• “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

Season 8 and Prequel Series Are Greenlit!


outlander-blood-of-my-bloodSo…. we got news!

OUTLANDER, SEASON 8 is greenlit!

and,

so is the OUTLANDER PREQUEL (BLOOD OF MY BLOOD)!

Let there be rejoicing!!!

Season 8 – Ten Episodes

The Starz Outlander TV series has been renewed for Season 8. Ten episodes will be produced in this final season.

Click to watch the announcement video on Youtube in a new browser window.

What About Season 7?

Season 7 of Outlander is currently in production, and will have 16 episodes in total. It is slated to premiere in the summer of 2023, and is based on AN ECHO IN THE BONE, the seventh in my Outlander series of major novels.

Prequel: The Story of Jamie’s Parents

Starz has also greenlit a prequel series to the current Outlander TV show today. “Outlander: Blood of My Blood” will tell the story of Jamie’s parents, Brian Fraser and Ellen MacKenzie. I will serve as a consulting producer.

Read the first excerpt from my prequel novel about Brian and Ellen.

Matthew B. Roberts will be the executive producer and write episodes for “Outlander: Blood of my Blood,” along with Ronald D. Moore and Maril Davis of Tall Ship Productions. Roberts will also serve as the showrunner.

The Outlander TV series is produced by Tall Ship Productions, Left Bank Pictures and Story Mining & Supply Company, in association with Sony Pictures Television.

Stay tuned…

-Diana

JANUARY 11, 2023


2023-01-11-hawk-Diana-GabaldonWhat do you-all do when a new birthday looms—or stretches out enticingly before you, like a friendly dog wanting a belly-rub? Look back? Look forward? Or just sit quietly and enjoy the moment?

I’m inclined to the last option there. I try to take a few deliberate minutes, to sit in my office in the depths of the night and Just Be. Whatever I am now, I won’t be again. On the other hand, what I am now, and what I’ve been every day since I was conceived, will go on with me in some form.

But it’s worthwhile checking, to see what’s me, and what might be mere baggage that I’m carrying—for myself, or another. Nothing wrong with baggage, but you ought to pack carefully; you don’t know how far you may have to carry it.

And, like Claire—you may have only today in which to prepare.

[Excerpt from UNTITLED BOOK 10, Copyright © 2023 Diana Gabaldon. No spoilers if you’ve read GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE, but if you haven’t, then there definitely are…]

I woke with a list in my head. This was by no means unusual, but this list came with a spurt of adrenaline attached. I had—at most—only today in which to prepare not only to leave the Ridge for an unknown stretch of time, but to prepare the Ridge for being left.

I swung my feet out of bed, heart already speeding up, and then sat for a moment, trying to focus on what had to be done first. Well, that was simple… I fished the chamberpot out from under the bed and saw that it was clean and dry. Which meant either that Jamie had risen early and considerately gone out to the privy, or that he’d got up in the night and pissed out the window. While I had personally never felt the lack of a penis, I did admit that it was a handy thing to have along on a picnic…

My own sanitary needs being accomplished, I was clear-headed enough to brush my teeth, splash water over my face and run my wet hands through my hair. The hair was unlikely to be improved by the experience, but my hands were dry enough to pull my stockings on.

List…

Find something like coffee.

Drink coffee-like substance.

Eat whatever was left over from yesterday’s feast, while inspecting pantry, pie-safe, simples closet and large cauldron Compile mental sublist of things to be found, things needing to be collected or dug up, put in cauldron to begin cooking…

Sylvia and her daughters had ceremoniously removed to Bobby’s cabin last night. I was happy for them all, but it did leave me somewhat short-handed. So… summon Fanny, Joanie and Fizzy and give them my list to start working on. Find Bree and run through separate list of people who might give trouble—medical, political or otherwise—over the next… how long?

“God knows,” I muttered. William had been looking for Lord John for three months [ck time]; what if Richardson had decided to take him to London and denounce him to the House of Lords or something?

Find Roger…. no, Jamie would already have found Roger and informed him that he was now, de facto, Himself for the foreseeable future.

Back to the list… By now, I was padding downstairs in my stocking-feet, shoes in hand.

Send Jem or Germain or the girls for Jenny and Rachel. Feed them first, my subconscious chimed in.

I inhaled hopefully. Yes, I could smell porridge and toast. And bacon? Yes, definitely bacon. Likely they were already eating, then. I was ravenous, in spite of everything I’d eaten yesterday.

Would Jenny and Rachel want to come down to the big house while Ian was gone with us? Company and help for Brianna… all those children… but then there were Jenny’s goats to be considered…

I emerged into the kitchen, to find William seated at the table, surrounded by children and closely attended by Fanny, armed with a platter of crispy bacon and a pot of peach jam.

“Mother Claire!” William half-rose to greet me, prevented from pushing back the bench to stand up by the weight of the children sharing said bench. “Er… how are you?”

“Somewhat better than you, probably,” I said, sitting down on a spare stool to put my shoes on. “Did you sleep at all last night?” He was very thin; his cheekbones showed like blades and his skin was an unhealthy sort of grayish-yellow under his tan. This looked still more disagreeable by contrast with his sprouting beard, which was red.

“I don’t remember sleeping, he said, rubbing a hand over his stubble, “but I definitely woke up, so I must have. I feel much better,” he assured me, taking a handful of bacon from Fanny’s platter. “Or I will, as soon as I’ve eaten. Thank you, Frances.”

“You should have milk, too,” she informed him. “To coat the insides of your stomach, after everything you drank last night.”

“Everything I drank?” A look of amusement crossed his face, despite the signs of road-weariness and hangover. “Were you keeping count, Frances? How very thoughtful of you. You’ll make some lucky man an excellent wife one day.”

She blushed crimson, but he smiled at her, and she gulped air and managed a tiny simper in return before tottering off to fetch more toast.

“What did I drink last night?” William asked me, lowering his voice. “I admit that I don’t recall very much about last night. I was… so very much relieved. To—to have…”

“Reached shelter?” I asked, sympathetically. “I imagine so. You’ve been alone for quite a while.”

He paused for moment, spreading jam on a slice of toast, then said quietly, “I have. Thank you. For—” he gestured briefly round the lively kitchen, then cleared his throat. “Do you think—er, that Mister Fraser will be…”

“Back soon? Yes.” He offered me the toast and I took it. I was starving and it was delicious, warm and crunchy and sweet. “Fanny?” I said, swallowing. “Has Mr. Fraser had any breakfast?”

“Yes’m,” she said. “He was just going out when I came down, but he had a piece of fried chicken in his hand.”

“Did he say where he was going?”

“No, ma’am. He wasn’t armed,” she added helpfully. “Except his knife.”

“His dirk, or the little knife?” Her smooth brow crinkled in concentration, then relaxed.

“Both.”

He was leaving the property, then, but not going far.

“A Bird In The Hand” (Prequel)


Merry Christmas! (Or Seasonal Greeting of your Preference)

[Excerpt from Untitled Outlander Prequel, Copyright © 2022 Diana Gabaldon]

2022-12-Diana-Gabaldon-deerBrian Fraser and Murtagh FitzGibbons Fraser are hiding out on one of the battlements of Castle Leoch, where they’ve sneaked in to take part in the funeral festivities for the recently deceased Chief, Red Jacob MacKenzie. Brian would be worse than unwelcome, if anyone recognizes him as the Old Fox’s son, illegitimate or not, and the two young men are keeping out of the way while they figure things out. There are several doves sitting in the sun on the wall near them, and Brian very slowly inches close to them. He’s just inveigled one into sitting on his hand (he’s done this trick before), when a tall young woman comes striding out of a doorway at the end of the battlement near them, but comes to an abrupt stop when she sees what’s up.

Brian saw her from the corner of his eye—a braw lass, tall—very tall—square-shouldered and looking well able to mind herself should things come to blows. From the corner of one eye, he caught sight of fluttering red hair, loosened for mourning, he supposed. She’d stopped when she saw them, but now came toward them, stepping slow and careful.

He could feel the dove’s heart, beating in his palm, soft and rapid. His own blood pulsed in his ears, not much slower. The young woman came to a halt, three paces from him; he didn’t look at her, but heard the rustle of her petticoats and felt his heart speed up to match the dove’s.

She watched with interest, still as a nesting quail herself, so as not to startle the dove. Brian moved his other hand slowly into the fold of his plaid, broke off a corner of the lump of bread he’d put away in case of sudden hunger, and moving still more slowly, brought it up and placed it delicately between his lips. The dove shoogled its head a bit, nervous at this novel development, but its eyes were bright and fixed on the bread.

He made a faint “tchi, tchi, tchi,” between his teeth and the bird drew itself up, interested. He turned his hand, little by little, to cause the dove to change its footing in order to stay upright, and ended with her on the back of his hand, her sharp wee claws digging in a bit. Smooth and slow, he brought her up to his face, still making the shooshing noise, so she wouldn’t be startled by his breath.

