• “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

“Expedition” (from Book Nine)

Below is an excerpt from Book Nine of the OUTLANDER novels, which I am currently writing. Note that there are SPOILERS…

They were heading northwest. Roger had learned to steer by sun and stars, when he’d surveyed the boundary lines of Jamie’s land, years before, but it wasn’t a skill he’d needed much in Scotland. He thought they were near the edge of the land grant now; he thought he recalled this rocky outcropping. Granted, there were thousands of similar rock formations in western North Carolina, but something about this one rang a mental bell.

"It smells like grapes," Jemmy said, sniffing deep. "Smell ‘em, Dad?"

"Aye, I do." That was it; the whole hillside was a tumble of pale, huge boulders, unusual among the dark rock of the nearby ground—but more unusual for the vast tangle of wild grapevines that crawled over the boulders and climbed the sparse trees that sprouted among them. The grapes had long since ripened and gone, most of them scavenged by birds, insects, wolves, bears and anything else with a sweet tooth. Still, the faint perfume of raisins lay like a veil on the air and the bitter tang of the drying vines was sharp beneath it.

Jamie had pulled loose a length of the tough, woody vine, and was engaged in chopping it into several gnarled sticks, each about three feet long. He handed one to Jem and another to Roger, with the terse adjuration, "Snakes."

Also posted on my Facebook page on August 23, 2015.

Share This


As we seem to be in a flowery mood here— I thought you might be interested in this piece by Claire MacKay (who was herbal consultant to the TV show), regarding possible suspects for the blue flower that lured Claire to the stones:

Forget-me-What? 6 Alternative Blue Flowers of Scotland

Also posted on my Facebook page on August 23, 2015.

Late summer…

Ah…Santa Fe in late summer….




Also posted on my Facebook page on August 21, 2015.

Aachen Images

European Championships Aachen 2015: Beatriz Ferrer-Salat & DelgadoFor those of you who like lovely horses, dressage, and sporting events—great photos from this year’s Aachen events, by our lovely German translator, Barbara Schnell— who is a talented photojournalist when not translating the Outlander novels.

Well, she still is that, even when translating, but you don’t get any photos until she’s done and can go play with horses. The fact that she can go to Aachen and frolic with her lens means that…DRAGONFLY IN AMBER’s new German translation is done! And I’m told it will be out November 2nd!)


Also posted on my Facebook page on August 21, 2015.

Nobody Likes Bagpipes



Also posted on my facebook page on August 19, 2015.

The Dog Days of Summer


pink-gecko-zoomIt is—plainly—the Dog Days of summer. When I got home from Calgary last night (at midnight), the first thing my husband said to me was, "Welcome to Hell!" It was 117 degrees (F.) last Friday (which was OK, because I was in Calgary, where the inhabitants kept apologizing for the <ahem> "heat" (it was about 85)), and 112 or so today.

Still, many things thrive in this climate—including prickly pear cactus (above) and geckos (right). This little pink guy (he’s about three inches long) is one of the family of office geckos who live in my cabinets, where they helpfully eat the little caterpillars who pupate between the pages of books and infest my chocolate supplies.

Dachshunds aren’t that wild about heat (neither would you be, if you were black and furry), but they still want to go out every day and hunt lizards and toads. I fill the tree basins while they do that, and while they aren’t wild about baths, cooling their tummies in a muddy puddle is a whole different thing.


Note: This blog entry was also posted on my FaceBook page on August 18, 2015 at 3:48 a.m.

What “Finished” Means To An Author

The delightful Karen Henry suggested to me that this might be a Good Time to repost this informative little flow-chart, so on August 2, 2015, I posted this information on my Facebook page:

As my husband often remarks, "’FINISHED’ is a relative term to a writer." This is true! <g> I thought y’all might be interested in Just What Happens to a book after the writer is "finished" writing the manuscript:

(NB: This is the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Owing to the tight Production schedule for MOBY (and now for THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume 2, aka "OC II",) a lot of these steps have been done concurrently, rather than sequentially, and a few repetitive steps have been skipped. But by and large, this is how it works. FWIW, I’m presently at step "M" for OC II…)

