• “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

SCOTLAND – Where to Go and What to See!

I get a _lot_ of mail and messages from people saying that they’re planning a trip to Scotland—where should they go, and what should they see?

Well…there’s a _lot_ of Scotland to see, but what you see and with whom might vary a lot. I thought I’d do various posts this month (and probably some of next) about different ways to visit Scotland, and Things You Might Like to See.

The first choice is perhaps: go solo, or with a tour? Scotland is an extremely tourist-friendly country, and it’s not at all difficult to get around and see an enormous amount by yourself. On the other hand, going places with a guide or a group can offer you a lot, too: less risk of getting lost , good company, decent meals, comfortable and efficient travel, and a fair amount of fascinating information about what you’re looking at.

Now, I don’t run tours myself—when would I find the time?—and I have No Financial Connection whatever with any tour group or guide. That said, I do _know_ several very good and reputable tour guides and operators, and I’m more than happy to give them a little exposure here, for your and their mutual benefit. [g]

Several of these guides are listed on my website (they’re under the tab labeled “Resources”).

http://www.dianagabaldon.com/resources/outlander-based-tours-of-scotland/

Some of these operators have recently updated their material, and I have a couple of new ones to add. I thought I’d introduce them to you, and as we go on, add information on specific places (such as Castle Leod) that you might like to go either with a tour/guide or if traveling alone.

Let’s start with Lord Jamie Sempill, who is now working in conjunction with Alistair Cunningham’s ClansandCastles group (this is on the webpage), but is offering his own specialized tour dealing with the life, times, and places of Mary, Queen of Scots. See below for Jamie’s account of his first tour, and his contact details!

[That's Falkland Palace above, btw—one of the stops on the Mary, Queen of Scots tour.]

The Inaugural Mary Queen of Scots tour.
by Lord Sempill

The inaugural tour was a great success, with the notable exception of the weather, which decided in memory of Mary to replicate her arrival in Leith some 450 years ago. Grey, misty and wet.

In fact, so bad were the conditions that we arrived at Edinburgh Castle to find it closed on account of the conditions. Fortunately, the Museum of Scotland is close by, and provides a wonderful insight into her reign plus allowing sufficient time for the Castle to re-open. Bad weather, however, is good for team spirit, and adds to the sense of adventure. So by the time we toured Holyrood Palace and had been told the tale of Rizzio’s bloody murder, the dark rain filled sky had provided the perfect backdrop.

The following day saw us in the Borders, where the dreak [DG - that’s how it’s pronounced; you usually see it spelled “dreich”.] weather had decided to park itself for the day. The Mary Queen of Scots House in Jedburgh is a real gem. It is dedicated to her memory and has been open to the public since 1930. One of the rooms has painted panels of all the key players in her reign, which helps in putting faces to the names which crop up throughout the tour. It is also a great example of a 16th century tower house, which stands as a good contrast to the castles and palaces where she lived.

It is incredible to think that during her very short reign she travelled over 1200 miles and stayed in 80 different properties. One of which, Traquair House, was our lunch time destination. This house is still lived in by the Maxwell-Stuarts, whose ancestor was the Captain of Queen Mary’s Royal Guard. The group, by now enjoying a rapidly clearing sky, was met by Catherine, the current Mistress of Traquair. It is Scotland’s oldest inhabited house and boasts its own brewery and chapel.

Craigmillar Castle sits on the outskirts of Edinburgh in a district known as Petit France, on account of the number of French who lived in the area at the time of her reign. It was here that a group of her advisors decided that Darnley, by now a major political embarrassment, had to be removed. The Craigmillar bond is said to have been agreed to by Mary, but the document has never been found. The castle is a well maintained ruin and has a great view of both the city and the coastline. It is also very close to the Sheep’s Heid , Scotland’s oldest inn, and the perfect place to end the second day.

The final day started with a 10 minute boat trip on one of the country’s largest bird sanctuaries. We were blessed with clear blue skies and no wind. Loch Leven is probably more closely associated with Mary, than all the other properties bar Holyrood. She was held captive here for nearly a year during which time she had a miscarriage and was forced to abdicate her throne.

Falkland Palace is by contrast a far more inviting location. We had the great advantage of being guided by Lindsey Fowell, a member of the Marie Stuart Society. She was dressed as Mary and plays the role to perfection. The chapel is very special, and is still open to the local community. The palace also has the advantage of being well looked after and is still lived in by the Crichton-Stuart family, the hereditary Keepers of Falkland Palace.

The group’s last visit was to Stirling Castle, which recently won the award for the most popular tourist destination in Scotland. The restoration of the castle by Historic Scotland has been a major achievement and is very much the icing on the cake as far as the tour is concerned. The great advantage is that the restoration takes us back to what it would have looked like during her reign. This helps to show the power of the Stuarts and the impact of the renaissance on Scotland, all of which is greatly enhanced by the performance of the guides dressed in contemporary costume. They are a real tour de force.

Over dinner that evening, which I hosted in my home, it was quite apparent that the tour had been a great success. Importantly, it had been entertaining whilst informative. One of the group, Pauline, who lives on the isle of Skye, had really enjoyed seeing a part of Scotland that she had only ever driven through. I believe that key to the success of the tour had been how well the group had enjoyed each other’s company.