One second… two seconds… the dove turned her head, one way and then the other, fixing one eye at a time on the desired crumb. Three seconds… f—   The dove darted out her neck like a snake and pecked the crumb neatly from his lips, launching herself off his hand in the same movement.

“Mother of God!” Brian and the lass both said, startled. They looked at each other and laughed. They were still looking a moment later, when a high female voice raised in exasperation from a window above jerked the lassie’s attention upward and away.

“Tha mi direach a’ tighinn!” she shouted, adding—in a lower tone and with lowering brow—“Take care ye dinna swallow your own spit and die, ye wee besom.”

He laughed again, and she looked at him again, deep blue eyes still creased into triangles of amusement.

“Do that wi’ a raven, a charadh,” she said. “And I’ll be truly impressed.”

And then she was gone in a flurry of skirts, loose hair flying like a shower of gold, hot from the forge.

He stood still for a moment, staring into the empty doorway as though he could make her reappear there. Instead, Murtagh came out of the shelter of a nook where he had tactfully receded.

“I should ha’ paid more attention when ye did that the first time,” he said, nodding at Brian’s hand, where the dove’s claws had left small red scratches. “But I’m of that braw lassie’s opinion, a bhalaich— ye’ll have to do it with a raven. And then move on to owls, maybe. Did ye ken who she is?” he asked, dropping his mocking.

“She lives in the castle,” Brian said, lifting his chin toward the tower above, “or yon female coo up there wouldna have been bawling for her. And given what I’ve heard of Red Jacob MacKenzie’s looks, I’ll wager ye a quart o’ beer that’s the eldest daughter. Ellen, is it—her name?”

“Aye, Ellen.” Now Murtagh was peering into the dark doorway, too. “And aye, that was her. I was down in the courtyard a wee while ago and someone pointed her out to me; she’d come down to welcome a tacksman come in wi’ his henchmen. She was dressed that wee bit better, mind, but no mistaking a lass that size for anyone else. Christ, she’s as tall as me!”

“Taller,” Brian said, laughing. He glanced at Murtagh’s spindly shanks. “And likely weighs twice as much.” He felt like he’d already drunk the quart of beer—too fast. His head seemed light and slightly foamy.

Murtagh shrugged. “If ye’re on top, what does it matter?”

“And what if ye’re not?”

“Aye, well, she might crush me, that’s true. But I’d die happy.”

“Let’s be going,” Brian said, as the sounds of multiple feet and men’s voices announced the imminent advent of a large party. “Anyone sees us who kens us, we’ll just die.”

“Well, aye, you will. My Auntie Glenna willna let ‘em kill me.”

“How long is it since ye last saw her?”

“Och, ten years, maybe twelve…”

“Ye didna even have a beard, twelve years ago. She willna ken ye from a hole in the ground. And ye willna be having much conversation wi’ her, either, wi’ your teeth knocked out. Come on!” He grasped Murtagh’s upper arm and yanked him toward the door at the other end of the battlement.


I took the image above during the first few days of December, 2022, in Flagstaff. I was leaving Lowell Observatory, and paused on the overlook (which gives you a panoramic view of the city below). I took one more step, and a herd of seven or eight mule deer scattered from the forest right below me. This lovely creature stayed a moment, though…

-Diana


New excerpts will be posted on my Outlander Prequel (Untitled) webpage as I release them, as well as other information about this future book.

Please do not copy and paste the text of this excerpt (in whole or in part) and post it elsewhere or use it in any other way without my express permission because it is copyrighted material. Please share the link (URL) to this webpage instead. Thank you.

This excerpt was also posted on my official Facebook page on December 25, 2022.

“A Fugitive Green” Ebook and Audiobook


2022-07-fugive-green-ebook-coverI wrote “A Fugitive Green” for inclusion in the collection of my short(er) fiction titled SEVEN STONES TO STAND OR FALL, first published in 2017.

Now some of the novellas from that collection are being released as standalone e-books, starting with this one, which…

IS NOW AVAILABLE AS A STANDALONE E-BOOK in Kindle, Nook and Apple’s iBookstore formats. Also as a (wonderful!) audiobook, narrated by the fabulous Jeff Woodman.

Click here to visit my webpage for “A Fugitive Green.” Buy links are available to purchase this ebook or audio version via pull-down menus there.

Or here are some links to popular vendors for the different e-reader devices and formats.

Ebook:

    Apple iBookstore Edition (for iPhone, iPad, and Mac)

    Nook Edition (Barnes & Noble)

    Kindle Edition (Amazon)

Audiobook:

    Audiobook (Audible.com)

    Audibook (Amazon.com)

Or visit your favorite ebook or audiobook vendor’s website.

If you are curious about the Outlander and Lord John Grey short stories and novellas that I have written, see the list of all my short fiction by title. Where the pieces were published in collections or multi-author anthologies is indicated.


What Is “A Fugitive Green” About? (Plus an Excerpt…)

It’s essentially the story of Minnie Rennie and her not-yet-husband, Harold (Hal), Duke of Pardloe. With a cameo appearance by Jamie Fraser:

In which, a 17-year-old apprentice dealer in rare books is sent from Paris to England by her father, to obtain incunabula and medieval books of devotion – and whatever secrets of political intrigue or finance may come to hand in the process. In the course of her business, though, Minnie meets Harold Grey (Lord John’s elder brother), the newly-widowed (and alarmingly deranged) Duke of Pardloe, and things fall out.

Chapter 1: Survival

Paris, April, 1744

Audible-A-Fugitive-GreenMinnie Rennie had secrets. Some were for sale and some were strictly her own. She touched the bosom of her dress and glanced toward the lattice-work door at the rear of the shop. Still closed, the blue curtains behind it drawn firmly shut.

Her father had secrets, too; Andrew Rennie (as he called himself in Paris) was outwardly a dealer in rare books, but more privately, a collector of letters whose writers had never meant them to be read by any but the addressee. He also kept a stock of more fluid information, this soaked out of his visitors with a combination of tea, wine, small amounts of money and his own considerable charm.

Minnie had a good head for wine, needed no money, and was impervious to her father’s magnetism. She did, however, have a decently filial respect for his powers of observation.

The murmur of voices from the back room didn’t have the rhythm of leave-taking, no scraping of chairs… she nipped across the book-crammed shop to the shelves of tracts and sermons.

Taking down a red-calf volume with marbled endpapers titled Collected Sermons of the Reverend George V. Sykes, she snatched the letter from the bosom of her dress, tucked it between the pages, and slid the book back into place.

Just in time; there was movement in the back room, the putting down of cups, the slight raising of voices.

Heart thumping, she took one more glance at the Reverend Sykes, and saw to her horror that she’d disturbed the dust on the shelf—there was a clear track pointing to the ox-blood leather spine. She darted back to the main counter, seized the feather-duster kept under it and had the entire section flicked over in a matter of moments.

She took several deep breaths; she mustn’t look flushed or flustered. Her father was an observant man—a trait that had (he often said, when instructing her in the art) kept him alive on more than one occasion.

But it was all right; the voices had changed again—some new point had come up.

She strolled composedly along the shelves and paused to look through the stacks of unsorted volumes that sat on a large table against the west wall. A strong scent of tobacco rose from the books, along with the usual smell of leather, buckram, glue, paper and ink. This batch had plainly belonged to a man who liked a pipe when he read. She was paying little attention to the new stock, though; her mind was still on the letter.

The carter who had delivered this latest assemblage of books—the library of a deceased professor of History from Exeter—had given her a nod and a wink, and she’d slipped out with a market basket, meeting him round the corner by a fruiterer’s shop. A livre tournois to the carter, and five sous for a wooden basket of strawberries, and she’d been free to read the letter in the shelter of the alley before sauntering back to the shop, fruit in hand to explain her absence.

No salutation, no signature, as she’d requested—only the information:

“Have found her,” it read simply. “Mrs. Simpson, Chapel House, Parson’s Green, Peterborough Road, London.”

Mrs. Simpson. A name, at last. A name and a place, mysterious though both were.

Mrs. Simpson.

It had taken months, months of careful planning, choosing the men among the couriers her father used who might be amenable to making a bit extra on the side, and a bit more for keeping her inquiries quiet.

She didn’t know what her father might do, should he find out that she’d been looking for her mother. But he’d refused for the last seventeen years to say a word about the woman; it was reasonable to assume he wouldn’t be pleased.

Mrs. Simpson. She said it silently, feeling the syllables in her mouth. Mrs. Simpson… Was her mother married again, then? Did she have other children?

