Wednesday, August 31, 2011

NY Times article about wild pigs

I saw this in today's NY Times, and couldn't help thinking about the White Sow.  Two hundred years later, her descendants are apparently thriving. <g>
Biologists and wildlife officials hope to wipe out feral hogs — which are simply domestic stock turned wild — because they tear up wetlands, kill native vegetation and eat the eggs of turtles and ground-nesting birds. Farmers detest them because they destroy fences, root up crops and harbor livestock diseases.

The only people who admire wild pigs are hunters. Ancient Romans considered the wild boar noble quarry because it was elusive and fought fiercely when cornered, and today’s feral pigs have those same qualities.
That description sounds very much like the White Sow and other wild pigs described in Diana Gabaldon's books, doesn't it?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Outlandish Observations is 3 years old!



Today is the 3rd anniversary of the launch of my blog, Outlandish Observations! In honor of the occasion, here are a few statistics about Outlandish Observations:
  • Average number of visitors per day (in the last 30 days):  252 (up from about 240 a year ago)
  • Best response to monthly poll:  508 responses to the July poll
  • Fans of the Outlandish Observations page on Facebook: 383 (this time last year, that number was barely 200)
  • Subscribers to the blog's RSS feed: 393 (up from 298 a year ago)
  • Total posts: 532 so far, including this one. :-)
I was thrilled to see Outlandish Observations get some public recognition during the past year:
Thank you all so much for your continued support!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Hurricane quotes

I was supposed to be flying up to New Jersey today for a big family get-together at my cousin's house over the weekend, but "due to Hurricane Irene's insistence on crashing this weekend's party", as my cousin put it, the whole thing has been cancelled.  I'm disappointed that I won't get to see everyone, but relieved not to have to travel in that mess!

I thought I'd share a few quotes from the OUTLANDER books in honor of Hurricane Irene:

1) As bad as it is to experience a hurricane on land, I think it would be much worse in a tiny wooden sailboat on the ocean.
I was sitting on the deck, legs splayed, with the mast at my back and the line passed around my chest.  The sky had gone lead-gray on one side, a deep, lucent green on the other, and lightning was striking at random over the surface of the sea, bright jags of brilliance across the dark.  The wind was so loud that even the thunderclaps reached us only now and then, as muffled booms, like ships' guns firing at a distance.

Then a bolt crashed down beside the ship, lightning and thunder together, close enough to hear the hiss of boiling water in the ringing aftermath of the thunderclap.  The sharp reek of ozone flooded the air.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63 ("Out of the Depths"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
2) Can you imagine being caught outside in a storm like the one Claire found herself in?  I would have been terrified.
Sheet lightning shimmered far away, across the mountains.  Then more bolts, sizzling across the sky, each succeeded by a louder roll of thunder.  The hailstorm passed, and the rain resumed, pelting down as hard as ever.  The valley below disappeared in cloud and mist, but the lightning lit the stark mountain ridges like bones on an X ray.

"One hippopotamus, two hippopotamus, three hippopotamus, four hippopot--" BWOOOM! The horse jerked and stamped nervously.

"I know just how you feel," I told it, peering down the valley.

(From DRUMS OF AUTUMN by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 23 ("The Skull Beneath the Skin"). Copyright© 1997 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
3) Thank God, all storms come to an end sooner or later!  I remember all too well the eerie quiet the morning after Hurricane Fran came through Raleigh in 1996, leaving us without power or phone service for several days.
Then I woke, to find the wind a little quieter.  The seas still heaved, and the tiny boat pitched like a cockleshell, throwing us up and dropping us with stomach-churning regularity.  But the noise was less; I could hear, when MacGregor shouted to Ian to pass a cup of water.  The men's faces were chapped and raw, their lips cracked to bleeding by the whistling wind, but they were smiling.

"It's gone by."  Jamie's voice was low and husky in my ear, rusted by weather.  "The storm's past."

It was; there were breaks in the lead-gray sky, and small flashes of a pale, fresh blue.  I thought it must be early morning, sometime just past dawn, but couldn't tell for sure.

