• “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


The German version of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER (now called, for some inscrutable German reason, DIE FACKELN DER FREIHEIT (“The Torches of Freedom”. Don’t ask me, I have _no_ idea…)) is now out!

And…the trade paperback edition of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER is now out in the US and—I hope—Canada!

IF you’d like a signed copy (of either of these, or anything else, for that matter [g])…please go to www.poisonedpen.com. You can order any of my books there, and if you’d like a signature or personal inscription, just note that in the “Instructions” box on the order page. (If you’re looking for one of the foreign editions, you may need to email patrick@poisonedpen.com. They do have a few non-English editions of this and that, but I don’t think these are listed on the website.)

Hope you’ll enjoy THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, in the language of your choice! [g]

Copyright 2011 Diana Gabaldon

John Grey leaned against a tree, a little distance away, enjoying the sense of temporary invisibility. He’d wondered how he’d feel, seeing Jamie Fraser in the flesh again, and was relieved to find that the episode in the stable at Helwater now seemed sufficiently distant that he could put it aside. Not forget it, unfortunately, but not have it be uppermost in his mind, either.

Now Fraser bent his head to one side, listening to something said to him by a thin, curly-headed man beside him, though without taking his eyes off the stage. The sight of the curls brought Percy briefly to mind, but Percy, too, was in the past, and he shoved the thought firmly down.

He hadn’t consciously thought what he’d say, or how he might start the conversation, but when the play ended, he found himself upright and walking fast, so as to come onto the path slightly in front of Fraser as he turned back toward the edge of the park.

He had no notion what had led him to do this, to let the Scot make the first move, but it seemed natural, and he heard Fraser snort behind him, a small sound with which he was familiar; it signified something between derision and amusement.

“Good afternoon, Colonel,” Fraser said, sounding resigned as he swung into step beside Grey.

“Good afternoon, Captain Fraser,” he replied politely, and felt rather than saw Fraser’s startled glance at him. “Did you enjoy the show?”

“I thought I’d gauge how long my chain is,” Fraser said, ignoring the question. “Within sight o’ the house, is it?”

“For the moment,” Grey said, honestly. “But I did not come to retrieve you. I have a message from Colonel Quarry.”

Fraser’s wide mouth tightened involuntarily.

“Oh, aye?”

“He wishes to offer you satisfaction.”

“What?” Fraser stared at him blankly.

“Satisfaction for what injury you may have received at his hands,” Grey elaborated. “If you wish to call him out—he’ll come.”

Fraser stopped dead.

“He’s offering to fight a duel with me. Is that what ye’re saying?”

“Yes,” Grey said patiently. “I am.”

“Jesus God.” The big Scot stood still, ignoring the flow of pedestrians—all of whom gave him a wide, side-glancing berth—and rubbing a finger up and down the bridge of his nose. He stopped doing this and shook his head, in the manner of one dislodging flies.

“Quarry canna think ye’d let me. You and his grace, I mean.”

Grey’s heart gave a slight jerk; Christ, he was thinking about it. Seriously.

“I personally have nothing to say regarding the matter,” he said politely. “As for my brother, he said nothing to me that indicated he would interfere.” Since he hadn’t had a chance. Christ, what would Hal do if Fraser did call Harry out? Besides kill Grey himself for not preventing it, that is.

Fraser made a thoroughly Scotch sort of noise in his throat. Not quite a growl, but it lifted the hairs on Grey’s neck, and for the first time, he began to worry that Fraser just might send back a challenge. He hadn’t thought—he’d thought Fraser would be startled by the notion, but then—he swallowed, and blurted,
“Should you wish to call him out, I will second you.”

Whatever Fraser had thought of Quarry’s original offer, Grey’s startled him a good deal more. He stared at Grey, blue eyes narrowed, looking to see whether this was an ill-timed joke.

His heart was thumping hard enough to cause small sparks of pain on the left side of his chest, even though the wounds there were long since healed. Fraser’s hands had curled into fists, and he had a sudden, vivid recollection of their last meeting, when Fraser had come within a literal inch of smashing in his face with one of those massive fists.

“Have you ever been out—fought a duel, I mean—before?”