It was the first time I had run the tour, and I really enjoyed it. The fact that my family had had been party to many of the events that occurred during her reign, enabled me to provide a personal view, albeit with a small touch of poetic licence!

So if you are interested in knowing more about sixteenth century Scotland and the reign of Mary Queen of Scots, call at www.clansandcastles.com/mqs, where you will find all the appropriate information about the tour.

Jamie Sempill

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THE STATE of the WICKET – HAPPY NEW YEAR, 2013!

The State of the Wicket* – as of New Year’s Day, 2013

This is a quick run-down of everything I know about that y’all might possibly want to know about. [g]

1. The cable-TV series of OUTLANDER.

a) It _is_ an agreement for a cable-TV series.

i. It is NOT a mini-series.

ii. It is NOT a movie.

iii. It is not regular network TV.

iv. Yes, if it gets made, unless you already subscribe to STARZ, you will have to pay to watch it, sorry.

b) The cable-TV series is being developed by STARZ.

i. It’s being _developed_.

ii. It’s not (yet) being _produced_.

iii. There is no casting call at present.

a. If there was one, I’d have nothing to do with it.

b. Please stop sending me pictures of your male relatives that you think look like Jamie.

c. Please stop sending me photos of yourself, even if you’re _sure_ you look just like Claire.

d. _Really_ stop sending me photos of that grotesque Irish wrestler with the clown hair.

e. Yes, Kevin McKidd, Gerard (not Gerald) Butler, Kate Winslet and Alex Kingston are all wonderful actors.

f. All these people are about twenty-five years TOO OLD to play any of the main characters in OUTLANDER.

g. Jamie is 22. Claire is 27.

h. Makeup and special effects do have limits.

c) No, I don’t know when the series will air.

i. The pilot script is still being written.

ii. The pilot script is not yet approved.

iii. If it is approved, STARZ might or might not agree to confirm the whole series or they might shoot the pilot first; we don’t know.

iv. When I _do_ know, I’ll tell you.

d) Ron D. Moore is the developer, writer, and show-runner for the OUTLANDER cable-TV series.

i. Yes, I like him.

ii. He came out to my house and spent a whole weekend with me, talking over the books, characters, etc.

iii. I believe him when he says he cares about doing a faithful (but effective) adaptation.

iv. I liked his ideas and suggestions.

v. Yes, I’ve seen the outline for the (projected) first season.

vi. Yes, I think it’s good.

vii. No, I haven’t seen the pilot script. But

e) IF the series does get produced, I can pretty much guarantee that it will have a lot of sex in it.

i. If you are one of the readers who reads the books with a black marker in hand in order to cross out naughty words and scenes of intimacy, you might want to make plans to watch something else.

2. MOBY. Aka WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD. Aka Book 8 of the Main (Big Book) Series. Aka Yes, it’s about Jamie and Claire. (My Own Heart’s Blood = MOHB = MOH-B = MOBY. Geddit?) Also, it’s probably going to be fairly large. (Precedent, you know?)

a) No, it isn’t on bookshelves today, even though it –is- now 2013.

b) No, it won’t be on sale this month, either.

c) BECAUSE I’M STILL WRITING IT, THAT’S WHY.

d) Yes, it _will_ (God willing and the creek don’t rise) be published this year.

e) In the Fall, OK?

f) I live in the Northern Hemisphere. I mean MY Fall. All y’all Australians and Kiwis are smart people; I have complete confidence that you can make the mental adjustment.

f) No, I don’t have a pub date.

g) The publisher sets the pub date.

h) The publisher certainly wouldn’t set a pub date without some reasonable expectation of having a manuscript in hand by said date.

i) They don’t have a manuscript in hand yet.

j) BECAUSE I’M STILL WRITING IT, THAT’S WHY.

m) No, I can’t tell you that I will be finished writing it on X date.

n) Because it doesn’t work like that.

o) And for heaven’s sake, what possible difference could it make? (Talk about OCD…)

3. Other Stuff.

a) Novellas. There are several novellas, dealing with secondary characters from the main series. Most of these were originally written for various anthologies, but as I get the reprint rights back, are now being made available as print collections and/or standalone ebooks.

b) Which form you, personally, can get hold of easily depends where you live. Printing rights are sold and managed on a geographical basis: i.e., print rights are sold _separately_ in the US and in other English-speaking countries. In practice, it usually works out that the US and Canada have the same rights and timing, while the UK/Australia/NewZealand group of countries may have something different.

c) Now, I do urgently need to go back to writing MOBY, so I’m not writing up all the ghastly details of where/when/what about the novellas AGAIN. I’ve done it on Facebook and on my website, _and_ as a special “extra” for the UK edition of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER. You can find the complete (mind-numbing) explanation on www.DianaGabaldon.com later this week. However—

d) IF you live in the US, you can get “The Custom of the Army” as a standalone (i.e., cheap ) ebook for $1.99,

http://tinyurl.com/CustomArmy

and likewise “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows,” which is the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents in WWII.