(From VOYAGER by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 63 ("Out of the Depths"). Copyright© 1994 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
4) And here's a little taste of what it must be like on Ocracoke Island, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, during one of these storms.  (Ocracoke was evacuated on Wednesday, in advance of Hurricane Irene.)
It had been raining for days, and the footing was uncertain, slippery and boggy by turns.  The wind was high, and the storm surge pounded the beaches; they could hear it, even in the secluded spot where the portal lay.

"We were all scared--maybe all but Rob--but it was way exciting, man," he said, beginning to show a glimmer of enthusiasm.  "The trees were just about layin' down flat, and the sky, it was green.  The wind was so bad, you could taste salt, all the time, because little bits of ocean were flying through the air, mixed with the rain.  We were, like, soaked through to our choners."

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES by Diana Gabaldon, chapter 55 ("Wendigo"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Good luck to everyone who's affected by Irene!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A special Book 8 excerpt from Diana

Those of you who have seen Diana Gabaldon's recent blog post about the Fergus Scottish Festival may recall her comment about "the excerpt that made a tent full of two hundred people gasp out loud".

As many of you know, I'm an excerpt-avoider, and have been since 2008.  When the subject of this particular excerpt came up on Compuserve a few days ago, Diana told me, "Oh, believe me; you don't wanna know. <g>"

And indeed I don't.  I'm determined not to peek at this or any other excerpts from Book 8.  But I thought the rest of you would want to know that Diana has now posted what appears to be the same excerpt that got such a reaction at Fergus.

The link to the discussion on Compuserve is here.

[UPDATE 8/26/2011 8:12 am:  Diana has now posted the same excerpt on her blog.  So if you want to let her know what you think about it, feel free to leave a comment there.]

A few things to keep in mind:

1) PLEASE DO NOT DISCUSS THE DETAILS OF THIS EXCERPT HERE ON MY BLOG!  Don't quote from it, don't refer to anything that happens in it, and please, please don't spoil it for me!  Thank you.

2) The same applies to the Outlandish Observations page on Facebook.  Again, thank you in advance for not spoiling it for me.

3) If you want to discuss this excerpt, you can post in the discussion on Compuserve, or on the LOL Excerpt Board.  Just please don't talk about it here, or on my Facebook page, even with spoiler space!


Diana says I don't want to know yet, and I take her at her word.  But for the rest of you....enjoy!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Book Review: WARRIORS 3

BOOK REVIEW:  WARRIORS 3

Here, slightly altered, is the review I just posted on Amazon.com for the new WARRIORS 3 paperback, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.  As of right now there's only one other review of WARRIORS 3 on Amazon.  If you've read the book, why not post a review there and let others know what you think?




First of all, I have to say I'm pleased that the actual color of the cover of WARRIORS 3 is a sort of coral. Far more attractive, in my opinion, than the bright pinkish-purple you see in the Amazon cover picture! So if you're put off by the colors shown here, go take a look at it in the bookstore and decide for yourself.

This volume contains most of the stories that I liked from the WARRIORS hardcover edition. Here are my impressions:

1) "The Triumph", by Robin Hobb. A story set in ancient Rome.  I didn't care for this one at all.

2) "Soldierin'", by Joe R. Lansdale. A humorous look at the Buffalo Soldiers, a troop of black cavalry fighting Indians on the American frontier, circa 1870. I liked the narrator's cynical outlook on life, and his dry wit.

3) "Clean Slate", by Lawrence Block. An incest survivor turns serial killer, in an attempt to wipe out the memories of her father's sexual abuse. Chilling, but very well-written.

4) "The Girls from Avenger", by Carrie Vaughn. This is the story of Em, one of a group of female pilots during World War II known as the Women's Air Service Pilots (WASP). When one of her fellow female pilots is killed in an accident, Em battles the sexism and condescension of her male colleagues and the men in the chain of command in order to learn the truth of what happened to her friend. A well-written story, one of my favorites in the collection.  In my opinion it makes a good "companion piece" for Diana Gabaldon's story, "A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows".  (I kept wondering what Jerry MacKenzie would have thought of these female pilots.)

5) "The Pit", by James Rollins. Dog-lovers will find this story disturbing, although it has a positive ending. The story of a dog stolen from its suburban home and forced to compete in a series of savage dog-fights in which losing means death. Told from the dog's point of view. (If you want to read a much lighter and more enjoyable story from the point of view of a dog, try THE ART OF RACING IN THE RAIN, by Garth Stein. I loved that book, and I'm not even a dog-owner.)

