• “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

INFLUENCES

I know writers of novels who say they don’t read fiction at all while working on a book, out of fear of “being influenced” by what they read. I am struck by horror at the thought of going years without being able to read fiction (though perhaps these people write faster than I do, and take long vacations between books?)—but more struck by the sheer silliness of this.

Everything writers see, think, and experience influences their work. How could it not? Now, it’s true that people do ask writers, “Where do you get your ideas?” and that writers–out of facetiousness or desperation–give answers like, “From the Sears catalog” (or “From Ideas.com,” depending on the writer’s vintage). But the truth is that writers get ideas from every damn thing they see, hear, smell, touch, taste, think, feel, or do—including the books they read.

Naturally, one wants to develop a unique voice, but do kids learn to talk without ever being talked to? You have an individual voice, by virtue of being an individual. And your individuality is composed of your essential God-given spark of personality and of the sum total of the things you encounter in life. Now, whether each encounter is a bruising collision or a fruitful act of love…who knows? But all of it is grist to a writer’s mill; so much should be obvious, if one reads at all widely.

Personally, I learned to read at the age of three, and have read non-stop ever since. I’m 58 now; you can read a lot of books in fifty-five years. I’m sure that every single book I’ve ever read has had some influence on me as a writer, whether negative (I’ve read a lot of books with the mounting conviction that I would never in my life do something like that) or positive.

When I first began to write fiction, though, I was deliberately looking for positive influences, and luckily had quite a few to hand. During the writing of my first novel (OUTLANDER/CROSS STITCH, which I wrote for practice, not intending to ever show it to anyone), I consciously considered the art and techniques of these five writers in particular:

Charles Dickens – Nobody does characters like Dickens did, and that’s why his books endure. He told excellent stories and painted a vivid portrait of Victorian society, but that society consists of people who live, breathe, and speak on the page. I learned from him the art of evoking a character: naming and describing people in such vivid detail as to make them live.

Robert Louis Stevenson – One of the earliest and best of the romance writers—back when “romance” meant adventure and excitement, escape from daily life. TREASURE ISLAND? KIDNAPPED? THE MASTER OF BALLANTRAE? The titles alone are enough to transport you, but the clean prose and vivid characters bring you back again and again.

Dorothy L. Sayers – Mistress of dialogue, character, humor and social nuance. From her, I learned that dialogue is the single most defining trait of character, and just how much you can do with accent, idiom, and dialect. Also, that a character is embedded in his or her social matrix, and that matrix is as important as the individual’s personal characteristics.

John D. MacDonald – John D. was a prolific writer, with more than five hundred novels to his credit, in more than one genre, but was best known for his Travis McGee mystery/thrillers. From him, I learned how to sustain characters over the course of a long series, how to maintain a narrative drive, how to write action, and how to pace a story.

P.G. Wodehouse – one of the most popular humorists ever. Pelham Grenville Wodehouse taught me how much sheer amusement you can derive from the English language—and the art of constructing a plot that works so seamlessly that it doesn’t matter how absurd it is. And no one who’s ever had the pleasure of meeting Bertie Wooster and his gentleman’s personal gentleman, Jeeves—let alone his bevy of friends and nemeses (Gussie Fink-Nottle and his Aunt Agatha, to mention only two)—will ever forget them.

I learned a great deal from all these writers—and from hundreds more. What every
writer on this list of personal muses has in common, though, is great skill in the matter of creating characters. And character, I think, is the single most important thing in fiction. You might read a book once for its interesting plot—but not twice. When you meet a fascinating person in the pages of a book, though, you come back, discovering new relevance, seeing new depths—or just enjoying the renewal of a long and lasting friendship.