Minnie swallowed. The thought that she might have half-brothers or sisters was at once horrifying, intriguing… and startlingly painful. That someone else might have had her mother—hers!—for all those years…

“This will not do,” she said aloud, though under her breath. She had no idea of “Mrs. Simpson’s” personal circumstances, and it was pointless to waste emotion on something that might not exist. She blinked hard to refocus her mind, and suddenly saw it.

roaches-wikipediaThe thing sitting atop a pig-skin-bound edition of Volume III of History of the Papacy (Antwerp) was as long as her thumb, and for a cockroach, remarkably immobile. Minnie had been staring at it unwittingly for nearly a minute, and it hadn’t so much as twitched an antenna. Perhaps it was dead? She picked a ratty quill out of the collection in the Chinese jar and gingerly poked the thing with the quill’s pointy end.

The thing hissed like a tea-kettle and she let out a small yelp, dropping the quill and leaping backward. The roach, disturbed, turned round in a slow, huffy circle, then settled back on the gilt-embossed capital “P” and tucked its thorny legs back under itself, obviously preparing to resume its nap.

“Oh, I don’t think so,” she said to it, and turned to the shelves in search of something heavy enough to smash it with, but with a cover that wouldn’t show the stain. She’d set her hand on a Vulgate Bible with a dark-brown, pebble-grain cover, when the secret door beside the shelves opened, revealing her father.

“Oh, you’ve met Frederick?” he said, stepping forward and taking the Bible out of her hand. “You needn’t worry, my dear; he’s quite tame.”

“Tame? Who would trouble to domesticate a cockroach?”

“The inhabitants of Madagascar, or so I’m told. Though the trait is heritable; Frederick here is the descendant of a long and noble line of hissing cockroaches, but has never set foot on the soil of his native land. He was born—or hatched, I suppose—in Bristol.”

Frederick had suspended his nap long enough to nuzzle inquiringly at her father’s thumb, extended as one might hold out one’s knuckles to a strange dog. Evidently finding the scent acceptable, the roach strolled up the thumb and onto the back of her father’s hand. She twitched, unable to keep the gooseflesh from rippling up her arms.

Mr. Rennie edged carefully toward the big shelves on the east wall, hand cradled next his chest. These shelves contained the salable but less-valuable books: a jumble of everything from Culpeper’s Herbal to tattered copies of Shakespeare’s plays, and—by far the most popular—a large collection of the more lurid gallows confessions of an assortment of highwaymen, murderers, forgers and husband-slayers.

US-cover-SEVEN-STONES-tpbAmid the volumes and pamphlets was scattered a miscellany of small curiosities ranging from a toy bronze cannon and a handful of sharp-edged stones said to be used at the dawn of time for scraping hides to a Chinese fan that showed erotic scenes when spread. Her father picked a wicker cricket-cage from the detritus and decanted Frederick neatly into it.

“Not before time, either, old cock,” he said to the roach, now standing on its hind legs and peering out through the wicker-work. “Here’s your new master, just coming.”

Minerva peered round her father and her heart jumped a little; she recognized that tall, broad-shouldered silhouette, automatically ducking beneath the lintel in order to avoid being brained.

“Lord Broch Tuarach!” Her father stepped forward, beaming, and inclined his head to the customer.

“Mr. Fraser will do,” he said, as always, extending a hand. “Your servant, sir.”

He’d brought a scent of the streets inside with him: the sticky sap of the plane trees, dust, manure and offal, and Paris’s pervasive smell of piss, slightly perfumed by the orange-sellers outside the theater down the street. He carried his own deep tang of sweat, wine and oak casks as well; he often came from his warehouse. She inhaled appreciatively, then let her breath out as he turned smiling from her father towards her.

“Mademoiselle Rennie,” he said, in a deep Scotch accent that rolled the “R” delightfully. He seemed slightly surprised when she held out her hand, but obligingly bent over it, breathing courteously on her knuckles. If I were married, he’d kiss it, she thought, her grip tightening unconsciously on his. He blinked, feeling it, but straightened up and bowed to her, as elegantly as any courtier.

Her father made a slight sound in his throat and tried to catch her eye, but she ignored him, picking up the feather-duster and heading industriously for the shelves behind the counter—the ones containing a select assortment of erotica from a dozen different countries. She knew perfectly well what his glance would have said.

“Frederick?” she heard Mr. Fraser say, in a bemused tone of voice. “Does he answer to his name?”

“I—er—I must admit that I’ve never called him to heel,” her father replied, a little startled. “But he’s very tame; will come to your hand.” Evidently her father had unlatched the cricket-cage in order to demonstrate Frederick’s talents, for she heard a slight shuffle of feet.

“Nay, dinna bother,” Mr. Fraser—his Christian name was James; she’d seen it on a bill of sale for a calf-bound octavo of Persian Letters with gilt impressions—said, laughing. “The beastie’s not my pet. A gentleman of my acquaintance wants something exotic to present to his mistress—she’s a taste for animals, he says.”

Her sensitive ear easily picked up the delicate hesitation before “gentleman of my acquaintance.” So had her father, for he invited James Fraser to take coffee with him, and in the next instant, the two of them had vanished behind the lattice-work door that concealed her father’s private lair, and she was blinking at Frederick’s stubby antennae, waving inquisitively from the cricket-cage her father had dropped onto the shelf in front of her.

“Put up a bit of food for Mr. Fraser to take along,” her father called back to her from behind the screen. “For Frederick, I mean.”

“What does he eat?” she called.

“Fruit!” came a faint reply, and then a door closed behind the screen.

She caught one more glimpse of Mr. Fraser when he left half an hour later, giving her a smile as he took the parcel containing Frederick and the insect’s breakfast of strawberries. Then he ducked once more beneath the lintel, the afternoon sun glinting off his bright hair, and was gone. She stood staring at the empty door.

Her father had emerged from the back room as well, and was regarding her, not without sympathy.

“Mr. Fraser? He’ll never marry you, my dear—he has a wife, and quite a striking woman she is, too. Besides, while he’s the best of the Jacobite agents, he doesn’t have the scope you’d want. He’s only concerned with the Stuarts, and the Scottish Jacobites will never amount to anything. Come, I’ve something to discuss with you.” Without waiting, he turned and headed for the Chinese screen.

A wife. Striking, eh? While the word “wife” was undeniably a blow to the liver, Minnie’s next thought was that she didn’t necessarily need to marry Jamie Fraser. And if it came to striking, she could deal a man a good, sharp buffet in the cods herself. She twirled a lock of ripe-wheat hair around one finger, and tucked it behind her ear.

She followed her father, finding him at the little satin-wood table. The coffee-cups had been pushed aside, and he was pouring wine; he handed her a glass and nodded for her to sit.

“Don’t you think of it, my girl.” Her father was watching her over his own glass, not unkindly. “After you’re married, you do what you like. But you need to keep your virginity until we’ve got you settled. The English are notorious bores about that, and I have my heart set on an Englishman for you.”

[Excerpt from A FUGITIVE GREEN, Copyright © 2017 Diana Gabaldon.]


The image of the Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches is courtesy of Wikipedia and Gnu.

This blog entry was also posted on my official Facebook page.

Thank you, University of Glasgow!


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MANY thanks to the University of Glasgow for so kindly awarding me an honorary Doctor of Letters degree at their Commencement ceremonies on June 28!

It was a wonderful occasion, and great to become a small part of such an ancient and estimable academic community.

-Diana


Scotsman-image-Diana-degree-UGlasgowAn article by Alison Campsie in The Scotsman reported:

The historical fiction writer, Diana Gabaldon, who has had runaway global success with her Outlander series partly set in the Highlands, received a Doctorate of Letters from Glasgow University at a ceremony on Tuesday afternoon, June 28, 2022.

Dr. Gabaldon, who also has a science Ph,D., said having her novels, which revolve around the fate of a Highland Jacobite and his English wife, meant a great deal.

The writer said: “I’m very honoured to have been awarded this degree, particularly from such an ancient and venerable institution. It means a great deal to me, to have my work, which is based on Scottish history, recognised by one of the foremost academic institutions of Scotland.”

Dr. Gabaldon added: “I occasionally have had rather silly people ask if I don’t feel I am committing cultural appropriation by using Scottish history as the background (and a good bit of the plot) of my novels.

“To which I reply that I actually think the Scots have appropriated me, which is very nice of them.”

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BEES (Book 9) Released in Spain


2022-07-07-BEES-Spanish-Edition-SalamandraToday Penguin Libros and Salamandra Editions released CUENTA A LAS ABEJAS QUE ME FUI in hardcover and ebook formats in Spain. The cover art for the hardcover edition is shown at left.

Penguin Libros y Salamandra Editions han publicado hoy CUENTA A LAS ABEJAS QUE ME FUI en formato tapa dura y ebook en España. La portada de la edición de tapa dura se muestra a la izquierda.

This book is a Spanish-language translation of book nine in my Outlander series of novels, GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE.

Este libro es una traducción al español del libro nueve de mi serie de novelas Outlander, GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE.

If you’d like to buy this Spanish-language edition of BEES, please use these direct purchasing links below which will open in a new browser window.

