Three new stories by Diana Gabaldon

Well, June was quite a month for fans of Diana Gabaldon, who has graced us with with not one, not two, but three new stories! Actually, that should probably be 2 1/2, since the 3rd is coauthored. No matter! We fans will take what we can get.

Most excitingly, for Outlander readers, is the publication of Seven Stones to Stand or Fall, a collection of stories set in the Outlander-verse. Five stories have been published previously in anthologies and as stand-alones:

  • The Custom of the Army (a Lord John story)
  • The Space Between (about Fraser relations, Master Raymond, and the infamous Comte St. Germain)
  • A Plague of Zombies (more Lord John)
  • A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows (about Roger’s parents during WWII)
  • Virgins (about Jamie and Ian as young, virginal mercenaries in France, prior to the events of Outlander)

Having read all of these previously*, I’ll just focus on the two new pieces from Seven Stones:

A Fugitive Green: A 100+ page novella about Hal and Minnie — that would be Lord John’s distinguished older brother Harold, Duke of Pardloe, and his beloved wife Minnie. This is their origin story, of sorts. In A Fugitive Green, we get the tale of how Minnie, the daughter of a spymaster and book dealer, met and ended up married to a young, newly widowed British officer on the verge of utter disgrace. Minnie is sent by her father from Paris to London to carry out some book deals as well as some espionage, with the ulterior motive of getting her a rich and well-placed husband along the way. Meanwhile, Hal is dealing with the aftermath of a scandalous duel and his wife’s death, and Hal’s best friend is busy trying to get Hal cleared of any guilt related to the duel. When Minnie and Hal meet, sparks fly. We’ve certainly seen both of these characters as adults and gotten a taste of their fiery marriage, and their unusual meeting and marriage has been spoken of, but here we see it first-hand (and yes, the famous hearth rug too.) It’s all quite delicious, and I enjoyed seeing Hal in his 20s, with a certain amount of romance and vulnerability that his older, more hardened self rarely (if ever) displays. Hal has become a favorite of mine over the course of the main Outlander series as well as in the assortment of Lord John novels and novellas, and I appreciated getting this new view of Hal and Minnie and the start of their relationship.

 

Besieged: In which Lord John, wrapping up his governorship of Jamaica, is informed last minute that not only is his mother Benedicta unexpectedly in Havana, but that the British fleet is about to invade Cuba. What’s a devoted son to do but sail off with his trusted valet Tom Byrd and rush to the rescue? I’ll be honest — despite my love for John and my joy at another adventure with Tom Byrd, this story left me cold. It was mostly people (well, John) rushing from place to place, lots of military talk, and not a whole lot of character depth. The action felt a bit mind-numbing after a while — haciendas and forts and rushing around — and I just didn’t enjoy it. Sure, it’s wonderful to spend time with John, but I would have liked to see him interact more with his mother and Tom rather than being caught up in an action story the whole time. There’s also a very sad development, if you’ve read the Lord John novels and are familiar with John’s extended family, but other than that, I actually found Besieged rather skippable.

 

And finally, a Gabaldon story that’s only kind of a Gabaldon story. In the new anthology MatchUp, bestselling authors are paired up — one male, one female — to create stories together featuring some of their well-known characters. For those who are into these type of stories (crime thrillers), I’m sure there’s lots to enjoy from authors such as Sandra Brown, Charlaine Harris, etc etc etc. For me, I picked up MatchUp at the library strictly for the sake of Herself.

In MatchUp, Diana Gabaldon is paired up with Steve Berry, and together they’ve written a story — Past Prologue — centered around Berry’s lead character, Cotton Malone. In Past Prologue, Malone is in Scotland (to be clear, that’s modern-day, 21st century Scotland) for a private book sale. When he wanders away from Ardsmuir for a walk across the moors, he finds himself at a stone circle… and then, poof! finds himself in the year 1755. And for those who know their Outlander history, that means that Ardsmuir is a prison housing Scottish rebels, among them a tall red-haired man who stands out in a crowd. Malone ends up meeting the one and only Jamie Fraser (pausing here for hearts to melt). The plot of the story isn’t that important, but the Jamie moments are a lovely little treat, with a lot of heartbreak squeezed into one small conversation.

Past Prologue isn’t essential to the Outlander canon, but for fans, it’s a fun way to get a glimpse of familiar characters and settings. Not a bad way to pass the time!

 

*If you’re an Outlander reader but haven’t yet read the five already-published stories, I’ll just say that my two favorites are A Leaf on the Wind of All Hallows and Virgins.

**Further note: As always, I’ll mention that the audiobooks are a great option for enjoying the Gabaldon novellas. Jeff Woodman is particularly wonderful narrating anything related to Lord John, and I really enjoyed the Virgins audiobook as well.

***I’ve written about a few of the these stories/novellas in other posts. Check them out:
A Trail of Fire
Virgins

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The Outlandish Companion, Volume I (revised edition): A Reading & Listening Guide

Revised edition of OCI, 2015

Revised edition of OCI, 2015

Last week, I posted a reading and listening guide for The Outlandish Companion, Volume II — and working my way backward, I’m now doing the same for Volume I of this essential reference book for Outlander fans.

