• “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


You know, I’d have gone to the Tucson Book Festival this coming weekend (I went to the first one last year, and had a wonderful time—heartily recommend it to all of you who live in the Tucson area!), save that I’m leaving for Germany on Sunday, and didn’t want to be gone all of Saturday, rolling home after midnight and then having to rush around packing and watering plants and all the stuff one does when leaving home for a week. So I declined with regrets.

However, late last week, I got a request from the Peoria Book Festival, through the Poisoned Pen, asking whether I might be able to come just for a couple of hours on Saturday. Well…Peoria is a lot closer to where I live than Tucson is, and a couple of hours is do-able, so I said OK, sure.

So, I didn’t want those of your connected with the Tucson Book Festival to feel I was snootering you if you heard I’d been in Peoria on Saturday. But I do want those of you who might be closer to Peoria and might be interested, to know about their book festival—which actually is titled “Bravo Peoria!” [g] For those who might be interested, here are the details:

Event: Bravo Peoria!
Date: Saturday, March 13th
Time: 9:00am – 4:00pm
Location: Sunrise Mountain Library
Description: A community event to celebrate Culture and the Arts. Sunrise Mountain Library will host a day long event with entertainment, artists, antiques, book sale and more. The event is sponsored by the Friends of the Library. Sunrise mountain Library 21200 N 98th Ave., Peoria, AZ 85382.
Contact Person: Library Staff
Contact Phone: 623-773-8650

OK, now please note that I’ll be there only between 1 and 3 PM. (I will be talking for about half an hour, then signing books.) But the Poisoned Pen will be there all day, and will have what the manager refers to as “Gabaldoniana” in quantity. If you plan to come to the festival, but won’t be there when I am, feel free to buy a book at the Poisoned Pen booth, and leave it with a note as to how you’d like it signed. You can pick it up later in the day, or ask the store to mail it to you.

(Also, if you’d like to buy a particular book to have signed there, you might want to call the Poisoned Pen ahead of time; I know they’ll have a lot of OUTLANDER and ECHO, because the first and most recent titles always sell best—but I’m sure they’d bring any of the other books you like, if you let them know. The PP phone number is 480-947-2974.)

THE METHADONE LIST: Christopher Brookmyre

THE METHADONE LIST: Christopher Brookmyre

I seldom write fan letters to other authors. Not that I don’t want to; there are lots of wonderful books that move me to admiration, laughter, tears, etc., and I’d love to let the authors of them know that. In some cases, the authors in question are dead, though, which kind of renders a fan letter moot (though I do Say a Word during my evening rosary—that’s my Lenten devotion this year, saying the rosary every night (provided I don’t fall asleep in the middle, but I haven’t yet; lovely, peaceful meditation)). In most cases, though, I just don’t get around to it. You know, busy life, obligations, family, dogs, book-tours, saying the rosary [g], answering the nice messages people send me, etc., etc.

Which is why I particular appreciate the letters and emails people send me; I know just how much effort it takes to actually do something like that, rather than just think about it. So it’s all the more remarkable that upon reading Christopher Brookmyre’s PANDAEMONIUM recently, I put down the book and actually wrote him a fan letter. Which said:

Dear Christopher–

I’ve just finished wallowing in PANDAEMONIUM, pausing occasionally to gasp with admiration at your sheer technical brilliance (we’ll take the tremendous energy, amazing ear for dialogue and eye for social dynamics, and your talent for chronic hilarity (ranging from subtle to belly-laugh) as read). All of which is _nothing_ to my enjoyment of the way your mind works. [g] I couldn’t have done a clearer explanation of just what science _is_ (and how it works) myself–and I do it frequently, what with the appalling state of prevalent ignorance and the many practitioners thereof. And the sheer bloody brilliance, not only of the concept, but the _ending_…!

I’ve been enjoying your books for years, and you’ve been getting better and better, juggling the ideas so deftly with the satire and the plot (speaking of juggling, I adore your magician from THE SACRED ART OF STEALING and SNOWBALL IN HELL, too). This one is Just Great. Thanks so much.