6) "My Name is Legion", by David Morrell. A tale about the French Foreign Legion. Interesting, but not one of my favorites.

[And last but definitely NOT least... <g>]

7) "The Custom of the Army", by Diana Gabaldon. If you're a fan of Diana Gabaldon's books, especially the character of Lord John Grey, I think you'll enjoy this story. At 93 pages (just over 25% of the book), it's by far the longest story in this collection, which allows Gabaldon room to tell a more complex story. It's also highly entertaining (the electric-eel party that opens this story is hilarious), well-written, and full of the sort of historical detail that fans of the OUTLANDER and Lord John books have come to expect. The bulk of the story takes place in Quebec in 1759, during the Seven Years War. Highly recommended!  (Please note, if you're looking forward to Diana Gabaldon's novel, THE SCOTTISH PRISONER, which will be released on November 29, 2011, it might be a good idea to read "The Custom of the Army" first.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS in the UK



I found out today that the DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS anthology, containing Diana Gabaldon's novella, "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies", is not scheduled for release in the UK until November 17, 2011, a full six weeks after its October 4th release date in the US and elsewhere!

Naturally, those of you in the UK will be disappointed to hear this. If you want to get the book sooner, you have several different options:
  • Order a signed copy from the Poisoned Pen bookstore, in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is Diana Gabaldon's local bookstore, and they ship all over the world. Their staff is very friendly and knowledgeable about Diana's books.
  • Check online sites such as the Book Depository, which will ship to UK residents.
  • I'm told that amazon.de (the German Amazon site) is also a good resource for shipping (English-language) books to the UK.  Even if you don't speak German, the site seems reasonably easy to navigate.  You can pre-order DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS here.
Please help get the word out to anyone you know in the UK who may be interested.  Thanks!

For more information about DOWN THESE STRANGE STREETS and "Plague of Zombies", look here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

OUTLANDER Links, Part 14: 18th Century Clothing

Here's a selection of pictures and links related to 18th century clothing.  I hope you enjoy them!




1) Here's a video showing how people dressed in Colonial Virginia, featuring re-enactors from the Claude Moore Colonial Farm.

After you've watched the video, you can see how much you recall, by playing Dress The Part.  This is an interactive little game that lets you explore how various members of 18th century society dressed, and in what order they put on the various items of clothing.  Give it a try; it's not nearly as easy as it looks!



2) The picture above shows an authentic set of stays (women's undergarments) from 1750-60.  I like to think they're similar to the ones Claire wore:
I turned my back gratefully to him.  With expertise born of long experience, he had the lacing of my stays undone in seconds.  I sighed deeply as they loosened and fell.  He plucked the shift away from my body, massaging my ribs where the boning had pressed the damp fabric into my skin.

(From A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES, Chapter 5 ("James Fraser, Indian Agent"). Copyright© 2005 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
Here is an article explaining how to put on stays by yourself, if you don't happen to have someone else nearby to help.  (Thanks very much to Jo M. for the link!)




3) Whenever I see these pictures of ladies' shoes from the 18th century, I'm reminded of how Claire seems to take every opportunity she can to remove her shoes when she's at a party, a fancy-dress ball, etc.  (Photo credit belongs to the Bata Shoe Museum.)


 

4) The painting above, by Pieter de Hooch (1658), illustrates the use of "leading strings", strips of fabric sewn into the clothing of young children.  Remember the scene in FIERY CROSS when the buffalo appears at the Big House?
Jemmy was on the ground nearby, his leading-strings securely tied to the paddock fence.  He certainly didn't need them to help him stay upright, but they did keep him from escaping while his mother was busy.

(From THE FIERY CROSS, Chapter 91 ("Domestic Management"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)


5) Here's an example of French court fashion from around the same time that Jamie and Claire were in Paris in DRAGONFLY.  This is a portrait of Madame Pompadour (mistress of Louis XV), dated 1748-1755, by Maurice Quentin de la Tour. 



