• “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

Jamie and the Rule of Three

I had a male reader (Justin Brady (@RandomAngst), who runs the Random Angst book review/rating site at www.randomangst.com) on Twitter just today who said he’d just finished reading OUTLANDER and enjoyed it a lot “until the prison chapters.” I tweeted back that I’d be kind of worried about him if he’d _enjoyed_ the Wentworth part {g}, to which he said, “but why put our hero through such pain and suffering? :)”, adding in the next, “I know I’m late to the #Outlander party & you’ve probably already addressed this; but that was intense emotional, physical pain.”

I was on my way out to dinner, so said I’d reply to him later (haven’t done that yet), but have been thinking at brief moments just _how_ to reply to that. The simple answer is just that that’s what I saw happening, but that’s not enough for the reader. There always _is_ a reason why things happen or are necessary, whether I know what that is when I write it or not. So what is it here?

In part, it’s because it’s a High Stakes story. Almost everybody understands that you have to have _something_ at stake for a story to be good. And way too many thrillers and sf/f novels assume that nothing less than the Fate of the Known Universe will do {g}, these authors mistaking scale for intensity. No matter what the background may be, a story that focuses on the impact of events on one or two individual _lives_ will be–generally speaking–much more engaging and emotionally intense than one where everyone is just rushing around trying to save a planet or get their hands on the fortunium bomb that could Destroy Everything!!

So OUTLANDER is a high stakes story–on an individual level–throughout. It’s a love story, sure, and it’s all about what people will _do_ for the sake of love. Claire, for instance, chooses to abandon the life she knew (and was about to reclaim post-War), the safety of the 20th century (and she of all people would value that safety, having come through such a war), and the husband she’d loved. She chooses hardship, danger, and emotional pain, in order to be with Jamie.

But love for these two is always reciprocal. It’s not about one partner making a sacrifice for the other’s sake. Throughout the story, they keep rescuing each other. And the stakes are high. Jamie marries Claire originally in order to save her from Black Jack Randall. Would that be a striking thing to do, if Jack Randall was not, in fact, a serious threat? He _is_ a serious threat; we learn that from Jamie’s backstory. The man’s a genuine sadistic psychopath, who has essentially destroyed Jamie’s family and seriously injured him, both physically and emotionally. And here’s Jamie swearing to give Claire everything he has; the protection of his name and his clan–and the protection of his body–in order to save _her_ from this man.

He then does save her, physically and immediately, from Randall, when Randall captures her and assaults her at Fort William–even though by doing so, he puts not only himself, but everyone with him, in serious danger, _and_ does so at some emotional as well as physical cost. “I was tied to that post, tied like an animal, and whipped ’til my blood ran…Had I not been lucky as the devil this afternoon, that’s the least that would have happened to me. ….[But] when ye screamed, I went to you, wi’ nothing but an empty gun and my two hands.” The stakes are higher; the threat to Jamie (and Claire) from Captain Randall is increased.

One, two, three. The Rule of Three. It’s one of the important underlying patterns of story-telling; one event can be striking. The next (related) event creates resonance. But the third brings it home—WHAM. (That is, btw, why classic fairy tales always involve three brothers, three sisters, three fairies, etc.—and why the most classic form of joke always starts, “A priest, a minister and a rabbi…” The climax of the story, the punchline of the joke, always comes on the third iteration.) The third encounter with Black Jack Randall is the climax, the point where the stakes are highest. Jamie’s been captured and seriously hurt, Claire’s come to save him, but Randall turns up and takes her captive, threatening her life.

OK. This -has- to be a credible threat. Ergo, we have to have seen (and heard about) the real damage Randall has done to Jamie thus far; we have to be in no doubt whatever that he’d do real damage to Claire. We can’t just _say_, “Oh, he’s _such_ a nasty person, you wouldn’t believe…” We _have_ to believe, and therefore appreciate _just_ what Jamie is doing when he trades what’s left of his life for Claire’s. (Show, don’t tell, you know?)