http://tinyurl.com/LeafHallows

e) IF you live in the UK/Australia/NewZealand end of things (OR you want to go to the expense of getting an imported book), you can get A TRAIL OF FIRE, which is a print volume containing both the novellas noted above, plus two others: “Plague of Zombies,” and “The Space Between” (which deals with Michael Murray, Joan MacKimmie, the Comte St. Germain, and Mother Hildegarde, among others).

f) “The Space Between” _will be_ released in the US/Canada market IN AN ANTHOLOGY (that means you should look up the title OF THE ANTHOLOGY on Amazon.com/ca, not the title of the story) in February of This Year. Right soon now. The ANTHOLOGY is called THE MAD SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION. (I’ll be doing an appearance to sign this—and anything else anybody wants signed—on Feb. 20th, at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, along with John Joseph Adams, the editor of the anthology.)

g) For information on getting autographed copies of any of my books, see

http://bit.ly/DianaGabaldonAutographed

THANKS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

HAPPY FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT!

HAPPY FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT!

Our wait is nearly over, and through the shadows and difficulties that beset our lives, we see the glow of everlasting light.

Excerpt from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD
Copyright 2012 Diana Gabaldon [Please don’t repost or reproduce this, but certainly you may link to it if you’d like to!]

Jamie was sitting as I’d left him, alone by our tiny fire, now burnt down to a bed of red ember furred with ash. And yet…not quite as I’d left him. I stopped abruptly, a little way outside the glow of the embers, fascinated by the look on his face.

He was entirely still, still as a waiting hunter, still as the stump he sat on. And yet his face was alive, his eyes looking into the fading coals but somehow beyond them, not abstracted at all. He was seeing something, and I felt the hairs lift on my arms, so slowly that I felt each one rise. And yet, the sense of him was one of absolute peace. The hurry I’d felt a moment before had vanished as I watched him. He might have been alone in some vast wilderness—alone, save for whoever he was talking to in the silence that surrounded him.

I didn’t move. I couldn’t take my eyes from his face. I too stood apart from the chaos of the camp for a moment, and heard silence. Silence filled with presence, a sense of quiet joy.

Then Jamie drew breath and closed his eyes, shoulders relaxing. The sounds of the night and the racket of the camp came back. I drew breath, too, and he heard me, for his head came up, his eyes opened, and he smiled at me and reached out his hand.

“_Mo nighean donn_,” he said softly, and kissed the hand I put in his, his breath cool on my skin.

“What were you doing just now?” I asked, as softly, and laid my free hand to his cheek, stroking back the ruddy hair behind his ear. “Praying?”

His mouth twitched, but he looked away, self-conscious.

“Och, no. I was just talkin’ to Ian.”

I blinked, glancing automatically over my shoulder, searching for Ian’s tall, rangy figure among the fires and smoke, even as I realized that wasn’t who he meant.

“No, the elder Ian,” Jamie said, smiling as he caught my look. “My friend, aye?”

“Do you do that often?” I asked curiously, sitting down beside him on a convenient rock. He turned toward me, and I saw the puff of white at his shoulder. “You have a split in the shoulder seam of your coat. Take it off, why don’t you, and I’ll fix it. You can’t be going into battle with your sleeve hanging off; General Washington wouldn’t like it.”

He gave a small snort at that, but obligingly stood up and wriggled out of the heavy coat, while I dug the hussif out of my pocket and found a needle threaded with something dark—it was impossible to distinguish black and indigo in the shadows.

“Aye, I suppose I talk to Ian often,” he said matter-of-factly, sitting down again. “Just the odd word now and then, when something minds me of him. But I dreamed of him last night, of when we were in France, so he was still wi’ me today.”

I looked sharply at him. I generally knew when he dreamed—always when he dreamed about war—but hadn’t noticed any disturbance of his sleep the night before. In fact, he’d slept like the dead until the wee hours, when he’d suddenly rolled over, gathered me into his arms, and fallen instantly back asleep, his face buried in my bosom.

“Aye, it was odd,” he said thoughtfully, as though knowing what I was thinking. “The closer we come to—“ He waved a hand, encompassing the army around us, “—the more terrible the dreams get. Things comin’ back, aye? And yet last night…I was sittin’ by a fire with Ian, in France, and the rest of the band around us, and we were sharpening our dirks, sharing an oilstone. I kent we were readying ourselves for a fight, but I wasna at all concerned about it, nor was Ian. I was only glad to have him there, by my side,” he added softly.

I’d seen him once, standing in nothing but his shirt at a spring on Fraser’s Ridge, call on Dougal MacKenzie for help, and seeing him now in his shirt, pale against the dark, reminded me. That encounter had held something of the strange stillness of what I’d just seen, but wasn’t the same.

“Did you—ask Ian to…er…come with you?” I asked, cautious, but curious. “Just now, I mean. Into battle?”

He blinked at that, surprised.

“No,” he said, and smiled, half-embarrassed. “It’s—och, it sounds foolish to say.”

“You don’t think I’d laugh, do you?” I asked, smiling too. I stabbed the needle into the fabric of the coat, and took his hand. It was hard, but smooth-palmed, and his fingers curled slowly round my own.