6) The gentleman shown above is wearing a banyan -- a loose dressing-gown.  Lord John Grey often wears a banyan in the evenings at home. (Portrait of Nicholas Boylston, painted by John Singleton Copley, 1767)



7) The portrait above shows John Murray, 4th Earl of Dunmore (painted by Joshua Reynolds, 1765), wearing the uniform of one of the Highland Regiments. This was during the period when the Diskilting Act barred Highlanders--with the exception of those in the Highland Regiments--from wearing their native dress.



8) I can't resist including this 1749 painting by William Mosman, featuring two young Scottish boys (Sir James MacDonald and Sir Alexander MacDonald).  Every time I look at it, I think of Ellen's portrait of Jamie and Willie.



9) I think the mobcap shown above looks just like the one that Claire received from Grannie Bacon in FIERY CROSS.  To modern eyes, it's pretty hideous, and I have no trouble understanding why Claire got upset.
"Grannie Bacon's sent ye a present," she explained proudly, as I unfolded the material, which proved to be an enormous mobcap, liberally embellished with lace and trimmed with lavender ribbons.  "She couldna come to the Gathering this year, but she said as we must bring ye this, and give ye her thanks for the medicine ye sent for her...roo-mah-tics."  She pronounced the word carefully, her face screwed up in concentration, then relaxed, beaming in pride at having gotten it out properly.

"Why, thank you.  How lovely!"  I held the cap up to admire, privately thinking a few choice things about Grannie Bacon.

(From THE FIERY CROSS, Chapter 10 ("Grannie Bacon's Gifts"). Copyright© 2001 by Diana Gabaldon. All rights reserved.)
10) Additional Resources

For more examples of 18th century clothing, take a look at Jas. Townsend & Son, Inc.. This site has a large variety of 18th century colonial items for sale, including clothing, shoes, and accessories, for all ages.  I like to browse through their online catalog, just looking at the pictures.

I also like the Colonial Williamsburg site very much.  Lots of interesting information there, on women's clothing, men's clothing, and much more!

If you want to see more of this sort of thing, I would highly recommend a book that I bought at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia when I visited there in 2008: EIGHTEENTH CENTURY CLOTHING AT WILLIAMSBURG.

If you find these links interesting, check out my previous "OUTLANDER Links" blog entries:

OUTLANDER Links, Part 13: Plants and Herbs
OUTLANDER Links, Part 12: Standing Stones
OUTLANDER Links, Part 11: Science and Technology
OUTLANDER Links, Part 10: Weaponry
OUTLANDER Links, Part 9: Historical Events
OUTLANDER Links, Part 8: 18th Century Medicine
OUTLANDER Links, Part VII: Gemstones
OUTLANDER Links, Part VI: Wildlife
OUTLANDER Links, Part V: Castles and Palaces
OUTLANDER Links, Part IV: Native Americans
OUTLANDER Links, Part III: All Things Scottish
OUTLANDER Links, Part II: Colonial North Carolina
OUTLANDER Links, Part I: Culloden
What Do These Things Look Like?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Article about Diana at Fergus Scottish Festival

Here's an article I found yesterday about Diana's appearance at the Fergus Scottish Festival in Ontario this past weekend.  A very nice piece, focused more on the fans than on Diana herself.

My favorite part is this bit:
[Diana's reading of excerpts] led to one of the more amusing moments of the day, sending one young woman running from the tent with her hands over her ears yelling “I haven’t read that one yet!"
It turns out that the young woman is the daughter of a Compuserve forum member.  Small world! <g>

If any of you were at Fergus, please feel free to post here and tell us about it

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What's your favorite closing line?

Some of you may have seen the recent article in the UK's Stylist magazine, listing the Best 100 Closing Lines from Books.  (Thanks to Diane Brooke for the link!  Hint:  Diana Gabaldon made the list.)

Inspired by that list, I thought I'd ask:  What is your favorite closing line from the OUTLANDER books?