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Appearances for the Rest of 2010

APPEARANCES FOR THE REST OF 2010

JULY

July 17th – Flagstaff Celtic Festival
Foxglenn Park, Flagstaff, AZ
Reading – 1 PM, book-signing – 2-4 PM

AUGUST

August 7th – International Clan MacKenzie Gathering/Strathpeffer Highland Games
Grounds of Castle Leod, Strathpeffer
Times TBA, but probably there from noon to 4 or 5. No reading, as the clan chieftain (aka the Earl of Cromartie) tells me the sound system is too antique to provide an adequate level of quality, but will have books for sale, and will sign books people bring, as well. And you get to see the Castle!
http://www.highlandgames.org.uk/highland_and_border_games_in_sco.htm

August 28th – Tucson Circle of Book Clubs Salon (open to the public)
4-6 PM. Short talk, followed by book-signing.
Windmill Inn
4250 N. Campbell Ave., Tucson, AZ
Books will be available for sale, courtesy Antigone Books
Contact Judy Ranzer (judy@ranzer.com) or Donna Grant (grantlimpan@aol.com) for further details.

August 28th – Tucson RWA Chapter (members only)
10:00 AM – speaking, book-signing

SEPTEMBER

September 3-6 (Labor Day Weekend)

Decatur Book Festival
Downtown Decatur, GA (8 miles from Atlanta)
No set schedule as yet, but I always do at least one major talk, plus one or more book-signings.

and

Dragon*Con
Atlanta (This con is immense, and held in four hotels at once. I don’t yet have any sort of schedule, but will be attending with Betsy Mitchell, the DelRey editor for THE EXILE, and we’ll be doing at least one panel together, with slides of artwork from the graphic novel. I’ll certainly also be doing autographing.)

I’ll be switching back and forth between the Decatur Festival and Dragon*Con, so catch me at whichever one is most convenient and/or suited to your personal style!

September 11 – BOOKMARKS Book Festival
Winston-Salem, NC
Speaking and signing – times TBA.
www.bookmarksbookfestival.org for details.

September 21st – LAUNCH PARTY FOR THE EXILE!!
THE EXILE is the new graphic novel, with Jamie’s (and Murtagh’s) side of the OUTLANDER story, script by me, spectacular artwork by Hoang Nguyen.

The launch will be held at the Scottsdale Center for the Arts (http://www.scottsdaleperformingarts.org/ ),
And will feature not only me, books, and food—but also a slideshow with commentary by me and Hoang Nguyen, who did the artwork for THE EXILE, and who will also be available to answer questions and autograph books.

While this event is sponsored by (and books supplied by) The Poisoned Pen Bookstore, they asked me to inform you that instead of reserving a book at the bookstore, you need to buy a ticket from the Center for the Arts (http://tickets.scottsdaleperformingarts.org/tickets/calendar.aspx ) to the event, and the price of your book is included in that. (You can also buy a ‘companion’ ticket for $5, if you want to bring a friend who doesn’t want a book.) [NB: The Center may not yet have their September program up; if not, please check back in a week or two.]

If you won’t be in town, or don’t live here, but would like to order a copy of THE EXILE signed by me, Hoang, or both of us, pleased contact Patrick@poisonedpen.com, or phone the bookstore at 480-947-2974.

Then comes a short(ish) book-tour. This is arranged by Random House, the publisher, and so far, I have only the following information available:

September 22nd – Tattered Cover
Denver, CO

September 23rd – Rainy Day Books
Kansas City

September 25th – National Book Festival
Washington, DC

September 28th – Book Passage
San Francisco, CA
Joint talk & signing with illustrator, Hoang Nguyen.

September 29th – San Diego Booksellers Coalition (Warwick’s, Mysterious Galaxy, Book Works)
Actual venue TBA, but somewhere in San Diego
Talk & signing

September 30th – Vroman’s
Pasadena, CA
Talk & signing

October 2 – Barnes & Noble
Tucson, AZ
Talk & signing

October 3rd – Borders
“The Waterfront,” Scottsdale, AZ
1-3:30 PM – book-signing; don’t know if they’ll be set up for speaking.

October 7th – Borders
Westbury, NY
Talk & signing—10/7

October 8-10
New York Comic-Con/ Special guest spotlight panel, signing
(with Betsy Mitchell, editor for THE EXILE)

October 17th – West Virginia Book Festival
www.wvbookfestival.org
(Yes, I am on the program, even though not listed on the website at the moment.)

October 22-24 – Surrey International Writers Conference
Surrey, BC
This is a paid writers conference (and an excellent one; the only one I do every year), but they do also have an open-to-the-public mass autographing session on Friday evening. This is held at the Guildford Sheraton Hotel, which hosts the conference, and is usually from 5:45 – 7:30 PM.

