan Day, Aberdeen, Scotland Saturday 30 July

RED HARLAW Premiere of Mike Gibb’s new short play (with music) with a cast that includes Allan Scott-Douglas and Michelle Bruce from the Outlander The Musical CD.
Performances at 2pm, 3pm and 4pm in the historic Drum Aisle of St Nicholas Church. Admission is free

DIANA GABALDON BOOK SIGNING Courtyard of St Nicholas Kirk between 12.00 and 1.00pm

I’ll be around most of the day, so hope to see lots of you there!

A Literary Three-Way

By popular demand….

Ummm….OK. This one really _was_ Chris Humphreys’s fault. A couple of weeks ago, a number of game (and fairly uninhibited) people kindly took part in the Late-Night Sex-Scene readings at the Historical Novel Society conference in San Diego. Owing to circumstances I claim not to remember {cough}, I’ve been Mistress of Ceremonies for this now-traditional feature of the conference _twice_.

This time around, I had a lively lineup of volunteers, including Laurel Corona’s sweetly naïve French teenagers reading pornography, Deni Dietz’s drunken-sex-on-horseback, and Maggie Anton’s hot Talmudic sex scenes (as I remarked afterward, I had no idea what I was missing, being born Catholic…).

Anyway. At some point in the proceedings, Chris writes me to say that he and Gillian Bagwell would like to team-read a scene from her book, THE DARLING STRUMPET, which he describes as “the best blow-job in literature.” This being a scene in which the Earl of Rochester instructs Nell Gwyn in the, er, art of…um, well. Yes.

“Great,” I said. “You can be the—you should excuse the expression—climax of the evening.”

So we’re all set with our stellar lineup of readers—when I’m informed that Gillian and Chris have decided that the scene would work best with an outside narrator to carry the description, while _they_ do the dialogue, and would I kindly oblige? Gillian had kindly written up the script already, so I blinked and said, “OK. Why not?”

So that’s where this came from. I don’t vouch for the quality, either of the video or the performance (though Chris and Gillian both seemed to be doing very well, from my unusual vantage point)—but fwiw, here it is!

C.C. Humphrey, Diana Gabaldon, and Gillian Bagwell read from THE DARLING STRUMPET, by Gillian Bagwell.

Jamie, or John?

Oookay, then!

Sorry to be so late in getting this post up; I’ve been in New Mexico for the last week, and the internet connection there was Just Abysmal; could barely keep it open long enough to tweet, let alone upload anything longer.
First things first: Upcoming appearances.

I’m flying to New York on Monday, and will be appearing (briefly) at the RWA convention, held at the Marriott Marquis. Appearances will be:

The Literacy Signing, where most of the published authors taking part will be available to sell/sign books—this is from 5:30-7:30 on June 28th, at the Marriott Marquis. This event _is_ open to the public, and I _believe_ that you’re allowed to bring in up to three of your own books from home to be signed, if you like.
The opening panel of the convention, where I’ll be taking part in a discussion with two other Random House authors, Steve Berry and Tess Gerritsen. This is part of the convention and open only to convention attendees. It’ll be from 8:30-10:00 AM on June 29th.

Then on July 5th—publication date for the cool new 20th-anniversary OUTLANDER edition!—I fly to Laramie Wyoming, where I’ll be doing the keynote speech for the Sir Walter Scott conference at the University of Wyoming. The conference program is here http://www.uwyo.edu/scottconf2011/program.html , but I don’t yet have a detailed personal schedule. I _will_ be doing at least one public book-signing, though; will post time and place as soon as I get them.

On July 8th, I fly _back_ to New York, for ThrillerFest, at the Hyatt. There, I’ll be doing a Livestream event with James Rollins (Powell’s Books is supplying books to be sold during this event—and I certainly _hope_ they’ll have the 20th-anniversary edition!) from 2-4:00 PM on July 8th.

On the evening of July 8th, I’ll be doing a joint signing with several other authors for a collaborative mystery novel called NO REST FOR THE DEAD. (This is one of those for-charity efforts—proceeds for this one go to cancer research—where a number of well-known authors take turns writing chapters, and the editor then goes through and kind of smooths things out so the story is coherent. Or so we hope, anyway.)

The signing will be held at 7:00 PM at the Center for Fiction, (17 East 47th Street, New York, NY 10017), and authors attending will include Peter James, Marcia Talley, John Lescroart, RL Stine, Diana Gabaldon,Jeffery Deaver, Gayle Lynds and Andrew Gulli. (Just for my own part, I’m fine with people bringing their own books to be signed, too.) This is open to the public.