“I have,” Fraser said shortly.

The color had risen in the Scot’s face. He was outwardly immobile, but whatever was going on inside his head was moving fast. Grey watched, fascinated.

That process reached its conclusion, though, and the big fists relaxed—consciously—and Fraser uttered a short, humorless laugh, his eyes focusing again on Grey.

“Why?” he said.

“Why, what? Why does Colonel Quarry offer you satisfaction? Because his sense of honor demands it, I suppose.”

Fraser said something under his breath in what Grey supposed to be Erse. He further supposed it to be a comment on Quarry’s honor, but didn’t inquire. The blue eyes were boring into his.

“Why offer to second me? D’ye dislike Quarry?”

“No,” Grey said, startled. “Harry Quarry’s one of my best friends.”

One thick, ruddy brow went up.

“Why would ye not be his second, then?”

Grey took a deep breath.

“Well…actually…I am. There’s nothing in the rules of duello preventing it,” he added. “Though I admit it’s not usual.”

Fraser closed his eyes for an instant, frowning, then opened them again.

“I see,” he said, very dry. “So was I to kill him, ye’d be obliged to fight me? And if he killed me, ye’d fight him? And should we kill each other, what then?”

“I suppose I’d call a surgeon to dispose of your bodies and then commit suicide,” Grey said, a little testily. “But let us not be rhetorical. You have no intent of calling him out, do you?”

“I’ll admit the prospect has its attractions,” Fraser said evenly. “But ye may tell Colonel Quarry I decline his offer.”

“Do you wish to tell him that yourself? He’s still at the house.”

Fraser had begun to walk again, but stopped dead at this. His gaze shifted toward Grey in a most uncomfortable way, rather like a large cat making a decision regarding the edibility of some small animal in its vicinity.

“Um…if you do not choose to meet him,” Grey said carefully, “I will leave you here for a quarter of an hour, and make sure that he is gone before you return to the house.”

Fraser turned on him with such sudden violence as to make him steel himself not to step backward.
“And let the gobshite think I am afraid of him? Damn you, Englishman! Dare ye to suggest such a thing? Were I to call someone out, it would be you, mhic a diabhail—and ye know it.”

He whirled on his heel and stalked toward the house, scattering loungers like pigeons before him.

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MUST-READ for NURSES! Quite an honor!

I was Charmed to be informed that the Licensed Practical Nurse to Registered Nurse site has chosen OUTLANDER as one of its (Fiction) Must-Read books for Nurses! Thanks so much to you, and all the nursing profession!

The SCOTTISH PRISONER now out in paperback!

THE SCOTTISH PRISONER is out TODAY (well, yesterday…sort of…I work late, OK?) in trade paperback, for the US and Canada! (It came out in paperback already in the UK, Australia and New Zealand.)

Besides the story—half Jamie, half Lord John (and below is the beginning of the book)—this book also includes several preview excerpts from WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD, the next upcoming OUTLANDER novel. Some of you will already have seen some of these excerpts, some of you won’t. FYI, the excerpts include:

  • Claire, Jenny and Mrs. Figg
  • William meets a Whore
  • What happened to Lord John after Jamie said, “Oh? Why?” And
  • What Happened to Jem in the Tunnel

And here is the beginning of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:

SECTION I: The Fate of Fuses

Chapter 1: April Fool

Helwater, the Lake District
April 1, 1760

It was so cold out, he thought his cock might break off in his hand—i. If he could find it. The thought passed through his sleep-mazed mind like one of the small, icy drafts that darted through the loft, making him open his eyes.

He could find it now; had waked with his fist wrapped round it and desire shuddering and twitching over his skin like a cloud of midges. The dream was wrapped just as tightly round his mind, but he knew it would fray in seconds, shredded by the snores and farts of the other grooms. He needed her, needed to spill himself with the feel of her touch still on him.

Hanks stirred in his sleep, chuckled loudly, said something incoherent, and fell back into the void, murmuring, “Bugger, bugger, bugger…”

Jamie said something similar under his breath in the Gaelic, and flung back his blanket. Damn the cold.