First, a note on editions. The Outlandish Companion was originally published in 1999, providing all sorts of reference information on the first four books in the Outlander series (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn). This book has been a go-to resource for book fans ever since, who have (pretty much non-stop since 1999) never stopped asking for a volume two.

In 2015, fans finally got their wish, and more. Not only was The Outlandish Companion, Volume II published in October 2015, but earlier in the year, Diana Gabaldon also released a newly revised and updated edition of the Companion, Volume I.

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The 1999 edition

The new edition of The Outlandish Companion, Volume I includes most of the original, plus some additional essays on writing and being a writer, as well as a section on the Starz TV series. Although I already owned a copy of the original edition, I simply had to treat myself to the revised edition as well… and then immediately put it on my shelf once it arrived, figuring I’d page through it eventually.

But now, having listened to the OCII audiobook, I thought it would be only fair to give the OCI audiobook a listen as well. And, as a public service for anyone who’s interested, I’m here to share with you a guide to what’s inside the OCI revised edition, plus what’s on the audiobook and what’s not.

As I mentioned in my OCII review: What you get in the audiobook, which you don’t get in the hard copy, is the voice of Herself, our beloved author Diana Gabaldon. I actually can’t stress this enough: Most of the audiobook is narrated by Diana, and I’ll explain a bit further on why this really matters… and really, why this alone is worth the price of the audiobook, even if you already own the physical book.

[Note: Except where indicated, all sections of OCI are read by Diana Gabaldon on the audiobook.]

Without further ado, what follows is an overview of what’s in the book, what I especially enjoyed, and a few tips and comments for anyone thinking about listening to the audiobook, either instead of or in addition to getting a copy of the physical book.

 

What’s inside:

Prologue:

Well, it was all an accident, is what it was. I wasn’t trying to be published; I wasn’t even going to show it to anyone. I just wanted to write a book — any kind of book.

And with this opening, we’re off! Diana takes us through her background, explaining how Outlander was just supposed to be what she was writing “for practice” to learn how to write a novel, and how it grew from there. It’s funny and personal and a must-read, particularly if you haven’t yet had the pleasure of hearing Diana tell her own writing story.

Part One: Synopses:

This is a major chunk of the book, and well worth the investment for true fans. The synopses included — Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn  — are lengthy and incredibly detailed. The books’ plots are thoroughly summarized, start to finish, with plenty of passages directly from the original texts.

Lengths of synopses (hardcover edition):

Outlander: 10 pages
Dragonfly in Amber: 30 pages
Voyager: 34 pages
Drums of Autumn: 42 pages

Reading tip: If you find yourself picking up the series after a break and need a refresher on what’s already happened, these synopses are detailed enough to give you everything you need to keep going, if you just can’t spare the time for a complete re-read of the books themselves.

Listening note: On the audiobook, the synopses are read by the incomparable Davina Porter, who narrates all of the Outlander series audiobooks. Just listening to her read the synopses and the quoted passages is a total treat.

Part Two: Characters

This section starts with a lengthy essay entitled “Where Characters Come From: Mushrooms, Onions, and Hard Nuts”. Diana explains her approach to creating characters, how they talk to her, and where their names come from, as well as how she incorporates historical characters, and even which characters in her books have connections to people in her life.

The second section of Part Two is a Cast of Characters, which is an alphabetical index of all characters in the first four books, with a brief explanation for each, a notation of which book they appear in, and a marker for any who are historical figures. Beyond that, there is a list of various minor characters, named or not, who in general are part of a group but don’t particularly have roles of their own, including Dougal’s men, Monks at the Abbey of Ste. Anne de Beaupré, Lallybroch tenants, and more.

Additional sections of Part Two are:

  • “I Get Letters”  – in which Diana describes some of the various and sundry gifts and items she receives from readers. This part includes a rather lengthy section on astrology, including astrological charts for Jamie and Claire, sent to Diana by a reader named Kathy Pigou. The full charts and explanations are included here, along with diagrams and a basic introduction to astrological methodology.
  • “Magic, Medicine, and White Ladies” – an overview of women’s roles as healers, the concept of white women, Claire’s medical background, and why WWII makes sense as a starting point for Claire’s medical experience.

Listening note: The essays in this part are included in full on the audiobook. The Cast of Characters is not included, being more or less a dictionary, which would make is not very useful to listen to. The astrology-related pieces are narrated by a woman whose name I didn’t catch — not Davina Porter, not Diana Gabaldon. As I have no interest in astrology, I ended up fast-forwarding this piece once I realized how long it was going to be.

Part Three: Family Trees

Includes background, family trees, and coats of arms for the Beauchamp, Randall, Fraser, and MacKenzie families.

“A Genealogical Note” is a section concerning the genealogy of Roger MacKenzie Wakefield, in which Diana breaks down the detailed explanation of just where Roger came from and addresses certain points that always seem to confuse readers. Includes Roger’s family tree.

Listening note: The section about Roger is on the audiobook. The rest of this part is not.