“It’s only—sometimes I find myself at peace, ken. No for any reason; just there it is, the gift of a moment when bein’ alive is all there is, and all I could want. Does that happen to you, Sassenach?” His head turned toward me, features now fading into darkness, but I caught the brief shine of his eyes, heard his beard-stubble rasp softly against his stock.

“Yes,” I said, after a moment. “Yes, it does. Sometimes in the most peculiar circumstances. But not often…and out of the blue.” Like this one.
“Out of the blue,” he repeated, liking the phrase. “Aye, that’s how it is. Ye canna make it happen; all ye can do is live it—and if ye’re lucky, remember it now and then.”

He paused and cleared his throat.

“Sometimes…well, it strikes me sometimes, the dead must be happy and at peace as spirits in heaven, but still—maybe they miss bein’ an animal. What it is to touch, and taste, and breathe and all. And so…I was just sitting here, feeling full of good food, wi’ the taste of decent beer on my tongue, thinkin’ how sweet it was to sit down and rest, and how the night air felt soft on my face and…aye, well. Sometimes there’s a good moment and I…well, I ask one o’ my dead in, ye might say. To share it with me.”

He squeezed my hand gently, let it go, and put his arm around me, drawing me in so that my head lay against his chest. I could hear the slow thump of his heart and the gentle gurgling of his stomach, smell sharp mustard and beer on his breath, smell his sweat and the sun of the day in his skin.

“I dinna always feel them nearby—but tonight I kent Ian was with me.”

I hoped he didn’t feel the seep of my tears through the damp cloth of his shirt, but he did, for he drew back a little and with a small “_Tck_” sound, cupped my face in his hands, wiped the tears away with this thumbs, then bent and kissed me, soft and slow.

“Ye live in all my moments, Sassenach,” he whispered. “And the taste of you is aye on my tongue.”

[end section]

[And many, many thanks to Barbara Schnell, my Most Excellent German translator and mistress of the German Diana Gabaldon website, for the wonderful notion of the Advent “candles.” _Danke_!]

[In which Otis Sees a Great Light]

The Third Advent Candle

GAUDETE – The Third Sunday of Advent

The third Sunday of Advent is called “Gaudete Sunday,” from the Latin word meaning “rejoice”:

Gaudete in Domino semper: iterum dico, gaudete. Modestia vestra nota sit omnibus hominibus: Dominus enim prope est. Nihil solliciti sitis: sed in omni oratione petitiones vestræ innotescant apud Deum. Benedixisti Domine terram tuam: avertisti captivitatem Jacob.

This may be translated as

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God. Lord, you have blessed your land; you have turned away the captivity of Jacob.

— Philippians 4:4–6; Psalm 85 (84):1

A traditional Advent wreath has three purple candles and one pink one: on Gaudete Sunday, we light the pink one! We pause on our spiritual journey to lift up our eyes and see joy approaching—hence we rejoice (before settling back into penitence for the last haul toward Easter).

And the “candle” for today was chosen as an illustration of hope and the promise of joy, emerging from mourning. Hope you enjoy it!

Excerpt from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD
Copyright 2012 Diana Gabaldon
[Please don’t repost or reproduce this, but you’re more than welcome to link to it if you like.]

[A conversation in the woods between Ian Murray and his (more or less) betrothed, Rachel Hunter.]

He squared his shoulders and gave a great sigh, then met her eyes directly.

“D’ye want to hear about every woman whose bed I’ve shared? Because I’ll tell ye, if so. I’ve never taken a woman unwilling—though they were mostly whores. I’m no poxed, though,” he assured her. “Ye should ken that.”

She considered that for a moment.

“I think I need not know the details,” she said finally. “But should we ever meet a woman thee has bedded, I wish to know it. Thee does not mean to continue fornicating with prostitutes once we are wed, though, does thee?”

“No!”

“Good,” she said, but rocked back a little on the log, hands linked around her knees, holding his gaze. “I do wish to hear more about thy wife. Emily.”

He could feel the warmth of her leg, her body, close beside him. She hadn’t moved away from him when he’d said about sleeping with whores. The silence grew around them, and a jay called, somewhere in the wood beyond.

“We loved each other,” he said at last, softly, eyes on the ground. “And I wanted her. I—could talk to her. Then, at least.”

Rachel drew breath, but didn’t say anything. He took his courage in his hands and looked up. Her face was carefully expressionless, her eyes intent on his face.

“I dinna ken how to say it,” he said. “It wasna the same way I want you—but I dinna mean to make it sound as though…as though Emily didna matter to me. She did,” he added, very softly, and looked down again.

“And…she does?” Rachel asked quietly, after a long pause. After a longer one, he nodded, swallowing.

“But,” he said, and stopped, looking for the way to go on, because now they were coming to the most perilous part of his confession, the thing that might make Rachel stand up and walk away, dragging his heart behind her through the rocks and brush.

“But?” she said, and her voice was gentle.

“The Mohawk,” he began, and had to stop for a breath. “It’s the woman’s choice, about being married. If a woman should take against her husband for some reason—if he beats her, or he’s a lazy sot, or smells too bad when he farts…” he stole a glance, and saw the corner of her mouth twitch, which heartened him a little. “She puts his things out o’ the longhouse, and he has to go back to live wi’ the unmarried men—or find another woman who’ll have him at her fire. Or leave altogether.”