Aaaand, on July 9th, I’ll do a Spotlight Interview (at the Hyatt) for ThrillerFest, Kathleen Antrim being the interviewer. That’s from 1:00-1:50 PM. And then I’ll do a book-signing for the convention (open only to convention attendees) from 5:00-6:00 PM at the convention bookstore in the hotel.

Then I rush home on the 10th {g}, and do the Official Launch Party for the 20th-anniversary OUTLANDER on July 11th, at The Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale. 7:00 PM!

Righto. Now, I had promised to show you the two openings I have for SCOTTISH PRISONER. As it stands, I’m opening the book with Jamie’s point of view—but I _could_ open with Lord John’s first chapter instead, and do Jamie’s second.  I did it this way because I’d like people to realize right away that this is Jamie’s book, as much as Lord John’s—but it _is_ a Rather Unusual {cough} way to open a book.

So—those of you who don’t read excerpts should stop Right Here.

Those of you who _do_…here you go, and hope you enjoy them! Let me know what you think: Jamie first, or Lord John?

THE SCOTTISH PRISONER
(Copyright 2011 Diana Gabaldon)
Chapter 1:

Helwater, the Lake District
April 1, 1760

It was so cold out, he thought his cock might break off in his hand. If he could find it. The thought passed through his sleep-mazed mind like one of the small, icy drafts that darted through the loft, making him open his eyes.
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 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.

[end section]

(more stuff in this chapter, of course)

Chapter 2: The Fate of Fuses

London
Argus House

Lord John Grey eyed the ribbon-tied packet on his knee as though it were a bomb. In fact, it couldn’t have been more explosive had it been filled with black powder and equipped with a fuse.
His attitude as he handed it to his brother must have reflected this knowledge, for Hal fixed him with a gimlet eye and raised one brow. He said nothing, though, flicking loose both ribbon and wrapping with an impatient gesture and bending his head at once over the thick sheaf of densely-written sheets that emerged.

Grey couldn’t stand to watch him read through Charles Carruthers’s post-mortem denunciation, recalling each damning page as Hal read it. He stood up and went to the window of the study that looked out into the back garden of Argus House, ignoring the swish of turning pages and the occasional blasphemous mutterings behind him.

Hal’s three boys were playing a game of tigers and hunters, leaping out at each other from behind the shrubbery with shrill roars, followed by shrieks of delight and yells of “Bang! Take that, you striped son of a bitch!”

The nurse seated on the edge of the fish-pool, keeping a tight grip on baby Dottie’s gown, looked up at this, but merely rolled her eyes with a martyred expression. Flesh and blood has its limits, her expression said clearly, and she resumed paddling a hand in the water, luring one of the big goldfish close so that Dottie could drop bits of bread to it.

John longed to be down there with them. It was a rare day for early April, and he felt the pulse of it in his blood, urging him to be outside, running bare-foot through young grass. Running naked down into the water… The sun was high, flooding warm through the glass of the French windows, and he closed his eyes and turned his face up to it.

Siverly. The name floated in the darkness behind his eyes, pasted across the blank face of an imagined cartoon major, drawn in uniform, an outsized sword brandished in his hand, and bags of money stuffed into the back of his breeches, obscene bulges under the skirt of his coat. One or two had fallen to the ground, bursting open so that you could see the contents–coin in one, the other filled with what looked like poppets, small wooden doll-like things. Each one with a tiny knife through its heart.

Hal swore in German behind him. He must have reached the part about the rifles; German oaths were reserved for the most stringent occasions, French being used for minor things like a burnt dinner, and Latin for formal insults committed to paper. Minnie wouldn’t let either Hal or John swear in English in the house, not wanting the boys to acquire low habits. John could have told her it was too late for such caution, but didn’t.

He turned round to see Hal on his feet, pale with rage, a sheet of paper crumpled in one hand.

“How dare he? How dare he?”

A small knot he hadn’t known was there dissolved under John’s ribs.

“You believe Carruthers, then?”

Hal glared at him.

“Don’t you? You knew the man.”

He had known Charles Carruthers–in more than one sense.