He made his way down the ladder into the half-warm, horse-smelling fug of the barn, nearly falling in his haste, ignoring a splinter in his bare foot. He hesitated in the dark, still urgent. The horses wouldn’t care, but if they noticed him, they’d make enough noise, perhaps, to wake the others.

Wind struck the barn and went booming round the roof. A strong chilly draft with a scent of snow stirred the somnolence, and two or three of the horses shifted, grunting and whickering. Overhead, a murmured “‘ugger” drifted down, accompanied by the sound of someone turning over and pulling the blanket up round his ears, defying reality.

Claire was still with him, vivid in his mind, solid in his hands. He could imagine that he smelled her hair in the scent of fresh hay. The memory of her mouth, those sharp white teeth …he rubbed his nipple, hard and itching beneath his shirt, and swallowed.

His eyes were long accustomed to the dark; he found the vacant loose-box at the end of the row and leaned against its boards, cock already in his fist, body and mind yearning for his lost wife.

He’d have made it last if he could, but he was fearful lest the dream go altogether and he surged into the memory, groaning. His knees gave way in the aftermath and he slid slowly down the boards of the box into the loose piled hay, shirt rucked round his thighs and his heart pounding like a kettle drum.

Lord, that she might be safe, was his last conscious thought. She and the child.

Copies of the trade paperback version of THE SCOTTISH PRISONER are available from:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound | The Poisoned Pen | Random House

Click here for information on hardback and e-book formats.


THE METHADONE LIST – Good Crime Fiction by a Couple of Roberts What I Know: Rob Byrnes and Robert Dugoni

I was amused, but pleased, to have my novella, “Lord John and the Plague of Zombies” recently nominated for an Edgar award by the Mystery Writers of America, for “Best Short Mystery Story” of 2011. Given that that particular story is not exactly a mystery, and certainly isn’t short [g], I didn’t really expect to win (which was a good thing, since I didn’t), but certainly was flattered to be nominated.

And I did have a tax-deductible reason to go to New York (for the awards dinner), where I had the double pleasure of seeing my husband in his tux (he wears it about once every three years) and of meeting a number of mystery-writing friends that I see too rarely. Among these was the talented Rob Byrnes, who writes gay crime caper novels (there’s a niche-market for you…). I’ve known Rob for years, and have read and enjoyed several of his books (I’m not sure, but I think I appear as a mention in one of the early ones—I was in the first draft, at least…). Think Donald Westlake with good dress-sense. His latest is HOLY ROLLERS, in which The Gang That Can’t Do Anything Straight sets out to steal $7 million dollars from the Virginia Cathedral of Love.

[That's Rob in the middle in the photo above. I don't know who the other gent is, but it's not Robert Dugoni.]

AND there’s my good friend Robert Dugoni, whose publisher has just this minute launched a wonderful promotion for his books, with his bestseller MURDER ONE available as an ebook—as of today—for $1.99. Bob writes prose as taut as a trampoline, and has plots like an octopus running an obstacle course. If thrillers are your thing, I strongly recommend him.

[This is Bob Dugoni.]


“THE CUSTOM OF THE ARMY” will be released as an e-book on MAY 21!
Click to pre-order from Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, or the iBookstore!

And see below for an explanation:

Well, now. Over the last few years, I’ve written occasional short(er) pieces for anthologies. An anthology, for those unfamiliar with the term, is a collection of short stories or novellas (a novella is shorter than a novel, but longer than a short story), written by a number of different authors.

The notion behind an anthology is that readers who tend to read only within one genre will buy an anthology that features one of their favorite authors, but then will be exposed to other fine writers whose work they may want to explore further.

From my point of view, it’s just fun—and a nice mental break—to do these occasional short bits (I always do have multiple projects on the go; it keeps me from ever having writer’s block). As a side benefit, though, I then _have_ these pieces.

See, unlike the standard contract that covers publishing a novel (which normally says that the publisher can publish the book as long as it keeps selling above a certain minimal level), editors/publishers of anthologies normally make short-term contracts with their authors; they have the exclusive right to publish the story within a particular territory, but only for a relatively short period—after which, the rights to the stories revert to the individual authors.