“And Emily put you out?” She sounded both startled and a little indignant. He gave her a wee smile in return.

“Aye, she did. Not because I beat her, though. Because…of the bairns.”

He felt the tears come to his eyes and clenched his hands in frustration on his knees. Damn, he’d sworn to himself that he wouldn’t weep. Either she’d think he made a show of his grief to win her sympathy…or she’d see too deep; he wasn’t ready…but he had to tell her, he’d started this on purpose to tell her, she had to know…

“I couldna give her children,” he blurted. “The first—we had a wee daughter, born too early, who died. I called her Iseabail.” He wiped the back of his hand viciously under his nose, swallowing his pain. “After that, she—Emily—she got wi’ child again. And again. And when she lost the third…her heart toward me died with it.”

Rachel made a small sound, but he didn’t look at her. Couldn’t. Just sat hunched on the log like a toadstool, shoulders drawn up around his ears and eyes blurred with the tears he couldn’t shed.

A small warm hand settled on his.

“And your heart?” she asked. “Yours died, too?”

He closed his hand on hers and nodded. And then just breathed for a bit, holding onto her hand, until he could speak again without his voice breaking.

“The Mohawk think that the man’s spirit fights wi’ the woman’s, when they…lie together. And she willna get with child, unless his spirit can conquer hers.”

“Oh, I see,” Rachel said softly. “So she blamed you.”

He shrugged.

“I canna say she was wrong.” He turned a little on the log, to look at her directly. “And I canna say that it would be different—with us. But I did ask Auntie Claire, and she told me about things in the blood…well, perhaps ye should ask her to explain it, I wouldna make a decent job of it. But the end of it was that she thought it might be different wi’ another woman. That I maybe could. Give ye bairns, I mean.”

He only realized that Rachel had been holding her breath when she let it out, a sigh that brushed his cheek.

“Do ye—“ he began, but she had risen a little, into him, and she kissed him softly on the mouth, then held his head against her breast and took the end of her kerchief and wiped his eyes and then her own.

“Oh, Ian,” she whispered. “I do love thee.”

A Second Advent Candle

Happy Second Sunday of Advent! This particular excerpt is one that some of you may recognize; it was published as an “extra” in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER. I wanted to use it here, though, because of the spiritual theme of reconciliation and forgiveness, which seemed very appropriate to the season. (Last Sunday, we had an excerpt dealing with mourning and contemplation. Next Sunday is Gaudete Sunday—“Rejoicing” Sunday [g]—and we’ll have an excerpt dealing with joyful anticipation.) A Blessed Christmas (or Chanukah/Winter Solstice/Kwanzaa, etc.) season to all of you, and I hope you enjoy this.

William had left the house like a thunderclap, and the place looked as though it had been struck by lightning. I certainly felt like the survivor of a massive electrical storm; hairs and nerve endings all standing up straight on end, waving in agitation.

Jenny Murray had entered the house on the heels of William’s departure, and while the sight of her was a lesser shock than any of the others so far, it still left me speechless. I goggled at my erstwhile sister-in-law—though come to think, she still was my sister-in-law…because Jamie was alive. _ Alive_.

He’d been in my arms not ten minutes before, and the memory of his touch flickered through me like lightning in a bottle. I was dimly aware that I was smiling like a loon, despite massive destruction, horrific scenes, William’s distress—if you could call an explosion like that “distress”—Jamie’s danger, and a faint wonder as to what either Jenny or Mrs. Figg, Lord John’s cook and housekeeper, might be about to say.

Mrs. Figg was smoothly spherical, gleamingly black, and inclined to glide silently up behind one like a menacing ball-bearing.

“What’s this?” she barked, manifesting herself suddenly behind Jenny.

“Holy Mother of God!” Jenny whirled, eyes round and hand pressed to her chest. “Who in God’s name are you?”

“This is Mrs. Figg,” I said, feeling a surreal urge to laugh, despite–or maybe because of–recent events. “Lord John Grey’s cook. And Mrs. Figg, this is Mrs. Murray. My, um…my…”

“Your good-sister,” Jenny said firmly. She raised one black eyebrow. “If ye’ll have me, still?” Her look was straight and open, and the urge to laugh changed abruptly into an equally strong urge to burst into tears. Of all the unlikely sources of succor I could have imagined… I took a deep breath and put out my hand.

“I’ll have you.” We hadn’t parted on good terms in Scotland, but I had loved her very much, once, and wasn’t about to pass up any opportunity to mend things.

Her small firm fingers wove through mine, squeezed hard, and as simply as that, it was done. No need for apologies or spoken forgiveness. She’d never had to wear the mask that Jamie did. What she thought and felt was there in her eyes, those slanted blue cat-eyes she shared with her brother. She knew the truth now, of what I was—and knew I loved—had always loved–her brother with all my heart and soul–despite the minor complications of my being presently married to someone else.

She heaved a sigh, eyes closing for an instant, then opened them and smiled at me, mouth trembling only a little.