I may do one or two outside (public) events to promote THE EXILE while I’m attending the conference, but no information on that as yet.

NOVEMBER

November 11-14 – Scribbler’s Retreat Writers Conference
St. Simon’s Island, GA
www.scribblersretreatwritersconference.com

November 16th – Arizona Library Association conference
Radisson Hotel, Scottsdale
Contact Jennifer.Whitt@pima.gov for details.

For other inquiries regarding book-tour appearances, please contact
Katie Rudkin | Publicity Manager | Random House
1745 Broadway | New York, NY 10019
Tel: 212-782-9356 | krudkin@randomhouse.com

Steinkreis 1.1

In an amongst all the exciting and impending New Stuff, I mustn’t omit to note the recent publication in Germany of DER MAGISCHE STEINKREIS, which is…

Well. For starters, the book that was published in the UK as THROUGH THE STONES, and in the US as THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, was published in Germany as DER MAGISCHE STEINKREIS. Now, personally, I dislike this title very much; it means [gag me with a spoon] “The Magic Stone Circle”. As I keep telling careless interviewers, there isn’t any magic anywhere _in_ the books, unless you want to count a little voodoo in VOYAGER. [g]

But that’s what the German publisher called it (I’m not all that mad about any of the German titles, but most of the rest aren’t awful, either).

Well, the original COMPANION/STEINKREIS has been very popular, for which I’m glad. The book was an attempt on my part to answer all the questions that people have asked me over the first ten years and four books of the series. And people have been kind enough to tell me that they’ve found it entertaining in itself, as well as a helpful adjunct to an enormous, complicated…chronicle/legend/saga/series, whatever.

Right. Now I am working on (slowly, in the interstices of Real Writing [g])the second volume of the COMPANION, but that’s nowhere near finished and won’t be for awhile. The German publisher, though, got the bright idea of updating the original volume–sort of a COMPANION 1.1, if you will.

I told them I was WAY too busy to undertake anything of the sort, but they asked Barbara Schnell, my valuable and excellent translator, if she might undertake it, with occasional suggestions and assistance from me. She very nobly did this, and the devil of a sweat it was, too, I can tell you.

I actually ended up writing synopses for THE FIERY CROSS, A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, and AN ECHO IN THE BONE, which are included in this updated volume. I also gave Barbara _all_ my interview files [g], from which she culled an enormous new FAQ section. She also removed some of the material (like websites) that was obsolete, and included some of her own spectacular photography of Scotland, and me in Scotland, and so on. And we found a couple of “out-takes” from the series to include, in lieu of excerpts of upcoming books.

ANYway…that’s what it is. I know some people have been wondering–and one misguided soul has (I’m told) already put up a comment on amazon.de accusing me of “finding a new way to rip off readers.”

(Now, normally, I just don’t read amazon comments, even in English; there’s just not world enough or time. And generally speaking, I’d pay no attention to the opinion of someone who patently hasn’t looked at the book, and does not understand the concept of free choice. HOW, exactly, does one “rip off” anyone by offering anything whatever that people are free to look at and then buy or reject as they like? But I will admit to finding this a little raw.)

OK. The book _is_ available only in German. There will NOT be a version 1.1 in English–because there WILL be a _completely_ new VOLUME II in English, probably within the next year or so (this will include FC, ABOSA, ECHO, _and_ the Lord John series, plus recipes, costumes, maps, and timeines, among other things). But…we don’t want the English readers to feel left out, entirely. [g] (I may update the first volume, too, but only insofar as deleting obsolete references and maybe redoing the Glossary.)

So here’s one of the out-takes we included in DMS. From the date on the file, it was originally written for FIERY CROSS, but just didn’t really fit anywhere. This doesn’t happen often; usually a bit that doesn’t fit in one book _does_ fit into the next one (waste not, want not, you know). In this case, though, that didn’t work, both because Jemmy’s age and Roger’s knowledge of Gaelic were too advanced by the time I got to work on ABOSA. So here you go:

I could hear Jamie and Roger on the other side of the screen of bushes that divided the clearing from the creek. They were talking casually together in Gaelic as they stripped for bathing, and Brianna tilted her head toward the bushes, frowning in concentration as she listened.