Part Four: Comprehensive Glossary and Pronunciation Guide

For those with an interest in linguistics, you’ll love this part. After a brief introduction in which Diana addresses the difficulty of including so many languages (especially languages she herself doesn’t speak!) in her books, she includes some very helpful reference pieces, including:

  • A Very Brief Guide To Gaelic Grammar by Iain MacKinnon Taylor — this includes the Gaidhlic alphabet, a pronunciation guide, grammar overview, and spelling notes.
  • Comprehensive Glossary of Foreign Terms (including British slang) — a mish-mosh of all sorts of phrases and words from the books, from Scots, Gaelic, English, Latin, French, Spanish, and more — even Kahnyen’kehaka (Mohawk).

Listening note: Unfortunately, not on the audiobook at all. While no one would want to hear a list of words and definitions, it might have been fun to get at least a bit of the Scottish pronunciations of some of the phrases used most frequently in the Outlander series.

Part Five: Research

This section is sure to be fascinating to readers, and I can’t help imagining that writers and aspiring writers will find it incredibly helpful and inspiring as well. Diana talks about methods of doing research for historical novels and what works for her, and then talks about resources and basic skills, such as using a library, working with a card catalog, reading for information, and locating sources.

As I mentioned for a similar section in OCII, Diana is incredibly generous with her insights and personal revelations here. She goes into quite a lot of detail on how she organizes her research, what she finds most effective and why, and offers such practical advice that if I were even thinking of writing historical fiction (I’m not), I’d both want to follow in her footsteps and to give her a hug, for making it all sound so doable.

She’s also just funny — for example, one section of this part is called “I’ve Done My Research, and Now You’re Going to Pay”, in which she cautions against falling into the trap of cramming in so much detail that the story itself gets lost.

Don’t forget that the purpose of research is to support the story; not the other way around.

A further section of Part Five is entitled “Botanical Medicine: Don’t Try This At Home” Here, Diana explains some of the plants and natural substances which are used in the Outlander books as medicines, how she researched these and some of the sources used, and the properties of certain herbs and their healing effects. She also includes a word of caution:

Well… I really hope no one would use antiquated medical treatments described in a time-travel novel (I mean, it does say FICTION on the spine, after all …. ) but what with the increasing interest in herbal therapies and alternative medicine in general, I do get frequent questions regarding my sources, or requests for recommendations. People want to know how I know all this stuff — am I an herbal practitioner myself? Am I a professional botanist?

Definitely not.

This section concludes with “Penicillin Online: A Writer’s Thread”, in which Diana shares a conversation generated by her query to one of her online communities about a passage concerning penicillin which she was writing for The Fiery Cross (book #5). It’s a lengthy conversation (20 pages), but very interesting for the back-and-forth sharing of information, insights, and ideas.

Listening note: All of Part Five is included on the audiobook with the exception of the final section (“Penicillin Online”).

Part Six: Where Titles Come From (And Other Matters of General Interest)

Lots of terrific information on the crafting and shaping of the novels, with sections including:

  • Outlander vs. Cross Stitch — Discussing the main differences between the US and UK versions of the first book in the series, and some notes on foreign editions as well.
  • The Cannibal’s Art: Writing and Real Life — Diana talks about her writing life, and how she balances family, writing, and having a life. Amazing.
  • Book Touring for Beginners — Did you ever want to know what it’s like to experience a book tour. This very funny section gives us a pretty good idea.
  • A side bar section entitled “A Brief Disquisition on the Existence of Butt Cooties” — basically, Diana’s thoughts on the state of public restrooms, based on her extensive exposure to such as part of her book touring travels.
  • The Shape of Things — Quite a lovely piece on how thoughts turn into words on a page. I’ve heard a version of this before as part of a talk by Diana that I attended, but it’s really so amazing to read. She also explains how each of her books has a “shape”, and how that affects the overall tone and structure of the book.
  • The Gabaldon Theory of Time Travel — Exactly what it sounds like, and a must-read for devoted series readers, all of whom usually have theories of their own as to just how it all works.

Listening note: All of Part Six is included on the audiobook.

Part Seven: The View From Lallybroch: Objects of Vertue, Objects of Use

This section consists of passages from the various books that describe certain things (Claire’s pearls, her wedding bands, Jamie’s sword) and places (the stone circle, Lallybroch), interspersed with drawing and photos related to the objects described. It’s lovely to read and hear the descriptive passages and to admire how Diana paints a picture of these items and locations through her use of words.

Listening note: All of the text in included in the audiobook, but without the hardcopy book on hand, I did feel that I was missing something in this section. It definitely adds a great deal to have the physical book as a reference in order to see the illustrations that accompany the various quoted sections.

Part Eight: Frequently Asked Questions

Fascinating, of course. This section includes all sorts of questions related to the books, the characters, Diana’s personal experiences, and more, as well as some more esoteric questions such as why Jamie can’t blink and what ever happened to Claire’s pearls in Dragonfly in Amber. The answers are all thoughtful, amusing, and truly informative… and often quite tongue-in-cheek.

Listening note: This entire section is included on the audiobook.

Part Nine: Controversy

Diana discusses some of the topics about which she gets the most communication from readers, and shares with us some of her answers as well. Main topics include sex scenes, language (profanity/blasphemy/vulgarity), homosexuality, abortion, wife-beating (specific to the famous/infamous “strapping” scene in book 1), and other issues. The answers are all quite thought-provoking, and often funny too. (She’s a very funny woman, that Diana Gabaldon).