"And the world was all around us, new with possibility." (OUTLANDER)

"He meant to die on Culloden Field," Roger whispered.  "But he didn't." (DRAGONFLY IN AMBER)

"And this is Claire, my wife." (VOYAGER)

"Go down," she said, "and tell them the MacKenzies are here." (DRUMS OF AUTUMN)

"When the day shall come, that we do part," he said softly, and turned to look at me, "if my last words are not 'I love you'--ye'll ken it was because I didna have time." (THE FIERY CROSS)

"After all, they're all dead, aren't they?" (A BREATH OF SNOW AND ASHES)

"And sleep at thy feet," Ian whispered, and gathered her in with his one good arm, both of them blazing bright as day." (AN ECHO IN THE BONE)

(All quotes copyright (c) Diana Gabaldon.)

My sentimental favorite is the one from FIERY CROSS, of course, but I like the ending lines of OUTLANDER and DRUMS almost as much.  What about the rest of you?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

An update from Diana

Diana Gabaldon is finally back from her trip to Scotland, and this morning she posted a very long and detailed explanation on Compuserve of what remains to be done in the next few weeks before THE SCOTTISH PRISONER is finally sent to the printers.

Take the time to read through the whole thing.  (Be sure to click "View Full Message" at the bottom of the message window so you'll see all of it.)  I thought it was extremely interesting, to see how the production process works.

Diana says that they're planning to distribute ARC copies of SCOTTISH PRISONER for reviewers, something they haven't done for her books in many years.  I suspect they're trying to make the point that this isn't "just" a Lord John novel, that it should be judged on its own merits.

Also, for those of you who follow Diana's #DailyLines on Twitter, she's started posting them again. <g>

Many of you are wondering how Book 8 is coming along.  Here's what Diana had to say about that:
Now, there are brief lag periods where the ms. has gone back to the editor and not yet come back to me, during which I can actually work on other stuff, like Book Eight (I do believe I have a Real Title, btw, but am going to keep it to myself for a bit, 'til I'm sure of it). <g>  But I won't have my real Work Mode back again until SCOTTISH PRISONER has actually gone to bed--probably around the end of August, first week of September (during which I'll be at DragonCon, too).
There's a surprise at the very end of Diana's post, by the way -- a brief snippet from a new story she's working on, featuring Jamie and Ian!  (Feel free to comment on that excerpt here if you want to.)

I'm very much relieved that Diana is back home.  As Section Leader of the Diana Gabaldon folder on the Compuserve Books and Writers Community, I do my best to answer questions and keep things under control when Diana is traveling, but my job gets much easier, and more fun, when she's around!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"The Custom of the Army" is out in paperback!

Just a reminder, for anyone who's interested:  Diana Gabaldon's novella, "The Custom of the Army", comes out in paperback today, in the WARRIORS 3 anthology.




For more information on "The Custom of the Army", look here.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Attention Australian Kindle owners!

I just heard this from an Australian fan on Compuserve, and wanted to pass it on:

The OUTLANDER and Lord John books will be available on Kindle in Australia on August 31!

This is great news for Australian Kindle-owners.  Thanks, Rainyfly, for letting us know -- and also for your persistence in contacting Random House to ask when the books would be available on Kindle in Australia.  Whether or not the change was due to the influence of Australian fans writing the publisher to complain, I'm glad they were able to get it resolved.

Please pass this on to anyone you know who may be interested.

July poll results

Here are the results of the July poll:

How long have you been reading Diana Gabaldon's books?
  • 23.98% - 2 to 5 years
  • 16.17% - 5 to 10 years
  • 15.8% - 1 to 2 years
  • 14.5% - 10 to 15 years
  • 13.01% - 15 to 20 years
  • 7.43% - 6 months to a year
  • 6.88% - Less than 6 months
  • 0.93% - Since she first started posting excerpts on Compuserve, before OUTLANDER was published.
  • 0.55% - I don't remember.
  • 0.55% - I haven't yet read any of Diana Gabaldon's books.
  • 0.19% - Other
There were 538 responses to this poll, which I think is just phenomenal!  I hope the new poll format is working better for you.

I didn't vote in the poll myself, but I fall into the first category.  It will be five years for me in November.

Please take a moment to vote in the August poll.  With "Lord John and the Plague of Zombies" due out October 4, and THE SCOTTISH PRISONER on November 29, I thought this might be a good time to revisit a poll topic that I first used in January, 2010:  your opinions of the Lord John books and stories.

All opinions, pro and con, welcome.  If you think of an option I've left off this poll, please let me know.