“Well, fine and dandy,” said Mrs. Figg, shortly. She narrowed her eyes and rotated smoothly on her axis, taking in the panorama of destruction. The railing at the top of the stair had been ripped off, and cracked banisters, dented walls, and bloody smudges marked the path of William’s descent. Shattered crystals from the chandelier littered the floor, glinting festively in the light that poured through the open front door, the door itself cracked through and hanging drunkenly from one hinge.

“Merde on toast,” Mrs. Figg murmured. She turned abruptly to me, her small black-currant eyes still narrowed. “Where’s his lordship?”

“Ah,” I said. This was going to be rather sticky, I saw. While deeply disapproving of most people, Mrs. Figg was devoted to John. She wasn’t going to be at all pleased to hear that he’d been abducted by–

“For that matter, where’s my brother?” Jenny inquired, glancing round as though expecting Jamie to appear suddenly out from under the settee.

“Oh,” I said. “Hm. Well…” Possibly worse than sticky. Because…
“And where’s my Sweet William?” Mrs. Figg demanded, sniffing the air. “He’s been here; I smell that stinky cologne he puts on his linen.” She nudged a dislodged chunk of plaster disapprovingly with the toe of her shoe.

I took another long, deep breath, and a tight grip on what remained of my sanity.

Mrs. Figg,” I said, “perhaps you would be so kind as to make us all a cup of tea?”

[end section]

Excerpt from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD (will probably be published in Fall 2013). Copyright 2012 Diana Gabaldon (Please do not repost or otherwise reproduce—though you’re more than welcome to link to this page!)

An Advent Candle

Today is the first Sunday of Advent! As many of you may know, Catholics observe a four-week season of spiritual contemplation, preparation and anticipation of Christmas, called Advent. (Yes, I’m a Roman Catholic. Surely you knew that, if you’ve been reading my books. ) As a symbol of this season, we have Advent wreaths and calendars, marking the weeks and/or days ’til Christmas. An Advent wreath has four candles; you light one candle on the first Sunday, two on the second, and so on.

Barbara Schnell, who runs the German-language version of this website, suggested to me that it might be nice to share the season with all of you, by posting an excerpt from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD for each of the four Sundays of Advent. I thought that was a great idea–so whether in English or German, we hope you’ll enjoy this small Advent gift–and may the season find you blessed.

A HUNDREDWEIGHT OF STONES

June 16th, 1778
The forest between Philadelphia and Valley Forge

Ian Murray stood with a stone in his hand, eyeing the ground he’d chosen. A small clearing, out of the way, up among a scatter of great lichened boulders, under the shadow of firs and at the foot of a big red-cedar; a place where no casual passerby would go, but not inaccessible. He meant to bring them up here—the family.

Fergus, to begin with. Maybe just Fergus, by himself. Mam had raised Fergus from the time he was ten, and he’d had no mother before that. Ian himself had been born about that same time, so Fergus had known Mam as long as he had, and loved her as much. Maybe more, he thought, his grief aggravated by guilt. Fergus had stayed with her at Lallybroch, helped to take care of her and the place; he hadn’t. He swallowed hard and walking into the small clear space, set his stone in the middle, then stood back to look.

Even as he did so, he found himself shaking his head. No, it had to be two cairns. His Mam and Uncle
Jamie were brother and sister, and the family could mourn them here together—but there were others he might bring, maybe, to remember and pay their respects. And those were the folk who would have known Jamie Fraser and loved him well, but wouldn’t ken Jenny Murray from a hole in the—

The image of his mother in a hole in the ground stabbed him like a fork, retreated with the recollection that she wasn’t after all in a grave, and stabbed again all the harder for that. He really couldn’t bear the vision of them drowning, maybe clinging to each other, struggling to keep—

A Dhia!” he said violently, and dropped the stone, turning back at once to find more. He’d seen people drown.

Tears ran down his face with the sweat of the summer day; he didn’t mind it, only stopping now and then to wipe his nose on his sleeve. He’d tied a rolled kerchief round his head to keep the hair and the stinging sweat out of his eyes; it was sopping before he’d added more than twenty stones to each of the cairns.

He and his brothers had built a fine cairn for their father, at the head of the carved stone that bore his name—all his names, in spite of the expense—in the burying-ground at Lallybroch. And all the family, followed by the tenants and then the servants, had come one by one to add a stone each to the weight of remembrance.

Fergus, then. Or…no, what was he thinking? Auntie Claire must be the first he brought here. She wasn’t Scots herself, but she kent fine what a cairn was, and would maybe be comforted a bit, to see Uncle Jamie’s. Aye, right. Auntie Claire, then Fergus. Uncle Jamie was Fergus’s foster father; he had a right. And then maybe Marsali and the children. But maybe Germain was old enough to come with Fergus? He was almost eleven, near enough to being a man to understand, to be treated like a man. And Uncle Jamie was his grandsire; it was proper.

He stepped back again and wiped his face, breathing heavily. Bugs whined and buzzed past his ears and hovered over him, wanting his blood, but he’d stripped to a loincloth and rubbed himself with bear-grease and mint in the Mohawk way; they didn’t touch him.

“Look over them, O spirit of red cedar,” he said softly in Mohawk, looking up into the fragrant branches of the tree. “Guard their souls and keep their presence here, fresh as thy branches.”