Si desea comprar esta edición en español de BEES, utilice estos enlaces de compra directa que se abrirán en una nueva ventana del navegador.

To purchase a hardcover edition of CUENTA A LAS ABEJAS QUE ME FUI from Penguin Libros (Spain) and Ediciones Salamandra go to:

https://www.penguinlibros.com/es/novela-romantica/298125-libro-cuenta-a-las-abejas-que-me-fui-saga-outlander-9-9788418107856

To purchase the ebook edition of CUENTA A LAS ABEJAS QUE ME FUI from Penguin Libros (Spain) and Ediciones Salamandra go to:

https://www.penguinlibros.com/es/novela-romantica/298501-ebook-cuenta-a-las-abejas-que-me-fui-saga-outlander-9

BEES was released on November 23, 2021 in the U.S.A., Canada, the U.K., Australia and Germany (German-language translation). Other international editions and translations are forthcoming.

The Penguin Libros purchasing links above have also been added to the pull-down menus on my BEES webpage.


Celebration in Madrid on July 7, 2022:

To celebrate the release of CUENTA A LAS ABEJAS QUE ME FUI, I am thrilled to be in Madrid today to give a talk at El Cortes Ingles bookstore and be interviewed by Spanish journalist Carme Chappro at 6:45 p.m. A book signing with me will follow for those attending. The event is open to the public. I hope to see you there!

Para celebrar el lanzamiento de CUENTA A LAS ABEJAS QUE ME FUI, estoy encantada de estar hoy en Madrid para dar una charla en la librería El Corte Inglés y ser entrevistada por Carme Chappro a las 18:45. Seguirá una firma de libros conmigo para los asistentes. El evento está abierto al público. ¡Espero verte allí!

Please see my appearances webpage for more information on all upcoming events I plan to attend.

july7

Note: Google Translate was used by my Webmistress to provide text in Spanish. Apologies for any errors or information lost in translation!

In Honor Of Memorial Day 2022


Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLines, #InHonorOfMemorialDay #AndAllThoseWhoServeTheirCountries, #WRITTENInMyOwnHEARTSBlood, #TwoWarriors

memorial-day-medical-toolsTHE FIRST SHOT took them by surprise, a muffled boom from the cider orchard and a slow roll of white smoke. They didn’t run, but they stiffened, looking to him for direction. Jamie said to those near him, “Good lads,” then raised his voice.

“To my left, now! Mr. Craddock, Reverend Woodsworth—circle them; come into the orchard from behind. The rest—scatter to the right and fire as ye can—” The second crash drowned his words, and Craddock jerked like a puppet with his strings cut and dropped to the ground, blood spraying from the blackened hole in his chest. Jamie’s horse shied violently, nearly unseating him.

“Go with the reverend!” he shouted at Craddock’s men, who stood there drop-jawed, staring at their captain’s body. “Go now!”

One of the men shook himself, grabbed the sleeve of another, pulled him away, and then they all began to move as a body. Woodsworth, bless him, raised his musket overhead and roared, “To me! Follow me!“ and broke into the stork-legged shamble that passed with him for running—but they followed him.

The gelding had settled but was moving uneasily. He was—supposedly—used to the sound of guns, but he didn’t like the strong smell of blood. Jamie didn’t like it, either.

“Shouldn’t we… bury Mr. Craddock?”a timid voice suggested behind him.

“He’s not dead, lackbrain!”

Jamie glanced down. He wasn’t—but it wouldn’t be more than a few seconds longer.

“Go with God, man,” he said quietly. Craddock didn’t blink; his eyes were fixed on the sky, not yet dull but sightless.

“Go wi’ your fellows,” he said to the two lingerers, then saw that they were Craddock’s two sons, maybe thirteen and fourteen, white-faced and staring as sheep.

“Say farewell to him,” he said abruptly. “He’ll still hear ye. Then… go.” He thought for a moment to send them to La Fayette, but they’d be no safer there. “Run!”

MOBY cover final USThey ran—they were a deal safer running—and with a gesture to Lieutenants Orden and Bixby, he wheeled his horse to the right, following Guthrie’s company. The cannon were firing more regularly from the orchard. He saw a ball bounce past, ten feet away, and the air was thickening with smoke. He could still smell Craddock’s blood.

He found Captain Moxley and sent him with a full company to look at the farmhouse on the far side of the orchard.

“At a distance, mind. I want to know if the redcoats are in it or if the family’s still there. If the family’s there, surround the house; go inside if they’ll let ye, but don’t force your way. If there are soldiers inside and they come out after you, engage them and take the house if ye think ye can. If they stay inside, don’t stir them up; send someone back to tell me. I’ll be at the back o’ the orchard; the north side.”

Guthrie was waiting for him, the men lying flat in the long grass behind the orchard. He left the two lieutenants with his horse, which he tied to a fence rail well out of range of the orchard, and scrambled along to the company, keeping low. He dropped to his belly by Bob Guthrie.

“I need to know where the cannon are—exactly where they are, and how many. Send three or four men in from different directions, goin’ canny—ye know what I mean? Aye. They’re not to do anything; see what they can and come out again, fast.”

Guthrie was panting like a dog, stubbled face awash with sweat, but he grinned and nodded and wormed his way off through the grass. The meadow was dry, brown and brittle in the summer heat; Jamie’s stockings prickled with foxtails, and the warm sharp scent of ripe hay was stronger than that of black powder.

He gulped water from his canteen; it was nearly empty. It wasn’t yet noon, but the sun was coming down on them like a flatiron. He turned to tell one of the lieutenants who’d been following him to go and find the nearest water, but nothing moved in the grass behind him save hundreds of grasshoppers, whirring up like sparks. Gritting his teeth against the stiffness in his knees, he scrambled up onto hands and feet and scuttled back toward his horse.

Orden was lying ten feet away, shot through one eye. Jamie froze for an instant, and something whirred close past his cheek. It might be a grasshopper and it might not. He was flat to the earth beside the dead lieutenant, heart pounding in his ears before the thought had fully formed.

Guthrie. He daren’t raise his head to call out—but had to. He got his feet under him as best he could, shot out of the grass, and ran like a rabbit, to and fro, zigging away from the orchard as best he could while still going in the direction he’d sent Guthrie.

He could hear the shots now: more than one sniper in the orchard, protecting the cannon, and the sound was the flat crack! of a rifle. Jaegers? He flung himself down and crawled madly, now shouting for Guthrie.

“Here, sir!” The man popped up suddenly beside him like a groundhog, and Jamie seized Guthrie’s sleeve, pulling him back down.

“Get… your men back.” He gulped air, chest heaving. “Shooting—from the orchard. This side. They’ll be picked off.”

Guthrie was staring at him, mouth half open.

“Get them!”

Shaken out of his shock, Guthrie nodded like a puppet and started to rise. Jamie grabbed him by the ankle and jerked him flat, pressed him down with a hand on his back.

“Don’t… stand up.” His breathing was slowing and he managed to speak calmly. “We’re still in range here. Get your men and retire with your company—back to the ridgeline. Join Captain Moxley; tell him to come round and join me…” His mind went blank for a moment, trying to think of some reasonable place for a rendezvous. “South of the farmhouse. With Woodbine’s company.” He took his hand off Guthrie.

“Aye, sir.” The man scuffed up onto hands and knees, reaching for the hat that had fallen off.

He glanced back at Jamie, eyes full of earnest concern.

“Are you hit bad, sir?”

“Hit?”

“There’s blood all down your face, sir.”

“It’s nothing. Go!”

Guthrie swallowed, nodded, wiped his face on his sleeve, and made off through the grass, as fast as he could go. Jamie put a hand to his own face, belatedly aware of a slight sting across his cheekbone. Sure enough, his fingers came away bloody. Not a grasshopper, then.

He wiped his fingers on the skirt of his coat and noticed mechanically that the seam of the sleeve had burst at the shoulder, showing the white shirt beneath. He rose a little, cautious, looking round for Bixby, but there was no sign of him. Maybe dead in the long grass, too; maybe not. With luck, he’d seen what was happening and run back to warn the companies coming up. The horse was still where he’d left it, thank God, tethered to a fence, fifty yards away.

He hesitated for a moment, but there wasn’t time to lose in looking for Bixby. Woodsworth and his two companies would be coming round the orchard in a few minutes, and right into range of the German rifles. He popped up and ran.

Something tugged at his coat, but he didn’t stop, and reached his horse, gasping for air.

“Tiugainn!” he said, swinging up into the saddle. He turned away from the orchard and galloped through a potato field, though it bruised his farmer’s heart to see what the armies’ passing had done to it already.


CLAIRE

ClaireRandallNurseStarzOutlander-cropI DON’T KNOW when physicians began calling it “the Golden Hour,” but surely every battlefield medic from the time of the Iliad onward knows about it. From the time of an accident or injury that isn’t immediately fatal, the victim’s chances of living are best if he receives treatment within an hour of sustaining the injury. After that, shock, continued loss of blood, debility due to pain… the chance of saving a patient goes sharply downhill.