So anyway, still in the grip of this unaccustomed burst of energy [g], I thought I’d mention Chris as the latest recommendation on The Methadone List, and an excellent one he is, too—not only for the quality of his books, but the quantity as well; he produces something close to a book a year (a feat which excites my envious admiration).

Brookmyre’s books are all violent, bloody, and absolutely hilarious. They’re not a series; some of the books feature a recurring main character, the journalist Jack Parlabane, two of them have a wonderful, emotionally vulnerable, light-fingered magician as the hero (I fell in love with him, and I have high standards in that department [cough]), and some are one-off standalones. ALL of them are wonderfully plotted, deeply satirical, and done with a distinctly Scottish sense of humor.

The only real drawback to Brookmyre’s books is that they aren’t all published yet in the US (US publishers in these parlous times fight shy of anything offbeat, like stories written with Scots vernacular—but I sort of don’t think that would be a problem for most of you guys [g]). Still, Amazon.com does have all of them for sale at least in paperback


though I’m displeased to note that they only have PANDAEMONIUM listed in the Kindle edition. (I bought mine in hardcover—I grab Brookmyre on sight—from The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale; they import a lot of British authors, and routinely carry all of Brookmyre’s books. If you’d like a hard copy (undeniably expensive, but worth it), see

http://www.poisonedpen.com/search?SearchableText=Christopher+Brookmyre .) I’m sure you could get them all from amazon.co.uk, but then there’s the shipping to pay, so it’s pretty much a wash.

Hope you enjoy him as much as I have!

(And here’s his website, too, which has brief excerpts from some of his books:

http://www.brookmyre.co.uk/ .)

WARRIORS on the way!

Warriors-cover-hbJust got word from the editor of the WARRIORS anthology that it will be released March 10! (In case you’re beginning to cast round for new things to read.)

This is an anthology, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois, with short stories and novellas by a lot of very talented people. I have a novella in this book, a Lord John story titled “The Custom of the Army” (and before a lot of you write, demanding that I stop wasting time writing about Lord John…I wrote this novella last year, _while_ finishing AN ECHO IN THE BONE. I normally do work on multiple projects at once; I get a lot farther, a lot faster that way). There’s a longish excerpt from this story on my website (www.dianagabaldon.com ), and here’s a further short one.

“The Custom of the Army” (in WARRIORS)
Copyright 2010 Diana Gabaldon

A month later, Grey found himself, Tom Byrd at his side, climbing off the Harwood and into one of the small boats that would land them and the battalion of Louisbourg grenadiers with whom they had been traveling on a large island near the mouth of the St. Lawrence River.

He had never seen anything like it. The river itself was larger than any he had ever seen, nearly half a mile across, running wide and deep, a dark blue-black under the sun. Great cliffs and undulating hills rose on either side of the river, so thickly forested that the underlying stone was nearly invisible. It was hot, and the sky arched brilliant overhead, much brighter and much wider than any sky he had seen before. A loud hum echoed from the lush growth—insects, he supposed, birds, and the rush of the water, though it felt as though the wilderness were singing to itself, in a voice heard only in his blood. Beside him, Tom was fairly vibrating with excitement, his eyes out on stalks, not to miss anything.

“Cor, is that a Red Indian?” he whispered, leaning close to Grey in the boat.

“I don’t suppose he can be anything else,” Grey replied, as the gentleman loitering by the landing was naked save for a breech-clout, a striped blanket slung over one shoulder, and a coating of what—from the shimmer of his limbs—appeared to be grease of some kind.

“I thought they’d be redder,” Tom said, echoing Grey’s own thought. The Indian’s skin was considerably darker than Grey’s own, to be sure, but a rather pleasant soft brown in color, something like dried oak leaves. The Indian appeared to find them nearly as interesting as they had found him; he was eyeing Grey in particular with intent consideration.

“It’s your hair, me lord,” Tom hissed in Grey’s ear. “I told you you ought to have worn a wig.”

“Nonsense, Tom.” At the same time, Grey experienced an odd frisson up the back of the neck, constricting his scalp. Vain of his hair, which was blond and thick, he didn’t commonly wear a wig, choosing instead to bind and powder his own for formal occasions. The present occasion wasn’t formal in the least. With the advent of fresh water aboard, Tom had insisted upon washing his hair that morning, and it was still spread loose upon his shoulders, though it had long since dried.