“It’s a lovely language, isn’t it?” I said.

“Unique, at least,” she said, grinning as Roger repeated a phrase several times. Whatever it meant, it began with a peculiar noise that resembled nothing so much as the inadvertent exclamation of someone stepping unexpectedly on a slug. “What did he say?”

“I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve heard that one before.”

Jamie’s voice came back, sounding amused and questioning. Evidently he hadn’t heard it, either. There was a splash, a high-pitched exclamation, another splash, another exclamation, and a chorus of breathless male laughter. Bree smiled, listening.

“Do you know very much Gaelic, Mama?” She reached out a hand and deftly collared an escaping Jemmy, grabbing him under the stomach and swinging him up onto her lap.
“Here, a chuisle, let Mama wipe your face.”

“Well, I understand quite a lot by this time,” I said. “Which is occasionally very helpful indeed. I’m not sure I could _speak_ it if my life depended on it, though. I have inborn prejudices that inhibit me from making some of the necessary noises.”

In fact, I understood Jamie much better than I did Roger, when it came to Gaelic. The language appeared to have evolved somewhat over the two hundred years between them, and while the overall effect seemed quite the same to the naked ear, Jamie spoke something Roger referred to –with an academic fascination that Jamie bore fairly patiently–as “Erse.”

I had been exposed to the dialect Jamie and other Highlanders spoke for some time, now, whereas I had never heard much modern Gaelic at all.

“_Cac_,” said Roger, through his teeth. I did know that one.

So did Brianna, evidently.

“Are you all right?” she called through the bushes.

“Fine,” Roger shouted back. “Stubbed my toe on a rock. The water’s murky here.”

Jamie said something I didn’t catch, and both men laughed. The splashing grew louder, and Jemmy made urgent noises and struggled to get away, obviously wanting to go join the fun with the other boys.

“Cut it out,” Bree said firmly. “Here, look here. Look, where’s Mommy?” She held up a linen towel in front of her face, then lowered it, peeking over the top. “Peek-a-boo!”

Jemmy gave his funny deep laugh, and watched enchanted as the towel went up again.

“Boo!” Brianna appeared again suddenly. “[Where's Mommy?"]”

It occurred to me to wonder why Jamie had at once begun teaching Brianna Gaelic; he had never tried to teach me, though he would obligingly translate for me in any setting where the talk was chiefly Gael.

“Did Roger teach you any Gaelic?” I asked, curious.

Bree lowered the towel, stuck out her tongue and wiggled it at Jemmy, who went into ecstasies.

“No,” she replied, pulling up the towel again, “he doesn’t know a whole lot himself–just bits he picked up from the fishermen he used to work with in the summertimes. He says it’s a real education to talk to Da.”

“Yes, it must be,” I said, privately wondering what the hell else Jamie was teaching Roger. The two of them were up to something, that was clear enough–to me, at least–and something they thought a mnai–the women–were better off not knowing. I wondered whether Brianna was also aware of it, and whether I ought to say something.

Jamie wasn’t given to keeping secrets from me, no matter how unpleasant the news. If he was doing it now, it could only be because Roger had decided not to tell Bree.
Sloshing noises on the other side of the bushes announced the emergence of one of the men from the water. “Whoo,” said Roger under his breath, quite near to hand. Noises came like a dog shaking itself, and drops spattered on the ground as he squeezed water from his hair.

“Boo-boo-boo-boo-boo!” Brianna emerged from her towel, and tickled Jemmy into a frenzy of giggles, her long hair falling down over him as she bent forward.

Jamie said something from the creek in a mildly imperative tone that sounded like “…_seil-uisge a cnapach_.”

“Eh?” said Roger, on the other side of the bush.

“_Seil-uisge a cli\pachd_,” Jamie said, quite clearly.

“Aye?” Roger sounded questioning. “[What does cli\pachd mean?] [and] _cnapach_?”

“Cli\pachd is the floppy bit under a turkey’s chin,” I called back, seized by a desire to show off. “You know–the wattle. I don’t know what a _cnapach_ is, though.”