And because we do believe that, we share both Jamie’s despair and Claire’s desperation.

So, OK. Throughout the book, we’ve seen that love has a real cost. Jamie and Claire have built a relationship through honest struggle, a relationship that’s _worth_ what it’s cost them. This is the final challenge, and Jamie’s willing to pay what will apparently be the ultimate cost.

Why would I throw that away? To have him escape rape and torture (he–and we–_know_ what’s coming) by the skin of his teeth would be to undercut his sacrifice, to make it of little moment. (It would be like someone turning up in Gethsemane and telling Christ, “Hey, buddy, you don’t _really_ have to do this. Come with me, I got a secret way outta here…”)

So love _has_ a cost, and it’s a real one. But they do rescue each other, and Claire saves not only his life, _but his soul_. (Yes, it is redemption and resurrection, and yes, there’s Christ imagery all through the story–it was my first book, OK?) His soul wouldn’t have been in danger, had he not been really and truly nearly destroyed by his sacrifice.

I.e., had Claire shown up with reinforcements in the nick of time and saved him before he’d been put through such pain and suffering….well, then it would have been a nice, heart-warming story in which Hero and Heroine conquer evil and ride off into the sunset together. But it wouldn’t have half the power of a story in which Jamie and Claire _truly_ conquer _real_ evil, and thus show what real love is. Real love has real costs–and they’re worth it.

I’ve always said all my books have a shape, and OUTLANDER’s internal geometry consists of three slightly overlapping triangles. The apex of each triangle is one of the three emotional climaxes of the book: 1) when Claire makes her wrenching choice at the stones, 2) when she saves Jamie from Wentworth, and 3) when she saves his soul at the Abbey. It would still be a _good_ story, if I’d had only 1 and 2–but (see above), the Rule of Three. A story that goes one, two, _three_ has a lot more impact than just a one-two punch.

Availability Issues

Note that my blog post below about availability of audiobook, ebook and other editions of my novels and short stories is from December, 2010 and is (obviously!) OUT OF DATE. However, my discussion of the complexities of the publishing industry—and the constantly changing availability of a specific edition or format of one of my books—might still be of interest.

The best way to determine if a specific edition or format of one of my books is available—and you are NOT comfortable doing a web search on your own—is to visit your local independent bookstore and to ask their personnel. Thanks!

December 9, 2010

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about availability issues:

  1. Why can’t you get an unabridged audiobook of THE FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES?
  2. Will THE EXILE be available as an audiobook?
  3. Will there be Large-Print editions available of the OUTLANDER series of novels, the Lord John series and OUTLANDER short fiction?
  4. Why can’t you get “OUTLANDER:The Musical” on audio CD from amazon.co.uk?

I don’t have answers to all the availability questions, of course, because I don’t actually publish and distribute everything out of my garage <g>; I have contracts with a great many different publishing companies around the world (and in multiple different languages), all of whom deal with those issues in their own territories, and usually I have No Idea.

1.) Why can’t you get an unabridged audiobook of THE FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES?

Gabaldon-Fiery-CrossOK, follow me like a leopard here. Back in the day, nobody had any idea whether audiobooks would amount to anything; it was new-fangled technology, nobody was familiar with the concept as anything beyond the material for the blind that the Library of Congress’s Talking Books program does, nobody was sure it would ever be worth anything—and it cost a lot to produce one.

That being so, when Bantam-Dell (a subgroup of my US publisher, Random House) contracted with us (me and my agent) fifteen (or so) years ago for audiobooks, they did so very cautiously—and only for the rights to make an abridged version, because the thought of anyone being willing to listen to (let alone pay for) an unabridged version of something the size of OUTLANDER was laughable.

Now, in my naivete, I had no idea that “abridged” actually meant, “butchered into little bloody shreds, one-quarter of which will then be scraped up into a pile and kind of patted into the rough semblance of a story, rather like a sculpture made of raw hamburger.”

I did, though, insist on keeping the Unabridged rights, having faith that at some far distant date, someone might be willing to take the gigantic gamble of recording the Whole Thing, down to the last word.