The boat crunched on the shingle, and the Indian flung aside his blanket and came to help the men run it up the shore. Grey found himself next the man, close enough to smell him. He smelt quite unlike anyone Grey had ever encountered; gamy, certainly—he wondered, with a small thrill, whether the grease the man wore might be bear-fat—but with the tang of herbs and a sweat like fresh-sheared copper.

Straightening up from the gunwale, the Indian caught Grey’s eye and smiled.

“You be careful, Englishman,” he said, in a voice with a noticeable French accent, and reaching out, ran his fingers quite casually through Grey’s loose hair. “Your scalp would look good on an Huron’s belt.”

This made the soldiers from the boat all laugh, and the Indian, still smiling, turned to them.

“They are not so particular, the Abenaki who work for the French. A scalp is a scalp—and the French pay well for one, no matter what color.” He nodded genially to the grenadiers, who had stopped laughing. “You come with me.”

[end section]

You can pre-order the book at amazon.com, though if you’d like a signed copy, you can also order it from The Poisoned Pen (www.poisonedpen.com); I go by the store every week or so to sign their orders.

Last updated on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018 by Diana’s Webmistress

February Appearances

Hi, all!

I’m BACK (at long last) from the UK and New York (where I was food-poisoned the night before our return to Arizona. All I’ll say about that is that it’s marginally better to be deathly ill in Business Class than coach; no one notices if you pass out in your seat, and it’s much easier to get into the lavatories). Now dealing with all the Stuff that accumulates when I’m gone, plus some urgent Stuff for the German book-tour _next_ month. But thought I should at least post the appearance schedule for February (all in Arizona). Stay tuned, though, for my riveting account of the UK book-tour in three parts: “The Highheidyins,” “The Big Wheel,” and “Goose Poop and Candlelight.” Coming soon!

I’m trying really hard not to go anywhere or do anything, so I can sit still and write books. Believe me, 2010 is already completely booked, in terms of appearances (yes, I’ll be in Germany next month, and yes, I’m doing a short –five cities, they said—tour for the graphic novel when it’s released in the US this September—and yes, I’ll be at Comics-Con in New York. I’ll do the whole-year schedule (as now known) a little later this week). I’ll mostly be at home in February, but will be visible at five events (all in-state) this month:


February 13th — 11 AM-1 PM


I’ll be signing books from 11-1 at Ann Chamberlin’s bookshop, located (I’m told) in a particularly desirable location near the jousting (desirable—I’m told–because it’s opposite the privies).

February 16th — 7 PM at the Arizona Biltmore
The Poisoned Pen sponsors an event for Dana Stabenow


My friend Dana has a new Kate Shugak novel out on the 16th, and will be doing the launch party at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel (http://www.arizonabiltmore.com/ ). Laurie R. King (who also has a new book out—GOD OF THE HIVE, a Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novel) will be there, too! Free admission, and you’re welcome to have books signed by any of us.

February 19th – noon-2 PM
NAU Bookstore signing
Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ


I’ll be signing all my books (which the bookstore presumably will have in stock). Feel free to bring your older books from home, if you like, too; just be sure to let the bookstore personnel know when you come in.

February 20th – noon-2PM
Northern Arizona Celtic Heritage Society Celtic Tea
Thornager’s Kilted Cat, Flagstaff, AZ
Call Jude McKenzie at 928-556-3161 for tickets and information.


This is a fun event that usually runs between 2-3 hours. I’ll be speaking, reading, and showing off some of the art from the new graphic novel. In addition, the Heritage Society ladies also serve high tea (sandwiches, pastries, and scones, with tea), have a hat contest, a silent auction, and other small entertainments. Books will be available for sale, but you’re also welcome to bring your older books from home.

February 26th
Brandeis Books and Authors Luncheon
At the J.W. Marriott Resort and Spa at Desert Ridge

I’ll be a speaker (one of several) at this fund-raising luncheon on behalf of Brandeis University. I’ll be speaking for about fifteen minutes, and there will be books available for sale and signing. This event is open to the public, with a ticket price of $100 for the day’s events, including a gourmet luncheon.