“A little bump or a lump, I think.” Brianna looked up, hair falling back from her flushed face. “And _seil-uisge_ is a leech, right?” She made a moue of distaste at the thought; no one shared my regard for leeches, no matter how I sang their praises.

“Oh, aye?” Roger sounded rather uncertain, as well he might. No turkeys about that I could see. “It’s a colloquialism of some kind, then? A, um, popular term that means something besides the formal meaning of the word?”

There was a moment’s silence. I could feel Jamie–who knew quite well what a colloquialism was–choosing his words carefully.

Then he spoke in English, with the clarity and diction of a BBC announcer.

“I _said_,” he repeated in slow, cultured tones, “there is a leech…on…your…cock.”

[end section]

And Now for Something Completely Different…

There doesn’t seem to be any way to include a playable mp3 file in one of these blogs, so I’m going to provide a link, here.

What is this? Well…

When I went to Edinburgh last year, I met a lovely gentleman named Mike Gibb, a lyricist/playwright, who said that he’d fallen in love with OUTLANDER, and that he and his friend, composer Kevin Walsh, would like to do a song-cycle–a musical telling of the story in the form of 14 or 15 songs. (There’s a possibility that this song-cycle might eventually be the bones of a stage production, but for now, it’s just songs.)

So this is one of the songs. I’m going to put up a full-scale announcement on my website a little later this week, describing the project, and giving the address from which those interested can order a CD of the Whole Thing, and am planning to post this particular song with the announcement, as sort of a free sample. So I thought I’d try it out on you guys, first.

(Note that the copyright to this song is mine, and I got Kevin and Mike’s permission for y’all to download–and share if you like–this song for free. Hope you enjoy it!)

Appearance this weekend – Flagstaff Celtic Festival

APPEARANCE! – July 17th – FLAGSTAFF CELTIC FESTIVAL!

Owing to the knee surgery, I’m not going many places in June and July. One exception, though, is the Flagstaff Celtic Festival, which is held on the 17th and 18th of this month, at Foxglenn Park.

This increasingly popular festival features “heavy events” (caber-tossing, hammer-throwing, etc.) and Highland Dance, as well as bag-piping, music by popular Scottish performers, whisky-tasting (and beer-drinking), and the odd special event, such as me.

Now, the Festival does run two days, but I’ll be there ONLY on the 17th, this Saturday. I’ll be doing a reading at 1 PM (readings and performances are usually either _in_ the beer tent, or close by), and will be signing books (which will be available for sale) for a couple of hours afterward.

What will I be reading? No idea, but there _might_ be a few pieces of Book Eight, picking up cliffhangers from ECHO [g]—and/or bits from new short pieces featuring Roger MacKenzie’s parents, or Young Ian’s brother Michael. Or, just possibly, a few bits from LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER. Whatever it is, it’ll probably be interesting—or at least I hope so. [g]

See you there!

[For further information, see www.nachs.info, the website of the Northern Arizona Celtic Heritage Society, sponsor of the Festival.]

UK Mass-market edition of ECHO – Sept. 30

Now, let me note that the UK readers are not left out of the paperback ECHO celebrations! True, British/Australian/New Zealand fans don’t get the famous Green Slime trade paperback, nor do they get the EXILE eight-page full-color excerpt. Nor do you get THE EXILE itself, unless you can convince Orion Books that there is indeed a market for graphic novels on your side the pond. [g] On the other hand…

September 30th heralds the publication of the UK mass-market paperback edition (that’s the smaller size) of AN ECHO IN THE BONE! Besides the very snazzy cover shown above (it’s actually covered with gold flakes, not just yellow; very eye-catching, though not green [g]), you also get a nice chunk of what the UK publisher tantalizingly describes as “end-matter.” [cough]

This is stuff they put at the end of the book, in hopes of providing new purchasers with something special. In this case, UK fans will get:
1) Potted biographies of a number of prominent characters,
2) An essay on the Life and Times of Scotland in the 18th century (not written by me, but a nice job by whoever did write it),
3) _Beautiful_ (and geographically correct!) maps, both of the Scottish Highlands, and of the American Colonies, circa 1776. Aaaannnnddd…

4) An excerpt from Book Eight, which tells you What Happened to Jem in the Tunnel. Which I will give you a small taste of here….

