Friday, September 26, 2008

It's their HEADS that are full of spackle...

I drove up from Scottsdale to my old family place in Flagstaff yesterday. On car trips where I'm driving, I usually listen either to CD's or the radio—thanks to my husband, I have Sirius radio, and thus can choose from the BBC (love the accents, as well as the different world views you get), any kind of music one can think of, or the Usual Suspects in terms of domestic news. Given the hair-raising state of current affairs, I was mostly listening to the domestic channels. Which have advertising.

Now, I don't really mind hearing guff about credit-counseling agencies, truck-driving companies, or male-enhancement products (the best was one I heard last week, while driving with my husband: a "lotion-based" enhancement "guaranteed to increase your size as soon as you rub it in!" My husband nearly died laughing). I do, however, draw the line at the ads for colon cleansers.

I don't know if they're all the same company under different product names, but they all have the same script. Their product, they assure you, will rid you of, "the ten to twenty-five pounds of UNDIGESTED WASTE that some experts say is stuck to the walls of your colon, like spackle or paste!"

This isn't the first time I've heard this quaint theory; I once visited a massage therapist who earnestly showed me a "scientific booklet" showing cross-sectional illustrations of the large intestine, looking like a kitchen drain clogged by ever-increasing grease deposits.

Now, look…

Were y'all not paying attention in Junior High biology, when the gross anatomy and general function of the large intestine were explained? Evidently a lot of people weren't.

For starters, stand in front of a mirror and open your mouth. You are looking at one end of your digestive system. Do you see food sticking to the back of your throat? I sincerely hope not. OK, do you know why food is not sticking to the back of your throat?

Because it is slippery! Yes, very good. And why is it slippery? Because the back of your throat (and the inside of your nose, just for good measure) is lined with a mucous membrane. That means the tissue there is equipped with a large number of cells that produce….yes, indeedy, mucus! Mucus is exceedingly slippery. Slimy, even. Stuff does not stick to it.

All right. Stop-press news here: your whole, entire intestinal system is lined by this same mucous membrane. If food isn't sticking at the top of your alimentary canal, it isn't sticking at the bottom, either. No spackle.

No twenty-five pounds of undigested food, either. Now, even if you take my word for it that "undigested waste" (which is a contradiction in terms; if it hasn't been digested, it isn't waste; it's just chewed-up food. Believe me, you would notice if you were excreting undigested food) is not sticking to the walls of your large intestine, it might be argued that if your colon were especially sluggish, glop might be lollygagging around in there, making you weigh more.

It might be argued, but that isn't true, either, and it's pretty dang easy to prove it. You know the colonoscopy that you're supposed to get when you turn 50, and every so often thereafter? Well, before a doctor goes sticking an endoscope up your rear end, he or she would like to make sure of having an unobstructed view. To this end, the preparation for a colonoscopy involves drinking a solution of a liquid containing magnesium, which is a powerful laxative. You can buy this stuff in any drug store; it's called Fleet, and it's utterly revolting. But effective. It will remove everything in your colon within a few hours. And if you—out of a spirit of scientific inquiry—should happen to weigh yourself before and after this process, you will note that you do not—alas—lose ten to twenty-five pounds. You might—temporarily—lose one. If you drink enough water to kill the taste, you'll probably—temporarily—gain weight.

If you have any doubts, ask the medical personnel who do your colonoscopy if they noticed any spackle-like deposits clinging to the walls of your colon. If they did, I bet they'd mention it.

I haven't looked at the ingredient list of any of these products—I've never even seen one in the flesh—but I'd bet money that magnesium is one of, if not the, main ingredient. Taking two 500 mg magnesium tablets (which will cost you about 6 cents) will do anything one of these colon-cleansers does, I assure you. (I take magnesium tablets for occasional migraines—along with three aspirin and a nice glass of white wine, plus a schmear of Tiger Balm on temples and under nose. Treatment for migraines is highly idiosyncratic; I don't recommend this for anybody else, but it usually works for me. But that's how I know about the other effects of magnesium tablets.)

Putting aside the question of their supposed physiological basis, which is utter nonsense, do these colon-cleansers actually work, in terms of weight loss?