  1. Books don’t go directly from the author to the bookstore.
  2. Books go from the author to the Editor, who
    1. reads the manuscript
    2. discusses the manuscript with the author, and
    3. suggests minor revisions that may improve the book
  3. The book goes back to the author, who

    1. re-reads the manuscript
    2. considers the editor’s comments, and
    3. makes whatever revisions, emendments, or clarifications seem right.
  4. The book goes back to the editor, who

    1. reads it again
    2. asks any questions that seem necessary, and
    3. Sends it to
  5. The copy-editor. This is a person whose thankless job is to

    1. read the manuscript one…word…at…a…time
    2. find typos or errors in grammar, punctuation, or continuity (one heck of a job, considering the size not only of the individual books, but of the overall series), and
    3. write queries to the author regarding anything questionable, whereupon
  6. The book comes back to the author—yes, again— who

    1. re-reads the manuscript
    2. answers the copy-editor’s queries, and
    3. alters anything that the copy-editor has changed that the author disagrees with. After which, the author sends it back to
  7. The editor—yes, again!—who

    1. re-re-reads it
    2. checks that all the copy-editor’s queries have been answered, and sends it to
  8. The Typesetter (aka Compositor, these days), who sets the manuscript in type, according to the format laid out by
  9. The Book-Designer, who

    1. decides on the layout of the pages (margins, gutters, headers or footers, page number placement)
    2. chooses a suitable and attractive typeface
    3. decides on the size of the font
    4. chooses or commissions any incidental artwork (endpapers, maps, dingbats—these are the little gizmos that divide chunks of text, but that aren’t chapter or section headings)—or, for something like the OC II, a ton of miscellaneous illustrations, photographs, etc. that decorate or punctuate the text.
    5. Designs chapter and Section headings, with artwork, and consults with the
  10. Cover Artist, who (reasonably enough) designs or draws or paints or PhotoShops the cover art, which is then sent to
  11. The Printer, who prints the dust-jackets—which include not only the cover art and the author’s photograph and bio, but also "flap copy," which may be written by either the editor or the author, but is then usually messed about with by
  12. The Marketing Department, whose thankless task is to try to figure out how best to sell a book that can’t reasonably be described in terms of any known genre <g>, to which end, they

    1. try to provide seductive and appealing cover copy to the book (which the author has to approve. I usually insist on writing it myself).
    2. compose advertisements for the book (author usually sees and approves these—or at least I normally do).
    3. decide where such advertisements might be most effective (periodicals, newspapers, book-review sections, radio, TV, Facebook, Web)
    4. try to think up novel and entertaining means of promotion, such as having the author appear on a cooking show to demonstrate recipes for unusual foods mentioned in the book.
    5. kill a pigeon in Times Square and examine the entrails in order to determine the most advantageous publishing date for the book.
  13. OK. The manuscript itself comes back from the typesetter, is looked at (again) by the editor, and sent back to the author (again!), who anxiously proof-reads the galleys (these are the typeset sheets of the book; they look just like the printed book’s pages, but are not bound), because this is the very last chance to change anything. Meanwhile
  14. A number of copies of the galley-proofs are bound—in very cheap plain covers—and sent to (NB: This is SOP, but we haven’t been doing it for the last few books, owing to the fact that the book itself is coming out on the heels of Production; there’s no time to distribute ARCs (Advanced Reading Copies).)
  15. The Reviewers, i.e., the bound galleys are sent (by the marketing people, the editor, and/or the author) to the book editors of all major newspapers and periodicals, and to any specialty publication to whom this book might possibly appeal, in hopes of getting preliminary reviews, from which cover quotes can be culled, and/or drumming up name recognition and excitement prior to publication. Frankly, they don’t always bother with this step with my books, because they are in a rush to get them into the bookstores, and it takes several months’ lead-time to get reviews sufficiently prior to publication that they can be quoted on the cover.
  16. With luck, the author finds 99.99% of all errors in the galleys (you’re never going to find all of them; the process is asymptotic), and returns the corrected manuscript (for the last time, [pant, puff, gasp, wheeze]) to the editor, who sends it to

    (1. The ebook coding happens somewhere in here.)