Excerpt BOOK EIGHT
Copyright Diana Gabaldon 2010

He must be getting near the end of the tunnel. Jem could tell by the way the air pushed back against his face. All he could see was the little red light on the train’s dashboard–did you call it a dashboard on a train? he wondered. He didn’t want to stop, because that meant he’d have to get out of the train, into the dark. But the train was running out of track, so there wasn’t much else he could do.

He pulled back a little bit on the lever that made the train go, and it slowed down. More. Just a little more, and the lever clicked into a kind of slot and the train stopped with a little jerk that made him stumble and grab the edge of the cab.

An electric train didn’t make any engine noise, but the wheels rattled on the track and the train made squeaks and clunks as it moved. When it stopped, the noise stopped too. It was really quiet.

“Hey!” he said out loud, because he didn’t want to listen to his heart beating. The sound echoed, and he looked up, startled. Mum had said the tunnel was really high, more than thirty feet, but he’d forgot that. The idea that there was a lot of empty space hanging over him that he couldn’t see bothered him a lot. He swallowed, and stepped out of the tiny engine, holding on to the frame with one hand.

“Hey!” he shouted at the invisible ceiling. “Are there any bats up there?”

Silence. He’d kind of been hoping there were bats. He wasn’t afraid of them–there were bats in the old broch, and he liked to sit and watch them come out to hunt in the summer evenings. But he was alone. Except for the dark.

His hands were sweating. He let go of the metal cab and scrubbed both hands on his jeans. Now he could hear himself breathing, too.

“Crap,” he whispered under his breath. That made him feel better, so he said it again. Maybe he ought to be praying, instead, but he didn’t feel like that, not yet.

There was a door, Mum said. At the end of the tunnel. It led into the service chamber, where the big turbines could be lifted up from the dam if they needed fixing. Would the door be locked?

Suddenly he realized that he’d stepped away from the train and he didn’t know whether he was facing the end of the tunnel or back the way he’d come. In a panic, he blundered to and fro, hands out, looking for the train. He tripped over part of the track and fell sprawling. He lay there for a second saying “Crap-crap-crap-crap-crap!” because he’d skinned both knees and the palm of his hand, but he was OK, really, and now he knew where the track was, so he could follow it and not get lost.

He got up, wiped his nose, and shuffled slowly along, kicking the track every few steps to be sure he stayed with it. He thought he was in front of where the train had stopped, so it didn’t really matter which way he was going–either he’d find the train or he’d find the end of the tunnel. And then the door. If it was locked, maybe–

Something like an electric shock ran right through him. He gasped and fell over backward. …

(You _were_ paying attention, weren’t you, when I told you I was really Black Jack Randall…?)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Echo-Bone-Outlander-7/dp/0752883992/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1277250039&sr=8-1

or

www.poisonedpen.com or call them at 480-947-2974. Normally, they can get UK books without much trouble, and I’d be delighted to stop by the bookstore and sign them for you.

The GREEN SLIME thanks you!!

You know, what with knee surgery, new stories, travel, new website developments, etc., etc., etc.—I really hadn’t paid all that much attention to the new Green Slime edition of AN ECHO IN THE BONE, other than to briefly admire the cover. [g]

I find that y’all have been busy, though! I opened my email this morning to hear that the new Green Slime edition has hit the New York Times list—I _think_ that’s the first time one of my trade paperback editions has done that! It’s also #4 on BookScan’s bestseller list, mentioned in USAToday (today), and has stunned the publisher (in a happy way [g]) by selling lots more copies in its first week than the trade paper edition of A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES did—and they thought _that_ was good!

So anyway—MANY thanks to all of you who’ve been buying and (I hope) enjoying the Green Slime version of ECHO. And the publisher bids me tell you that in response to all this great news, they’ve done a deal with Borders and Walden’s bookstores, whereby if you buy one of the Green ECHO’s, you can get another for half off. In case any of you belong to book clubs. [g]

Oh—and do remember that the Green Slime edition has the eight-page excerpt from THE EXILE (the new graphic novel telling Jamie’s side of the story) in the back! Have any of you read that excerpt yet? I’d be Most Interested to hear what you think of it.