Well, yeah, they probably do—if used as directed. My chiropractor (hey, writing for a living is physically destructive; I have major arthritis in my neck, and my spine looks like I'm playing Twister, even while sitting down) once tried one of these "cleanser" regimes, and was so enthused, he was recommending it to all his clients.

"Yeah?" I said. "What do you do?"
"Oh," he said, "it's easy! Three days a week, you just drink the cleanser crystals, in juice or water or whatever. I've lost ten pounds in a month!"
"Great!" I said. "And you eat normally while you do this?"
"Oh, no," he said. "You don't eat on the days you take the cleanser."


"Jeffrey," I said, when he had stopped twisting my head, "you are losing weight because you've cut your caloric intake in half. You'd get the same effect if you just didn't eat solid food every other day."

He didn't believe me, of course. But I hope you will. Drink water, eat less (but whatever you do eat should have fiber), and save your money, is my advice. And listen to the BBC. It's soothing to realize that the world is bigger than Wall Street and Washington.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


So….you really want to know what I think Jamie looks like, do you? [g]

Well, Hoang has been doing wonderful stuff on the artwork for the graphic novel; amazing action, terrific characters, beautiful color and composition—just marvelous. And I love what he's done with Claire ( yes, her hair is somewhat wilder where it ought to be—as when freshly emergent from a gorse bush—but certainly not ringlets, good grief), Murtagh, Dougal, Jack Randall….

Now, Jamie has been a little more problematic, simply because everyone has such a well-defined (if not well-articulated) notion of what he looks like. The descriptions of him are more detailed than those of other characters in the books, because we're looking at him through Claire's eyes, and she's paying close attention. [g] But to take those details and come up with a gestalt that embodies the whole…harder to do.

The consequence of this has been that Hoang's been working with Jamie in different aspects, looking for a good "look" for him that can be used throughout the graphic novel.
And the poor artist, of course, has little to go on other than my rather fumbling feedback—"Well, this one is pretty good, but the jaw is too heavy…. that one's nice, too, but he seems kind of thuggish…and that one's a little too soft, too young-looking, but the hair's great!" sort of thing.

Well, in the preliminary shufflings to and fro, I'd collected a few photos of assorted actors and models who had slanted eyes of an appropriate sort—and many thanks to all the kind people who sent me their favorites (and isn't it a good thing for the men of the world that women have such diverse tastes…)—which I'd sent on to Hoang to add to his mental compost pile.

Among these was a photo of Gabriel Aubrey, and I'd mentioned in re this photo that Mr. A. did in fact have a strong resemblance to Mr. Fraser, in terms of facial physiognomy. So yesterday, an enterprising person named Grace who inhabits one of the "Outlander" discussion boards evidently came across my idle remarks and decided to see if she could make something of them. So she dragged Mr. Aubrey into her PhotoShop for a little revision, and….¤t=Jamie7.jpg

(sorry; I tried to make a link for this, but it wouldn't show up in the post, don't know why. You'll have to cut and paste the URL, unless somebody else can fix it for me.)

OK. Yeah. That's very much what he looks like. In case you were wondering. [g]

[I'll venture out on a limb and make a small prediction here: to wit, that half the comments made here will be along the lines of, "Well, that's not what I thought he looked like! I thought he looked like Josh Holloway/Sean Bean/David Cassidy/etc.!" [wry g] To each her own, as I said. But do remember that I can see him.]

Sunday, September 7, 2008

DRAGONS anthology


And this is the last item on the list of "What I'm Working On Now" (or have just finished working on, since both "The Custom of the Army" and "Dirty Scottsdale" are done, though not yet published.

OK, follow me carefully here (because I think, from comments on other entries, that some of y'all are perhaps becoming confused by the plethora of information here):

1. "DRAGONS" is the title of a proposed anthology.

A. An anthology is a collection of short pieces, contributed by lots of different authors.

B. This particular anthology is meant to include short pieces on the subject of….well, dragons.

2. I was invited to contribute a piece to this anthology. All clear so far? Good.

3. I told the editors of the anthology that I have Way Too Much work to do, to write a short story or novella for this anthology myself—BUT that my son, who is also a writer, would be willing to coauthor a story with me.