  17. The Printer, who prints lots of copies (“the print-run” means how many copies) of the “guts” of the book—the actual inside text—are printed. These are then shipped to
  18. The Bindery, where the guts are bound into their covers, equipped with dust-jackets, and shipped to
  19. The Distributors. There are a number of companies—Ingram, and Baker and Taylor, are the largest, but there are a number of smaller ones—whose business is shipping, distributing, and warehousing books. The publisher also ships directly to
(1) Arrangements are made in this phase for ebook distribution through retailers like Amazon and Barnes and Noble.)
  20. The Bookstores, but bookstores can only house a limited number of books. Therefore, they draw on distributors’ warehouses to resupply a title that’s selling briskly, because it takes much longer to order directly from the publisher. And at this point, [sigh]…the book finally reaches
  21. You, the reader.

And we do hope you like it when you get it—because we sure-God went to a lot of trouble to make it for you. <g>

This essay is also available under "What I Do" under the Resources menu:


An Advent Candle – the First Sunday of Advent

Advent wreath 2014 - 1 candle lit

Advent is a time of waiting, and of preparation. Of contemplation—of what is past, and what is to come. During Advent, we make wreaths, made of leaves or evergreens, with four candles, and we light one candle for each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. May your candle burn quiet in the dark, and may you be at peace.

[From OUTLANDER, Chapter 38, “The Abbey”.]

The monastery was quiet, in the way that all large institutions grow quiet at night; the rapid pulse of the day’s activities has dropped, but the heartbeat goes on, slower, softer, but unending. There is always someone awake, moving quietly through the halls, keeping watch, keeping things alive. And now it was my turn to join the watch.

The chapel was dark except for the burning of the red sanctuary lamp and a few of the clear white votive candles, flames rising straight in still air before the shadowed shrines of saints.

I followed Anselm down the short center aisle, genuflecting in his wake. The slight figure of Brother Bartolome knelt toward the front, head bowed. He didn’t turn at the faint noise of our entrance, but stayed motionless, bent in adoration.

The Sacrament itself was almost obscured by the magnificence of its container. The huge monstrance, a sunburst of gold more than a foot across, sat serenely on the altar. Guarding the humble bit of bread at its center.

Feeling somewhat awkward, I took the seat Anselm indicated, near the front of the chapel. The seats, ornately carved with angels, flowers, and demons, folded up against the wooden panels of the backing to allow easy passage in and out. I heard the faint creak of a lowered seat behind me, as Anselm found his place.

“But what shall I do?” I had asked him, voice lowered in respect of night and silence as we had approached the chapel.

“Nothing, _ma chère_,” he had replied, simply. “Only be.”

So I sat, listening to my own breathing, and the tiny sounds of a silent place; the inaudible things normally hidden in other sounds. The settling of stone, the creak of wood. The hissing of the tiny, unquenchable flames. A faint skitter of some small creature, wandered from its place into the home of majesty.

It was a peaceful place, I would grant Anselm that. In spite of my own fatigue and my worry over Jamie, I gradually felt myself relaxing, the tightness of my mind gently unwinding, like the relaxation of a clock spring. Strangely, I didn’t feel at all sleepy, despite the lateness of the hour and the strains of the last few days and weeks.

After all, I thought, what were days and weeks in the presence of eternity? And that’s what this was, to Anselm and Bartolome, to Ambrose, to all the monks, up to and including the formidable Abbot Alexander.

It was in a way a comforting idea; if there was all the time in the world, then the happenings of a given moment became less important. I could see, perhaps, how one could draw back a little, seek some respite in the contemplation of an endless Being, whatever one conceived its nature to be.

The red of the sanctuary lamp burned steadily, reflected in the smooth gold. The flames of the white candles before the statues of St. Giles and the Blessed Mother flickered and jumped occasionally, as the burning wicks yielded an occasional imperfection, a momentary sputter of wax or moisture. But the red lamp burned serene, with no unseemly waver to betray its light.