Bantam-Dell fussed about this—publishers hate to give up any rights, whether they know what to do with said rights or not; they might come in handy someday, after all—but eventually gave in, since they were positive that the unabridged rights were worthless.

They did, however, insist on a non-compete clause in the contract, just in case: to wit, that if anybody did ever do an Unabridged version, this version could not be sold in retail outlets where the abridged version was sold. (They reasoning—correctly—that if anybody saw the two versions side by side on a shelf, they’d instantly realize that three-fourths of the story had been omitted from the abridged version. (Not kidding, here; the FIERY CROSS abridged audiobook contains only 23 % of the original book’s text. Just so you know…))

OK. A few years later, I happened to meet some representatives of Recorded Books, Inc. (well, actually, I engineered an “accidental” meeting at a librarians conference, having ascertained that Recorded Books was the biggest of the only two companies who even did unabridged books), got them interested (though they were a little goggle-eyed at the sheer tonnage involved; OUTLANDER was the longest book they’d ever done), and… well, Bob’s your uncle.

Recorded Books has done a magnificent job with the Unabridged audiobooks. They found marvelous readers (the hugely talented Davina Porter, who reads the OUTLANDER novels, and the equally talented Jeff Woodman, who does the Lord John books), and have risen nobly to the challenge of getting the audiobook versions produced more or less simultaneously with the print versions (no easy job, given how close I always come to the pub date in delivering the manuscript).

Gabaldon-Breath-of-Snow-and-AshesNow, going back to the original Bantam-Dell contract for the abridged audiobooks: my agent (who was an excellent agent) reasoned that since no one actually knew how the audiobook market might develop, he didn’t want to lock me into the usual sort of semi-permanent contract that we’d do for a book (i.e., you essentially grant the publishing company the right to publish your book as long as it sells. Only if it stops selling and they allow it to go out of print, can you get back the rights to it), and instead sold the audiobook abridged rights on a ten-year license. Meaning that we gave Bantam-Dell the right to produce an audiobook of each title (six books were covered under the original contract; they weren’t all written then, but were all under contract as print titles) for a period of ten years, from the date of publication of each title. So the license for VOYAGER, for instance, expired in 2004, as that book was originally published in 1994.

We could then, if we liked, renew the license for an additional period. Well, having seen what a travesty the abridged books are (meaning no offense either to the reader or the production team; there’s just no way of doing a good version of a book from which you’ve essentially omitted every other word), the answer was a resounding NOT, and we’ve been canceling those licenses the instant they come due. (Bantam-Dell is allowed a certain period post-cancellation during which they can still sell whatever stock they have on-hand, but they can’t produce any more.)

Result being that we’ve pretty much stamped out the abridged versions of OUTLANDER, DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, VOYAGER, and DRUMS OF AUTUMN. But THE FIERY CROSS was published in 2001. Which means that its license doesn’t expire until 2011. Which (hahahaha!) happens in a month!! So we’ll get to cancel that license Right Soon, leaving only ABOSA to go.

But that’s the reason why you haven’t been able to get FIERY CROSS or A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES from Audible.com—it’s considered a retail outlet that sells the abridged versions. [I’m putting the following in caps, because I keep telling this to people, but they often don’t seem to notice or understand:]

YOU CAN GET THE UNABRIDGED VERSIONS OF FIERY CROSS AND ABOSA!! You just can’t (yet) get them from Audible.com, which is most people’s default supplier of audiobooks. You totally can either rent or buy the unabridged audio of both books from Recorded Books. But I admit that it will be much more convenient for everyone when the license on ABOSA expires as well, and all the Unabridged audios can be found on Audible.com. (You can get AN ECHO IN THE BONE and all the Lord John books in Unabridged form on Audible now, because none of these books were covered in the original contract with Bantam-Dell, and thus no abridged version of them has ever existed.

