• “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

PHOENIX NOIR

If you’re still in the market for stocking-stuffers, and have people on your list who prefer mystery to dragons… <g>. PHOENIX NOIR is a brand-new paperback anthology of short crime stories set in—as one might suppose—Phoenix. I wrote one of the stories, titled “Dirty Scottsdale;” this one is a solo effort by me.

“Dirty Scottsdale” is also the debut in print of Tom Kolodzi, who’s the protagonist of the contemporary crime novel I’ve been working on for some time (in and amongst other things), which I hope to finish sometime next year (along with THE SCOTTISH PRISONER and the second volume of THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION). As you can tell, Tom’s got a voice of his own.

Excerpt from “Dirty Scottsdale” in PHOENIX NOIR (edited by Patrick Millikin):

phoenixnoir-coverIt was high noon, and 110. The cops were in shirt-sleeves, the home-owner was wearing plaid bermuda shorts and a wtf? expression. The body floating face-down in the swimming-pool was wearing a navy blue wool suit, which was odder than the veil of blood hanging like shark-bait in the water.

The girl by the pool was more appropriately dressed—if you could use that word to describe the triangles of turquoise fabric that covered her nominally private parts.

“The poor dope,” I said, shaking my head. “He always wanted a pool. Well, in the end he got himself a pool—only the price turned out to be a little high.”

The girl looked at me. She had a hot-pink towel clutched dramatically to her mouth, eyes wide above it. Turquoise eye-shadow, to match her suit, and a lot of waterproof mascara.

“Tom Kolodzi,” I said, with a jerk of the head toward the uniformed cops. “I’m with the police.” You notice I didn’t say I was the police. “You know the guy in the pool?”

Her eyes got wider, and she shook her head. I took out my notebook and flipped it open, turning to shield it from the cops.

“Your name?”

She blinked, and lowered the towel. Her mouth was blurred with red, and she looked like a little kid who’d been eating a popsicle, breast implants notwithstanding.

“Chloe Eastwood.”

“Any relation to Clint?” I smiled, friendly.

“Who?”

I should have flipped a coin and said “Call it, friendo.” Instead, I asked, “Do you live here?”

She nodded like a bobble-head doll, her eyes going back to the body. “I just… I just came out to tan, and… there he was.”

“You called it in?”

She shook her head, blonde ponytail swishing over baby-oiled shoulders.

“I screamed and Cooney came running out, and the yard-guys and everybody.” She waved vaguely toward the house, where three nervous-looking Mexicans were clustered. A Mexican woman, too, with a blond boy of five or six clutching her leg. “I guess Cooney called.”

Her eyes went to the homeowner: Mr. Bermuda Shorts, shoulders hunched in aggression. One of the uniforms caught sight of me and opened his mouth to order me out. The two uniforms exchanged a quick look, though, then looked right through me before turning deliberately toward the pool.

I relaxed a little. I’d been doing a ride-along—you always want to get acquainted with the cops in a new place—when the 410 call came through. They’d told me to stay in the car, of course, but didn’t lock me in. It could get up to 140 in a parked car, and they didn’t want to explain a dead reporter in the back seat. They didn’t want to explain a live reporter in their crime scene, either; if I kept my mouth shut, they’d pretend they had no idea how I got there, and leave it to Homicide to throw me out.


Now, the Poisoned Pen definitely does have signed copies of PHOENIX NOIR in stock; I know, because I signed a bunch of them a week ago.

Ordering Signed PHOENIX NOIR From the Pen

To order a printed copy of this book signed by me from the Poisoned Pen bookstore, go to:

http://store.poisonedpen.com

and enter "Phoenix Noir" in the Search box.

You may also order it in the usual way from your local independent bookstore or through the usual online sources.


Ordering information and formatting on this blog post was updated on January 2, 2017 at 4:00 a.m. (PT) by Diana’s Webmistress.