Also included in this section is the essay “Jamie and the Rule of Three”, which is also available via Diana’s website (or was, anyway, last time I looked for it). It’s a marvelous piece that explains why Outlander was constructed as it was, and why the terrible things that happen to Jamie had to happen for the sake of the story.

Listening note: This entire section is included on the audiobook.

Part Ten: From Book to Screen

A very interesting section on the making on the TV show, which explains how books in general get made (or not) into movies or other types of productions, and then goes into the background of the Starz TV series, from concept to production, including notes on the cast, the filming process, and Diana’s role as a consultant. Also included here are two blog entries she’d written on “My Brief Career As a TV Actor”, very funny pieces describing her days on-set filming a cameo appearance for one of the episodes.

Listening note: This entire section is included on the audiobook — and this is where the audiobook ends.

What’s left in the book? Well, the hard copy in my hands continues for another 125+ pages beyond this point! The remainder of the book is:

Annotated Bibliography

A lengthy listing of Diana’s sources and all sorts of reading material related to everything under the sun in her books.

Appendix I: Errata

As Diana says in the introductory paragraph to this section: “Well, look — nobody’s perfect.” This section includes all of the corrections to dates, language, and other minor facts (such as whether certain fruits would really be in season at the time they’re eaten in the books).

I won’t go into the contents of all of the rest of the appendices, as there are a whole bunch more — but they are:

Appendix II: Gaelic (Gaidhlig) Resources: A Writer’s Short Guide to Scottish Speech Patterns

Appendix III: Poems and Quotations

Appendix IV: Roots: A Brief Primer on Genealogical Research

Appendix V: A Brief Discography of Celtic Music

Appendix VI: Foreign Editions, Audiotapes, and Strange, Strange Covers

Appendix VII: The Methadone List (Diana’s recommended reading list — what she likes to read for fun and feels good about recommending!)

End papers: Several pages of photos from the Starz TV series.

 

What else do you need to know?

My wrap-up points and overall tips regarding the Outlandish Companion, Volume I are exactly the same as for OCII, so I’ll just re-post the main bits of my conclusion from that review:

Thanks to the audiobook, I spent much more time on [this book] than I might have if I’d only stuck to the physical copy. The hardcover edition is a beautiful physical specimen, but I don’t think it would have occurred to me to treat it as something to read from start to finish. By listening to the audiobook, I had the opportunity to slow down, pay attention, and really absorb all of the wonderful information contained in the book.

Highlights: What ended up really making this an extraordinary listen for me was the the narration by Diana Gabaldon herself. And I’ll tell you, I was skeptical at the start. Diana is not a professional audiobook narrator. For one thing, she is FAST. (Big tip: Use .75 speed if you can to listen to Diana’s sections — listening at regular speed is the equivalent of listening to any other audiobook at 1.5x!). It was an adjustment to get used to her speed and speech patterns, but once I got into the groove, I loved it! She shares so much of herself here, and hearing her deliver the content makes it an especially personal experience. Plus, in case you’ve never heard Diana Gabaldon give a talk before — she’s really funny. Listening to Diana narrate her own book lets us hear her emphases and inflections, and it becomes clear just what she finds funny about her content and where she’s being ironic or tongue-in-cheek.

Key advice:

The audiobook is a brilliant way to get a rich experience from [this book] — but it’s incomplete without the physical book at hand. My strongest advice for fans: Get them both.

If you’re a true fan of the Outlander series, then both volumes of the Outlandish Companion are essential books to have on  your shelves. I know I’ll be using mine, over and over again, every time a pesky question arises — such as “where have I seen that character before” or “how the heck is that even pronounced?” These books are about the same price as a standard hardcover novel, and I consider them really valuable investments for Outlander fans.

Interested in The Outlandish Companion, Volume II? See my reading and listening guide, here.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Outlandish Companion, Volume I (revised edition)
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: March 31, 2015
Printed book length: 577 pages
Audiobook length: 13 hours, 48 minutes
Genre: Reference
Source: Purchased

The Outlandish Companion, Volume II: A Reading & Listening Guide

OCIIThe Outlandish Companion, volume II, is a reference book. Does it surprise you to hear that it was also one of the most enjoyable reading and listening experiences I’ve had in months?

First, some background: As anyone who even occasionally visits my blog surely knows by now, I’m a pretty dedicated fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. In 1999, Diana published The Outlandish Companion, a reference guide covering the first four books in the Outlander series (Outlander, Dragonfly in Amber, Voyager, and Drums of Autumn). And pretty much ever since, fans have been clamoring for a second volume to cover the rest of the books.

In March 2015, Diana Gabaldon published a new and revised edition of The Outlandish Companion, volume I, updated to include some additional commentary, especially regarding the Starz TV series. [Blogger note: I’m working a bit backwards here, I know. I’ll post a separate piece about volume I in the next week or so.] And in October of 2015, we finally got The Outlandish Companion, Volume II, and what a treat is is!