2.) Will THE EXILE be available as an audiobook?

the-exile-final-cvr-2Well, no, I really don’t think there will be an audio version of THE EXILE, unless it’s made by Recording for the Blind or the Talking Books program (in which the reader describes all illustrations for the benefit of a visually impaired reader). This book is a graphic novel. And while I was quite surprised to discover that there are a lot of people (judging from the one-star reviews on Amazon.com) who have never heard the term “graphic novel” (and didn’t bother to find out what “graphic novel” means, or to scroll down far enough in the product description to see what it meant—and thus were shocked—shocked!—to find that it was A COMIC BOOK! (and thus concluded that this was calculated fraud on my part… people are Very Strange on occasion)). A graphic novel is, in fact, a comic book for adults, but it is also a novel told largely in visual images.

Ergo, kind of hard to do as an audiobook, I mean. Reading just the dialogue part of the script might not be all that effective.

3.) Will there be Large-Print editions available of the OUTLANDER series of novels, the Lord John series and OUTLANDER short fiction?

Large-Print editions. Well…. let’s just think about the logistics here for a minute, OK? How much bigger is Large-Print than the normal typeface? 50% bigger? Twice as big? Let’s say 50%, just as a start.

OK. OUTLANDER runs about 700 pages, and that’s the shortest book in the series, at 305,000 words. (FIERY CROSS is the longest, at 508,000, but A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES runs it a close second, at something like 498,00. Those two books are at the physical limit of how many pages you can reasonably bind between covers.) To get all of ABOSA into one volume, the German publisher was obliged to print it on “Bible” paper, the paper-thin, tough paper they print Bibles on.

So. Multiply those lengths by 1.5, and we’re talking something the equivalent of 750,000 words (just the space that many words would take up, I mean). Chances are that you’d need even more space than that, because of the leading and kerning issues (those are the spaces between letters in a word and between the lines of print—all of which need to be magnified in a Large-Print book), but leave that aside for now.

Even OUTLANDER, therefore, would have to be published in two volumes, for a Large-Print edition, and several of the later books in the series would need to be done in three-volume sets. The cost of producing a book of X size remains the same, whether it contains all the words in the original text, or only one-half or one-third of them.

So the cost of producing a Large-Print edition of the OUTLANDER novels would be 2-3 times the cost of the normal book, the set would sell for 2-3 times the cost of the original ($50 to $75)—and how big a market is there for such an edition? (There’s also the consideration that many people who might need a Large-Print edition would have problems physically holding books of this size.)

Beyond these economic considerations, there’s the simple fact that if you have an ebook reader, the thing is light and easy to hold—and you can adjust the print on your digital screen to be whatever size is comfortable for you, including sizes MUCH bigger than any printed Large-Print version could offer.

[Ebook readers include Kindles (ebook by Amazon), Nooks (Barnes & Noble’s ebook), Apple iPads or one of the tablets running the Android operating system. Applications (or “apps”) are also available to read ebook versions of my books on smart phones (Apple iPhones and phones running the Android operating system) as well as for most computers and will give you the capability of enlarging the type on the display as you read my books.]

Anyway. Bottom line is that the only one of my books ever done as a Large-Print edition in print was LORD JOHN AND THE PRIVATE MATTER, which I wrote under the delusion that it was a short story. <g>

4.) Why can’t you get “OUTLANDER: The Musical” on audio CD from amazon.co.uk?

Outlander-Musical-logoAmazon.co.uk… (which is the Amazon online store for the United Kingdom sales area.) Well, now here I’m just reporting, because I have no relations with Amazon.co.uk myself. I do have some correspondence with Amazon.com (the Amazon online store for the U.S.A.), and everything seems to be running very well there. However, Mike, the guy who handles the “OUTLANDER: The Musical CD” sales for the U.K., established an Amazon.co.uk account for it, but hasn’t had as much luck in coming to an agreement with them regarding price, or in having his other concerns addressed. So he’s asked me to let y’all know that he’s suspended that account for the time being, but that if any of you in the U.K. or Europe want CDs, you can get them here.