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The Dragon Book


I’m always a trifle taken aback to see myself described as one of “the masters of modern fantasy”—but I can’t say that I really object to finding myself in the company of people like Gregory Maguire and Naomi Novik.

For those looking for something small and different, either as a Christmas gift or as a distraction from looking for Christmas gifts, let me call your attention to THE DRAGON BOOK, recently released. It is, as you probably suspect, an anthology of stories featuring dragons, in one way or another.

I do have to say that I feel somewhat more of an imposter here than I usually do when contributing to a fantasy anthology, insofar as the story with my name on it, “Humane Killer”, was written largely by my co-author, Sam Sykes. It is, though, a Really Good—if Really Weird—story (www.thebooksmugglers.com says, “…some of the weirdest characters that I have ever seen… I quite liked [it], for its surreal feel.”

Let me just note for the record that this story has no ties to Jamie, Claire, Lord John Grey, or anybody else you’re used to finding in my pages [g]—but I think you won’t regret meeting Lenny, the pot-smoking zombie, let alone Sister Madeline:

” Nitz followed the priest’s gaze to his companion. Father Scheitzen’s shadow did not yet extend so far as to engulf Madeline. Nitz doubted there was a man yet who had grown tall enough to do that. She did not cast a shadow, but rose as one, towering and swaddled in the ominous blackness of her nun’s habit, her head so high as to scrape against the torch ensconced in the pillar she stood alongside.

“Maddy,” Nitz caught himself, “Sister Madeline…is not without mercy, no, Father.” He flashed a smile, painfully aware of the stark whiteness of his teeth in the church’s gloom. “After all, she owes her life to the mercy of others. Who but the church would have a…creature such as her?”

Nitz took private pleasure in the shudder Father Scheitzen gave as Madeline stepped forward.

The torchlight was decidedly unsympathetic. All her face was bared, from the manly square curve of her jaw, to the jagged scar running down her cheek, to the milky discolored eye set in the right half of her skull and the grim darkness in her left. The jagged yellow of her smile-bared teeth was nothing more than a sigh, a comma at the end of the cruel joke that was a woman’s visage.

“Ah, a Scarred Sister. I suspect you may have inadvertently stumbled upon a solution to a problem that has long plagued the Order,” Father Scheitzen murmured, bringing his lips close to Nitz. “There are rumors, complaints of lesser men accompanied by lesser women thinking themselves and each other worthy servants of God. Their mutual weakness feeds off of each other, men raise illegitimate children by tainted nuns.” He spared a glancing grimace for the woman behind them. “I trust you and your companion have no such temptations.”

Nitz hesitated a moment to answer, allowing the image of temptation to fill his mind. He had seen what lay beneath the layers of black cloth: the rolling musculature, the scarred, pale flesh, the biceps that could break ribs with an embrace. The thought of succumbing to “temptation” had not, until this moment, crossed his mind; the foreplay alone would shatter his pelvis.”

For further entertainment, check out www.samsykes.blogspot.com.

Chicken and Mushrooms in Orange Sauce

This recipe is in THE OUTLANDISH COMPANION, but I’m in Santa Fe right now and don’t have a copy with me, so this is out of my head. It may read a little differently from the printed version, but it should taste the same. [g]

Chicken breasts (allow one per person) – diced

Garlic, minced

Onion, minced

Mushrooms, sliced or chopped – 2/3 good sized mushrooms per chicken breast.
(Any kind—I like a mixture of the regular ceps (default grocery-store mushrooms), porcini (these usually come dried and need to be soaked in water for half an hour before using—see below), and oyster mushrooms. You might not want to use portobello mushrooms, because while the texture is great and the flavor excellent with sauces, the gills will stain this sauce and make it look muddy. You can, though, if you really like them. Or if you or your spouse only like the ceps mushrooms, it’s fine to use only those.)