A. He's a fantasy writer, and thus more qualified to handle dragons in the first place.

B. We've coauthored a couple of fantasy short stories before, with good results:

i. Mirror Image , in an anthology titled MOTHERS AND SONS, edited by Jill Morgan, and

ii. The Castellan, in OUT OF AVALON, edited by Jennifer Roberson.

4. The editors said that would be cool, and so did my son, so we accepted.

5. My son is doing the major writing on this piece, with me providing brainstorming and editing.

6. No, we don't have a projected publication date for this one yet, but most likely sometime in 2009.

7. Here (in the next blog entry) is a selected snippet of this (so far untitled) short piece.

8. And that's what-all I'm doing/have done these days! Hope y'all will enjoy the various bits and pieces as they come available!

Untitled Story for DRAGONS anthology - excerpt

"Untitled" (for DRAGONS, editors Gardner Dozois and Jack Dann)
Copyright 2008 Sam Watkins and Diana Gabaldon

“We…I…am not a man without mercy.” He regarded the man before him evenly. “Am I?”

Nitz’s first thought was that the glittering spiked mace hanging from the man’s sash would beg to differ. Whatever other terrifying features the priest might have, his scarred scalp, his clenched jaw, his huge, brutish arms, ceased to have any effect in the presence of the ominous weapon. Its crimson was far deeper than that wrought by the sunlight; it had seen many heathen skulls caved, countless barbarian bones broken, untold numbers of false priest’s faces smashed.

The blood would never fully wash off of it.

“Am I?”

“N-no, Father,” Nitz replied, straining to hide the quaver in his voice.

To have even a foot touched by the shadow of Father Scheitzen, the shadow of a Crusader so famed and noble, would make a fully-grown man quiver. When half of the priest’s long shadow was enough to engulf a man such as Nitz, it took all he had to keep his legs from twisting together in an unconscious attempt to control his bladder.

“I am not,” Father Scheitzen nodded in reply, his neck creaking. “Nor are you.” He cast a glance over the smaller man’s head, toward the towering figure behind him. “Nor, I suspect, is she.”

Nitz followed the priest’s gaze to his companion. Father Scheitzen’s shadow did not yet extend so far as to engulf Madeline. Nitz doubted there was a man yet who had grown tall enough to do that. She did not cast a shadow, but rose as one, towering and swaddled in the ominous blackness of her nun’s habit, her head so high as to scrape against the torch ensconced in the pillar she stood alongside.

“Maddy,” Nitz caught himself, “Sister Madeline…is not without mercy, no, Father.” He flashed a smile, painfully aware of the stark whiteness of his teeth in the church’s gloom. “After all, she owes her life to the mercy of others. Who else would have a…creature such as her?”

Nitz took private pleasure in the shudder Father Scheitzen spared for her as Madeline stepped forward.

The torchlight was decidedly unsympathetic. All her face was bared, from the manly square curve of her jaw, to the jagged scar running down her cheek, to the milky discolored eye set in the right of her skull and the grim darkness of her left. The jagged yellow of her smile-bared teeth was nothing more than a sigh, a comma at the end of the cruel joke that was a woman’s visage.

“I suspect you may have inadvertently stumbled upon a solution to a problem that has long plagued the order,” Father Scheitzen murmured, bringing his lips close to Nitz. “There are rumors, complaints of lesser men accompanied by lesser women thinking themselves and each other worthy servants of God. Their mutual weakness feeds off of each other, men raise illegitimate children by tainted nuns.” He spared a glancing shudder for the woman behind them. “I trust you and your companion have no such temptations.”

Nitz hesitated a moment to answer, allowing the image of temptation to fill his mind. He had seen what lay beneath the layers of black cloth: the rolling musculature, the scarred, pale flesh, the biceps that could break ribs with an embrace. The thought of succumbing to “temptation” had not, until this moment, crossed his mind; the foreplay alone could shatter his pelvis.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Something Different - "Dirty Scottsdale"

PHOENIX NOIR – "Dirty Scottsdale"

And for Something Completely Different…I know I've been talking about this contemporary crime novel I have in progress for a long time—and I really do have it in progress, too [g], though it's on hold 'til I finish ECHO—but the opportunity offered to do a short story (no, really) for a new anthology titled PHOENIX NOIR. This is part of a large series of "noir" crime anthologies, each centered on a different city. (See for a listing of all the anthologies in the series.) The story, "Dirty Scottsdale," will be the print debut of Thomas Kolodzi, who's the protagonist for the (eventual [cough]) contemporary crime novel. Here's a brief glimpse of him in action:

" The time/temperature display outside the McDonald's where I got coffee in the mornings said it was 100 degrees at 8 AM. Now it was high noon, and the half-cup of coffee I'd left in the car would sear the panties off any granny unwary enough to drive down the street with it tucked between her legs. The cops were in shirt-sleeves, the home-owner was wearing plaid bermuda shorts and a wtf? expression. The body floating face-down in the swimming-pool was wearing a navy blue wool suit, which was even more remarkable than the veil of blood hanging like shark-bait in the water."

Excerpt from "Dirty Scottsdale"

"Dirty Scottsdale" (in the PHOENIX NOIR anthology, editor Patrick Millikin)
Copyright 2008 Diana Gabaldon

[Excerpts may not be reposted, copied, or otherwise published without the express permission of the author. It's fine if you want to link to one, though.]

"What. The. F***. Is. Going. On. Here?" said a voice behind me. Whoever it was had a pretty good Voice of Doom, too; it cut through the argument like a hot wire through ice-cream.

I turned around to see a tall blond woman in a sunhat, a Hawaiian shirt flapping open over a white bikini. Chloe and Tyrone's mother; the breast implants must be hereditary.

"Cooney!" she barked. "What are you doing? What's--" She caught sight of the guy in the pool and stopped dead, her mouth hanging open far enough for me to see that one of her molars was gold. I wondered if she had a diamond in it.

Cooney, hearing his master's voice, came trundling over, sweating and apologetic.

"It's OK, Pammy--"

"Don't call me Pammy! Who are you?" she demanded, swiveling a laser eye on me. "Are you in charge here? Who's that in my swimming pool?"

"Tom Kolodzi, Ma'am," I said, offering her a hand. "Do you know the man in the pool?"

"Of course not!" she snapped, taking my hand by reflex. Hers was cold and damp and covered by a transparent latex glove. She let go fast, peeling the glove off with a snap. "Oh, sorry. I was drowning squirrels in the garage."

"Squirrels?" I tried to keep a pleasant tone of inquiry, but it seemed to dawn on her that a mention of drowning things might not be the best thing she could have started off with.

"Ground squirrels," she said through her teeth. "They eat the g*dd*mn plantings. Are they going to get that—him—out of the pool?" Her eyes kept sliding toward the water, where the body had resumed its peaceful dead-man's float. Another siren coming down the street--police, this time.

Slamming car-doors and the crackle of a radio, and the brass was with us. I heard the word, "Lieutenant..." and froze for a millisecond. But of course it wasn't my lieutenant--she was Phoenix PD, and we were on the Scottsdale side of Shea. That was luck; Lieutenant Griego would have had me locked in a squad car in three seconds, and if I died of heatstroke before she came back…well, accidents happen, especially in the summertime.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Excerpt from "The Custom of the Army"

"The Custom of the Army"
Copyright 2008 Diana Gabaldon

[Once again, please note that excerpts may NOT be copied, cut-and-pasted, or reposted anywhere without the author's express permission—though it's totally fine if you'd like to link to one from your own website(s)!]

It was small, but packaged with care, wrapped in oilcloth and tied about with twine, the knot sealed with his brother's crest. That was unlike Hal, whose usual communiques consisted of hastily dashed notes, generally employing slightly fewer than the minimum number of words necessary to convey his message. They were seldom signed, let alone sealed.
Tom Byrd appeared to think the package slightly ominous, too; he had set it by itself, apart from the other mail, and weighted it down with a large bottle of brandy, apparently to prevent it escaping. That, or he suspected Grey might require the brandy to sustain him in the arduous effort of reading a letter consisting of more than one page.
"Very thoughtful of you, Tom," he murmured, smiling to himself and reaching for his pen-knife.
In fact, the letter within occupied less than a page, bore neither salutation nor signature, and was completely Hal-like.