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The 1999 edition

I bought myself a hardcover edition of OCII as soon as it came out, but hadn’t done much with it beyond opening it at random and flipping through. When I saw that the audiobook had been released, it seemed like the perfect way for me to enjoy the contents of OCII in a laid-back, kind of mellow sort of way.

What you get in the audiobook, which you don’t get in the hard copy, is the voice of Herself, our beloved author Diana Gabaldon. I actually can’t stress this enough: Large portions of the audiobook are narrated by Diana, and I’ll explain a bit further on why this really matters… and really, why this alone is worth the price of the audiobook, even if you already own the physical book.

Revised edition of OCI, 2015

Revised edition of OCI, 2015

An added bonus for those who’ve listened to the audiobooks of the Outlander series and the spin-off Lord John books is the participation of the books’ narrators. Davina Porter — marvelous Davina Porter — narrates all of the Outlander book synopses in OCII, and Jeff Woodman, who does such a fantastic job as the honorable and wryly funny Lord John Grey, narrates the synopses for all of the Lord John pieces.

Without further ado, what follows is an overview of what’s in the book, what I especially enjoyed, and a few tips and comments for anyone thinking about listening to the audiobook, either instead of or in addition to getting a copy of the physical book.

 

What’s inside:

Introduction

Yes, this matters! Diana’s introduction is as funny and smart as you’d expect, explaining how the revised OCI and the new OCII came about. It’s also a great intro to her style throughout the book, which is liberally sprinkled with footnotes, often humorous and tongue-in-cheek, and sure to include at least a few nuggets of odd but interesting little known facts.

Part One: Chronology

Identifying and explaining the chronology of all the parts in the story — so if you’re wondering what to read when, and just where all those novellas fit in, this will tell you.

Part Two: Synopses:

This is the longest part of the book — in my hardcover edition, the synopses start on page 15 and end on page 245. On the audiobook, we’re talking hours and hours. (Sorry, I can’t be more specific… but if I had to guess, at last 8 – 10 hours out of the whole.)

The synopses for the four Outlander books — The Fiery Cross, A Breath of Snow and Ashes, An Echo in the Bone, and Written in My Own Heart’s Blood  — are lengthy and incredibly detailed. The books’ plots are thoroughly summarized, start to finish, with plenty of passages directly from the original texts.

Lengths of synopses (hardcover edition):

The Fiery Cross: 30 pages
A Breath of Snow and Ashes: 66 pages
An Echo In the Bone: 30 pages
Written In My Own Heart’s Blood: 80 pages

Reading tip: If you’re midway through the series, or perhaps took a break in between volumes, these synopses are so detailed that you could easily read these as prep before moving on to the next novel. Although, in my humble opinion, it’s never a waste of time to do a re-read of the books themselves!

After the four Outlander books, we come to the synopses of the Lord John books and novellas. These are much less detailed, with simple plot overviews, not much in the way of spoilers, and no details on the mysteries or their solutions. This section is useful as a refresher, but doesn’t provide enough information if you’re looking for a full-blown recap.

Part Three: Cast of Characters

As the introductory paragraph states:

This list includes all the characters from the second four novels and from the Lord John books, with brief notes as to which book each character is introduced in, who they are, their role in the story, and whether they’re fictional or real historical persons.

This is simply invaluable. Arranged alphabetically, this 118-page section is a must-have for series readers, providing instant access to the who’s who necessary to keep straight the huge number of people who come and go in the books.

Part Four: Sex and Violence (subtitle: Spanking, Beating, Flogging, and Other Interesting Topics Involving Physical Interactions of a Non-Consensual Sort)

Now here’s where it gets truly interesting! Up to now, the OCII is largely reference material. Finally, in Part Four, we get Diana’s insight into her characters and their actions, and it is absolutely fascinating.  She spends quite a bit of time on some of the more controversial elements in the books — the spanking scene in Outlander, the occurrence of rape in the plot and whether it’s too much, the historical context of rape in the Highlands, Black Jack Randall’s sadism — and for those with an opinion on any of these, or who’ve read or participated in any of the heated debates that seem to crop up among readers, it’s enlightening to hear the author’s take on the issues and understand the thought processes behind her writing of these elements.

Part Five: History and Historical Fiction: Organizing the Past

If I had to pick one section to recommend above all others as a resource for writers, this would be it. Whether or not you read the Outlander books, I think this marvelous section would be inspiring to anyone who ever dreamed of writing their own novel.

Diana is incredibly generous with her insights and personal revelations here. She discusses the challenges and pleasures of historical research, and just what’s involved in writing historical fiction, using documentary evidence to enhance and ground her fiction. Not only that, but she also shares her own organization and tracking methods for her research — everything from how she organizes her bookshelves to her computer files’ naming systems.

If I were a writer (and I’m not), I think I’d be incredibly uplifted by Diana’s no-nonsense approach to writing. You want to write? Then write. Don’t delay because you haven’t finished your research yet, or because you need a dedicated space, or until your kids are out of the house, or any of a thousand other reasons. She repeatedly stresses that she began writing Outlander for practice, just to see if she could. I’m simplifying things quite a bit here, but the bottom line is that this is a section that should be read and shared and appreciated. (Also, see Part Seven)

Part Six: A Comprehensive Scottish Language Glossary and Pronunciation Guide – by Adhamh O Broin

Comprehensive is right! 77 pages worth of Scottish phrases, with a guide to pronunciation, origin, use in the books, and meaning, written by the esteemed Adhamh O Broin, who is the official Gaelic (Gaidhlig) consultant for the Outlander TV series.