The other speakers are:
Lisa See
Christopher Reich
Joseph Kanon
Allegra Huston
Christopher Kennedy Lawford

The moderator is Andrei Cherney, the honorary chairman is Al McCoy and Clive Cussler will also be there to sign books and present the first Clive Cussler Award for Literature. (Which they are, very kindly, awarding to me. )

Please contact mskbflo@aol.com for details and/or tickets.

Hope to see many of you at one or the other of these events!

[That's Violet up top. She hasn't got anything to do with the subject of this post, but she doesn't get a lot of face time, up against the photogenic Dachshund Brothers.]


Well, now–here’s a question to keep you entertained while I’m gearing up to visit the UK: What sorts of things might you like to see in THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, Volume II?

I’ll be working on this book during 2010 (yes, yes, along with Book Eight, and a few other things, no doubt), but am just beginning to form up an idea of the potential contents. There will of course be

Detailed synopses of

“Cast of Characters” listings for all the aforementioned books. These lists note which books each character appears in, and give a thumbnail description of each character (for those readers who have trouble remembering who’s who).

A Comprehensive, Alphabetized and Phonetic Glossary of All the Gaelic in All the Books (so far). [g]

Interesting Features on Writing in General (chunk writing vs. outlines, how to organize scenes so you can find them again, the Fine Art of Backing Up, etc.) and Writing These Books in Particular (the “shape” of each book, internal structure, and interconnections)

Reader’s Guides (book-club discussion questions and commentary)

Features on Costume and Cookery of the 18th Century

A Truly Massive (but well-organized!) Bibliography, of allllll the References used in writing the more recent Books.

Many Inspiring and Beautiful Photographs of the Scottish Highlands (and perhaps a few less inspiring ones of the author) taken by Barbara Schnell, the German translator for the books.

A Selection of the most Piquant, Poignant, Offensive, and/or Hilarious (whether deliberately or inadvertently) Letters received–and the Author’s Unexpurgated Responses to Same.

Controversy: Commentary and discussion on the more controversial scenes, themes, or incidents in the various books.

So….what else? All suggestions welcome!

Diana in Sheffield!

Sheffield Hallam University in association with Off the Shelf

An evening with Diana Gabaldon
Monday 18 January 2010 at 6.30 for 7pm, Pennine Theatre, Sheffield Hallam University

Top selling American novelist Diana Gabaldon is our first New Year speaker. Diana Gabaldon is the author of the award-winning, New York Times bestselling, Outlander novels. She will launch the latest book in the series in Europe by making a trip to Sheffield.
Diana is the great, great granddaughter of Sheffield artist Godfrey Sykes, who in 1856 was deputy principal of the Sheffield College of Design which is now part of Sheffield Hallam University. His famous Minerva Frieze has been restored by Sheffield Hallam University and Museums Sheffield, which is currently on display in the Furnival building, City Campus, and Diana will be giving a lecture as part of the University’s retrospective on his work.
Tickets are free but must be booked in advance.
To book, please click the link Diana Gabaldon or visit www.shu.ac.uk/events/

[Just in case that first link isn’t hot–it’s

http://arum.lits.shu.ac.uk/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=1530 ]

UK Publicity Tour for ECHO

For reasons best known to themselves, Orion Books (my UK publisher) published AN ECHO IN THE BONE in Australia and New Zealand when it came out in the US and Canada–but are publishing the hardcover edition in the UK as of January 7th–i.e., in four days!

They are bringing me over to the UK–in conjunction with Sheffield-Hallam University (more about that in tomorrow’s blog entry)–for a quick publicity tour to promote the book. Here’s the breakdown of events in the UK (you’ll notice “tbc” here and there–that means “to be confirmed,” and essentially means that if anyone wants to interview me or ask for a special event, that’s when time is available): I hope to see many of you there!