(Note from Diana’s Webmistress on February 28, 2018: “Outlander: The Musical” on CD is apparently no longer available for purchase as a new item. This musical production should not be confused with the Starz Outlander TV series.)

Oh! This isn’t really an availability issue, but fwiw, I was notified this morning that all my e-books are now available on google books. No idea whether this is a Good Thing or not <g>, but there they are.

This webpage was last updated on Wednesday, February 28, 2018, at 2:14 a.m. by Diana’s Webmistress.

Christmas Awakening

Goodness, already the 4th of December! I’m deeply impressed that I’ve so far managed to write, address, and actually mail twenty-six Christmas cards. (Mind, I only succeeded in doing this because I was nagged by the resident elf, who did the actual mailing, and needed the cards to insert in the boxes of dates that I send to the various publishers, editors, and other professional acquaintances around the world at Christmas time. (In which respect, may I recommend the Sphinx Date Ranch, who produce dates (and other dried fruits and nuts) that cause widespread slavering upon receipt from the UK to New Zealand, and who will in fact ship things for you, but we do it ourselves because of needing to stick hand-written cards and notes into the boxes.))

I’ve also bought presents for eleven children (aided in this process by the Dover Publications Company, which has the world’s biggest selection of Entertaining Coloring and Origami books)—none of them mine (mine are all old enough that they just want money…and the occasional iPad). This still leaves a horrifying amount of Stuff to be done (like the other 38 Christmas cards on the list), but it does give me a pleasant glow of accomplishment, since I don’t usually get this far this early.

It did make me think, though, that there must be others of you in the early stages of Christmas Awakening (that’s when you sit bolt upright in bed, crying out, “Oh, crap, I forgot my mother-in-law!”), and thus perhaps wanting useful gift suggestions.

Just in case that’s the case [cough], I thought I might list a few Interesting Items for the OUTLANDER Fan on Your List. I thought of this, because I was just down at The Poisoned Pen, my local bookstore in Scottsdale, signing everything in sight, in preparation for their annual Christmas Shipping Frenzy. So I can assure you that they have

1. First-edition copies of THE EXILE, signed both by Yours Truly, and by Hoang Nguyen, the illustrator of that splendidly vivid volume,

2. Brand-new copies of the just-released anthology, SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, featuring a short story (by me) that tells the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents, and solves one of the mysteries raised by AN ECHO IN THE BONE (and of which there is a brief excerpt, a few postings back in this blog). Also autographed by me.

3. OUTLANDER: The Musical CD’s (see www.outlanderthemusical.com for details and song samples), also signed by me (not that I had anything to do with the composing or singing, but the people who did are all in Scotland. Since I’m here and they aren’t, I signed the things on their behalf).

4. A selection (and a pretty random selection it is, too) of Foreign Editions of various of my books. Foreign publishers are required by contract to send me X copies of each of my books that they publish; in practice, this means sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. But when they do, they often send a lot of them.

The Pen said they had had an increasing number of inquiries from people about foreign editions—they ship worldwide—and would like to have whatever I had on hand, just in case. So the elf and I gathered up whatever we could lay hands on easily, and I took these down to the store, where I signed all of them. (I know there are several Really Entertaining-looking Finnish editions of AN ECHO IN THE BONE, and at least two full sets of the Spanish editions, from FORASTERA (OUTLANDER) up through VIENTO y CIENDRES (This is A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, though the title really means “Wind and cinders”).)

Anyway, if any of these items sounds like a great stocking-stuffer (I recommend a really big stocking, if you’re drawn to the notion of the Finnish ECHO), you can get them either here, or by calling the Poisoned Pen at 480-947-2974 , or emailing them at patrick@poisonedpen.com (Patrick’s the manager).

(You would have to contact them, I’m afraid, to find out exactly which foreign editions they have, because I didn’t think to list them.)

