Saturday, November 22, 2014

Eight years!

Eight years ago this week, I read OUTLANDER for the first time, and my life changed forever.  That's not an exaggeration! These books have had a profound impact on me, in many ways.

1) I've been a skim-reader all my life, but I discovered very quickly that you just can't do that with Diana Gabaldon's books, or you miss too much. <understatement!!>  So I started listening to the audiobooks, and was astounded by the amount of detail that I'd missed the first few times.  I've been listening to the OUTLANDER audiobooks on a continuous rotation (with occasional short breaks) for about 7 1/2 years now. <g> I never get tired of them!

2) In September, 2008, I became Section Leader (moderator) of the Diana Gabaldon folder on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, which is the online forum where Diana hangs out. This has been a tremendous opportunity for me, and a lot of fun, but it's not without its challenges, especially in a year as busy as this one has been! Diana refers to what I do on the forum as "herding the bumblebees", which is an image that always makes me smile. The trick to herding bumblebees is to do it without getting stung. <g> 

3) I visited Scotland in July, 2012, on the Celtic Journeys OUTLANDER Tour, along with my mom and my sister Alice.  We had a wonderful time, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me.  You can see my blog posts about the trip here.

4) I've been lucky enough to meet Diana Gabaldon in person three times.  Diana called me "the fabulous Karen Henry" in front of 1200 fans at an appearance in Annandale, VA, in April, 2013. Needless to say, I was thrilled!

5) Diana has mentioned me by name in the Acknowledgements to AN ECHO IN THE BONE, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, A TRAIL OF FIRE, and WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD.  The e-book edition of her novella, "The Custom of the Army", is dedicated to me. <g>  And the character of "Keren-happuch" in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER was named in my honor.  I'm flattered and delighted, of course!

6) Last but definitely not least: Without the OUTLANDER books, I would never have started this blog, Outlandish Observations.  It's succeeded far beyond my wildest imaginings <g>, and the average number of visitors per day is up more than 300% since the TV series premiered in August. My Outlandish Observations Facebook page now has almost 5900 followers. THANK YOU ALL!!

I originally bought OUTLANDER with a gift card my mom had given me for my birthday. I have always thought it hilarious that I got so thoroughly addicted without spending a penny of my own money. <g> If you want to see the story of how I found the OUTLANDER series, look here.

Many thanks to Diana Gabaldon for creating such an amazing story, and for her support and encouragement over the last few years.  It means a tremendous amount to me!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

OUTLANDER premieres Jan. 6 in Germany!



The OUTLANDER TV series will premiere in Germany on January 6, 2015, on RTL Passion, which is a pay-TV channel.

Thanks to Barbara Schnell, Diana Gabaldon's German translator, for the link to this article with all the details!

For more information about the OUTLANDER TV series, including a partial list of countries that will be showing the series, see my FAQ page here.

NOTE TO UK FANS: We still have no news about when OUTLANDER might be available in the UK. I promise I'll post here as soon as I hear anything!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Confessions of an OUTLANDER audiobook addict



Well, all right, to be honest, I'm just addicted to the series, period. In whatever form. <g> But I wanted to share some thoughts on the audio versions of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books, which I've been listening to almost daily since about April 2007.  (I'm currently about halfway through OUTLANDER....again.)

Please note, if you haven't read all of the OUTLANDER books, there are SPOILERS below!

Things I Like About the Audiobooks

1) They force you to slow down, and take in all the details.

I have always been a fast reader, and a "skimmer". I missed huge chunks of Good Stuff the first time I read the series, particularly in DRAGONFLY IN AMBER, because I was reading much too fast. (Example: "Wait, you mean to tell me Claire lost the baby? When did that happen? Did I miss something?" [frantically flipping back through the book])

Because the audiobook narrators read Every Single Word, you learn to slow down and listen for the smaller details, the subtleties, the lyrical descriptions that skim-readers like myself often breeze right past. Slowing down has enabled me to see things in Diana Gabaldon's writing that I never would have picked up on otherwise, no matter how many times I re-read the books, because I just read too fast.

2) The narrators are terrific.

Davina Porter's voice is so expressive, and she does a wonderful job with all of the accents. (Well, almost all. See Things I Don't Like, below.) I love being able to hear what the Scottish accents and Gaelic phrases actually sound like. And she can be very creative with the voices at times. I absolutely love the way her voice for Roger changes in FIERY CROSS, for example: strong and resonant in the beginning; barely more than a hoarse whisper when he begins to speak again after the hanging; and by the end, a sort of harsh, rasping shadow of his original voice. Very much as it's described in the book, in other words. And Davina Porter's voice for Mrs. Bug sounds so exactly like the way I imagined, that I always have to laugh whenever I hear it.