"Minnie wishes to know whether you are starving, though I don't know what she proposes to do about it, should the answer be yes. The boys wish to know whether you have taken any scalps--they are confident that no Red Indian would succeed in taking yours; I share this opinion. You had better bring three tommyhawks when you come home.
Here is your new ring; the jeweler was most impressed by the quality of the stone. The other thing is a copy of Adams's confession. They hanged him yesterday."

The other contents of the parcel consisted of a small wash-leather pouch, and an official-looking document on several sheets of good parchment, this folded and sealed--this time with the seal of George II. Grey left it lying on the table, fetched one of the pewter cups from his campaign chest, and filled it to the brim with brandy, wondering anew at his valet's perspicacity.
Thus fortified, he sat down and took up the little pouch, from which he decanted a gold ring into his hand. It was set with a faceted--and very large--sapphire, that glowed like flame in the palm of his hand. Where had Fraser acquired such a thing? he wondered.
He turned it in his hand, admiring the workmanship, but didn't put it on. Not yet. Instead, he put it back into its pouch, and tucked this carefully into the inner pocket of his coat. He sipped his brandy for a bit, watching the official document as though it might explode. He was reasonably sure it would.
He weighed the document in his hand, and felt the wind [through the window, from the tent flap] lift it a little, like the flap of a sail, just before it fills and bellies with a snap.
Waiting wouldn't help. And Hal plainly knew what it said, anyway; he'd tell Grey, whether he wanted to know or not. Sighing, he put by his brandy and broke the seal.

I, Bernard Donald Adams, do make this confession of my own free will...

Was it? he wondered. He did not know Adams's handwriting, could not tell whether the document had been written or dictated--no, wait. He flipped over the sheets and examined the signature. Same hand. All right, he had written it himself.
He squinted at the writing. It seemed firm. Probably not extracted under torture, then. Perhaps it was the truth.
"Idiot," he said under his breath. "Read the god-damned thing and have done with it!"
He drank the rest of his brandy at a gulp, flattened the pages upon the stone of the parapet and read, at last, the story of his father's death.

[end section]

"The Custom of the Army"

WARRIORS anthology – "The Custom of the Army."

WARRIORS is a cool, multi-genre, multi-author anthology with stories on the theme of…well, warriors. I haven't yet really started work on LORD JOHN AND THE SCOTTISH PRISONER (the third Lord John novel)--and won't, until after ECHO goes to bed-- but I am using Lord John for my contribution to this anthology, which I'm titling "The Custom of the Army":

" On balance, it was probably the fault of the electric eel. John Grey could--and for a time, did--blame the Honorable Caroline Woodford as well. In all justice to the lady, though, she certainly hadn't meant him to fight a duel, and had been appalled at the outcome. The fact remained that if it had not been for the Honorable Caroline, he wouldn't be in Canada, hip-deep in Indians and Highlanders, and facing one of the most disagreeable prospects he had encountered in a long career of soldiering., it was the eel's fault."

Thus begins a story that takes us from a duel in London to the Plains of Abraham. The anthology doesn't yet have a publication date, but it does have a publisher. Tor will be publishing WARRIORS, and presumably _sometime_ in 2009. Check my website ( or theirs
( for announcements next year. In the meantime, I'll put an excerpt from "Custom" in the next posting.

Graphic Novel - sample script page

Hmm... OK, the panel formatting didn't come through, but the text did, so I've just divided it with solid lines, so you can see what happens in the various panels on this page.

GRAPHIC NOVEL (untitled)
Copyright 2008 Diana Gabaldon


3-51 Murtagh, arms folded. The bird is sitting on his head, pulling at his hair.

Murtagh: Ye'd best ask the lad, not me.

(thinking): Oh, is that the way of it? Force him to swear his oath to you? Over my dead body, Colum MacKenzie.


3-52 Dougal, standing, leans forward threateningly, hands on the desk,. Murtagh looks up at him, still cool, bird on his head.

Dougal: Maybe ye'd best have a word with the lad beforehand. Ye're his godfather—I imagine you've his best interests at heart.


3-53 CU Murtagh. He nods, reaching up with one hand.

Murtagh: I'll do that, aye.


3-54 CU, Murtagh's hand grabbing the surprised bird, some of his hairs in its beak.

Bird: Chirk!


3-55 Murtagh leans across the desk and parks the bird on Colum's head. Colum and Dougal both surprised.