Part Seven: Writing, and Other Games You Play By Yourself

Along with Part Five, this is simply indispensable knowledge and advice for writers. Diana talks about her own writing processes, and digs deeply into “Mind Games” — the many ways that people’s minds get in the way of their writing. If you’re even thinking about maybe someday starting to write, read this section. Not kidding.

But wait, there’s more! A fabulous part of this section of the book is “A Coda in Three-Two Time” (Annotated). “A Coda in Three-Two Time” is an amazing section of Written In My Own Heart’s Blood, showcasing the wedding night experiences of three couples. It’s intimate, sexy, personal, and even funny — and here, Diana’s annotates the scene to explain the linguistic and stylistic elements behind the writing. The thought and craft that go into the creation of “Coda” is beautiful to learn about.

Also in Part Seven is a section called “One Word Speaks Volumes”, in which Diana explains that she has one word that for her sums up the theme of each novel. From Outlander (love) to The Fiery Cross (community) to A Breath of Snow and Ashes (loyalty) and beyond, the meaning behind the theme is explained and supported. As with so much in the OCII, it’s fascinating.

Finally, Part Seven includes Recipes — I’m not sure exactly why this fits in the writing section, but here it is. Diana shares some favorites recipes, with explanations about her family’s experiences with the dishes included and detailed instructions on cooking and serving them.

Part Eight: The Invisible Talent

As Diana states in the introduction to this section:

“Talent” is what publicists, producers, and agents call the people who provide the visible face of entertainment — actors, for the most part. But anyone who is even temporarily appearing in his or own persona is “talent” — even me. But what about the people who give so much to the TV show and the world of Outlander, who normally don’t show their faces and talk about what they do?

I asked a few of the many, many talented people who create the world of the TV show (and other aspects of the ever increasing world of Outlander) to give us a brief glimpse of what they do and how they do it.

Included are essays by four behind-the-scenes, exceptionally talented individuals:

Terry Dresbach, the show’s brilliantly gifted costume designer, writes about just what it takes to design and produce costumes for a production of this magnitude, and includes several of her sketches for outfits for Claire and Jamie.

[Listening note: The narrator for this section (whose name I didn’t catch) does a fine job, except she mispronounces a couple of character names — most notably, Jamie’s last name! It’s FRASER, not FRASIER. Seems like something that should have been corrected during the production.]

Bear McCreary, the show’s composer, talks about his love of Scottish music (especially bagpipes!) and the reasons for the types of music we hear throughout the episodes. While some of his information is rather technical, it’s presented in such a way that even a non-musical person like me could understand and appreciate it.

Dr. Claire MacKay: Dr. MacKay is an herbalist with expertise in the historical use of herbal medicine. She provides a really interesting overview of the history of herbal medicine in the  Highlands, as well as explaining nine herbs from Claire’s medicine kit, their traditional and modern uses, and their use in the Outlander books.

Theresa Carle-Sanders, author of the upcoming cookbook Outlander Kitchen, writes about “The Diet and Cookery of Eighteenth-Century Highlanders”, explaining not just what types of foods were eaten, but what this diet meant in terms of health, mobility, and class distinctions.

Part Nine: Maps and Floor Plans

Oh, what a treat! If you’re like me, you’ve spent a lot of mental energy trying to figure out just what’s where, and now we know! Included are floor plans for Lallybroch and the Big House on Fraser’s Ridge, as well as maps of the Lallybroch estate and the layout of the Fraser’s Ridge houses and cabins. Also included are maps of the American Colonies circa 1775, the British Isles, the city of Philadelphia, and the battlefields of Culloden and Saratoga.

Part Ten: The Methadone List

Diana’s fans are familiar with the concept of “The Methadone List”. Outlander is, after all, an addiction for its devoted readers — yet even the most devoted sometimes need to read something else. Diana shares this list in response to the question she’s always asked about what ELSE to read. “The Methadone List” is a list of some of her favorite books and writers, with brief plot descriptions and in some cases, excerpts from the books themselves.

Part Eleven: Bibliography

No explanation needed, right?

End papers: Several pages of photos conclude the OCII, include pictures of Castle Leod (seat of Clan MacKenzie) and a few behind-the-scenes photos from the TV production. The front and back inside covers are a detailed family tree (which you can download here as a PDF).

Listening tips:

Thanks to the audiobook, I spent much more time on the OCII than I might have if I’d only stuck to the physical copy. The hardcover edition is a beautiful physical specimen, but I don’t think it would have occurred to me to treat it as something to read from start to finish. By listening to the audiobook, I had the opportunity to slow down, pay attention, and really absorb all of the wonderful information contained in the book.