Chicken broth/soup base/broth cubes
(I like Penzey’s Chicken Soup Base, myself; it’s a sort of strongly chicken-flavored paste, and easy to use. Fresh or canned broth or the little cube things will work fine, though.)

Orange juice, any kind (you need anywhere from 1-3 cups of it probably, so any size carton or bottle will supply enough)

Butter/Olive oil

Flour (3-6 Tablespoons, depending on quantity)

I like garlic and onion, so I use roughly two cloves garlic per chicken breast, and an equivalent amount (by volume) of onion. If you’re not that fond of alliums [g], cut that in half. However much you use, mince it, and saute it in a heavy pan—I like to use a large saute’ pan, but a sauce pan is fine, too; just not as easy to stir the chicken—with butter, olive oil, or a combination of the two (you want enough butter/oil to just cover the bottom of the pan to a depth of about 1/8″). Once the onions and garlic have begun to go translucent, add the chopped/sliced mushrooms*, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are also sauteed.

Add the diced chicken and brown, stirring occasionally. When chicken appears to be cooked through (it isn’t actually brown [g]; that’s just what you call it when you cook raw meat in a pan until it isn’t raw anymore), sprinkle thickly with flour and stir, coating everything in the pan. Make sure all the flour gets in contact with butter/oil, no white lumps left. You want all your chicken pretty thickly coated with flour.

All right. Now you stir in orange juice a little at a time (alternating with porcini mushroom water, if you like) until you have a fairly runny sauce. Add chicken broth, in whatever form you like. I generally cook three chicken breasts at a time, and add about three teaspoons of the Penzey’s Chicken Soup Base. (When I use bouillon cubes instead, I normally add only two, as these are pretty salty.) If you use liquid chicken broth, add it sparingly; you want more of the liquid to be orange juice.

Lower heat to simmer and if possible, cover pan (it’s OK to cook uncovered, but you have to add liquid more often). Now cook your noodles (or rice, or whatever farinaceous substance you plan to serve this over), keeping an eye on the chicken/sauce. Add a little more orange juice every now and then, as the sauce thickens, and be sure to stir every few minutes, so it won’t burn on the bottom (this shouldn’t be a problem if you’re just simmering it, but just in case).

You should get a feel fairly quickly for how long it takes the sauce to thicken; time your last additions of orange juice/broth/water so that the sauce will be a good consistency by the time the noodles are done. I don’t add salt myself, finding that there’s usually plenty supplied by the broth/soup base, nor pepper (because it makes me cough), but if you feel it needs salt or pepper, certainly go ahead and add them to taste.

Drain noodles, ladle the chicken and sauce onto them, and top with shredded romano cheese (freshly-shredded parmigiano reggiano is my favorite with this, but it’s not nearly as convenient as the little tubs of shredded cheese you buy at the supermarket).

* Note on porcini mushrooms. As I said, these usually come dried in a packet, and are reconstituted by soaking them in water. You want to rinse them first, before soaking, as they shed a lot of dust and twiggy bits. Then you can save the water you soaked them in and use it in addition to the orange juice and chicken broth, to add flavor to the sauce.

Return to Domesticity



People now and then ask me what I do to celebrate finishing a book. Do I have a special spa ritual, a nice restaurant I go to, do I buy champagne? In fact, I buy towels.

It takes me about three years to write one of the big books of the main OUTLANDER series, and that’s just about how long it takes for most of the towels around here to be worn out, destroyed in the wash, or taken away by Persons Unnamed to be used to wrap greasy engine parts in. So when a new book is finished, I ceremonially buy new towels for the household.

Back in the day when we had three kids (well, usually more like six, as our kids would bring home friends who liked living at our house more than theirs) and four dogs in the house, and the Person Unnamed would use good towels to wipe up Substances That Any Normal Person Would Use a Paper Towel For (if not a trowel and a blowtorch), I used to buy a special nice fluffy towel, (always red) which I would keep in my closet, hanging concealed inside my bathrobe, just so I could be sure of having something reasonably sanitary and findable, with which to take a shower.