UK Publicity/Events

January 14th – Glasgow/Ayr

1.30pm Interview with Claire Black for The Scotsman (venue tbc)

3.30pm Interview with BBC Radio Scotland Radio Café contact Serena Field on

TBC 4-5pm Scottish TV ‘The Hour’

5.15pm drive to Ayr with Scottish sales rep

7.30pm Talk and signing for Waterstone’s Ayr at Carnegie Lbrary
12 Main Street, Ayr, KA8 8EB
Organised by Waterstone’s in Ayr – Contact Russell on 01292 262600
(tickets £2 redeemable against book purchase)

January 15th – Aberdeen/Inverness

12.30 Signing at Waterstone’s Aberdeen
3-7 Union Bridge, Aberdeen AB11 6BG
Contact Gail Cleaver on 01224 592440

Drive to Inverness

7.00pm Talk and signing for Waterstone’s Inverness at the Iron Works
Contact Terry Cleaver on 01463 233500
(tickets £4 partly redeemable again book purchase)

January 16th – Edinburgh

2.00pm Signing at Waterstone’s Edinburgh West End.
128 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 4AD
contact there is: CHRIS BARKER
T: 0131 226 2666
E: orders@edinburgh-westend.waterstones.com

January 17th – Sheffield

Travel to Sheffield, University dinner (not a public event)

January 18th – Sheffield
Two Days organised by Sheffield Univerity – contact Andrew McGrath, Corporate Events manager on 01142253855

Venue: Sheffield Hallam University, 20 Furnival Street Sheffield S1 4QT

9.00-12noon – tbc
12noon – 13.30 Lunch
1.30 – 15.00 Sykes in Sheffield tour
15.00 – 16.00 Media Interviews
16.00 – 18.00 Free time
18.00 – 19.00 Preparations for evening lecture
19.00 – 20.15 Guest Lecture, Q&A
20.15 – 21.15 Book signing
21.15 – 23.00 Dinner/Chaffer Buffet and networking with VIP Guests

January 19th – Sheffield

9.00 – 12.30 Meetings with creative writing students and academics

PM book shop stock signings in the Yorkshire area (no details on this; they tend to leave that up to the sales rep who’s accompanying me. If you live near a bookshop in the general vicinity of Sheffield, you might ask the bookshop to contact Orion and ask for a drop-in.)

January 20th – Manchester/London

Stock signings in Manchester (See note on drop-in signings, above. If your local Manchester shop would like a drop-in, they should contact their Orion sales rep.)

Train to London

Publication dinner (not a public event)

Happy New Year, differential nostrillation, and Facebook

HAPPY NEW YEAR to all! My personal idea of a great New Year’s Eve celebration is a nice nap, after which I get up, go up to my office, and light a new pillar candle to work by (the new one is white, scented with—it says on the bottom—Japanese Cedarwood. A very subtle and unobtrusive scent. The old one—which expired the night before, with excellent timing—was dark blue and reeked of cinnamon.)

(I learned something Extremely Interesting recently, btw, speaking of smells. You know how sight can vary between your two eyes, with one being, say, 20/40 and the other 20/200? Or how your hearing may be more or less acute in one ear than the other? Apparently the same thing is true of nostrils.

I was somewhere on a book-tour (believe me, the only way I know where I am, after the third day or so, is to look at the schedule), had escaped momentarily for a quick walk, and came across a huge tree that was dropping fruiting bodies the size of small green baseballs. (Think it may have been a chestnut of some kind, but can’t swear to it, as I didn’t have a knife with which to open one—thanks to the evil machinations of the TSA.) I picked one up and brushed it under my nose, noting that it had a really unusual, pungent fragrance—not like anything else I’ve ever smelled. So I took it along with me, back to the hotel….ah, OK, I was in Lexington, Kentucky. I recall the hotel, because it was under construction, and I couldn’t get a knife from Room Service, either, because there wasn’t any—sniffing it periodically along the way.

At one point, I changed the hand I was carrying it in—and consequently, next time I sniffed it, noticed that the smell was different. “Well, that’s weird,” I said, surprised, and proceeded to experiment. I could certainly smell it with either nostril, but much more strongly, and with a great deal more complexity, on the right than on the left.