Add in blazing temperatures, lack of water, and the stress of running full out through fields and woods, wearing wool homespun and carrying heavy weapons, inhaling powder smoke, and trying either to kill someone or avoid being killed, just prior to being injured, and I rather thought we were looking at a Golden fifteen minutes or so.

Given also the fact that the wounded were having to be carried or to walk—probably more than a mile—to a place where they could find assistance… I supposed we were doing well to save as many as we were. If only temporarily, I added grimly to myself, hearing the screaming from inside the church.

“What’s your name, dear?” I said to the young man in front of me. He couldn’t be more than seventeen and was precious near to bleeding to death. A bullet had gone through the meat of his upper arm, which would normally be a fortuitous location for a wound. Unfortunately, in this instance the ball had passed through the underside of the arm and nicked the brachial artery, which had been spurting blood in a slow but earnest manner until I’d taken a death grip on his arm.

“Private Adams, ma’am,” he replied, though his lips were white and he was shaking. “Billy, they call me,” he added politely.

“Pleased to meet you, Billy,” I said. “And you, sir…?” For he’d been brought in staggering, leaning on another boy of about his own age—and nearly as white-faced, though I thought he wasn’t hurt.

“Horatio Wilkinson, ma’am,” he said, dipping his head in an awkward bow—the best he could manage while holding his friend upright.

“Lovely, Horatio,” I said. “I’ve got him now. Would you pour him out a little water, with a splash of brandy in it? Just there.” I nodded at the packing case I was using for a table, on which one of my brown bottles marked POISON stood, along with a canteen full of water and wooden cups. “And as soon as he’s drunk it, give him that leather strip to bite down on.”

I’d have told Horatio to have a tot, too, save that there were only two cups, and the second one was mine. I was sipping water steadily—my bodice was soaked and clung to me like the membrane inside an eggshell, and sweat ran steadily down my legs—and I didn’t want to be sharing the germs of assorted soldiers who didn’t brush their teeth regularly.

Still, I might have to tell him to take a quick gulp direct from the brandy bottle; someone was going to have to apply pressure to Billy Adams’s arm while I stitched his brachial artery, and Horatio Wilkinson didn’t presently look equal to the task.

“Would you—” I began, but I was holding a scalpel and a suture needle with a dangling ligature in my free hand, and the sight of these overcame young Mr. Wilkinson. His eyes rolled up in his head and he dropped, boneless, into the gravel.

“Wounded?” said a familiar voice behind me, and I turned my head to see Denzell Hunter looking down at Mr. Wilkinson. He was nearly as pale as Horatio and, with strands of hair come loose and clinging to his cheeks, very much the antithesis of his usual collected self.

“Fainted,” I said. “Can you—”

“They are idiots,” he said, so pale—with rage, I now realized—that he could barely speak. “Regimental surgeons, they call themselves! A good quarter of them have never seen a man wounded in battle before. And those who have are barely capable of anything in the way of treatment save the crudest amputation. A company of barbers would do better!”

“Can they stop bleeding?” I asked, taking his hand and wrapping it round my patient’s upper arm. He automatically pressed his thumb to thebrachial artery near the armpit, and the spurting that had started when I took my own hand away stopped again.

“Thank you,” I said.

“Not at all. Yes, most of them can do that,” he admitted, calming down just a little. “But they are so jealous of privilege—and so much affiliated with their own regiments—that some are letting a wounded man die because he is not one of theirs and his own regimental surgeon is otherwise occupied!”

“Scandalous,” I murmured, and, “Bite hard now, Private,” as I thrust the leather between his teeth and made a quick incision to enlarge the wound enough to find the end of the severed artery. He did bite, and made no more than a low grunting noise as the scalpel sliced into his flesh; perhaps he was sufficiently in shock that he didn’t feel it much—I hoped not.

“We haven’t a lot of choice,” I observed, glancing toward the big shade trees that edged the graveyard. Dottie was minding the victims of heatstroke, giving them water and—as time and buckets permitted—dousing them with it.

Rachel was in charge of depressed head fractures, abdominal wounds, and other serious wounds that couldn’t be treated by amputation or binding and splinting. In most cases, this amounted to nothing more than comforting them as they died, but she was a good, steady girl, who had seen a great many men die during the winter at Valley Forge; she didn’t shrink from the job.

“We have to let them—” I jerked my chin toward the church, my hands being occupied in holding Private Adams’s arm and ligating the severed vessel— “do what they’re able to do. Not that we could bloody stop them.”

“No.” Denny breathed out, let go of the arm as he saw I had the vessel tied off, and wiped his face on his coat. “No, we can’t. I just needed to express my anger where it wouldn’t cause more trouble.”


MOBY-symbolA SLEDGEHAMMER hit me in the side, making me jerk, the needle dropping from my hands. I didn’t feel myself fall but was lying on the ground, black and white spots flashing round me, a sense of intense numbness radiating from my right side. I smelled damp earth and warm grass and sycamore leaves, pungent and comforting. Shock, I thought dimly, and opened my mouth, but nothing but a dry click came out of my throat. What… The numbness of the impact began to lessen, and I realized that I had curled into a ball, my forearm pressed by reflex over my abdomen. I smelled burning, and fresh blood, very fresh. I’ve been shot, then.

“Sassenach!” I heard Jamie’s bellow over the roaring in my ears. He sounded far off, but I heard the terror in his voice clearly. I wasn’t disturbed by it. I felt very calm.

“Sassenach!” The spots had coalesced. I was looking down a narrow tunnel of light and spinning shadow. At the end of it was the shocked face of Corporal Greenhow, the needle dangling by its thread from the half-sewn gash in his forehead.


In honor of Memorial Day 2022, and all of those who serve their countries. This is an excerpt (aka “Daily Lines”) from my book, WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD.

Top image: A pair of surgical amputation kits used during the Revolutionary War by Dr. John Warren. The two kits, which feature gruesome implements such as rusted bone saws (for amputations) and bullet forceps, were used on wounded soldiers by Warren as he served with the Continental Army. Doctors had to provide their own surgical tools. Warren’s older brother was Dr. Joseph Warren, the celebrated American patriot whose death at the Battle of Bunker Hill served as an inspiration to soldiers throughout the conflict. These two medical kits were in the collection of Harvard Medical School for over 200 years until sold at auction to a private collector.

Center image: The Well of the Dead, Culloden Moor. The commander of the Clan Chattan regiment, Alexander McGillivray of Dunmaglass, and many other Jacobite soldiers died here after engaging the left wing of the Hanoverian army in the Battle of Culloden. From Wikipedia.

The image of Claire, portrayed by Caitriona Balfe in the Outlander TV series, is courtesy of Starz.

The Shape of Things


indian-speckled-cobra-wikipediaAll my books have an internal geometric or natural shape that emerges in the course of the work, and once I’ve seen it, the writing goes much faster. I may have no idea exactly what happens, what’s said, etc.—but I do know approximately what the missing pieces look like (e.g., I need a scene here that involves these three people, and it has a sense of rising tension and a conclusion that will lead into that scene over there…).

These internal shapes are normally invisible to the reader—who isn’t looking for them in the first place—but if pointed out, the reader can certainly see them. Here are the shapes of each book in my Outlander series of novels:

I. OUTLANDER — Three Overlapping Triangles

825px-Valknut-Symbol-borromeanMy first book, OUTLANDER, is shaped like three overlapping triangles: the action rises naturally toward three climaxes: Claire’s decision at Craig na Dun to stay in the past, Claire’s rescue of Jamie from Wentworth, and her saving of his soul at the Abbey.

II. DRAGONFLY IN AMBER — Dumbbell

dumbbell-cartoonDRAGONFLY is shaped like a dumbbell (no, really <g>). The framing story, set in 1968 (or 1969; there’s a copyediting glitch in there that has to do with differences between the U.S. and U.K. editions of OUTLANDER, but we won’t go into that now), forms the caps on the ends of the dumbbell. The first arc of the main story is the French background, the plots and intrigue (and personal complications) leading toward the Rising. Then there’s a relatively flat stretch of calm and domestic peace at Lallybroch, followed by the second major arc, the Rising itself. And the final end-cap of the framing story. All very symmetrical.

III. VOYAGER — Braided Horse-Tail

braided-horse-tail-cropVOYAGER looks like a braided horse-tail: the first third of the book consists of a three-part braided narrative: Jamie’s third-person narrative runs forward in time; Claire’s first-person narrative goes backward in time (as she explains things to Roger and Brianna), and Roger’s third-person narrative sections form the present-time turning points between Claire’s and Jamie’s stories. After Claire’s return to the past, though, the story then drops into the multi-stranded but linear first-person narrative (moving forward) that we’re used to.