Here's a wonderful two-part interview with Davina Porter from 2009.

Jeff Woodman, narrator of the Lord John audiobooks, is also a wonderful reader. I love his voices for Lord John, Hal, Tom Byrd, and Harry Quarry.  Diana Gabaldon says that Jeff Woodman's voice for Lord John sounds just like the voice she hears in her head. <g>  He doesn't do so well (understandably enough) with the female voices, but overall he does a good job.

Here's an interview with Jeff Woodman from 2010.

3) You can listen anywhere, any time.

I often listen to the audiobooks in the car while driving back and forth to work. It works out pretty well, especially if you are sitting in traffic, but I would recommend caution if you are listening to one of the really emotionally intense parts of the books! One day in 2007, I was driving home while listening to the scene in OUTLANDER where Jamie is being given last rites. I suddenly found myself half-blinded by tears, still driving down the road, about a mile from my house. I got home without incident, but it was a pretty scary experience.

Some people like to listen to the audiobooks while gardening or doing housework.  I enjoy listening to them while doing needlepoint.

Things I Don't Like

Some of the voices are just plain wrong. If you've read A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, you'll recall Wendigo Donner, the time-travelling Native American who whistles "Yellow Submarine". He's clearly not British in the book:
"Man," he said, longing clear in his voice, "what I wouldn't give for a cold Bud and a baseball game on TV."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 123, "Return of the Native". Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Unfortunately, the voice Davina Porter uses for him in the audio version makes him sound like a Liverpudlian. Certainly he doesn't sound like a man born and raised in the U.S.  (Davina has admitted that she got his accent wrong.)  Brianna's accent is also a bit odd. She lived her whole childhood in Boston, yet she doesn't have a trace of a Boston accent. I've always thought she should.

And as for Jeff Woodman's voices: Well, let's just say that I don't care for his Jamie-voice at all. Jamie sounds half-dead in most of the scenes where he appears in BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE, his voice dull and almost inflectionless. And even if this is Woodman's way of showing a more subdued or even depressed Jamie than we're used to from the OUTLANDER books (which would be reasonable under the circumstances, I suppose), I still don't like it one bit. Especially compared to Davina Porter's Jamie.

The dual-narrator approach that they tried with THE SCOTTISH PRISONER was not as successful as I had hoped.  I thought it was a good idea to have two narrators for that book, with Jeff Woodman reading Lord John's parts of the book and Rick Holmes reading Jamie's. Unfortunately, while Rick Holmes has a very soothing voice as a narrator, his Jamie doesn't sound distinctively Scottish, at least to my ears.

Still, these are minor quibbles at best, and they don't diminish my enjoyment of the audiobooks at all.

A Word of Caution

I would recommend that those of you with young children be careful which parts of the books you listen to when your kids are around. There are a lot of scenes in these books that would be awkward to explain, to put it mildly. <g>  And I'm not just talking about the sex scenes!

One day in 2010, I was on my way out to lunch with a couple of male co-workers, and I forgot I'd had DRAGONFLY IN AMBER on my iPod coming through the car stereo.  I got in the car, turned on the ignition, and heard Davina Porter (in Jamie's voice) saying "pustulent arseholes...." <g>  (I think the context of the phrase was something to do with Claire's work at L'Hopital des Anges, but it doesn't matter; the point is, these were the first and only words my coworkers heard.)

I shut the stereo off fast, blushing furiously.

My startled coworkers stared first at the radio, then at me.  "What on earth was THAT?!"

"Oh, um....nothing."

I just couldn't think of any way to explain.  The truth would have required a lot more explanation than I was prepared to give, just at that moment.  (These being coworkers who had no idea of my OUTLANDER-addiction.)  I think they went away thinking I had very odd tastes in radio programs, or something.

I suppose I should count myself lucky that I hadn't been listening to one of the sex scenes. <g>  That would have been AWFULLY hard to explain!

Where to Find the Audiobooks

All of Diana Gabaldon's books are available in unabridged audio format.  I would strongly encourage anyone who's interested to go to audible.com or Amazon to check them out!

Please note, if you get the OUTLANDER audiobooks from the library, make sure you are listening to the UNABRIDGED version, read by Davina Porter.  (The abridged versions have been phased out in recent years, much to Diana Gabaldon's relief and delight.)