I’d forgotten about this—you forget most things on a book-tour, including your name (no, I’m not kidding)—but remembered while doing the Christmas cooking, when I went outside to pick fresh herbs. Sure enough, I can smell rosemary, basil, and sage all just fine on the left—but I pick up a much richer melange of aromatics on the right, while I’m getting mostly basic volatiles (turpenes and the like) on the left. Truly interesting. Something to think about, next time you hit the perfume counter; if you normally test perfume on one wrist, be sure to pass that wrist under the opposite nostril, too.)

But I digress. [g]

One of the things on my New Year to-do list is to do something about my (putative) Facebook page—which you may notice has apparently disappeared.

Why? I have _no_ idea. See, I don’t personally “do” Facebook. At all. (Had we but world enough, and time…) BUT, when ECHO came out, Borders invited me to come do a two-hour chat on _their_ Facebook page, and in order to get to said page, I was obliged to open a Facebook account.

Naturally, I asked my youngest daughter how to go about this. [g] She told me that I should start a “celebrity” page, rather than a plain individual page, so I did that when I signed up, and the software asked me if I wanted to link my page to my blog. I shrugged and said, “Yeah, why not?” So that’s where the original listing came from. Mind, there was never anything _on_ my Facebook page, save my picture.

Promptly departed on two months of book-touring, and somewhere in there, the page I’d started apparently disappeared (or so I gather, since the link from my blog no longer works; I haven’t been back on the Facebook site since the Borders interview). Have had _no_ time to worry about it since, though one kindly person who’d noticed it mentioned to me that there are other “Diana Gabaldon” pages on Facebook, and one of these might have complained about my page on “intellectual infringement” grounds and had it removed. [rolling eyes]

Anyway. I have a whole list of Promotional Things that need to be addressed, from correcting idiocies on my Wikipedia page to re-registering an official Facebook page (preferably with a little content on it [cough]), updating the website (well, that one’s a little easier; at least I know _how_–I just didn’t want to send my long-suffering webmistress more Stuff until the holidays were over [g]), etc.

_That_ stuff all starts on Monday, along with a return to a regular writing routine, now that a) all the kids, in-laws, guest dogs, etc. are or shortly will be gone (hallelujah. Not that I don’t love them all dearly, but seven dogs and nine people in one house is pushing it, even for me), b) I will have finished the last revisions to “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” (may actually finish that one tonight, though I’ll read it through again tomorrow before sending it on to the anthology’s editors), and c) I finally (in spite of guests, double-Christmas, etc.) managed to dig through the piles that had accumulated in my office during my absence, put things away, sweep the floor [g], and deal with (mostly) everything that had been neglected for the two-plus months I was away, and d) have managed to prune all the roses, grapevines and fruit trees, as well as rip tons of dead grass and mint-stalks out of my garden. Tomorrow, with luck, I’ll be able to turn over a few square feet of soil (removing the _roots_ of said grass and mint) in order to plant nasturtium seeds, which have to be put in no later than the first week of January, if you want good bloom before the heat hits and kills them.

So anyway, I _should_ maybe have something in order about the Facebook thing sometime next week. If and when, I’ll announce it here, as well as on the website (which, for those as may not know, is www.dianagabaldon.com).



Someone mentioned to me that ECHO is on the list of Goodreads’ candidates for Best Book of 2009. At a glance, there seem to be a _lot_ of good books listed, and I’m honored to be among them.

If you happen to feel like voting for ECHO or any of the others, the link to do so is


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas -and a small treat for your stocking

Merry Christmas to all!

I’ve been telling you about various short pieces involving dragons and murder and what-not–but there’s another short story you may want to hear about. This one is for (yet another) anthology, titled STAR-CROSSED LOVERS, and the story itself is titled “A Leaf on the Wind.” This is the story of What Happened to Roger’s Father–those of you who’ve read AN ECHO IN THE BONE may be especially interested, [g] though I think most folks who’ve enjoyed the series–and Roger–will like this.

I’ve begun working on Book Eight, but really don’t have anything resembling coherent (let alone suitable) scenes to show you from that as yet, so I thought I’d post a brief scene from this short story as a small token of love and esteem for Christmas–and I wish y’all many happinesses of the season!