Murtagh: Thanks for your hospitality. Always a pleasure to visit Castle Leoch.



And the next up, in the line-up of what I'm working on--

GRAPHIC NOVEL (so far untitled)

a graphic novel, for them as don't know, is a sophisticated comic book for adults. (And I do, of course, delight in my Very Sophisticated Readers.) [g] Ballantine, the publisher for this, asked me for a "new" Jamie and Claire story, set in the OUTLANDER universe—but not necessarily just a straightforward adaptation of OUTLANDER. So that's what they (and you) are getting: a story that sort of cuts at an angle through OUTLANDER. This story is told from Murtagh's point of view, and begins somewhat before the events described in OUTLANDER (the non-graphic novel).

Since the story isn't told from Claire's point of view, we see things that Claire didn't see, or saw but misinterpreted or didn't understand. The effect is that there is a new storyline, that weaves through the established events of OUTLANDER. If you've read the novel, you'll recognize the significant events—but you'll also get a new storyline.

Now, graphic novels being a good deal shorter than novels in term of material, this graphic novel doesn't encompass the entire original novel. IF it happens to do well, then I imagine there would be further graphic novels that augment the original novels and their storylines. To say nothing of the cool artwork. [g]

Now, a graphic novel is a collaborative effort. I write the script (which involves usually detailed direction as to what happens in each panel of the story), but this is then brought to life by the spectacular Hoang Nguyen, the artist who's doing the visual part of this project. (You can see some of Hoang's work at – fabulous!)

I don't know whether I can cut-and-paste a page from the graphic novel script here, so you can see what it looks like. If not, you'll have to wait a bit for us to get it up on the website. There is one sample page up there now, as well as Hoang's original take (his very first try, and it came pretty close!) on Claire. As we go on, I'll be able to post more artiwork now and then, perhaps showing you the evolution of a page from script to pencil-sketch to painting to refined, finished panel art.


We (the publisher, the artist, and me) are hoping to have this ready to be released in July of 2009. We'd like to unveil it at the Comics Con convention, with both me and Hoang present to sign copies. I don't have a date for Comics Con yet, but I'm pretty sure it's around mid-July.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


Copyright 2008 Diana Gabaldon

[Please note: "Copyright" means that this piece may NOT be reposted or otherwise published anywhere, without the written permission of the copyright holder--which would be me. You're more than welcome to provide a link to it from your own website, if you like, but please don't cut and paste it. The publisher is already antsy about my posting excerpts on the Web; we don't want to give them terminal heebie-jeebies. [g])

Copyright 2008 Diana Gabaldon

Inverness-shire, Scotland

"We are alive," Brianna MacKenzie repeated, her voice tremulous. She looked up at Roger, the paper pressed to her chest with both hands. Her face streamed with tears, but a glorious light glowed in her blue eyes. "Alive!"
"Let me see." His heart was hammering so hard in his chest that he could barely hear his own words. He reached out a hand, and reluctantly, she surrendered the paper to him, coming at once to press herself against him, clinging to his arm as he read, unable to take her eyes off the bit of ancient paper.
It was pleasantly rough under his fingers, hand-made paper with the ghosts of leaves and flowers pressed into its fibers. Yellowed with age, but still tough and surprisingly flexible. Bree had made it herself--two hundred years before.
Roger became aware that his hands were trembling, the paper shaking so that the sprawling, difficult hand was hard to read, faded as the ink was.

December 31, 1776

My darling daughter,

As you will see, if ever you receive this, we are alive...

His own eyes blurred, and he wiped the back of his hand across them, even as he told himself that it didn't matter, for they were surely dead now, Jamie Fraser and his wife Claire--but he felt such joy at those words on the page that it was as though the two of them stood smiling before him.
It was the two of them, too, he discovered. While the letter began in Jamie's hand--and voice--the second page took up in Claire's crisply slanted writing.

Your father's hand won't stand much more, she wrote. And it's a bloody long story. He's been chopping wood all day, and can barely uncurl his fingers--but he insisted on telling you himself that we haven't--yet--been burnt to ashes. Not but what we may be at any moment; there are fourteen people crammed into the old cabin, and I'm writing this more or less sitting in the hearth, with old Grannie MacLeod wheezing away on her pallet by my feet so that if she suddenly begins to die, I can pour more whisky down her throat.