Highlights: What ended up really making this an extraordinary listen for me was the the narration by Diana Gabaldon herself. And I’ll tell you, I was skeptical at the start. Diana is not a professional audiobook narrator. For one thing, she is FAST. (Big tip: Use .75 speed if you can to listen to Diana’s sections — listening at regular speed is the equivalent of listening to any other audiobook at 1.5x!). It was an adjustment to get used to her speed and speech patterns, but once I got into the groove, I loved it! She shares so much of herself here, and hearing her deliver the content makes it an especially personal experience. Plus, in case you’ve never heard Diana Gabaldon give a talk before — she’s really funny. Listening to Diana narrate her own book lets us hear her emphases and inflections, and it becomes clear just what she finds funny about her content and where she’s being ironic or tongue-in-cheek.

As I mentioned earlier, getting another opportunity to listen to Davina Porter and Jeff Woodman is delightful. I’ve listened to the audiobooks of the entire Outlander series and Lord John books, and spending time with the narrators again here is like hanging out with old friends.

What’s missing: It may go without saying, but listeners should be aware that there are some elements of a reference book that just can’t be provided via audio. The OCII audiobook does not include the character guide, Scottish language glossary, maps and floor plans, or bibliography. And obviously, no illustrations.

Further tips:

Recipes and Methadone List — you can listen to these sections with the audiobook, but if you actually want to make use of them, whether to try the recipes or to track down books to read, you’ll need to refer to the hard copy.

Key advice:

The audiobook is a brilliant way to get a rich experience from the OCII — but it’s incomplete without the physical book at hand. My strongest advice for fans: Get them both.

If you’re a true fan of the Outlander series, then this is an essential and worthwhile investment! I know I’ll be referring to this book over and over again, whether it’s to look up a random character, check out a battlefield, or get some inspiration for my non-Outlander reading.

Blogger’s note: As I mentioned, I’m going about this backwards! Having listened to the OCII audiobook, I’m now going back and listening to the OCI audiobook as well. This is the longest piece I’ve ever posted, and I’m exhausted!! — but if I have the energy, I’ll write up a reading and listening guide to OCI once I finish.

_________________________________________

The details:

Title: The Outlandish Companion, Volume II
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication date: October 27, 2015
Printed book length: 656 pages
Audiobook length: 21 hours, 17 minutes
Genre: Reference
Source: Purchased

Top Ten Tuesday: Top 10 All-Time Favorite Authors

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Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is Top Ten All-Time Favorite Authors. I had a really hard time narrowing it down, and changed my mind about half a dozen times, but finally decided to focus on living writers whose works I continue to read (and hope to keep reading for a long time to come).

Here we go:

1. Diana Gabaldon (like there was any doubt about this one!)

DG1

2. Mary Doria Russell

MDR

3. Stephen King

SKing

4. Patricia Briggs

PBriggs

5. Jim Butcher

JButcher

6. Susanna Kearsley

SKearsley

7. Christopher Moore

CMoore

8. Neil Gaiman

Gaiman

9. Bill Willingham

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10. J. K. Rowling

Rowling[Note on images: Author photos scavenged from the interwebs; book photos taken by moi!]

I hate having to stop at just 10. This is just scratching the surface — and doesn’t even include some of the late greats, such as Douglas Adams, Kurt Vonnegut, and J. R. R. Tolkien. Ah well, I suppose that’s a list for another day!

Looking forward to seeing everyone else’s lists this week.

Share your links, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly feature, Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I’m building a Book Blog Meme Directory, and need your help! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

 

Thursday Quotables: The Custom of the Army

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

The Custom of the Army

The Custom of the Army by Diana Gabaldon
(Novella originally published 2010 in the Warriors anthology)

All things considered, it was probably the fault of the electric eel.

This novella fits into the Outlander series as an interlude in the life of Lord John Grey. It’s a compact adventure, full of Lord John’s trademark understated humor and intelligence. There’s so much to love about this character, and I especially enjoy the snippets showing John and his older brother Hal, Duke of Pardloe:

“In Canada?” John’s exclamation startled Dottie, who crumpled up her face and threatened to cry.
“Hush, sweetheart.” Hal jiggled faster, hastily patting her back. “It’s all right; only Uncle John being an ass.”

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Leave your link in the comments — or, if you have a quote to share but not a blog post, you can leave your quote in the comments too!
  • Visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Thursday Quotables: A Breath of Snow and Ashes

quotation-marks4

Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

 

ABOSAA quote

Source:

A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander, #6)

A Breath of Snow and Ashes
Diana Gabaldon
2005

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Leave your link in the comments — or, if you have a quote to share but not a blog post, you can leave your quote in the comments too!
  • Visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

The Monday Agenda 3/24/2014

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

Despite another week of real-life craziness, I did manage to read some great books!

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)Grasshopper JungleThe Summer I Wasn't Me

Night Broken by Patricia Briggs: Loved it! My review is here.

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith: Weird and wonderful. My review is here.

The Summer I Wasn’t Me by Jessica Verdi: Done! Watch for my review and blog tour post about this terrific YA book on April 5th!

The kiddo and I have more or less ditched Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper, although we may end up giving it one more shot. We also read the first chapter of Treasure Island, but we’re feeling very non-committal at the moment.