“Yes, I believed him when he told me about Siverly in Canada–and that–” he nodded at the papers, thrown in a sprawl across Hal’s desk, “–is even more convincing. You’d think he’d been a lawyer.”
He could still see Carruthers’s face, pale in the dimness of his attic room in [town], drawn with ill-health but set with grim determination to live long enough to see justice done. Charlie hadn’t lived that long, but long enough to write down every detail of the case against Major Gerald Siverly, and to entrust it to him.

He was the fuse that would detonate this particular bomb. And he was all too familiar with what happened to fuses, once lit.

[end section]

Quick Bits

I’m _just_ about to take off for the Historical Novel Society conference in San Diego, but wanted to remind everyone that I’ll be doing a signing at the Book Rack in Mesa on June 22nd, from 1-3 PM.

The Book Rack
1752 Signal Butte Rd.Suite 108
Mesa, AZ 85209

Our major crossroads are Signal Butte and the US60 and we are located in the Walmart Parking lot next to Cold Stone Creamery and Panda Express.

Our phone number is 480-380-0044.

And yes, to those who’ve been asking, I _will_ be at Bubonicon in late August.

I have a load of free Stuff described as “downloadables” (wallpapers, screen savers and the like) by Random House, which I’ll put up here  as soon as I get a chance–way up past mid-eyeball in finishing SCOTTISH PRISONER, which will likely be done wiithin a week! {crossing fingers}

And then…I have an informal poll question for y’all, which I’ll try to put up tomorrow night, i I’m not too wiped from a six-hour drive, a dinner cruise, and a dress {ahem} rehearsal in the bar for the Late-Night Sex-Scene readings. (I normally do these in my nightwear, but Chris Humphreys, who is doing a literary three-way with me and Gillian Bagwell, tells me he requires a sword, one of which I have borrowed from my son.)    SCOTTISH PRISONER is a two-man book–the men in question being Jamie and Lord John.  At the moment, it begins with Jamie’s story, with a scene that caused my husband to write, “Can you even _print_ this?” in the margin when he read it.   Now, I’ll definitely use that scene {g]–but not sure if I should lead off with it.  It might cause new readers either to slam the book shut and throw it back on the table–or rush to the cash register with it.   But I _could_ begin with Lord John’s part of the story, which is also very good, but a lot less…er…{cough}.  But I’ll show you both beginnings and you can give me your opinions, if you’d be so kind!

Manana!  (You’ll have to imagine the tilde over the first “n” there.  I stink at putting in diacritical marks.)

More Tasty Fictional Food!

Well, there’s nothing absolutely fictional about bridies; they’re a perfectly legitimate item of Scottish cuisine {g}—but I’m Much Obliged to Theresa Carle-Sanders, professional chef and dabbler in historical foodstuffs, for her newest venture: Brianna’s Bridies, as described in DRUMS OF AUTUMN.

“Yon fellow wi’ the cast in one eye,” he said in a subdued bellow, indicating the gentleman in question by pointing with his chin. “What d’ye say to him, Brianna?”
“I’d say he looks like the Boston Strangler,” she muttered, then louder, shouting into her cousin’s ear, “He looks like an ox! No!”
“He’s strong, and he looks honest!”
Brianna thought the gentleman in question looked too stupid to be dishonest, but refrained from saying so, merely shaking her head emphatically.
Young Jamie shrugged philosophically and resumed his scrutiny of the would-be bondsmen, walking around those who took his particular interest and peering at them closely, in a way she might have thought exceedingly rude had a number of other potential employers not been doing likewise.
“Bridies! Hot bridies!” A high-pitched screech cut through the rumble and racket of the hall, and Brianna turned to see an old woman elbowing her way robustly through the crowd, a steaming tray hung round her neck and a wooden spatula in hand.
The heavenly scent of fresh hot dough and spiced meat cut through the other pungencies in the hall, noticeable as the old woman’s calling. It had been a long time since breakfast, and Brianna dug in her pocket, feeling saliva fill her mouth.

–DRUMS OF AUTUMN, 1997

Theresa’s done a wonderful rendition of bridies, with notes on a modern version (substituting vegetable shortening for the traditional suet, the latter being hard to locate in most grocery stores), including a vegetarian take for non-carnivores. Go here for pictures (including some from Theresa’s recent trip to the Highlands), cooking/baking instructions, and recipes!

AuthorChat Tonight!

I’m doing an AuthorChat online with Brenda Novak this evening–5:30 PM PDT/8:30 PM EDT. come and join us!

I can’t get the widget with the “join” link to show up here, and don’t have time to mess with it.  So–for the sake of convenience–here is the link to the widget.  See you online tonight!