A Closer Look


OK—this is what it looks like on the inside. Just had my post-surgery checkup—all well—and the surgeon kindly presented me with a souvenir X-ray of my right leg, with unicompartmental knee in place. [g] (This is, if I’m not mistaken, a back view of my right leg (taken while I was unconscious following surgery). I _think_ that they flipped the negative while making the copy, thus making it look like my left leg.)

Many thanks to all the kind people who’ve sent me flowers, Starbucks cards, get-well cookies, and lovely cards and emails! Buoyed by so many positive vibes, I did get back to work after only a few days of blissful drug-induced stupor [g], and have been beavering away. Mostly on a story for an anthology, which is really due pretty much Right Now, but it’s nearly finished.

This one is for an anthology titled DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, which has a sort of mystery/thriller-with-fantasy-elements theme. I’m not sure as to the title; I have been calling it “Terror Daemonium” (that’s Latin for “Terror of Demons”—it’s from the Catholic Litany of St. Joseph, in case you couldn’t quite place it), but for the last couple of days have been thinking of calling it “The Space Between.” I’ll know better when it’s finished.

Anyway, the story itself deals with Michael Murray—Young Ian’s elder brother, another of Jamie Fraser’s nephews—whom we saw briefly in AN ECHO IN THE BONE—and with Joan MacKimmie, Marsali’s younger sister, whom we also saw briefly in ECHO.

Joan has a vocation to be a nun, and—there not being many convents in the Highlands—is going to France in order to do so. Michael, junior partner in a flourishing wine business in Paris, has offered to see her safely there. The road to the convent may present a few challenges, though.
This bit takes place on the Channel ferry, taking them across to France. Joan has just gone up for air, leaving the passengers in the cabin.

“Terror Daemonium”
Copyright 2010 Diana Gabaldon

“What a waste of a wonderful arse,” Monsieur Brechin remarked in French, watching Joan’s ascent from the far side of the cabin. “And mon Dieu, those legs! Imagine those wrapped around your back, eh? Would you have her keep the striped stockings on? I would.”

It hadn’t occurred to Michael to imagine that, but he was now having a hard time dismissing the image. He coughed into his handkerchief to hide the reddening of his face.

Madame Brechin gave her husband a sharp elbow in the ribs. He grunted, but seemed undisturbed by what was evidently a normal form of marital communication.

“Beast,” she said, with no apparent heat. “Speaking so of a Bride of Christ. You will be lucky if God Himself doesn’t strike you dead with a lightning bolt.”

“Well, she isn’t His bride yet,” Monsieur protested. “And who created that arse in the first place? Surely God would be flattered to hear a little sincere appreciation of His handiwork. From one who is, after all, a connoisseur in such matters.” He leered affectionately at Madame, who snorted.

A faint snigger from the young man across the cabin indicated that Monsieur was not alone in his appreciation, and Madame turned a reproving glare on the young man. Michael wiped his lips carefully, trying not to catch Monsieur’s eye. His insides were quivering, and not entirely either from amusement or the shock of inadvertent lust. He felt very queer.

Monsieur sighed as Joan’s striped stockings disappeared through the hatchway.

“Christ will not warm her bed,” he said, shaking his head.

“Christ will not fart in her bed, either,” said Madame, taking out her knitting.

“Pardonnez-moi…” Michael said in a strangled voice, and clapping his handkerchief to his mouth, made hastily for the ladder, as though sea-sickness might be catching.

It wasn’t mal-de-mer that was surging up from his belly, though. He caught sight of Joan at the rail, and turned quickly aside, going to the other side, where he gripped the rail s though it were a life-raft, and let the overwhelming waves of grief wash through him. It was the only way he’d been able to manage, these last few weeks. Hold on as long as he could, keeping a cheerful face, until some small unexpected thing, some bit of emotional debris, struck him through the heart like a hunter’s arrow, and then hurry to find a place to hide, curling up on himself in mindless pain until he could get a grip of himself.