And if there was eternity, or even the idea of it, then perhaps Anselm was right; all things were possible. And all love? I wondered. I had loved Frank; I still did. And I loved Jamie, more than my own life. But bound in the limits of time and flesh, I could not keep them both. Beyond, perhaps? Was there a place where time no longer existed, or where it stopped? Anselm thought so. A place where all things were possible. And none were necessary.

And was there love there? Beyond the limits of flesh and time, was all love possible? Was it necessary?

The voice of my thoughts seemed to be Uncle Lamb’s. My family, and all I knew of love as a child. A man who had never spoken love to me, who had never needed to, for I knew he loved me, as surely as I knew I lived. For where all love is, the speaking is unnecessary. It is all. It is undying. And it is enough.

Time passed without my awareness of it, and I was startled by the sudden appearance of Anselm before me, coming through the small door near the altar. Surely he had been sitting behind me? I glanced behind, to see one of the young monks whose name I didn’t know genuflecting near the rear entrance. Anselm bowed low before the altar, then motioned to me with a nod toward the door.

“You left,” I said, once outside the chapel. “But I thought you weren’t supposed to leave the, er, the Sacrament, alone?”

He smiled tranquilly. “I didn’t _ma chère¬_. You were there.”

I repressed the urge to argue that I didn’t count. After all, I supposed, there was no such thing as a Qualified Official Adorer. You only had to be human, and I imagined I was still that, though I barely felt it at times.

Jamie’s candle still burned as I passed his door, and I caught the rustle of turning pages. I would have stopped, but Anselm, went on, to leave me at the door of my own chamber. I paused there to bid him good night, and to thank for taking me to the chapel.

“It was…restful,” I said, struggling to find the right word.

He nodded, watching me. “Oui, madame. It is.” As I turned to go, he said, “I told you that the Blessed Sacrament was not alone, for you were there. But what of you _ma chère_? Were you alone?”

I stopped, and looked at him for a moment before answering.

“No,” I said. “I wasn’t.”

A Daily Line for Veterans Day

#DailyLines #MOBY #WRITTENinMYownHEARTSBlood #ForThoseWhoMaybeDidntWantToDoIt #ButDidItAnyway #ThoseWhoFightAndThoseWhoLoveThem #HappyVeteransDay

He’d come up to the loft and pulled the ladder up behind him, to prevent the children coming up. I was dressing quickly—or trying to—as he told me about Dan Morgan, about Washington and the other Continental generals. About the coming battle.

“Sassenach, I _had_ to,” he said again, softly. “I’m that sorry.”

“I know,” I said. “I know you did.” My lips were stiff. “I—you—I’m sorry, too.”

I was trying to fasten the dozen tiny buttons that closed the bodice of my gown, but my hands shook so badly that I couldn’t even grasp them. I stopped trying and dug my hairbrush out of the bag he’d brought me from the Chestnut Street house.

He made a small sound in his throat and took it out of my hand. He threw it onto our makeshift couch and put his arms around me, holding me tight with my face buried in his chest. The cloth of his new uniform smelled of fresh indigo, walnut hulls, and fuller’s earth; it felt strange and stiff against my face. I couldn’t stop shaking.

“Talk to me, _a nighean_,” he whispered into my tangled hair. “I’m afraid, and I dinna want to feel so verra much alone just now. Speak to me.”

“Why has it always got to be _you_?” I blurted into his chest.

That made him laugh, a little shakily, and I realized that all the trembling wasn’t coming from me.

“It’s no just me,” he said, and stroked my hair. “There are a thousand other men readying themselves today—more—who dinna want to do it, either.”

“I know,” I said again. My breathing was a little steadier. “I know.” I turned my face to the side in order to breathe, and all of a sudden began to cry, quite without warning.

“I’m sorry,” I gasped. “I don’t mean—I don’t want t-to make it h-harder for you. I—I—oh, Jamie, when I knew you were alive—I wanted so much to go home. To go home with you.”

His arms tightened hard round me. He didn’t speak, and I knew it was because he couldn’t.

“So did I,” he whispered at last. “And we will, _a nighean_. I promise ye.”