"My God, I can hear her," he said, amazed.
"So can I." Tears were still coursing down Bree's face, but it was a sun-shower; she wiped at them, laughing and sniffing. "Read more. Why are they in our cabin? What's happened to the big house?"
Roger ran his finger down the page to find his place and resumed reading.
"Oh, Jesus!" he said.

You recall that idiot, Donner?

Gooseflesh ran up his arms at the name. A time-traveler, Donner. And one of the most feckless individuals he'd ever met or heard of--but nonetheless dangerous for that.

Well, he surpassed himself by getting together a gang of thugs from Brownsville, to come and steal the treasure in gems he'd convinced them we had. Only we hadn't, of course.

They hadn't--because he, Brianna, Jemmy, and Amanda had taken the small hoard of remaining gemstones to safeguard their flight through the stones.

They held us hostage and rubbished the house, damn them--breaking, amongst other things, the bottle of ether in my surgery. The fumes nearly gassed all of us on the spot...

He read rapidly through the rest of the letter, Brianna peering over his shoulder and making small squeaks of alarm and dismay. Finished, he laid the pages down and turned to her, his insides quivering.
"So you did it," he said, aware that he shouldn't say it, but unable not to, unable not to snort with laughter. "You and your bloody matches—you burned the house down!"
Her face was a study, features shifting between horror, indignation--and yes, a hysterical hilarity that matched his own.
"Oh, it was not! It was Mama's ether. Any kind of spark could have set off the explosion--"
"But it wasn't any kind of spark," Roger pointed out. "Your cousin Ian lit one of your matches."
"Well, so it was Ian's fault, then!"
"No, it was you and your mother. Scientific women," Roger said, shaking his head. "The eighteenth century is lucky to have survived you."
She huffed a little.
"Well, the whole thing would never have happened if it weren't for that bozo Donner!"
"True," Roger conceded. "But he was a trouble-maker from the future, too, wasn't he? Though admittedly neither a woman, nor very scientific."
"Hmph." She took the letter, handling it gently, but unable to forbear rubbing the pages between her fingers. "Well, he didn't survive the eighteenth century, did he?" Her eyes were downcast,
their lids still reddened.
"You aren't feeling sorry for him, are you?" Roger demanded, incredulous.
She shook her head, but her fingers still moved lightly over the thick, soft page.
"Not… him, so much. It's just--the idea of anybody dying like that. Alone, I mean. So far from home."
No, it wasn't Donner she was thinking of. He put an arm round her and laid his head against her own. She smelled of Prell shampoo and fresh cabbages; she'd been in the kailyard. The words on the page faded and strengthened with the dip of the pen that had written them, but nonetheless were sharp and clear--a surgeon's writing.
"She isn't alone," he whispered, and putting out a finger, traced the postscript, again in Jamie's sprawling hand. "Neither of them is. And whether they've a roof above their heads or not--both of them are home."

[end section]



I've been getting the occasional email lately expressing interest in what-all I'm writing these days, since there seems to be a lot of it. [g] Well, there is a lot of it. I do normally work on multiple things at once (it keeps me from having writer's block, for one thing), but I will say there's more variety in the old to-do pile than usual, thanks to several invitations from interesting anthologies.
I've also been hearing wildly varied guesses-most of them totally wrong, and where y'all get this stuff, I have no idea.regarding when any of these various works will be published.

In (rough) order of priority at the moment, though, I'm working on the following things-and I'll post an excerpt or two from each of these, over the next few days (so if you're an excerpt-avoider, be careful!):
AN ECHO IN THE BONE - this is the 7th (but NOT the last!) book in the main OUTLANDER series, in which we continue the adventures of Jamie, Claire, Roger, Brianna, Young Ian, Willie, Lord John-and a Lot of Other Interesting People You Haven't Met Yet.

I'm hoping to have the manuscript finished by the end of this year-and therefore am trying Really Hard not to go anywhere for the rest of the year.

**** THIS DOES NOT MEAN THE BOOK WILL BE OUT IN DECEMBER of this year-IT WON'T!!!! It means I'll be through writing it, I hope. IT WILL BE PUBLISHED (God willing and the creek don't rise) probably in Fall of 2009. *******