IV. DRUMS OF AUTUMN — Curving, Leafy Stem with Rose

DRUMS… well, that one’s a little more free-form, but it does have a shape. It’s shaped like a curving, leafy stem, with a big, showy rose at the end, but with two side-stems, each with a large bud (these being Roger and Brianna’s independent part of the story, and the Jocasta/Hector/Ulysses/Duncan/Phaedre part).

V. THE FIERY CROSS — Rainbow or Fireworks

Fireworks-public-domain-150x150THE FIERY CROSS looks either like a rainbow or a shower of fireworks, depending how you want to look at it. <g> There are a number of separate storylines that arc through the book—but every single one of them has its origin and root in that Very Long Day at the Gathering where the book begins. Each storyline then has its own arc, which comes down at a different point toward the end of the book.

VI. A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES — Great Wave

For BREATH, think of a great wave, such as a tsunami in the ocean.

1024px-Tsunami_by_hokusai_19th_centuryWell, probably you’ve seen that very well-known Hokusai print, shown at right, titled “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” When I happened to see this print while assembling the chunks for this book, I emailed my agent in great excitement, to tell him I’d seen the shape of the book. “It looks like the Great Wave,” I said. “Only there are two of them!” <g>

Notice, if you will, the little boats full of people, about to be swamped by the wave—these are the characters whose fate is affected by the onrush of events. And in the middle of the print, we see Mt. Fuji in the distance, small but immovable, unaffected by the wave. That’s the love between Claire and Jamie, which endures through both physical and emotional upheaval. (The waves are the escalating tides of events/violence that remove Claire and Jamie from the Ridge.)

VII. AN ECHO IN THE BONE — Caltrop

Roman CaltorpThe shape of ECHO is a caltrop.

[pause]

OK, normally I’d make y’all look it up <g>, but the only person to whom I announced this revelation (husband, literary agents, editors, children) who already knew what a caltrop is, was my elder daughter (who is unusually well-read). So, all right—

Wikipedia defines the caltrop as “an area denial weapon made up of two or more sharp nails or spines arranged in such a manner that one of them always points upward from a stable base. Historically, caltrops were part of defenses that served to slow the advance of troops, especially horses, chariots, and war elephants, and were particularly effective against the soft feet of camels.” Caltrops are also called “foot spikes” for obvious reasons. An ancient Roman caltrop is shown in the image from Wikipedia.

Nasty-looking little bugger, isn’t it? (And if you think this image presages something regarding the effect of this book, you are very likely right.)

VIII. WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART’S BLOOD – Octothorpe

octothorpe-US-verOriginally I wanted an octopus on the cover of MOBY— both because I really like octopuses and because of the symbolism (there are eight major characters whose stories I’m telling through this book— and it is the eighth book in my Outlander series, after all), there were certain technical issues that made that difficult. My husband—never a big fan of the octopus concept—asked whether I could think laterally; surely there were other ways to get an “8” onto the cover.

So I thought. And almost at once, the word “octothorpe” sprang to mind. I’ve always liked the word, and it certainly was appropriate (you may or may not recognize it in its Very Artistic form here—but it’s the lowly hashtag, or pound sign (#)), as it not only has eight points (and eight “fields” of empty space surrounding it; one explanation of its origin is that it was a symbol on old English land documents for a farm surrounded by eight fields), but is a printing character—and the content of the book does indeed have a certain amount about the printer’s trade in colonial America during the Revolution.

IX. GO TELL THE BEES THAT I AM GONE — Snake

indian-speckled-cobra-wikipediaFor BEES, book nine in my Outlander series, the main shape is a snake. It glides, it coils, it slithers, it climbs (and then drops out of a tree on you), it turns back on itself at the same time it goes forward, it has occasional bulges where it’s swallowed something large… and it has fangs.

A honeycomb has a six-sided shape and represents the six main characters (or pairs) whose stories we’re following in BEES; the internal, cellular structure, if you will.

X. BOOK TEN (As yet untitled) — To Be Determined

Since I am working on this book at present, the shape for BOOK TEN hasn’t revealed itself yet. Stay tuned…



More on Shapes…

2015-Diana-workingI’ve explained a little before, about how I write: to wit, not with an outline, and not in a straight line. <g> I write in bits and pieces, doing the research more or less concurrently with the writing (meaning that assorted bits of plot or new scenes may pop up unexpectedly as the result of my stumbling across something too entertaining to pass up).

In the image at right, I was busy writing in my back yard a few years ago, and kept company by my dogs. Photo by my husband, Doug.

As I work, some of these bits and pieces will begin to stick together, forming larger chunks. For example, I’ll write a scene, and realize that it explains why what happened in a scene written several months ago happened. Ergo, the later scene probably ought to precede the first, already-written scene. So I haul both scenes into the same document, read through this larger chunk, and at that point, sometimes will see what has to happen next. (Sometimes not.) If so, then I can proceed to write the next bit. If not, I go look for another kernel (what I call the bits of inspiration that offer me a foothold on a new scene), and write something else.

Anyway, this process of agglomeration continues, and I begin to see the underlying patterns of the book. I get larger chunks. And all the time, I’m evolving a rough timeline in my head, against which I can line up these chunks in rough order (e.g., the battle of Saratoga was actually two battles, fought by the same armies on the same ground. But the dates of those battles are fixed: September 19th and October 7th, 1777. Some specific historical events occurred and specific historical persons were present in each of those two battles. Ergo, if I have assorted personal events that take place in the fictional characters’ lives, and various scenes dealing with those, I can tell that logically, X must have taken place after the first battle, because there’s a wounded man in that scene, while Y has to take place after the second battle, because the death of a particular person (who died in the second battle) precipitates Y. Meanwhile, Z clearly takes place between the battles, because there’s a field hospital involved, but there’s no fighting going on. Like that.)

Now, at a certain point in this chunking process, I discern the underlying “shape” of the book. This is Important.

All my books have a shape, and once I’ve seen what it is, the book comes together much more quickly, because I can then see approximately what-all is included, how it’s organized, and where the missing pieces (most of them, anyway) are.


One Word Speaks Volumes

See my webpage “One Word Speaks Volumes,” to learn the single words that represent the themes in each of my novels. For example, the word for OUTLANDER is “love.”


This blog is also posted on a webpage, which has information on previous versions.

“A Bomb In The Hand…” (Book Ten)


Social Media Hashtags: #DailyLines, #BookTen, #dontbotheraskingwhenitwillbedone #really #dont, #youllfindoutwhenIdo

[Excerpt from Book 10 [Untitled], Copyright © 2022 Diana Gabaldon]

2022-03-31-Diana-Gabaldon-chair“What are you thinking?” I asked. “I know it’s about William.”

“Oh, aye?” He glanced at me, mouth curled up at one side. “And what do I look like if I’m thinking of William?”

“Like someone’s handed you a wrapped package and you’re not sure whether it’s something wonderful, or a bomb.”

That made him laugh, and he put an arm around me and pulled me in close, kissing my temple. He smelled of day-old linen, ink and hay, and the dribble of honey that had dried down the front of his shirt, like tiny amber beads.

“Aye, well, one look at the lad and ye ken he’ll explode before too long,” he said. “I only hope he doesna damage himself doing it.”

“Or you.”

He shrugged comfortably.

“I’m no very breakable, Sassenach.”
“Says the man with four—no, five bullet holes in his hide, to say nothing of enough surgical stitching to make a whole crazy quilt. And if we start counting the bones you’ve cracked or broken…”

“Ach, away—I’ve never broken anything important; just the odd finger. Maybe a rib, here or there.”

“And your sternum and your left kneecap.”

He made a dismissive Scottish noise, but didn’t argue.

We stood for a bit, arms about each other, listening to the sounds outside. The younger children had fallen asleep under bushes or in their parents’ wagons, their happy screeching replaced by music and the laughter of the dancers, the clapping and calls of those watching.

“He came to me,” Jamie said quietly. He was trying to sound matter-of-fact, but he’d stopped trying to hide what he was feeling.

“He did,” I said softly, and squeezed his arm.

“I suppose there wasna really anyone else he could go to,” he said, off-handed. “If he canna find his grace, I mean, and he couldna very well talk to anyone in the army, could he? Given that….” He stopped, a thought having struck him, and turned to me.

“D’ye think he knows, Sassenach?”

“Knows what?”

“About—what he said. The… threat to Lord John. I mean—” he elaborated, seeing my blank look, “does he ken that it’s no just a canard.”

“A—oh.” I stopped to consider for a moment, then shook my head with decision. “No. Almost certainly not. You saw his face when he told us about what Richardson was threatening. He’d still have been scared—maybe more scared—if he knew it wasn’t an empty threat—but he wouldn’t have looked the way he did.”

“Anxious? Angry?”

“Both. But Anyone would be, wouldn’t they? Under the circumstances.”

“They would. And… determined, would ye say?”

“Stubborn,” I said promptly, and he laughed.