I should add that I’ll be going back in there next week to sign all the new orders, so if you happen to want any of these things (or any of the OUTLANDER or Lord John books, for that matter—these are all available in hardcover, trade paperback, or mass-market (including ECHO, if you want the UK mass-market paperback, which has entertaining maps, biographical sketches of the main characters, and an excerpt from Book Eight in the back)) personalized or done with an inscription. (I only know four bits of Gaelic to put in people’s books, but one of these is “Nollaig Chridheil”—aka “Merry Christmas.” I only get to use that one at this time of year, so would be delighted at the opportunity.)

Oh–and I mustn’t forget The Old Wilmington Tea Company,

whose delightful “Lord John Grey” blend will warm the hands, if not the hearts, of recipients who don’t even read my books. [g]

Nollaigh Chridheil!

Canadian Giveaway of Signed EXILE – Today Only!

Someone just sent me this link to the Random House Canada website: They’re having a “Reader’s Gift” giveaway during November–a different book being given away each day–and TODAY (only) are giving away five signed copies of THE EXILE. (You do have to have a Canadian address to enter.)

Details are

here. Good luck!

Christmas is coming–

And the goose isn’t the only thing getting fat. As Younger Daughter said a few minutes ago (with a beatific look on her face), “Chocolate truffles for breakfast, turkey with gravy for lunch, and did you say there’s pie left? Do we have any whipped cream, or shall I go get some?”

We haven’t even hit the marshmallow-walnut fudge season, yet, let alone tamales, enchiladas, machaca and green chile. (We’re traditional; we eat Mexican for Christmas, in honor of our roots. Bar the fudge, which has no ethnic allegiance.) (“Gabaldon” is my own name, btw; my husband’s’ name is much easier to pronounce, but after spelling “Gabaldon” for twenty-five years, I was attached to it and didn’t intend to give it up. Being a Hispanic name, that means that were we speaking Spanish, it would be pronounced


(probably originally had an accent mark over the “don,” but that’s been lost sometime over the last 500 years in the New World).

Since we are for the most part speaking English here, it’s normally pronounced


(still with the long “o” sound at the end, right? Rhymes with stone? Amazing how hard it is for people to wrap their heads around that, no matter how often I tell them. No one in New York City, for instance, can make themselves not say “don” (as in mastodon) at the end. Just can’t do it.)

But I digress…

Rather than join in the gluttony (well, rather than join in it right _then_), I drove up to the Rim country yesterday–about 90 miles north of Phoenix, 50 south of Flagstaff. That’s where the Pinon (there’s a tilde over the first “n” in Pinon, btw, but I haven’t figured out how to insert one and am too lazy to go find out)/Juniper woodland begins, and thus the closest place in which to cut greenery for the family Advent wreath.

Beautiful day. Still, warm air–perfect for hot-air balloons, and I saw six of them floating over the Valley, just hanging in the air like slow-moving cherries. I could walk the woods in my shirt-sleeves, even that far north.

Now, one of the things I enjoy about wandering around in the wild is that you never know what you might see. I’ve come round a small tree and face-to-face with a surprised pronghorn antelope (I was pretty surprised, too), met mule deer and elk–once came upon a fresh elk carcass, sans head, neatly butchered, guts buried, backbone standing white like the keel of an overturned ship–with the hair on the lower legs all fresh and shining and the hooves black and still caked with dirt, as though those legs might spring up and the hooves carry off the ghostly skeleton. Eerie.

Met a porcupine once–but not as closely as the dog who came down the trail and thought that was One Strange Thing that ought to be barked at and closely inspected. Helped the owner pull quills out of the poor dog’s nose; I have five of them in a dish on my mantelpiece in Flagstaff.

You also find a lot of broken glass in the woods, because people go a little way off the road to make a fire and drink beer (and stronger stuff). Most of the people I meet in the woods are hikers, occasionally hunters–I try _not_ to go into the woods in hunting season, but what qualifies as “woods” varies, and so does various people’s notion of what constitutes hunting season–but by and large, nice folk. I do carry a gun, though, because I’m alone and nobody knows exactly where I am (that being part of the charm of woods-walking). Never needed it, never expect to need, HOPE never to need it–but I do have it (and the concealed-carry permit and sixteen hours of training that goes with it).