He crossed himself and bent to dig about in the soft leaf-mold. A few more rocks, he thought. In case they might be scattered by some passing animal. Scattered like his thoughts, that roamed restless to and fro among the faces of his family, the folk of the Ridge—God, might he ever go back there? Brianna. Oh, Jesus, Brianna…

He bit his lip and tasted salt, licked it away and moved on, foraging. She was safe with Roger Mac and the weans. But Jesus, he could have used her advice—even more, Roger Mac’s.

Who was left for him to ask, if he needed help in taking care of them all?

Thought of Rachel came to him, and the tightness in his chest eased a little. Aye, if he had Rachel…she was younger than him, nay more than nineteen, and being a Quaker, had very strange notions of how things should be, but if he had her, he’d have solid rock under his feet. He hoped he would have her, but there were still things he must say to her, and the thought of that conversation made the tightness in his chest come back.

The picture of his cousin Brianna came back, too, and lingered in his mind: tall, long-nosed and strong-boned as her father…and with it rose the image of his _other_ cousin, Bree’s half-brother. Holy God, William. And what ought he to do about William? He doubted the man kent the truth, kent that he was Jamie Fraser’s son—was it Ian’s responsibility to tell him so? To bring him here, and explain what he’d lost?

He must have groaned at the thought, for his dog Rollo lifted his massive head and looked at him in concern.

“No, I dinna ken that either,” Ian told him. “Let it bide, aye?” Rollo laid his head back on his paws, shivered his shaggy hide against the flies and relaxed in boneless peace.

Ian worked a while longer, and let the thoughts drain away with his sweat and his tears. He finally stopped when the sinking sun touched the tops of his cairns, feeling tired but more at peace. The cairns rose knee-high, side by side, small but solid.

He stood still for a bit, not thinking anymore, just listening to the fussing of wee birds in the grass and the breathing of the wind among the trees. Then he sighed deeply, squatted and touched one of the cairns.

Mo gragh, a mathair,” he said softly. My love is on you, mother. Closed his eyes and laid a scuffed hand on the other heap of stones. The dirt ground into his skin made his fingers feel strange, as though he could maybe reach straight through the earth and touch what he needed.

He stayed still, breathing, then opened his eyes.

“Help me wi’ this, Uncle Jamie,” he said. “I dinna think I can manage, alone.”

[end section] — Copyright 2012 Diana Gabaldon (no reproduction or reposting please–though you’re certainly welcome to post links to this, if you’d like to.)

CHRISTMAS BOOKS

1. I’ll be doing the _last_ personal appearance of the year at CHANGING HANDS bookstore in Tempe, AZ, on Dec. 11th, at 7PM. Will sign anything. (I think they allow you to bring your own books, but make you wait ’til the end of the line, so people who bought theirs at the store can get signed first.)

CHANGING HANDS bookstore:
6428 S McClintock Dr, Tempe, AZ 85283
480.730.0205

2. If you can’t make that date, or live somewhere inconvenient –THE POISONED PEN always has _all_ my books (including graphic novel and audiobook CD’s) available in _all_ formats (hardcover, trade paperback, mass-market paperback), and I sign them all. I go by the store every week (or oftener, in December) to sign their orders, and they ship anywhere in the world.

3. The Poisoned Pen did ask me to tell you that since A TRAIL OF FIRE has to be imported from the UK, they can’t guarantee before-Christmas arrival to you (since they’ve almost run out of their current stock and can’t tell exactly when they’ll get their next order), but will be happy to give you a pre-Xmas gift certificate to present to someone if you wanted to give this particular book as a gift.

AUTOGRAPHED BOOK ORDERS

Well, THIS oughta take your minds off the election for a little while…

“Well, THIS oughta take your minds off the election for a little while….(don’t forget to vote, though!)….

7-Book E-book Bundle!

Random House announces a Halloween Treat! They’re offering all seven of the extant OUTLANDER novels AS E-BOOKS, in a 7-book bundle for $49.99. Which is pretty good, I think.

Here’s the link for the Nook version at barnesandnoble.com and

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-outlander-series-7-book-bundle-diana-gabaldon/1112927368?ean=9780345541109

Here’s the link for the Kindle version at amazon.com:

http://www.amazon.com/Outlander-Series-7-Book-Bundle-ebook/dp/B009C9C77E/ref=sr_1_9?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1351598745&sr=1-9&keywords=outlander

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION on Availability of the SHORT PIECES

UPDATE/CLARIFICATION on the SHORT PIECES

Well, it’s like this. Over the last few years, I’ve written several novellas for various anthologies. (An anthology is a set of stories on a common theme, written by a number of different authors.) The thing is, anthologies don’t usually stay in print for a long time, so the stories will revert to the writer after some period of time—and then the writer can sell them again through other publishers or publishing venues.

My old stories are starting to come back to me (that sounds mildly sinister, doesn’t it? Like ghosts…), so I’m figuring out how to make them freshly available, since some anthologies are less easy to find now, and some readers don’t want to buy an anthology for the sake of one story by a favorite author.

Now, because publishing rights are Just Plain Weird, I have back the rights to publish some stories in some territories, but not (yet) in others. Basically, I have back the rights to four stories that can now be published in the UK (and Australia and New Zealand), but not all of these can yet be published in the US and Canada.