So. What do you _do_ with, say, a 23,000-word novella? Well, prior to the advent of e-publishing, not that much. Unless you could collect several short pieces and publish them together as a book, that is. I did this with the first three Lord John novellas (“Hell-fire Club,” “Succubus,” and “Haunted Soldier”), which I (and Random House and a number of other, foreign publishers) published as a single volume titled LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS.

Ah, but now we _do_ have e-publishing, which offers new and entertaining possibilities! And I have five more short pieces, sitting here glowing with potential. [g]

BUT…bear in mind that bit above, about rights. The publisher of an anthology does have an exclusive right to publish a given story, within a particular territory, for a set period of time and/or in a particular form—and you can’t publish that story elsewhere until those rights expire and “revert” to you as the author.

So this leads us to an interesting situation. As I said, I have five short pieces (besides the three in HAND OF DEVILS):

“The Custom of the Army” is set in 1759, in London and Quebec, and while it probably _was_ all the fault of the electric eel, Lord John finds himself obliged to leave London for the wilds of Canada and the dangerous proximity of James Wolfe, the British general besieging the Citadel of Quebec. (“_Melodramatic ass,” was what Hal had said, hastily briefing him before his departure. “Showy, bad judgement, terrible strategist. Has the Devil’s own luck, though, I’ll give him that. _Don’t_ follow him into anything stupid_.”)

“Plague of Zombies” takes place in 1761, on the island of Jamaica, where Lord John is sent as commander of a battalion intended to suppress what seems to be a revolt of the escaped slaves called maroons. But things are not always what they seem. (_He rubbed the rest of the blood from his hand with the hem of his banyan, and the cold horror of the last few minutes faded into a glowing coal of anger, hot in the pit of his stomach. He’d been a soldier most of his life; he’d killed. He’d seen the dead on battlefields. And one thing he knew for a fact. Dead men don’t bleed_.)

“A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” is the story of Roger MacKenzie’s parents, Jerry and Dolly, and takes place during WWII. (_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_.)

“The Space Between” follows the events in the novel AN ECHO IN THE BONE, is set in Paris in 1778, and concerns Michael Murray (Young Ian Murray’s elder brother), Joan MacKimmie (Marsali MacKimmie Fraser’s younger sister), Mother Hildegarde (yes, she’s still alive), the Comte St. Germain (ditto (surely you didn’t think he was really dead, did you?)), and a number of other interesting people. (“_What a waste of a wonderful arse,” Monsieur Brechin remarked in French, watching Joan’s ascent from the far side of the cabin. “And mon Dieu, those legs! Imagine those wrapped around your back, eh? Would you have her keep the striped stockings on? I would.” It hadn’t occurred to Michael to imagine that, but he was now having a hard time dismissing the image. He coughed into his handkerchief to hide the reddening of his face_.)

“Virgins” is set in 1740, and is the story of 19-year-old Jamie Fraser and his 20-year-old friend Ian Murray as young mercenaries in France. (_Ian Murray knew from the moment he saw his best friend’s face that something terrible had happened. The fact that he was seeing Jamie Fraser’s face at all was evidence enough of that, never mind the look of the man_.)

Now, some of these stories have already reverted to me, and some haven’t. Some will revert in one territory sooner than they will in another. Those that haven’t yet reverted will do so one by one, as their original contracts expire.

What this means is that while I could publish “The Custom of the Army” right now, anywhere, in any form I liked, I can’t publish “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” until this October—and “Plague of Zombies” doesn’t revert to me in North America (the US and Canada) until next April.

So. What we (my agents and I) have arranged to do is to e-publish the novellas with Random House (my usual novel publisher) in North America one at a time, as the rights to each one become available. Once all of the rights have reverted, we’ll be able to put the entire collection in the form of a printed book (and probably a larger e-book), but I didn’t want y’all to have to wait two years before getting any of these stories.

(Also, e-publishing gives you a chance to try a sample of Lord John (in case you’ve been debating whether to read that part of the series yet) easily and cheaply.)