Fresh Catch:

No new physical books this week, but I did get a few e-ARCs that look pretty terrific:

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

The Shambling Guide to New York CityThe Storied Life of A. J. FikryVisible City

I’ve just started The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty, and so far, it’s a riot.

After that, I’ll be diving into:

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Visible City by Tova Mirvis

And also in the works:

echoThe Outlander Book Club’s re-read of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon continues! Coming up this week: Chapters 49 – 53. Want to join in? Contact me and I’ll provide all the details!

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

boy1

The Monday Agenda 3/17/2014

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

Real life interrupted my reading and blogging plans this week in a big way… but here’s what I did manage to accomplish in my bookish life this past week:

Sunrise (Ashfall, #3)Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)

Sunrise by Mullin: Done! A great conclusion to an action-packed trilogy, Sunrise will definitely satisfy fans of the Ashfall series. Check out my stop on the blog tour here, and be sure to enter the giveaway!

Night Broken by Patricia Briggs: I’m absolutely loving this newest installment in the Mercy Thompson series — and just wish I’d had the time to devote to reading it. I hope to finish in the next day or two!

Fresh Catch:

Here’s what the kiddo and I brought home from the library this week:

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What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

Grasshopper JungleSide Effects May VaryThe Lost Sisterhood

The next few books I plan to dive into are:

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy

The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

And also in the works:

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising Sequence)The kiddo and are slowly working our way through Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.

echoThe Outlander Book Club’s re-read of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon continues! Coming up this week: Chapters 44 – 48. Want to join in? Contact me and I’ll provide all the details!

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

boy1

The Monday Agenda 3/10/2014

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

House of GlassThe Opposite of Maybe16 Things I Thought Were True

House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield: Done! A story of a home invasion that quickly spirals out of control, House of Glass focuses on the family whose world is turned upside down and how their relationships and secrets factor into the dangerous situation they face. Shelleyrae at Book’d Out wrote a spot-on review of this book; you can see it here.

The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson. Done! My review is here.

16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler: Done! My author Q&A, review, and blog tour post can be found here.

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek MythsThe kiddo and I are finished D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths this week, and loved it! A great book to share, one that we each enjoyed. Finally, a successful book pick for the two of us!

Fresh Catch:

One library book:

Grasshopper Jungle

Two books I just had to buy before that Amazon gift card burned a hole in my pocket:

Sailor Twain: Or: The Mermaid in the HudsonWe Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

(PS – I’ve read Sailor Twain already, but didn’t own a copy — and now that it’s out in paperback, just couldn’t resist!)

And the next volume in one of my ongoing series… which I really, seriously need to get caught up on one of these days:

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

Sunrise (Ashfall, #3)Night Broken (Mercy Thompson, #8)

I’m so excited to read Sunrise by Mike Mullin, book three in the terrific trilogy that starts with Ashfall and Ashen Winter. My blog tour post will be up on March 15th — be sure to check it out!

I’m also practically bouncing off the walls waiting for the new Mercy Thompson book to arrive this week! Night Broken by Patricia Briggs will be released this Tuesday, and this will be a (as they call it in my son’s school) DEAR book for me — “drop everything and read”! Can’t wait.

And also in the works:

Over Sea, Under Stone (The Dark Is Rising Sequence)Next up for the kiddo and me: We’re just starting Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper.

echoThe Outlander Book Club’s re-read of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon continues! Coming up this week: Chapters 39 – 43. Want to join in? Contact me and I’ll provide all the details!

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

boy1

The Monday Agenda 3/3/2014

MondayAgendaNot a lofty, ambitious to-be-read list consisting of 100+ book titles. Just a simple plan for the upcoming week — what I’m reading now, what I plan to read next, and what I’m hoping to squeeze in among the nooks and crannies.

How did I do with last week’s agenda?

City of JasmineThe Husband's Secret16 Things I Thought Were True

City of Jasmine by Deanna Raybourn: Done! My review is here.

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Done! My review is here.

16 Things I Thought Were True by Janet Gurtler: Done! Watch for my blog tour feature later this week…

Fresh Catch:

Just a few new books on my Kindle, one bought, two received as ARCs:

Somewhere in France: A Novel of the Great WarThe Here and NowThe Daring Ladies of Lowell

What’s on my reading agenda for the coming week?

House of GlassThe Opposite of MaybeThe Mapmaker's Daughter

It looks like this will be an adult fiction week, starting with:

House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield: I meant to read this one last week, but somehow I ran out of time. (Ummm, too much TV, perhaps?)

After that:

The Opposite of Maybe by Maddie Dawson

The Mapmaker’s Daughter by Laurel Corona

And also in the works:

D'Aulaires' Book of Greek MythsMy kiddo and I are still reading D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths each night before bed, and it’s loads of fun. I feel like I’m reliving my childhood, and kiddo is really enjoying the crazy shenanigans of the gods. Finally, a win in the book arena for mom!

And my ongoing project:

echoThe Outlander Book Club’s re-read of An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon continues! Coming up this week: Chapters 34 – 38. Want to join in? Contact me and I’ll provide all the details!

So many book, so little time…

That’s my agenda. What’s yours? Add your comments to share your bookish agenda for the week.

boy1