The sounds from below floated up around us: the sounds of children running back and forth between the shop and the kitchen, Marsali singing to herself in Gaelic as she made fresh ink for the press. The door opened, and cool, rainy air blew in with Fergus and Germain, adding their voices to the cheerful confusion.

We stood wrapped in each other’s arms, taking comfort from our family below, yearning for the others we might never see again, at once at home and homeless, balanced on a knife edge of danger and uncertainty. But together.

“You’re not going off to war without me,” I said firmly, straightening up and sniffing. “Don’t even _think_ about it.”

Happy Birthday, Claire!

#Excerpt #OUTLANDER #HappyBirthdayClaire

[From OUTLANDER, Chapter 25]

“I believe you,” he said firmly. “I dinna understand it a bit—not yet—but I believe you. Claire, I believe you! Listen to me! There’s the truth between us, you and I, and whatever ye tell me, I shall believe it.” He gave me a gentle shake.

“It doesna matter what it is. You’ve told me. That’s enough for now. Be still, _mo nighean donn_. Lay your head and rest. You’ll tell me the rest of it later. And I’ll believe you.”

I was still sobbing, unable to grasp what he was telling me. I struggled, trying to pull away, but he gathered me up and held me tightly against himself, pushing my head into the folds of his plaid, and repeating over and over again, “I believe you.”

At last, from sheer exhaustion, I grew calm enough to look up and say, “But you _can’t_ believe me.”

He smiled down at me. His mouth trembled slightly, but he smiled.

“Ye’ll no tell _me_ what I canna do, Sassenach.” He paused a moment. “How old are ye?” he asked curiously. “I never thought to ask.”

The question seemed so preposterous that it took me a minute to think.

“I’m twenty-seven…or maybe twenty-eight,” I added. That rattled him for a moment. At twenty-eight, women in this time were usually on the verge of middle-age.

“Oh,” he said. He took a deep breath. “I thought ye were about my age—or younger.”

He didn’t move for a second. But then he looked down and smiled faintly at me. “Happy Birthday, Sassenach,” he said.

It took me completely by surprise and I just stared stupidly at him for a moment. “What?” I managed at last.

“I said, ‘Happy Birthday.’ It’s the twentieth of October today.”

“It is?” I said dumbly. “I’d lost track.” I was shaking again, from cold and shock and the force of my tirade. He drew me close against him and held me, smoothing his big hands lightly over my hair, cradling my head against his chest. I began to cry again, but this time with relief. In my state of upheaval, it seemed logical that if he knew my real age and still wanted me, then everything would be all right.

Jamie picked me up, and holding me carefully against his shoulder, carried me to the side of the fire, where he had laid the horse’s saddle. He sat down, leaning against the saddle, and held me, light and close.

A long time later, he spoke.

“All right. Tell me now.”

I told him. Told him everything, haltingly but coherently. I felt numb from exhaustion, but content, like a rabbit that has outrun a fox, and found temporary shelter under a log. It isn’t sanctuary, but at least it is respite. And I told him about Frank.

“Frank,” he said softly. “Then he isna dead, after all.”

“He isn’t _born_.” I felt another small wave of hysteria break against my ribs, but managed to keep myself under control. “Neither am I.”

He stroked and patted me back into silence, making his small murmuring Gaelic sounds.

“When I took ye from Randall at Fort William,” he said suddenly, “you were trying to get back. Back to the stones. And…Frank. That’s why ye left the grove.”


“And I beat you for it.” His voice was soft with regret.

“You couldn’t know. I couldn’t tell you.” I was beginning to feel very drowsy indeed.

“No, I dinna suppose ye could.” He pulled the plaid closer around me, tucking it gently around my shoulders. “Do ye sleep now, _mo nighean donn_. No one shall harm ye; I’m here.”

I burrowed into the warm curve of his shoulder, letting my tired mind fall through the layers of oblivion. I forced myself to the surface long enough to ask, “Do you really believe me, Jamie?”

He sighed, and smiled ruefully down at me.

“Aye, I believe ye, Sassenach. But it would ha’ been a good deal easier if you’d only been a witch.”