Anyway, yesterday I passed a small group of men and boys gathering firewood for sale, waved to them, drove on up a “primitive” road (one that’s not maintained, so could be anything from drivable to morass–but the weather was dry), and found a promising looking stretch of land, so pulled off, parked, and went agathering, pruning shears in hand.

And I found toilets.

Three brand-new, pristine, white toilets, crouched under an alligator cypress. One standing (ready for some passing bear, I suppose), two fallen on their sides. And a big mess of heavy-equipment tire marks in the clearing where these were dumped.

Your guess is as good as mine. [g] My own guess would be–given the tire marks–that the toilets were dumped by someone working on a subdivision or building a house in the neighborhood (there were houses within a half-mile). Whether these were stolen toilets, and the dumper planned to come back and retrieve them under cover of darkness, or whether the general contractor suddenly shut down construction and they were dumped in disgust…who knows? Maybe the lady of the house saw them, insisted she’d chosen _green_ toilets, not white ones, and the plumber figured it was easier to dump them than return them to Home Depot.

Anyway, I got my Advent wreath cuttings: Pinon Pine, juniper (with big, blue, aromatic berries), Arizona holly, buckbrush, and saltbush (I’m sure that will prove to be a huge mistake–it has fluffy, airborne seeds, and they’ll be _all_ over the house within hours–but it was beautiful, with the seeds shining in the sun), with a handful of tiny Pinon cones for decoration.

And what I started out to tell you–before I got sidetracked by toilets in the woods–was that Christmas is coming–and so is a brand-new, spectacular, completely redesigned website!

The designer finished work on it this week, and as soon as I can put in all the new content (kind of a massive job, but I’m on it), we’ll unveil it–with luck, December 1st!

Ooookay….You sure you want to Know, now?

Hope you all had a Happy Thanksgiving! We had a wonderful time with family and friends (to say nothing of the pleasant company of a twenty-pound fruit-stuffed, herb-rubbed turkey), after which the football fans sank into a contented stupor on the living-room couch and the dogs and I went off to enjoy a similar state of nirvana on the Taos bed in the lounge. (Dogs presently including Otis the pug and Charlie the corgi, as well as Homer and JJ, the two standard dachshunds. Charlie prefers to sleep -under- the bed, which is a good thing. Eighty pounds of assorted caninery generates a lot of heat.)

Anyway…I said that if nobody guessed the error I mentioned in THE EXILE, I’d tell you tonight, and as of last checking, nobody had. (I must say, y’all must be _terrible_ at those “find six things that are different between these two pictures” kind of puzzles…) But if you _do_ want to know….
Which of Jamie’s shoulders is wounded? It’s the left one, right? Until Claire starts doctoring it at Castle Leoch, when it’s the right one. Then during the fracas in Hall (and after), it’s the left one again.

Told ya it was a head-smacker. [g] Happy Thanksgiving!

Jamie’s Butt Model

Two things:

1. The editor of THE EXILE tells me that the book has been on the NYT Bestseller list for seven weeks so far. This is Very Cool Indeed, and thank you very much!

2. As a secondary thank you [g], here is a link to the original French painting that supplied the model (literally) for page 5. (It took a -lot- of hunting to find the right butt, believe me. I kept sending the illustrator, Hoang, links to Rober Mapplethorpe sites and the like, but Random House’s porn filters wouldn’t let Betsy, the editor, look at them.)

I would post the image itself, but am really not sure about the copyright of an image of a painting held by a museum–I mean, the museum certainly owns the painting, but not sure about the image. Don’t want to infringe inadvertently, though–and the web page has some interesting information about the painting, anyway.

(No, if you want to see Page 5, you’ll have to borrow somebody’s copy, or sneak into the graphic novels section at Barnes and Noble.)

"Leaf" is out today!

The new anthology, SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, is out as of today! It has a number of great stories, by wonderful authors from Neil Gaiman to Carrie Vaughn and Robin Hobb (all enthusiastically recommended)–and it does, of course, have one by me.