This time, it was Madame’s remark that had come like a dart out of the blue, and he grimaced painfully, laughing in spite of the tears that poured down his face, remembering Lili. She’d eaten eels in garlic sauce for dinner—those always made her fart with a silent deadliness, like poison swamp gas. As the ghastly miasma had risen up round him, he’d sat bolt upright in bed, only to find her staring at him, a look of indignant horror on her face.

“How dare you?” she’d said, in a voice of offended majesty. “Really, Michel.”

“You know it wasn’t me!”

Her mouth had dropped open, outrage added to horror and distaste.

“Oh!” she gasped, gathering her small pug-dog to her bosom. “You not only fart like a rotting whale, you attempt to blame it on my poor puppy! Cochon!” Whereupon she had begun to shake the bedsheets delicately, using her free hand to waft the noxious odors in his direction, addressing censorious remarks to Plonplon, who gave Michael a sanctimonious look before turning to lick his mistress’s face with great enthusiasm.

“Oh, Jesus,” he whispered, and sinking down, pressed his face against the rail. “Oh, God, lass, I love you!”

He shook, silently, head buried in his arms, aware of sailors passing now and then behind him, but none of them took notice of him. At last the agony eased a little, and he drew breath.

All right, then. He’d be all right now, for a time. And he thanked God, belatedy, that he had Joan—or Sister Gregory, if she liked—to look after for a bit. He didn’t know how he’d manage to walk through the streets of Paris to his house, alone. Go in, greet the servants, face their sorrow, order a meal, sit down…and all the time wanting to throw himself on the floor of their empty bedroom and howl like a lost soul. He’d have to face it, sooner or later—but not just yet. And right now, he’d take the grace of any respite that offered.

He blew his nose with resolution, tucked away his mangled handkerchief, and went downstairs to fetch the basket his mother had sent. He couldn’t swallow a thing, himself, but feeding Sister Joan would maybe keep his mind off things for that one minute more.

“That’s how ye do it,” his brother Ian had told him, as they leant together on the rail of their mother’s sheep pen, the winter’s wind cold on their faces, waiting for their Da to find his way through dying. “Ye find a way to live for just one more minute. And then another. And another.”

He ‘d wiped his face—he could weep before Ian, while he couldn’t, with his elder brother or the girls, certainly not in front of his mother—and asked, “And it gets better after a time, is that what ye’re telling me?”

His brother had looked at him straight on, the quiet in his eyes showing through the outlandish Mohawk tattoos.

“No,” he’d said softly. “But after a time, ye find ye’re in a different place than ye were. A different person than ye were. And then ye look about, and see what’s there with ye. Ye’ll maybe find a use for yourself. That helps.”

“Aye, fine,” he said, under his breath, and squared his shoulders. “We’ll see, then.”

Don’t Look if You’re Squeamish


I mean, it’s not _that_ bad. But still mildly gross. [g]

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jog



Well, I’m home—and thrilled to be here, believe you me. [g] I actually got sprung late afternoon on Friday, earlier than expected. Possibly because I was standing beside my bed, dressed in my street clothes, when the surgeon came in to see me (very funny; there was an RN and a LPN in the room at the time, and he apparently thought I was one, too. He glanced at the empty bed, then—startled—at me, and blurted, “Oh, you’re the _patient_! I didn’t recognize you.” No reason why he should, after all—I look quite different when out cold with my head in a bag).

Anyway, all’s well so far, but I’m not going to write much because I _am_ significantly Under the Influence of pain meds and rat poison. The knee is hugely swollen, of course—and was wrapped in layers and layers and layers of cotton batting and Ace bandage, as seen in the accompanying photo (my other leg is wearing an elastic compression stocking, to assist with circulation).

I got to unwrap it this morning, which was a great relief, though the underlying flesh is a nasty sight. (My husband took a photo of the incision-plus-steri-strips, but says I ought not to post that, as being too gross and indicating a tendency to egomania, assuming that people would be interested in looking at my gross knee. Now, personally, I’m always interested in looking at gross things, but I’ll bow to his better judgement here, since he’s _not_ on pain pills.)

Good to be home, though—and many, many, many thanks to all the kind people who’ve kept me in their thoughts and prayers!