“A bomb for sure, then.”


This is excerpt is from Book Ten (as yet untitled) of my major Outlander series of novels, Copyright © Diana Gabaldon 2021. All rights reserved. Please do not copy and repost this excerpt elsewhere; instead please share the link to this blog post. Thank you.

This excerpt (aka “Daily Lines”) was also posted on my official Facebook page on Thursday, March 31, 2022.

Writing Anniversary and An Interview


HAPPY WRITING ANNIVERSARY!

2021-12-Diana-Pen-BEESTo me, that is. On March 6th, 1988, I began writing what eventually turned out to be OUTLANDER. I intended to write a novel for the sole purpose of learning how to write a novel… and here was are, some 34 years on…

…and many thanks to all of you who have been with me through those years, as well as those who have just come aboard this voyage through time and space!

Rather than celebrate the occasion by telling what a bookseller of my acquaintance refers to as “your origin story” (because I’ve told it thousands of times, and if anyone wants to see it, it’s here on my website as well as hundreds of other places on the web), I went through some of the dozens of interviews I’ve done over the intervening years, and thought I might publish a few of the most interesting ones, over the course of this month (interspersed with discussions of Season Six, to be sure).

This interview was done nine years ago, for my friend Barbara Rogan’s blog on writing (Barbara now teaches writing, and the blog has shifted somewhat in form, but is still very much worth reading. It’s called “In Cold Ink,” and is on her website.).

Hope you enjoy it!


BR: Were you a great reader as a child? What were your favorite books?

Yes. My mother taught me to read at the age of three; I can’t remember not being able to read. I do remember turning up on the first day of kindergarten, flipping critically through DICK AND JANE and dropping it, remarking, “That’s a stupid book. Is there anything else to read?” (I was not a tactful child.)

I read—and still do read—just about anything. I read my way through the entire children’s section of the Flagstaff Public Library by the third grade, at which point I went on to the adult section (my mother having assured the librarian—who was Very Dubious about this—that I could take out anything I wanted to). Among the things I read repeatedly, though, were ALICE IN WONDERLAND, THE SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON, the Oz books, all the Andrew Lang Fairy Books, the entire series of biographies of famous people for children, and any Walt Disney comic I could get my hands on.

BR: Do you recall a specific moment when you realized that you’d like to write stories yourself?

Yeah. I was about eight, and coming back in the car from a family outing to the cinder hills near Flagstaff (we often went out there on Sundays when the weather was nice). It was summer and the daily thunderstorm was shaping up overhead. I remember looking up into the clouds and talking to God—I wasn’t praying, just talking to Him—and saying, “I want to write books. I think I’m supposed to write books.” Mind—at this point, the notion of WRITING A BOOK was the most far-fetched, impossible thing I could imagine. I might as well have said, “I think I want to fly to Mars.”

I didn’t have the slightest idea how books were written, let alone how they got onto the library shelves (didn’t know people got paid for writing books, either; when I found that out, it seemed like an amazing bonus).

Anyway, God said (more or less), “Yes, that’s right. You should.”

BR: First novels are often autobiographical in some fashion or another. You haven’t got a drop of Scottish blood in you, you were never a nurse and you haven’t (as far as I know) time-traveled. Is there anything in OUTLANDER that did draw upon your own life experience and/or passions?

If you write an honest book, most of it is you, regardless of setting, time period, or the external aspects of your characters.

And the idiotic assumption that one can only write about one’s own life experience—if widely adopted—would have prevented most of the world’s great books being written. (Not saying you’re an idiot, mind you <g>.) It’s just that that stupid, “Write what you know” axiom has been propagated so much that people don’t stop to question it, and thus don’t realize that it’s backward. It’s not that you should limit yourself to using your own life as material; it’s that you shouldn’t write what you don’t know—but you can find out anything you need to know.

Outlander-cover-medium-220x319There’s also this little item called “imagination,” which I think is given remarkably short shrift these days. As a novelist, I can be Anybody. Any time, any place, in any condition of body or mind. Why should I just be me? How boring.

(Not even going to touch the equally prevalent attitude that a writer should for some reason be strongly drawn to write about his or her ethnic background—but only if s/he isn’t white. People keep pestering me to “write about your heritage,” by which they mean the New Mexican/Hispanic side. Why don’t they pester me to write about the English or German side, assuming I wanted to write about my heritage in the first place, which I don’t.)

But returning to what you actually asked <g>: Sure. Owing to a series of academic accidents, I taught classes in Human Anatomy and Physiology in several different institutions, including Temple University’s School of Nursing. Now, this had nothing whatever to do with my own scientific interests, background, or research specialties—they just paid me for doing it. But the material was undeniably interesting—and it gave me the broad but shallow grasp of clinical medicine that is the core of Claire’s work as a healer and physician.

Now, I was a field ecologist for some time. Which means I naturally look at what’s going on around me when I’m outdoors. I know what the basic features of a given ecosystem type are—which means that whether I’m looking at the Scottish Highlands or the North Carolina mountains, I know that there will birds species doing X, and plant species that fill Y niche, and so on. Beyond that, it’s just a matter of looking up the specific plants and animals, and that’s a matter of very simple research.

(Am constantly staggered by people who ask, “How did you do all the research for your books?” in tones implying that “research” is a terribly arcane skill. “If there’s something I want to know, I go look it up,” being the basic answer. Are people no longer taught how to use libraries? Apparently there are millions of people who use computers—because they’re using them to ask me these questions—who haven’t yet grasped how to use Google to look up the meaning of an English word like “absquatulate,” let alone own a real dictionary. But I digress…)

I’m sixty-one. I’ve been in love, been married, borne children, had people near me die. Naturally bits and pieces of all these experiences filter through into the books I write. Be strange if they didn’t, wouldn’t it?

BR: You have many readers who are passionate about your books and personally invested in the characters. Putting all modesty aside, why do you think readers connect so deeply with your characters?

I do write honest books, so far as it lies in my power to do so. People recognize reality (in terms of character and situation and emotion) when they see it, and it’s natural for them to empathize with people they see as real.

(The Washington Post recently asked me for “a few sentences” describing what I did for Valentine’s Day, for a column in which such bits from a dozen (female) authors were quoted. Most of the other participants went on about going out for a romantic dinner with their husband and toasting each other with pink champagne, or… well…take this one:

“I love seeing the glowing pyres of fat, deep red-red roses in full cry, displays of pink Champagne and boxes of chocolates that spring up all over London, and hope that a glorious bunch might find its way to me. Yet, if I was giving roses to a man on this particular day (and why not, for all sensual men love them), I’d buy flame orange, rich yellow or creamy, pink-tinged white; and pretend — because I’m old fashioned — that it was merely joie de vivre, or exuberance, or entirely accidental…”

And then there was what I said (the absolute un—er—varnished <g> truth:

“We’re having the saltillo tile floors resealed. This means having to move all the furniture, send the dogs to my son’s house for a sleepover, and walk around in our socks for two days. Our bed is disassembled and hidden in the closet, so I’m sleeping in a daughter’s room, and my husband is nesting somewhere in the living room (where all the furniture is). On the other hand, romance is not dead; he gave me a bathrobe and a card with a singing bug, and I gave him a jar of white anchovy filets and a tube of wasabi paste.”

Now, clearly one would like to escape now and then and wallow in thoughts of accidental roses… but which author do you think you might feel more connected with, on the basis of these brief snips?)

BR: It’s hard for readers to imagine characters in their embryonic state, when we experience them as fully-developed, complicated human beings. But characters don’t spring to life that way. Can you talk a bit about how you go about growing characters from stick figures into people?

But I don’t do that. I know there are a lot of popular assumptions about how writers work, and the notion that one decides that a specific character is needed, equips him or her with a name, and then sets to work collecting pictures of actors and drawing up index cards with the character’s taste in peanut-butter is certainly one of them. It’s possible that some writers really do do that, and God help them, if so—whatever works, you know?

For me, characters are pretty organic. I don’t plot a story and insert characters; the story exists because these particular people have needs and desires and motivations, and finding themselves in a particular situation, act upon them.

You hear about “plot-driven” stories vs. “character-driven” stories (and why always “versus,” I wonder? There’s nothing antithetical between plot and character)—but in fact, the plot is simply what the characters do. They may do what they do in part because of the situation and circumstances in which they find themselves—but they do what they do mostly because they are who they are.

For me, characters tend to fall into one of three main types: mushrooms, onions, and hard nuts. (That’s not a description of their personalities, btw, but rather of the way in which I work with them, and them with me.)

Mushrooms are the delightful people who spring into life unexpectedly and walk right off with any scene they’re in. Lord John Grey is a mushroom, as is Mrs. Figg, Lord John’s redoubtable housekeeper (“Mrs. Figg was smoothly spherical, gleamingly black, and inclined to glide silently up behind one like a menacing ball-bearing.”). They talk to me freely, and I never have to stop and wonder what they’d do in any given situation—they just do it.