This story is titled “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows,” and tells the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents. It also fills in the interesting hole I opened in ECHO, wherein we learn that Jerry MacKenzie probably wasn’t shot down in his Spitfire during the War, and there is Much Speculation as to what really did happen to him.

This story will tell you. (Though one rather perceptive–if cynical–commenter observed that while I may have filled in that particular hole, I undoubtedly did it with dirt dug from another one. How well you people know me….[g]). I think you’ll enjoy Jerry MacKenzie, though, and his story.

The book is available in both hardcover and Kindle e-book formats, here.

Thanks to all those who’ve read the story already and written to tell me what you thought!

St. Simon’s Island writers conference

Someone asked for a repost of the information about the Scribbler’s Retreat writers conference this weekend, on St. Simon’s Island, GA. I haven’t been to this conference before (basically, I said I’d go because I’ve heard about St. Simon’s Island and wanted to see it [g], but I’m sure we’ll have fun), so can’t tell you a lot about it.

Here, though, is the link to the conference website, which has details and schedule.

See some of you there!

Days of the Dead and Ginger Rodents

Hope y’all had a happy All Saints Day! Here in New Mexico, today and tomorrow are Los Dias de los Muertos—the Days of the Dead. Today we celebrated the presence in our lives of those who’ve gone before and await us in heaven. Tomorrow (Nov. 2) is the Feast of All Souls, when we commune with our own beloved dead. May all your own families be with you in love today, no matter on which side of the veil.

And for a change of mood….

Got the following message yesterday from a British (and half-Scottish) friend [g]:

Light the Fiery Cross Diana,
An insult beyond bearing has been flung down at the feet of all things red and hairy!

At the Labour Party’s annual Scottish Conference yesterday Harriet Harman MP (Dep. Leader of the ousted Labour Party) declared Scottish MP Danny Alexander a “ginger rodent”, adding that while she was all for conservation she didn’t want to see one in the Highlands again. And this from the former Equality Minister, who has previously been known for being so politically correct that she more usually goes under the name of Harriet Harperson.

Said rodent, Danny Alexander, came back fighting Tweeting “I am proud to be ginger and rodents do valuable work cleaning up the mess others leave behind.”
I know, not exactly pistols at dawn is it?

So on behalf of our beloved gingers, I’m inviting you to lead the call to arms. (I would have asked Allan SD, but typically, where’s the Big Yin when ye need him? Likely basting himself on a Madeiran beach, probably resembling a smoky bacon crisp by now if I know Scotsmen in the sun.)

Is it to be borne that the English seek to rubbish Scots Pride once more with impunity … I think not (although it has to be said that Danny Alexander is more usually likened to Beaker from the Muppets and may therfore prefer this comparison)

Jamie wouldn’t stand for it … Claire would have her guts for garters

Light the Fiery Cross and gather the Clans!
Declare yourselves …The McDowall’s are here!


(Here’s a link to the full story should anyone be interested http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-11658228)


Dear Sorcha–

As soon as I get up off the floor, I’ll go dig through the woodpile for a couple of suitable sticks. [G] Though as it’s Halloween, were I to march down San Antonio Street tonight with a fiery cross, people would likely just applaud and shout “EEEha!”, rather than inquiring into the just cause of such an incitement to riot.

As for the Big Yin, he tweeted once to say he’d survived the flight, wasn’t so sure about his job–and wouldn’t have internet until next week. You’re likely right about the beach, though I just went and looked, out of curiosity as to just how warm Madeira _is_ in almost-November. It’s 68 degrees F. as of 6 PM today, so probably quite toasty enough for a basking Scot. (It’s about that on my back patio in Santa Fe just now at noon; I’m wearing a sweatshirt and calf-high Uggs.)

May I have permission to quote your rallying call to arms on my blog, though? Would hate anyone to miss such eloquence.

Ginger rodents of the world, UNITE!!



And another friend, Ron Wodaski, helpfully supplied this Uncyclopedia page on the subject.