“A Leaf on the Wind” (excerpt)
Copyright 2009 Diana Gabaldon
In STAR-CROSSED LOVERS (edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois)

Marjorie MacKenzie—Dolly to her husband—opened the blackout curtains. No more than an inch…well, two inches. It wouldn’t matter; the inside of the little flat was dark as the inside of a coal-scuttle. London outside was equally dark; she knew the curtains were open only because she felt the cold glass of the window through the narrow crack. She leaned close, breathing on the glass, and felt the moisture of her breath condense, cool near her face. Couldn’t see the mist, but felt the squeak of her fingertip on the glass as she quickly drew a small heart there, the letter J inside.

It faded at once, of course, but that didn’t matter; the charm would be there when the light came in, invisible but there, standing between her husband and the sky.

When the light came, it would fall just so, across his pillow. She’d see his sleeping face in the light: the jackstraw hair, the fading bruise on his temple, the deep-set eyes, closed in innocence. He looked so young, asleep. Almost as young as he really was. Only twenty-two [ck.]; too young to have such lines in his face. She touched the corner of her mouth, but couldn’t feel the crease the mirror showed her—her mouth was swollen, tender, and the ball of her thumb ran across her lower lip, lightly, to and fro.

What else, what else? What more could she do for him? He’d left her with something of himself. Perhaps there would be another baby—something he gave her, but something she gave him, as well. Another baby. Another child to raise alone?

“Even so,” she whispered, her mouth tightening, face raw from hours of stubbled kissing; neither of them had been able to wait for him to shave. “Even so.”

At least he’d got to see Roger. Hold his little boy—and have said little boy spit up milk all down the back of his shirt. Jerry’d yelped in surprise, but hadn’t let her take Roger back; he’d held his son and petted him until the wee mannie fell asleep, only then laying him down in his basket and stripping off the stained shirt before coming to her.

It was cold in the room, and she hugged herself. She was wearing nothing but Jerry’s string vest—he thought she looked erotic in it–”lewd,” he said, approving, his Highland accent making the word sound really dirty–and the thought made her smile. The thin cotton clung to her breasts, true enough, and her nipples poked out something scandalous, if only from the chill.

She wanted to go crawl in next to him, longing for his warmth, longing to keep touching him for as long as they had. He’d need to go at eight, to catch the train back; it would barely be light then. Some puritanical impulse of denial kept her hovering there, though, cold and wakeful in the dark. She felt as though if she denied herself, offered that denial as sacrifice, it would strengthen the magic, help to keep him safe and bring him back. God knew what a minister would say to that bit of superstition, and her tingling mouth twisted in self-mockery. And doubt.

Still, she sat in the dark, waiting for the cold blue light of the dawn that would take him.

Baby Roger put an end to her dithering, though; babies did. He rustled in his basket, making the little waking-up grunts that presaged an outraged roar at the discovery of a wet nappy and an empty stomach, and she hurried across the tiny room to his basket, breasts swinging heavy, already letting down her milk. She wanted to keep him from waking Jerry, but stubbed her toe on the spindly chair, and sent it over with a bang.

There was an explosion of bedclothes as Jerry sprang up with a loud “FNCK!” that drowned her own muffled “damn!” and Roger topped them both with a shriek like an air-raid siren. Like clockwork, old Mrs. Munns in the next flat thumped indignantly on the thin wall.

Jerry’s naked shape crossed the room in a bound. He pounded furiously on the partition with his fist, making the wallboard quiver and boom like a drum. He paused, fist still raised, waiting. Roger had stopped screeching, impressed by the racket.

Dead silence from the other side of the wall, and Marjorie pressed her mouth against Roger’s round little head to muffle her giggling. He smelled of baby-scent and fresh pee, and she cuddled him like a large hot-water bottle, his immediate warmth and need making her notions of watching over her men in the lonely cold seem silly.

Jerry gave a satisfied grunt and came across to her.

“Ha,” he said, and kissed her.

“What d’ye think you are?” she whispered, leaning into him. “A gorilla?”

“Yeah,” he whispered back, taking her hand and pressing it against him. “Want to see my banana?”