However, the US/Canada rights _are_ coming back, one at a time. So what I’ve done is to arrange to publish these four stories together IN BOOK FORM in the UK/Commonwealth this fall, and to publish each story separately as a stand-alone (i.e., “cheap” ) e-novella in the US/Canada, as each one becomes available. When I’ve got back _all_ the rights to the US/Canada, then the book-form with all four stories will be published in the US/Canada, too. [NB: When I say “Kindle” or “Ebook” below, I really mean _any_ e-reader: Kobo, Nook, Sony, whatever. You’d just have to consult your usual ebook source to see what the specific price is for anthologies—but the price for the standalone e-books is always $1.99, regardless.]

So below, I’ve listed each story, and with it, the various forms in which you may be able to get it. If you’re interested in any of these, pick the easiest/most interesting/most economical option—and have fun!

The novellas are:

“The Custom of the Army”

[This is a Lord John novella, set in 1759, involving an electric eel party, an ill-fated duel, and the Battle of Quebec. Originally published in the anthology WARRIORS, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. (Later this anthology was published in _three_ paperback volumes; “The Custom of the Army” is in WARRIORS 3. Evidently, people didn’t care for that approach, though; I see a new single paperback is being released in early 2013.)]

OK. You can get “The Custom of the Army”

1) as a stand-alone e-book (in the US/Canada, but _not_ in the UK/Commonwealth) for $1.99 through Amazon.com:

2) As part of the original anthology—hardcover, paperback, and Kindle edition—at Amazon prices ranging from $18.47 to $11.55 (you can likely find it used for less, as well).

3) Or (in the UK/Commonwealth, but _not_ (yet) the US/Canada) as part of A TRAIL OF FIRE—this is the book-length collection of “Four Outlander Tales,” as they put it.

Now, you _can_ order this book from Amazon.co.uk (or the Book Depository), even if you live in the US/Canada—but you can’t get the Kindle version of it unless you live in the UK/Commonwealth territory.

So these are your choices:

Stand-alone e-book ——– Original anthology ————- A TRAIL OF FIRE

$1.99 ————————- $18.47-$11.55 (later) ————— £10.44 – £7.99 (later)

US/Canada only ————- Anywhere (plus s/h) ————– Anywhere (plus s/h)

—————————–(Kindle only in US/C) ———— (Kindle UK/Com. Only)

“A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows”
[This one is the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents, Jerry and Marjorie (aka Dolly) during WWII. Events in this story tie in (briefly) to AN ECHO IN THE BONE. Originally published in SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, edited by George R.R. Martin and Garder Dozois.]

This will be released as a stand-alone e-book in October (we hope), and will be included in A TRAIL OF FIRE. Your choices are:

Stand-alone e-book———-Original anthology———-A TRAIL OF FIRE

$1.99————————-$10.40 – $8.99—————£10.44 – £7.99

US/Canada only————–Anywhere (plus s/h)———–Anywhere (plus s/h)

————————— Ebook only in US/Can.———-Ebook only in UK/Com.

“Lord John and the Plague of Zombies”

[This deals with Lord John’s first journey to Jamaica, in charge of a battalion of soldiers meant to put down a slave rebellion. If only rampaging slaves were all he had to deal with… Originally published in DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS, ed. George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois. I won’t have the publication rights to this one back until April of 2013, so that’s when the standalone ebook will be available.]

Your choices:

Standalone E-book Original anthology A TRAIL OF FIRE

$1.99 $17.79 – $13.98 £10.44 – £7.99

US/Canada only Anywhere (plus s/h) Anywhere (plus s/h)

(Available 4/13) Kindle in US/Can. only Kindle UK/Com. Only

“The Space Between”

[This is a long—40,000 words—novella that takes place in 1778 (right after the events in AN ECHO IN THE BONE) and deals with Michael Murray (Young Ian’s older brother), Joan (Marsali’s younger sister), the Comte St. Germain, Mother Hildegarde, and a few others. This one was also written for an anthology—THE MAD SCIENTIST’S GUIDE TO WORLD DOMINATION—but the anthology is not due for publication until Jan/Feb of 2013. That being so, I won’t get back the reprint rights for a year, so won’t be able to offer it as a standalone ebook before January of 2014.]

Your choices:

Original anthology (US _or_ UK)—————– A TRAIL OF FIRE

$15.25 – $10.98————————————£10.44 – £7.99

(No ebook listed yet)

OK. So—

IF you’re only interested in these stories, and not in anthologies, then you want the standalone ebooks if you’re in the US, and A TRAIL OF FIRE if you’re in the UK (though you can order the book in the US).

Price for all four as standalone ebooks is about eight bucks—but you’d have to wait a bit for the last two stories. If you’re not in a hurry, want to sample one before buying all of them, or are buying these to fill out your collection, probably your best bet if you live in the US.

If you’re interested in sampling other authors, the anthologies are the way to go.

And if you only want these stories, but you WANT THEM ALL _NOW_!!! –and don’t mind whether it’s a print book or ebook, then you probably want to order A TRAIL OF FIRE.

I know it’s confusing—I hope this helps!