Now, owing to differences in rights and reversions in different territories (and the generous accommodation of the publishers of one or two of the stories), we are able to publish a print volume in the UK/Australia/NewZealand later this year, including the first four of these stories. This collection, called A TRAIL OF FIRE, is scheduled for publication this October (yes! In 2012!).*

(Why A TRAIL OF FIRE? Well…as the cover copy says… “ _Trails of tracer bullets in the dark, and the fiery trail of a wounded Spitfire falling out of the sky. The trail blazed by night by the handful of heroic Highlanders who fought their way straight up a vertical cliff to stand on the Plains of Abraham in a fiery dawn. The burning of plantations in a Jamaican night, in a trail leading down from the mountains, straight toward Kingstown. And the trail of a torch burning green as it moves through the eerie surrounds of a Paris cemetery, down into the mysteries of the earth._”)

HOWEVER—“The Custom of the Army” will appear first in North America. It will be released as an e-book, on May 21st (that’s a month from now—mark your calendars )**. “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows” will be published as an e-book in North America in October, “Plague of Zombies” in April, and so on. I hope you’ll enjoy all these stories, in whichever form you encounter them!

*Because of the rights issues, A TRAIL OF FIRE won’t be published in the US/Canada until all of the story rights have reverted in this territory. This doesn’t mean you can’t get the book, though; just that it will be a bigger nuisance. The book can be legally imported from the UK, so you would—for instance—be able to order it from amazon.co.uk, or the Book Depository, or to buy it from an independent book-seller who imports UK books (The Poisoned Pen does import British books regularly; if you order from them, you can also get the book signed. www.poisonedpen.com). The drawback, of course, is that it’s a lot more expensive, owing to the high price of British books and the shipping costs. The e-books—being e-books—will be pretty cheap, so you might want to just get these one at a time as they come out. If you truly can’t wait, though…you will be able to get the whole collection in print form in October.

**Since it’s very easy to include additional material in an e-book, “The Custom of the Army” will include introductory notes, Author’s Notes about the historical details of the story, and a complete “Chronology of the OUTLANDER Series,” which tells you where ALL the novels, novellas, short stories, etc. fit in relation to each other, and what time periods are covered in each one. Such a deal!

A Nice Gesture From Audible.com!


In honor of my fans’ obvious enthusiasm , Audible.com told me they would put ALL of the OUTLANDER audiobooks (the main books of the series) on sale for $7.49 each, until May 1st! (If you have or create an audible.com account–if you don’t have one, it doesn’t cost anything to make one, and you don’t need to sign up for their monthly membership credits unless you want to–then you’ll see the sale price on the books when you go to the page.)

Here’s their message, with link to the sale:

Here’s the link to the Outlander sale page:

Anyone who is logged into an Audible account will see the $7.95 sale price; If you’re looking at the page and not logged into an account, you’ll see options to buy the audiobooks at full price or for $7.49 as part of signing up for Audible membership. (So it’s best to log in to an existing account or create a new one to take advantage of the sale!)”

Thanks to Audible.com!

An Open Letter to the Tournament of Books


This is a letter for the organizers at Audible.com (if I can figure out how to send it to them!), but I wanted to share it with all of you–especially the kind folk who’ve been supporting THE FIERY CROSS all through the tournament.

I know the lengths to which some of Ms. Stevens’s fans have gone, and I’m not comfortable about any of you guys wasting your time in similar endeavors. So–

An Open Letter to the Organizers and Supporters of the Audible.com 5th Tournament of Audiobooks:

I can’t say how much I appreciate all the time, trouble, and support taken by my readers through all the voting in the Tournament of Audibooks—and I’m very much pleased to have seen THE FIERY CROSS do so well through the various rounds. But…
I’m afraid that this latest round of voting has fallen prey to the demons of technology, with people (on both sides) using various ploys to place multiple votes in support of their favorite. I do appreciate the fervor and devotion that causes fans to do this—and it’s not illegal; there’s nothing in the rules of the tournament preventing multiple voting, but it’s not sporting, guys. And it’s not fair—not fair to you, to have you waste your valuable time doing something like that, and not fair to the organizers of the Tournament, to have it become a futile click-fest.
I’m perfectly happy to concede the final tournament round to Ms. Stevens; this is her first book and I’m sure the publicity will be helpful to her. I wish her all the best.