Anyway, when I finished AN ECHO IN THE BONE, the household was down to three rather ratty towels. But I’d finished the book a mere five weeks prior to the publication date (you could hear the poor Production people screaming, all the way from New York, without a phone), and thus the next three weeks were a blinding flurry of last-minute copy-edits, galley proofs, corrections, etc. (which is why I have a brief “Errata” listing for that book, which will be along on the website soon. [cough] All books have errata, alas. And you’re right, Ian couldn’t have made it from Ticonderoga to the Dismal Swamp in the time apparent—but he could if “June 12″ had been properly corrected to “June 1″. We did instigate all the corrections in time for the trade paperback, which will be out this summer, they tell me.)

Once that was done, I had to race around like a mad thing, doing what I could of all the urgent stuff that I hadn’t been doing for the last three months while finishing the book, and doing all the urgent stuff one has to do before leaving on a two-month, four country, two-continent tour (I didn’t even try to count the cities. There were a lot of them, that’s all I can tell you).

So I never managed to buy towels.

Well, then, I arrived back from Australia right into the teeth of Thanksgiving (see post on the delights of turkey sandwiches….ahhhh. We ate all the turkey in three days, but there’s still plenty of white wine left; luckily, it goes really well with Chicken and Mushrooms in Orange Sauce on Noodles). So it was that I only this week got around to finally buying The New Towels.

And these are the towels I bought (I can’t think why anyone would care, but people always ask, so just in case you do care [g]). In Graphite and Cajun Blue. They are in fact delightfully soft, very absorbent, and so far have not been used to swab down muddy dogs nor conscripted into a game of tug-o-war. So, the book is finished, the touring is Done (until mid-January, at least), I’m back in the heart of my household, and the cycle of creation is complete. [g]

[I've not yet figured out how to do captions with photos. The picture at the top there is Homer, hunting lizards in the backyard, while the bottom one is of Homer and his brother JJ playing Tug-o-War with their friend Ranger. (My husband just came in, glanced at the picture and remarked, "You know, _you_ can double-dog dare somebody, and back it up!") Photos courtesy of Ranger's mistress, Susan Butler. Thanks, Susan!]

Thanksgiving

Turkey is good. Turkey sandwiches are better. Eaten without the distraction of pumpkin pie, mashed rutabagas (not my idea of a good time, but tastes vary), yam fries with maple aioli, and the other fripperies of a Thanksgiving table, turkey achieves its highest calling between two slices of bread.

I like two kinds of turkey sandwiches. The night-of-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, eaten late and alone, in the peaceful muzziness that follows a successful party, is moist white meat on 12-grain bread, with Dijon mustard, mayonnaise, and leafy lettuce. With a nice glass of a full-bodied chardonnay to go with. Ahhhhh.

Day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich is a little fancier. Eaten for lunch (with Diet Coke if working in the afternoon, otherwise, more wine [g]), again on 12-grain bread, but mixed white and dark meat, thickly daubed with gorgonzola cheese, heavily studded with walnuts, and layered with a sliced ripe pear. You put mayonnaise on the bread, but mostly to keep it all stuck together. Oooooh.

But of course turkey (etc.) is not the primary reason to celebrate Thanksgiving. (No, really. Add in a nice bottle of Veuve Clicquot champagne, and I’m not saying, but….no, really.) So let us concentrate on the essentials.

I’m thankful for whatever it is that makes me write books.

I’m very thankful for those of you who read the books, because I might tell stories to amuse myself, but it’s having those stories read that closes the cosmic circle of creation.

I’m especially thankful to have met so many of you (in the US, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia) over the last two months. I’ve never met so many nice people in such a short period of time. But…

I’m most thankful of all to be home with my family!

Hope you all had a lovely day, and much to be thankful for, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not.

THANK YOU!