Onions are the ones whose innermost essence I apprehend immediately—but the longer I work with them, the more layers they develop, and thus the more well-rounded and pungent they become. Jamie Fraser and Claire Beauchamp Randall are both onions.

Hard nuts are pretty much what they sound like. These are the people who “come with” a story by default, rather than developing organically by popping out of the mental compost. Historical figures, for instance, who were necessarily there, and have to be animated in a satisfying way, or people who exist only because another character was pregnant, leaving me with an unknown child to deal with. These, I just research (for the historical people) or live with (for the unknowns), and gradually, I begin to have a sense of them. But as with everyone else, they truly “develop” only in the context of their own situation and circumstance.

BR: I read some time ago about certain fanatical GAME OF THRONES readers who were furious that George Martin doesn’t churn the books out faster, ignoring any possible link between quality, time and effort. They seemed to feel he was holding the books hostage and could release them in the blink of an eye if he chose. The Outlander series inspires equal devotion among its readers. Have you ever had to deal with overzealous or irrational fans?

Deal with them? Well, they’re there, certainly. Most people have no idea how writers work, and many of them seem to feel that a writer is a sort of artistic Pez dispenser: all the stories are stacked up inside, one on top of the other, and all you have to do is bonk the writer on the head hard enough to make them spit one out.

(In re which, James Patterson and his marketing machine have done a lot to promote this injurious notion. For the record, folks—when the cover says, “by JAMES PATTERSON and someotherperson,” it was someotherperson who wrote the book. Don’t believe me? Google “James Patterson ghost writer.”)

That is, of course, not how it works. <cough> I explain, periodically, how it does work, and most of my readers are intelligent, well-meaning people who are happy to direct new readers to the places where I’ve explained my working methods.

But as for dealing with people who clamor for the next book, all I can be is honest. I.e., it’s my name on the front of the book, and with luck, said book will be out there for a long time. Ergo, it’s going to be as good as I can make it before I send it to the publisher.

BR: Would you like to have lived in the world you created?

To a point. <g> That point stopping well short of life-threatening disease, warfare, injury, extremes of temperature or gross poverty.

BR: Lord John Gray is one of my favorite characters of your invention. What made you choose a gay man in particular as a series character?

Well, that was an accident. Some years ago, I was invited to write a short story for a British anthology: historical crime stories. “Well,” I said to the editor, “it would be an interesting technical challenge, to see whether I can write anything under 300,000 words. Sure, why not?”

Well, the obvious first question was—what or whom to write about? I didn’t want to use the main characters from the OUTLANDER series for this story, because—owing to the peculiar way I write—if I were to incorporate some significant event in this story (and it would need to be, to be a good story)—that would make the event a stumbling block in the growth of the next novel.

“But,” I said to myself, “there’s Lord John, isn’t there?” Lord John Grey is an important character in the OUTLANDER series, but he isn’t onstage all the time. And when he isn’t… well, plainly he’s off leading his life and having adventures elsewhere, and I could write about any of those adventures without causing complications for future novels. Beyond that obvious advantage, Lord John is a fascinating character. He’s what I call a “mushroom”—one of those unplanned people who pops up out of nowhere and walks off with any scene he’s in—and he talks to me easily (and wittily).

He’s also a gay man, in a time when to be homosexual was a capital offense, and Lord John has more than most to lose by discovery. He belongs to a noble family, he’s an officer in His Majesty’s Army, and loves both his family and his regiment; to have his private life discovered would damage—if not destroy—both. Consequently, he lives constantly with conflict, which makes him both deeply entertaining and easy to write about. So I wrote the short story—titled, “Lord John and the Hell-Fire Club”—for the British anthology.

past-poisons-uk-300x300Well, it was a good story; people liked it. But just as word was spreading into the U.S. about it, the anthology went out of print (it was called PAST POISONS, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, for those bibliophiles who are curious). People kept asking me about the story, though, and I thought, “Well, I enjoyed writing it—maybe I should write two or three more short pieces about Lord John, just as time and inspiration allow… and when I have a handful, we could publish them as a book, and all the Lord John fans could get the stories easily.”

So I did that. I began writing the second Lord John story after returning from a book-tour, as a way of easing back into my writing routine, and continued working on it, picking away with one hand whilst picking up the threads of my novel with the other… and six months later, I’d just about finished it. Well, at this point, I left for another book-tour, in the U.K., and stopped in New York on the way, to have lunch with my two literary agents.

I was telling them all about what I’d been doing, and casually mentioned that I’d nearly finished the second Lord John short story. “Oh?” said they. “How long’s this one?”

“Well, I knew you’d ask,” I said. “So I checked last night. It’s about 85,000 words; I need maybe another 5,000 to wrap it up.”

The agents looked at each other, then looked at me, and with one voice said, “That’s the size normal books are!”

“I thought it was a short story,” I said.

“Well, it’s not,” they said—and proceeded to take it off and sell it all over the place. Publishers were thrilled. “It’s a Gabaldon book we weren’t expecting—and it’s short! Can she do that again?” they asked eagerly. To which my agents—being Very Good agents—replied, “Of course she can,” and emerged with a contract for three Lord John Grey novels.

Now, the Lord John books and novellas are in fact an integral part of the larger OUTLANDER series. However, they’re focused (not unreasonably) on the character of John Grey, and—Lord John not being a time-traveler—tend not to include time-travel as an element. They’re structured more or less as historical mystery, but do (like anything else I write) include the occasional supernatural bit or other off-the-wall elements. (Yes, they do have sex, though I don’t consider that really unusual, myself.) And they do reference events, characters (particularly Jamie Fraser) and situations from the OUTLANDER novels.

In terms of chronology, the Lord John books fall during the period covered in VOYAGER, while Jamie Fraser was a prisoner at Helwater. So if you’re wondering where to read the Lord John books in conjunction with the larger series—you can read them anytime after VOYAGER. See my Chronology of the Outlander Series webpage for more information.

BR: Was his sexuality or your portrayal of it an issue for any of your publishers, domestic or foreign?

I think some of the foreign publishers may have boggled slightly at it, but no one’s ever said anything directly to me about it, no.

BR: The upside of great literary success is plain to see: millions of books sold, legions of devoted fans, awards, invitations to the White House, the opportunity to inhabit a wider world full of interesting accomplished people. Is there a downside?

The major drawback is the sheer amount of travel and appearances (both in person and online) associated with being very popular in a lot of different places. I really like to talk to readers and sign books—but I could do without the enormously time-consuming (and energy-sapping) travel involved in getting to them.

Then there are the constant demands for “content”—updates to websites, phone interviews, interviews for blogs <g>, podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, etc. (though I know how to deal with Twitter and Facebook; I spend an average of 10-15 minutes a day on each, and that’s It. I have no Friends [on social media] <g>, and I don’t follow anybody).

And there are the readers who think they’re entitled to dictate when and what a favorite writer writes, and yap at me in public about why am I writing all this Other Stuff, when THEY only want Jamie and Claire? And why am I gallivanting all over the place, when I should be home WORKING? These people are, of course, sadly mistaken about the importance of their opinions, but can be a little annoying. Luckily most of my readers are very intelligent and have beautiful manners.

BR: What do you know now about writing that would have helped you when you first started out?

I’m not sure I actually know anything more about writing now than I did when I started—though I like to hope that I improve with experience. Most of the novel (sic) things I do, in terms of ambitious structure, time-juggling, and playing with literary devices, are things that are the result of experience; I couldn’t have done them when I was first writing, whether I knew about them or not.

BR: What do you know now about publishing that you wish you’d known earlier?

Just who has the power in various situations. For example, it took me eight years of hassling with Barnes and Noble in an attempt to make them move my novels out of the Romance section—until I finally got fed up and wrote a rude letter to Steve Riggio, then the CEO. Twenty-four hours later, I got a call from the B&N VP of Marketing, telling me they were moving the books to Fiction, where they’d belonged all along. Had I known that Mr. Riggio was the only person in that company who could change the diktat on where books went, I’d have started with him.

BR: Do you think women writers are taken as seriously as men by the literary/critical establishment?

Of course not.

BR: What’s the most common misconception readers have about you? (Here’s your chance to correct it!)

Well, they all seem to think I’m much taller than I actually am, and they can’t pronounce my name, but neither of those misapprehensions is actually offensive. <g>

(For the record: I’m five-foot-three. And my name has two pronunciations, both accurate: If you’re speaking Spanish (it is a Spanish name, and it is my own, not my husband’s), it’s pronounced “gaah-vahl-DOHN” (rhymes with stone). If you’re speaking English, it’s “GAH-bull-dohn” (still rhymes with stone).)


The image of me with copies of BEES to sign was taken in November, 2021, at the Poisoned Pen bookstore.

This post also appeared on my official social media accounts on March 4, 2022.