The OUTLANDER audiobooks are also available with WhisperSync. I don't use WhisperSync myself, but I loved this video showing how it works.

I hope you enjoy the audiobooks as much as I have!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

REPOST: The symbolism of everyday objects

I first posted this in February, 2012, and it got a very positive response.  This is an updated version of the original list.  Hope you enjoy it!

The Symbolism of Everyday Objects

One of the things I love about Diana Gabaldon's writing is the way she can take a perfectly ordinary object, something you've seen a thousand times and never really paid attention to before, and turn it into something completely unforgettable.

Here are a few examples of what I mean.



1) Doorknobs

I don't think anyone who has read LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE will look at doorknobs the same way again.
Meanwhile, the doorknob--made of white china and slick as an egg--as though to compensate for the loss of the key, was inclined either to spin loosely round on its stem, or to jam fast, both conditions preventing the door from being opened from the outside.

(From LORD JOHN AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF THE BLADE by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 25, "Betrayal". Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


2) Strawberries

I can't think of strawberries now without remembering the wonderful scene in DRUMS OF AUTUMN where Jamie and Claire discover the site of Fraser's Ridge:
"It's a rare plant," he said, touching the sprig in my open hand.  "Flowers, fruit and leaves all together at the one time.  The white flowers are for honor, and red fruit for courage--and the green leaves are for constancy."

My throat felt tight as I looked at him.

"They got that one right," I said.

He caught my hand in his own, squeezing my fingers around the tiny stem.

"And the fruit is the shape of a heart," he said softly, and bent to kiss me.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 16, "The First Law of Thermodynamics". Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


3) Oranges, and orange marmalade

The encounter between Lord John and Stephan von Namtzen in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER was dubbed a "marmaliaison" by my friend Vicki Pack on Compuserve, shortly after the book came out. <g>  If you read carefully, you'll see references to oranges scattered throughout that whole chapter.
As he followed Stephan from the coach, he caught the scent of von Namtzen’s cologne, something faint and spicy--cloves, he thought, and was absurdly reminded of Christmas, and oranges studded thick with cloves, the smell festive in the house.

His hand closed on the orange, cool and round in his pocket, and he thought of other rounded things that might fit in his hand, these warm.

“Fool,” he said to himself, under his breath. “Don’t even think about it.”

It was, of course, impossible not to think about it.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 9, "Eros Rising". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


4) A wooden mallet, its handle wrapped with twine

Even Jamie is bothered by the memories evoked by this particular object, and no wonder!
"Surely ye can make hare pie without looking in the wee book?" he said, obligingly taking the big bone-crushing wooden mallet from the top of the hutch where it was kept.  He grimaced as he took it into his hand, feeling the weight of it.  It was very like the one that had broken his right hand several years before, in an English prison, and he had a sudden vivid memory of the shattered bones in a hare pie, splintered and cracked, leaking salty blood and marrow-sweetness into the meat.
(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 7, "To Us a Child is Given". Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Just looking at the photo makes me shudder, thinking of Jamie's hand.



5) Sausages

The sausage pictured above is a whopping 15 1/2 inches long, roughly comparable in size to the one described in DRAGONFLY:
"I'll leave it to you, Sassenach," he said dryly, "to imagine what it feels like to arrive unexpectedly in the middle of a brothel, in possession of a verra large sausage."

My imagination proved fully equal to this task, and I burst out laughing.

"God, I wish I could have seen you!" I said.

"Thank God ye didn't!" he said fervently. A furious blush glowed on his cheekbones.

(From DRAGONFLY IN AMBER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 12, "L'Hopital des Anges". Copyright© 1992 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)



6) Pebbles

I thought Jamie's collection of stones, one for each of his family members, was a lovely bit in THE SCOTTISH PRISONER:
A scatter of stones, picked up because of their feel in the hand or a pretty color. He counted them; there were eleven: one each for his sister, for Ian, for Young Jamie, Maggie, Kitty, Janet, Michael, and Young Ian; one for his daughter, Faith, who had died at birth; another for the child Claire had carried when she went; the last--a piece of rough amethyst--for Claire herself. He must look out for another now: the right stone for William. He wondered briefly why he had not done that before. Because he hadn’t felt the right to claim William even in the privacy of his own heart, he supposed.

(From THE SCOTTISH PRISONER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 38, "Redux". Copyright© 2011 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I like to think that this is a habit Jamie continued all his life, and that he would have kept pebbles for Bree, Roger, Jem, and Mandy as well.