Dear Readers–

Well, AN ECHO IN THE BONE debuts on the New York Times list next week at #2! (My publisher sent me a large bottle of single-malt Scotch in congratulation–and, I suspect, in apology for having released Dan Brown’s book a week before ECHO [g].)

HUGE thanks to all of you, and I’m thrilled that y’all seem to be enjoying the book!

A word about the ending…I did say, did I not, “Nobody’s going to hit the end of _this_ book, and think it’s the last one?” [g] Indeed it is not. There will certainly be a Book Eight–and no, I have no idea when that one will be out. At the moment, I’m home on a (very brief) furlough from book-touring; back on the road Monday, and won’t be home for good until Thanksgiving, which is the soonest I could reasonably resume anything like a productive writing routine–as well as a prequel volume about Jamie’s parents, a Volume II of the OUTLANDISH COMPANION, and heaven knows what-all else. But the story is definitely not over!

ECHO is out–and the party’s at the BILTMORE!

Very exciting!

I’ll be back later with observations on Game Day [g], but wanted to let y’all know right away that the launch party for the book is tonight _at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel_, not at the Poisoned Pen bookstore. (The Pen is organizing the event and selling books, but they can’t possibly cram hundreds of people into the bookstore.)

Rosana, my webmistress, sent out an email this morning to the website subscribers, welcoming them to the party, but mistakenly ended it with “…at the Poisoned Pen.” I’m sure she’ll be sending out a quick PS shortly [g], but wanted to put in an early word here, since I don’t know when she’ll get my email about it.

Hope to see many of you in person, tonight and on the road–and I hope ALL of you will enjoy the new book! Thanks for buying it. [smile]

Quick Dog Update


For those who’ve asked after Homer and JJ, I’m pleased to report that all is well.

JJ (the idiot) ate about a quarter-pound of kapok pillow stuffing a month ago. Kapok is not the benign fluff they fill dog-toys with. Four thousand dollars and a foot of small intestine later, though, the hound is fine, and the house once more resounds to the thunder of racing dachshunds and the crash of what my son describes as “puppy-Sumo.”

(That’s JJ standing on my lap, and Homer wallowing on the floor, in our living room in Santa Fe.)

Facebook

OK, I have _no_ idea what I’m doing here, none. As part of the promotion for ECHO, though, Borders asked me if I’d come talk to people during a two-hour online chat thingie on their Facebook page next Tuesday. “Sure,” I said–despite the fact that I’ve never been on Facebook in my life, have no idea how to get there, nor yet what to do when I _am_ there. But following initial advice from Youngest Daughter (who certainly _does_ know all about Facebook, and a good thing, too…), I created a “Celebrity” page, as well as making an individual account (which the Random House publicist said I’d need in order to do the chat on Tuesday).

So I did, and pretty darn confusing it is, though I imagine things will become clearer as I muddle around in it. I did somehow manage to link the page to this blog–thought I’d mention it in case any of y’all wondered what the heck that “Fan box” is doing there.

I’ll try to put some actual content on said page, as soon as I figure out how to do that…so if there’s anything you’d like to see there, let me know!

THE EXILE – graphic novel is DONE!



Great news! The artwork for the graphic novel is done (bar little tweaks here and there) and it looks terrific! We don’t have a specific pub date for this yet—sometime in 2010—but we do at least have a title. This is called THE EXILE (An OUTLANDER graphic novel).

I took some of the artwork with me to DragonCon last weekend (I did the Decatur Book Festival and DragonCon more or less simultaneously, which made for an interesting time all round), and was very pleased that everyone who saw it raved about it.

In celebration, here are two more sample pages, to show off Hoang’s mastery of color and light (and anatomy). One small note: Please don’t nab these pictures and go posting them all over the net. I don’t own the copyright; that belongs to the artist, Hoang Nguyen, and these are posted here by his kind permission and that of the Ballantine editor. If you’d like to share these with your friends—and I’m all for it [g]—please just send them a link to this page.