Audible.com Tournament of Books

Since a nice reader just reminded me in the comments to the previous post–I’m very flattered to find that THE FIERY CROSS has made it to the Final Round of Audible.com’s Tournament of Audiobooks! That took a LOT of voting to propel the book through the four previous rounds, and I’m really grateful to all of you who did vote. I think it’s a huge compliment–and completely earned!–to Davina Porter, who’s done such a fabulous job with all my books, and did her usual masterly work with THE FIERY CROSS.

I think this final round’s voting goes until April 23rd–so should you feel the urge [g], do go by and vote for your favorite!

Here is the regular voting page – you click on “view matchup” to get to vote–but some people mentioned having trouble with that one.

Here is the HTML voting link, in case the first one doesn’t work for you.

And thanks very much for all your kindness!

Nice New Resources


Barbara Schnell, who maintains the German version of this website (to go there, just click on the German flag at the top of the Home page), has compiled an elegant and helpful timeline of historical and fictional events from the books, and has helpfully provided an English version as well!

In addition, she has a link to a constantly-updated list of interesting interviews and reviews, which you can find here.

Danke, Barbara!

TRAVELOGUE: VILNIUS, Part 2 – Diplomacy in Action

Andrius, the nice Almalittera publicist who organized my appearance at the Vilnius Book Fair, met me at the airport and drove me into the city to my hotel, the Radisson in the Old City (there’s a New City, too, but I saw very little of this). Vilnius is an old (founded in 1527) Eastern European city, only twenty years free of Soviet occupation; it’s a little worn around the edges. At the same time, there’s a lot of evidence of vitality; a lot of new shops, and a large number of Extremely Well-kept churches. Vilnius has a lot of churches—at least fifty, Andrius told me—and a number of these are Russian Orthodox, some with onion domes. We passed one of these on the way in from the airport—with about a dozen large domes, all newly upholstered in brilliant kelly-green weather-proofed panels; it looked like a patch of Irish toadstools.

The Soviets had closed down all the churches during the occupation, I was told, using them for storage, stabling, and other purposes. Most of the churches had been re-opened and restored, with one exception: we passed a huge building on the crest of a hill, surrounded by a tall fence topped with barbed wire, and a big central dome protruding above this. I asked what this was, thinking that perhaps it was a church still being restored, but was told it was a prison. That is, it was originally a church, but the Soviets had used it as a prison, and it was still used for that purpose—until a new prison could be built elsewhere.

Having just about survived the trip to Vilnius, I got to my hotel and had about four hours before the first official event—dinner at the residence of the US Ambassador to Lithuania!

OK. So far I’ve been in a lot of interesting situations, but a diplomatic dinner has not been among them. What the heck does one wear to dine with an ambassador?

I applied logic to the situation and deduced that I was probably not the only guest; the Ambassador must be hosting whatever other American authors were coming to the Book Festival—all of whom had the same limitations of luggage that I had. Also, the dinner was at her residence, not at the embassy…ergo, probably a more casual affair. Aha. Black pants should meet the case, with my good boots (yes, I still have the German bondage boots with the chains, but hadn’t brought them on this trip) and something dressy on top. That was a lovely hand-painted, fringed velvet jacket, given me by a group of fans some years before. (When he first saw it, my husband paused for a moment, then said, “Why have they given you a jacket covered with sperms?” [ahem] It is, of course, covered with peacock feathers, but I will admit a passing resemblance to multicolored spermatozoa. Luckily, if the ambassador noticed this, she was too diplomatic to mention it.)

Andrius picked me up, along with the other two American authors, Ruta and Ina, Ruta’s editor, and another person named Ruta who was from the publishing company (Ruta is a very popular Lithuanian name; it means “Ruth”), and delivered us to the Ambassador’s residence on the banks of the Neris River. Two weeks before my arrival, temperatures had been thirty degrees below zero, and there was a fair amount of snow on the ground. Now the weather had warmed up considerably, and the evening was punctuated by frequent thundering crashes as mini-avalanches cascaded off the roof.