7) Compass with needle pointing north

I love the compass-needle imagery in "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier", as a metaphor for John's feelings for Jamie:
He dipped the pen again, and saw the slender splinter of metal that lay on his desk, straight as a compass needle, dully a-gleam in the candlelight.

My regiment is due to be reposted in the spring; I shall join them, wherever duty takes me. I shall, however, come to Helwater again before I leave.

He stopped, and touched the metal splinter with his left hand. Then wrote, You are true north.

(From "Lord John and the Haunted Soldier", in LORD JOHN AND THE HAND OF DEVILS by Diana Gabaldon. Copyright© 2007 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
I love that metaphor. John simply can't stop loving Jamie, any more than a compass needle can avoid pointing north.



8) Roquefort cheese

If you've read WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD, you'll never look at Roquefort cheese the same way again. <g>
“Roquefort,” I said urgently. “Is it Roquefort cheese? Sort of gray, with green and blue veins?”

“Why, I don’t know,” she said, startled by my vehemence. She gingerly plucked a cloth-wrapped parcel out of the basket and held it delicately in front of me. The odor wafting from it was enough, and I relaxed--very slowly--back down.

“Good,” I breathed. “Denzell--when you’ve finished...pack the wound with cheese.”

(From WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 83, "Sundown". Copyright© 2014 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
The blue mold in Roquefort contains penicillium, which helped to save Claire's life.

Hope you enjoyed these! Let me know if you find any more examples like these in the books.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Vote for OUTLANDER in the People's Choice Awards!



OUTLANDER has been nominated for Favorite Cable Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV Show in the People's Choice Awards!

Voting is now open, and winners will be announced on January 7th.

Go here to vote:  http://vote.peopleschoice.com/#!/home/all/77/2

As far as I know, you can vote as many times as you want, and you don't have to live in the US to vote. Please help spread the word to any OUTLANDER fans you may know. Thanks!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Diana Gabaldon's annotated version of the "Coda in Three-Two Time"



Diana Gabaldon has posted a detailed explanation of the craft behind the "Coda in Three-Two Time" (the brief section between Part 5 and Part 6 of WRITTEN IN MY OWN HEART'S BLOOD).

I thought Diana's "annotated" version of the Coda was fascinating, and I think anyone who's read MOHB would find that post as interesting as I did. <g> The link above goes to her post on Compuserve (be sure to click on "View Full Message" at the bottom to see all of it), but you can also find it on Diana's Facebook page here.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

October poll results



Here are the results of the October poll: "Which episode of the OUTLANDER TV series is your favorite so far?"
  • 47.02% - Episode 107: "The Wedding"
  • 34.78% - I love them all!
  • 4.59% - I don't have STARZ, or the TV series isn't yet available where I live.
  • 4.30% - Episode 108: "Both Sides Now"
  • 1.89% - Episode 106: "The Garrison Commander"
  • 1.44% - Episode 104: "The Gathering"
  • 1.36% - Episode 101: "Sassenach"
  • 1.18% - Episode 105: "Rent"
  • 0.97% - I don't have a favorite.
  • 0.87% - Episode 103: "The Way Out"
  • 0.84% - Episode 102: "Castle Leoch"
  • 0.76% - Other
Here are the responses for "Other":
  • Love #'s 1 and 8
  • I love them all except for The Garrison Commander
  • My heart leaps so, at the song and the intro to each episode!!
  • all but Garrison commander
  • Can hardly wait for DVDs to be available
  • No I cannot watch it
  • difficult, 107 and 108 probably
  • Can I buy a CD of Outlander series?
  • waiting for dvds
  • Very poor attempt to adapt the book
  • Love the books and was excited for the tv series BUT...too many commercials!
  • episode1,7, and 8
  • Loved them all equally
  • I don't like any of the episodes but I love the books!
  • 103 & 107 love them both
  • I don't have Starz, waiting for DVD
  • It's a tie between 107 and 108! Getting better with every episode.
  • Garrison Commander/Wedding
  • 102, 106, 107, & 108.
  • beautifully done! thank you
  • After finishing book 1 I'll start watching the series!
  • Least Favorite: "The Garrison Commander"
  • I'm saving myself for the DVD
  • 1 as it's the only one I've seen. No cable.
  • Two favourites! 107 (The Wedding) and 108.
  • Don't have STARZ but hoping the DVDs will be released soon.
No surprise which episode was the favorite!



There were 3813 responses to this poll, which is a new record! Thanks very much to everyone who participated.

Please take a moment to vote in the November poll, which asks the question, "Which of Diana Gabaldon's books are you currently reading or listening to?" Thanks!