The US Ambassador to Lithuania is the charming and impressively competent Ann Derse, who—with her husband and her dog (a black Lab retired drug-sniffer from Customs named Tracy)–made us all welcome. “Us all” included the three American writers (me, Ruta Sepetys, who is the elegant blond lady in the photo above, and another woman whose last name I unfortunately didn’t catch, but her first name was Ina, which I’m sure helps a lot), several hosting publishers, and several members of the local intelligentsia (really, they were introduced that way, which caused me to wonder if a single one is an intelligentsium or merely an intelligentsi, and what people would think if you put that on your business card…), including a very nice journalist from a Lithuanian magazine on current affairs, a Swedish film-maker (who lives in Vilnius part-time), a writer with several nonfiction books about the Holocaust to his credit, and a gentleman with the impressive title of Executive Director for the Commission on Nazi/Soviet War Crimes. Obviously, this was going to be a Serious-minded Occasion.

It was, too. After wandering around a bit with wine-glasses in hand, introducing ourselves to each other (several guests came up to me and began talking in Lithuanian—something that happened throughout my visit. Evidently I look like a Lithuanian; who knew?), we all processed in to dinner—very elegant, with diplomatic white and gold china, stamped with the US shield-and-eagle logo, and little menu cards explaining what the food was going to be. (Explanation not really needed; salad with brie and sliced almonds, roasted salmon with capers and kalamata olives (in a divine butter sauce—this was Utterly Delicious—and quite fortunate, as it was Ash Wednesday and I couldn’t have eaten meat (had slight trouble with deciding when to start fasting for Ash Wednesday, owing to the air travel crossing time zones, but I was pretty hungry by the time we got to dinner)—and fruit salad (which nobody ate) for dessert).

Before the food, we each introduced ourselves, and told a bit about what we did. Ruta Sepetys has written a wonderful book (BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY), a YA novel based on the experiences of her relatives during the Soviet occupation. (When the soldiers came round to arrest her grandfather and found him gone, they promptly arrested the rest of the family and deported them to Siberia, where a good many of them died), Ina is a journalist who’d written up a collection of Holocaust accounts from Lithuanian survivors, the rotund gentleman across the table (whose name I didn’t catch) had also done both books and movies dealing with genocide and related subjects (“I couldn’t sleep more than one night in three while working on [a particular book],” he told us), the Swedish film-maker had done a film called “The Forest Brothers,” about Lithuanian fugitives hiding in the woods during the occupation, and the Executive Director of the Commission on Nazi/Soviet War Crimes didn’t really require a whole lot of explanation. It was an Extremely Interesting dinner, and I learned more about the recent history of Lithuania in a couple of hours than I would have in several years of independent study. Emerged _very_ impressed at the determination and resilience of the Lithuanian people.

Oh, me? I was the comic relief. Not that I was _trying_ to be funny, but when I explained what I wrote and how I began writing—i.e., about “Dr. Who” and the man in the kilt, they rolled on the floor. (N.B.: I did _not_ tell the companion anecdote about the German journalist and the appeal of a man in a kilt; didn’t seem the time or place [delicate cough].)

And the evening was still the (Very Long) first day. I don’t usually have bad jet-lag, partly because I sleep at the drop of a hat, so snooze on and off through the flights, but also because I just keep my normal rhythm upon landing—I may collapse in a heap come bedtime, but I’ll feel fine the next day. So that’s what I did. And in Part 3, we’ll hear about Vilnius University, being made up in a foreign language, Vilma the interpreter, Lithuanian shopping malls, the Book Fair, basketball mania, and more amber than you could shake a stick at. Also, if I can figure out how to get it out of my Flip-it, a grossly inept video travelogue of Piliesas Street, main drag of the Old City of Vilnius.

• The photo above was _not_ taken in Vilnius, but in a hotel room in Tucson, Arizona, during the Tucson Festival of Books, earlier this month. I included it because it has both me and Ruta Sepetys in it, she having also come to the TFOB. The other ladies present are (from left to right) Kristina McMorris, Sarah McCoy, and Jenna Blum, and we were gathered together in order to do a Skype appearance for a church book-club, because we all had written things having to do with WWII (my modest claim to this historical period being a (more or less) short story titled “A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows,” which is to do with Roger MacKenzie’s parents, Jerry and Dolly.

• I did tell the church-people the anecdote about the German interviewer and the appeal of a man in a kilt—but only because they asked.